Abilene Christian University Singin’ in the Rain Study Guide! Table of Contents Synopsis………………………………………….Page 1 Director‟s Concept……………………………….Page 2 The Creation of Singin’ in the Rain………………Page 3 Slang of the 1920‟………………………………..Page 6 History of the 1920‟………………………..…..Page 8 1920‟s Hollywood Stars….………………………….Page 12 Singin’ in the Rain in YOUR class…………………Page 14 Synopsis: Main Characters: Don Lockwood, Hollywood Star Lina Lamont, Hollywood Star Cosmo Brown, Don‟ best friend, plays piano for silent films Kathy Seldon, Aspiring Actress R. F. Simpson, Head of Monumental Pictures Roscoe Dexter, Hollywood Director It is 1927 and Monumental Pictures‟ actors, Don Lockwood and Lina Lamont are the greatest silent-film stars of their generation – all the fans flock to see their films and read about their budding romance in the fan magazines. The truth behind the glamorous “Lockwood and Lamont” façade, however, is a burnt-out actor and an oblivious actress with a squeaky voice. Their world is turned upside down, and their fame threatened, when the talkies, or movies that record sound, take over Hollywood. The grand and gentile persona of Lockwood and Lamont is endangered when Lina speaks on screen and reveals her true and rather unappealing nature. Enter Kathy, an up-and-coming actress who has caught Monumental Pictures‟ – and Don Lockwood‟s – eye. She has a beautiful voice and secretly dubs over Lina‟s voice for the final cut of the first Lockwood and Lamont Talkie. When Lina finds out that Kathy has not only been dubbing her voice, but also kissing Don, she uses all her power as a big star to ruin Kathy‟s career. Will Monumental Pictures stand up to Lina‟s fury or will the pressure to produce “what the public wants” crush the love between Don and Kathy? Will “Hurricane Lina” wash away the love between Don and Kathy, or can they toss off their umbrellas and go Singin’ in the Rain? Director‟s Concept: Mike Fernandez, the director of Singin’ in the Rain has approached this show as a Factory of Illusions – a concept inspired by Stanley Donen, director of the original film. It is the story of a group of people trying to put on a production – it just so happens to be one of the first talking movies ever made. Exotic film sets and performers in dazzling costumes move about like fireflies at night. Hollywood of the 1920s was a place of extreme glitz and glamour. Stars were beautifully crafted by their production companies and expected to maintain a very particular persona. This is the land of Hollywood magic. But Fernandez did not wish to remain in the mysterious and awe-inspiring realm of the Hollywood mystique; rather he has chosen to look beyond the façade and see the chaos that lies just below the surface. Taking his cue from Don Lockwood‟s opening monologue – and his obvious twisting of the truth – Fernandez has sculpted the production to showcase the drastic difference between what individuals and communities put forth (in life and in shows) and reality. The idea of madness underneath seeming calm is found throughout the script and our particular production, but can be especially noted in Lina‟s character, Monumental Pictures‟ usage of Kathy‟s talent and the end of our Beautiful Girls number. Fernandez challenges us to look beyond our own glitz and glamour, raise the curtain and present the truth. The Creation of Singin’ in the Rain Singin‟: for the entire show. In 1950, Arthur Freed approached Betty Comden and Adolph Green and asked them to write a story around his songs. Because Freed had originally written the songs for early talkie films Comden and Green based their production around Hollywood of While the the 1920s and the transition from silent musical Singin’ in the Rain was written films to talkies. in the 1950s, most of the songs you hear in the show were written in the 1920s, most by Arthur Freed and Nacio Herb Brown. In fact, they provided the basis And Dancin‟: Gene Kelly, who also stared in and directed the original Singin’ in the Rain, created the original choreography. Kelly‟s is known and revered as the quintessential film musical choreography. Both in his heyday and for years after, Kelly was known as the expert musical tap dancer. He was a taskmaster who demanded hard work, but it paid off. In part because of his bright, energetic and original dancing, Kelly served as a fantastic escape for a society fresh from World War II and sinking into a Cold War of their own. Everyone loved him. audience will be most familiar with – Because of his standing as a while allowing for new and collective significant choreographer, many stage creativity. “Singin‟ in the Rain is a productions choose to use Kelly‟s thematic number” She said, “there must choreography. Our choreographer be rain, an umbrella and tap dancing”. Dawne Swearingen, however, has She hasn‟t kept all the choreography, decided to keep certain elements of though. Together with director Mike Kelly choreography – the aspects the Fernandez, Swearingen has decided to play up their actor‟s specific talents and showcase their strengths. Swearingen and Fernandez were also concerned an educational one for all involved and about including the entire cast in an so changed much of the choreography to enjoyable and challenging way. Much teach and stimulate her students. In