Updated: Apr 25
4K ULTRA HD REVIEW / HDR FRAME SHOTS
Gene Kelly stars as Don Lockwood a famous silent screen star. In the wee hours, he sings and dances to the theme song “Singin’ in the Rain,” after his first talkie “The Dueling Cavalier” bombed during a test screening.
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“SINGIN’ IN THE RAIN” – 70TH ANNIVERSARY EDITION”
4K Ultra HD, Blu-ray, Digital copy; 1952; Not Rated; streaming via Amazon Prime Video (4K), Apple TV (4K), Vudu (4K), YouTube (4K)
Best extra: The 20-year-old featurette “What a Glorious Feeling” – Making-of (digital only)
TWO WEEKS before Easter 1952, MGM’s Technicolor musical “Singin’ in the Rain” premiered, receiving great reviews. New York Times critic Bosley Crowther said, “Spring came with a fresh and cheerful splatter to the Music Hall yesterday with the arrival of Metro’s new musical.” By year’s end, its box office finished behind Cecil B. DeMille’s spectacle “The Greatest Show on Earth,” Gary Cooper’s Oscar-winner “High Noon,” and John Ford’s salute to Ireland “The Quiet Man.” But a few months later, “Singin’ in the Rain” would be snubbed at the Academy Awards, receiving only two nominations for Music Score and Supporting Actress.
Over the decades, it's received far higher accolades including the position of No. 1 Movie Musical of all time from the American Film Institute. It also landed at No. 5 on AFI’s 100 Years Top 100 Movies list, right behind “Citizen Kane,” “The Godfather,” “Casablanca,” and “Raging Bull.”
(1&2) The opening title sequence for “Singin’ in the Rain,” which premiered March 27, 1952. (3) Three boys climbed a palm tree to get a view of the movie stars walking the red carpet for the premiere of Monumental Pictures’ latest romantic/swashbuckling epic, “The Royal Rascal.” (4) Radio commentator Dora Bailey (Madge Blake) interviews the stars before they enter Hollywood’s Chinese Theatre. (5) A fan shouts “Zelda! Oh, Zelda!” for silent sensation Zelda Zanders played by teenager Rita Moreno. (6) Hundreds of fans line the red carpet. (7) Lockwood and his leading lady Lina Lamon (Linda Lamont) arrive at the premiere.
Production began May 22, 1951, with pre-recorded musical numbers under the co-direction of Stanley Donen and choreographer/actor Gene Kelly, who plays silent screen star Don Lockwood. The two had co-directed the highly successful musical “On the Town” (1949). They insisted the role of Cosmo Brown, Lockwood's hoofer partner, be played by a dancer. The studio wanted Kelly’s co-star from “American in Paris,” Oscar Levant, who was an accomplished musician – though clearly not a dancer.
Donald O’Connor from Universal Studios filled the shoes perfectly, especially with his clever “Make ‘em Laugh” routine. Kelly asked him to resurrect a trick from his younger days, in which O'Connor ran up a wall and did a landing-somersault. It’s reported that, afterward, O’Connor was confined to a week of bed rest from exhaustion. Much of the dance had to be reshot because footage was accidentally ruined.
For the role of the young singer/dancer Kathy Seldon, “Miss Burbank of 1948,” 18-year-old Debbie Reynolds was everyone’s favorite. The gymnast required three months of intense dance training with Carol Haney and Jeanne Coyne before the cameras began rolling.
Dancer Cyd Charisse (“The Band Wagon”) – known as the woman with the longest legs in Hollywood – was to be Kelly’s partner during the film’s “Broadway Melody” sequence. Kelly was inspired by the fantasy ballet sequence in the Powell and Pressburger Technicolor masterpiece “The Red Shoes” (1948). Two of MGM’s largest soundstages were used, with eight weeks of rehearsals. The production’s final price tag topped $2.5 million – huge in those days – with $157,000 for costumes, overshooting the initial budget by $665,000.
(1) Kathy Seldon (Debbie Reynolds) jumps out of a cake during an after-premiere party at studio boss R. F. Simpson’s (Millard Mitchell) home. (2) Donald O’Connor performs the “Make ‘em Laugh” routine. (3&4) Kathy and Don are attracted to each other and they sing and dance “You Were Meant for Me.”
Based on a series of Arthur Freed tunes, “Singin’ in the Rain” makes its fourth appearance on a five-inch disc (2-DVDs, Blu-ray & 4K Ultra HD). It appeared in the first batch of DVDs back in the spring of 1997. (It also was the disc that inspired me to plunk down $500 for my first DVD player.) Twenty years ago, Warner Brothers produced its first high-def restoration at (2K), although it was down-converted for DVD. At that time, the studio introduced its incredible computer realignment process for Technicolor’s three-color negative system ensuring faultless registration. Meanwhile, computer experts removed every speck of dust and every scratch to celebrate the movie’s golden anniversary.
