1/5/08

SINGIN' IN THE RAIN PT.2--THE MYSTERY OF JIMMY THOMPSON

postersingingintherain

The second most easily overlooked number in "Singin' In The Rain" is, without a doubt, the "Beautiful Girl" fashion show. Unlike "Moses Supposes", though, this number probably could actually be removed without any real damage to the film. Still, though, it has a charm of it's own--the fashion show is silly and the commentary is intentionally unwitty in a very clever Comden-Green take on how those badly written commentaries that thought they were being clever actually sounded. And it features the mysterious Jimmy Thompson as the Rudy Vallee-esque lead singer and fashion show commentator.


Who the hell was/is Jimmy Thompson? His IMDB credits suggest some sort of relationship with Gene Kelly--his first credit is in the Kelly/Garland vehicle "Summer Stock" and, aside from "Singing In The Rain" his next biggest credit is in the deplorable Kelly/Minnelli version of "Brigadoon." He has a handful of other MGM credits which suggests that he may have been under contract and the liner notes in the "Singin' In The Rain" CD refer to him as Kelly's "protege." Did his opportunites vanish as Kelly's stock at MGM sunk after "Brigadoon" and "Invitation To The Dance"? Perhaps he and Kelly had a falling out? The internet is unhelpful on anything other than the above short-list of credits. In 1971 he turns up in a movie called "U-Turn" playing the "old ferry driver". How old could he have been? He appears no more than thirty in the below clip which would have made him fifty at the time of his last credit. To a forty-three year old like myself, fifty is a little soon to be playing a role like "old ferry driver". Anyone with any Jimmy Thompson-iana is cordially invited to fill in this gap in my cinematic education. If there is some sort of record for the most watched actor who appeared in the least amount of films, Jimmy Thompson must be right up there at the top of the list.


"Beautiful Girl" is also worth noting as being one of several pastiche numbers in "Singin' In The Rain"--"Fit As A Fiddle" is another as is the "All I Do Is Dream Of You" where Debbie Reynolds jumps out of the cake (also below posted). It's interesting to note that the film uses these pastiche numbers sparingly--in an effort to evoke the era rather than define the reality of the story. When the movie takes the songs seriously as "book" material, it treats them as full-tilt up to date 1952 orchestral pieces. Thus other twenties tunes like "Good Morning" and "You Are My Lucky Star" and even "Broadway Melody" sound entirely up-to-date and somehow don't clash at all with the campier treatments accorded the others. Clearly a decision on Kelly and Donen's part (and Arthur Freed's? Lennie Hayton's?) which helped keep the film from feeling campy (a la "Thoroughly Modern Millie") but nonetheless firmly rooted it in the 1920's.