READING RESPONSE for 10/6/2010

From the first moment we are let into the diegesis of Singin’ in the Rain, we are provided with references to Hollywood culture and 1920s nostalgia. Mark Juddery writes an incredible interesting article about all of these references, and about how the film does such an amazing job of combining the more modern 1950s film style with the 1920s culture. One important mention in the article is just how historically specific and researched Singin’ in the Rain was. Juddery states: “This is what it was like around MGM in 1928–with a little comic exaggeration…” From characters based off of real people, like Pola Negri and Mae Murray, to references to places like the Chinese Theater in Hollywood, we are thrown tons of different important names from the time.

The changes that were taking place during this time were also shown extremely accurately. From getting used to microphone placement in films to getting used to the need to make dialogue both believable and enthralling, there were a ton of problems encountered by silent filmmakers trying to make it in the “talking picture” era. There were obviously a ton of gags done in Singin’ in the Rain that may have been a little bit over the top, like R.F. tripping over the microphone wire and causing Lina Lamont to go flying in the air, but the general idea of obstacles to the realization of a good “talkie” without any experience were all real. The actors obviously had a difficult time, too, many of them falling to the wayside because their voices or screen personas were not translatable to movies with sound. Though many thrived in the environment, most of whom had begun on the theatrical stage, there were many who had to retire and find a different career path, such as Norma Tamadge, mentioned in Juddery’s article as a woman with a thick Brooklyn accent who could no longer play the sophisticated star role.

Many people shared Clara Bow’s spite for the microphone and the sound stage, which is clear from her quote: “That microphone was a nemesis: if you didn’t record well, you were finished.” Though many transitioned smoothly, some actors and actresses had to be intensively trained only so that they could sound “more refined”. This change was necessary but proved to be a hassle and a difficult transition, and many producers opted to just hire actors directly from the stage who had experience speaking lines and memorizing dialogue. I think this is the most interesting part of the article because it shows just how Singin’ in the Rain, though seemingly just a simple film about Don Lockwood and Kathy Selden’s love story, is actually a rich cultural goldmine of references and experiences.