Singin’ in the Rain will always remain one of the most iconic American musical comedies of all times. The film was directed and choreographed by Gene Kelly and Stanley Donen, starring the musical stars Donald O’Connor and Debbie Reynolds, including Kelly himself.
It presents the lives of three performers which change their careers from silent movies to “talkies”, during the late 1920’s in Hollywood. Just as any other, this movie also went through many challenges during its filming.
Myth busting: the hardest filming sequences
Here’s a little anecdote about Donald O’Connor. He was hospitalized for several days after filming the Make ‘Em Laugh sequence. The performance was so demanding, that Donald smoked four packs of cigarettes a day.
Or let’s just recall the famous dance sequence in which Gene Kelly sings the title song, spins his umbrella, and splashes through the puddles on the street. According to a popular myth, Kelly managed to perform the whole song in just one take, which is not true, of course. It took him at least 2-3 days to manage the title song performance.
Little did we know that he was also struck by a fever during the filming. In the famous scene, Kelly is virtually soaked to his skin, so no wonder he got the fever.
Rumor had it that the rain in the same sequence was mixed with milk, so that the raindrops would show up better on camera, but this isn’t true. The effect was achieved thanks to the backlighting, a process where the light used for the set and the viewer face each other, and the subject which is filmed is in between.This process results in creating a glowing effect on the edges of the subject as other areas of the frame are darker.
Debbie Reynolds also had a couple of challenges herself. In fact, on one occasion later, she had commented that doing this musical was one of the hardest things she ever had to do in life, along giving childbirth. Debbie was not a dancer when she worked on Singin’ in the Rain. At that point, she only had background skills as a gymnast. During the filming, Gene Kelly had insulted her for the lack of dancing experience, which made the young actress quite upset.
After the insult, Debbie was found crying under a piano by Fred Astaire, who happened to be around. He comforted the young actress and helped her with the dancing. Later on, Kelly admitted that he wasn’t very careful with Reynolds; he was even surprised that she was still talking to him.
The shooting of the “Good Morning” sequence was most painful for Debbie. Her feet were bleeding after a whole day of filming. Singin in the Rain’ was the second film that Debbie Reynolds did.
It followed her breakthrough role in Three Little Words in 1950, which brought her the Golden Globe Award for Most Promising Newcomer. She was only 19 during the filming of the iconic musical.