Singin’ in the Rain (1952) | Saturday, 18th February | 1:30pm
‘SOLD OUT!’ A huge red sticker slapped gleefully across the billboard. What a start. What other movie would you choose to kick off a Gene Kelly Film Festival? You bring out the big guns first and if you happen to have the greatest musical in the history of cinema and one of the top five best films ever made in your canon then you load her up…
There’s always a degree of trepidation when approaching a gathering of Gene Kelly aficionados, either virtually or otherwise. Even though I have been blessed enough to encounter some intelligent, well balanced, and thoroughly engaging people through my love of Gene, I find it prudent to prepare myself for the usual barrage of giddy middle-aged housefraus gurgling inanely at all to brief glimpses of Gene’s biceps, his legs, his ass, and the prospect of the celebrity marriage that never was but really should have been: Gene Kelly and Judy Garland. (Yes, I realize I’m stereotyping here.)
Nevertheless, I was still eager to meet some Glasgow-based Gene fans and by chance found myself seated next to a retired Social Worker called Pat, a wonderfully irascible and slightly eccentric old gentleman with flowing white hair and a beard to match — who, judging by his walking clothes, footwear, and bag of large scrolls — is either a part-time delivery man or Glasgow’s oldest fly-poster. After a warm welcome and an informative and engaging introduction from Allan Hunter, one of the Directors of the Glasgow Film Festival, Pat told me that he had never seen Singin’ in the Rain, so I told him to prepare himself for a celluloid miracle.
I won’t waste much time reviewing the film, for there really isn’t much that can be said about this celestial masterpiece that hasn’t been said already. Pacing, direction, editing, screenplay, choreography, score and performances: just perfection. If you remove the musical numbers then you still have a great film and I maintain that Singin’ in the Rain is the only musical about which than can be said, so take a bow Betty Comden and Adolph Green for a quite brilliant and endlessly hilarious script.
The audience burst into spontaneous applause during the film on three occasions: Donald’s physically impossible ‘Make ‘em Laugh’ routine; Gene and Donald’s ‘Moses Supposes,’ one of the most scintillating tap routines on film; and, of course, Gene’s peerless titular number and the sequence that bestowed upon him a cinematic immortality — I’ve waited about 40 years to see that number on the big screen and I’m not ashamed to admit that I welled up a little, not just for obvious reasons, but for the memories of childhood viewings with people long since departed: the power of Gene, folks.
The audience found Donald extremely funny, but I still laughed more at Jean Hagen’s Lina Lamont, surely one of the funniest creations and greatest comic characters in cinema. Don Lockwood is one of the few characters of Gene’s that I actually like, yes he’s cocky and full of himself, but he has the good grace and humility to realise it. Cyd’s legs on the big screen deserve to be marked with a national monument and unlike Angelina Jolie’s gaunt gam and bony knee thrust deliberately in front of a bewildered Academy Awards audience, they’re show stopping for all the right reasons.
When I asked Pat, buried beneath a sky blue fishing hat, for his opinion, he remarked that the comedy was ‘too broad’ and that he was more of an ‘Astaire man.’ He appeared shocked to learn that I, too, was an ‘Astaire man,’ because it’s either/or, not both, apparently…like The Beatles and The ‘Stones. Most of us know this is patently not true, of course; read Jennifer’s excellent essay for a complete understanding and appreciation of their differences.
The atmosphere upon leaving the cinema was electric, a cacophony of euphoric exclamation and elation. I had taken an umbrella with me in the hope that it was still raining outside and that I might get a chance to ‘use’ it. It wasn’t raining but I still put it up and quickly jumped into a puddle on the secluded street where I parked my car; it wasn’t a passing policeman that brought me to an abrupt halt, but a parking ticket on my windscreen. So, all in all, this afternoon spent watching my favourite film of all time has cost me £66 (£36 if I pay the fine in a fortnight), but I’d happily pay much more than that to repeat today’s experience.
The introduction of this Glasgow Film Series may be found here. More to come tomorrow…