Hollywood’s basic strategy to its personal previous is ably summed up by a single line of dialogue from the 1962 Western The Man Who Shot Liberty Valence: “When the legend becomes fact, print the legend.” However on the subject of the legendary Gene Kelly musical Singin’ within the Rain, Patricia Ward Kelly would like to see the details in print.
“The true story is pretty magical — I don’t think you have to embellish it,” the actor’s widow and official biographer tells Yahoo Leisure forward of the beloved movie’s seventieth anniversary. “The facts are that they pulled this remarkable thing off, and that everybody is performing at the top of their game. The true story is a good story.”
Launched in theaters on April 11, 1952, Singin’ within the Rain way back achieved mythic standing because the apex of the movie trade’s Golden Age film musicals. It is also considered among the best films about “the movies” ever made, telling a larger-than-life model of how Hollywood transitioned from silent footage to talkies. Based on Kelly, Singin’ within the Rain‘s exalted place in popular culture by no means didn’t shock her late husband, in addition to his co-stars Donald O’Connor and Debbie Reynolds, who handed away in 2003 and 2016 respectively.
“Gene always said that they never imagined that people would be watching the movie 70 years later,” she explains, including that Kelly believed that his lasting contribution to the shape can be 1951’s Finest Image winner, An American in Paris. “Everybody thought that was the sine qua non of movie musicals, and Singin’ in the Rain was kind of a deep second place. And An American in Paris swept the Oscars, whereas Singin’ in the Rain didn’t win any. But over time, it rose to the top.”
Whereas Kelly was the director and star of the present, he believed that Singin’ within the Rain had many authors, from his co-director, Stanley Donen, to his fellow actors to screenwriters Adolph Inexperienced and Betty Comden. However every of these authors additionally had their very own model of occasions that they informed and re-told over time, permitting the varied gildings surrounding its making to take root.
Since her husband’s loss of life in 1996, Kelly — who first met the star in 1985 when she was 26 and he was 73 — says that lots of her job is “myth-busting” Singin’ within the Rain when she presents the movie at anniversary occasions and retrospective screenings. (Fathom Occasions is bringing the film again to theaters on April 10 as a part of TCM Huge Display Classics sequence.) “It would be nice if we could get some of them stopped,” she remarks. “A lot of the myths get printed in books and get taken down as fact and they’re just not.”
To commemorate 70 years of Singin’ within the Rain, we spoke with Kelly about a few of the widespread legends concerning the movie — and her husband’s later profession — that she most hopes to appropriate because it continues to sing and dance its means into moviegoers’ hearts.
Milk drops stored falling on his head
A long time earlier than Prince sang about purple rain, Kelly allegedly danced in milky rain for Singin’ within the Rain‘s signature musical quantity. Because the legend goes, the star and Donen have been involved that the raindrops would not present up on digital camera, so that they added milk to the combination with a view to give the water the best sheen — a tall story that Kelly’s widow calls “absurd.” As an alternative, she credit “phenomenal cinematography and lighting” as being accountable for making these raindrops pop.
“Gene always said it was very difficult to backlight the rain, particularly in front of the plate glass windows that he’s dancing in front of,” she observes. “And in the production notes, you can see that they had to do other takes because they could see some of the equipment reflected in the glass.”
Particulars like that time to a different false impression surrounding the “Singin’ in the Rain” quantity — that it was in some way easy, an impression owed to Kelly’s fluid footwork and the relative spareness of the sequence in comparison with the movie’s greater manufacturing numbers. And, to be truthful, Kelly’s widow says that he typically referred to it as “a simple Irish clog dance” that he wished others to really feel they may imitate. “He made it approachable,” she says. “What’s made it so timeless is that people think they can go out in the rain and do it.”
Actually, it took exacting choreography to attain that stage of simplicity. “Gene even choreographed the puddles in the street so that he would hit them in a certain way! He always wanted dance to tell the story, and the ‘Singin’ in the Rain’ number is one of the best examples of that. It conveys so much in such a simple way.”
Blood on the dance flooring
Debbie Reynolds was a pageant winner-turned-MGM contract participant when she nabbed her Singin‘ function as aspiring starlet, Kathy Selden, who strikes up a romance with Kelly’s dashing silent-era main man, Don Lockwood. What she wasn’t at the moment was an skilled dancer, necessitating an arduous crash course in tripping the sunshine implausible. In her later years, Reynolds stated that her lack of dance expertise initially raised a crimson flag with Kelly. “He seemed surprised,” she informed TCM host Robert Osborne concerning the star’s response when she was solid.
Previous to manufacturing, Kelly designed an intense coaching routine for Reynolds and she or he typically spoke concerning the bodily and psychological toll that her accelerated dance program took on her. “My feet were bleeding from all that dancing,” she informed the Sunday Categorical in 2013, a narrative she additionally informed in her memoir, Unsinkable. “When I pointed it out, Gene would say ‘Clean it up!’ He was very sentimental like that!”
Kelly’s widow, nevertheless, pushes again towards these tales. “Most of what [Debbie] said about it was fabricated and would change over the years,” she says. “Gene said he didn’t see blood all over the floor the way it was described.” She additionally disputes Reynolds’s recollections of docs attending to her due to her ft or having to rehearse late into the night time. “Again, if you look at the production notes, you know exactly when she checked in and out and when she had lunch. And if doctors are called to set, it’s always noted. They just weren’t.”
