After our viewing of Singin’ in the Rain, I have been watching a lot of Gene Kelly youtube videos and I came across this one yesterday. I thought it was very relevant after Thursday’s class discussion. We were talking about Gene Kelly’s influence in today’s performance culture. We also talked about which of today’s stars could be classified as a “modern-day Gene Kelly”.
This video includes clips from a variety of films, but Gene Kelly and clips from “Singin’ in the Rain” are featured as well. The video is set to Bruno Mars’ “Uptown Funk”, which I thought was pretty cool considering we brought him up in class as a potential contender for the modern day Gene.
It’s amazing to me that the beat of “Uptown Funk” flows so well with the movement and expression of all of these old movie stars. It’s a really well-edited video and really entertaining as well- a great tribute to old hollywood with a modern beat. Definitely worth the 5 minutes to check it out!
Video link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M1F0lBnsnkE and posted below:
I recently came across a reddit post that analyzes the utilization of sound in Singin’ in the Rain.
I believe this resource is worthwhile because it points of specific instances in the film where sound plays a crucial role in the theme that the director tries to convey. The author of the article discusses situations like the fiddle playing in the background and the use of a microphone at the opening of the movie. He goes onto state that Singin’ in the Rain “exploits the conventions of a studio-era sound cinema” by making the sounds of images and voices out of sync. This becomes a reoccurring theme in the rest of the movie. The response to the movie didn’t seem out of place. It was a fairly constructed essay that discussed the meaning of certain sounds in the movie. However, I’m not sure if I agree with the author of the post when he says that the out of sync nature of the film was an argument supporting the deceptiveness of technology. The general setting and purpose of the movie didn’t seem to match this notion at all. Instead, I agreed with the post’s take on the role of sound to juxtapose sound in an era with silent films.
I was incredibly captivated after watching singing in the rain and so I wanted to do some research behind Gene Kelly who co-directed the movie along side Stanley Donen. I found this clip of of an interview with Gene Kelley as he talks about the making of Singing in The Rain. Besides Gene Kelly’s delightful smile what I love about the interview is how he talks about the importance of incorporating a dance sequence as part of the story. Which I think is really what elevated the movie to such a cultural phenomenon.
I also found this interview with Gene’s wife, now widow, as she talks about his personal life and also her thoughts on the unprecedented success of the movie.
In a slight quirky relation to the movie, I stumbled upon this short anime film that was clearly inspired by the “Moses Supposes” scene from the movie. It was really fun to see other film genres especially Anime paying homage to a movie such as Singing in The Rain. It really speaks to how much it has permeated into the other film cultures as well as popular culture.
As I was the stumbling across the web to find films with interesting takes on sound, I found a movie review on the a horror film called Hush made in 2016. To give a brief description, the film is centered around a woman who is deaf. Throughout the film, this woman finds herself being targeted by this ruthless masked killer. Now, the interesting part about this movie is how the film uses sound. As the article states, simple sounds that we wouldn’t think about typically are amplified to a point where they are almost uncomfortable to listen to in a theater setting. The article highlights how the director used the amplification of diegetic sound to emphasize what the protagonist does not have, and this simultaneously puts viewers on edge and in an uncomfortable position. In addition to amplifying sounds, the film also cuts sounds completely at some points to give viewers an idea of what the main protagonist is experiencing. To get an idea of what I’m talking about, here’s a trailer of the movie. In the trailer, sounds you wouldn’t necessarily hear in most films such as the opening of a laptop, the clicking of the track pad, and the picking a phone up off a table are amplified to highlight and emphasize what the protagonist is not hearing. As a whole, I really enjoyed how this article broke down the use of sound in this film. I believe that this film has introduced an interesting concept that we do not necessarily see all the time in the horror genre.
Singin’ in the Rain provides several moments of self-reflexive commentary on the artifice of Hollywood.
