Within the classic Hollywood musical, Singin’ in the Rain, there are many historical references associated with the birth of the talkies. The voices in both the movie and the film being made during the movie were very important because they gave insight on the character’s personality and role in the grand scheme of things. Also, the addition of semi-historically accurate video and sound equipment, and the reaction of the film industry to these new techniques help viewers understand the struggles faced in early Hollywood cinema.
The voices in Singin’ in the Rain really personified the characters to which they belonged. For example, Cosmo, the piano player who specializes in slapstick comedy, talks really fast and that accompanied with what he says adds to his personality as the typical funny sidekick. However, Don talks languidly and casually, because he’s a big movie star without a care in the world (besides escaping his adoring fans of course). Lina’s screechy voice not only presents a problem that only Kathy can fix, but also antagonizes the audience further, aiding her villain role. On the contrary, Kathy’s voice is portrayed to be melodious and pleasant to emphasize that she is one of the protagonists, and so she can save the day by singing and speaking for Lina. The fact that there were diction coaches who had to teach actors and actresses how to speak sounds silly in modern times, but for silent film stars, the coaches probably saved them their jobs. Additionally, the way the coaches were making Don and Lina talk was part of the deceptive nature of silent film actors and actresses. They were supposed to speak very proper and exaggerated to match their screen personas, and their voices were supposed to match their faces as well.
It also shows the old camera booths as the quirky and frustrated director, Roscoe Dexter struggles to get Lina to learn how to speak into the microphone. This further stressed Lina’s problematic character. As Cosmo said during the film, “She can’t act, she can’t sing, she can’t dance. A triple threat.” I thought the idea to make the “Duelling Cavaliers” a musical was significant, because it was going above and beyond the type of films they previously produced. Not only is it reacting to the Jazz Singer by being a talkie, it’s also a musical, where the beloved actors from silent films can now sing and dance. Also I found Don’s tap dancing significant because it’s the noisiest form of dancing, and that added to his triple threat status of singing, dancing and acting; all of the things Lina can’t do. It was funny learning about the struggles of the early microphones and sound equipment. In Jane Feuer’s “Winking at the Audience”, she comments about the technology, “The elaborate moving-camera effects and full MGM audio stand in complete contrast to the inept and technologically crude sequences that are being shot contemporaneously for Don and Lina’s first talkie.” In retrospect, it truly shows how far we’ve come with IMAX and surround sound.
I thoroughly enjoyed watching a classic Hollywood-style film, and seeing the background of the talkie films. The voice and sound aspect of this film made the characters more enjoyable to watch and helped viewers understand the characters’ roles and personalities more clearly. The introduction of the talkie films was highlighted by the use of classic equipment and scenes that showed the struggles silent film actors and actresses faced as the industry transitioned into a new phase of cinema.
Bordwell, David, and Kristin Marie Thompson. Film Art: An Introduction. New York, NY: McGraw-Hill, 2013. Print.
Feuer, Jane. “Winking at the Audience.” N.p., 2005. Web. 25 Sept. 2013.