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The Nostalgia of Watching a Marvelous Movie
As a film critic, I have a lot of people who I look to as people who have influenced me as a writer and a person. There's Roger Ebert, one of the most famous film critics ever who taught me about how to creatively critique a film. Another is Floyd Reynolds, a teacher I had at Warwick High School in Newport News, Virginia who made me realize how much I enjoyed reading film. Then there's Nathan Rabin, a former editor of The A.V. Club whose series My Year of Flops taught me how to look at bad movies.
One of the most important people who has shaped me as a film critic is Mal Vincent, the film critic for The Virginian-Pilot. Every summer, Vincent hosts a series of films at the Naro Cinemas in Norfolk, Virginia. Vincent would show an original print of a classic movie, then discuss the movie. He'd discuss interesting trivia about the film, as well as the people in the movies who he had met in real life. I have been attending summer screenings at the Naro since I was fifteen, and it's because of these screenings that I have gotten to see such great classic films like Bonnie and Clyde, The Third Man, and The Razor's Edge, a film that I consider one of my all time favorites.
I've been thinking about all of these figures because I recently viewed an original print of the classic Hollywood musical Singin' in the Rain. Often considered the greatest musical film ever made, Singin' in the Rain tells the story of silent film actor Don Lockwood (Gene Kelly) as he deals with the business making the transition from silent films to talkies. After a disastrous first cut of his new adventure film with shrill voiced leading lady Lina Lamont (Jean Hagen), Don, along with his lover Kathy (Debbie Reynolds) and best friend Cosmo (Donald O'Connor) work to turn The Dueling Cavalier into a musical in order to save the film and their careers.
Singin' in the Rain is probably one of the most important films I have ever seen because of how much it affected me as a film critic. I first watched it in Mr. Reynolds' class in 11th grade, making it one of the earliest examples of movie musicals that I have ever seen. Sure, I had Disney films and The Wizard of Oz, but this was my gateway to the Hollywood musical, where the plot could stop for an eight minute long song and dance number in films like Silk Stockings or Footlight Parade. This would lead me to find other movies like West Side Story and Hello Dolly!
At the same time, there's a thrill to watching original prints of movies. Most classic films can only be viewed at home, with a small audience. When you watch it in a theater, there's a lot more life to it. You can be surrounded by people who can all laugh at a joke, gasp at a surprise, and provide other great reactions to a film. There's also the charm of seeing the scratches and cigarette burns on old prints of films, something that would be cleared up on DVD and Blu-Ray releases.
Aside from the nostalgia factor, Singin' in the Rain really is a marvelous movie. It's one that does have a lot of charm to it. The film was originally released in 1952 and is set in 1927. For the audience of 1952, the film was a nostalgia trip to the era of silent films. They could look back on the cheesiness of silent pictures and go over the real issues with the transition to talkies. The equipment was hard to figure out, and some actors, such as Lina Lamont, couldn't handle having their voices heard by an audience. The film takes the difficulties of the era and manages to translate them into a story with lots of humor and heart.
This is even aided by the musical numbers in the film. The filmmakers were allowed to use songs from the MGM catalog, so most of the numbers in the film come from other films. Because of this, the film takes on an even more dreamlike appearance. It's a world where all these musical numbers exist but have yet to exist on their own. To the viewer in 1952, they could watch the film and hear some of their favorite songs, and with a new context given to them. As a result, songs like “Singin' in the Rain,” “All I Do is Dream of You,” and “Good Morning,” are kept alive in new performances that change how they were originally viewed, but allow a new audience to see these songs and take new experiences from them.
If anything, Singin' in the Rain has proven to be a very timeless picture. Despite being a period film and being over sixty years old, very little of the film looks dated. A lot of the humor still manages to hold up, and many of the musical numbers are still impressive to watch. It's a film that will last through the ages and continue to inspire more people to look into movie musicals. I've been changed by this movie, and I'm sure other people can be as well.
#FilmReview #Film #SingingInTheRain #AlexCarrigan #Musical #ClassicFilm