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Written by Larry Ricciardelli
We all love to talk about our favourites. And the conversation (or monologue) usually begins with an enthusiastic: “Did you ever see…?” or “You simply must see this!” Maybe even, “There is absolutely nothing like it!” Often the last words are a nostalgic: “They sure don’t make ‘em like they used to.”
If you are old enough to have seen “Singin’ In The Rain” when it was first released around the middle of the last century, then you may well want to echo any or all of the above outpourings of praise.
If however you did not view this classic film until years later when it appeared on your twenty-three inch television set, you did indeed miss something very special. But do not despair! For hopefully in the year 2021 you will be able to, (Covid pandemic notwithstanding) take your memories of this and other gorgeous pieces of Hollywood gold and see them come to life once again on the big screen.
But to the present, or the very recent past: February 2020, to be precise. It was that joyous time when social distancing was still measured in inches (excuse me, centimetres) not by the length of a hockey stick. On one pre-lockdown but otherwise dreary Saturday afternoon my daughter and I drove in to downtown Toronto to see the film which most critics say is the best ever “written for the screen” Hollywood musical, Singin’ In The Rain.
Lisa, who is several years her father’s junior was introduced to the film at age six. This was to become our movie. We watched it together on our family’s very first colour TV. Back in the days before every house was wired with cable, we pulled in signals using a rotar antenna which sat atop a “Jack and the Beanstalk-sized” back yard tower. Remember those monsters? However, they did provide us with a pretty sharp picture by the standards of the early 70’s.
“Why I’ve got more money than Cal…vin Coolidge. Put together!”
Over the years we would toss lines of dialogue back and forth, sing the songs, re-enact scenes from a screen play set in the Hollywood of the 1920’s. Lisa still does a great Lina Lamont, the squeaky-voiced, but glamorous movie star who must make the near impossible (for her) transition from silent pictures to talkies. “Why I’ve got more money than Cal…vinCoolidge. Put together!” she screeches.
My memories of “ Singin’ ” go back to the summer of 1952 when I was but a lad entering my double digit years. (Okay I was going into grade five. Do the math.) In those days most theatres required that one so young be accompanied by a person of responsible age (16) with the exception of Saturday afternoon matinees. And so I am forever thankful to my two older teenage sisters for taking me to see the film when it was first released in August of that year. Interestingly, during the 40’s and 50’s big movies were often shown first in small towns before opening in places like Toronto and Hamilton. Thus it was in the little movie house in Fenelon Falls that I got my first exposure to the dancing genius of Gene Kelly, the comedic talents of Donald O’Connor and the star quality of twenty year old Debbie Reynolds. I went twice more in the fall when the film played in Toronto.
February 8 of this year brings us full circle and then some. On that day the most recent showing of Singin’ In The Rain took place in the heart of Toronto’s theatre district at Roy Thompson Hall. Is there anywhere else you would want to see a great musical film accompanied by a world class symphony orchestra? Surely this is a much better venue than some taco flavoured, popcorn infested suburban cineplex multiplex. If this sounds a little snobbish, please forgive me, but for maximum enjoyment of your all-time favourite movies wouldn’t you like a glass of Chardonnay at intermission as you await the spectacular second half. And for this particular film the words of the great Al Jolson echo through your mind: “You ain’t heard nothin’ yet!”