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Singing in the Rain

Jan 23, 2000 1904 Words
The hit musical "Singin' in the
Rain" may possibly be one of if not the greatest musicals of all time. With it's tale of the film world of the mid 1920's and its creative underlining love story between Don
Lockwood (Gene Kelly) and Kathy Selden (Debbie
Reynolds), it provokes the interest of someone who would
not generally be attracted to a musical. It is a classic
masterpiece that set the standards that musical films of
today will be judged by. It is a classic performance by the
great Gene Kelly and displays outstanding performances by
Debbie Reynolds and Donald O'Connor. As well as
starring in this brilliant movie, Gene Kelly teams up with
Stanley Donen to make their mark in film history. In my
opinion, what set the stage for the level of entertainment
that this movie contains is the opening scene. The opening
scene set the role of sarcasm in the movie and gave the
movie an immediate sense of humor. Four individual parts
of movie making come together in this film to create a
dynamic opening sequence. The basic principles of sound,
editing, mise en scene, and cinematography collectively give this opening sequence a memorable quality that is without
match. The opening of Singin' in the Rain takes place at the opening of the new movie "The Royal Rascal" starring Don
Lockwood and Lena Lamont. There are famous people all
around and their fans are loving every second of it. The
fans' faces are full of joy and awe as their favorite actors and actresses enter the large building that will soon be
showing the new movie. Soon, the two people that
everyone in Hollywood is dying to see, appear in their
stretched Rolls Royce and bring the crowd to its feet. As
Lockwood and Lamont exit their luxurious ride they are
received lovingly by everyone. They walk to the front of the building and are introduced to the crowd. Then the
question is posed to Mr. Lockwood, "How did it all
begin?" The answering of this question is what my paper
will explain. I will attempt to break down the opening scene and show how it all started. By using tools of film such as
sound, editing, mise en scene, and cinematography, this
paper will show how the scene was made as well. Mise en
scene played an important role in this movie as with any
other movie. The properties of mise en scene were fully
effective in the beginning flashback scene. At the beginning of Don Lockwood's flashback he states that he learned
everything from his mother and father and that they sent him to the best dancing schools. He flashes back to show that
he actually just danced in dirty pool halls as a little kid with his friend Cosmo. The flashback is precise in terms of mise
en scene. The clothes that Don wears are that of the early
1900's. The setting is a dingy pool hall with old men playing and drinking which gives the feeling that the area was poor. That gives more credit to Don because it shows he really
wasn't trained in dancing schools and actually learned on
his own. The room was extremely dim and Don and
Cosmo were centered in the foreground of the shot.
Another example of mise en scene is the second segment of
the flashback. A young Don and Cosmo sneak into the
movie theater to see a horror movie that they would
normally not be able to see. The setting is outside an early 20th century theater. In front of the theater are large
cut-outs of the movies that are playing there. They are
obviously of that time because they are painted, they are
not pictures as the ones of today are. The youngsters are
also dressed in early 1900's style clothing. The third
segment of the flashback is inside a tavern of most likely the 1920's. The place looks very low class and there are men
of all ages drinking and playing cards in the background.
The costuming in this segment is very well done as well.
Don and Cosmo, who now appear to be in their early
twenties are wearing suspenders and playing instruments in
the right side of the shot. The fourth segment shows exactly how diverse Don and Cosmo really are. In this segment
they are on stage dressed as clowns and putting on a show
for an unknown audience. They use props such as canes
that spray water and wind up hosing each other down with
there Super-Soaker like canes. They appear on center
stage but the viewer can still see props that belong to the
stage in the background. The final stage of the flashback
before they reach Hollywood is an interesting scene. In this scene the mise en scene is constantly changing. Cosmo and
Don are performing but the background is constantly
changing. The background shows different cities and towns
to express the fact that the two of them have traveled far
and wide doing their acts. They are superimposed over this
background wearing checkered suits that show up very
well over the constantly changing background. Another
very important part of this movie is the sound. Throughout
the flashback the shots keep returning to Don Lockwood
and he sets up the next scene by telling the complete
opposite. For instance he says that his motto is "Dignity,
always dignity." Immediately following this statement the
flashback shows his actual childhood and shows him being
embarrassed in numerous ways. He also talks over parts of
the flashback to give details of how things were (or weren't for that matter). He also says that his parents brought him
up on the "classics" (films) but in actuality he was sneaking into horror movies at a young age. He also exaggerates the
truth when he says that Cosmo and himself did the best
show halls when they were really dancing in bars. The
musical segment of the flashback was also a wonderful
addition. Don and Cosmo are shown giving a fabulous
dance routine but unfortunately the fans didn't feel it was all that great. The cinematography in this classic was another
plus although it there was not too much of it. In some
movies it seems that the camera movements don't flow
through the film while this one did. Throughout the
flashback there were basically only long and medium shots.
