Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Lenny's Lesson Plan #4

Using some of TCM's Essentials Jr. summer programming as a guideline, I have appointed myself Grand Poobah of my niece Lenny's introduction to classic film.

It is never too early to begin opening your mind to the riches of entertainment and art available to us.

Big news, Lenny. This week's entry for TCM's Essentials Jr. is a musical. Not just any old musical, but one considered by a lot of folks to be the musical, 1952s Singin' in the Rain. Critics and film historians feel that way about the movie because it is a perfect combination of a truly funny script that could stand on its own and skilful, entertaining musical numbers. A lot of fans feel that way about the movie because it may have been their first favourite musical or favourite classic movie. Your cousin Janet has loved it since her toddlerhood and had quite a crush on Gene Kelly who plays Don. (Since those days her affection has turned to Dana Andrews as Lt. MacPherson in Laura, but that's another lesson.)

Singin' in the Rain is bright and beautiful as it was filmed in Technicolor that we spoke of in the The Adventures of Robin Hood lesson. The story is set in Hollywood as movies make the transition from the silent film days, as we looked at in the The General lesson, to the era of sound pictures.

Lenny, you will like the characters in Singin' in the Rain, Cathy Selden (Debbie Reynolds), Don Lockwood (Gene Kelly) and Cosmo Brown (Donald O'Connor) and think of them as your friends. They are your singing and dancing friends. People love to sing and dance, and love to watch other people sing and dance. In Singin' in the Rain your friends make music for their job, and when they are happy and sad.

Most of the songs in the movie were written by Nacio Herb Brown with lyrics by Arthur Freed. Mr. Freed was a producer at MGM, the company that made Singin' in the Rain. He wanted a movie featuring his songs and the writers Betty Comden and Adolph Green came up with the idea of the story and all the funny lines that the actors say. In the story of Singin' in the Rain, your friends Cathy, Don and Cosmo have a big problem, but by the end of the movie they discover that they have the answer to their problem and the ability to solve it with their own skill and work. Lenny, when you are faced with problems remember your friends from Singin' in the Rain and you may find the answers right at your finger tips.

Lenny, it has been fun for me to talk to you about these movies. Here is TCM's Essentials Jr. line-up for the rest of the summer:

King Kong - A Caftan Aunt fave
Mr. Smith Goes to Washington - Uncle Garry and cousin Janet love this one
Horse Feathers - Ask Aunt Mo about the Marx Brothers
The Thing from Another World - A Caftan Aunt super fave that frightened Janet when she was little
Road to Utopia - Liking Bing & Bob is a family requirement
The Hunchback of Notre Dame - Broke Janet's heart when she was little
His Girl Friday - A Caftan Aunt essential
Gunga Din - All your aunts and your mommy enjoy this comedy-adventure movie
My Man Godfrey - All your aunts and cousin Janet love William Powell


  1. Love the Essentials Jr. blogs this summer. Terrific posts spotlighting the good in human nature. Robin Hood, Buster and Don Lockwood, all determined to realize a vision of a better future. The old saying, 'where there's a will, there's a way', holds true. Godfrey, knew that guy had the deck stacked against him. He was the forgotten man! Love Godfrey, Irene and that crazy crew!

  2. How cute! I agree it's never too early to expose kids to old movies. I remember watching "White Christmas," "Seven Brides for Seven Brothers" and "Yankee Doodle Dandy" when I was very young.

    Once I was babysitting a little girl who was either a year and a half or two years old. As I was feeding her, I turned on Wizard of Oz and she couldn't take her eyes off the bright colors! Children really seem to like that about the rich Technicolor tones :)

  3. Caftan Woman, I've been a horrible movie friend on your last few posts. I love your blog and came over this morning to re-establish myself as a faithful follower!

    Lenny's lesson plans have been a delight. I love the way you wrote how you would explain silent films to a child, and using such a great movie as Keaton's The General. Stagecoach is a great that Lenny just has to know, and Singin' in the Rain certainly a must, for all the reasons you described. For Singin' in the Rain, Jean Hagen as the screechy Lina Lamont, Donald O'Connor in Make 'em Laugh, and Kelly and Cyd Charisse together in Gotta Dance are highlights for me.

    I had forgotten the hilarious Pappy advice in Maverick -- what a great show that was..

    Is it difficult to find the Happiest Days of Your Life. A movie with Margaret Rutherford about an English boys school named Nutbourne is one I would LOVE to see. She is a favorite of mine, and I also just love Alistair Sim.

    You are definitely the Grand Poobah for dear Lenny. My Dad used to use that title too, and I had to smile when I saw it!

  4. "...and think of them as your friends. They are your singing and dancing friends."

    Awwww. I want to come over and sit on the couch and watch movies with Lenny.

  5. Thanks, novabreeze. Lenny should really go for those crazy movie people. As her old grandpappy used to say "No fools, no fun. Lots of fun around here."

  6. JNPickens, thanks for stopping by. I just discovered your "Comet Over Hollywood".

    "Seven Brides for Seven Brothers" was a movie I watched over and over when I was young, along with "The Music Man". Kids have good taste in music - what goes wrong?

  7. ClassicBecky, my goodness you really put in some time here in Caftan Woman land. I hope you had a hot beverage to sustain you. I really appreciate your comments and input. I hope I've done well by the Grand Poobah playbook.

  8. Jacqueline, Lenny lives in a welcoming home. All we have to do is knock on the door.

  9. That is way too cute.. I would love to watch a classic movie through a child eyes..

    You are very lucky...

  10. Dawn, old movies are constantly new when you share them with the younger generation.



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