Patricia Ward Kelly has heard all the gossip surrounding Singin' in the Rain. So, she decided it was time to let the public know what was really going on BTS of her husband's classic film. Here's what she had to say.
Patricia Speaks Out
The 1952 romantic musical, Singin' in the Rain is regarded as one of the greatest films of all time. The film emphasized one of the most vital points in Hollywood, the transition from silent films to "talkies."
The extraordinary film starred the late Gene Kelly and late Debbie Reynolds and has become one of the biggest, most influential, and highly beloved films of the era. However, the iconic movie raised a few questions in Hollywood. And Patricia Ward Kelly decided to set the rumors straight.
Lip Syncing Accusation
There were plenty of rumors that went around Hollywood and throughout audiences about the beloved film. But one that emerged regarding Debbie Reynolds was the question of whether or not she was lip-syncing. For a musical, this seemed a little odd - but it's Hollywood, and we just never know.
Upon the film's instant success, viewers immediately pointed out that Debbie's mouth wasn't always moving at the same speed as the words in the film - especially when she was singing. And for a musical, that's a lot of the time. People questioned the truth behind Reynold's role.
The Other Woman
Patricia Ward Kelly, who was married to Gene Kelly from 1990 to 1996 - before he passed away that same year - cleared the air on the truth behind the lip-syncing fiasco. As it turns out, the actress was technically lip-syncing. But it was a lot more complicated than just that…
"Debbie Reynolds, when she's dubbing for Jean Hagan, that's actually a woman named Betty Noyes singing," Patricia said. "So Debbie Reynolds - when she's supposedly dubbing for somebody else - [there's] actually somebody else dubbing for Debbie Reynolds." Okay, this makes sense, then. Right?
Was the Rain Fake?
This feels oddly offputting for a movie with "rain" in the title. But it also makes sense considering it would be quite literally impossible to make it rain on demand without a bit of help from some special effects. So, what did viewers have to say about it?
A common theory that circulated throughout Hollywood and audiences everywhere was that the rain was actually milk! Considering the amount of heavy rain and constant takes of the cast singing in the rain, this was an interesting theory and sounds pretty unattainable, no?
Some of the rumors surrounding the film felt a little more outrageous than others - specifically using literal tons of milk to create rain. Luckily, Patricia stepped in to clear up the rather obscure rumor and let audiences know exactly how all the water was coming down.
So apparently, spectators were mistaken - and Patricia let everyone know what she thought. "[Fans] say they put milk in the water to make it so you could see it, and it's really preposterous," she said. "What is was, is really, really terrific cinematography and lighting."
Tap Dance Truths
In addition to the lip-syncing rumors and the "preposterous" rumors surrounding the milky rain, there was plenty more gossip surrounding the musical. However, Patricia was ready to combat any of the nonsense coming her way and put everyone in check. Up next?
Patricia particularly despised the rumor surrounding Gene Kelly - that the tapping in the rain sound effect was created by background assistants and not by the actor himself. Patricia assured RadioTimes, "That's another myth." And although he risked his physical health, the tapping was done by Kelly.
Behind the Smiles
The rumors that sprouted around the town claimed that background assistants created the tapping in the rain noise by sticking their feet in the water and dancing themselves. Although that may be a decent idea for a notable tapping noise, that was simply not the truth behind all the tapping.
"It was a really difficult process. Gene hated it," his wife said. "He had to go in with a headset and watch himself on film and match it and had a microphone dangling at his feet," Patricia recalled. "It was very hard to make sure he didn't break an ankle."
Backing Him Up
Patricia wasn't the only person who could attest to all the gossip surrounding the musical - so why not bring in another point of view? The audio engineer, Bill Saracino, who worked on the film's production, decided to offer his thoughts on the "tapping in the rain" allegations.
Saracino worked relatively closely with Gene during Singin' in the Rain and confirmed what Patricia had previously stated regarding Gene's tapping. The audio engineer disputed the bucket rumors and said Gene himself did all the tapping. But the "squishy" sounds came from him, who edited them in during post-production.
Probably the most famous scene from the film (the dancing in the rain scene) sparked more rumors that caused Patricia Kelly to speak her truth again! Allegedly, there was an entire second recording of the dancing scene - which definitely stirred up some mixed emotions from hardcore fans.
Although the rain scene might not have a second secret cut laying around, the truth is that it just took ages to film. The original dancing scene took so long to film because there was just not enough readily available water to use for the rain. So, the crew ended up bringing in gallons and gallons from home.
In Sickness & In Health
With the intensity of filming (in and out of the rain), it was only natural for some of the team to come down with some sort of illness. With the complicated weather conditions, intense filming, loads of dancing and singing, it was almost a guarantee. Right?
