In 1952, the musical Singin’ in the Rain was released. Starring Gene Kelly, Debbie Reynolds, and Donald O’Conner, the film portrays characters who are caught up in the new phenomena of silent films turning into “talkies.”
The cinematic history lesson isn’t the only fun fact twirled up in this dance movie, though! Keep reading for some behind-the-scenes facts that are sure to have you singing in the rain.
Debbie Reynolds Had Zero Dance Experience
When she was hired for Singin’ in the Rain, Debbie Reynolds explained to directors Stanley Donen and Gene Kelly that she had no previous dance experience. Her lack of experience was tossed aside as a minor inconvenience, and Reynolds was taught how to dance by Kelly.
According to Reynolds, “The two hardest things I ever did in my life are childbirth and Singin’ in the Rain.”
The Set Was Very Tense
According to Donald O’Connor, the set of Singin’ in the Rain was very tense. It all boiled down to Gene Kelly wanting every aspect of the film to be perfect.
Kelly’s aggressive methods and need for perfection even led him to dub over Debbie Reynold’s tap dancing with his own, saying her tempo wasn’t good enough!
It Has Nothing To Do With Broadway
Contrary to popular belief, the film Singin’ in the Rain has nothing to do with Broadway. The musical was original and was not adapted from a previous stage production.
The film was a mashup of a new script and old songs that were actually written and used in other movies.
The “Original Song” Was Actually Stolen
Realizing Donald O’Connor did not have a solo song in the film, directors Stanley Donen and Gene Kelly asked producer Authur Freed and composer Nacio Herb Brown to whip something up for the actor.
What they came up with was the song “Make ’em Laugh.” The thing is, their original song was so similar to Cole Porter’s “Be a Clown” that even Donen later went on record saying the song was “100 percent plagiarism.”
Debbie Reynolds Dance Her Feet Off…Literally
After performing the challenging choreography sequence for “Good Morning” numerous times, Debbie Reynolds had to be carried off the set because the blood vessels in her feet had burst!
She was carried off to her dressing room, where she had to lie down and rest so her feet would recover.
Eventually, The Concept Made Its Way To The Stage
While Singin’ in the Rain had nothing to do with a stage production upon its release, being an entirely new concept, the script was eventually reverse-engineered for a stage performance!
The first stage show premiered in London’s West End in 1983 and eventually made its way to Broadway with new songs.
Sometimes, Debbie Reynolds Slept On The Set
When she was cast as Kathy Selden in Singin’ in the Rain, Debbie Reynolds was only 19 years old and living at home with her parents. She had to take three different buses to the studio, leaving home at four in the morning!
The commute was awful, and Debbie sometimes decided to skip all the fuss and sleep at the studio overnight instead.
Gene Kelly Danced Through A 103-Degree Fever
Director and star of Singin’ in the Rain, Gene Kelly, took the phrase “the show must go on” and ran with it. He did not let a 103-degree fever stop him from performing.
During his fever, Kelly ran through the “Singin’ in the Rain” scene, improvising the dance moves as he went. His improvisation is what made it to the final film.
Fred Astaire Helped Debbie Reynolds With Confidence
Debbie Reynolds was not a trained dancer when she found herself on Singin’ in the Rain. And having a perfectionist choreographer and director did not help her confidence.
At one point, Reynolds was so fed up with Gene Kelly’s direction she went and hid under a piano to cry. Fred Astaire found her there and invited her to watch him practice, something he never did. Watching him sweat and lose his breath gave the non-dance a huge boost of confidence.
Donald O’Connor’s Stunts Left Him On Bed Rest
Donald O’Connor did a major stunt in Singin’ in the rain, one that left him on bed rest due to extreme pain and some carpet burns. The stunt: running up a wall and doing a backflip.
Apparently, it was a stunt O’Connor performed in his younger days. But he was not as young as he once was and wound up in bed for a week!
Gene Kelly Refused To Look Short On Film
Being the star of Singin’ in the Rain, Gene Kelly had one aspect of filming that he would not budge on, besides everything being picture-perfect. He refused to look short on film.
While filming dance sequences with costar Cyd Charisse, Kelly made sure the choreography never had them standing directly next to one another, as she was a bit taller than him when wearing heels.
The Songs Came Before The Dialogue
Besides “Make ’em Laugh,” each of the songs in Singin’ in the Rain was previously used in other films. Because of this, all of the songs were compiled well before any of the dialogue was put together.
The writers actually worked around the songs in order to put the plot together!
Debbie’s Reynolds Voice Was Dubbed Over
There was a lot of dubbing going on, on the set of Singin’ in the Rain. During the “Would You” montage, Debbie Reynolds’s character is seen recording vocals to dub over Jean Hagan’s character.
In reality, it is not Reynolds’s voice that is heard in the movie, but Betty Noyes’s deep singing voice!
The Original Negatives Were Lost In A Fire
Sadly, the original negatives of Singin’ in the Rain were lost to a terrible fire that occurred in the late 1970s. That means there will be no release of any bloopers, extended scenes, or behind-the-scenes mishaps that may have happened when the movie was being recorded back in 1952.
It could have been very entertaining!
The Ballet Scene Was Censored
Fans of Singin’ in the Rain might have noticed a small blip during the dance sequence. This is because the choreography was edited during post-production. Rumor has it censors told Gene Kelly to keep away from a specific move; he did it anyway.
The move had Cyd Charisse wrapping her legs around Kelly’s waist, a scandalous move for cinema even though it is a typical ballet move.
Gene Kelly Was Not The First Choice For Don Lockwood
Since Gene Kelly is such an intramental part of Singin’ in the Rain, it might be interesting to learn that he was not the original choice for the starring role of Don Lockwood. Initially, the film’s producers were looking at Howard Keel for the role.
They wound up going with Kelly after the part was rewritten, and Lockwood became an ex-vaudeville singer and dancer instead of a cowboy actor.
Donald O’Connor Wasn’t The Original Cosmo Brown
When they began casting for Singin’ in the Rain, the initial thought for Cosmo Brown was Oscar Levant. The actor had played a similar role in An American in Paris the previous year, so it made sense.
It was not until the role became very dance intensive that they decided to go with Donald O’Connor instead.
The “Make ’em Laugh” Footage Encountered A Glitch
Donald O’Connor went through a lot while performing the “Make ’em Laugh” scene in Singin’ in the Rain. Not only did he film the entire number in one day, including a spectacular backflip stunt, but it left him on bed rest!
Unfortunately, when O’Connor made his way back to the set, he learned there had been a technical glitch, and all of the footage was lost. He had to redo the entire scene.
The Rain Scene Was Not Shot In One Day
Two rumors surround the iconic rain scene: it was filmed in one day, and the special effects team used milk in the rain. Both rumors are false! The famous scene was shot over several days, thanks to a water shortage in Culver City, California, at the time.
The rain also did not have milk in it. It was just water.
The Film Made Cyd Charisse A Star
Cyd Charisse does not have a speaking part in Singin’ in the Rain, but that did not stop her from taking off after the film premiered. Up until that point, Charisse’s career was pretty much being a chorus dancer in various MGM films.
After Singin’ in the Rain, Fred Astaire saw her dancing talent, and she starred opposite him in The Bang Wagon.