Singin’ in the Rain

  • Title:  Singin’ in the Rain
  • Director:  Gene Kelly and Stanley Donen
  • Date:  1952
  • Studio:  MGM
  • Genre:  Musical, Romance, Comedy
  • Cast:  Gene Kelly, Donald O’Connor, Debbie Reynolds, Jean Hagen, Cyd Charisse, Rita Moreno
  • Format:  Standard, Technicolor
  • DVD Format:  R1, NTSC

“Dignity, always dignity.”  — Don Lockwood

“What do you think I am?  Dumb or something?”  Lina

“Everybody’s always making speeches for me, well tonight I’m going to do my own talking, I’m going to make the speech!” — Lina

It should come as no surprise that I’m a big fan of Fred Astaire (see links on left to his many films that I own) so, even though I think it’s perfectly possible to like both, I’m much less of a fan of Gene Kelly.  Kelly definitely has a very different dancing style — he’s athletic, and dances like a gymnast but he’s also very heavy.  While Astaire dances on air — and seems to float with grace and style, Kelly is very down to earth and almost working class, even when playing a rich, successful, film star as he does in Singin’ in the the Rain.

The film starts with a 1927 film premiere, which is reminiscent of  an Oscar Red Carpet night, complete with a female commentator, who announces the stars as they arrive.  Soon, one of the film’s stars arrives, Don Lockwood (Kelly), who is convinced to tell his well-known story to the audience.  He does, but the pictures in the resulting montage are the exact opposite of his words.  It is a very nice piece of ironic humor to start the film.

However, it is also ironically, and unintentionally, a comment on the studio system of film-making, of which MGM was a prime (but not the only) example.  The studio would create background stories, publicity images, even the names of their stars, as well as choosing which films their stars made and who their co-stars were.  Studio system actors, in a very real sense, were “just doing a job” — they showed up, made that month’s picture, then the next, and the next, and the next.  This is one reason why film stars of the 1930s, 40s, and 50s, racked up huge numbers of films if they stayed in the business.

Just as Lockwood and Lina Lamont (Jean Hagen), the stars of Monumental Pictures, start their new film, “The Dueling Cavalier”, Warner Brother’s “The Jazz Singer” comes out and is a smashing success.  “R.F.”, the head of  the studio, decides “The Dueling Cavalier”, will be a talking picture.  Don and Lina are given voice / diction lessons, but whereas Don takes to it like a duck to water, Lina, whom the studio has not allowed to speak in public, has trouble.  Her voice is loud, squeaky, obnoxious, and her manner is rude, self-centered, and shrewish.  Not only is her voice a distraction, but she is unable to figure out she must direct her voice towards the microphone, or that playing with her costume (notably a strand of fake pearls) will cause extra noise that’s a distraction on the film.  In short, Lina, is a disaster, though probably not entirely due to her own fault.

The new film is shown to a preview audience, and the crowd roars with laughter (for a serious, historic romance), and many complain it’s the worst they have ever seen while leaving the theater.  RF, Don, and Don’s friend, Cosmo (Donald O’Connor) are devastated. But, Kathy (Debbie Reynolds), a young starlet and acting hopeful, that Don has been pursing, has an idea — make the film into a musical.  Cosmo points out that Lina also can’t sing or dance.  Then he gets an idea:  Kathy will dub Lina’s lines, and sing for her.  They take the plan to RF, who loves it.  Don suggests they save what they can of the film by making it about a “young hoofer” (that is, a dancer) who goes to New York to seek his fortune on the stage, while backstage he’s hit by a falling sandbag, and dreams he’s in the French Revolution (the footage already shot of “The Dueling Cavalier”), the title of the film will be changed to “The Dancing Cavalier”.

Everything goes to plan until Lina finds out what’s going on, and about Kathy dubbing for her.  She’s extremely angry and releases a story to the press about her phenomenal singing voice.  She also points out to RF she’s in charge of her own publicity.  Therefore, RF’s plans of giving Kathy screen credit, and making it plain in the press she was a new star and would star in new films with Don goes up in smoke.

The new film’s premiere is a success, and Lina insists she will make Kathy dub her voice for the next five years, ruining Kathy’s own career.  She makes a speech to the crowd, which goes over only so-so, then at the crowd’s insistence, sings the reprise of  “Singin’ in the Rain”, getting Kathy to dub it for her. However, Don, Cosmo, and RF pull the curtain back, revealing that the excellent voice is, in fact, Kathy.

