Singin’ in the Rain is generally regarded as Hollywood’s greatest original movie musical. Like The Wizard of Oz before it, Singin’ in the Rain is an original musical motion picture not based on an existing musical work. Unlike that fantasy about Dorothy and her visit to Oz, however, Singin’ in the Rain is entirely original, rather than an adaptation. Co-directed by Stanley Donen and star Gene Kelly, Singin' in the Rain tells the story of the transition from silent film to talking pictures in the 1920s, and the birth of the American movie musical, with beloved stars Debbie Reynolds, Gene Kelly, Jean Hagen, and Donald O'Connor all contributing star-making performances.
The film was initially developed by co-director Stanley Donan as a vehicle for the dancer Ann Miller, but eventually producer Arthur Freed commissioned musical theater writing duo Betty Comden and Adolph Green to write a screenplay around some of the songs that he had already penned as a lyricist with songwriter Nacio Herb Brown, and which had been used in MGM musicals before. All of the songs, except "Moses" and "Make 'Em Laugh," were recycled songs that had been featured in previous musicals. The result was a charming script by Comden and Green that cobbled together a number of already known songs. Filming was notoriously expensive and difficult, but the result is a visually and theatrically impressive film, one which amplifies and highlights the magic of American cinema.
Curiously enough, Singin' in the Rain was not an instant hit. In fact, Singin’ in the Rain wasn’t even nominated for Best Picture at the Academy Awards in 1952. Additionally, the screenplay, cinematography, art direction, editing, costuming, and original songs were overlooked. The film was nominated for only two awards: Best Supporting Actress (for Jean Hagen) and Best Score. Despite the fact that Singin’ in the Rain was received with lukewarm appreciation upon its release, over the years it has become a timeless canonical favorite. Transcending its status as a Hollywood musical, Singin’ in the Rain has joined movies like Casablanca and Citizen Kane as one of the greatest American films of all time.