Singin’ in the Rain

In order to explain the dad joke of singing, “swinging in the rain,” to my eight year old son who was, the other day, swinging in the rain, I had to show him the most famous clip from the movie Singin’ in the Rain:

About a decade ago I took the time to actually watch the movie. It has an interesting premise—it’s about a bunch of actors right at the time of the switch from silent film to talkies. The lead man, played by Gene Kelley, had a pleasant voice and can make the switch, while the leading lady is beautiful but, unfortunately, has a voice for silent films.

There are also some funny parts where the studio that Gene Kelley’s character works for turns their latest silent film into a talkie by just recording the audio while they film. The dialog was written to be physically expressive, not to really make sense, and so it sounds stupid. (“I love you! I love you! I love you! I love you! I love you!”) There are also some amusing parts where they don’t have any experience with recording sound so the microphones are in bad places and the actors don’t face the mics so the mics don’t pick up their voices, too.

There’s also a really bizarre scene where someone is pitching a new kind of movie and then instead of hearing his description we see it—for about three minutes it’s a kaleidoscope of color and sound, mostly of dancing but with some singing, and then when it’s finally over about three minutes after it should have been, we get the joke, “I don’t know, I’d have to see it.”

At its core, it’s a love story. Gene Kelley’s character pursues a chorus girl he accidentally meets and fell in love with. Unusual for love stories, Kelly’s character is popular and well off, not struggling and unknown and yet to make his way in the world. He faces some struggles, it’s true, but it’s a very different dynamic. In fact, given that Kelly’s character uses his fame and influence to make his love interest’s career in films, it’s almost a Pygmalion story, though not nearly as much as, say, My Fair Lady.

It’s one of those movies where I really wonder if I’m going to show it to my children some day. On the one hand, it’s absolutely a classic. On the other hand, I’m not sure it’s worth the time, given how many other things there are to see. Especially when you can watch the best four and a half minutes of it on YouTube.

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