List of  Musical Numbers

  • Fit as a Fiddle
  • All I Do is Dream of  You
  • Make ‘Em Laugh
  • You Were Meant For Me
  • Moses Supposes
  • Good Morning
  • Singin’ in the Rain
  • Would You?
  • Broadway Melody / Broadway Rhythm
  • Singin’ in the Rain (Reprise)
  • You Are My Lucky Star

Most of  the music from Singin’ in the Rain, isn’t original at all — it’s from Warner Brothers and RKO musicals from the late 1920s up to the mid-1930s.  Even the title tune is from the Hollywood Review of 1929, while “Good Morning” is from Babes in Arms (1939).  However, “Singin’ in the Rain” with Gene Kelly gleefully walking, striding, singing, and dancing in a cold, rainy street is an excellent number.  I also liked the less-than-serious “Moses Supposes” (Kelly and O’Connor, partner tap) and the energetic “Good Morning” (Reynolds, Kelly, and O’Connor, trio partner tap).  The finale is typical of big, technicolor, MGM musicals, with several moods, changes of  set and costume, lots of show dancing, and even two lovely ballet numbers starring Cyd Charisse dancing opposite Gene Kelly.

However, the film is very anti-feminist in it’s attitudes.  Lina, is made fun of and gets her come-uppance, not only because she’s a “shrew” but because she insists on being in charge of her own career, and speaking for herself.  Whereas Kathy is a good girl and always does what she’s told – by Don and RF especially.  Lina’s goal, speaking for herself, making her own career decisions, and basically not being pushed around, isn’t so bad.  Yes, she misbehaves (especially towards Kathy whom she sees as a threat to her relationship with Don), but you know what they say about well-behaved women (they rarely make history).  There’s also the inherent age-ism of  a young starlet replacing a more mature actress. Overall, what she wants and her behavior isn’t that bad, considering, and the way she’s belittled, made fun of, and embarrassed — not to mention the complete loss of  her career is a bit harsh of a punishment.

Recommendation:  See it (if only for the dance sequences)
Rating:  3.5 out of  5
Next Film:  The Sorcerer’s Apprentice

Shrek Forever After

  • Title:  Shrek Forever After
  • Director:  Mike Mitchell
  • Date:  2010
  • Studio:  Dreamworks
  • Genre:  Animation, Romance, Comedy, Musical
  • Cast:  Mike Myers, Eddie Murphy, Cameron Diaz, Antonio Banderes, Julie Andrews, John Cleese
  • Format:  Color, Widescreen Animation
  • DVD Format:  R1, NTSC

“You have three beautiful children, a wife who loves you, friends who adore you, you have everything.  Why is it that the only person who can’t see that – is you?”  — Fiona

I bought the Shrek films in a complete set, and it turns out the only one I hadn’t seen was this one, the fourth and final Shrek film.  This time around, Shrek goes through a mid-life crisis, fearing he has lost his “roar”.  He makes a deal with Rumplestilskin to have one day as an fierce ogre again in return for giving up one day of his own life.  However, Rumplestilskin takes the day Shrek was born, creating a weird alternate universe where Fiona’s parents no longer exist, Rumplestilskin rules Far Far Away with an Iron Fist and the help of a troop of evil witches, and Fiona Warrior Princess leads a band of less than successful ogre rebels.  Donkey pulls a wagon for a pair of evil witches, meanwhile Puss-in-Boots no longer wears his boots and hat, no longer fights, and has gotten very over weight.  Moreover, since Shrek was never born, after 24 hours he will cease to exist, making all the changes permanent.  It’s sort of Shrek does “It’s a Wonderful Life”.

However, I still enjoyed this film.  Overall, the first film is the best, but all four, including this one, manage to keep the characters in character and true to themselves.  Even the alternate universe Fiona, Donkey, and Puss, all ring true to themselves.

Shrek discovers that if Fiona experiences “True Love’s Kiss” her curse will be broken, and Shrek also will be freed from his contract with Rumplestilskin.  However, when Shrek finally kisses her — she hasn’t fallen in love with him.  However, never fear, the film has a happy ending, and Fiona kisses Shrek a second time, having fallen for him, she and everyone else is returned to the birthday party that Shrek had stormed out of.  The ending credit music is, “I’m a Believer”, as in the first film.  This is found by a montage of “best of” scenes from all four films.

Again, I enjoyed the film.  This time the theme is more about being grateful for what you have, rather than themes of self-acceptance,  but it’s still a well-thought out movie.

