Well, heck. This blog's starting to get seriously cobwebby. Between the tumbleweeds rolling by, and the endless comments from hawkers and athletic shoes, Picture's Up is looking a little down in the mouth. To say the least.
Just to keep things from decaying too far, I'll interrupt my working day with a brief rumination on 'Singin' in the Rain,' the blu-ray of which I received yesterday and promptly popped into my home entertainment system.
Truth be told, I prefer the dancing -- overall -- in the Astaire/Rogers musicals, but it's because the non-musical scenes in 'Singin' in the Rain' are so entertaining that I concur with the conventional wisdom labelling it 'Best Musical Ever.' That is, perhaps, a paradox; but after all no musical can sustain wall-to-wall music -- at least, very few can; and you ought to be fully engaged while the actors are just plain talking, rather than waiting for the next big song-and-dance number.
'Singin's' gags vis-a-vis the silent-to-talkie transition just never get old, nor does Douglas Fowley's magnificently exasperated turn as Lockwood-and-Lamont's long-suffering director (which performance I must file away in my cabinet of evidence for the proposition that overacting is sometimes exactly the right choice).
Roger Ebert once noted in a review to 'That's Dancing!' -- a sort of 'leftovers' sequel to 'That's Entertainment!' -- that the filmmakers were starting to scrape the bottom of the barrel by selecting the 'Moses Supposes' sequence for their anthology, since 'Make 'em Laugh' and the title number had already been used for the previous film. Odd, then, that I enjoy 'Moses Supposes' maybe more than any other number in 'Singin' in the Rain,' nowadays. I love the self-satisfied expression on Donald O'Connor's face as he trades off with Gene Kelly. There's a collegial quality to this number -- two top-flight pros admiring one another's chops while luxuriating in the sheer athletic pleasure of their skill. The sequence's odd conclusion -- a sort of cinematic annihilation of a Poindexter-y diction coach at the hands of two high-spirited frat boys -- has always struck me as ever so slightly unsettling. Plus, I wonder how many takes it took to get that 'Vowel' sign to stick just right.
I'm not the first to say so, but the 'Broadway Melody' sequence is a definite structural miscalculation. Impressive in its own right, the self-contained number feels completely detached from the rest of the film, does nothing to advance the story, and stops dead the headlong momentum of the plot. It should have been cut, and whatever the beguilements of Cyd Charisse's lovely legs, I'm often tempted to fast-forward past it.