While soaking in the sweet romance of a lovely film like La La Land, it’s nearly impossible not to think of the musical movie classic, Singin’ in the Rain. That sunset scene alone is positively dripping with memories of of Old Hollywood. Ryan Gosling has all the charm, whimsy, and ease of Gene Kelly. Hell, he even swings around on a streetlamp! Of course, the fact that the award season darling draws inspiration from so many classic movies, especially Singin’ in the Rain, is far from a secret. The thing is, you may not quite realize how big the impact truly was.
On a surface level, it’s not hard to see what other scenes (besides the twilight duet) in the film pull from Singin’ in the Rain. In one sequence, Sebastian (Gosling) and Mia (Emma Stone) stroll past an active movie set. The same thing happens during a scene in Singin’ in the Rain. Even the sweeping “Epilogue” of La La Land calls back to the dreamy ballet sequences that seem to have become a movie musical staple. Damien Chazelle told A.V. Club, “I wouldn’t have been able to sleep at night if I looked back and was like, ‘Oh, I somehow convinced Hollywood to let me make a full-blown original musical, and I didn’t put a dream ballet in it . . . the ones specifically that I was looking at were the ending of An American In Paris, or “Broadway Melody” in Singin’ In The Rain, or the kind of Mickey Spillane dream ballet in The Band Wagon.” The thing is, the intertwining goes much deeper than just onscreen references.
Our first inkling that La La Land has much deeper ties to Singin’ in the Rain came earlier this month, shortly after the tragic death of Debbie Reynolds. During the Palm Springs International Film Festival, Ryan Gosling paid tribute to Reynolds and thanked her for “her wonderful career of work.” He went on, saying, “We watched Singin’ in the Rain every day for inspiration, and she was a truly unparalleled talent. So I thank her for all of that inspiration.” But it wasn’t just that they studied up on these movie musicals while making the film. Before they even began filming, the biggest forces behind La La Land took their experience a step further: they contacted Gene Kelly’s widow, Patricia Ward Kelly. In a recent interview with The Inquirer, Ryan Gosling told the story of the meeting her.
“We had the great opportunity to meet Gene Kelly’s widow before we started this film. We had dinner with her. She showed us a lot of Gene’s personal things. He had every script that he’d ever done leather-bound. I got to see the leather-bound script of Singin’ in the Rain. I went to the scene of the title number. Gene had handwritten on the margin, ‘Hand umbrella to a passerby as you’re leaving.’ It was inspiring to see that. Because you remember that even though it’s such an iconic film, it started with all those ideas . . . in this case, Gene just writing little notes on the margins of his script.”
So, there you have it. La La Land does more than just pay tribute to its classical predecessor. Singin’ in the Rain is stitched right into the fabric of the film’s humble beginnings.