For instance, during the second segment of the flashback
where Don and Cosmo sneak into the theater, there is
some significant camera work. The shot begins with a
medium shot of the billboard that is advertising the horror
movie and then zooms out to welcome the entrance of the
boys. Then the camera slowly pans to the right to show the
kids duck under the ticket clerk's window and then into the
theater. There is little to the cinematography in the third
segment as well. The camera starts out with a long shot on
the left side of the screen and then pans over to the right to see an older Don and Cosmo playing their instruments. The
most significant part of the cinematography in this scene is that in only the scene before, Don and Cosmo were a good
ten to fifteen years younger. The way the camera moves
added somewhat of a surprise and welcomed the fact that
the two boys had finally grown up. In the fourth scene the
camera does not move at all the camera being stationary
would lead one to believe that the view is of an audience
member. The fifth scene has the camera staying focused on
the center of the screen as a superimposed Don and
Cosmo dance in front of a constantly changing background.
After the background has dissolved into its final setting the camera stays in a long focus constantly. The camera now
follows Cosmo and Don as they do their dance scene. The
camera pans left and right to follow their every movement
and to keep them centered in the middle of the screen.
Editing has an enormous effect on this classic musical. The
flashback scene consists mostly of cuts and dissolves.
There must not have been much film on the cutting room
floor because many scenes look as if they were shot in one
take. The majority of editing is done with dissolving one
picture into another. Too much cutting can ruin a film but
there was so little in this segment that it makes the movie
flow a lot better. if the flashback scene had used cuts
instead of the method of dissolve, this scene could not have been as effective as it was. The first scene starts the
flashback. There is a dissolve of a close-up of Gene Kelly's face in front of the theater and into a memory of his youth
at a pool hall. There is a moment of action where Don and
Cosmo get escorted out and then the scene dissolves into
scene two (the kids trying to sneak into the theater). The
previous scene dissolves into a poster that is advertising a horror movie. We see the two boys sneak into the theater
and the camera again dissolves, this time back to Gene
Kelly. There is a close-up of him speaking and then another
dissolve into the bar scene. The camera pans over to see
Don playing a violin and Cosmo playing the piano. They
play for a short time and then the camera dissolves into a
sign that says "Amateur Night." This is the beginning of the fourth scene. The picture is now cut and the next shot is of Don and Cosmo dancing and performing one of their
routines as clowns. After a brief time of viewing this the
camera dissolves into a superimposed Cosmo and Don
dancing in front of a changing background. The changing
background is a series of shots of different cities. Each shot is separated by a cut. Finally the camera dissolves into the original background that the superimposed duo were taken
from. They proceed to dance for a couple of minutes and
when they are finished there is no reaction. There is a cut
and we see a point-of-view shot in terms of Don and
Cosmo to see that the audience is booing. This is the last
scene before they actually get to Hollywood. Singin' in the
Rain is the musical that all other musicals should be judged by. It tells a story that only others had dreamed of telling. Donald O'Connor, Debbie Reynolds and the great Gene
Kelly help give one of the greatest performances of all
times in a musical. With the help of superb editing, sound,
mise en scene, and cinematography, this film cannot be
topped. The fist scene of the movie creates an atmosphere
that helps the viewer know that he/she will enjoy this
wonderful classic. Throughout the movie there are surprises
and fun that makes this a movie that people will want to
watch again and again. Gene Kelly said it best when he
said, "Dignity, always dignity." That is what this movie has from beginning to end, dignity. The best thing we could
possibly do is forget about our worries and just start Singin' in the Rain. Courtesy of Chew (1995) U. of Maryland

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