Singin' in the Rain

Lecture by Marilyn Fabe

Change: it can work for you or against you, as this film that heralded the rebirth of the musical in the early fifties exuberantly demonstrates. The fifties' self-consciousness about being a locus where traditions meet swift social transformations is best expressed in Singin' in the Rain's choice of a sister era, the late twenties, when a single technological achievement, the advent of sound, threatened the artistic careers of a generation of film stars. Gene Kelly is brilliant as the silent star who connives to pull his pathetic partner Jean Hagen into the world of sound by sidestepping the talkies altogether and inventing the musical, where Debbie Reynolds can do the singing offscreen. This vastly entertaining film has many layers of reality, but like the proverbial onion it has no center: its business is exposing the conventions of the cinema, where even "real" characters are not real.

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