As the main lead, Gene Kelly was called onto set so often that, eventually, he came down with a nasty illness while shooting. Don Lockwood, a.k.a. Kelly, came down with a 103 Fahrenheit degree fever - in addition to classic cold symptoms and fatigue. His wife blamed the sickness on the harsh workload, but Kelly still did his thing!
A Painful Goodbye
Since Kelly spiked a high fever and could not be on set at all times with that fever, the actor had to take some time off here and there during filming. However, he was frequently needed, seeing as though he and Debbie Reynolds were the main characters!
So, production was slowed down due to the few days here and there that Gene had to take off due to his illness. For example, that very famous dancing in the rain scene that we all know and love (that required a whole lot of water) was shot on and off for a full day and a half!
Donald O' Connor, who played Cosmo Brown in the 1952 film, left fans worried after he allegedly had a little accident and slipped and fell in the fake rain - which evidently led him to spend some time in the hospital. "You'll read that he went to the hospital," Patricia said. "You'll read that he had to go to bed for days."
Patricia quickly deemed the rumor untrue and further stated that Donald never faced an injury. But, "the flip he does [off set], he had sort of lost his confidence at that point. He had done it as a kid in the vaudeville acts, but they brought his brother back in to re-confirm his confidence."
So as far as this iconic dance scene in Singin' in the Rain goes, there's a little more to it! Besides the rumor surrounding Donald's accident, there was a little more gossip to the story. What's Hollywood without some good old gossip, though, right?
However, according to Kelly, Cyd Charisse was never supposed to be in the beloved film! The dance scene was initially supposed to showcase O'Connor, but "they needed someone – a real dancer – to be able to pull that off," Patricia said. "And so they brought Cyd Charisse in."
Stealing the Show
Thankfully production hailed her in because she completely killed it! The already beloved film will forever be remembered by a few iconic scenes - with Cyd Charisse's dance being one of them. Not to mention, the accompanying music was unforgettable.
The green sparkly dress Charisse wears in the film quickly became a hot topic amongst fans. Gene added some slits to the side of the dress to make it even shorter in some moves. Another fun fact: Cyd had just had a baby before the film was shot, and this was her first jazz performance!
Risking It All
For years following the film's release, fans have had a few thoughts on the raunchy tango scene, Broadway Melody. Audiences commented on particular parts that had been censored for being a little too sexual - though the end result was simply iconic.
However, several countries called out production over the censored scenes. The intimate dancing and sexy clothes were not getting filtered through censorship, and Spain figured it out. "They figured it out," Patricia Kelly recalled. "It's love-making. And in the most beautiful way. Isn't that amazing?"
Talent Kept Under Wraps
Unfortunately, due to all the censorship laws and regulations, not everyone was able to view the skilled Cyd Charisse do her thing. The dancer-turned-actress was so beautifully talented that certain foreign audiences were unable to fully appreciate the film.
Specific countries over the world had to wait years and years (even decades) for the censorship rules to be lifted in order to watch Cyd's dancing and the movie as a whole. However, this was just one of the many setbacks in Charisse's career that she would face.
Turning Heads in Hollywood
The celebrated dancer might have been dancing away in the memorable green dress decades ago. But since then, she's secured a long list of achievements during her time in Hollywood as both a dancer and actor. That was just the beginning for the bombshell…
In addition to her coveted role in Singin' in the Rain, Charisse was known for her quick dancing feet in many movies throughout her long career. So much so that in 2000, Princess Caroline of Monaco even awarded her the dance industry's prestigious Njinsky Award.
However, her career wasn't all peaches and cream! The actress might have built a high level of success as an actor and a dancer at one point in her career. But unfortunately, the talented performer faced endless challenges growing up before her peak.
Her love of dancing only came later in life and stemmed from a rather tough spot - as her childhood was quite difficult. During the early ages of her childhood, Charisse was diagnosed with polio, which was a rare disease that caused paralysis in children.
Becoming a Star
In order to help her get better and ensure that there would be no long-term side effects, her parents had a very brilliant idea! They enrolled Cyd in a dance school at six years old. But slowly, the dance classes became less about therapy for Charisse and more of a passion.
The young Charisse had excelled as a dancer. And by 12, she was so talented that she studied ballet in Los Angeles with renowned dancers and choreographers Bronislava Nijinska and Adolph Bolm. She even danced in her first ballet company at age 14, the Ballet Russe de Monte-Carlo!
"Show Off More!"
The dancer had skyrocketed into fame - so much so that it was almost too overwhelming for the young star! The young girl within her had a passion for dancing and never guessed one day she would be regarded as one of the most loved and talented dancers ever to step foot into Hollywood.
As her fame began to reach commercial success, she was actually quite shy in comparison to what Hollywood was asking for! So, the new up-and-coming celebrity had to adjust to the life of the rich and the famous. Gene Kelly even recalled telling Charisse to "show off" more!
