10 Secrets You Never Knew About The Dances In ‘Singin’ In The Rain’
Every time it rains, I find it impossible not to tap dance around the soggy streets of New York City with my umbrella, attempting the grace and charm of Gene Kelly in “Singin’ In The Rain.” Every so often, a light post catches my eye and I want to swing round it with a smile, but I refrain in fear of becoming a viral meme. Or falling on my face.
No one can do it like Gene Kelly! But did you know that the actor was actually sick during the filming of the iconic scene? And there’s a long-standing myth about how the film crew got the rain to appear so perfectly on set.
In honor of the film’s 65th anniversary (it was released on April 11, 1952!), find out some of the biggest secrets from the iconic dance scenes like the legendary rain dance scene and one scene that was censored.
1. Sick on set
Gene Kelly had a scorching fever during his song and dance in the soaking rain. His wife, Patricia Kelly, told Newsday that the scene took two and a half days to film in its entirety. But despite being sick for the shoot, Gene nailed it anyway. “He had a fever of about 103 and he had been sick the days before,” she said.
2. “The Milk Myth”
The biggest myth surrounding the musical was that the crew used milk instead of water to shoot the “Singin’ In The Rain” dance sequence so the rain would show up better on camera. Co-director Stanley Donen debunked that in a column for the Directors Guild Association. “When you’re shooting rain, it has to be backlit, or you may not see it very well,” he wrote. “There have been a lot of stories about how we put milk in the water so you could see the rain. It’s not true. You have to put the light behind the rain so that the raindrops show. If you put the light in front of the rain, with no light behind it, the rain disappears.”
The film crew did, however, use some crafty tricks to make it easy for Kelly to splash around. Donen wrote in his column that the crew dug holes in the cement. But the choreography had to be perfectly on the mark. “All the things that look like they just happened, didn’t,” he wrote. “They were planned. So when Gene splashes in the water, we had to dig holes in the cement to make a place where he would stamp. The dance step had to take him to that place on that note, so it’s very detailed.”
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4. Water shortage
Kelly’s wife Patricia revealed another fun fact about that scene. The crew used so much water during the filming that the area surrounding the studio in Los Angeles, Calif., suffered a water shortage. “It is true that the Culver City supply of water was diminished, and when people came home from work, they had to hang extra rigging,” she said.
5. Not a dancer
Debbie Reynolds’ character Kathy Selden was a show girl in the movie, but in real life, Reynolds didn’t have formal dance training. Kelly taught her how to dance, along with assistants Carol Haney and Jeannie Coyne. But Kelly was famously harsh on the actress. “You hear Gene was a perfectionist, and he was absolutely demanding, but he demanded the same thing of everything and of himself,” his wife Patricia said.
In her 2013 memoir “Unsinkable,” Reynolds, who was a trained gymnast, wrote: “Making Singin’ in the Rain and childbirth were the two hardest things I’ve ever done.”
6. A bloody mess
With Kelly’s teaching, Reynolds was a force, especially when dancing with Kelly and Donald O’Connor for the legendary “Good Morning” tap dance scene in unison. But, as Slate reported, the scene took 15 hour to shoot and get just right. And because of this laborious process, Reynolds’ feet were bleeding so badly she had to be carried to her dressing room.
Some of the “Make ‘Em Laugh” routine was ad libbed by O’Connor. Well, sort of. Patricia Kelly said Gene always laughed at O’Connor entertaining the cast and crew between takes and decided to weave his antics into the number. “It was Gene’s idea to put together all of those different segments in the number,” she said. “It just came out of him so spontaneously. Gene strung it into the number and it became ‘Make ‘Em Laugh.'”
8. No experience
Sid Charisse played the sexy dancer in green that charmed Kelly’s character Don Lockwood off his socks with her sultry moves. But she was only trained in ballet, not jazz. “Unlike today, when the ballet dancers are also studying jazz, she had no experience in that,” Patricia Kelly said. “Gene said it was very difficult to get her off pointe to dance jazz, but once she accomplished that it was sublime.”
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9. New heights
Gene Kelly was an average five-foot-seven-inches tall, but Charisse was the same height. So while serving as choreographer for the film, Kelly figured out a way to make himself appear taller. According to The Daily Mail, “he worked out a routine that meant that whenever they danced closely, they would always bend towards each other. This way, Charisse wouldn’t be seen standing upright next to Kelly and expose his diminutive frame.”
During the Broadway Melody Ballet dance sequence between Kelly and Charisse, fans long speculated that something was cut from the film, since there’s an ever-so-tiny pause. Kelly’s wife Patricia confirmed it was censored due to its sexual nature.
“It’s lovemaking,” she said of the moment where Cyd’s scarf blows over Kelly’s face. “It’s one of the most romantic pieces that he does and it was actually censored in several countries because those censors understood that it was lovemaking. It was too explicit, so they took it out.”