Patricia Kelly talks about 70 years of Singin’ In The Rain

Gene Kelly in Singin' In The Rain

Gene Kelly in Sing in the rain
Photo: Courtesy of the Warner Brothers

As a two-time Academy Award nominee, Golden Globe winner, and one of the top 25 films ever selected for the National Film Registry by the US Library of Congress, Sing in the rain earned its legendary status many times over, not that its modest public reception when it was released in 1952 guaranteed that fate. But it only takes a scene or two to remind you why the film has become a must-have for fans of classic films and musicals in particular: Gene Kelly, Debbie Reynolds and Donald O’Connor deliver such extraordinary, tireless and joyful. , precise performances of song and dance whose energy becomes immediately contagious.

Seventy years later, The audiovisual club had the chance to speak to Patricia Kelly, Gene’s widow, about the film as it arrives on home video in a gorgeous new 4K version that showcases more of these actors’ incredible work on screen as well as Kelly and Stanley Donen as co-inventors. directors. Patricia’s first task was to confirm some of the lingering rumors surrounding the film and dispel others. “I would say 99.999% of what you read in books and on the internet is not true,” she said. AV Club.

“But the only thing that’s true is that Gene was very ill when he did the iconic ‘Singin’ In The Rain’ number. So he had the flu and a temperature of about 103. But then, I say, remember he directs and choreographs and acts in this, so he basically works around the clock and he sets up the shots, sets up the choreography performing it.”

“And among so many others, there was no milk in the water,” she explained of the famous “Singin’ In The Rain” scene, where for years viewers have speculated that the filmmakers had to “thicken” the water to make it more visible. “There is no reason to put milk in the water. It’s just sublime backlighting – it’s exquisite cinematography and lighting – like going to a sporting event and you look at the sports field and you don’t see the rain and then you tilt your head against the lights and you see the rain.” She particularly thanked the crew for taking on this challenge: “I think the technicians deserve a little credit on this one, not milk.”

While observing how stories from the set had evolved into Hollywood tradition, Patricia Kelly indicated that a very clear accounting of the production taken at the time could and would set the record straight. “The notion of bloody feet and doctors being called on set just isn’t true, because every time doctors were called to the MGM set it was noted by at least one and usually both people. who kept the production notes,” she said. mentioned. “Certainly, if doctors were brought, it was noted. And it’s connected. If you do some homework and go check out a primary source, it’s all there.

Patricia has shepherded Gene’s legacy since his death in 1996 at the age of 83. When asked which of his films he felt were underappreciated during his lifetime, she revealed that Kelly was a fan of specific scenes and sequences from his films that showed the extent of his talent better than features from start to finish. “Gene was a cultural ambassador to Africa in 1964, and what he took with him was a reel of film clips. He wanted to show Africa the diversity of his work and the diversity of his choreography. And I find it easier for me to give people an idea of ​​who Gene was and to be able to give them an idea of ​​his work if I show them an assortment of film clips, rather than just showing one film. “, she said. .

“So I think they take a lot out of ‘Singin’ In The Rain’, but I think they take a lot out of seeing the roller skating act in It’s always sunnyand something like “You Wonderful You” from summer stock or Jerry the mouse [in Anchors Aweigh],” she continued. “So I really like showing them all because a lot of people don’t know he was a trained Spanish dancer. Many people have no idea that he was a trained classical ballet dancer. And the big “Moses Suppose” number with Donald O’Connor, which Gene thought was the best tap number he’d ever done in a movie.

A layman may never notice how unusual it is for dancers such as Kelly and O’Connor in “Moses Supposes” to both turn left, but it’s these nearly invisible flourishes that, according to Patricia Kelly, repeatedly distinguish Gene’s work. “Gene in An American in Paris does anything else unusual; he tap dances to the melody, which people don’t usually do. And then in The anchors weigh, he does Spanish dancing. But the roller number with André Previn’s “I Like Myself” [from It’s Always Fair Weather], Gene thought it was the best song he had ever put in a movie. And he thought the ‘Heather On The Hill’ with Cyd Charice in Brigadoon was the best pas de deux he had ever done at the cinema. Not everything was free, she insisted. “Then there were things called ‘real time,’ he said, that just made him cringe, and yet the public doesn’t see those things.”

Kelly’s work has inspired several generations of dancers and filmmakers, not just for its appearances or references, but as a foundation for the work that followed, both musical and otherwise. When asked who she thinks Gene would have worked particularly well with in modern cinema, or with whom he shares a particular affinity, Patricia didn’t hesitate to answer: Guillermo del Toro, and not only because she recently presented del Toro with the Imaging Society’s inaugural Advanced Gene Kelly Award.

“They are very hip-bound. Maybe not the association that would have been your first thought, maybe none of your thoughts, but they’re very in sync,” she said, qualifying her response. “And the more conversations I have with him, the more depth I even see. And he didn’t realize how intertwined they were, but even in the kinds of literature, the kinds of ghost stories, the stories of Irish ghosts and the notion of enchantment, Gene never lost his sense of enchantment. He maintained that childhood sensibility until the day he died. And I think you see that in Guillermo too.

She concluded: “And obviously in form of waterthere’s a big wink, Gene is very involved in that.