Our story starts here, on opening night of what’s sure to be the blockbuster film of 1927, The Royal Rascal!
The film’s stars, Don Lockwood (Kelly) and Lina Lamont (Jean Hagen) thank the crowd for worshipping them. Gene is an obnoxious ass, but still hot. Lina is fabulously stupid. Donald O’Connor is ignored.
Backstage, after the crowd goes nuts for the film, Gene tries to tell the dim-witted Lina that he’s not in love with her despite what the magazines say. She laughs him off and offers to perform oral sex on him. Bored and too successful for his own good, he declines.
Later, on the way to the big premier party, Gene is attacked by a mob of screaming teenage girls (and a couple of lisping teenage boys), all of whom try to rip off his clothes and sex him right there on the street. We were rooting for the boys.
In an attempt to escape the hormone-crazed teens, he leaps into a passing car to the shock of its driver, Debbie Reynolds. She is virginal, plain and young enough to be his daughter, so naturally he’s interested in her.
Virginal yes, but not dumb. She can see right through his smooth-talking and cuts him off by making jokes about penis size and untalented actors and declares that she’s a REAL actress. He stomps off petulantly. She watches his ass as he goes.
Meanwhile, at the party, Lina Lamont shows us how it’s done.
No real reason for this shot, other than the fact that Lorenzo wants to be her. Truth be told, he already is.
Debbie reveals that she’s getting a leg up on her acting career the old-fashioned way: by stripping. Gene follows Debbie around the party, teasing her and trying to get her to screw up her number. Why? Because he’s an asshole.
Debbie attempts to take out her frustration on Gene and subsequently ruins any chances of ever having a career in Hollywood. She runs out to get started on her heroin addiction and prostitution career.Gene mopes for a while because he’s clearly got it for a girl who won’t put up with his bullshit. Donald decides to make an ass of himself and risk a groin pull to cheer him up.
To be honest, we don’t love the song – it’s a straight rip off of Be a Clown- and we don’t really think the comedy aspects hold up all that well either, but you have to admit, it’s a hell of a bit to pull off and Donald does it beautifully.Funny…we never noticed before, but he was kind of cute, in a goofy way.
Gene decides to throw himself into making another shitty picture to get over Debbie. In the middle of shooting a love scene, he discovers that Lina got Debbie fired from her stripper job for throwing a cake at her. We like her a little more for it.
Just as Gene is about to perform the first on-camera murder in Hollywood, the studio head interrupts filming to let them all know that they’re screwed. Said screwing coming in the form of talkies and the success of The Jazz Singer.
This is illustrated by a montage sequence of crazed flappers on meth (which will be the name of our band) which leads into…
A fashion show. Again, no real reason for this shot except Lorenzo kept crying out “FABULOUS!” with each outfit.
The studio hires diction coaches for all their stars and Gene and Donald decide to humiliate theirs:
To be honest, we hate this song, but O’Connor and Kelly did make a fine partnership, even if they’re a couple of cocky assholes who torture old men for kicks.
Gene runs into Debbie, who managed to secure one last chorus girl job before walking the streets, on the lot and tries to tell her he’s crazy about her, but she flips out on him in front of the studio head, once again ruining her potential career. It’s a whole “When smart girls keep doing dumb things over and over” kinda thing.
But he’s Gene Kelly and this is Hollywood, so really, how much work does he have to do? Turn on some lights and wiggle your ass at an eighteen-year-old – bam. She’s yours.
It’s a good thing we weren’t teenage girls in Hollywood’s Golden Age. We would’ve been the biggest whores on the lot. Being found dead under the Hollywood sign (or Fatty Arbuckle) would have been pretty much a sure thing for us. We would have had our outfits picked out for it.
Later, filming resumes on their shitty movie, this time, with shitty dialogue. The director optimistically thinks that if he uses a microphone large enough to serve a cake on, Lina might remember to speak into it.
Later, the film is shown to preview audiences. FYI: it’s not a comedy.
The trio attempts to drown their sorrows with white bread and milk, but even the hard stuff can’t dim the memory of the film’s poor reception. In the kind of plot turnaround that only happens in musicals, they come up with a plan to reshoot the movie as a musical, which will somehow magically make it a better movie. This of course leads to them dancing and singing.
It’s impossible to watch this and not remember that this was Debbie’s first day of shooting on the film, that she was not (prior to this) a trained dancer and that by the end of the day, her shoes were filled with blood. Ladies, give it up for a trooper, because that bitch held her own.
Gene thinks girls with bloody feet are hot.
And here it is. The set piece for the whole movie. There’s nothing we can add to the millions of words written about this sequence and it’s been elevated to such heights that we’re paralyzed at the thought of making fun of it or criticizing it in any way. It really is one of those perfect filmic moments where everything comes together.
Although we will say this: even though it’s Gene Kelly’s most famous and memorable performance, it’s far from his best dancing. Perfectly good dancing, mind you, but there were more technically demanding routines in his career.
Anyway, Debbie puts on a shitty dress and records all the singing for the new musical because Lina has a voice that makes dogs commit suicide.
Lina gets to wear nicer clothes while she is taught the ancient and demanding art of lip-synching.
We’re just not big fans of these 15-minute ballet sequences plunked in the middle of a film. Gene loved them and to be fair, the dancing is incredible, but man is it ever long.
Anyway, Rita Moreno (yes, that’s her in the Brazilian flag on the right) Tells Lina that Debbie is not only the bitch that’s re- recording all her lines and sexing her man, but she’s ALSO the bitch who threw a cake at her. Lina vows to destroy everyone.
We just can’t look at a woman in a cloche hat without thinking she’s a man. Blame it on Tony Curtis and Jack Lemmon.
The next day, Lina puts on her best vagina hat and basically blackmails the studio head into promising that Debbie will dub all her films from now on and the press will never find out. We don’t quite know how she managed it but we’re sure it had something to do with her oral sex skills.
Reveling in her newfound bitch abilities, Lina waits until opening night – and the film’s standing ovation – to inform Gene that Debbie is now her little slave girl. She goes out to take her bows and the crowd asks her to sing.
Come on. Like you don’t know where this is going.
For some reason, Debbie is humiliated when all is revealed, but Gene sings, she sings back, happy ending. The end.
Musical Monday: It’s time for Gypsy! Next Post:
Musical Monday: On a Clear Day You Can See Forever