'Singin'' 'n' the Train

ATLANTA, Ga. — After running Buster Keaton's locomotive "The General" (1926) for the lucky Fox Theatre throng, my projection partner and I stayed after hours to conduct a tech screening of "Singin' in the Rain" (1952), the next program in the 35mm summer film series.

Watching my favorite musical from the observation window, I was struck by how this night's unintended double feature is so perfect together. Each is one of the best comedies of its respective silent or sound eras, machinery propels both yarns, inventiveness is key, and rails play roles with either a train or a trolley. Furthermore, the plot of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer's "Singin'" cleverly depicts Hollywood's growing pains, changing gears and moving moving pictures into the talkies era.

Gene Kelly dancing while singing the title song. Gene Kelly image via Wikipedia

I first experienced "Singin' in the Rain" at age 18, through the good fortune of my high school's film appreciation course. I was also, naturally, the class projectionist, enabling me to get my hands on the 16mm print a few days before the students' viewing. I had planned to screen a minute or two for grins, but the snowball effect kicked in and I rolled the entire film down to "The End."

What a superlative movie. I've seen it, perhaps, two dozens times in the intervening years and plan to collect a few more, preferably with large, appreciative audiences, a practice I shun with lesser attractions.

Here's a moment, one of the many exceptional musical numbers spanning "Singin' in the Rain." I recall being alone, slouched in the darkness of my school's auditorium, looking on as 26-year-old Donald O'Connor (who would portray The Great Stone Face in "The Buster Keaton Story") made 'em laugh and took my breath.

"Singin' in the Rain: Make 'Em Laugh" via Google Video

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