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SINGIN’ IN THE RAIN – Lennie Hayton, Nacio Herb Brown, and Arthur Freed

February 27, 2023 Leave a comment Go to comments


Original Review by Craig Lysy

MGM Studios Director of Musicals Arthur Freed conceived of a new film that would be based on a catalogue of unused songs written by him and Nacio Herb Brown during the waning days of the Silent Film Age. The musical would be set during this time and feature dance legend Gene Kelly. Freed assumed control of production with a budget that eventually tapped out at $2.54 million. Gene Kelly was given creative control of the film and would not only direct and choreograph, but also star. Adolph Green and Betty Comden were hired to write the screenplay. The cast would consist with Gene Kelly as Don Lockwood, Debbie Reynolds as Kathy Selden, Donald O’Connor as Cosmo Brown, Jean Hagen as Lina Lamont, Millard Mitchell as R. F. Simpson and Cyd Charisse as the vamp.

The musical was a romantic comedy, which offered a light-hearted and wistful depiction of Hollywood during the waning years of the Silent Film Age. Don a hoofer, and leading lady Lina are frequent co-stars who dislike each other yet perpetuate the myth of their romantic involvement to keep the viewing public interested in upcoming films. When the talking film “The Jazz Singer” becomes a public sensation, Don and Lina realize they have to make the jump to talking films. Yet along the way Don falls for chorus girl Kathy, which arouses Lina’s determination to make it in talkies and maintain her status as Don’s leading lady. The film was a massive commercial success, earned a profit of $7.7 million, and offered some of the most amazing song and dance numbers in cinematic history. Critics were mixed in their initial response, however lavish praise was offered when the film was re-released in 1958. The film earned two Academy Award nominations for Best Supporting Actress and Best Score for a Musical Picture.

Lennie Hayton was an MGM contract composer, conductor and arranger. In 1940 he assumed the post of Director of Music, and fostered the studio’s musicals for which he earned three Academy Award nominations and one win, for On The Town in 1949. As this was an Arthur Freed passion project, he personally took the reins for the score as Music Director, and chose to use songs from the pre-existing song book of composer Nacio Herb Brown and lyricist Arthur Freed. Thirteen songs ended up making the final cut; Hayton understood that Brown and Freed’s songs were the heart and soul of the musical and that he would have to weave a musical tapestry that would unify the film’s musical narrative. Conrad Salinger assisted with the orchestrations, and Hayton adopted a novel approach, deviating from convention. Usually, the score composer would interpolate some of the song melodies as leitmotifs to provide unity, and continuity of the musical narrative. Instead, he composed his own compositions as set pieces that were attenuated to the non-song scenes. I believe the approach was successful and agree that Hayton merited his Academy award nomination.

Cues coded (*) contain music not found on the album. “Main Title” offers a score highlight, which opens the film with excitement, energy and romance. As the MGM Studio logo displays ascending strings energico propel us forward, replacing Max Steiner’s iconic fanfare. We flow into the main title where two men and a woman stand in yellow rain gear and black umbrellas with their backs to us. A sequence of three fanfares by horns dramatico support the display of Gene Kelly’s, Donald O’Connor’s and Debbie Reynolds’ name on the umbrellas. They turn in unison, begin strutting in the rain singing the happy-go-lucky title song. The film title displays after the first stanza and the roll of the opening credits unfolds at 0:39 against an animated backdrop of blue skies and umbrellas. An orchestral rendering of the romantic ballad “You Are My Lucky Star” supports, flowing gracefully with a dancelike sensibility. “Dignity” reveals gossip columnist Dora Baily announcing the arrival of Hollywood luminaries for the premier of “The Royal Rascal” starring Don Lockwood and Lina Lamont at the Grauman’s Chinese Theater. She asks Don for some storytelling of his life and he speaks of his motto of always living with dignity. His storytelling is supported by a wistful romance for strings full of sentimentality.

