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Review of new "Singin' in the Rain" DVD

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From Slate magazine, a review by Bryan Curtis of the new DVD of "Singin' in the Rain."

http://slate.msn.com/?id=2071196

Curtis' emphasis on moviemaking as a collaborative endeavor is correct, I think. But I wonder about the phrasing of the following quote:

In his book The American Film Musical, Rick Altman suggests that Kelly owed his stardom, at least in part, to a new way musicals were cast. Beginning with the actor Joseph Coyne, and later Fred Astaire and Maurice Chevalier, directors began picking talented dancers with little formal vocal training for their romantic leads.  Kelly didn't talk his songs like Rex Harrison, or croak them like Mickey Rooney, but his voice could be shaky.

It's true that these gentlemen had little formal vocal training, but I'm not sure that there was a time when directors suddenly started "picking " such performers. Musical comedy stars in general had a specialty – singing or dancing – and although they usually did both, generally their expertise in one department was superior to the other. Astaire and Kelly were hired as dancers first, singers after, and directors didn't necessarily have much to do with their being contracted to the studios in any case. And very early on, both men were choosing their directors or approving them. Harrison didn't star in any musicals until quite late in his career. I can't help thinking this quote represents director-centric thinking that can often be misleading when discussing Hollywood, especially old Hollywood.

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And I never thought of Maurice Chevalier as primarily a dancer, as he was a great French cabaret artist. A SONG-AND-dance man!

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I had the same thought. And I actually don't think Kelly's voice is really shaky -- he's just not Howard Keel, that's all. :)

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And while he didn't have a great voice, Fred Astaire was a great singer.

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Yes, he sang the songs as written, a novel and much appreciated experience for many of the songwriters who wrote for him. Astaire was a wannabe songwriter himself, which may also have helped. Irving Berlin said he would rather have Astaire introduce his songs than anyone else.

Although I think George Gershwin complained to Ira while working on a Fred and Ginger vehicle that "the amount of singing one can take from those two is limited," or words to that effect.

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Gene Kelly's voice was perfect for "Singin' in the Rain". However the choice was made it was inspired, since it fit the movie so well--the Singing Cavalier could carry a tune and had a decent voice, about as much as you could hope for in an actor going from silent movies to talkies. And the choice of Jean Hagen also fit perfectly. Who could better deliver the line "I caan't staann it"?

Just about all the dance in this movie is terrific. According to the imdb, director Stanley Donen is the uncredited choreographer, although one assumes that Gene Kelly (and possibly Donald O'Connor) had a lot to do with it. Donen directed a lot of musicals with a lot of great dancing.

"Singin' in the Rain" is an absolute joy for anyone who likes Hollywood dance from the 1950s.

Along with "Casablanca" it is, for me, one of the two perfectly made and cast movie ever.

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