the of the choreography for the chorus in end, she has found a great balance in her Kelly‟s work is minimal, but Swearingen choreography, both serving the actor wanted to make sure the experience was while still paying homage to Kelly. In the Rain: While it may appear that the original film version of Singin’ in the Rain is glamorous and easy, everyone involved worked very hard to make it so. They all encountered many bumps along the road to production. The following are a few examples: After they finished the "Good Morning" number, Debbie Reynolds had to be carried to her dressing room because she had burst some blood vessels in her feet. Despite her hard work on the "Good Morning" number, Gene Kelly decided that someone Debbie Reynolds remarked many should dub her tap sounds, so he years later that making this went into a dubbing room to dub movie and surviving childbirth the sound of her feet as well as were the two hardest things she's his own. ever had to do. The original negative of this film was destroyed in a fire. Cyd Charisse had to be taught how to smoke for her vampy dance sequence. (http://www.imdb.com) Singin‟ in Reality: The Story behind Singin’ in the Rain Many characters in Singin’ in the Rain are purported to be based on real people and the events on real events. “Singin' in the Rain was first conceived as a "catalogue" picture by Arthur Freed for MGM in 1949. He had written the song 20 years earlier with the composer Nacio Herb Brown for the Hollywood Music Box Revue in 1927, a stage show of showgirls and songs and spectacular sets of the type made famous by the Ziegfeld Follies. After the sound revolution swept through Hollywood in the wake of the 1927 Jazz Singer, Irving Thalberg hired Freed and Brown to write music for MGM's first revue musical, Broadway Melody, in 1929. Freed had worked as a mood pianist in silent films when he first moved from New York to Hollywood in 1925 (like Cosmo) and helped Thalberg (like R. F.) and the MGM studio (like Monumental Pictures) make the transition to sound. The characters of Lina Lamont (like Judy Holliday), director Roscoe Dexter (like Busby Berkeley), Dora Bailey (like Louella Parsons) were based on real people. The song "Singin' in the Rain" and other Freed-Brown songs would be used in repeatedly in many MGM pictures, starting with Hollywood Revue of 1929. Arthur Freed became a leading producer of musicals at MGM, putting together a talented group known as the Freed Unit after it made The Wizard of Oz in 1938.” (http://history.sandiego.edu/gen/filmnotes/singin.html) Arthur Freed Betty Comden and Adolph Green Slang of the 1920's Bee's Knees - An extraordinary person, thing, idea; the ultimate. Dozens of "animal anatomy" variations existed: elephant's eyebrows, gnat's whistle, eel's hips, etc. Big Cheese - The most important or influential person; boss. Same as big shot Bull - (1) a policeman or law-enforcement officer including FBI (2) nonsense (3) to chat idly, to exaggerate Cat's Meow - Something splendid or stylish; similar to bee's knees; The best or greatest, wonderful. Ciggy – cigarette Dewdropper - a young man who sleeps all day and doesn't have a job Doll - an attractive woman Don't know from nothing - don't have any information Dry up - shut up, get lost Ducky - very good Earful – enough Fish -(1) a college freshman (2) a first timer in prison Flapper - A stylish, brash, hedonistic young woman with short skirts & shorter hair Floorflusher - an insatiable dancer Gay - happy or lively Get-up – an outfit Giggle Water - An intoxicating beverage; alcohol Goods – the right material or the person who has it, the facts, the truth Glad rags - "going out on the town" clothes Hip to the Jive – trendy, cool Hoofer – Dancer Hot dawg! - Great!; also: "Hot socks!" Rarely spelled as shown outside of flapper circles until popularized by 1940s comic strips. Joint – a club, usually selling alcohol Keen –attractive or appealing Kisser - Mouth Lay off –cut the crap Mind your potatoes – mind your own business Neck – kissing with passion Oh yeah! - I doubt it! Petting pantry - movie theater Pos-i-lute-ly – affirmative, also „pos-i-tive-ly‟ Rain pitchforks - a downpour Rhatz! – how disappointing So's your old man - a reply of irritation Sugar daddy - older boyfriend who showers girlfriend with gifts What’s eating you? – what‟s wrong Whoopee – to have a good time Pretend you are living in the 1920s. Pick a type of person to be – are you very trendy, or are you still a bit old fashioned, wealthy or pulling yourself up by your bootstraps? Use the 1920s vocabulary list to interact with the others in your class according to the status in society they‟ve chosen. Historical Timeline of 1920s (http://history.sandiego.edu/gen/filmnotes/singin.html) Year Humanities Technology Government Health Economy 1920 *Harlem *First commercial *League of *Bubonic Plague Renaissance radio broadcast Nations in India begins aired Established *Pancho Villa Retures *Women granted the right to vote in the U.S. 1921 *Roscoe *Lie detector *Irish Free State *Extreme “Fatty” invented proclaimed inflation in Arbunkle Germany Scandal 1922 *Tomb of *Kemal Ataturk King Tut founds modern discovered Turkey *The *Michael Reader’s Collins killed in Digest is ambush published *Mussolini marches on Rome 1923 *Charleston *Hitler jailed dance after failed coup becomes *Ruhr occupied popular by French and Belgian forces *Talking movies invented *Time magazine founded 1924 *First *J. Edgar Olympic Hoover Winter appointed Games Director of the *Leopold FBI and Loeb *V.I. Lenin dies murder a neighbor our of boredom 1925 *Flapper *Hitler dresses in published Mein style Kampf *The Scopes (Monkey) Trial 1925 *A.A.Milne Robert Goddard published fires his first Winnie-the- liquid-fuel rocket Pooh *Houdini dies 1927 *Babe Ruth makes home-run record *BBC founded *First talkie, The Jazz Singer is produced *Lindbergh flies solo across the Atlantic *Sacco and Vanzetti are executed amidst anti- Italian propaganda. 