Film: Singin' in the Rain
R.F: Every studio's doing it. All the theaters are putting in sound equipment.
Don: But we know nothing about it—!
R.F. What's to know? You do what you always did! Just add talking to it!
A classic 1952 film from Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer
, happened when legendary screenwriters Comden & Green
were given the keys to the MGM music vaults and told to pound out a script based on what they found inside.note
The result is a frothy but sledgehammer-accurate
comedy set during the transition from silent film to talkies — a period of major upheaval in the movie industry, as stars learned to cope with the novel concept of 'talking' and all its attendant requirements. Chief among them being, of course, that now they had to act
Don Lockwood (Gene Kelly
) is the current king of silent Hollywood, one-half (or perhaps three-quarters
) of the A-list team Lockwood & Lamont
. His "partner" is Lina Lamont
(Jean Hagen), a bona fide triple threat (can't act, can't sing, can't dance). Rounding out the team is Don's old partner and wisecracking studio musician Cosmo Brown (Donald O'Connor), who is just
tactful enough to keep quiet about the duo's past as a failed vaudeville act. Don's the George Clooney
of his day: rich, debonair, enjoying the perks of celebrity life to the hilt. Then, fleeing a mob of fans one night, Don's rescued by self-described "serious actress" Kathy Selden (Debbie Reynolds). She not only proves immune to his movie star charms but accuses him of having no artistic substance whatsoever.
Don is incensed, but her words prove prophetic with the unexpected rise of The Jazz Singer
. The studio abruptly (as in mid-take) decides to make the current Lockwood & Lamont picture a "talkie" too
. Cue frantic — and cringe-worthy — attempts on everyone's part to come to grips with the new technical requirements. Unfortunately, no technology in the world can remedy Lina's voice, a shrill Brooklyn screech completely at odds with her silent image as a refined leading lady
Faced with utter ruin when the now wildly-anachronistic Dueling Cavalier
is hooted down at a test screening, Don, Cosmo and Kathy cook up a plan so stupid it just might work
: convert the whole mess into a fantasy musical. Of course, Don's erstwhile co-star can't sing any better than she can speak. Thus, inspired by a synchronization accident during the screening, Cosmo also invents dubbing, and arranges for Kathy to secretly record all of Lina's songs and dialogue. Inevitably, Lina discovers the ruse and cites breach of contact, using it as leverage to threaten to ruin everyone's
careers and potentially seize the studio. Maybe she's not as dumb as she looks...
Will Kathy be forced to give up her dreams? Or will the power of True Love win out over studio greed? And will Cosmo ever get to "start suffering and write that symphony"?
The scene in which Don sings and dances in the rain after his relationship with Kathy finally takes off is well known even to people who have never seen the movie, and much parodied
This film provides examples of:
- Abhorrent Admirer: Lena. A bottle-blonde, bubble-brained diva who has long since turned Don off any idea of carrying the romance offscreen, despite studio pressure. Lina, however, is undaunted.
- Added Alliterative Appeal: "Well, here comes our lovely leading lady now!"
- Affectionate Parody: Of the early Hollywood musicals. And like the best affectionate parodies, it pokes fun by being a great example of an old school Hollywood musical.
- Alliterative Name: Lina Lamont.
- All Just a Dream: The framing device used to switch The Dueling Cavalier from campy to intentionally campy.
- All Love Is Unrequited: "Broadway Melody."
- The Alleged Car: Cosmo's.
Cosmo: I can't understand it. This car hasn't given me a lick of trouble in nearly six hours.
- All Musicals Are Adaptations: The Musical of the film exists, and has had at least one Broadway run, but Singing In The Rain is famous for being an original film musical: one of the few that was not based on a previous film, book, play or Broadway production.
- Almighty Janitor & Been There, Shaped History: Cosmo is clearly the greatest technical genius in cinema history. Starting as a lowly pianist for sappy love scenes, Cosmo single-handedly rescues an unreleasable picture in post-production by splicing it into a different movie (paving the way for Cut-and-Paste Translation); comes up with the idea of using playback to dub new lines into existing scenes; invents lip-synching on the fly; invents the movie musical; and just generally saves the entire studio from going bankrupt. "Gimme a raise", indeed.