In “Fit As A Fiddle” – which was written by Al Hoffman and Al Goodhart and was originally from the 1932 stage revue “George White’s Music Hall Varieties” – we flashback to Donny and Cosmo as little boys dancing supported by upbeat and playful melody for the song “Fit as a Fiddle And Ready For Love”. Moving forward in time we see them as young men doing a Vaudeville stage act dreaming of love, where the sing and perform the infectiously happy and playful song. “Stunt Montage” reveals Don breaking into movies as a stuntman at Monumental Studios. We open dramatically propelled by horns bravura as he takes off in a plane, only to crash into a barn. At 0:13 strings energico propel him on a motorcycle off a cliff, and into the ocean below, carried by a descent motif. At 0:27 horns eroiche carry him as a confederate soldier into a barn labeled “Explosives”, which explodes atop blaring horns as he enters. At 0:36 the music embraces string borne romanticism as Don speaks of meeting Lina, who learns of him after her producer informs her that he is impressed with Don and intends to star him with her in his next film. The remainder of the cue after 1:02 must be attached to scenes edited out of the film. “First Silence Picture” reveals Don and Lina embracing, supported by strings d’amore. At 0:17 strings of alarm and dire horns shatter the moment, ushering in tension as he hears footsteps approaching. He opens the door and at 0:27 strings furioso explode with a torrent of violence as he is attacked. Lina comes to him carried by strings romantico, but another fight with assailants erupts at 0:46 with a swirling string torrent as Don fights and defeats his attackers, his victory crowned by strings d’amore and a flourish as Lina kisses her mighty hero to end the film.

“Don Escapes His Fans” (*) reveals Cosmo’s car getting a flat, and Don being swarmed by crazed fans as he gets out. He flees propelled by strings of flight and horns energico atop a cable car, from which he jumps into a car driven by Kathy. She is frightened, and stops only to have a policeman identify her passenger as the movie star Don Lockwood. She agrees to drive him home so he can change out of his tattered suit. He becomes amorous, but is put off when she ridicules his silent film acting, saying that she is a real actor as she speaks her lines on stage. As he exits, the car door catches and tears his suit, supported by strings sardonici as she laughs. “Tango” reveals the post movie celebration party where Lani is fawned over by adoring men. A classic Argentine tango sets the ambiance as we see several couples dancing the passionate dance. “All I Do Is Dream Of You” – originally from the 1934 film Sadie McKee – reveals Kathy jumping out of a cake, and getting a payback rebuke from Don regarding her ‘acting’ career. She joins the other girls on the dance floor and the sing and dance the happy-go-lucky song of a girl lovestruck by her man.

Afterwards in “Gene Dreams Of Kathy” Lani takes umbrage of Kathy talking to Don, who dismisses her, saying Kathy is not a real actor. Kathy angrily throws a cake at Don, but misses and hits Loni square in the face. She runs off, eventually pursued by Don. As she drives off, we see he is attracted to her as yearning strings romantico, woodwinds delicato and a harp glissando inform us of his heart’s desire. “All I Do Is Dream Of You” offers an outtake of Gene Kelly singing the romantic ballad so full of longing as the scene was edited out of the film. “Make ‘Em Laugh” reveals Cosmo trying to cheer Don up as he feels bad that he caused Kathy to lose her job at the grove. He sings and dances to the comedic, playful and feel-good optimism of the song. “Beautiful Girl Montage” reveals that the movie “The Jazz Singer”, the first talking movie, has become a public sensation, forcing Monumental Studios executive R. F. Simpson to join the band wagon. He orders Don and Lani’s latest film to be reshot as a talky. A montage of newspaper headlines declaring a movie industry revolution headed by musicals is supported by a dazzling and dramatic musical narrative. We flow seamlessly into “I’ve Got a Feelin’ You’re Foolin’”, a fun, high energy song and dance number by a female dance troupe, sung by Jimmie Thompson and the Girl Friends chorus. We flow seamlessly into “Beautiful Girl” – originally from the 1933 film Stage Mother – which offers a love ballad sung by a man love struck by his gal. Cosmo and a female dance troupe perform with his voice dubbed by Jimmie Thompson accompanied by the Girl Friends chorus.

“Have Lunch With Me” reveals Don asking Kathy out to lunch as he explains that there is nothing romantic between him and Lani. Don is already smitten, and we can see in her a nascent romanticism is developing. Hayton supports with a tender romance for strings with woodwind adornment. At 1:49 flute comico accents his reminder of her unflattering comment regarding his movies. Yet the romance continues as he struggles to say what is in his heart. We flow seamlessly into “The Stage Is Set” with the romance of strings transformed magically by woodwinds and strings d’amore as he creates the proper mood with lighting and a beautiful cloudscape displayed behind them. She asks him “Now that you have the proper setting, can you say it?” He says, he’ll try and we flow into the yearning romantic ballad so full of longing “You Were Meant For Me” – originally from the 1929 film The Broadway Melody – a score highlight with vocals by Gene Kelly.

Horns dramatico and trilling woodwinds support (*) “Hollywood Learns To Talk”, which reveals the headline, and an article saying diction coaches are in demand as silent movie stars are taught proper diction for talkies. In “Moses”, a fun score highlight, Don and Cosmo are being taught proper diction, and they coopt the lesson. They begin a comedic, playful and delightfully silly song and dance performance of the song “Moses”.

“The Dueling Cavalier” (*) reveals the premiere of Don and Lina’s first talking film. Trumpets reale resound as the film title displays, followed by strings romantico as Lina enters with her ladies in waiting for the opening scene. The film is a bust as the dialogue quality is poor, and out of synch, which results in a comedic disaster. Afterwards at 1:30 am in “Good Morning” – originally from the 1939 film Babes in Arms – we have a sparkling score highlight! Cosmo and Kathy say to transform the movie into a musical. Don’s buys the idea with a musical narrative full of hope, which ushers in a song and dance performance of the happy-go-lucky song, sung by Gene Kelly, Debbie Reynolds and Donald O’Connor. Afterwards they realize that not only can Lani not act, but she can’t sing either. So, Cosmo convinces him to dub Lani’s voice and singing with Kathy’s. We segue into “Good Night, Kathy” atop a comedic flop as Cosmo flips over the couch after Kathy kisses him. We then shift to Don kissing Kathy goodbye outside her apartment, which Hayton supports with yearning strings romantico, which blossom rapturously. It is raining, he waves the taxi off, and we flow into an iconic score highlight, the joyous “Singin’ In The Rain,” which was originally from 2929 film The Hollywood Revue of 1929. This offers a wonderous confluence of music and virtuosos dancing, which earns Gene Kelly immortality. Brown supports with happy-go-lucking strolling, soon joined by Don’s vocal as he walks in the rain full of love for Kathy; at 2:02 we flow into a big band exposition of the song melody as Kelly dazzles us with his dancing. At 3:37 a diminuendo supports the arrival and disapproving stare of a police officer. Don smiles and sheepishly closes with “I’m dancin’ and singin’ in the rain…” as he dances off, carried by musical gentility.

“From Dueling To Dancing” reveals R. F. Simpson, Don and Cosmo pacing back and forth as they try to come up with a different title for the film, given it has become a musical. Hayton offers a comedic musical narrative as they struggle and keep colliding with each other. At 0:27 buoyant strings support Cosmo coming up with “The Dancing Cavalier”. Yet the silly comedy music resumes as they try to conceive of a way to choreograph modern musical numbers into a period piece. At 1:00 Cosmo, propelled by joyous strings, again comes up with a plan; a dream sequence that takes the cast back to the past. “Would You?” – originally from the 1936 film San Francisco – reveals Kathy recording a song that will later be dubbed in the film, with Lina in the other room doing the same, not knowing they are not recording her screechy voice but only filming her mouthing the words. The song offers a tender romantic ballad as a woman longs for her lover’s embrace, vocals by Betty Noyes.

We now come to “Broadway Melody Ballet,” from the 1929 film The Broadway Melody, the film’s pièce de resistance, where a wondrous confluence of music and Kelly’s virtuoso dancing are achieved. Don sells the scene to R. F. Simpson, saying it reveals a young aspiring hoofer who comes to New York seeking his destiny. They set the stage with a song which opens with a harp glissando, which ushers in Don singing a song which extols the wonder of Broadway. As he finishes the final note at 0:43 a crescendo brilliante supports the illumination of Broadway Theater displays. Horns energico and strings spiritoso carry the run of dozens on dancers on stage. We see Don arriving with a suitcase, strutting through Broadway propelled by an energetic and vibrant musical narrative as a conveyor belt moves a steady stream of people behind him. At 1:41 grand fanfare supports his arrival at a talent agency. He knocks and as the agent opens the door, he launches into “Gotta dance! “ The first two agents reject him, but the third takes him by the hand to a dance hall propelled by confident strings energico. As he enters the dance hall at 2:20 grand fanfare resounds announcing his arrival and after; Don launches into singing the celebratory song “Broadway’s Rhythm” as he dances on stage and the chorus dances below him on the dance floor;

At 3:40 Kelly takes command of the dance floor with virtuoso dancing for the ages, empowered by a vibrant and celebratory musical narrative. At 4:14 he comes upon a seated woman’s outstretched leg with her foot supporting a hat. Renown dancer Cyd Charisse, who plays this vamp, seductively oozes her sexual allure, stunning Don who falls to his knees, supported by a sultry saxophone. An ascent motif at 4:23 supports her hoisting the hat up with her leg with her scissor kick accented at 4:33 as she takes to the dance floor. The sultry music resumes while a mob boss watches as Don joins her on the dance floor. She seeks to arouse him as she dances around him empowered by a saxophone seducente. The music assumes a pronounced jazz iteration that oozes sex as her legs and hips draw Don into her web. At 5:53 he succumbs and horns surge as he pulls her into his arms. A jazzy danza erotica unfolds replete with pelvis thrusts and sensual lifts as they join together in dance. At 6:31 a sensual diminuendo supports him pulling her into his, intent to kiss her, yet the mob boss flashes a diamond bracelet in front of her, and she follows him off stage, much to Don’s disappointment as two henchmen prevent him from following. At 7:03 racing strings surge as Don is pulled back onto the dance floor and joined by dozens of dancers. Strings energico carry his run to a stage door, which displays a brilliantly lite “Columbia Burlesque” as he enters, supported by heraldic horns. On stage a women’s troupe dances and sings the campy “When I hear that happy beat, feel like dancin’ down the street”. Festive music follows, until 7:32 when heraldic horns resound as we see a brilliantly lite “Palace Vaudeville”. On stage another women’s troupe dances and again sings the campy line. Very energetic and festive music follows, until 7:47 when heraldic horns resound as we see a brilliantly lite “Ziegfeld Follies”. On stage another ornately dressed women’s troupe dances with Don in a tuxedo. Very energetic and festive music follows, until 8:03 when ascending horns dramatico take us to a lavish ball where couples dance supported by a free-flowing danza felice as applause welcomes Don, who takes to the dance floor. All is wonderful until 8:35 when portentous horns announce the arrival of the vamp (Cyd Charisse) in a resplendent white and silver gown. Don is mesmerized by her allure and beauty and ascending sultry horns reveal this in his stare. At 8:45 ethereal strings and a meandering oboe support the transformation of the dance floor into a surreal pink and purple stage where the vamp’s gown flutters in the breeze as Don, full of longing looks on. She comes to him balletically and they join in a beautiful balletic danza elegante, crowned at 10:01 atop a crescendo brillante as he at last takes her into a kissing embrace. A danza appassianato unfolds as she dances away from him, as her billowy gown flows in the breeze. At 10:58 a harp glissando returns us to reality. The sultry motif takes him to her, only to be rebuffed as she joins the mob boss. Strings triste, full of disappointment support his departure as he returns to the original brilliantly lite screen where a goofy looking boy struts onto the stage at 12:04 and sings “Gotta dance! Gotta dance!” Don snaps out of it and sings “Gotta dance! Gotta dance! Gotta dance!” Don launches into virtuoso dancing, surrounded by a retinue of dancers and we conclude with him singing “That’s the Broadway Melody!” which culminates in a flourish.

“Until The Stars Turn Cold” (*) reveals Kathy and Don in a dubbing session, where after she says this line, she turns to him to hear him say, he no longer intends to keep his feelings for her secret. Hayton supports the tender moment with yearning strings d’Amore, but the moment is shattered by the shrill voice of Lani who barges in demanding Kathy’ be fired. When Don advises of his intent to marry Kathy, Lina dismisses it and vows to take revenge. Later she sabotages the company’s publicity campaign and coerces R. F. Simpson to remove all credit for Kathy from the film. “Would You? End Title” reveals the grand premiere of “The Dancing Cavalier” at Graumans Chinese Theater. Swirling strings ascend and usher in grand fanfare as we see the theater aglow with crowds of fans. At 0:09 we flow into the film for Lina and Don’s love scene borne by strings tristi, which usher in the aching romantic song “Would You”. The song concludes with a grand romantic flourish.

The film is a rousing success and Lina leverages her star power by advising Kathy and Don that Kathy will continue to sing for her over her five-year contract. Lina then goes out for a self-serving speech to the crowd, and agrees to their demand that she sing. Don forces Kathy, who feels betrayed, back stage behind the curtain. Kathy then begins to sing “Singin’ In The Rain” as Lina mouths the words. R. F. Simpson, Don and Cosmo then pull up the curtain to expose Lina’s fraud, humiliating her, but also causing Kathy to flee in tears. Don orders Kathy stopped, and then declares to the crowd the truth, that Kathy is the real star. As she turns back and acknowledges his act of love, we flow into the “Finale”. We conclude grandly with a flourish as Don and Kathy stand in front of a massive billboard; “Singin’ In The Rain” starring Don Lockwood and Kathy Seldon and join in a kissing embrace.

