Gene Kelly Was A Brilliant, Brilliant Actor

by Ashish

Have you seen the movie Singin’ in the Rain? Watch it if you haven’t – it’s a brilliant musical. In the meantime, so as to thoroughly enjoy, appreciate and understand what the rest of this post is going to be about, go and watch the song that bears the same title. It’s all right, I’ll wait.

Rather nice, isn’t it? He’s got a pleasant voice, he’s a very good dancer – a skill that I appreciate all the more for reasons listed elsewhere – and the entire song leaves you with a nice pleasant isn’t-the-world-a-nice-and-cheery-place-to-live-in-after-all kind of feeling. In fact, you’ll appreciate the song a whole lot more when I tell you that the actor in the song, a gentlemen by the name of Gene Kelly, was running a fever of 103 while shooting for the song was underway.

(May I be permitted one slight digression here? I have always wondered why we, in India, report the weather in terms of degrees Celsius, but report body temperatures in terms of Fahrenheit. It’s never made any sense to me, and I have never received a satisfactory answer from anybody yet. If you’re the sort of knowledgeable chap who can help me out, drop us a line in the comments section, will you please?)

Right, so as I was saying, the song becomes a veritable masterpiece once you take that rather important detail into consideration. And yet, I think Gene Kelly is all the more impressive for another reason altogether. I think he is a genius because he maintains a cheery smile throughout the entire performance, in spite of the fact that his socks must be completely, wholly and absolutely soaked.

To my mind, there is nothing worse than the feeling of wet socks against your skin.

All of you know the feeling, of course, and if you are anything like me, you are feeling slightly squeamish at the very thought. You can probably recollect the squelching sound that your socks make when you walk about, and you can feel some water being squeezed out with every step you take. Oh, the agony.

Modern human beings first encounter wet, squelchy socks in school. They aren’t quite so bad if they happen to you on your way back home, of course. In that case, it simply is a matter of finding one wet puddle after another, and jumping bang into the middle of each and every one of them. But getting wet in the rain while going to school – ah, that is a different kettle of fish altogether.

For in that case, all you can do is walk around all day in wet shoes and wet socks, until you can actually feel your skin get all clammy, wrinkled and wet. There you are, sitting in class, listening to some teacher or the other prattle on endlessly, while your feet sink into an ever increasing morass of misery.

And sooner or later, you figure out the ultimate form of masochism. You figure out, during that endless prattling, that squeezing your toes against the tip of the soles of your feet can squeeze out some water from your socks. It doesn’t make you feel any better, you understand. It just is gives you something to do. Sort of like trying to tease out a morsel of food stuck between your teeth with nothing more than your tongue. You can’t do it, of course, but it does feel nice. And so you squeeze your toes, and feel the water seep out. And then you unclench your toes, and feel the water seep back in. And you repeat the process ad infinitum, until the end of the unceasing prattling.

And over time, that habit of squeezing water out of your socks grows on you, until it goes and becomes a Pavlovian response. And so, even as a fully grown adult, whenever you find yourself caught in a sudden downpour, you contort your face into a tight grimace in full anticipation of that horrible familiar, squelchy feeling that you are going to get when you will squeeze your toes. And sure enough, sooner or later, you will squeeze.

Try and observe a person who’s just come in from the rain and hasn’t taken his shoes off yet. If that unfortunate has a grimace on his face, people, take it from me – he’s squeezing.

Which brings us back, so to speak, to the title of this post. In the entire song, Gene Kelly splashes, jumps and generally makes merry in the rain. His shoes are obviously soaking wet, and by inference, so must be his socks. And yet, in a brilliant show of restraint, the telltale grimace never once appears on his face – not once.

Don’t delude yourself by thinking that his greatness lay in not squeezing his toes, though. Take it from me: if you have worn wet socks to school as a child (and who hasn’t?), you have squeezed. Gene’s talent, if you ask me, did not lie in the restrain he showed by not squeezing.

Gene’s genius lay in appearing to be happy while wearing wet socks. If that doesn’t get you an Oscar, I don’t  know what will.

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