The first of these that I want to mention is the song “You Were Meant for Me”:
This is an interesting part of the film, as Don remarks on Hollywood archetypes such as moonlight or a summer breeze on Kathy. However, these effects are clearly artifice in this instance – the moonlight is provided by electrical lighting, the summer breeze is from a giant fan, and Kathy’s balcony is actually a ladder. Another aspect that I find interesting is that Don is only able to express his feelings to Kathy from within this artifice.
The second sequence that reflects upon this artifice is with the Broadway melody:
This sequence utilizes technicolor to such an extent that it appears to be a parody of the traditional Hollywood technique. This sequence in the film is also noteworthy in that it takes place in seemingly an alternate universe within the film. The background prop designs are also created in an exaggerated manner to bring an emphasis towards the artificiality of the entire mise-en-scene.
Finally, the closing sequence of the film depicts Lina being exposed for not actually singing in the film:
In this sequence, the veil is literally lifted on the artifice of Hollywood as Lina Lamont’s voice is revealed to be that of Kathy’s. This is similar to the “You Were Meant for Me” sequence as it features direct references to the artificiality of Hollywood. However, this sequence is distinct in that now it is Don who is pulling on the rope to lift the curtain and reveal the authentic singer in Kathy.
In Singin’ In the Rain, the musical numbers are in perfect parallel to the wonderful dances onscreen. However, many of the musical numbers appear to be semidiegetic sound taking place mostly in the minds of certain characters. One of the earliest songs is performed by Cosmo who starts with the diegetic sound of a piano but the music very quickly shifts to a nondiegetic source. Cosmo dances around the studio and people working all while singing to a tune that appears to only be in his own head. This introduces a concept into the movie that the song and the rhythm of this perfect world only reside within certain people. Later in the movie when Lockwood sets up a perfect scene to tell Kathy how he feels about her, he sets up a picture perfect world but aside from the noise of the fan, he does not add any sound to create this world. Instead he begins to sing and the semidiegetic sound of the number takes over in the minds of Lockwood and Kathy thus finishing the perfect world he had set out to make that not even all of the tricks of the studio could do alone.
The perfect world that these three characters are in appears to be only for them. While other movies have large casts of characters suddenly join in at the outbreak of song, this film confines the music outside of the Dueling Cavalier to just Cosmo, Lockwood, and Kathy. This is demonstrated during Cosmo and Don’s number in the speech classroom when they perform and are in sync with the music while the instructor is thrown around like a prop and has no connection to the song. Then in the scene where Don is singing in the rain, instead of others joining in as he runs through the street singing, he runs into a cop who just stands there staring at Don as he finishes the number.
The cop’s reaction shows that not everyone is part of this perfect world where people break out in song and that it is a strange sight to see some guy twirling his umbrella in a downpour while singing an elaborate musical number by himself. The movie uses semidiegetic sound to create a perfect world where song and dance go together for any occasion and are always in perfect harmony but this perfect world is only available to some people.
Singin’ in the Rain (Gene Kelly & Stanley Donan, 1952) is such a beautiful film both aesthetically and musically. One of the most iconic scenes in the movie is the portrayal of Roscoe Dexter, played by Douglas Fowley, becoming increasingly flustered with Lina Lamont, played by Jean Hagen, as she continues to mess up using the microphones.
With the whole film being about how sound uprooted the status quo of the film industry, it was nice to get to watch an adaptation of the real struggles actors and directors actually faced during this transition.
Even while trying her best, we got to experience the sound messing up as she kept turning her head away from the microphone.
This was an excellent use of sound in the modern (well, 1957) movie because while they team had everything they needed to make a movie fully equipped with sound (which other than these scenes, it is), they purposefully messed with the volumes to create the experience for the viewer that the characters were experiencing. The fluctuating sound creates a dynamic that is compelling to listen to while adding in a delightful piece of humor.
It was also interesting to me that Don Lockwood, played by Gene Kelly, did not appear to have any trouble adjusting to the sound and use of microphones. I’m unsure if this was intentional, showing him to be a better actor than Lina, or if it was kind of an overlooked part because the focus was more on showing Lina as a bad actress.
Do you think having the viewer hear the sound fade in and out has aged well with time? Do we as modern viewers fully understand the complexity and innovation of the times of sound in old Hollywood, or is it now just more of a joke?