- Bad Bad Acting: Cosmo and Don (Don even admits it to Kathy), both humorously and charmingly; Lina, not so much on either count. Don takes it a little too far in the original version of The Dueling Cavalier, to the point where he actually manages to give an even less convincing performance than Lina. Woof.
- The Beautiful Elite: Given this is Hollywood, of course the cast is of good looking people. The "Beautiful Girls" number is all about this.
- Belligerent Sexual Tension: Inverted. Arguing with Lina only makes her hot under the collar, while Don himself is a block of ice.
Lina: [after a take] Oh, Donnie...you couldn't kiss me like that and not mean it!
Don: Behold the world's greatest actor! I'd rather kiss a tarantula!
Lina: Oh, you don't mean that.
Don: I don't...? Hey, Joe, get me a tarantula!
- Big Applesauce/The Big Rotten Apple: In "Broadway Melody", a rube with aspirations of being a Broadway star (Don) arrives in Manhattan and quickly gains fame, at the expense of his innocence. The sequence ends on a hopeful note, with an identical nerd in glasses greeting a tuxedo-clad Don, continuing the cycle.
- Bitch in Sheep's Clothing: Lina.
- Blatant Lies: "Dignity. Always dignity."
- Break the Haughty: Lina.
- Broken Aesop: In-universe. Cosmo has a cute moment of this early on, when he tries explaining to Don that the pseudo-romance with Lina is the price of fame:
Now, you've got the glory
. You gotta take the little heartaches that go with it. (Beams)
Now look at me.... I got no glory. I got no fame—I got no big mansions
! I got no money
! But I got
I got? Don: I
dunno, what have
you got? Cosmo: (Beat)
I got to get outta here.
- Butt Monkey: The diction coach during the number "Moses Supposes" gets basically shoved around by Don and Cosmo.
- Captain Obvious: The man in the "talking picture" demonstration. Justified somewhat as he is trying his best to sell a totally new and unknown concept, and even then the party-goers don't quite get the idea at first.
Hello. This is a demonstration of a talking picture. Notice: it is a picture of me, and I am talking
. Note how my lips and the sound issuing from them are synchronized together in perfect unison.
- Career Killer/Creator Killer: Both tropes are In-Universe, as the preview of The Dueling Cavelier is disastrous, and has the potential to wreck the studio and the careers of everyone involved.
- Chandelier Swing: Don's character does one during his climactic fight scene in The Royal Rascal (which is actually, like much of the footage shown of Royal Rascal, from the real-life 1948 version of The Three Musketeers).
- The Charmer: Cosmo at the party.
Girl: Mr. Brown, can you really get me into the movies?
Cosmo: Oh, I should think so...
- Chekhov's Gun: Lina wants to give a speech but Don subtly stops her... and then we see she's got a horrible voice.
- Comical Overreacting: At the premiere of The Royal Rascal, one of the crowd does a Fanboy Squee over Zelda.
- This accidentally happens in The Dueling Cavalier, when acting made for silent movies is given sound, and poorly done sound at that.
- Comically Missing the Point: Lina at the ill-fated preview of The Dueling Cavalier. "Sounds good an' loud, doesn't it?"
- Costume Porn: A movie premiere in the film's opening, gleefully skewering the red carpet fashions of the time; Don himself is dressed like Humphrey Bogart by way of P. Diddy. The "Beautiful Girls" sequence is another tongue-in-cheek example.
- Crazy Enough to Work: The idea to turn The Dueling Cavalier into a musical.
- Crowd Song: The 'Gotta Dance' dancing sequence.
- Cute but Cacophonic: Lina.
- Dastardly Whiplash: The villain of The Dueling Cavalier (it's not stated if he's also in the re-cut).
"Pierre is miles away, you wench!"
- Deadpan Snarker: Don and Cosmo, generally in reference to Lina. Cosmo in general, really:
Oh, no offense. Movies are entertaining enough for the masses but the personalities on the screen just don't impress me. I mean they don't talk, they don't act, they just make a lot of dumb show. Well, you know (she does some major league silent acting
) — like that. Don:
You mean — like what I do?!? Kathy:
Well, yes! Here we are, Sunset and Camden!
