For those that find in them a certain joy every time the orchestra of film kicks, when those studio logos lighten the dark of the screen and the familiar trumpet notes sound, you know what I mean when I say that the greatest films ever made are a must see for everyone. Those top 100 or 200, or 500 films that everyone should see before they die. Film is subjective though, and there are many lists. Fortunately for us, the American Film Institute compiled a list of the top 100 films of the 20th Century. From top to bottom, the list compiles the greatest American films released in the first 100 years of cinema.
Musicals are a dying breed in the Hollywood shuffle, but 50 years ago they were a class all to themselves. After the monumental success of films like The Wizard of Oz the musical saw a dramatic period of success. They were mass produced, seasonalized and even award winning in the right instances. The success of 1952’s Singin’ In the Rain is a testament to that long lost era of the Hollywood Musical, and it falls in at number ten on AFI’s list of the top 100 films of the 20th century.
On AFI’s top 100 musicals list it ranked as number one and by most critics is considered the best musical ever made. The film itself stars Gene Kelley, Donald O’Connor and Debbie Reynolds in a comical take on the transition from silent films to talkies in Hollywood. The film takes a satirical look at Hollywood and the troubles encountered after a film executive decides to transition the production of The Dueling Cavalier into a talkie, and eventually into The Dancing Cavalier. The main problem lies in the female leads horribly grating voice and the need for a voice over actress whom Don Lockwood (played by Kelley) immediately falls for. The leading lady, Lina Lamont, becomes viciously angry who then demands that the voice over actress, Kathy Seldon (played by Reynolds) be uncredited.
In the end, when at a premiere the crowd demands a concert from Lina, the comedy duo of Lockwood and his buddy Cosmo (played by O’Conner) pull up the curtain and reveal Kathy Seldon as the actual voice, ruining Lina’s career.
The songs in the film are notably rehashes of songs used in a score of other MGM films, under the “freed unit” in which most of the musicals were produced. The film was mainly designed as a showcase for the songs of the past decade in lesser known films, ironically becoming the best known of them all through its collage techniques.
Like many films that aspire to such greatness, the film’s seen a slew of parodies and routines – especially of Gene Kelley’s famous dancing in the rain scene with the umbrella – from Volkswagon commercials to a Jackie Chan film. Nominated for two academy awards, it’s significance has been a slow and steady affair, but none doubt it now as the most important musical produced in the golden age of Hollywood musicals.