Singin’ in the Rain (1952): One of Hollywood’s Best Musicals

One of the most enjoyable musicals ever made, “Singin’ in the Rain,” co-directed by Stanley Donen and Gene Kelly, was recently chosen by an AFI poll as one of the Top Ten American Films ever made.

The saga begins in 1927, at a glamorous Hollywood premiere, as the star-struck fans push forward for a quick glance at two of their idols. The big stars are Don Lockwood (Gene Kelly), a dashing leading man of the silent screen, and Linda Lamont (Jean Hagen), a self-absorbed but highly popular blonde bombshell.

Don and his old pal Cosmo Brown (Donald O’Connor) tolerate Linda but laugh at her endless efforts to woo Don as her husband. Just as Don finds himself taken with a brash and bubbly newcomer, Kathy Selden (Debbie Reynolds), a new “problem” arises: talking pictures.

The gruff producer R. F. Simpson (Millard Mitchell) makes them realize that if they are going to survive, they had better adjust fast to the new technology. When Linda’s voice proves to be an ear sore, the trio saves her career by dubbing in Kathy’s, an act that eclipses the young talent but temporarily saves the obnoxious star.

After a successful showing of the film, Linda proudly parades live onstage, forgetting that the creation was synthetic. Don encourages the audience into demanding a song from her. She makes a fool of herself, and Don introduces the exciting new talent, Kathy Selden.

Like many other musicals, “Singin’ in the Rain” lovingly satirizes Hollywood, both the old and new one. Smartly written by the team of Adolphe Green and Betty Comden, the film is imbued with vivid imagination, genuine wit, and real sense of love for the movie industry as a dream factory. The film’s title, and its title song, gives a good indication of the contagiously jubilant mood.

It was no accident that this was an MGM movie, since that studio specialized in making musicals. “Singin’ in the Rain” was one of the pivotal musicals made during the last Golden Age of that genre, the 1950s; a year later, Comden and Green scripted Minnelli’s “The Band Wagon,” also a masterpiece.

The movie contains a broadest spectrum of songs and eclectic choreographed styles within a single picture. Among the many wonderful numbers, other than the classic title song, which first appeared in “Hollywood Revue of 1929,” are “Make ‘Em Laugh,” especially written for this picture by Arthur Freed and Brown, which recalls “Be a Clown,” in Minnelli’s earlier film, “The Pirate (with Judy Garland).

The “Broadway Ballet” scene features Cyd Charisse and a 25-foot long veil of white China silk, kept afloat by the whirring of off screen airplane motors. According to producer Freed, this costly sequence took five week to rehearse and two to shoot.

One of the film’s most memorable images, imitated and referred to in numerous pictures, is Gene Kelly dancing on a rainy night, swinging a round a lamppost and energetically splashing and jumping as an expression of his love for Kathy.

At the moment when movies were becoming less romanticized in their vision of life, Kelly and Donen cast wistfully nostalgic eyes backward from their vintage point to gently parodies Hollywood history. Over the years, “Singin’ in the Rain” has gained a reputation as one of the most inventive movie musical of all time.

Box Office:

Released on March 28, Singin in the Rain ranked as the 10th top-grossing film of 1952.

End Note

Though Debbie Reynolds could sing, and had sung in other pictures, in this musical, her voice was dubbed by Betty Royce.

Lines to Remember

“Why, I make more money than Calvin Coolidge, put together”–Jean Hagen as Nina Lamont

Oscar Alert

Oscar Nominations: 2

Supporting Actress: Jean Hagen
Scoring of a Musical Picture: Lennie Hayton

Oscar Awards

In 1952, Gloria Grahame won the Supporting Actress Oscar for Minnelli’s serious satire of Hollywood, the melodrama “The Bad and the Beautiful,” and Alfred Newman won the Scoring Oscar for the Susan Hayward star vehicle, “With a Song in My Heart.”


Produced by Arthur Freed.
Directed by Gene Kelly and Stanley Donen.
Screenplay and story: Adolph Green and Betty Comden.
Camera: Harold Rosson
Editor: Adrienne Fazan
Music: Nacio Herb Brown
Art director: Cedric Gibbons, Randall Duell
Costumes: Walter Plunkett
Special Effects: Warren Newcombe, Irving G. Ries


Don Lockwood (Gene Kelly)
Cosmo Brown (Donald O’Connor)
Kathy Selden (Debbie Reynolds)
Linda Lamont (Jean Hagen)
R. F. Simpson (Millard Mitchell);
Guest Artist (Cyd Charisse)
Zelda Zanders (Rita Moreno)
Roscoe Dexter (Douglas Fowley)
Dora Bailey (Madge Blake)