- Description Cut: Don and Cosmo's flashbacks at the beginning of the movie (see Unreliable Voiceover).
- Designated Victim: Lena's chief occupation is to be rescued by Don's characters.
- Disney Acid Sequence: The "Broadway Melody" and "Beautiful Girls" numbers, both of which come from waaaaaaay out in left field stylistically. Though setpieces like those were pretty common in movie musicals of that era.
- The Ditz: Lina. Oh, Lina.
- Doomed New Clothes: Don and Lina don new outfits for their big premiere. Before the end of the night both are ruined.
- Dream Sequence: The Dancing Cavalier is retconned into an extended dream sequence by Don's character, a stagehand who gets pasted by a falling sandbag and dreams himself in 17th century France.
- Dream Ballet: Once Don's character strikes it rich in the "Broadway Melody" sequence, he bumps into Cyd Charisse a second time. In Don's imaginings, the dancer turns into a long-haired ingenue who flies into his arms; a far cry from the reality, which is a floozy.
- Driving a Desk: The scenes in Kathy's car when Don first meets her.
- Eureka Moment: Cosmo realizing they can dub over Lina, after he and Kathy mock some of the sound issues at the premiere.
- Everyone Calls Him Barkeep: Cyd Charrisse's role is simply called "The Dancer".
- Everything Has Rhythm:
- In "Good Morning", Don, Kathy, and Cosmo dance with their raincoats and hats.
- In "Make 'Em Laugh", Cosmo dances with a wall and a dummy.
- Exact Words:
Don: Call me a cab!
Cosmo: Okay, you're a cab.
- Executive Meddling: In-Universe, R. F. demands that The Dueling Cavalier needs to be a talkie after the success of The Jazz Singer, which complicates things for the film, to say the least.
- The Family for the Whole Family: Cyd Charisse plays the flirtatious moll of a mute, coin-flipping mobster with a scarred face, a la Al Capone. His goons flip coins, too. Later, when Don tries his luck with the dancer again, she answers him with a coin flip. Drat.
- Fangirl: A crowd of them rip apart Don's clothing at the beginning of the movie. The fans at the red carpet are also hilariously overenthusiastic.
- Film Within A Film:
- The movie starts off at the premiere of Don's and Lina's fictional The Royal Rascal. The footage shown is actually from a real film called The Three Musketeers (1948) starring Gene Kelly - which is in color and has sound.
- The movie depicts the troubles in making the fictional movie The Duelling Cavalier, later changed to The Dancing Cavalier.
- Two real-life movies are being referenced. The Jazz Singer (the first talkie) is mentioned. And in the final shot we see a billboard advertising Don Lockwood and Kathy Seldon, in a picture called...wait for it...Singin' in the Rain.
- Fun Personified: Cosmo.
- Funny Background Event: Anytime when Cosmo is on screen. Particularly the man's massive eye roll as Don begins the story of how they got into the movie business with "Dignity. Always dignity."
- Get Thee to a Nunnery: "Lemme guess: she's a simple girl of the people, you're a dashing aristocrat, and she won't even give you a tumbril. Hah!"
- Gold Digger: Cyd Charisse loses interest in Don's character when her beau dangles a diamond necklace in front of her. The mobster's bored expression suggests this is becoming routine for him.
- Groupie Brigade: Kathy rescues Don from a textbook example of one of these. Honourable mention to the audiences at the various previews: "She's so refined... I think I'll kill myself."
- Happy Rain: Goes without saying.
- Have a Gay Old Time:
- When Lina complains of having to speak into a hidden mic during a garden scene: "I can't make love to a BUSH!" note
- Don also assures Kathy that he isn't going to molest her.note
- Herr Doktor: The demo for the new sound equipment features narration by a creepy technician with an unplaceable accent.
- Heterosexual Life-Partners: Don & Cosmo.
