Last evening, I was watching, for the tenth time, the award winning musical, “Singing in the Rain,” which starred the late Gene Kelly and Donald O’Connor, and the eighty-year old Debbie Reynolds. The 1952 motion picture was nominated for 2 Oscars, won the 1953 Golden Globe, and 3 other major awards. I actually think it should have won several 1953 Oscars for its immaculate, if not perfect, dancing choreography, comedy, and drama. I mean, compared to the talent and precision demonstrated over a decade later by Julie Andrews and Christopher Plummer, in the 1965 musical “The Sound of Music,” which I think was considerably less than that demonstrated by Kelly, Reynolds, and O’Connor, “Singing in the Rain” should have won at least 2 Oscars. The two motion picture musicals were, of course, different in style, length, and the talent of the actors; but one can’t fail to notice the most significant difference between the two productions. It was the completely flawless combined effect of dancing, singing, and comedic and dramatic acting, which was accomplished by the dancers, actors, and studio staff, of “Singing in the Rain,” while there were quite a few “unmentioned” choreographic errors in “The Sound of Music.” The motion picture professionals, who created “Singing in the Rain,” worked together tirelessly to make an unequaled musical production. Furthermore, one can count on the fingers of one hand the number of American musicals produced since 1952 with the same natural flawless dancing, singing, and acting from the starring casts. So, the question lingers and demands an answer as to why “Singing in the Rain” hasn’t been remade in a modern setting, with different actors, like so many other remakes of the classic movies?
You can use all of the fancy 21st Century computer gadgetry and advanced sound equipment that money can buy to attempt to synthetically reproduce the genuine dancing, singing, and acting of Gene Kelly, Debbie Reynolds, and Donald O’Connor; but one unassailable fact remains ultimately true. It would be an expensive, but ultimately failed, attempt in artificial movie-making. It’s impossible to persuasively simulate natural human talent with computers. Further, it’s very improbable that three versatile entertainers, like Gene Kelly, Debbie Reynolds, and Donald O’Connor, would be found among all the accomplished dancers and singers in the current 21st Century world, to duplicate what those three unique people did. And that’s a crying shame. Those three stars could act, sing, and dance in a marvelous combining fashion, something that no current stage, or motion picture, star can remotely do today. Take Robin Williams for instance. He’s a wonderful actor and comedian, but he can’t dance or sing like Gene Kelly or Donald O’Connor. Matt Damon, Tim Robbins, Tom Hanks, Ben Affleck, Brad Pitt, George Clooney, Meg Ryan, Russell Crowe, Richard Gere, and Julia Roberts, and many other late-20th Century Oscar winners, are all genuinely great actors, and have made their millions. But none of them can come close to combining acting, singing, and dancing in the way the “Singing in the Rain” cast did so perfectly. Some film producers think that these foregoing top-rated actors and actresses could persuade theatre and television audiences that they actually possess such talent, which they don’t really possess, through the use of computer enhancements. I don’t think so. The use of such technical fakery would be very evident.
There’s also another reason why I think a genuine remake of “Singing in the Rain” has not been produced. People today just don’t like to work as hard as the actors and actresses did in the 1930s, 40s, and 50s in order to produce natural artistic excellence. They are now eagerly willing to settle for less to get their paychecks. For example, in September of 1990, when residing in Carlsbad, California, I was, one late evening, discussing singing talent with the sound manager for Madonna, who was returning to LA from a concert at the San Diego Convention Center. He had stopped for some refreshments at the Carlsbad 7-Eleven, where I was the night store manager. The fellow appeared to be completely sober as he, very candidly, talked about Madonna and her talent. “It’s all in the sound equipment,” he said. “Madonna doesn’t have lot of singing talent, but she has a great sound manager and the best equipment.” Then he laughed and added. “With the right computer sound equipment, any normal person’s singing voice can be made to sound professional. That’s how Sissy Spacek sounded like Loretta Lynn in “Coal Miner’s Daughter.” The reason I remember his words verbatim, is because I wrote them down immediately after he left the store. Moreover, the dramatic plot in “Singing in the Rain” was all about what happened when an actress without singing talent was made to look, and sound, like she had that ability, at the expense of a naturally talented singer. I think that the moral of the movie was, simply, that actresses and actors without certain talents should not be made to falsely appear to audiences to have such talents. Perhaps, however, the movie industry in Tinsel Town was unfortunately moving in that less-desirable direction when the 1953 Oscars were awarded. Perhaps that’s why a perfect musical was not given its due that year.
I was born in 1951, and first saw “Singing in the Rain” in 1969. That was partly because my parents weren’t, at all, movie-goers; and, also, partly because of my own working priorities during my teenage years. I read my first commentary about the musical shortly after I saw it, and recall how the cast had practiced continually, day and night, to achieve choreographic perfection, to point of blistered and bleeding feet. Eighteen years after the musical premiered, I had presumed that the hard work associated with American achievement in the dancing, singing, and acting required for award-winning musicals was an indelible standard. You know, in association with the old American adage, “what’s hard we do immediately; what’s impossible just takes a little longer.” Well, I don’t want to believe that there aren’t any more multi-talented actors and actresses out there, who can superbly sing, dance, and act like Gene Kelly, Debbie Reynolds, and Donald O’Connor. What’s more, I don’t want to believe that great dancers, singers, and actors can only appear today as products of institutions like Julliard, or as certified prodigies. Gene Kelly, Debbie Reynolds, and Donald O’Connor were not prodigies. They were normal human beings who became great by continually working hard to improve and perfect their artistic talents. And they so perfectly did that in “Singing in the Rain.”