I wanted to briefly mention that I want to be friends with Cosmo Brown. His presence throughout the movie helped keep it light hearted and less dramatic (unlike Gene Kelly and Debbie Reynolds — let’s not forget the scene towards the end when Kathy exclaim something along the lines of, “I’ll do it but I never want to see you again!”). His song, “Make ‘Em Laugh” is one of the most (incorrectly) reenacted dance numbers from the movie. The use of that song to help establish his character as even more of a goof than was already noticed from earlier numbers was a really fun idea. Honestly, I’m just fangirling over Cosmo. I think he’s the best character in the film
There are so many stories and testimonies of the singers and dancers in Singing in the Rain being pushed to their limits during the filming process. That Gene Kelly and the other directors were so particular in their filming that the complex dance sequences would be filmed multiple times, exhausting the actors. The greatness of this movies comes from how synchronized the music and dancing was, making it apparently the 5th greatest American motion picture of all time (2007). However, even with all this particular planning and re-shotting of the sequences to create a look of perfection, in other aspects of the film there were some goofs. When watching this movie I thought it was strange to see some of the errors in filming, but I wondered if for some reason they are were there on purpose, since we discussed in class how particular the directors were and maybe the others were just mere accident?
There are some hiccups near the start of the movie in the mini-silent film that is within this movie with the cuts and placement of actors. I thought that at first this was to highlight the lesser qualities of movies made in the 1920s (the black and white top picture comparison below), however, there continue to be placement errors in objects and action shots between cuts that do not follow through correctly. (The couch comparison and Debbie Reynold’s arm movement pictured below are just two of many examples). It is not as if movies are excepted to be perfect without error, however, I thought it was interesting that there was so much attention paid to the dance moves and their corresponding sounds (which we discussed at length about) and yet there were numerous errors in filming other non-musical parts. There seems to be an unbalancing of focus on the sequences, which by doing so, to some extent makes the perfection of the musical acts and sound even more monumental. Could that be the point of the directing? To film the sequences so precisely that the other sections of the film did not need to be as organize – drew attention to the grace of the sound/dance and overall music?
Either way it is an interesting concept to look at how skilled the sound and dancing was, especially in comparison to modern movies and their faster cuts that obscure the differences more (based on the change blindness in psychology) and the high tech editing in post production. Speaking of modern films, it is also interesting to note how La la land (2016) draws on many aspects of Singing in the Rain and other classic musicals. La la Land keeps the same artsy imaginative world that Singing in the Rain builds in during their songs, however, unlike the classic our new musical does not end so happily…. Even with its less MGM ending, La la Land has the same focus on sound and escaping the world that was signature in Signing in the Rain. Aside from the classic style of sound of alluding to the classic hey-day of movie musicals, there are companions between the two in their visual aspects. For examples: the painted/illustrated background dancing sequences, bright pops of color, very coordinated tap sequences, and the ballet/dancing in the clouds allusion.
I found this video that explains some aspects of making Singing in the Rain. The video touches on a few different aspects of making the film. Some aspects we covered in class, like Debbie Reynolds having to dance until her feet bled. One of the aspects that I found the most interesting was how the film came to be produced in the beginning. Betty Comden recalls being called into Arthur Freed’s office and being given the task of making the film. I didn’t know that the majority of the songs were made before the film. To me it’s impressive that the musical was made around existing material while still creating a logical and entertaining plot. The songs didn’t seem out of place or forced. Does anyone know if this was a common technique?
I also enjoyed when they commented on the accuracy of the different mistakes filmmakers made when sound was introduced. Thinking about the filmmakers struggle with the new technology of sound, something now trivial, is endearing. Furthermore it made me appreciate the ingenuity required to figure out how to make it all work. The fact that MGM basically made a satire about its early days is cool too.
Another source that I found entertaining was a 1952 review of the film from The Hollywood Reporter. There isn’t much to this, but I thought reading a review from when the movie came out was fun. I also can’t help but wonder if they knew what a hit the musical would be at the time.