It is possibly the best Christmas present I could have hoped for – to see a classic MGM musical on the big screen. That’s why I was very glad to find that the BFI in London are hosting a celebration of these movies throughout December. The post-war musicals MGM produced were some of America’s greatest exports – up there with Mickey Mouse and Coca Cola. Seeing them in a cinema is a special treat one can rarely enjoy nowadays, and offers only a glimpse of the excitement and joy that a contemporary screening might have given audiences.
With tickets going like hotcakes, I just managed to get a pair for Singin’ in The Rain – possibly my all-time favourite film. There was a special feeling in the packed full cinema; a particular type of anticipation that comes from watching a film one has already seen countless times, but now experiences for the first time in public, with other such die-hard fans. As the overture struck up, silence fell, and all eyes became transfixed on the screen, like musical addicts allowing themselves to indulge in the purest of drugs. Everyone was keen to exaggerate their giggles, even at the simplest of jokes, to demonstrate their enjoyment, and to make sure their well-worn appreciation was on for all to see. From ‘Make Em Laugh’ to ‘Good Mornin’ to ‘Singin’ In The Rain’ itself, the songs played out the wonder of the legendary screen actors, classic choreography and beautiful costumes and sets, which look much greater on the cinema screen than they ever could on a home TV. And like a testament to their endurance, every song was followed by a round of whole-hearted applause – as though it had just been debuted and enjoyed for the very first time. As we stood up to leave I heard one woman say something I’m sure she wasn’t alone in thinking: “I love it every time – no matter how many times I’ve seen it.”
For most people, there is a desperate nostalgia in watching these MGM musicals – like harking back to a time and place that never really existed; an idyllic world that was glamorous and dreamy even when it was new. The visual delights and the simple happiness these films depict are always delightful to audiences; but in a world that is falling increasingly into economic disaster, these wonderful films could be just what we need to perk us up this Christmas – whether you can enjoy them at the BFI, or on TV over the holidays, where I’m sure they’ll all be screened as ever.
Whilst the BFI season is well under way, there are still tickets on sale for screenings over the festive period, of musicals including Annie Get Your Gun, High Society, Kiss Me Kate, On The Town, Seven Brides For Seven Brothers and Meet Me In St Louis, which is enjoying a rerelease all over the UK for Christmas. Bookings can be made on the BFI website: