Movie directed by Stanley Donen and Gene Kelly
Written by Adolph Green and Betty Comden
Unimaginable as it may seem, my parent’s generation did not take video entertainment for granted. My mother and father saw silent films when that was the only option. But, they also were born with the advent of movies. By the time they had children, they must have seen hundreds, perhaps thousands of movies, building up a store of favorites. When my brothers and I were young, my parents were limited to network television and perhaps a couple independent stations if they actually wanted to expose us to something in particular. Truth be told, I don’t think it really occurred to parents back then that you could share favorite shows or films with your children. Sure, you might realize that Wizard of Oz was having its annual showing because of the TV Guide listings and suggest that the family plop down and wade through the commercials bookending every fifteen minutes, but that hardly counts as a home education in quality art. We could only imagine a world in which Casablanca would come up in conversation and actually be viewable on demand. Without serendipity, we would never see it.
Between cable, videotapes, DVD’s, and streaming services, a hint of the the slightest interest and the history of film is at our fingertips. We don’t have to just say that our child’s enjoyment of Dumb and Dumber is understandable, but they really ought to see Laurel and Hardy.
All of which is a long explanation of the popularity of the phenomenon that was That’s Entertainment and its sequels. My dad decided one afternoon to just up and take me to the movies and it was the first of these musical anthologies that MGM released, trying to capitalize on their back catalog. Naturally, I enjoyed it, but I recall some confusion as to why we were not watching something with an actual plot.
More than that, I had little need to be taught an appreciation for musicals. Any child exposed to Wizard of Oz and Singin’ in the Rain will grow up with a decent sense of humor, a generous spirit, and cleaner, brighter teeth.
Gene Kelly never did any wrong onscreen and Donald O’Connor is far more sublime than his comedic reputation allows. I suppose this may be the one film I have seen more than any other, but I might suppose erroneously (White Christmas, Wizard of Oz, and Night at the Opera are probably in the race).
Things get interesting when you start to pay attention to the story. After all, we are talking about one of the key tales in film history- the arrival of sound. In this case, the story is told through the eyes of a pompous star blessed with a voice that won’t immediately signal doom for his career. We are now further from the release of Singin’ in the Rain than the film was from the first talkies. In that time, has anything other than streaming entertainment brought about such wholesale change to any of the art forms? I had started that sentence the first time by saying nothing had, but then I remembered that sound was really just a little technical innovation, too.
You’ve Got to Check This Out is a blog series about music, words, and all sorts of artistic matters. It started with an explanation. 252 more to go.
New additions to You’ve Got to Check This Out are released regularly. Also, free humor, short works, and poetry are posted irregularly. Notifications are posted on Facebook which you can receive by friending or following Craig.