100 Movies You Need to See Before You Die

Singin' in the Rain (1952)

Country: USA
Directors: Gene Kelly, Stanley Donen
Screenwriters: Betty Comden, Adolph Green
Stars: Gene Kelly, Donald O'Connor, Debbie Reynolds, Jean Hagen, Millard Mitchell

Twenty-five years after the talkies took Hollywood by storm, Singin’ in the Rain poked a little musical fun at the transition from the actors’ point of view. (What if a silent screen legend had a laughable speaking voice?)

Though Debbie Reynolds is charming and Donald O’Connor out-dances them all, this is Gene Kelly’s show. In addition to starring and providing the choreography, Kelly was credited as co-director, too. While on the sunny surface it’s the perfect old-timey Hollywood musical, many of the same movie star antics that were being lampooned in the film were happening behind the scenes: Reynolds couldn’t dance and Kelly let her know it (though he did later cop to his bad behavior). O’Connor had to be hospitalized and was ordered three days of bed rest following his brilliant “Make ‘Em Laugh” routine. And Kelly was terribly ill during the filming of the titular dance number. As if running a 103-degree temperature weren’t uncomfortable enough, the constant stream of water caused his wool suit to shrink over the days it took to complete the scene. Dignity, always dignity. —JW

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