Here’s a deep cut from a classic musical! Singin’ in the Rain would be my favorite musical of all time if not for My Fair Lady, and like all the greatest musicals, it is packed with songs and numbers, some of which are classics in their own right. But there are several other numbers in the film that aren’t as well-known, for one reason or another. One of these is the “Beautiful Girl Montage”.
This number appears in the film just after the silent film industry has been absolutely rocked by the first “talkie”, The Jazz Singer, which is forcing all of the studios to adapt to the new sound format. Among other things, the arrival of sound in motion pictures kick-started the Golden Age of the Hollywood musical, which this montage illustrates. But after a brief montage in which several songs (“I’ve Got a Feeling You’re Fooling”, “The Wedding of the Painted Doll”, and “Shall I?”) are mashed together (mash-ups aren’t at all new!) in a pretty frantic, zippy sequence before the tempo slows and we settle into a single number: “Beautiful Girl”.
In the film, “Beautiful Girl” is a number that is being shot for a new movie by the studio that our main characters work for. It’s kind of an odd-duck of a number that features exactly none of the main leads, except for Debbie Reynolds, who is in the number only as one of the “girls” who looks adoringly at the guy who sings the song (who is only seen in the film long enough to perform this number).
As for “the guy who sings the song”, he’s an actor named Jimmy Thompson who seems to have had very little by way of a career. He had thirteen credits, the biggest one probably as one of the crewmen in Forbidden Planet. He would show up in another Gene Kelly musical, Brigadoon, but for his one big number there, “I’ll Go Home With Bonnie Jean,” his voice was dubbed. Come to that, I don’t know if he was also dubbed for “Beautiful Girl”, in which he seems to have a bigger, actually impressive voice.
“Beautiful Girl” is not one of the more popular numbers from Singin’ in the Rain, but I’ve always loved it as a bit of scene-setting and world-building, with its 1920s aesthetic. It doesn’t really move things along other than to provide and in-universe reason for Debbie Reynolds’s Kathy Selden to be in the same place as Gene Kelly’s Don Lockwood, but so what? I’ve never been one to insist that the plot must be advanced at all moments. Plus, I love some of the wordplay in this song and it’s swinging tune.
Here’s the “Beautiful Girl Montage” from Singin’ in the Rain.