BWW Reviews: SINGIN' IN THE RAIN 60 Years Later - The Best Movie Musical of All Time


Early on in Singin' in the Rain, the young ingénue Kathy Selden says to dashing movie star Don Lockwood, “I don’t go to the movies much.  If you’ve seen one, you’ve seen them all.”

If you only saw one movie in your lifetime, you could not do much better than Singin' in the Rain.

I had the pleasure of attending a special one night only screening of Singin' in the Rain on Thursday, July 12th, presented by Fathom Events, Turner Classic Movies, and Warner Brothers.  The film, which celebrates its 60th anniversary this year and receives its first ever Blu-Ray release on Tuesday, July 17th, attracted a full house at the Regal Arbor 8 movie theater in Austin, TX.  I have never seen such an eclectic crowd at a movie theater before.  Some were young and possibly had never seen the film before.  Others looked as if they could have seen the film when it was released 60 years ago.  And then there was me, a 28 year old film and theater enthusiast who still dances on lamp posts when it’s raining and has fond childhood memories of trying to imitate Donald O’Connor’s ability to back flip off of walls.

As I sat there before the film began, I thought of how remarkable it is that this film has attracted so much attention and continues to inspire 60 years later.  The film is no doubt a staple of American film history and pop culture.  Singin' in the Rain ranks #1 on the American Film Institute’s list of the Best Movie Musicals of All Time and ranks at #5 on their list of the Best Films of All Time.  The title song comes in at #3 on AFI’s list of the Best Film Songs of All Time, behind only “As Time Goes By” from Casablanca and “Over the Rainbow” from The Wizard of Oz

However, no one involved in the film expected the film to be such a hit.  The film made $3 million in its initial release, respectable back in 1952, but by no means the biggest film of the year.  It was nominated for two Academy Awards but did not win either.  And on top of that, it was a musical that featured very little original music.  The film featured two new songs, “Moses Supposes” and “Make ‘Em Laugh,” but all of the other songs written by composer Nacio Herb Brown and lyricist Arthur Freed had been featured in other films dating all the way back to 1929.  Even the title song had been featured in five other films.  It’s quite remarkable that one of the first jukebox musicals is now an iconic piece of American cinema.  Ask yourself if we’ll be talking about the film versions of Mamma Mia!, Rock of Ages, or even the upcoming film version of Jersey Boys 60 years from now.

So why is it that the movie became such a hit and is considered to be the best movie musical of all time?

The answer is simple.  It’s a crowd-pleaser.

Singin' in the Rain is one of those movies where every element and every member of the cast and crew came together to create something truly breathtaking and exceptional.  The script by Betty Comden and Adolph Green zings along at a brisk, Aaron Sorkin-esque pace and provides laughs in every scene.  It also manages to work in the recycled songbook oF Brown and Freed wonderfully, making each song sound fresh and new, as if they had been penned specifically for the film.