Singin' in the Rain ★★★★★

“Don’t be shy. You’d make about the prettiest Juliet I’ve ever seen. Really.”

Filmmaking (n.): The process by which beautiful cynics assemble disparate castoffs into the illusion of something grand; charlatanism.

The quintessential MGM musical from the studio system’s heyday, Singin’ in the Rain lovingly satirizes the movie-making machinery of Hollywood while simultaneously embracing its sunny, effervescent output. Art masquerading as escapism, the film concerns the fortunes of a famous silent-movie couple, Don Lockwood (Gene Kelly) and Lina Lamont (Jean Hagen), whose box office potential is threatened by Lina’s screechy, obnoxious voice when film begins the transition to talkies. While the studio attempts to covertly dub Lina’s voice with that of young and lovely Kathy Selden (Debbie Reynolds), with whom Don is in love, Don and his collaborator Cosmo Brown (Donald O’Connor) strive to keep Lina distracted. When Lina finds out, she tries to destroy Kathy’s incipient career. Will Lina’s dastardly deeds succeed? Will Don and Kathy end up happily ever after? Are the answers to these questions ever really in doubt?

Singin’ in the Rain’s trenchant but affectionate satire of Hollywood’s cynical practices is all the more remarkable given its origin in producer Arthur Freed’s desire to make a trunk musical showcasing his pre-existing songs. That this mercenary endeavor could be turned into one of cinema’s most enduring confections is nothing short of miraculous. But as Don dances with his umbrella in a downpour, rapturously in love, the smile brought to viewers’ faces suspends their disbelief like the Verrazano-Narrows. Singin’ in the Rain is a triumphant endorsement for the transformative power of song, dance, and the enchantment of the movies.