- Honest Corporate Executive: R.F. is actually very supportive of Don and Cosmo's plan for The Dueling Cavalier and helps however he can, plans to push Kathy into the spotlight once The Dueling Cavalier is released, and helps Don and Cosmo reveal Lina as a fraud with visible glee.
- Hypercompetent Sidekick: Cosmo.
- Iron Butt Monkey:
- Don started off his Hollywood Career by being a stuntman. Stunts included driving off a cliff on a motorcycle and entering an exploding shed.
- Cosmo risks life and limb in the name of "Make 'Em Laugh". The sequence exhausted O'Connor to the point of becoming deliriously ill.
- It Will Never Catch On: What the studio executives believe about sound in films when talking about the upcoming release of The Jazz Singer. Lampshaded by Cosmo:
- Jukebox Musical: As was the style for original movie musicals at the time, the songs were all written before the movie was made. There are, if you listen to the score, absolutely no proper nouns in any of the songs (except for "Moses Supposes," a nonsense song and, as previously mentioned, the only one original to the film).
- Jumping Out of a Cake: Kathy comes out of a cake at a Hollywood party. This after she gave Don a lot of grief about how she was a stage actress, as opposed to making "just a lot of dumb show" on film, and claiming she was "in a more dignified profession".
- Ladykiller in Love: Don.
- Laser-Guided Karma: Lina pretty much sets up her own downfall by improvising a speech, which reveals that she wasn't doing the singing in the film.
- Let Me Get This Straight: Lina, summing up the plan to get her singing dubbed on stage: "You mean, she'll be back of the curtain singing, and I'll be out in front doing .. .. like in the picture?"
- Love Makes You Crazy: In this case, it makes formerly cynical Hollywood stars (currently wearing expensive suits) toss their umbrellas aside to go dancing and swinging and splashing ecstatically through torrential downpours, all the while singing about how they don't care! because they're just that happy to be in love.
- Love Makes You Evil: Lina, oh so very, very much.
- Love Triangle: Lina, Don and Kathy.
- Meet Cute: Don escaping the Groupie Brigade and winding up in the co-driver seat of Kathy's car.
- Merchandise-Driven: Take MGM's old songs, and make a movie out of them.
- The Millstone: Lina, as her voice can't be changed or fixed, unlike the other problems with the movie being made.
- Minor Character, Major Song: "Beautiful Girls." Jimmy Thompson isn't even credited.
- Mood Motif: Cosmo's job is to play these.
- Narm: An In-Universe example: The Dueling Cavalier is supposed to be a serious romantic drama, but the introduction of sound and the technical limitations that it imposes, with no knowledge of how to adapt, unintentionally turn it into a hilarious disaster. This was a lot of Truth in Television too, as many films did suffer both commercially and artistically when sound was first introduced.
- Nerd Glasses: Don's character in the "Broadway Melody" sequence.
- No Celebrities Were Harmed:
- R.F. is an affectionate parody of producer Alan Freed, right down to his catchphrase "I can't quite visualize it..."
- In the montage for the new talkies, one of the singers is a Rudy Vallee impersonator.
- Olga Mara is an amalgam of Pola Negri and Theda Bara; Zelda Zanders is a cross between Clara Bow and early career Joan Crawford.
- No Song for the Wicked: Lina has no singing number, just a brief sound test. Justified in that much of the plot of the film revolves around the fact that her singing voice (And actually, her voice in general) is godawful.
- Not So Above It All: Shocked at Don just leaping into her car, Kathy claims not to have heard of him. Then she later fesses up that she's seen most of his films.
- Oh, Crap: Everyone's excited about moving into the talking picture business... until they're reminded about Lina's voice.
- Old Shame: In-universe example. Don would much prefer to forget his days hoofing it as a vaudevillian with Cosmo, as well as his big break as a stuntman.
- Pie in the Face: Kathy tries to whack Don with one... and gets Lina instead, unfortunately for her (as Lina gets her fired for it). This is lampshaded in Kathy's comment as she does it: "Here's one thing I've learned from the movies!"
