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Silver-Screen Evening at the Bowl

“I always thought it would be at drive-ins,” Gene Kelly quipped before a weekend screening of “Singin’ in the Rain” on the giant silver screen, as they say, at the Hollywood Bowl.

It was a far cry from watching a movie at a drive-in, or for that matter, your local multiplex cinema.

“It’s a kick,” said Debbie Reynolds, Kelly’s co-star in the 1952 musical classic, screened Friday night for the first “Old-Fashioned Night at the Movies” program. “Can you imagine running a movie at the Bowl in 1951 or in the ‘60s or the ‘70s or the ‘80s? I think people have cleverer ideas today.”

Before the screening, the premiere patrons and board of directors of American Cinematheque--which presented the event with the Los Angeles Philharmonic and Turner Entertainment--invited the film’s principals to a picnic supper at The Cottage, just up a hill, around a bend and behind the Bowl. (It was quintessential Bowl fare: cold pasta salad, cold salmon, cold wine, hot coffee, gooey desserts, but without the fumbling of box seats.)

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The “Singin’ ” reunion consisted of: Reynolds with husband, Richard Hamlett; Kelly (co-director as well as star) with his bride, Pat, and his son Tim; and screen writers Betty Comden and Adolph Green. Donald O’Connor, the missing component, had planned to attend but was recovering from heart bypass surgery. Also present were the film’s makeup artist, William Tuttle; hair stylist, Sydney Guilaroff; and character actress Kathleen Freeman, who played the voice coach. Co-director Stanley Donen, with his bride, Pam, showed up for the screening.

“Nobody knew if it was going to work,” Cinematheque artistic director Gary Essert admitted of the concept of screening a movie at the Bowl. “We were all wondering, ‘What if it rains?’ Then I guess the whole audience would be singing in the rain.”

Meanwhile, director-screenwriter Richard Brooks, a guest of Kelly, maintained that “they can’t make musicals today because they have no talent” to match that of Hollywood’s golden musical years.

But Comden and Green both insisted that musicals were making a resurgence. They now are writing lyrics to a Broadway musical, “Ziegfeld Presents Will Rogers.” Then Tim Kelly said he was developing a musical with none other than his father.

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“MTV has got everyone conditioned to see people singing and dancing again,” the younger Kelly said.

BOWLED OVER: Calendar’s Kevin Thomas reviews “Singin’ in the Rain,” the screening. F2


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