5 Sound in Pictures

Set in Hollywood in the late 1920s, Singin’ in the Rain, (Stanley Donen,1952) tells the story of the coming of sound in cinema.  A musical and a love story, the film bears the marks of a classic, post-sound film production—a genre film, the plot takes classical form, with the conflict(s) of the central character driving the action and the continuity system of shooting and editing used throughout.

Music offers a means through which the characters respond to conflict and also provides an important emotional channel through which the spectator engages with the film text.

The story begins as an imaginary Hollywood studio is forced to reckon with the advent of synchronized sound in film. Thus, the conflicts of the romantic protagonist follow those of the industry itself.  Advances and reversals in the incidents shaping the love story are interwoven with the problems and solutions the industry faces coming to terms with sound.

With reference to one or more scenes from the film, discuss what the advent of sound meant to Hollywood studios and stars.  Consider technological and production adjustments, scriptwriting, acting and the star system.

Singin’ in the Rain (Stanley Donen/Gene Kelly, 1952)