- Pimped-Out Dress: Quite a few, this being the era in which this trend reached full flower. One of the dresses in the opening red carpet scene is covered in ermine tails as though it was fringe. Later, we see a montage of the very latest Jazz Age fashions as part of the "Beautiful Girls" production number. Lina's last dress has a skirt covered in feathers (and the rest of it is completely covered in silver sequins). Lina's dress in The Dueling Cavalier fits the mold of 18th century dresses, being covered with frills and flowers (which isn't that far off from the real dresses of that time, except they were even more decorated).
- Plucky Comic Relief: At Don's side is his lifelong friend and second banana, Cosmo Brown. He is clearly out of his element in the sleazy showbiz world.
- Precision F-Strike: A G-rated one, but has the same impact - after seeing The Jazz Singer, one of the reactions: "It's vulgar."
- Pretty in Mink: Several fur wraps and capes are worn, especially in the opening scene where we see an ermine cape paired with a dress trimmed with ermine tales, a full length chinchilla cape, and Lina's cape trimmed with white fox. The collar on the last one is pretty big (a style common in that decade and the next), to frame her glamorous (but silent) face for the crowd.
- The Prima Donna: Lina, such as getting Kathy fired for ruing her dress.
- Prima Donna Director: Roscoe Dexter rapidly turns into this as the challenges of working on a talkie flick materialize.
- Pungeon Master: Cosmo. Begged by Don to help him by calling him a cab: "OK — you're a cab."
- Quit Your Whining: Cosmo does this to Don by singing "Make 'Em Laugh."
- Recycled Script: In-universe, The Royal Rascal and The Dueling Cavalier are pretty much the same film before the latter's turned into a musical. Several comments from various characters imply that this is in no way unusual for Lockwood and Lamont's films.
"If you've seen one, you've seen them all."
- Re Tool: The Dueling Cavalier gets retooled into a talkie, and then becomes a musical after terrible previews.
- The Roaring Twenties: Covering both the Silent Age of Hollywood and the Rise of the Talkies.
- Romantic Rain: The titular song comes when a lovestruck Don goes skipping through a heavy rain after parting from Kathy, and the two lovebirds started a new life with their First Kiss at the doorstep while it was raining.
- Rubber Face: Cosmo makes a lot of goofy faces during "Make 'Em Laugh", and a few others in the rest of the film.
- Rule of Cool: Why do Don and Cosmo break into dance during "Moses Supposes"? Or ever? Because it's cool and fun to watch, that's why!
- Same Language Dub: The entire plot is an in-story example.
- Gets confusing (and funnier) when you find out that Jean Hagen (who played Lina) actually does some dubbing for Debbie Reynolds (who played Kathy). So Jean Hagen dubs Debbie Reynolds dubbing Jean Hagen.
- Not only that, but in the song "You Are My Lucky Star" Reynolds is actually dubbed by Betty Noyes (although not because Reynolds' voice was no good), which is ironic, considering the premise of the movie.
- Sanity Ball: The one time Lina is on track about something is during the Dueling Cavalier filming scenes, when she finally gets fed up and exclaims "WELL I CAN'T MAKE LOVE TO A BUSH!" when she's trying to do her lines since she has to turn to Don when she speaks to him.
- Second Face Smoke: In the "Broadway Ballet" sequence, done to Don's character by Cyd Charisse's vamp.
- Serendipity Writes the Plot: In-Universe, the out of sync sound in the preview gives Cosmo an idea to dub over Lina's role.
- Set Behind the Scenes: Much of the movie is backstage or around the film studio.
- She's Got Legs: In the "Broadway Ballet" extravaganza, Cyd Charisse's entrance is marked by her slowly handing Gene Kelly his hat back after he drops it... using one of her very long, very beautiful legs to do it.
- Shout-Out: Don's first musical film, The Dancing Cavalier, is about a modern guy who gets knocked out and dreams of being an aristocrat in old-time France. In real life, this was the premise of the 1943 musical film DuBarry Was A Lady, which was Gene Kelly's first musical film for MGM.
- Cosmo's "Ridi, Pagliacci, ridi!" before "Make 'Em Laugh". (Translation: "Laugh, clown, laugh!") Pagliaccinote was an Opera fairly well-known at the time.
