Before 1952, Gene Kelly, Stanley Donen, and Arthur Freed had made some great films.
Kelly made his mark with his “man on the street” choreography in An American In Paris (1951) while Donen had co-directed On The Town with Kelly, and Freed had produced The Wizard of Oz among others.
But it was Singin’ In The Rain (released on 27 March 1952) that united their individual talents – including Freed’s almost-forgotten song writing ability that shone in the early film era – and made them all legends.
The plot of Singin’ In The Rain revolved around the movie studio’s painful transition to talking pictures and proved the possibility of recycling.
The soundtrack was mostly constructed of songs already previously heard in MGM musicals dating from as far back as 1929, even the immortal title track.
Today, few are aware that the songs were not specially written for the film, which featured Freed’s songs from 1920s and 1930s movies like the Broadway Melody series – illustrating how well the songs stood the test of time.
It is 1927 and Don Lockwood (Kelly) and Lina Lamont (Jean Hagen) are the greatest stars of the silent cinema, but when the talkies come in, it is discovered that Lina has a high-pitched screechy voice.
The screen love team seems doomed until along comes dancer-singer and would-be serious actress, Kathy Selden (Debbie Reynolds) who agrees to dub the bitchy Lina’s voice.
At the finale, when the truth is finally revealed, Don and Kathy become the new stellar team at Monumental Pictures.
Singin’ In The Rain cost $2.5 million but it was worth every cent. The movie cemented Kelly and Donen’s directing credibility, showcasing Kelly’s now-signature choreography in a way that only a huge budget MGM musical could.
Singin’ In The Rain also launched the career of a young Debbie Reynolds, only 18 at the time and not trained for dancing.
She saw herself as perfect for the part of young star-struck Kathy, remarking later “I was that young, inexperienced girl you see on the screen”.
She trained for hours, sometimes until her feet bled, to keep up with Kelly and Donald O’Connor.
But Reynolds was not the only one to have such discomfort . . . Kelly had a fever of 103 degrees. The solution? Warm up the water.
The end result was possibly the most adored and iconic piece of musical movie choreography of all time.