‘Doot de-doot doot . . .’
Director Stanley Donen made Singin’ In The Rain when he was still only 28. Trevor Johnston reports on this year’s DEFF retrospective.
‘. . . Doot de-doot de-doot doot de- doot'. The music may ﬁrst have appeared in the long-forgotten Hollywood Revue Of I 929. but thanks to writers Betty Comden and Adolph Green (who wrote a whole movie around it). and thanks to co-directors Stanley Donen and Gene Kelly. the title number from Singin' In The Rain has indisputably lodged itself in our collective celluloid consciousness. if you wanted to pick out one sequence that encapsulated the achievements of the Hollywood studio era. what would you choose? Well. odds on
you'd have that song. Gene Kelly twirling round a lamp-post. and a passing policeman getting very wet. in the top ten at the very least.
As luck would have it.just after the Drambuie Edinburgh Film Festival announced that Stanley Donen would be visiting the Scottish capital as part of this year's retrospective of his movies — from 1948's On The Town to 1975's Lucky Lady — Stanley Donen announced that he‘d just started work on a new project (even at 7 l. he‘s hardly the oldest of the old guard to have carried on working) and so he wouldn't be making the trip after all. By way of amends though. the DEFF will be showing relevant excerpts from a specially-ﬁlmed interview before each ﬁlm and publishing a detailed set of notes and essays on the retrospective in the official programme.
‘The danger to each person who happens to be connected with something which in later life turns into something of memorable quality is that you might let that inﬂate you into believing you are some sort of historical ﬁgure yourself.‘ Donen has said of Singin’ In The Rain, aware too that the focus on his career has tended to remain ﬁrmly ﬁxed on the decade or so between On The Town and 1958’s Faustian baseball musical Damn
Yankees. ‘Another danger'. you can almost hear the old boy sighing. ‘is that everybody pays attention to that work alone and measures everything else
Well. hopefully that's not quite what the selection oftitles screening in Edinburgh will do. for the season includes a number of his post-50s movies. from the light thrillers Charade (l963) and Arabesque (1966). to the caustic portrait of a marriage in Two For The Road ( 1967). and a couple of movies loved a great deal more by Donen himself than the critical fraternity at large — namely the I967 Pete ‘n' Dud vehicle Bedazzled and l969‘s rather unlikely Staircase. in which we get to see Richard Burton and Rex Harrison as bickering gay hairdressers.
Clearly. there's room for a revisionist approach here. if you can work yourself up to it. though we truly defy you to like the dread 1975 Reynolds-Minnelli- Hackman vehicle Lucky Lady. and even the Edinburgh organisers have fought
‘These films provide what’s surely the most delightful of recent retrospectives that the Festival has had to offer. . . they talk, sing, dance and move louder than more words.’
shy of Saturn 3 and the embarrassing Blame It On Rio. Curiously enough. what‘s missing is probably the most enjoyable of his latterday offerings, 1979’s Movie Movie. a nostalgic look back to the 30s double-feature-
His whole style remains rooted in the world of the musical. As a kid in South Carolina. he saw Fred Astaire in Flying Down To Rio and determined to become a dancer. At sixteen he was in the chorus on Broadway shows. By the age of eighteen he‘d travelled to Hollywood with only his suitcase and got anotherjob in the chorus of an early Lucille Ball picture Best Foot Forward.
Cyd Chrisse and Gene Kelly In S'lngln’ In The Rain
His big break came when Gene Kelly asked him to work on choreographing some of the numbers in his I944 movie Cover Girl. and from then on he never looked back. Although the self- conscious artistry of Vincente Minnelli made him the favourite of producer Arthur Freed at the MGM musicals unit. it was Donen and Kelly‘s work in On The Town. moving the camera around on real locations with the kind of verve usually reserved for a studio set-up. which crucially advanced the parameters of the genre.
Singin' In The Rain is a milestone of screen storytelling; integrating music. dance. comedy and a telling portrait of Tinseltown around the time of the transition to sound. Although slightly stymied by the studio surroundings. Seven Brides For Seven Brothers is a breathless paean to terpsichorean athleticism; Funny Face is a graceful vehicle for a mature Astaire. a wonderful amalgam of 50s Parisian cool. Cole Porter and la Hepburn at her most gamine; The Pajama Game takes the musical into the factory workplace, generates ‘Steam Heat‘ and builds an all-time classic outdoor set-piece from the Bob Fosse-choreographed ‘Once A Year Day‘ number.
These. and the rather more world- weary It 's Always Fair Weather. may well dwarf much of the other fare on show at the DEFF. but they provide what's surely the most delightful of recent retrospectives that the Festival has had to offer. A pity that Mr Donen won’t be here in person. but these movies talk. sing. dance and move louder than mere words.
The Stanley Donen retrospective begins on I4 Aug. Film/rouse I. 3pm. Forqu details see the DEF F Oﬂicial Programme or call the Information Hotline on 0/3] 229 2550.
FOR FULL DETAILS OF NON-FESTIVAL FILM PROGRAMMES
IN GLASGOW AND EDINBURGH, SEE PAGES 84 T0 89
Making a rush tor the front row, Alan Morrison picks out the best of the big
I The War Kevin Costner comes to terms with Vietnam trauma while his kids battle with their white trash neighbours during the hot summer of 1970. A moving and intelligent family drama. unfairly forgotten at the US box ofﬁce.
The War. MGM, 14 Aug. 8.15pm. £6
I Land And Freedom Ken Loach awakens the audience's passions with this masterful tale of a young Liverpool man's experiences with the militia in the Spanish Civil War. See feature. Land And Freedom. MGM. I3 Aug. 8.15pm/I Ipm. £15 (£10)/£6 (£4).
I Gold Fever A Japanese man travels from the conﬁnes of Tokyo to the landscapes of Iceland to bury his parents, in this stylish road movie, which has some ofthe most startling visuals you'll see this year. See review. Cold Fever: Filmhouse I. I 6 Aug. 8.15pm. £6 (£4).
I Panther Melvin and Mario Van Peebles‘s politicised account of the rise of the Black Panther Party is forthright in its accusations, but not at the expense of accessibility and entertainment.
Panther. Filmhouse I, I4 Aug. 8.15pm; UCI. 16 Aug. 7.30pm. £6 (£4).
I No For The Road Albert Finney and Audrey Hepburn star as a married couple whose life together is examined in three contrasting phases as they holiday in France. A key ﬁlm in the Festival ’s reassessment of the work of director Stanley Donen.
Two For The Road. OFT I 5 Aug. 8pm; Filmhouse I. I6 Aug. 3pm. £4 (£3).
I The Young Poisoner’s Handbook Gn'm humour in 60s England as a toxicology but? schoolkid sets out to experiment on family and friends.
The Young Poisoner's Handbook. Cameo I. 15 Aug. 9.30pm; Cameo I. 17 Aug. 7pm. £6 (£4).
The List 11-17 Aug 1995 e: