Singin’ in the Rain: Duped Again

This entry is part 5 of 13 in the series Essays / Analyses.

Earlier this month I learned that The Valentine Theatre, a “108-year-old, 901-seat facility” in downtown Toledo would be showing Singin’ in the Rain (1952) as a part of its “Silver Screen Classics” program. As a die-hard Gene Kelly fan, I was excited. But I was also skeptical because of what happened the last time a Toledo theatre said they’d be screening arguably The Greatest Film Musical Ever Made. Would this be another DVD/LCD-projector sham? Or would this be the real thing?

Ultimately, I contacted the theatre and asked if its Singin’ in the Rain would be a 35mm print. A nice representative quickly responded that it was a “digitally remastered version of the film” with “a much higher quality than a 35mm.” Um, okay, so then it’ll resemble the 25th anniversary Back to the Future? If so, that’s cool; I mean, check out how crisp Doc Brown (Christopher Lloyd) and Marty McFly (Michael J. Fox) look even on your small screen :

But unfortunately, Don Lockwood (Gene Kelly) and Lina Lamont (Jean Hagen) looked nothing like Doc and Marty. Why? Because we were merely watching a Blu-Ray disc. Sure, the screen was huge and Blu-Rays are sharp, but without a fancy digital projector, I might as well be watching the Singin’ in the Rain DVD I play for my Intro to Film students when we consider sound and sound design.

Sure, Cyd Charisse’s sparkly, fringe dress was green, but it was no greener than it is in my 140-seat classroom. And yeah, the Broadway Melody number was colorful, but it didn’t pop onscreen in a way I’d never seen it pop before. In short, I wanted the same OMG reaction I had when I saw a 35mm print of Casablanca last year in Michigan. Yep, I was duped again.

One day, I’ll be as lucky as the folks in Auburn, CA, Austin, TX, and of course, Hollywood, CA, who’ve experienced Singin’ in the Rain “for real” on the big screen. In the meantime, here are my tweets from the day of, during, and the morning after the Valentine Theatre screening. You’ll see that I go from super excited to mildly pissed off to content. Well, one can’t get too upset, right? After all, it is still an evening with Gene…

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  • jlwelsh

    So "digitally remastered" = BluRay, huh? I can understand your disappointment. :-/ There's something so warm about those old colors on genuine film. And of course there's the charm of hearing that gentle hiss and an occasional snap, crackle, pop and seeing the little flaws (scratches, pieces of lint, etc.) that are part of old film reels. To be honest, I'm surprised a legitimate old movie house like this wasn't able to show a genuine print of it. Are they that hard to come by? When the old theater in my town screens an old movie, it's always a 35mm print, courtesy of MGM or Warner or whoever. I guess I didn't realize it was such a privilege… if indeed, it is.

  • Lucky you! Yeah, it is a privilege. After you've seen classic films on 35mm you realize just how much you're missing on DVDs and the like, don't you?!

    • It’s really great that people are sharing this inniamrtoof.