Musicals, Romance, Silent Film

Maddy’s Pick For The Weekend 1: Singin’ In The Rain (1952)

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Happy Friday, everyone! I picked this for two reasons: firstly given the endless rain we’re having here in my part of the UK, I think the title is very apt; secondly because this is one of the best films from Hollywood’s classic era. It is filled with endless fun, loveable characters and stunning costumes.

Hollywood, in the 1920’s,handsome screen legend Don Lockwood(Gene Kelly)is paired with the beautiful Lina Lamont(an Oscar robbed Jean Hagen). The pair are the film couple, and rumours are rife that they may be in love off screen. Don can’t stand Lina, but she encourages the rumours because she actually does have feelings for him.

When the studio heads decide to make a sound film following the success of Al Jolson’s The Jazz Singer, Lockwood and Lamont are once again paired together. There is one snag though, Lina has a very unpleasant voice and there is worry about how that will be received by audiences. Enter Kathy Seldon(the late Debbie Reynolds), a dancer and singer who catches the eye, and captures the heart of Don(much to Lina’s displeasure.) Kathy will dub Lina’s voice on screen, but when she does will never get credited for it, Kathy is happy to go along but Don doesn’t like her being used. The stage is set for arguments, tears, heartbreak and laughter.

This is a film to cheer you up and has a real sense of fun about it.Catchy songs, plenty of humour courtesy of Donald O’Connor, as Don’s best friend Cosmo and an unforgettable appearance by legendary dancer Cyd Charisse(she gets one of the best film entrances ever in a sexy dance with Kelly.) A young Rita Moreno can be spotted in a small supporting role.

Jean Hagen is superb as Lina. Although she is the films villain, I actually do feel sorry for her as she represents so many Silent stars whose careers ended when sound came into the movie business.  I think it is a real shame that Jean didn’t win an award for her performance here.

The Technicolor use is gorgeous and the costumes are beautiful. This will put a smile on your face, get you tapping your toes and singing along.

My favourite scenes are the following. The harassed director trying to get the perfect shot, but Lina’s microphone keeps cutting out. The Good Morning dance. The screening where the dialogue gets messed up and the actors voices switch. The finale and that unforgettable dance scene between Kelly and Charisse(what happened to that beautiful green outfit she has on?)

Makes you want to grab your brolly,find the nearest puddles and dance and sing.

Please leave your thoughts on this film below.

 

 

Silent Film

Shooting Stars (1928)

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For my first ever blog post(so excited), I’d like to discuss this British Silent. I saw this for the first time last year, and I was only sorry that I had never seen it sooner. One of the best ‘behind the scenes’ films ever made in my opinion. Funny, touching, dramatic and suspenseful.

This is one of the best films about making films that I’ve ever seen. There is a sense of realism about it and an almost documentary feel. You really feel like you are backstage with these people. I also find it fascinating watching how a silent film studio operated, and seeing what went on behind and off the camera.

It must have been interesting and maybe even difficult viewing for Silent era audiences watching this one, as they were shown how the magic of film is achieved, and that co-stars may hate one another, yet seem the best of friends on screen. This film reveals to us that film is all about illusion and yet despite knowing it’s all illusion audiences still believe and enjoy what they see anyway. I would have loved to have been in the audience when this premiered.

The opening romantic scene focusing on a woman in a blossom tree kissing a cowboy, highlights perfectly films ability to make us believe what we see on screen. What begins as a beautiful romantic scene descends into chaos when a dove bites the woman, she screams and the camera pulls back revealing she is actually an actress, the tree is a set, and that the scene we’ve just witnessed was for a film. We then pull back and are shown the soundstages of the studio, we see other actors, crewmembers walking around and other films being shot on adjacent stages.

The film starts off being very funny, and then it turns very dark and suspenseful. The ending is realistic and depressing, it shows that fame is fleeting and that once great stars can become yesterdays news.

Mae Feather(Annette Benson)and Julian Gordon(Brian Aherne)are married, and are two of the most famous British stars. Mae is a beautiful and self centred woman. Julian loves her despite her flaws. Mae begins an affair with comedy actor Andy Wilkes(Donald Calthrop). When Julian discovers the affair Mae becomes so enraged that she decides to kill Julian, her plan has unexpected and disastrous results.

Benson is superb as the actress who destroys her only chance of happiness for a moment of passion. Calthrop is marvellous playing two different characters, the Chaplin like comic character Wilkes is famous for, and as the elegant man ladies man who Wilkes is off screen. Brian Aherne has the hardest role I think, he has to play Julian as being slightly dull, but also has to ensure he has our sympathy throughout the film I think he more than succeeds. An actress called Chili Bouchier (who I’m unfamiliar with) makes quite an impression as a glamorous co-star of Wilkes.

I would love to see all three of the films featured within the film, Wilkes comedy in particular looks great fun.

Altman’s bouncy music fits so well with the film and is also very catchy.

The films title is later cleverly revealed to have two meanings.

My favourite scenes are the following. May and Julian walking onto Wilkes comedy film set and watching him perform. The beach sequence. The opening in the blossom tree. The ending. Julian watching the film at the cinema, and seeing the reaction of the boys behind him.

This has immense rewatch value, and is a must see for Silent fans. If you have never seen a Silent flick before, I think this would be a good one to start with. This film has something for everyone, and does such a good job of showing us how the magic of the big screen is achieved.