from silent to sound, dying and being reborn

Exactly 70 years have passed since the release of Singing in the Rain. The film showing one of the most important events in cinema.

We are in Hollywood, in 1927. A date to be imprinted well in memory because an important phenomenon in the history of cinema took place: the transition from silent to sound. In that same year the film was in fact released in theaters The Jazz Singer by Alan Crosland. For the first time, a film with words synchronized to the movement of the lips is released. The event that changed the history of cinema, and which years later, in 1952, is represented in one of the most beautiful musicals ever: Singing in the rain who turns 70 this year.

Silent cinema

Actually you have to know that during the silent era, the cinema was already “soundproofed” because the projections had live musical accompaniment. Usually inside the room there was a pianist or a real orchestra, while sometimes, a voice from outside the film was assigned to narrate the story of the characters, to explain what was happening on the screen.

With the advent of sound many filmmakers who had made the absence of speech their success, resisted this innovation. The same Charlie Chaplin distinguishable by his facial expressiveness, he had to adapt despite hesitations and uncertainties. In fact, the first film about him was filmed only in 1940: The great dictator. Although Modern times ,released in ’36, it ends with a few minutes of dialogue. So the director had been carried away by this innovation years earlier.

The advent of sound in Singing in the Rain

Lockwood and Kathy on a soundstage in the film Singing in the Rain

Lockwood and Kathy on a soundstage in the film Singing in the Rain

To date, the most relevant film about the transition from silent to sound is a musical, Singing in the rain. The film takes us behind the making of silent films, whose protagonists were Don Lockwood (Gene Kelly) and Lina Lamont (Jean Hagen). But when both are cast in a talkie, the main characters find their lives turned upside down. At first they thought it was a temporary innovation that would not be very successful, at least not so much as to surpass the famous silent films with which they achieved glory.

Thus we see on the screen the great innovation that changed the history of cinema, but with i numerous problems that derive from it. Many actors at the time had a bad voice, not suitable for acting, and in the film this is excellently represented by the character of Lina, who having a too high-pitched voice sees her career cut short.

Singing in the Rain: An Inspirational Musical

An image of Mia and Sebastian in the sunset scene in La La Land

An image of Mia and Sebastian in the sunset scene in La La Land

Throughout the film the relationship between sound, music and dance is developed with great irony and lightness. Accompanied by songs like good morning And Singin’ in the rain (which gives the film its title), Singing in the rain is a musical that has remained in the collective memory from viewers to directors. A real artwork. Just Stanley Kubrick decides to pay homage to the symbolic song of the film Singin’ in the rainin Clockwork Orange (1971), one of his cinematic masterpieces still seen and loved today.

Not to mention Damien Chazelle, director of La La Land (2016), which leaves us with a bad taste in our mouths every time we watch the finale. Both musicals share the vivacity of colors and music, but there is a particular scene in Chazelle’s film that recalls Kelly’s masterpiece: when Mia (Emma Stone) and Sebastian (Ryan Gosling) dance to the tune of A Lovely Night with a sunset in the background. The shots and photography recall a very specific scene of Singing in the rainwhen Lockwood and Kathy (Debbie Reynolds) dance and sing in a theater with the sunset recreated by some lights.

A work of art

With a screenplay that puts a great innovation and all its consequences at the center of the film, written by the couple Betty Comden and Adolph Green, the musical enters the pantheon of seventh art. Directed by Stanley Donen and Gene Kelly, Singing in the rain, characterized by a strong irony, he managed to overturn the dictates of the Hollywood tradition. Not to mention the lightness and liveliness which it transmits, in order to make the feature film enjoyable to all intents and purposes still today.

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