Wednesdays and Thursdays tend to be the busiest days of my week, so I inevitably post about someone else’s posts rather than tackle actual content.
The Onion AV Club comes to the rescue again today, with Noel Murray’s marvelous reconsideration of Gene Kelly as the best dancer and least capable actor ever to star in Hollywood studio musicals.
It’s a great piece, managing to explain how “Singin’ in the Rain” can be one of the best movie musicals ever made despite starring a man who cannot act his way out of a paper bag. (Hell of a dancer, though.)
And though Murray doesn’t quite make the point himself, his analysis finally lets me articulate why I love “The Band Wagon” so much: It has the lush production and visual self-indulgence of a Gene Kelly movie — complete with the epic dance-sequence finale — but doesn’t suffer from the compromises of starring Gene Kelly. Fred Astaire, who can actually deliver dialogue and emote and stuff, is the lead, and his presence lets us enjoy the conventional interludes as well as the musical numbers.
In “Singin’ in the Rain” — which I love dearly and would defend against all assassins — we can enjoy Kelly’s stiffness because it’s been built into the character; the filmmakers (one of whom was Kelly himself) turned the actor’s limitations into his character’s flaws, and it works brilliantly, particularly in his initially adversarial relationship with Debbie Reynolds.
But yeah, most of Kelly’s other work is distinguished by the brilliance of his dancing and the singularly awful theatricality of his acting. Sorry.
Also new on the AV Club Blog: Nathan Rabin tackles the flawed, fascinating “Strange Days” in his latest My Year of Flops, Tasha Robinson ponders bad sex with Christian Bale and the staff taste-tests Popeye’s Jalapeno Cheddar Chicken Poppers, which is a terrible idea that seems somehow inevitable.
See, this is why I don’t get much work done on Wednesday mornings …