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Singin ‘in Rain is remembered by its makers – and still reigns for 70 years

I still remember the words I uttered on the telephone in the afternoon of Los Angeles in 1990. The warm and kind words were well-known, though they were old and tired, and they seemed to come from a movie. “Then you talked to Stanley. What did he say? ”It was then that I realized I had Gene Kelly.

I was a movie reporter who went to Hollywood to search for stars and news, and worked for BBC Radio and FT. Aside from Singin ‘in the Rain – certainly Hollywood music that is well-known and accepted? – came out of my head last year, after talking to fellow director Stanley Donen. Now I use the dialogue (without shame) to add new ones. Gene Kelly was the director and co-star of the film – and his former colleague Donen sparring pal. He would not allow, of course, his old friend to have one last word.

Now cut to 2021, thirty years after my tour released a fast-changing radio doc and Kelly’s FT piece. I open the cupboard door in the closet I open in my room and many cassettes fall off. I cry when I recognize them: they have become friends swimming around in my memory tank. “Gene! Look, you’re falling on top of Donald [O’Connor]. Debbie [Reynolds], and you too? Stanley, be careful, you damage your protective wallet. “

Gene Kelly and fellow director Stanley Donen. ‘It was a real union,’ says Donen © Alamy

How does that fit in? That’s what Donen, Kelly and Team MGM did 70 years ago: they disrupted traditional music. Why did the 1952 music and dance film continue to be voted the most successful of its kind? Because it shines brighter than anything else; because it was, and is the epitome of wisdom, music and creativity built on the points that Kelly-Donen already found in their first collaboration as directors, In Town; because the music, the lyrics, the stars and their style are better combined than any song before or after.

In the past: the collapse of the oil and proscenium oil even in the gift groups of Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers. After: years of monster roadshows creaky and growing or schmaltz (Sound of Music, Stars!) entering the age of buy-the-album montage and youth disco-fever shows: The Most Difficult Night, Help!, Saturday Night Fever, Oil.

Included. Speaking of my 30-year-old tape, those are Donen’s favorite words for the film’s completion. “There was a real bond. Everything was edited until the final copy. If you could read non-musical songs in this film, it had more songs than no. “

Through in-fabricated. Or approaching as the golden age Hollywood reached. It was probably a good song because it was more than just music. “It was history,” 77-year-old Gene Kelly, careless and careless, rushed me to his Rodeo Drive home. “Music can play a greater role in a group than in a serious or very dangerous drama. We took the 20th century art: the movie, when the sound was heard. And we have told the truth. “

At the time of the shooting, the “real alliance” Donen recalls that it sometimes benefited from severe punishment. Debbie Reynolds states that Kelly, in particular, broke the whip.

Kelly, Debbie Reynolds and Donald O'Connor collide in the rain wearing a yellow shirt and carrying umbrellas over their heads.

Kelly falls into the rain with teammates Debbie Reynolds and Donald O’Connor © Alamy

“Why do they put me in it Singin ‘in the Rain, I will never know, “he told me in a small room in Studio City, the bright light of Blanche DuBois. But then again, why wouldn’t they throw him?” [her character] Kathy Selden. . . ”

Kathy is the girl who was brought in to be mentioned by the singer Kelly, who spoke to her in Brooklyn (Jean Hagen), struggling to survive the coming of the voice. But Kathy’s character has to do with dancing, singing, and matching lips.

“Mr. Kelly tested me and said, ‘Do it for a moment,’” Reynolds recalls. “I can do that. Then he said ‘Do it Maxie Ford.’ I said, ‘What kind of car is that?’ ”

“She could not dance,” Kelly says. “But he was as bright as a whip and could lie. And I put his tapes on him.”

Reynolds is said to have worked hard until his feet bled, especially in a thriller movie featuring all three stars. “It was night and I was practicing ‘Good Morning’. We sat in the chair 40 times.” Then Gene and O’Connor jumped up and down.

(Kelly politely scolds the bleeding feet. “The whole cloth. I didn’t see it. Not even anyone else.

O'Connor and Kelly jumped for seats in the 'Moses Supposes' number

O’Connor and Kelly jumped on the bandwagon in ‘Moses Thinks’ © © Getty Images

Donald O’Connor remembers the same but similar pain in the “Make ‘Em Laugh” number, which inspired a vaudeville first mixing dummy song, then a wall dance and backlash: “They didn’t have a personal number, so they decided to write one. . ”

Donen and Kelly appropriately asked Arthur Freed of MGM, whose book provided many more numbers, to write a new song. “Like ‘Be an Artist’ from The Pirate, Donen says. Freed came back and gave them the same song with different lyrics. “We were too embarrassed to talk about it,” says Donen.

“My only practice was doing it over and over again,” says O’Connor, a wall-and-somersault dancer. I had to build because the wall was concrete. With backflip I think, he wants me to kill myself – ‘Gone is Donald. It’s very sad. ”’But we did it in one day. When I returned three days later, everyone in the group clapped their hands. Then he said to me, ‘Sorry Donald, we have blocked the camera hole. You have to do it again. ‘”

Kelly dances with Cyd Charisse

Kelly and dancer Cyd Charisse – ‘the best dancer’, says Reynolds © Corbis / Getty Images

Singin ‘in the Rain they have flaws. Do we want that long-sleeved jazz ballet, set up in Gershwin, by ingénue Reynolds instead of leg and dance expert Cyd Charisse? Was Reynolds upset? “I’m a puppet dancer, not a ballerina. I’m a woofer. For me, Cyd Charisse was a great dancer. I have no reason to feel sorry for him.”

Kelly admits: “It doesn’t always fit in with the rest of the numbers. It’s a joke. But it works. ”

At the heart of Singin ‘in the Rain it is amazing that the songs changing this brim and brio game were made mainly of the materials used. Almost all the songs were recorded in the background. This includes the title track of Freed (former MGM music director in 1952) and Nacio Herb Brown, who had previously been featured in more than one film. “Singin ‘in the Rain” went on to become a hit movie – and a list of old movie songs.

“The simple idea,” says Donen, “was a man who was in love, happy, and alive, and there was a natural instinct that struck him in the face.

It was not easy to get an idea through the window. Kelly says: “I was not able to build a bridge from singing from the first love show to Roger Edens. [another MGM music honcho] came with a small pump. Do-de-do-doo, do-de-do-do-doo. ”…

Gene Kelly sings me the first song “Singin ‘in the Rain” in the living room of Rodeo Drive. Apparently I died and went to heaven. He says: “That bombshell made me feel even happier. “The number took about 10 days to test and we shot it in a day and a half. It was tough.”

Kelly rides a candlestick for the movie's theme song

Kelly in the dance floor who entered the famous movie theater, producing many shows and courtesy © Alamy.

Explains Donen: “It was made of black cloth pulled from the back street. There were ropes attached to the poles of the phones. We shot in the summer afternoon. Warm water would trickle down to the earth and very hot. ” And Kelly had a cold, the story goes? “Yes, he did. And a little warmth, as I recall. “

It all takes a myth. The event went straight into the history of history, with tax evasion generations. Millions of people who saw Morecambe and Wise prance on a rainy street probably never saw Kelly’s first.

That’s a myth: something wonderful, made and made from honor and history. Add poetry writing, when we have the opportunity, of the participants. Let Debbie Reynolds have a final word on the big moment of the big hit song.

“Only the rain, the road, the lantern, the umbrella, and the wise – made that an unforgettable number.”

Available on BBC iPlayer here

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