A successful silent-film actor attempts to maintain his status as a Hollywood star when the movie industry transitions from silent film to "talkies."
Writer(s): Adolph Green, Betty Comden
Director(s): Stanley Donen, Gene Kelly
Production Co.(s): Loew's Inc.; Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM); RKO-Pathe Studios Inc.
Story by: Adolph Green, Betty Comden
In Singin' in the Rain, the main character, Don Lockwood, is a successful Hollywood silent-film actor whose rise to fame has been earned through years of hard work and aided greatly by his longtime song-and-dance partner, Cosmo Brown. As Don relates (disingenuously to his adoring public) in a flashback-assisted recounting at the start of the film, he and Cosmo have known each other since they were boys and have entertained together in pool halls, bars, and Vaudeville venueswhere their work was sometimes not appreciated. It was only when Don volunteered as a movie stunt man one day that his career began to take off, bringing him to the notice of a Hollywood producer, R.F. Simpson, and leading to his ultimate pairing with a glamorous leading lady, Lina Lamont.
When Don is forced to flee an adoring throng after the Hollywood premiere of his latest film, he lands accidentally and unceremoniously in the passenger seat of a car driven by Kathy Selden, a fresh-faced pre-ingénue with acting aspirations of her own. He is attracted to her immediately, and makes advances that are summarily rebuffed. When Fate brings them together later that same night at a party, Don is delighted but Kathy is not. And when he teases her about being a chorus girl rather than the serious stage actress she aspires to be, she throws a cake in his direction but misses the mark and hits Lina in the face, creating a feud that will haunt her throughout the story.
Shortly after the film premiere, the entire movie industry is upended by the success of the first "talking picture," The Jazz Singer. And when R.F. orders the entire studio to abandon silent films in favor of "talkies," Don must face the prospect of being heard by his audiences for the first timea prospect that is far less daunting for him than it is for Lina, whose voice is high and grating and whose live-acting skills are virtually nonexistent. Fortunately, circumstances surrounding the upending put Don back together with Kathy and bring about their romantic coupling.
Don and Lina's first effort in the realm of "talkies" is a disaster that earns the mocking derision of a preview audience. And the scope of its failure leads Don to question his own acting skills and the future of his film career. His crisis in confidence is averted first by Kathy, who conceives the idea of producing the film as a musical, and then by Cosmo, who proposes dubbing the film with Kathy's voice to hide the fact that Lina can neither speak well nor sing.
Lina goes along with the idea of dubbing the film and pleased with the results until she discovers that her onscreen voice is that of Kathy and that Kathy and Don are in lovea notion that conflicts with her own tabloid-fueled idea that Don and she are lovers. And when she discovers that R.F. plans to promote Kathy's career after the film is released, she is filled with a furious desire for revenge.
By virtue of a clause in her contract, Lina is able to exert control over R.F. with regard to not only her own career but that of Kathy, who is herself under contract with the studio. But when Lina takes that control too far in the wake of the film premiere, Don, Cosmo, and R.F. execute a simple endeavor to expose her as a fraud whose singing and talking voice is really that of Kathy.