In Defense of Lina Lamont

with 21 Comments

Ahem. Imagine, if you will, the following scenario:

linamovieYou’re an actress in the early, rough-and-tumble days of silent film, a pioneer on the forefront of a burgeoning industry. You’re already popular enough that you’re used to random visitors demanding attention from you on the set, but you prefer to stay focused on your work. Hell, your dress is so delicate you don’t even get to sit all the way down—you deserve to smoke your cigarette in peace. However, when one of these visitors proves himself as an eager, ambitious actor willing to do what it takes, and earns himself a role in your next film, you’re intrigued. After that first picture, you find that you work well together, and form a partnership with him—maybe even pursuing a major studio contract for the both of you after outgrowing the low budget westerns you started out with. You have great chemistry together on screen, and produce a string of enormously successful films, becoming full blown movie stars yourselves in the mean time. Soon, you’ve been spotted out on the town together often enough that the tabloids have even started to wonder about wedding bells, and after all you’ve been through with him, you can’t help but wonder the same yourself. “I love you, I love you, I love you”—isn’t that what he’s always saying, even though only you can hear it?

lina-cavalierThings are beginning to change, though. Although you’re always fiercely committed to showing up and giving the best performance you can, the introduction of sound as a cinematic technology has created a huge learning curve for everyone involved, from cast to crew. There are snags: the art department keeps giving you noisy props to hold, apparently unaware of how much noise they will create, and even the sound guys haven’t quite figured out how to set up the microphone so it doesn’t pick up your heartbeat. Plus, you and your co-star’s hammy acting style doesn’t translate well—though he seems to be forgiven for it much more easily. Even worse, at a test screening of your first sound picture, a projectionist’s error causes the sound to go out of sync, making you a laughingstock through, again, no fault of your own. But you keep showing up, doing your best, and not wasting the studio head’s time with fanciful ideas about jazzy Technicolor dance sequences (what even is Technicolor, by the way?).

linasingsThe studio head seems to think that one improvement to the picture will somehow altering your high-pitched, street-wise voice, which he feels doesn’t appropriately match your beautifully refined face. You don’t really see the problem—it’s your voice after all—but you’re a team player, and you’ll defer to his judgments if that will make the work go smoothly. Since you were the star of the year’s biggest film and have generated millions upon millions of dollars for the studio, he gets you a proper voice double to enact this scheme. You are an incredibly valuable asset to the studio, and he should be doing whatever he can to keep you happy. This seems to solve everything! Of course, your double can’t get on screen credit for her work, as this would damage your star power, and you’d smartly made a provision for that in the ironclad contract you negotiated at the start of your career at Monumental. You’re no dope! You’re a savvy woman in a time when everything was set to work against you—you had to learn to protect yourself. And again, because you’ve made millions and millions of dollars for this studio, any sensible business person would obviously value your talent and legacy of contributions over the feelings of the glorified chorus girl they picked to speak for you.

Unfortunately, your boyfriend, too, seems to be getting restless and slipping away. Although you’re just barely pushing 30 yourself, your 40-year-old boyfriend is now chasing after your voice double, who is a literal teenager. You always suspected you were too much woman for him, too independent, too ambitious. Not easily molded. A 19-year-old nobody with a pre-existing crush on him—yeah, that sounds more his speed. But now he’s taking it to an unprofessional level, making snide comments at work when he knows you—and everyone else—can hear them. The least he could have done is keep it professional, as you have tried to do… for the most part.

dancin

And then, the night of the big premiere. You’ve worked tremendously hard on this film, adapting to the new technology as best you could. Your voice double did a great job, but she only spent a few days in the booth to re-record the dialogue (in a voice that sounds suspiciously like yours, albeit a bit smoother and on a deeper register). You were the one on set day in and day out in those ridiculously heavy costumes, under the harsh set lights, and you’re going to enjoy your night. Your long-winded boyfriend, as usual, won’t let you talk to your adoring fans, but when they ask you to sing, you arrange to have your voice double to, you know, do her job. The one she was contracted to do. Egregiously, your boyfriend and the head of the studio conspire to reveal the voice double while you’re on stage, seemingly only for the purpose of embarrassing you. It’s an unthinkably cruel gesture, and quite frankly, a very bad business move.

