The final celluloid extravaganza was all shot in one take…
Singin’ In The Rain – Gene Kelly with Lennie Hayton & the MGM Studio Orchestra*
MGM 113 (USA) / MGM 490 (UK)
Released March 1952
Writers Arthur Freed & Nacio Herb Brown
Producer Arthur Freed Arranged by Conrad Salinger
USA #2 best selling song of 1952
*From the soundtrack of the MGM movie Singin’ In The Rain
Best known for Gene Kelly’s legendary performance in the 1952 MGM movie of the same name, many people’s favourite all-time movie sequence, ‘Singin In The Rain’ was no new song and had in fact featured in at least 6 other movies since its’ debut in the The Hollywood Revue of 1929, dubbed by MGM as the first “all talking, all singing, all dancing” musical. The Singin’ In The Rain movie itself was an amusing take on this transition from silent movies to ‘talkies’, and utilized music from the era. Arthur Freed and his songwriting partner Nacio Herb Brown originally copyrighted the song in 1929 (though it may have been written in 1927) – by 1952 Freed was a top producer at MGM in charge of musicals and he had initiated the movie as a vehicle to exploit his large song catalogue. Most of the songs in the movie came from the Freed/Brown catalogue, and apart from 2 new songs, all were written between 1929 and 1939 with the exception of Donald O’Connor’s frantic ‘Make ‘Em Laugh’ sequence. This was a supposedly new composition, though it was in fact almost identical to a Cole Porter song, ‘Be A Clown’. Gene Kelly had performed this with Judy Garland in the 1948 movie The Pirate (also produced by Freed), but despite the obvious similarity, Porter didn’t sue – an indication of Freed’s power within the movie industry.
Gene Kelly was the star, co-director and choreographer on Singin’ In The Rain (his co-stars were Debbie Reynolds, Jean Hagen and O’Connor) and was apparently suffering from a severe head-cold with a fever of 103 degrees during the two days he spent stamping in the puddles on the MGM lot, miming to the playback, while the piece was rehearsed and filmed – remarkably, the final celluloid extravaganza was all shot in one take after rehearsals had indicated where multiple cameras should be placed. Milk was mixed with the water to make the rain more visible for cinematic purposes. Since 1952, ‘Singin’ In The Rain’ has appeared in at least 8 further movies, most notably Stanley Kubrick’s A Clockwork Orange (1971). The song was first recorded by Cliff Edwards for the aforementioned 1929 movie and has also been performed on celluloid by Judy Garland and Jimmy Durante in addition to numerous studio recordings by artists including Bing Crosby, Doris Day, Adam Faith (awful!) and Matt Monro.
In more recent times it was a 1978 hit in a disco version by French vocalist Sheila B. Devotion (aka Anny Chancel). Jamie Cullum recorded a fairly laid-back version for his 2003 album Twenty Something before a veritable UK revival of the song was preceded by its’ use in an early 2005 advertisement for the Volkswagon Golf GTI. The ad used a totally reconstructed remix of Gene Kelly’s original (re-titled ‘Waiting In The Rain’) by UK big-beat/electronic act Mint Royale that subsequently reached Number 20 in 2005. In May 2008, 14-year-old George Sampson won UK television’s Britain’s Got Talent with a dance routine to the Mint Royale version which was immediately downloaded in such large numbers that it shot to Number 1 for 2 weeks in June 2008. Not bad for a tune of 79 years’ vintage and proof that a good song will never die.
Copyright © 2017 SongStories/Tony Burton