I would like to thank Marilee Bradford and Bradley Hannagan for this remastered production of one of the Golden Age’s finest musicals, “Singin In The Rain”. Many of the cues recorded with multiple microphones were able to be rendered in stereophonic sound, however some of the music that was recorded with an insufficient number of microphones could not be converted and so remain monaural. Overall, I believe the technical team did a wonderful job and do recommend the album to collectors, and lovers of Hollywood musicals. This was an Arthur Freed passion project, he personally took the reins for the score as Music Director, and choice to mine the Nacio Herb Brown songbook for some of Hollywood’s most iconic songs his inspired; the titular “Singin In The Rain” takes its place in the pantheon of great Hollywood musical songs. The film flows with entertaining energy, comedy, wonderful storytelling with a musical narrative, which is heartfelt and often, sensational. Many of the remaining twelve songs that made the final cut are classics, including; “All I do is Dream of You”, “Make ’em Laugh”, You Were Meant for Me. In regards to the score, Hayton’s creative decision to eschew interpolating song melodies as leitmotifs worked very well with “Have Lunch With Me”, “The Stage is Set” and “Gene Dreams of Kathy” offering exquisite romanticism. Folks, this musical has it all, achieving an extraordinary confluence of wonderful songs, romantic music, and entertaining, virtuoso dance numbers by Gene Kelly. I believe this to be one of Hollywood’s finest musicals and highly recommend you purchase this essential album.

For those of you unfamiliar with the score, I have embedded a YouTube link to the iconic song “Singin’ In The Rain” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=upcEVI2691w&list=OLAK5uy_lxz9iP9aLUp6o58xfm89FWz_wvwljGZyQ

Buy the Singin’ in the Rain from the Movie Music UK Store

Track Listing:

  • Main Title (1:42)
  • Dignity (0:52)
  • Fit As A Fiddle (And Ready For Love) (written by Al Hoffman, Al Goodhart, and Arthur Freed, performed by Gene Kelly and Donald O’Connor) (1:41)
  • Stunt Montage (Extended Version) (2:03)
  • First Silence Picture (Extended Version) (1:23)
  • Tango (Temptation) (1:05)
  • All I Do Is Dream Of You (written by Nacio Herb Brown and Arthur Freed, performed by Debbie Reynolds) (1:25)
  • Gene Dreams Of Kathy (0:58)
  • All I Do Is Dream Of You (Outtake) (3:25)
  • Make ‘Em Laugh (written by Nacio Herb Brown and Arthur Freed, performed by Donald O’Connor) (3:17)
  • Beautiful Girl Montage (0:59)
  • Beautiful Girl (written by Nacio Herb Brown and Arthur Freed, performed by Jimmy Thompson) (3:16)
  • Have Lunch With Me (2:42)
  • The Stage Is Set (1:08)
  • You Were Meant For Me (written by Nacio Herb Brown and Arthur Freed, performed by Gene Kely) (3:32)
  • You Are My Lucky Star (Outtake) (written by Nacio Herb Brown and Arthur Freed, performed by Gene Kelly and Debbie Reynolds) (3:39)
  • Moses (written by Roger Edens, Betty Comden, and Adolph Green, performed by Gene Kelly and Donald O’Connor) (3:05)
  • Good Morning (written by Nacio Herb Brown and Arthur Freed, performed by Gene Kelly, Donald O’Connor, and Debbie Reynolds) (4:13)
  • Good Night, Kathy (0:37)
  • Singin’ In The Rain (written by Nacio Herb Brown and Arthur Freed, performed by Gene Kelly) (4:15)
  • From Dueling To Dancing (1:10)
  • Would You? (1:47)
  • Broadway Melody Ballet (Extended Version) (written by Nacio Herb Brown and Arthur Freed, performed by Gene Kelly) (13:13)
  • Would You? End Title (1:31)
  • Singin’ In The Rain (In A-Flat) (written by Nacio Herb Brown and Arthur Freed, performed by Debbie Reynolds, Gene Kelly, Donald O’Connor, and Millard Mitchell) (Extended Version) (1:29)
  • Finale (1:37)
  • Main Title (Alternate Version) (2:09)
  • Beautiful Girl (Alternate Version / Tempo Track) (written by Nacio Herb Brown and Arthur Freed) (3:14)
  • Would You? (Unused Version) (written by Nacio Herb Brown and Arthur Freed) (1:49)
  • Singin’ In The Rain [Radio Broadcast] (written by Nacio Herb Brown and Arthur Freed) (2:26)

Running Time: 75 minutes 42 seconds

Sony Music 88697638292 (1952/1996)

Music composed by Lennie Hayton. Conducted by Johnny Green. Orchestrations by Wally Heglin, Skip Martin, Conrad Salinger, Alexander Courage, Maurice De Packh and Robert Franklyn. Recorded and mixed by M. J. McLaughlin, William Saracino and Peter Decek. Score produced by Lennie Hayton. Album produced by Marilee Bradford and Bradley Hannigan.

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