In looking back, I am quite sure that my lifelong obsession with rain began with Singin’ In the Rain, a movie I loved so much as a child that I used to watch it before I was even old enough to understand what the plot was because the dancing so much captured my imagination.
I even took tap dancing lessons for seven years. I wanted to dance like Gene Kelly, which didn’t exactly happen. I didn’t like taking ballet lessons and it really helps to know ballet. It teaches you grace and body control (unless you’re Fred Astaire – he always said he hated ballet and had very few lessons and somehow it never affected his grace or body control).
But I watched Singin’ In the Rain so often as a child that inevitably I burned out on it. It began to seem a bit routine, a bit old hat, and since I was simultaneously discovering what seemed to me the much fresher Fred Astaire (and his sublime The Band Wagon) Singin’ in the Rain inevitably fell by the wayside, un-watched for years.
But then Andrea Lundgren and I saw Gene Kelly in the 1948 The Three Musketeers and we recognized certain scenes, in their original technicolor, that were later used as footage for Don Lockwood and Lina Lamont’s The Royal Rascal. Suddenly, we both had a keen desire to revisit a movie that felt like an old friend.
The experience was like wrapping myself up in a warm blanket and looking at pictures of a happy childhood. It remains, after who knows how many viewings, an eternally happy, energizing film that makes you feel certain you can get up and dance; I think I must have grinned like a goofball the entire time.
So, did I notice anything new after all these years? Nothing world-shaking, but a few things stood out to me.
1) The dress Lina Lamont wears to the opening of The Royal Rascal is green! Her shoes are green, too! Most people probably already know this, but I never did, which is a testament to how bad my TV screen is. Seeing it on a new screen was revelatory, at least in a sensory way.
2) Don Lockwood and Lina Lamont’s careers appears to be co-dependent…or at least, he is dependent on her. Lina Lamont was a star before Don Lockwood broke into the industry as a stunt man, so she didn’t need him to get started. But at the point the movie starts – in 1927 – they appear to be a brand name: Lockwood and Lamont. The way they talk about saving Lockwood and Lamont, you would think they sink or swim together. Do they make movies on their own anymore? Can he be a success without her? Is there any guarantee that people will like Lockwood and Seldon as well as they did Lockwood and Lamont?
3) Don Lockwood and Cathy Seldon totally climbed over the dead wreckage of Lina Lamont’s career to forge a new career of their own. Supposedly, they change The Dueling Cavalier to a musical in order to save Lockwood and Lamont, but since Lina Lamont neither sings nor acts, how could they possibly suppose that they were doing anything other than saving Don Lockwood’s career while jettisoning Lina Lamont’s. Lina was right to be worried about her career. Perhaps her methods were crude, but she definitely had a point.
4) Cosmo Brown seems to be the only truly smart person around (and how did R.F. ever get to be head of Monumental Pictures?). And as Andrea Lundgren observed while we were watching, he seems such a talented comedian and performer that it seems incredible that he isn’t in movies, too. But since he’s apparently also a composer, a fair hand at plotting movies, good at dancing as well as singing, perhaps he’s simply too talented for his own good and can’t fix on any one thing to do. But seriously, he ought really to be the one running the studio.
5) Although I always assumed that Singin in the Rain was spoofing silent movies, I’d like to offer a new theory. At least in the case of the Royal Rascal, they are spoofing adventure films. Considering that much of the footage of The Royal Rascal was taken from when Gene Kelly played a seriously over-the-top and spoofy D’Artagnan in the 1948 The Three Musketeers and that anything that was added to The Royal Rascal (those scenes featuring Jean Hagen as Lina Lamont) would hardly have been out of place in The Three Musketeers, it could be seen as laughing more at the kind of ultra-heroic, swashbuckling adventure films with dashing heroes and swooning ladies than any specific silent film.
6) This last point is not an observation so much as speculation about what happens after the film ends. Lina Lamont clearly has a very smart lawyer, considering that he got her a contract where she controls all her own publicity so that the studio is responsible for any publicity that reflects badly on her. My theory is that her lawyer has her sue Monumental Pictures after the whole Dancing Cavalier debacle. Since he’s a smart lawyer, she would win and then I figure that she then marries her lawyer and the two of them became seriously wealthy powerhouses in the movie industry. Either that or he arranges for her to make a comeback as a comedian. All she’d have to do is play it straight and she’d be a hit! I’d totally go to see Lina Lamont in a comedy.
In closing, just because it always makes me so happy, here is that song and dance that never gets old. It makes me wish it would start raining right now.