With his starring role in Singin’ in the Rain, Gene Kelly cemented himself as one of the most important people in Hollywood history. The iconic film is regarded as one of the best movies ever made. It holds the title of the greatest and most influential of the movie musicals produced during the Golden Age of film.
When a movie reaches the heights that Singin’ in the Rain has achieved, the rumor mill begins to churn wildly. And when that mill is given 70 years to spin its stories, rumor gradually turns to myth. Over time, these myths are accepted as fact by the broader film community.
The many myths surrounding the film are a credit to its widespread popularity. But Gene Kelly’s widow, Patricia Ward Kelly, would prefer that fans appreciate the musical for the “magical” story that it truly is. Because when it comes to a world-changing piece of art like Singin’ in the Rain, no embellishment is required.
Singin’ in the…Milk?
Rain is notoriously difficult to capture on film. As such, rumor has it that for the movie’s titular number, the crew added milk to the rainwater to make it pop on camera. According to Gene Kelly’s widow, however, this idea is downright “absurd”. Rather than using milky water, the stunning scene in the rain was created through lighting and the expert choreography skills of Gene Kelly.
“Gene always said it was very difficult to backlight the rain, particularly in front of the plate glass windows that he’s dancing in front of,” Kelly’s widow told Yahoo! Entertainment. “And in the production notes, you can see that they had to do other takes because they could see some of the equipment reflected in the glass.”
“Gene even choreographed the puddles in the street so that he would hit them in a certain way! He always wanted dance to tell the story. The ‘Singin’ in the Rain’ number is one of the best examples of that. It conveys so much in such a simple way.”
No Bleeding on the Dance Floor
There’s no question that Debbie Reynolds was a graceful, talented actress. She had little experience with dance when she landed the role of Kathy Selden in Singin’ in the Rain, though. This posed a slight problem. Because while the film does involve a lot of singin’, there’s also quite a bit of dancin’.
Throughout Reynolds’ various interviews and memoirs, she spoke highly of the musical. However, the legendary actress also said that learning to dance in such a short period of time took a serious toll, both physically and mentally. Reynolds even shared a story of her feet bleeding from the strenuous film schedule.
Gene Kelly’s widow, however, maintains that this story is simply untrue. “Most of what [Debbie] said about it was fabricated and would change over the years,” Kelly said. “Gene said he didn’t see blood all over the floor the way she described.”
Patricia Ward Kelly continued to say that Reynolds’ claims that Gene was surprised by his pairing with an inexperienced dancer were also false. In regards to her lack of dance skill, “Gene said, ‘It doesn’t matter’. He knew that he could teach somebody and also choreograph so you could even make an inexperienced person look good onscreen.”