This article pitting Singin’ in the Rain vs. It’s a Wonderful in the Best vs. the Best series was originally published on reelreader.com, a great website for discussing pop culture and entertainment.
We are back by pitting two of the greatest movies of all time according to the Top 100 Films of All Time list. Today we will see the fight occur between Singin’ in the Rain (1952) vs. It’s a Wonderful Life (1946). Here we go:
Category I – Art Direction
Singin’ in the Rain is a movie about a Hollywood power couple, Don Lockwood and Lina Lamont. Because of the industry shift from silent films to “talkies”, a new problem forces the two to make changes in their lives than one would have originally hoped for. The biggest technical achievement the film picks up on is right there on the poster: Technicolor, and it’s utilized properly! This enhances the surprisingly ambitious set design and scenery. The shots of the longer takes truly shine and put into perspective the achievement this movie had on the state of this industry. What propels Singin’ in the Rain is the unforgettable and iconic impact it had.
It’s a Wonderful Life is an older film which follows the life of George Bailey. A man retrained by a company he never wanted to work for. His entire life a series of missed opportunities and regrets. There is something compelling about watching one’s journey through their entire life, slowly watching them become hopeless. Despite this gloomy description, there is a lot of light in the film which along the way tells us more about people. It balances various themes, some executed better than others, and gives off a warm feeling.
For that, I believe it edges out Singin’ in the Rain.
Category II – Characters
One played by Gene Kelly is the main character himself, Don Lockwood. He’s a perfect man with little flaws and always knowing what to do. Seems like your stereotypical hero, yet you don’t really mind it. Debby Reynolds plays the strong-willed, gorgeous and independent heroine, Kathy Seldon. The trinity is topped off by Donald O’Connor’s Cosmo Brown who I find annoying and obnoxious at times. A very visible product of its time.
And then the underdog herself, by far the best character of the film, Lina Lamont. A true masterpiece. Jean Hagan shows off a character who instantly becomes the most interesting part. The scene with the test audience watching her perform in a film where she speaks brought me to tears. Where are my Lina Lamont spin-offs and shared cinematic universes?
George Bailey is a complex hero of the story. Unfortunately, other than him the entirety of the cast kind of feels untouched. Everyone else around him serves the purpose to make him interesting. I would argue the angel, Clarence Odbody is the only exception. In a way, it is his story, but it doesn’t mean others should be so stale.
Singin’ in the Rain gets the nod here.
Category III – The Whole
By the end of the day, the characters within Singin’ in the Rain have a massive impact on the story that defines the picture as a whole. The film is a visible product of if its time, and even though Cosmo is the negative creation of those times, he is merely one element of it. Being a product of its time is not a bad thing when the things it portrays hold some value to the modern viewer. To me, it does because it is just so dang funny, charming, entertaining, fulfilling and iconic. It doesn’t need to tackle serious subject matter to be worthy of my tastes.
For a musical, I should probably mention the song numbers. I thought they were weak and added barely anything to the movie. A lot of it is irritating, unharmonic and pointless. Who cares if you’re singing in the rain! I know this opinion might not sit well with everyone, but I find it to be the equivalent of Cosmo. And when Cosmo had his solo song it was like these two mediocre things had teamed up against me.
On the other hand, we have It’s a Wonderful Life that does tell a story focused on something more serious. It makes it more than just a popcorn flick. That within itself isn’t enough to make it better, however. The is the opening is truly engaging, but after this it isn’t until the appearance of Clarence which gives something the audience wants. The film trails for longer than needed. There was a lot of material kept in there which at times felt like there only to prolong the running time.
Singin’ in the Rain gets it!
Singin’ in the Rain wins 2-1 offering as a whole a lot more than its competitor.
Surely, not a perfect film, but the characters propel all of it quite ideally. More than one viewing wouldn’t sit well with me. The loser’s pace is what kept it from climbing any higher for me.
Thanks for reading! What are your thoughts on Singing’ in the Rain vs. It’s a Wonderful Life? Comment down below!
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Like Kati, I love the musical numbers.
As an avid fan, I have to disagree with your opinion on the musical numbers in Singin’ in the Rain. They are quite possibly the best in any musical ever. And I don’t get how you can hate Cosmo! He’s my favorite character and his number is the best in the film. But this is still a good comparison and I think you made good points on both sides!
Sorry to disagree. My nod goes to It’s a Wonderful Life because no matter how many times I’ve watched it (at least 50 times), I still want more. Never needed to revisit Singing in the Rain even though I’m a big fan of the headliners.
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I’ve only seen both films once in my life and I think I need to rewatch them in order to give my thoughts.