For its 60th anniversary, Warner rescanned the best-surviving elements in 4K – 2nd generation and 4th generation for dozens of dissolve edits – of the Technicolor three-strip color negatives. Most of the original nitrate three-strip camera negatives were lost in a 1978 fire at the Eastman House in Rochester, N.Y.
It guaranteed every single film grain – millions within each 35mm frame – was captured to create the best cinematic experience. The realignment process was also reapplied, giving 1080p viewers a truly remarkable watch. The colors were more vibrant – almost jumping off the screen – while inky blacks provided a three-dimensional contrast intensity.
For its 70th anniversary, the same 4K master (1.37:1 aspect ratio) was used for the Ultra HD unveiling. Added resolution, plus HDR grading, takes the viewing experience to all-new levels. The opening sequence in front of Hollywood’s Chinese Theatre shows the premiere of Monumental Pictures’ latest romantic/swashbuckling epic, “The Royal Rascal” starring Lockwood and his leading lady Lina Lamon (Linda Lamont). As the stars arrive, a wide shot from across the street sets the scene. The 4K elevates the clarity of dozens of cheering fans. Then it cuts to a super closeup, showing striking detail, and expanded contrast and color grading of a mustache-man shouting “Zelda! Oh, Zelda!” for silent sensation Zelda Zanders played by teenager Rita Moreno (“West Side Story”).
The brilliant colors of the “Broadway Melody” sequence have never been so saturated or looked as realistic. Another example of the added 4K resolution appears in the wide overhead crane shot tracking Lockwood and dozens of dancers. Every raindrop glistens during Kelly’s legendary song and dance routine, the rain created by a mixture of water and milk to make sure it showed up better on film.
(1&2) Cosmo Brown and Don Lockwood perform “Moses” during their voice training. (3-6) One of Hollywood’s greatest on-screen sequences - “Singin’ in the Rain.”
The 4K disc recycles the remastered 2.0 mono track from the previous Blu-ray, and the same for the reprocessed six-channel, uncompressed DTS HD soundtrack. Don’t expect it to sound like today’s films, but it’s an obvious upgrade from the compressed sound heard on the digital platforms.
The 4K disc and digital include the engaging commentary recorded in 2002 with Donen, film historian Rudy Behlmer, stars Reynolds and O’Connor, and co-writers Betty Comden and Adolph Green, hired by composer/producer Freed to write a script around his songs. The writing duo envisioned a storyline set in Hollywood’s transitional period from silent to talking movies.
Find a 2012 featurette with a new generation of dancers and choreographers including Zachary Woodlee, co-producer/choreographer for the TV series “Glee,” singer/dancer Paula Abdul, director and choreographer Adam Shankman of “Hairspray,” and singer/dancer Usher Raymond who says, “We, the artists of today, stand on the shoulders of giants who came before us. The magic that Kelly possessed was the ability to make something so difficult look so effortless.”
Surprisingly, the entertaining 35-minute “What a Glorious Feeling,” hosted by Reynolds, which celebrates the golden anniversary, is only available via the enclosed digital code. Taped in standard-def, the space allotment would’ve been minimal on the enclosed Blu-ray. I kept the bonus DVD from a previous edition, in which former Turner Classic Movies host Rudy Behlmer says, “It’s certainly the ultimate MGM musical.”
(1-6) Two of MGM’s largest soundstages were used for the “Broadway Melody” sequence. Dancer Cyd Charisse – known as the woman with the longest legs in Hollywood – was Kelly’s partner.
• 2012 Best Picture winner, “The Artist,” borrowed several pages from “Singin’s” script; Oscar-winning actor Jean Dujardin based his character George Valentin on Kelly’s style and eternal smile.
• The first on-screen musical number in “Singin’ in the Rain” was the show-stopping finale of the 1929 MGM musical, “The Hollywood Revue.” The “Rain” scene was filmed in a two-step Technicolor process, with dozens of singers wearing yellow raincoats in front of a large background of Noah’s Ark.
• Kelly’s version of the theme song was originally planned as a trio with Reynolds and O’Connor sung after their disastrous screening of “The Dueling Cavalier.” Instead, the trio breaks out into the delightful “Good Morning.” After 14 hours of filming, Reynolds' feet were bleeding from all the dancing.
• Kelly reportedly had a 103 temperature while filming the theme song, and the special rain caused his wool suit to shrink!
Get the family together for a truly magical evening and check out this American masterpiece.
— Bill Kelley III, High-Def Watch producer