Before Gene Kelly was Singin' In The Rain....

Did you know that the timeless and handsome Gene Kelly was NOT the first man to belt out the theme song of the classic 1952 film (and most arguably the most musical of all time), Singin' In The Rain?

The song, Singin' In The Rain, was actually popular for much longer than that, starting back in 23 years before what we often associate the song/movie with. The popular 1952 film was based on the song, but the script had to be written around it separately so the songs could fit into the film, of course. In fact, by the time MGM used it in the Gene Kelly/Debbie Reynolds/Donald O'Connor classic, it had been used in 5 other films for the big screen.

Cliff Edwards would later become famous for his voice
work as Jiminy Cricket in Disney's Pinocchio
One of the first accounts of the song being performed was by Cliff Edwards, also known as "Ukelele Ike" in 1929.  He performed the song in the MGM film, The Hollywood Revue of 1929, along with The Brox Sisters, and American trio of singing sisters who were quite popular during the 1920s/1930s. The film was only MGM's second feature-length musical, shot partially in Technicolor. With no plot to the script, the film is instead a long list of variety acts, featuring a number of former vaudevillian performers. The song, Singin' In The Rain, is actually performed twice in the film - once by Edwards & The Brox Sisters, and a second time as the grand finale of the movie with all of the cast.

Edwards has such a lovely singing voice and seems to easily romance the audience with the pickins of his ukelele. The film set is an whimsical setting of shadows and light, featuring a giant wheeping willow tree that seems to sparkle with dripping beads. Perhaps what is the most hypnotizing visual aspect of this clip, however, is the continuously falling rain on a mirror-like flooring, which reveals the entire backdrop like a reflecting pool of water.

The Brox Sisters
Even though though this clip is not strictly limited to dancing ladies, I think it is a great example of classic chorus line formation changes. The entire first section of the clip of chorus lines is all about marching band precision and movement. The moves themselves don't change - just the formations - which shows how much creativity you can have with one traveling movement in choreography.

Around 2:50 into the clip, things get a little psychedelic with a strobe light. Maybe it was meant to mimic lightening in the storm? At around 3:10 enters the adorable Brox Sisters, dressed all in one raincoat, like a 3-headed set of conjoined triplets. Finally, the female and male chorus lines return. In total, I think the girls do about 3 or 4 steps in this entire number, but again, the focus is on the lines and formations instead of fancy footwork. One wonders if perhaps this wouldn't have been an early influence on Busby Berkeley?

The clip linked below also features the grand finale with all of the cast, shot in technicolor. After release, this film was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Picture.

So now, for your viewing pleasure, I present 1929's "The Hollywood Revue":

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