Analysis of Singin in the Rain

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Released in 1951, Singin in the Rain was one of the last films to be produced during the profitable golden age of the studio system. It evokes the typical characteristics of the popular MGM Hollywood musical by relying on superstar names and infectious dance numbers. However, Singin in the Rain incorporates an additional level of parody into its nostalgic plot that focuses on the disruptive shift from silent movies to "talkies." The film showcases classical Hollywood musical numbers supplemented by affectionate satire. The music of the film reflects each inherent level and in doing so becomes an identifiable character. It helps to add irony to the plot as well as comedic support. Singin in the Rain "glorifies American entertainment" while at the same time creates a clever parody of the earlier form (Feuer 90).

There are certain scenes in the movie where the music is used to juxtapose what is taking place on the screen thus adding a level of comedic sarcasm. First, when Don is telling the story of how he became a star, a solo fiddle is playing in the background to induce feelings of isolation and struggle. While Don is talking about being brought up on classical theater and attending a prestigious music conservatory, we see that he actually snuck into run-down theaters and played at the local pub. If lighthearted or upbeat music had been played over this sequence it would have lost its charming sarcasm. Don is seen throughout his earlier career playing the fiddle. The fiddle is often seen as a lesser-respected instrument in comparison to the violin. It is usually associated with an informal or un-classical style. This fits into the idea of Don as a struggling musician before he became a star. When the movie director gives Don his first job he says, "you might be trading in that fiddle for a harp." The second instance where this type of punch line is employed is when Don and Lena are performing a scene for The Dueling Cavalier. Cosmo is playing romantic mood music while Don and Lena exchange insults. The breezy melody of the piano directly contrasts the offensive dialogue creating a comical tension. The idea of words and sounds being "out-of-sync" with the actual movie images is a central theme to Singin in the Rain particularly with Lena's deception.

The "movie within a movie" plot of Singin in the Rain allows the movie to get away with separate full-scale production numbers as well as in scene numbers. Although the latter is supposed to be spontaneous, all the musical numbers incorporate the typical Hollywood musical ploys. As Feuer points out in "The History of the Hollywood Musical: Innovation as Conservation", "Singin in the Rain demystifies silent movies, serious theater and early talkies while glorifying musical comedy." The characters perform perfected choreography while accompanied by either an orchestra full of strings for the romantic sequences or playful horns for the comedic sequences. The "Broadway Melody" number in particular seems to exhibit numerous musical clichés both in film and theater. There is a large flashy set, hundreds of dancers, and various musical genres presented. First, the music is high paced and hectic during the urban part of the scene as Don walks through the city. Second a jazz rhythm is played during the beginning of the bar scene. During the later part of the bar scene, Don engages in a sexual dance with an exotic looking woman dressed in green. The music transitions to a slinky and sensual melody with trumpets and soft drums. As with many other movies such as The Three Caballeros, the exotic woman is personified in an extremely sexual melody. At first we do not even see her as a complete person but rather a single extremity as the camera seductively pans up her leg. Only until the dream sequence where she is dressed in all white and dancing ballet is the music choice softened because she no longer eroticized. Lastly, the feeling of nostalgia is played to as the same song is sung...
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