Singin' in the Rain: The Making of an American Masterpiece


"There is no movie musical more fun than Singin' in the Rain, and few that remain as fresh over the years. . . . It is a transcendent experience, and no one who loves movies can afford to miss it."—Roger Ebert

America's most popular film critic is hardly alone in singing the praises of Singin' in the Rain. This quintessential American film—made in Hollywood's Golden Age, showcasing the genius of Gene Kelly, and featuring what Ebert calls "the most joyous musical sequence ever ...

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"There is no movie musical more fun than Singin' in the Rain, and few that remain as fresh over the years. . . . It is a transcendent experience, and no one who loves movies can afford to miss it."—Roger Ebert

America's most popular film critic is hardly alone in singing the praises of Singin' in the Rain. This quintessential American film—made in Hollywood's Golden Age, showcasing the genius of Gene Kelly, and featuring what Ebert calls "the most joyous musical sequence ever filmed"—has inspired love and admiration from fellow critics, film scholars, and movie buffs worldwide for more than half a century. Indeed, its reputation continues to grow: the American Film Institute now ranks it number 1 on its list of the Greatest Movie Musicals of All Time and number 5 on its list of the Greatest American Films of All Time.

Echoing the enthusiasm of the film's most devoted fans, Earl Hess and Pratibha Dabholkar embrace and illuminate both the film and its reputation. Combining lucid prose with meticulous scholarship, they provide for the first time the complete inside story of how this classic movie was made, marketed, and received. They re-create the actual movie-making experience, on the set and behind the scenes, and chronicle every step in production from original concept through casting, scripting, rehearsals, filming, scoring, and editing. They then trace its distribution, critical reception, and enduring reputation.

The book is brimming with human interest, bursting with anecdotes and quotes by and about the film's stars and makers. Here are Gene Kelly and Donald O'Connor at the top of their form, along with Debbie Reynolds and Cyd Charisse in their breakthrough roles. Here, too, are fascinating tidbits—about censorship troubles, continuity flaws, stunt doubles for Kelly, voice doubles for cast members, the dubbing of taps, and genealogy of all the songs. Hess and Dabholkar also provide in-depth analyses of each of the major song-and-dance performances, including details of everything from the dynamics of "Gotta Dance!" to the physical challenges of the remarkable title number.

Based on exhaustive research in oral histories, studio production records, letters, memoirs, and interviews, their book is factually impeccable, compulsively readable, and indispensable for anyone who loves movies at their absolute best."Loving and appreciative, researched to a fare-thee-well, and pitched to both fans and first-time viewers of Singin' in the Rain, this delightful book delivers almost as much fun as the film itself."—Jeanine Basinger, author of American Cinema: 100 Years of Filmmaking and The Star Machine

"Very much in the vein of Harmetz's classic works on The Wizard of Oz and Casablanca, this study should become the last word on its subject. . . . a bonafide page-turner that will be welcomed by general readers and academics alike."—Rick Altman, author of The American Film Musical

"For those who love Singin' in the Rain (and who doesn't?), this is a detailed appreciation of how it happened."—Harold Prince, legendary producer of Broadway musicals

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Editorial Reviews

A great movie deserves a great book, and that's what readers get in this meticulous behind-the-scenes look.
Film and History
Captivatingly presented and flawlessly executed.
New York Post
Even the most die-hard Singin' fan is likely to find new facts in this tribute.
Booklist (starred review)
A meticulous, behind-the-scenes look at relationships, decisions, intricacies of how scenes were shot and how dances were choreographed.
This is the definitive study of this classic American musical. Highly recommended.
Leonard Maltin's Movie Craze
A valuable, and readable, account that often corrects anecdotal versions told and retold over the years.
Library Journal

Singin' in the Rain is number one on the American Film Institute's list of greatest movie musicals. Loved for the unique, energetic dance routines, the movie still captivates. In this extensively researched book, Hess (Stewart W. McClelland Chair in History, Lincoln Memorial Univ.) and Dabholkar (marketing, Univ. of Tennessee) describe in detail everything from the original concept to the Hollywood premiere in 1952. Using books, articles, dissertations, studio production notes, and other sources, the authors have painstakingly pieced together the history of this classic film, including short biographies of Gene Kelly, Donald O'Connor, and Debbie Reynolds. The text is informative but not stimulating; the dance routines are much better on-screen than described in print. Most of the material can be found in works such as Peter Wollen's Singin' in the Rain(excerpts from which appear in this book). Hess and Dabholkar's contribution will be useful for film students and perhaps dance students; however, it probably won't appeal to general audiences. Recommended for college film libraries.
—Rosalind Dayen

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780700617579
  • Publisher: University Press of Kansas
  • Publication date: 5/28/2009
  • Pages: 330
  • Sales rank: 1,368,969
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 8.90 (h) x 0.80 (d)

Meet the Author

Earl J. Hess is Stewart W. McClelland Chair in History at Lincoln Memorial University. Pratibha A. Dabholkar is Associate Professor of Marketing at the University of Tennessee. For more information, view their web site at

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  • Posted June 10, 2009

    I Also Recommend:


    This is one of the best books I have evet read about the making of a movie.It is exhaustively researched,well-written,richly detailed,and highly informative.It's also a lot of fun.The authors show their love,
    respect,and admiration for the movie and its makers on every page.I like how they do not hesitate to offer criticism when needed.And yes,there is a lot of behind-the-scenes gossip!The photos,many never seen before,are excellent(that shot of Gene Kelly and his likeness in the wax musuem is
    priceless!).This wonderful book ranks right up there with Roland Flamini's
    "Scarlett,Rhett,And A Cast Of Thousands:The Making Of Gone With The Wind"
    and Aljean Harmetz's "The Making Of The Wizard Of Oz" as a classic of its kind.A treat for all movie lovers.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
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