Singin’ In The Rain, 60 Years Later

The 1952 classic, “Singin’ in the Rain” tells the story of the transformation of film from consisting only of moving images with no supporting sound outside of thematic music, to the voice over gold standard that it is today. It follows the story of two famous actors, Don Lockwood and Lena Lamont, who the public perceives as a couple madly in love. However, behind closed doors Don’s attention is focused on someone else.

This film takes place during a time where the era of talking films was about to take the world by storm. This wasn’t a seamless transition though. Watching this movie showed me the many difficulties that filmmakers and actors faced during the early stages switching from just music to full voice over. One of the earlier issues that the director was met with was trying to get the audio to record clearly, but Lena has tremendous difficulty speaking into the mic. He tries to solve this using several different methods. Initially, he embedded a wired microphone into a flower on Lena’s dress as a way to better pick up her voice. Because of the positioning of the flower over her chest, this unintentionally picked up the sound of Lena’s heart beating, ruining the recording. He sought to correct this by repositioning the microphone on her left shoulder. This seemed to be the fix everyone was hoping for but as it is later revealed this placement only recorded good quality sound while Lena spoke in the direction of the mic. Whenever Lena would shift her head and speak in the opposite direction (as she often did) her speech was inaudible. Using the equipment that we have available today, this issue would be easily fixed using either a shotgun, or lavalier mic.

This was only the tip of the iceberg in regards to the difficulty with adding audio to motion picture. Post production, the first film that they produced was an embarrassment. First off, this was before the age of Foley. During the movie, voice and sound effects were constantly interfering with one another (such as when Lena tries do deliver lines while fiddling with a set of pearls) make the audio sound sloppy and unprofessional. As this was the first film, it was obvious that there was little thought but into developing an interesting script. The worst issue came when the audio fell out of sync with the video. All of the issues combined turned the movie into a laughing stock.

Overall, I enjoyed the picture which came as a great surprise to me as I’ve never been a fan of musicals. It was also good to see the art of motion picture production in it’s infancy. The film industry has come a mighty long way.

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