Recommendation:  See it!  May as well complete the set.
Rating:  3.8 out of  5 Stars
Next Film:  Singin’ in the Rain

It Could Happen to You

  • Title:  It Could Happen to You
  • Director:  Andrew Bergman
  • Date:  1994
  • Studio:  Tri-Star Pictures
  • Genre:  Romance, Comedy
  • Cast:  Nicolas Cage, Bridget Fonda, Rosie Perez, Isaac Hayes, Red Buttons, Stanley Tucci
  • Format:  Color, Widescreen
  • DVD Format:  R1, NTSC

“A promise is a promise.”  — Charlie Lang

“Hey, we’ve got a cop [that] gave a waitress a $2 million dollar tip!” — Reporter

The original title for this film, reportedly based on a true story, was “Cop Gives Waitress $2 Million Tip”, which I like better than It Could Happen to You. However, the film is still an enjoyable feel-good movie. The film has a fairy tale feel to it, especially when it cuts to “Angel” (Isaac Hayes) who provides some narration to explain the plot and the characters.

Charlie Lang is a cop in Queens, New York. He’s happy in Queens and enjoys his job as a police officer. One day he and his partner are in a coffee shop for lunch, when they get a call. They are unable to get their lunch, and he’s short for paying the bill (two coffees). The waitress, Yvonne, offers to have the coffee on the house, but her attitude almost suggests that she thinks Charlie is trying to get out of the bill because he’s a cop. Charlie explains that he can pay for the coffee, but not a tip. He then tells her he feels really bad about being short, and promises her that he will split his lottery ticket with her if he wins, and pay her tip the next day if he doesn’t. She thinks he’s a goofball and doesn’t expect to see him again.

Yvonne, meanwhile, is having the worse day of her life when she first meets Charlie. She had gone bankrupt that morning, when she couldn’t pay the $12,000 on her Mastercard (run up by her ex-husband). Technically, she’s only separated, not divorced, because she can’t afford a divorce either – and thus by New York law she’s responsible for her husband’s debt on her card in her name. She also has a terrible boss who berates her and charges everything he can against her check (from her missing time due to the bankruptcy hearing to customers walking out without paying their check).

That night, Charlie discovers to his surprise that he and his wife actually won $4 Million with the lottery ticket. Charlie’s not sure what to do, but he wants to give the waitress the $2 Million he promised her. He goes back to the coffee shop the next day, and Yvonne is her normal self — kind-hearted, sweet, and warm. Charlie is impressed. In the end, he gives her a choice — her tip, or half what he won in the lottery. Thinking he won nothing, she still plays along and says – half of the lottery ticket money. Then Charlie tells her he’s giving her $2 Million.

Charlie continues to be a cop, because he enjoys it, and he’s in a Korean grocery when he realizes the place is getting robbed. He tells his partner, then sneaks in through the back as his partner covers the front. He’s able to stop the robbery but gets shot in the shoulder during the tussle. He’s decorated for bravery and retires.

Charlie is quickly getting bored out of his mind since he’s not working.

Meanwhile, Muriel, Charlie’s wife, a ambitious, spiteful, greedy woman, is wildly spending the money. She talks Charlie into going on a millionaires’ cruise in New York harbor. He goes with her, but gets off the boat when he sees Yvonne. The two miss the boat, but have dinner together and dance. The next day they go out on a “date”. Meanwhile, on the cruise, Muriel chats up an investment broker who tells her he’s made $44 Million with his investments.

Tensions rise between Charlie and Muriel, and eventually she demands a divorce.  Unhappy, and miserable, and realizing he no longer has anything in common with his wife, Charlie agrees.  He ends up going to the plaza hotel.  Yvonne meanwhile is having her own problems — her ex, not satisfied with asking her for money over the phone, shows up at her apartment.  When she can’t get him to leave – she leaves, and goes to the Plaza Hotel.

Needless to say, Charlie and Yvonne run into each other. But their “tryst” becomes front page news. Muriel gets an expensive lawyer to demand the lottery money. Charlie offers her his half, but explodes when she also demands Yvonne’s money. The case goes to court and Charlie and Yvonne lose.

That night Charlie goes to see Yvonne at the coffee shop. She’s bought the shop, but without the lottery money she won’t be able to hold on to it. Charlie asks her if she cares for him. Yvonne realizes she does. The two hold each other and make tentative plans to move to Buffalo. While they are taking, the character of Angel comes up to the window and mimes eating. Yvonne lets him in, and feeds him some soup. The man takes photos of the couple with a miniature camera. However, he doesn’t expose them; rather with the headline of  “Their Darkest Hour”, his article is about the kindness the two show towards a stranger, even while mired in their own problems. The next day, tons of letters arrive at Yvonne’s coffee shop, with small amounts of cash and checks ($5.00, $10.00 each etc). In all, the two end up with a $600,000 Good Samaritan fund. Yvonne keeps her coffee shop, Charlie goes back to the force to be a cop, and the two of course marry.

