‘Once Upon a Time in Hollywood’ fan? Watch ‘Singin’ in the Rain’
Satire set in the backdrop of Old Hollywood have been something that directors and writers have mined for years. With good reason, Hollywood loves stories about Hollywood. Most of those films borrow heavily from the Hollywood golden age, even recent ones like La La Land, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, and Hail, Caesar!, take their inspiration and poke fun at the Hollywood of yesteryear.
This is not a new trend. While Once Upon a Time in Hollywood may be the most recent nostalgic look at the Hollywood heyday, even Old Hollywood winked and nodded with the best satire of the bunch Singin’ in the Rain. If you know nothing about Old Hollywood and watched until season three of Glee, then you have heard at least one song from Singin’ in the Rain.
Why should you check it out? Glad you asked. Here are some of the reasons why Singin’ in the Rain should be essential viewing for any Once Upon a Time in Hollywood (or La La Land, or Hail, Caesar!, or any of the A Star is Born, or, well, you get the picture).
The plot of Singin’ in the Rain
It’s hard to comprehend just how big of a transition from silent films to “talkies” back in the late 1920s. The best modern comparison we could give is close to the rise of streaming, but even that isn’t entirely apt. Actors were out of a job just because they didn’t “sound” right for the new medium. (For a better exploration of this, then watch 2011’s The Artist.)
Singin’ in the Rain follows Don Lockwood (Gene Kelly), a former vaudeville star. While he’s made a name for himself as a silent film star with his best friend Cosmo (Donald O’Connor) and vain leading lady Lina (Jean Hagen), the popularity of the talkies has taken everyone by surprise. With no choice but to convert the next film into a talkie, Don, Cosmo, and, Don’s love interest, the struggling actress Kathy (Debbie Reynolds) works to make The Dancing Cavalier into a success.
The only problem is Lina, whose voice is utterly unsuited for talkies. It’s up to Don, Cosmo, and Kathy to save the picture and give Lina her comeuppance.
Now that’s a very condensed version of Singin’ in the Rain. While we think giving a spoiler alert for a film in 1952 is unnecessary, we don’t want to give away the entire plot of Singin’ in the Rain as its an amazing watch.
While there isn’t a drop of blood to be seen in Singin’ in the Rain, the clash of Hollywood egos, behind-the-scenes drama, technical flubs, and more are definitely elements that remain very timely, no matter the era.
The music for Singin’ in the Rain
Now here’s something funny, or amusing to us at least, Singin’ in the Rain is, by today’s standards, a jukebox musical. Arthur Freed, producer of the “Freed Unit” for MGM Studios, created some iconic musicals back in the day. Singin’ in the Rain was to be a vehicle for all his old songs that he wrote with Nacio Herb Brown from 1929-39.
Co-screenwriter for Singin’ in the Rain, Betty Comden recalled getting the assignment from Freed, “‘Kids, you’re going to write a movie called “Singin’ in the Rain”. Just put all of my songs in it.’ All we knew was there would be some scene where someone would be singing, and it would be raining.”
Some of the films that Singin’ in the Rain takes songs from are Sadie McKee, The Hollywood Revue of 1929, The Broadway Melody, and Babes in Arms. The only two original songs for Singin’ in the Rain are “Make ‘Em Laugh” and “Moses Supposes”.
Even so, the soundtrack for Singin’ in the Rain is considered to be the greatest musical soundtrack of all time. Each song is expertly shot and choreographed with the title sequence “Singin’ in the Rain” being one of the most parodied musical numbers of all time.
It is truly one of the greatest satires of the film industry of all time
Singin’ in the Rain is usually described as a “musical romantic comedy”, which is true. It’s also one of the best satires of Hollywood of all time. From the way it examines the movie-making machine, the diva starlet, and how a good story is infinitely preferable to the truth, Singin’ in the Rain, as The Atlantic’s Jeanine Basinger, puts it audiences see “an outer truth that is revealed to be false by the inner one.”
That is, essentially, what the satire of Singin’ in the Rain focuses on. How the “outer truths” of Hollywood are perpetuated during the turbulent transition to sound. Suddenly, the pretty face veneer of Lina isn’t cutting anymore. The false facade that she can sing (using Kathy’s voice) hides the inner truth of the conflict.
Not only that, there’s just a sense of nudging and winking to the audience the whole time. Singin’ in the Rain knows what it is, which is why it works so well. It’s a movie musical about making movie musicals set during the time when they were about to break big. That’s what makes Singin’ in the Rain, the perfect movie to pair with the likes of Hail, Caesar! or Once Upon a Time in Hollywood because they are also films that know what they are winking and nodding to.
Plus, Singin’ in the Rain is one of the movies that everyone needs to see once in their lives. Period.