Gene Kelly and Stanley Donen have produced the best musical written directly for the screen. They have used the period in film history during the transition to sound movies and embroidered it with the wonderful songbook of Arthur Freed and Nacio Herb Brown. The icing on the cake, of course is the choreography of Kelly and Donen. From the first moment, the movie takes flight as Kelly relates the tale of his rise as a silent film star with his sidekick, the incomparable Donald O’Connor. Watch the flying feet of O’Connor and Kelly in the “Fit as a Fiddle” number. It doesn’t get much better than this. Everyone is familiar with the classic “Singin’ in the Rain” sequence. Donald O’Connor’s hysterical “Make ’em Laugh” number is probably the funniest musical three minutes on film. Even the Broadway Ballet is a kaleidoscope of color and movement, with a minimum of the highbrow balletic choreography found in the later “An American in Paris.”
What makes “Singin'” such an entertaining classic is its superb integration of comedy and music. Jean Hagen gives the performance of her life as the vocally challenged silent film star, Lena Lamont. Every scene she’s in is a comic gem. Her “fingernails on a blackboard” voice and massacre of the English language make her a figure of ridicule. However, in the end when she finally gets her comeuppance, one can’t help feeling a little sorry for her.
This delightful film has been given its due on video. On VHS it can be purchased with the complete remastered soundtrack on CD. The laserdisc versions include one with commentary by film historian Ronald Haver (Criterion) and the film-only version from MGM/UA Home Video with a restored Dolby Digital stereo soundtrack., Last,but not least,is a masterful rendering on DVD with, unfortunately, no supplementary material to speak of.
This is truly a film for all time that can be watched just for its entertainment value and studied as probably the apex of the Hollywood musical in its Golden Age.