Singin’ in the Rain at the Glasgow Film Festival

This entry is part 2 of 8 in the series Glasgow Film Festival.

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.

Allan Hunter and Allison Gardner. GFF 2011

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.

Cyd vs. Angelina

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.

Packed house for Singin' in the Rain at the GFT.

The introduction of this Glasgow Film Series may be found here. More to come tomorrow…

About 

I am a 40-something-year-old Scotsman with an obsessive nostalgia for the past, particularly the films of Hollywood's Golden Age and American music from the '40s to the '60s. My appreciation and love for Gene and the field in which he worked is something I hope to instill in future generations -- I'm currently studying towards becoming a teacher and firmly believe it is a role in which I can flourish, once I overcome a small, but stubborn, obstacle: a pathological hatred of teenagers.

    Find more about me on:
  • googleplus
  • Jennifer

    Lovely distillation (for I’m sure you could have said a lot more!) of your reaction to something I know you enjoyed even more than you’re letting on. I saw SINGIN’ IN THE RAIN on the big screen twice, and my audience broke into applause on two of the three occasions you mention: “Make ’em Laugh” and the titular number. Your humble servant was the only one in the 1926 built movie house to clap for “Moses Supposes,” which I have watched more times than I could begin to enumerate. I believe most of the laughter occurred at the moment when the sound goes out of synchronization… but my perception may be skewed as that’s when I always laugh the most.

  • Marc

    Thank you, it took a lot of restraint, believe me. The ‘Yes, yes, yes’ scene was a big hit with the Glasgow audience, too. The moment that gets me the most is shortly before that when Gene makes his entrance in The DuellingCavalier and throws his staff onto the floor – I can remember laughing at that with my dad in the 70s. I also love Douglas Fowley during the first sound recordings. And Lina’s face when Gene won’t let her speak to the audience at the premiere of The Royal Rascal… We could go on all night.

  • Pingback: An American in Paris at the Glasgow Film Festival | Gene Kelly Fans()