Charisse had officially made it big. So naturally, she was a hot commodity for many films ahead - both, big and small! The young performer quickly built up an unbelievably impressive resume. But in doing so, there was one missing piece of the puzzle that had to be resolved before she could go any further.
Seeing as though she was a dancer, her legs were invaluable. However, in 1952, MGM put a price on them and paid the actress millions to have her legs insured - $5 million to be exact (now equivalent to around $49 million). Her famous legs were named World's Most Valuable Legs by the Guinness Book in 2001.
Moving to the Big Screen
Considering her legs were insured for $5 million by MGM, Charisse was a top performer who any production would have been lucky enough to land. The young performer might have gotten her start as a dancer, but her acting career was a complete accident…
Charisse loved dancing. She was an incredible dancer, and that is where she started, so she never considered working in the movie industry. However, her former Ballet Russe partner, David Lichine, was featured in Something to Shout About. And he asked Cyd to join him as his dance partner.
From One Studio to the Next
Cyd got the role of Lily in the 1943 black and white film Something to Shout About. And just like that, she was thrown into the acting world! The young dancer-turned-actress made it to Hollywood. And there was no turning back for her - regardless of where she started.
Charisse was originally working with Warner Brothers. But at one point during her career, she was poached by MGM, and it turned out to be one of the best career moves she could have ever taken. She had performed only a hand full of times when an MGM exec saw her. And the rest is history.
The Perfect Distraction
A lot of the time, performers in Hollywood have multiple hidden talents that make them the ideal "triple threat." Some people can just do it all, can't they?! Charisse was a talented dancer and actor - but there was one more talent she had not quite yet tapped into…
The Hollywood star had stepped into the world of acting and dancing, but there was one more domain for her to conquer: singing! Per MGM, the entertainer had scheduled voice lessons. But unfortunately, she couldn't reach those notes! So, when she performed in musicals, her voice was actually dubbed over.
Too Hot to Handle - Literally
In a few of her most famous scenes, the actress was actually captured wearing ballet flats instead of heels! Charisse was 5'6", so with a few more inches on her, she would have been too tall against her dancing partners, such as Fred Astaire and Gene Kelly!
Speaking of Kelly, Charisse's iconic role in Singin' in the Rain was one of her most memorable! In fact, during her iconic scene, the actress was seen smoking a cigarette, which was her first and last experience with tobacco. During filming, she was prompted by the director when to exhale so she wouldn't choke on the smoke.
Unfortunately, her new chapter wasn't all glitz and glam - and there were some difficult moments involved. The actress's daughter-in-law, Sheila Charisse, died on the AA 191 flight leaving Chicago O' Hare, which tragically killed nearly everyone on board.
Besides her personal life, she faced many difficult moments in her professional life as well. The entertainer suffered a horrible knee injury while she worked on the set of On the Island with You, which caused her to lose out on the role of Nadine in the Easter Parade, which then went to Ann Miller.
Finding the One
Following her time touring with the Ballet Russe, Charisse fancied one of the young men from the company. And the two fell in love. At 17, Cyd married fellow dancer Nico Charisse, and at 20, they had a song together. However, the couple divorced 5 years later.
However, that wasn't the end of Cyd Charisse's love story. A few years later, she was introduced to Tony Martin, a fellow actor, by their mutual agent at a dinner party. The two went on one date, and the rest was history. The couple was happily married until Charisse passed away decades later.
The actress never let anything slow her down. And with every hurdle she faced, she got right back up! From such a young age, she was center stage, so regardless of time, she made sure she would do something that illuminated crowds far and wide. So as she got older, she embarked on a new journey.
In her seventies, Charisse invented a product that would remain on the market for years and years to come. She created Arctic Spray, which was produced to alleviate her mother's arthritis pain. Arctic Spray was available for nearly two decades within the American drugstore market.
When Worlds Collide
The entertainer branched out of her typical prima ballerina role for a very special cameo in one of the hottest music videos of the late 1980s. Charisse became of the only ballerinas to dance in Janet Jackson's Alright video after the superstar had admired Charisse's work and asked her to join on set!
Not only did the prima ballerina find her way into the R&B world with her cameo in Jackson's music video, but Charisse also jumped into Broadway a little later in life as well! The performer extraordinaire played the prima ballerina, Elizaveta Grushinskaya, in the musical Grand Hotel at 67! Woah.
Unfortunately, Cyd Charisse passed away in 2008 in Los Angeles from a heart attack. The entertainer was given a Methodist memorial service upon her death and then buried in a Jewish cemetery, where her husband, Tony Martin, would eventually join her 4 years later.
The talented ballerina will always be remembered for her unbelievable dancing that simply took over the entertainment world. From the MGM musicals, The Band Wagon, Brigadoon, Silk Stockings, and Singin' in the Rain, Cyd Charisse will always stand out as one of the most admirable figures in Old Hollywood.