What makes It Could Happen to You such a feel good movie and a step above the average romantic comedy is that Charlie and Yvonne are just good people. On one of their days together, the two buy an entire bag full of subway tokens and treat everyone to free rides home. Yvonne’s first impulsive act when Charlie tells her she’s won and he’s giving her the money is to treat everyone in the coffee shop to free ice cream on their pie. Charlie gives a few bills to a homeless guy as he and his wife walk into one of the expensive shops when she goes on her first spending spree. But both are just kind, wonderful people who liking helping others. Charlie loves his job as a beat cop because he can help people. He also mentors and plays stickball with a group of street kids on his block. Yvonne, also, is a good person even though she’s gone through some tough times and bad luck on her own.

The style of  the film is very much like a fairy tale, and like any good fairy tale it has a good lesson about showing kindness to strangers and not being selfish. I highly recommend this movie!

Recommendation:  See It
Rating:  4 out of 5 Stars
Next Film:  Shrek Forever After

Shrek the Third

  • Title:  Shrek the Third
  • Director:  Chris Miller
  • Date:  2007
  • Studio:  Dreamworks
  • Genre:  Comedy, Romance, Musical, Animation
  • Cast:  Mike Myers, Eddie Murphy, Cameron Diaz, Antonio Banderas, Julie Andrews, John Cleese, Eric Idle, Justin Timberlake
  • Format:  Color, Widescreen Animation
  • DVD Format:  R1, NTSC

“I know what it’s like to not feel ready for something.  Even ogres get scared, you know, once in awhile.”  — Shrek

“OK, girls, from here on out, we’re gonna’ take care of business ourselves.” — Fiona

In the third Shrek installment, Fiona’s father, the King, dies, and leaves Shrek as his heir.  But Shrek isn’t ready, and thinks the kingdom won’t accept an ogre as king — until he finds out, on the king’s deathbed, that there is another heir, Arthur.

Shrek decides to go with Donkey and Puss-in-Boots to find this lost heir.  Just before he leaves, Fiona tells him she’s pregnant.  Shrek is nervous and slightly terrified at the prospect of becoming a father.

Meanwhile, all the princesses and her mother give Fiona a baby shower.  This is thankfully interrupted by Prince Charming, who has gathered all the evil-doers in Far Far Away to attack the castle.  Charming, a frustrated actor who was failing at dinner theatre, is still trying to impress his mother, Fairy Godmother, by becoming king and taking over the kingdom.

Although Fiona, the Queen, and the princesses initially escape, they are betrayed by Rapunzel (who has made a deal with Charming to become his wife and defacto queen of Far Far Away).  Once in a dungeon room, the princesses (Snow White, Cinderella, and Sleeping Beauty) all announce they will wait to be rescued.  Fiona thinks they should rescue themselves, but isn’t sure how.  The Queen breaks them out of the dungeon cell — and Fiona liberates the Princesses.  I loved this scene, especially the bra burning. The Princesses, the Queen, and Fiona then attack the castle to rescue Shrek, and defeat Prince Charming.

However, during the final conflict at Charming’s show (a play starring Charming and Rapunzel in which Charming defeats Shrek and wins the Princess), Shrek and Arthur convince all the villains they should be who they want to be, and fulfill their dreams.  Charming, however, is not taken in by this – as all he wants is control of the kingdom.  Shrek and Artie manage to defeat Charming.

Instead of the big musical number to end the film, this one has a montage of Shrek and Fiona as new parents to three little ogres.

Overall, I really liked the Liberation of the Princesses part of this film (including the combat montage to “Barracuda”; the second plotline — Shrek and Donkey (with Puss-in-Boots) on yet another quest to a distant land felt like it had been done.  Charming’s rousing of the villains was interesting – but by the end of the film I actually felt kinda’ sorry for Charming.  I think the film could have done a better job of  being fair to his character — he almost became a cardboard villain so to speak.  Also, with a lost boy king named Arthur, I expected Arthurian/Holy Grail/etc type gags, but other than a psychedelic Merlin the film completely ignored that opportunity.

There also isn’t as much in the way of  sight gags and verbal wordplay as their has been in the previous two films.

Recommendation:  See it
Rating:  3.5 out of 5 Stars
Next Film:  Shrek Forever After