Saturday, January 5, 2008

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.





6 comments:

Anonymous said...

Jimmy Thompson is my cousin. I just saw him a few days ago. He is 85 years old.
I know he was on the Pat Boone show as a singer/dancer in my childhood.
I can find out any info you would like. He does not have a computer.

Clark said...

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Marc said...

I'm french and, please, forgive my english. I saw yesterday "Singing in the rain" for the twentieth time. I said to myself just the same thing : who is this guy who becomes, for four or five minutes, the star of this movie. Just the picture of a very old man on Internet, a short filmography, and nothing else. It's very rare on the web, which get thousand eyes. Perhaps, the only people (except Jimmie Thompson himself) who could resolve this enigma is Stanley Donen. He's still alive.
Regards. Marc

i.rboughner said...

Okay, cousin, do your thing. The problem for some may be that Jimmy Thompson, actor, is often mixed together with Jimmy Thompson, film technician. To be honest, they may be the same person, but doesn't seem likely to me. A protege of Gene Kelly? Not likely since all Thompson' best moments in "Brigadoon" were taken from him or cut from the movie, leaving him as a secondary character in what was his character's first of two solos. He also lost a couple of good but brief moments in "The Bandwagon" according to one MGM star who said she knew him, though it may simply have made a good story.
Donen is still alive? Hurrah! He always had the greatest talent of that pair.

Tart Pony said...

Jimmie lives in Redondo Beach, Ca. As his cousin said, Jimmie was on the Pat Boone show and other variety show's of the Fifty's and Sixty's. His mother ran a dance studio, where he became a very good dancer. Jimmie is a very interesting person, with strong opinions. Due to Arthritis and other health issues he left
show business in the sixty's and worked as a store clerk for many years.

Emil de Cou said...

I asked Stanley Donan in 2003 how he cast Jimmy Thompson and he just sort of brushed off the question saying that he was an MGM contract performer and didn't otherwise seem to interested in that part of the movie. I love his singing and wish there was more out there (besides Brigadoon - which sounds like it is dubbed in with another singer).