singing-in-the-rain

Blu-ray Review: “Singin’ in the Rain 60th Anniversary Ultimate Collector’s Edition”

Singin’ in the Rain was the brainchild of Arthur Freed, one of MGM’s most influential producers and the man behind the scenes of many of the most popular musicals during the golden period of motion pictures.  With his songwriting partner, Nacio Herb Brown, Freed had spent many years writing songs for the studio before he began producing and helping propel such artists like Judy Garland, Mickey Rooney, Kelly and Cyd Charisse to stardom.  With Singin’ in the Rain, he wanted a film that would highlight many of his past achievements in music, such as the title song, which was written for the film, The Hollywood Revue of 1929. When writers Betty Comden and Adolph Green came on to Freed’s project, it only had the title, Singin’ in the Rain. Everything else was a blank page.

Since many of Brown and Freed’s most popular songs came from the early era of sound movies, the screenwriters felt that that time period would make for a fun setting.  Comden and Green went about writing a story about silent film stars and their transition to sound movies. As was the case in real life, when some silent film stars lost their careers because their voices didn’t match what fans thought they should, this became the backbone of a love story about that male star (played by Gene Kelly) and the young actress (played by a then 19-year-old Debbie Reynolds) who provides the speaking and singing voice for an actress whose voice is like nails on a chalkboard. Kelly co-directed the film with Stanley Donen and was released in 1952. To this day, many critics and scholars (I’ll let you decide which category I fall into) agree that Singin’ in the Rain is the best movie musical of all time.

Besides Kelly and Reynolds, Singin’ in the Rain also stars comedian, Donald O’Connor, who was loaned to MGM by Universal, the great Jean Hagen as Lina, Cyd Charisse (in her film debut), Rita Moreno in a small role, and the hilarious Millard Mitchell, whose droll sense of timing cracks me up no matter how many times I watch the movie.

If you have never seen this joyous cinematic experience, get your ass in front of a Blu-ray player and watch this 1952 classic. You’ll laugh and I guarantee you’ll be blown away by Kelly’s skill and craftsmanship as a dancer and a director. Now is the perfect time, too, as this new Blu-ray edition features a gorgeous 1080P remaster from a 4K scan. If that sounds like Greek to you, just know that this is the HD picture quality is perfect. Moreover, the Dolby Digital sound gives you the most complete movie experience.

This 60th Anniversary Ultimate Collector’s Edition comes packed with extras galore, some old, some new, but all essential to any film collector’s bookshelf. In addition to Blu-ray and DVD copies of the movie, new extras include a documentary, reproductions of the original theatrical door panels, a collectible umbrella (I question how durable it would be in the type of storm Gene Kelly danced in for the film) and a 48-page book that gives some informative, albeit, basic facts about the film.

One thing I was amazed to learn was that Reynolds was not a dancer before taking this role. You can’t tell, that’s for sure, as she holds her own with the masterful Kelly. Although Singin’ in the Rain features the most famous dance sequence in film history, there are other highlights. “Make ‘Em Laugh,” one of the few songs written exclusively for the movie, features O’Connor’s brilliant showmanship, “Good Morning” is a pure joy, and there is the epic “Broadway Melody” sequence that pushed the boundaries of what a movie musical could achieve.