Singin’ in the Rain (1952)

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A poster for the film.

This is a FUN (which we REALLY need these days) Technicolor musical full of dancing, singing (duh), and witty humor!  The tale centers on a trio: Don Lockwood (Gene Kelly)- popular star of MANY silent films, Cosmo Brown (Donald O’Conner)- Don’s comical accompanist/best pal, and Kathy Selden (Debbie Reynolds)- a unknown talent that Don meets by chance.  He brags about his work, BUT she is NOT impressed, calling herself a serious actress who works on the stage (NOT film).

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Kathy Selden (Debbie Reynolds) performs at a party, along with other dancers.

At a big studio party one night, Don is amused to discover Kathy popping out of a false cake and performing w/ a troupe of dancers. Don’s co-star/wannabe fiancee, Lina Lamont (Jean Hagen), is VERY jealous when she sees him chatting w/ Kathy. Don has NO romantic interest in Lina, who is a self-centered bimbo, BUT the magazines have linked them together (w/ help from their studio).

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A director talks to Lina Lamont (Jean Hagen) while Don Lockwood (Gene Kelly) watches.

The studio head insists that Don and Lina make a talkie next; silent films are on the out (audiences are crazy for sound). The MAIN problem: Lina, though familiar to moviegoers, has a terrible voice (screechy w/ an unrefined New York accent)! Hmmm… HOW will this get solved? 

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Cosmo (Donald O’Conner), Kathy (Debbie Reynolds), and Don (Gene Kelly) perform “Good Morning”- an impromptu song.

Don and Cosmo realize (after spending some time w/ Kathy) that she has MANY talents, incl. her lovely voice.  SHE can do the talking for Lina in the new film; after that, she will get HER own work.  What could go wrong?

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Cyd Charisse (famed dancer/choreographer) with Don (Gene Kelly) during a number.

There is some VERY interesting trivia re: this film.  In 2007, the American Film Institute (AFI) ranked this as the #5 Greatest Movie of All Time. Reynolds (only 19 y.o. when filming began) was NOT a trained dancer; Fred Astaire saw her crying on the set (after Kelly insulted her), and decided to help her prepare.  After the “Good Morning” number, Reynolds had to be carried to her dressing room b/c she had burst some blood vessels in her feet- OUCH!  Are you a fan of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine?  Cyd Charisse is the maternal aunt of Major Kira Nerys (Nana Visitor); you’ll see the obvious resemblance.

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Bonnie and Clyde (1967)

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Bonnie Parker (Faye Dunaway) and Clyde Barrow (Warren Beatty) on the run!

Synopsis: In 1934, Bonnie Parker, a waitress, and Clyde Barrow, a criminal, just released from prison, are immediately attracted to what the other represents for their life when they meet by chance in West Dallas, Texas. Bonnie is fascinated with Clyde’s criminal past, his bravado in talking about it, and the power of his gun. Clyde sees in Bonnie someone who wanted more out of life- like himself. They decide to join forces to embark on a life of crime (mainly robbing banks) to make fast money and have fun.  Their  small gang of willing accomplices includes C.W. Moss (a mechanic) and Buck Barrow, one of Clyde’s older brothers.  Buck’s wife, a former preacher’s daughter, reluctantly joins in, but then becomes hysterical when faced w/ danger. 

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Newspaper photo of the real life Bonnie and Clyde

If all you want’s a stud service, you get on back to West Dallas and you stay there the rest of your life.  You’re worth more than that.  A lot more than that.  You know it and that’s why you come along with me.  -Clyde says to Bonnie

To modern eyes, this movie is rather tame, BUT in it’s day, it caused quite a stir!  In a TV interview, director Arthur Penn pointed out that this film shows for the first time the firing of a gun and the consequences in ONE single frame. Before that, you’d see a gun being fired, then cut, and the next scene would show the bleeding body.  This was the first film to use squibs (which were embedded in costumes and wired to a central control that made them explode in sequence to create the illusion of being shot).

Leading man Warren Beatty (who was at the top of his profession then) wanted his then-girlfriend, Natalie Wood, for the role of Bonnie. However, SHE refused in order to be able to meet daily w/ her therapist. Producers auditioned a LOT of young actresses (incl. Jane Fonda) for the role of Bonnie; at first, they thought Faye Dunaway was not “hot.”  But then Beatty screen-tested w/ her and was convinced that she was the BEST one for the role. 

