That was the phrase my father used to say when he called me Yulinka. He would say it every time he heard me singing the main song of the musical. It was more a joyful joke than anything else; it was not funny, but I liked it. It was Anika's, my grandmother's favorite movie, and she used to let me see it with her as a reward if I behaved whenever she and Thore took care of me. I was a child and loved it as much as I loved them back in the day.
I'm a bit down lately; it is hard to focus on college now that I don't see myself as a teacher in the future. Of course, my mood change doesn't mean anything to my professors or the curricula, so I'm starting to get behind, at least for the scholarship standard. I do not want to lose the scholarship; that was the deal I made with my family so they would support my "cinema thing" by giving me money for some books and, more importantly, by not trying to persuade me and fight me in every meal we have together; quality support if you ask me... Anyway, I decided to focus on college for just enough time to keep the needed scores, and I felt miserable.
While studying for the test for tomorrow, my mind started wandering. I cannot memorize more data if I only want to forget it afterward. I decided that enough was enough, I needed a break, something to cheer me up to avoid going mad. I went to my movie collection feeling the need to watch something to reconnect with myself, and oddly, I chose Singing in the Rain. I hadn't seen it since I truly understood what all the tales my family used to tell were about. I was so annoyed that I banned anything that made me remember them. That's why I wonder about the reason that made me choose it tonight.
I turned on the laptop, put my earphones on, and marveled. There was so much I didn't see because I didn't care about it back then. Why would I? In my memory, it was an almost cheesy but fun, cute, and warm musical movie about a talented couple. I vaguely remember it having to do with show business, but what I remember about the film is more the love story than anything else. The young Yulinka had eyes only for whatever her family told her to look at.
I couldn't see that, through the love story, they were telling a different story: the change from the silent movies to the talked ones.
It was so clear after seeing the film now, and I'm pretty sure you all are wondering how I did not catch it when it was so obvious, but please forgive the 12-year-old me; at least now I'm doing it. As soon as the film was over, I started my research and found out that they showed, through the silly romantic plot, the history of the ending of an era and the rise of a new one. All was true: actors were losing their jobs and status because their voices were not what the people wanted. The way things were done had to change not just in the how but in the what: they had to be careful with the equipment, the actors had to take lessons on how to speak, and they had to start hiring writers so the dialogs were better. Many directors and cinemas closed because they refused to jump into what arrived at them. Of course, musicals that exposed all the things cinema could do now became a hit.
The musical, directed by Gene Kelly and Stanley Donen, is heavily loaded with references and inside jokes about the industry, and they even have characters inspired by real-life people who went through this period. The way they presented all of this is so light due to the chosen genre; from what I have seen, musicals tend to have either lighthearted stories in which the leads tend to succeed, or dramatic ones. In both cases, the music intensifies the plot. In this case, we as an audience know from the beginning that the main characters will accomplish whatever they face because they are presented as likable, grounded people next to the other characters. And they do; what could have been a disaster becomes a triumph, both romantic and career-wise: Don Lockwood, the famous actor, saves the film he stars in with Lina Lamont, despite her awful voice. They trick the audience using the pre-recorded voice of Kathy Selden, who becomes the actor's partner because she is clever and nice, unlike Lina, who gets exposed in front of the audience.
This is a lovely story because, as it happens with "The Sound of Music," the tale is told by characters that "win". To reinforce the narrative, they made a villain of the actress whose voice is not pleasant. The actors that went through this weren't necessarily mean, but that would have left a sour sensation afterward since they didn't control that factor. The reality was, as it almost always is, more complex than fiction, in which we chose what to see, which areas we wanted to enlighten, and which ones we chose to keep in the shadows. This is why I only remembered the love story, which was why Anika loved this movie.
In my family's narrative, Thore is a hero, and Anika is the love of his life. I lived for that love when I was a child because even when he is cold to almost everyone, he isn't with her. I liked a lot how they behaved together, and I enjoyed asking a lot about their story. I knew he first saw her in a parade; she danced, and while she told the story, a younger version of me would dance around her, asking; am I dancing like you, granny? When she informed me that they met face to face during a ball, and she didn't like him back then, I would sigh because movies taught me that it was romantic because he found his way to her heart. It all sounded so glamorous, but she kept to herself that she didn't like him because she knew what he did; she knew his hands were covered in the blood of her comrades and others; she kept to herself that and more.
We would sit and watch the movie, and I'd pictured her dancing like Kathy and getting to know Thore, who was, in my innocent mind, a nice guy who made her fall for him. Now, after researching, I think that Thore is more like the actor who portrayed Don Lockwood than he was like the character because he is a fake nice guy. The actual actor was a tyrant; his co-stars talked about how much they suffered during the film's shooting because he was not just a perfectionist but a rude person who made them live in hell. Donald O'Connor ended up hospitalized, and Debbie Reynolds, a young 19 woman, cried a lot and got her foot hurt to the point they bled because he made her re-shoot the dances. All of that is hidden behind the camera, and their story is sweetened to us, the viewers. Even when I know now Thore was a nazi, which is the first complicated truth hidden in my family's narrative, I think I'm not strong enough yet to get to know what's behind the camera.
My father was right all along: if you sing in the Rain, you will get sick.