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'Singin' in the Rain' celebrates 60 years with special screenings

Gene Kelly, Debbie Reynolds and Donald O'Connor are

Gene Kelly, Debbie Reynolds and Donald O'Connor are "Singin' in the Rain." Credit: Warner Bros.

Gene Kelly really knew how to let a smile be his umbrella. Nowhere was it more apparent than when he created one of the sunniest moments in movie history as buckets of raindrops fell on his head in the 1952 musical "Singin' in the Rain." It's even more impressive considering he had a fever of 103 during the 2 1 / 2 days it took to shoot the number.

Now the classic Hollywood send-up about the transition from silent movies to talkies in the 1920s and its star will get to make another splash on screens in Westbury, Farmingdale, Holtsville and Stony Brook Thursday for a special 60th-anniversary showing of the film, courtesy of Turner Classic Movies and NCM Fathom. (Warner Home Video is releasing a Blu-ray of the movie Tuesday.) Writer Patricia Kelly, who was married to Gene Kelly from 1990 until his death in 1996, can't wait for a new generation weened on TV shows like "So You Think You Can Dance" to embrace the film.

"The dance in 'Singin' in the Rain' is so contemporary. It isn't attached to any particular time," says Kelly, 53. "You see a lot of gymnastics and things that have influenced hip-hop and break-dancing. People don't look at it and say, 'Oh that's really old and tired.' "

Energy certainly defines Donald O'Connor's slapstick dance, "Make 'Em Laugh," a number that Gene Kelly, who also choreographed and codirected the film with Stanley Donen, had to get creative piecing together. Between takes, O'Connor would keep cast and crew in stitches fooling with props such as a dummy. "Gene would ask Donald to do it again, and he wouldn't remember what he did," says Patricia Kelly. So Kelly's dance assistants, Jeanne Coyne (whom he wed in 1960) and Carol Haney, kept a record of O'Connor's antics for Kelly.

Working with co-star Debbie Reynolds was more of a challenge for the demanding Kelly. Reynolds, who was not a dancer, often left the set in tears after rehearsals. Pep talks from Fred Astaire, whom she'd visit on the adjacent set, kept her spirits up.

Patricia Kelly, who will host two evenings about Gene Kelly July 20 and 21 at Lincoln Center to mark his centenary Aug. 23, expects "Singin' in the Rain" to continue to have legs as long as Cyd Charisse's, even after the 60th-anniversary celebration ends. "You look and it's made it to 60 years, and I don't see it declining in any manner," she says. "Audiences are still responding. And I would wager that if you did come back in 100 years, I really wouldn't be surprised if 'Singin' in the Rain' isn't still on screens."

WHAT The 60th-anniversary screening of "Singin' in the Rain"

WHEN | WHERE 2 and 7 p.m. Thursday at Farmingdale Multiplex Cinemas, 1001 Broad Hollow Rd.; AMC Stony Brook 17, 2196 Nesconset Hwy., and Island 16 Cinema De Lux, 185 Morris Ave., Holtsville; 7 p.m. at Westbury Stadium 12, 7000 Brush Hollow Rd.

INFO $13.50, (reservations recommended)

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