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Gene Hackman (in one of his early roles) plays Clyde’s big brother- Buck

Warner Bros. thought it would be a flop, BUT it was a hit!  Roger Ebert had ONLY been a film critic for 6 mos. when he saw this film and hailed it as the first masterpiece he had seen on the job. ONE of the reasons why the film was so successful was because of its anti-establishment stance; people were becoming disillusioned with America’s involvement in Vietnam at this time.

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Young Estelle Parsons (Roseanne’s mom in the ABC sitcom) plays Buck’s wife.

There is SOME humor in this film, too, thanks in part to Gene Wilder (in his debut)!  He plays Eugene, a wealthy Romeo who is robbed of his shiny new car while making out w/ his girlfriend, Velma, on the porch.  Eventually, the couple end up in Eugene’s car WITH the robbers!  When Bonnie asks Velma how old she is, she quickly responds with “33.” Eugene is silent and looks shocked (so she MUST have lied about it before)- LOL!

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Here is a list of Hollywood conventions that were broken in this film (from a commentator on IMDB):

  1. The mix of comic scenes with scenes of violence, intense drama and that weird, beautiful family reunion scene.
  2. The realistic (for the time) portrayal of violence, with blood and moans and pain.
  3. The frank sensuality (for its time).
  4. The likeability (some would say glorification) of criminals (we are sad when they die).
  5. The unlikeability of the sheriff (who, in prior years, would have been the hero).
  6. The portrayal of an unconventional “family” who live together and mostly love each other, reflecting the ’60s hippie ethos.
  7. The use of period music (the bluegrass) rather than all orchestral scoring.
  8. The pointed social commentary (the Depression-era dispossessed, the poor farmer shooting at the bank sign and his foreclosed home, portrayal of the Establishment as villains).
  9. The depiction of “style” (the clothes, the brash attitudes, the coolness) and how its used to establish the triumph outsiders over law-abiding “squares.”

Guess who these actors are?

Timeless Talents

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1) This “out and proud” Englishman is currently appearing on Broadway.  Younger audiences will know him from a VERY popular series of films.

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2) This tall/formerly red-haired Englishwoman has been the toast of UK/US  in recent years for her (humorous) role in a popular TV series.  One of her sons is also an actor- appearing on stage, and both the small and big screens (like his mother).  She is close friends with Judi Dench.

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3) This Canadian actor (seen above in a stage production of Much Ado About Nothing) often pokes fun at his wholesome, Disneyesque image.  His career has had a recent resurgence as well.  When he whistled, many ladies wanted to come running! 

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4) This wholesome, formerly red-haired beauty could sing (her first love), dance, and act from a young age.  She took the stage  at age 11 in her native England.  Currently, she’s promoting a children’s book. 

Who’s Hot Now

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5) This actor has done it all- both here and across the pond.  He recently starred in a critically-acclaimed show (now out on DVD).  After he saw Val Kilmer and Mare Winningham (both pictured below) onstage, he decided to switch to their high school to be part of the theater program.  “I’d never seen anything like that- they were so talented.  We did a few plays together.” he commented.   

Val Kilmer (Top Gun)
Val Kilmer (Top Gun)
Mare Winningham
Mare Winningham

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6) This English actor has been working since he was a tween.  He refuses to be typecast, often going to great lengths to fit into his roles.  He hit it big (worldwide) a few years ago playing an iconic American hero. 

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7) This actress made a big name for herself (won an Oscar) at a very young age.  She is the star of one of cable’s biggest hits and married to a co-star.  (Awww… I couldn’t resist the ducks!) 

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8) This actor is everywhere these days- his career is red hot!  He was raised in Ireland, the son of an Irish mother and German father.  (Come on, this is too easy!)   

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ANSWERS:

1) Sir Ian McKellan (continuing his role of Gandalf DEC 13 in The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug)

2) Dame Maggie Smith (see her next JAN on PBS’ Downton Abbey)

3) Christopher Plummer

4) Dame Julie Andrews

5) Kevin Spacey (House of Cards is now available for purchase at Amazon & FYE.  You can see it on Netflix, too.)

6) Christian Bale

7) Anna Paquin

8) Michael Fassbender (most recently in 12 Years a Slave)