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...
Cited: Feuer, Jane. 1993. "The History of the Hollywood Musical: Innovation as Conservation," in The Hollywood Musical, 2nd edition. Bloomington: Indiana University, 87-122.
Singin ' in the Rain (1951) DVD 247; dir: Stanley Donen and Gene Kelley; Music by Lennie Hayton
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