Singin’ in the Rain

Movie: Directed by Stanley Donen and Gene Kelly.

Inciting Event: After jumping into her car to escape his “adoring fans,” silent film superstar Don Lockwood meets Kathy Seldon. Even though the conflict regarding the shift from silent to talking films carries the story, the main plot of this story is the romance (which we know for sure by examining the Climactic Moment—see below). However, immediately following Don’s initial encounter with Kathy is the subplot’s Inciting Event, in which Don and the others at the post-premiere party get their first glimpse of a “talking picture.”

First Plot Point: The main story here is Don and Kathy’s romance. But where’s the obstacle that creates the conflict in that story? Don’s jealous costar Lina Lamont provides that conflict, by doing everything she can to keep Don and Kathy apart (and, unintentionally, destroy Don’s shot at being a talking-picture star). Here, that conflicts kicks off when Kathy reacts to Don’s teasing by trying to hit him in the face with a cake—and hitting an irate Lina instead. After this, nothing is the same for Don, who spends the next eighth of the movie hopelessly pursuing Kathy.

First Pinch Point: We get what is basically the Hollywood subplot’s First Plot Point when the producer R.F. Simpson brings word of the Jazzsinger craze sweeping the nation and his intent to turn Don and Lina’s latest film—The Dueling Cavalier—into a talkie. The subplot’s pinch follows right on its heels as they realize Lina’s squawky voice won’t translate well into sound.

Subsequently, the true First Pinch Point arrives and turns the plot when R.F. hires Kathy to be in a picture. The pinch isn’t particularly strong here. There’s a momentary threat to Kathy and Don’s relationship when Kathy mistakenly believes Don wants R.F. to fire her and admits she was “the one who hit Miss Lamont with a cake. Believe me—it was meant for Mr. Lockwood!” But Don quickly reveals he isn’t angry, and the emphasis of the pinch shifts briefly to everyone’s fear that Lina will be upset when she finds out Kathy is on the lot.

Midpoint: The Dueling Cavalier bombs fantastically at its preview. Don faces a nice “mirror moment” in Moment of Truth when he has to face himself “looking ridiculous” on the screen and admit he never was a real actor. He, Kathy, and his best friend Cosmo then launch into action and come up with the plan to “make a musical” by having Kathy dub Lina’s voice.

Second Pinch Point: One of the trickiest things about musicals is that their structural timing often gets thrown out of whack by the inclusion of lengthy musical numbers. We see this here with the Second Pinch Point getting severely delayed and squished almost onto the heels of the Third Plot Point. The pinch finally occurs when Lina discovers, first, that Don intends to marry Kathy, and second that Kathy will be getting full screen credit for dubbing Lina’s voice. Other than the timing, it’s a great pinch, as Lina makes her fury fully evident.

Third Plot Point: Lina makes her big move in forcing R.F. to remove Kathy’s screen credit and threatening him with a lawsuit if he doesn’t order Kathy to continue anonymously dubbing Lina for the duration of Kathy’s contract. Although it’s a great scene, this isn’t a particularly great Third Plot Point, since we never get to witness the protagonist’s reaction to the antagonist’s all-out victory here.

Climax: The conflict comes to a screaming head after the successful premiere of The Dancing Cavalier, in which Lina stops pulling her punches and forces R.F. to all but cave to her demands regarding Kathy. Lina then decides it’s time she made her own speech to her adoring public, which Don and R.F. wisely allow her to do—knowing she’ll cook her own goose. When the audience is shocked by the change in her voice from the one they heard in the move, they demand she sing for them. She panics, and Don seizes the opportunity to force an unwilling Kathy to sing for Lina from behind the curtain.

Climactic Moment: Don, Cosmo, and R.F. pull the curtain while Lina is “singing” and when Kathy flees, Don announces to the entire audience that she is the “real star of the picture”—and they are romantically reconciled.

Resolution: Not much of a Resolution here, just a quick postscript showing that Don and Kathy will now star in their own picture, without Lina.

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