1928 *Bubble *Penicillin *Kellogg-Briand gum discovered treaty outlaws Invented war *First Mickey Mouse Cartoon produced *Oxford English Dictionary published 1929 *Byrd and *Car radio is *New York Bennett fly invented Stock Market over South *St. Valentines crashes Pole Day Massacre *First Academy Awards Use History to Create a Character: How is a society affected by current events (think of clothing/hair style, gender roles, what people do for fun etc.)? What do you as an actor need to know about the historical environment of your character‟s lives as you begin to rehearse and build a character? Hollywood Stars of the 1920s: All of the following Stars are mentioned in the Singin’ in the Rain Script: Tom Mix: The First Western Star. Mix defined the silent-era western as the pursuit of the “bad guy”. He was most popular with a younger audience and influenced the western genre forever. Both John Wayne and Ronald Regan watched Tom Mix while growing up. Mary Pickford: Pickford was known as “America‟s Sweetheart”. She was a pioneer for strong women in Hollywood, creating gentile characters and demanding large sums of money to play them. She could ask for so much because she was so loved by the fans. Pickford is one of the first major celebrities. Charlie Chaplin: The British comedian who brought laughs to his audience while challenging them to question their world. His signature character, The Tramp, provided comedic commentary on the modern world and great entertainment for his peers. John Barrymore: Known for his strong profile (actually called “The Profile”) and celebrated for his Shakespearean roles, Barrymore was a part of a famous and powerful acting family. The family was respected for their serious approach to acting -- and ridiculed for their outlandish approach to partying. Ethel Barrymore: John‟s sister, and Academy Award winner, Ethel is most known for her strong Broadway roles in serious productions. Now YOU’RE in Singin’ in the Rain: Character Study: Pretend you are one of the stars from the opening scene. How do you feel about Lina? You might fear her power, admire her beauty, or feel you should be in her place – after all, you have a normal voice. After you have chosen a character and a specific response to Lina, experiment how you might express that on stage – while still staying within the producer‟s good graces Different Styles of Acting: Having to evoke and idea without sound is difficult. Take a scene with dialogue and try to present the scene to the rest of the class without ANY sound. What do you have to do to get the ideas/relationships/situations across? Now add sound. How does that change what you as an actor do? Is there anything new you need to be aware of? If you have the resources, try this activity by making your our own silent film. You may wish to research a silent film and create a new one based on the original, or come up with your own plot idea. Use the above questions and have fun! Many actors did not survive the switch from silent films to talkies, but some did. Discuss how the addition of sound must have affected actors of the late 1920s, and what one would have to do to make a successful transition. Is there any technological development in our age which might threaten actors as sound did in the 1920s? Discuss the growing use of computer generation in films. How will computers effect what is expected of actors in the future? Are there any other developments which might change what an actor does in the future? Themes of Singin’ in the Rain: There are many themes of Singin’ in the Rain which easily relate to a life in the theatre. The difference between Appearance and Reality is one of them. In what ways do we, in the theatre, still create this façade of ease and glamour -- and what is underneath that façade? Another theme is one of high verses low art. In the first scene we see Kathy, she claims to be a real actress because she is going to New York, and that screen actors are just pantomiming. “If you‟ve seen one, you‟ve seen „em all!” she says. Do we still have standards for “high” art and “low” art. What are they? How are both types important and useful within both the artistic and the general society? Cosmo‟s song Make ‘Em Laugh suggests that the general public wants and enjoys watching a man slip on a banana peel more than they enjoy watching Shakespeare – is this true? How does this discussion affect you as a theatre artist? How would a vaudeville act be received today? Create a vaudeville act (perhaps based upon the lyrics of Make ‘Em Laugh) with a friend. What does such an act involve? How is it received?