That's Something You Don't See Every Day, Chauncey

Watch me pull a rabbit outta my hat!

All-Time Top 20 Favorite Movies, #9: Dignity. Always dignity.

Posted by kozemp on November 20, 2012

Bet you didn’t see THAT one coming.

Singin’ in the Rain is one of two movies that I remember expecting to hate going into it and being pleasantly surprised to find that I actually loved it. (The other is Moulin Rouge.) On the first day of my first film class I saw Singin’ in the Rain on the syllabus and immediately started scowling. Singin’ in the Rain? What the hell was this crap? When we sat down to watch it I was ready to RUMBLE.

I don’t think my scowl made it through the first scene.

I suppose there is a lesson here about reserving judgement, and not making blanket statements without having all the facts, or some hippy-dippy shit like that, but I’m going to say that the main lesson learned from this whole thing is that Gene Kelly is awesome. He acts, he dances, he… sings, sort of. The thing I disliked about old musicals was that up until then all I’d seen were stodgy Fred Astaire movies, and if that’s your entire conception of “old movie musical,” Singin’ in the Rain is like a smack in the face with a hockey stick.

Astaire was always about precision and accuracy and perfection – the dancing equivalent of a Swiss clock. Gene Kelly was like someone put a tornado inside a human body and set it loose but it still had perfect timing. He had energy and life; he practically bounded across the screen. A couple months ago Singin’ in the Rain was showing on the big screen and I went with a friend of mine. During Good Morning, I said to my buddy, “watch how much ground Gene Kelly covers.” It’s insane. Debbie Reynolds does pretty good for a first timer and Donald O’Connor is certainly no slouch himself, but in that scene you watch Gene Kelly’s feet and just how MUCH he moves, how far he travels, and it’s astonishing. It’s not surprising he was a promising baseball player before he got into showbiz – he must have been a hell of an infielder with range like that.

Singin’ in the Rain is one of those movies where even when everything is great – and it is, I can’t think of a single misstep in the whole thing – but there’s still that one element that just towers over everything else. I wrote earlier about how Burt Lancaster is my favorite actor. Gene Kelly is #2, easy. And not just because he can dance and… sing, sort of. But the worst part is that he’s FUNNY. And he’s the worst, most infuriating kind of funny, the purely effortless. Lots of people are funny because they work at it. Gene Kelly is funny because he’s just FUNNY, and that makes me SO MAD.

But I’m getting away from myself.

It’s hard, honestly, to underestimate the impact this movie had on me. It was my first exposure to one of my favorite actors. It’s damnably funny, and a clinic on how to construct a great screenplay from a bunch of disparate parts. Because I loved it so much, years later when a community theatre I was peripherally connected to announced that they were doing a stage version of it I rearranged my life so that I could be in it, which started a process that eventually gave me the opportunity to say things like “it’s not my fault you can’t tell that your boyfriend is gay” and “what do you mean you’re marrying your gay boyfriend?” Hell, I once got almost 15 minutes of standup out of that one show, that alone was pretty awesome.

But that show also started a process that involved me meeting some pretty great people, which led to other things that involved a lot of great people, which all circled back years later to sitting at the Jersey Ritz saying, “watch how much ground Gene Kelly covers.”

That’ll teach me to base my decisions on a line on a syllabus.



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