Pittsburgh native Gene Kelly is silent film star Don Lockwood, who isn’t exactly fond of his shallow leading lady, Lina Lamont (Jean Hagen), though their film studio tries its best to link them romantically as a way to draw cinemagoers. To complicate matters, the actors must make a rocky transition to “talkies.” When the filmmakers decide to dub over Lina’s singing parts, aspiring actress Kathy Selden is hired and enchants Don.
Fans of the classic musical “Singin’ in the Rain” won’t be watching for the plot, cobbled together by Betty Comden and Adolph Green, to accommodate songs already in MGM’s library. Only one song — the playful “Moses Supposes” — is undeniably original, with “Make ’Em Laugh” bearing a close melodic resemblance to Cole Porter’s “Be a Clown.”
None of that matters when lead actor Gene Kelly sings the title song, swinging on a lamppost, drenched by rain and buoyed by love. Or when Donald O’Connor defies gravity, dancing literally off the wall in the “Make ’Em Laugh” sequence. Or when Kelly woos Debbie Reynolds with “You Were Meant for Me.” They are classic moments from the prime example of Hollywood’s golden age of musicals.
Gotta dance like Kelly and Cyd Charisse? First, take a fun look at “Singin’ in the Rain,” by the numbers:
0 Number of Academy Awards won by “Singin’ in the Rain,” after only two nominations, for supporting actress Jean Hagen and Lenny Hayton’s musical score.
1 “Singin’ in the Rain’s” ranking on the American Film Institute’s list of 25 greatest Hollywood musicals ever.
2 Number of weeks “Singin’ in the Rain’s” network TV premiere broadcast was postponed in 1963. NBC had planned to show the movie Nov. 23 but a day earlier president John F. Kennedy was assassinated, and a breezy musical comedy didn’t seem appropriate.
2 Number of dancers (Gwen Verdon, Carol Haney) who dubbed Kelly’s tap sounds during the classic title number. The women stood ankle-deep in water to synch their tapping sounds with Kelly’s hoofing on screen.
4 Packs of cigarettes Donald O’Connor smoked daily when he performed the strenuous “Make ’Em Laugh” number. O’Connor was bedridden with exhaustion for a week before re-filming the entire scene after the original footage was accidentally ruined.
5 Number of times the song “Singin’ in the Rain” was performed in movies before Kelly’s version. Other earlier performers included Cliff “Ukelele Ike” Edwards and a chorus of MGM stars in “The Hollywood Revue of 1929” (with a clip shown a decade later in “Babes in Arms”), Jimmy Durante in “Speak Easily,” Judy Garland in “Little Nellie Kelly” and the oddest, William Bendix as the Sultan of Swat in “The Babe Ruth Story.”
7 Number of days needed to film Kelly’s famous title song-and-dance, on a backlot street two blocks long, with six hours of fake rain each day.
19 Debbie Reynolds’ age when romantically co-starring with Kelly, who was twice her age.