- The Show Must Go On: Verbatim from Cosmo, getting Don to stop thinking about Kathy.
- Show Within a Show: The movies being made, with the most focus on The Dueling Cavalier and how to make it a success.
- Sidekick Song: "Make 'em Laugh", Cosmo's attempt to cheer Don up by hurling himself around a living-room set until he resembles a one-man Looney Tune — amazingly, all done with almost no camera cuts.
- Smoking Is Glamorous: Lina at the release party. Cyd Charisse's nameless dancer in 'Broadway Melody' later takes it to an even higher level.
- So Bad, It's Good: The audience's reaction to the sneak preview of The Dueling Cavalier. The actors and executives don't take it half so well.
- Spinning Paper: Done twice.
- Stylistic Suck: The preview for The Dueling Cavalier was this to a degree. It was still largely based on how silent films fell flat when sound was slapped on them, including adapting real incidents. It's just that all those incidents happened over several films, while the preview scene put them all in one movie.
- That Syncing Feeling: Lina is forcing Kathy to dub all her performances from now on. When she's asked to sing a song at the movie premiere, she has Kathy behind the curtain singing for her. Don then pulls open the curtain, revealing Kathy to the audience, but Lina is not made aware until Cosmo starts filling in for Kathy.
- Title Drop: The movie is named after its Title Theme Tune.
- Tongue Twister: The diction coach has a book full of these.
- Traintop Battle: Film Within A Film example. During a scene where Don and Cosmo wander around the studio, one of the events going on around them is the filming of a train-top fight scene (on a train carriage that's fixed in place in front of a Wraparound Background).
- Troubled Production: In-Universe with The Dueling Cavalier. It starts out fine when it's just following the formula for the previous films Don and Lina have done, but then it's switched from silent to a "talkie" and the production becomes a mess. The one scene we see being filmed with sound turns into a disaster, and the preview shows this happened to the whole film.
- True Art Is Angsty:
"I'm out of a job! At last I can start suffering and write that symphony."
- He even flips it around when he's immediately told his job as a composer will still be needed at the studio.
"At last I can stop suffering and write that symphony!"
- Tsundere: Kathy seems like this, but it's an act to cover up that she's a big fangirl of Don's.
- Tutu Fancy: There's a fantasy ballet sequence in which Cyd Charisse wears a completely impossible-in-real-life dress with a crepe train that's a mile or so.
- Unreliable Voiceover: Don does a combination of this and Unreliable Narrator. The film opens with him and Lina on the red carpet, and he narrates his rise to fame through a flashback, citing such things as his elegant, well-heeled parents and the fine arts academies he attended. Meanwhile, what we're actually seeing is — for starters — Cosmo and himself as kids tapdancing in poolhalls for nickels. His personal mantra throughout:
"Dignity... always dignity."
- Visual Pun: "I must tear myself from your side," followed by Don's jacket tearing in half as he walks away.
- Vocal Dissonance: Lina, in the worst way.
- The Voiceless: Implemented (briefly) at the beginning of the film: the viewer doesn't hear Lina speak for the first time until the funniest possible moment.
- Waiting for a Break: Don and Cosmo in the opening narration, later mirrored in the "Broadway Melody" number. In both versions, Don ekes out a living in pool halls and Vaudeville before graduating to the big leagues.
- What Could Possibly Go Wrong?: The studio boss doesn't see the problem with just adding sound to silent movies, and just asked that it be slapped on a film already in production. The preview of that film is a big wake-up call to the folly of that idea.
- Who Writes This Crap?!: During the disastrous screening for "The Dueling Cavalier", someone in the audience asked if someone was paid to write the dialog, which ironically was in response to a line that Don ad-libbed (when he found the scripted line too difficult to say).
- Woman in White: Cyd Charrise's dancer swaps her green cocktail dress for a white gown in the casino "Broadway Melody" number. Don's character enters a dream sequence where he imagines her a virginal, ballet-dancing beauty. But she hasn't really changed.
- World of Ham: From the opening reel to the end credits. The Dueling Cavalier director, Roscoe Dexter, probably takes the cake.