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Published: Thursday, 7/19/2012

Snippets: 'Singin' in the Rain

BY KIRK BAIRD
BLADE STAFF WRITER

Whether or not you like musicals, there's no denying that Singin' in the Rain is a beautifully made and uplifting movie that transcends its genre and rightfully takes its place as one of the all-time great films.

Gene Kelly delivers a triple-threat performance for the ages as actor-singer-dancer (that's not counting his other roles as choreographer and co-director of the film), and co-star Donald O'Connor is every bit his equal, while perky newcomer Debbie Reynolds, who was not a dancer, pulls off the routines in lockstep with her male leads.

Despite its 60th birthday this year, Singin' in the Rain has aged remarkably well; the costume drama is a frozen moment in cinema history as a loving glance back at the early days of Hollywood and the transition from silent to sound in movies.

While the musical numbers (the iconic Kelly dance to Arthur Freed and Nacio Herb Brown's title song, O'Connor's gravity-defying routine in "Make 'Em Laugh") are what's best remembered, there's much more to Singin' in the Rain than song and dance. The backstage musical offers a wink-nod commentary of the Hollywood star system -- decades before such observations became de rigueur; Jean Hagen's performance as a ditzy-blond actress determined to keep her A-list status is a work of comedic and sardonic brilliance, and worthy of its Oscar nomination.

Singin' in the Rain makes its Blu-ray debut in a special 60th anniversary edition, and the MGM musical has never looked so gorgeous -- certainly never in a home video/DVD format; the intricate details and bold colors in the costumes and scenery are resurrected from the washed-out pre-Blu-ray versions and mesmerize in high-definition glory.

The Blu-ray features the same commentary from the 2002 DVD version, with Reynolds mostly introducing the participants, including O'Connor, Cyd Charisse, co-director Stanley Donen, filmmaker Baz Luhrmann (Moulin Rouge!), and famed film historian Rudy Behlmer.

What's original to this release is a nearly hour-long documentary, Raining on a New Generation, that explores the impact Singin' in the Rain had on several current leading choreographers and entertainers, from Luhrmann and Rob Marshall (Chicago) to Matthew Morrison (Glee) and Usher. The featurette does an admirable job of contemporizing the 60-year-old classic. Of course, the greatest musical Hollywood ever produced does just fine by itself.



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