Singin' in the Rain
is probably the most treasured musical in the history of cinema. It is essentially a satire on the dawning age of talking pictures, but that description doesn't begin to describe its importance in the hearts of film lovers, even those who can't otherwise stand musicals. Given its origins--producer Arthur Freed wanted a framework on which to hang a selection of the hits he'd written in the early part of his career with Nacio Herb Brown, many of which had themselves featured in early talkies--it should have been a mongrel of a picture. But somehow, with its combination of endearing performances, the razor-sharp script of Adolph Green and Betty Comden, instinctive direction from Gene Kelly and Stanley Donen and those delightful songs, it is triumphantly greater than the sum of its parts.
Kelly's dance sequence, conceived for the title song, is an undiluted joy and remains an iconic cinema moment. But there is so much more to savour: Donald O'Connor's knockout vaudeville, Jean Hagen's hilarious Bronx-voiced leading lady and the honest charm of underrated Debbie Reynolds, crowned by Kelly's choreography for the Broadway Melody suite. No collection is complete without this.
On the DVD: Singin' in the Rain--Special Edition, vibrant in 1.33:1 fullscreen format with a crystalline mono soundtrack, is the crown jewel in the embarrassment of riches on this 50th anniversary two-disc DVD. The extras just keep coming: "Musicals, Great Musicals" (a documentary about Arthur Freed's legendary production unit at MGM), a shorter documentary about the film itself (much of which is duplicated by the audio commentary, led by Debbie Reynolds), outtakes and audio scoring sessions and extracts from films in which many of the songs originated. There's also a hidden feature in which Baz Lurhmann offers his own testimony to the film's enduring appeal, but it's a tad redundant given the primary sources on offer. --Piers Ford
Classic musical comedy starring Gene Kelly, Donald O'Connor and Debbie Reynolds. In 1927, Don Lockwood (Kelly, who co-directs) has worked his way up from being a song-and-dance man with partner Cosmo Brown (Donald O'Connor) to become a top movie star. His on-screen partner, Lina Lamont (Jean Hagen), who believes that Don loves her for real, needs to have her awful voice dubbed with the arrival of talkies. The girl selected is 'serious' actress Kathy Selden (Debbie Reynolds), for whom Don soon falls. Musical numbers include the famous title song and 'Make 'Em Laugh', 'Good Morning' and 'You Were Meant for Me'.