As for her husband’s “surprise” about being paired with a non-dancer, Kelly says that he made that call together with producer, Arthur Freed. “He chose her,” she says. “Arthur called him up to his office and showed a clip of her performing ‘Aba Daba Honeymoon’ [in 1950’s Two Weeks in Love] and Gene thought she was the perfect ingénue. So they called up Stanley, and his comment was: ‘Yeah, but can she dance?’ Gene said, ‘It doesn’t matter.’ He knew that he could teach somebody and also choreograph so you could even make an inexperienced person look good onscreen.”
No naps allowed
In distinction to Reynolds, Donald O’Connor had the dancing expertise essential to sustain with Kelly. The actor even claimed that he as soon as lapped his co-star and director on the dance flooring. Whereas capturing back-to-back musical numbers — “Moses Supposes” and “Fit as a Fiddle” — each performers felt exhaustion setting in. However as O’Connor later remembered, neither he nor Kelly would admit that they have been beat. After 10 takes, Kelly known as a halt and requested to have a look at O’Connor’s violin bow.
“I showed him my bow and his bow was about an inch-and-a-half shorter than mine,” O’Connor stated. “He said, ‘That’s what’s the matter! That’s why I can’t do this thing.’ He threw the bow down and went in his dressing room.” After ready awhile for him to return, O’Connor knocked on the door and located Kelly taking a breather. “He said, ‘I was tired.’ He didn’t want to tell me!”
Based on Kelly’s widow, O’Connor — who she affectionately calls a “wonderful storyteller” — added different particulars to that account over time. “We went to dinner with Donald and his wife and he said that Gene deliberately broke his bow during ‘Fit as a Fiddle’ so he could take a nap in his dressing room,” she remembers. “When we walked to our car, I said to Gene, ‘You never told me that story.’ And he said, ‘It never happened. Can you imagine? That would have been an $80,000 nap!'”
Regardless of O’Connor’s penchant for exaggeration, Kelly says that her husband all the time thought of his co-star the true star of Singin’ within the Rain. “Gene felt that Donald never got the credit he deserved for his work. He wasn’t a romantic lead: the public didn’t buy him in that capacity, so he never moved up. But Gene thought he was an immense talent.”
“The next time you watch it, look for the funny scene at the beginning where they’re being interviewed,” she continues. “When Gene does the ‘Dignity, always dignity’ speech, watch Donald because he looks over and rolls his eyes. It’s the funniest thing to see! You’re usually watching Gene and not looking at Donald, but Donald’s making a face. It’s a beautiful pairing, those two.”
The start of the tip?
Simply as Singin’ within the Rain‘s story bridged Hollywood’s silent and sound eras, the movie itself is commonly held up because the pivot level the place the Golden Age of film musicals gave solution to a extra troubled interval for the style. However Kelly says that the reality is extra difficult. “In a lot of books written about Gene and movie musicals you get this notion that Singin’ in the Rain was the pinnacle, and then everything spiraled down, including Gene’s career,” she notes. “But Gene always said: ‘After that, I made Brigadoon, which has some of the best dancing I ever did on film!'”
On the similar time, Kelly acknowledges that seismic shifts have been occurring inside the trade and in widespread tradition at massive that left her husband navigating a quickly altering panorama. “You had television coming in, you had the Beatles and Elvis and you had this explosion of big extravaganzas like The Sound of Music. Gene was aware that everything was morphing.”
Kelly finally directed a type of “big extravaganzas” himself — Barbra Streisand’s 1969 hit, Howdy Dolly! In the meantime, in entrance of the digital camera, he began for searching for alternatives exterior of the style, showing in dramas like Inherit the Wind and Marjorie Morningstar. “He wanted to do other roles, but kind of got pigeonholed as the musical theater guy,” his widow says. “He also wanted to do Death of a Salesman, but it didn’t come together.”
Twenty eight years after Singin’ within the Rain, Kelly made his closing look in a film musical in 1980’s Xanadu, reverse Grease star Olivia Newton-John. It wasn’t a contented expertise. “He said that it was the only time that no one knew what they were doing,” his widow says, laughing. “He had great hopes for it … but when he got there, there was no script and it was criminal to him to see people waste time and money. In fact, the number he does with Olivia was not in the original cut when they previewed it. Gene refused to take the producers’ calls, and finally agreed to create the number provided it was done on a closed set and the producers were nowhere near it.”
Lately, although, Xanadu has discovered a brand new fanbase, particularly after it went from display to stage with successful 2007 Broadway adaptation. “It’s the movie that has introduced so many young people to Gene,” Kelly notes. “I have to give it credit for that. And Gene adored Olivia. You can see the chemistry between the two of them in their dance number. He choreographed it to make Olivia look terrific, and she does. I think he would shake his head at how it has come around again, but I’m often asked to introduce it and talk about it. It’s funny that that’s the one that draws people in.”
Dwelling in a Materials World
Here is a narrative that Kelly does not must myth-bust: Three years earlier than his loss of life, her husband actually did meet with Madonna about choreographing some numbers for her 1993 “Girlie Show” tour. “He was very excited to do it,” she remembers. “I have the notes for it and little sketches of the numbers. He was really happy to be working with the dancers.”
Sadly, the Singer within the Rain and the Materials Woman did not hit it off. Kelly describes their transient collaboration as “tense” and says that Madonna in the end ended issues. “I don’t think she really wanted a collaborator — she didn’t really want what Gene could bring to the table. She let him go, essentially. I can’t say what was in her mind with that decision, but it didn’t go forward.”
Singin’ within the Rain screens Apr. 10 and Apr. 13 in theaters as a part of the Fathom Occasions and TCM Huge Display Classics sequence; the movie can also be streaming on HBO Max