SINGIN’ IN THE RAIN (1952)

When MGM producer Arthur Freed okayed a musical about the early days of talking pictures built around the songs he and Nacio Herb Brown had written for some of the first film musicals, they needed the perfect ingénue to play the chorus girl who rises to stardom dubbing a screechy voiced silent screen siren (Jean Hagen). Debbie Reynolds had scored with supporting performances in Three Little Words and Two Weeks with Love (both 1950). Though not a trained dancer, she had even toured theatres to perform with co-star Carleton Carpenter, a more experienced song and dance man. Because of her gymnastics training, co-directors Gene Kelly and Stanley Donen thought she could do it, though the former drove her mercilessly. With her usual determination and an unofficial assist from Fred Astaire, who helped coach her, she scored big as Kathy Selden. In addition to joining Kelly for a lilting pas de deux to “You Were Meant for Me,” she matched him and Donald O’Connor step for step in the big tap number set to “Good Morning.” It took 15 hours to capture the number, by which time—legend has it—her feet were bleeding, but everybody knew a star had been born. (d. Gene Kelly, Stanley Donen, 103m, DCP)

In attendance: TODD FISHER, RUTA LEE, SCOTT FEINBERG