lina-pinkBecause it seems that the studio head has forgotten the little matter of your contract, the one that protects you against undue embarrassment—let alone public embarrassment brought about by the head of the studio himself. You take them to court, and the judge obviously rules in your favor—it’s a very clear-cut case of contract violation. You graciously allow him to simply transfer majority ownership of the studio over to you, rather than going bankrupt trying to settle your sizable claim. You tearfully confide to gossip columnists about how hurt and betrayed you felt that night, and how you’re ready to make a new start as the head of Lamont Pictures, Inc. Singin’ in the Rain, starring Don Lockwood and Kathy Selden, is the final film released under Monumental Pictures, and it is a tremendous failure. You paint your new executive office a dynamic shade of pink and buy yourself a new fur for every day of the week. Then you get to work. Lamont Pictures is an incredible success over the next few decades, owing to your unique style, commitment to hard work ethic, and fierce loyalty. You discover that you’re a gifted comedienne—and, when you finally get over your fear of speaking on camera, you find that audiences love your natural voice.

This post is part of the Great Villain Blogathon, hosted by Speakeasy, Shadows and Satin, and Silver Screenings. ❤ Lina Lamont forever ❤

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21 Responses

  1. Vienna
    | Reply

    Fabulous! Definitely LINA LAMONT FOREVER!
    Great post. And a happy ending for our LINA .

    • Emily
      | Reply

      Yes! I actually felt like I was being sneaky by taking her, I’m so pleased to see she has some definite support out there! :)

  2. Silver Screenings
    | Reply

    LOVE!! Lina Lamont, in my opinion, is the best thing about Singin’ in the Rain, and it’s shameful she’s been so cruelly maligned.

    This is a fabulous post. I loved everything about it. Thanks so much for joining the blogathon with this fond look at a real star. ;)

    • Emily
      | Reply

      Yes, I love her (clearly)!! She’s definitely ones of those characters I reacted to very differently as an adult versus how I did as a kid, so this felt very necessary :)

      Thanks so much for hosting!

  3. […] Lina Lamont […]

  4. Marsha Collock
    | Reply

    Did you know that I am the president for life of the official Lina Lamont fan club (members worldwide :)) ? Poor Lina – anytime you need a helping hand defending her I am in your corner! When I saw you had chosen her as your topic I was ready to pounce all over you! Actually, I think Lina bought the studio and lived a comfortable life with oil just pumping, pumping… until a man drove into her driveway…oops, wrong diva! Great post – loved it.

    • Emily
      | Reply

      YES!!! I will gladly join that fan club! As soon as I saw her on the banner, I knew I had to claim her, lest she fall into less sympathetic hands :) And HA, now picturing the hilarity that Lina/Norma would inspire :)

      “I yam big, it’s the PITCHAS that got small!”
      “Picturrrres.”
      “Pitchas.”
      “Picturrrres.”
      “PITCHAS!”

  5. Kristina
    | Reply

    Great post, that movie wouldn’t be what it is without Lina :) thanks for including her in this event!

    • Emily
      | Reply

      Thanks for hosting, Kristina! (And for accepting my somewhat skewed interpretation of a “villain” :) )

  6. WayneMorganFan
    | Reply

    Lina Lamont is a most under-appreciated villainess, and It is so refreshing to see her highlighted! Thanks for giving her her due! Delightful!

    • Emily
      | Reply

      Thank you! Very interesting to look back on the qualities of some of these characters, and what made them seem so “villainous” at the time :)

  7. Leah
    | Reply

    Fantastic. I always loved her in the film, but hadn’t thought about just how cruel everyone was to her. You nailed it. (I usually find Gene Kelly smug, so I admit I’m a bit inclined to like anyone his character has wronged….)

    • Emily
      | Reply

      I’ve watched it a couple of times in the last year, and it was really starting to grate on me how mean they were to her! And haha—I love Gene typically but I am soooo team-Lina on this one (obviously)!

  8. | Reply

    Oh, wonderful! Lamont Pictures is a dream for Lina, and I think she deserved success after all. She wasn’t really a villainess, right? Just a victim of the difficult transition to sound times!
    Marvelous!
    Thanks for the kind comment!
    Le

    • Emily
      | Reply

      Indeed, and a smart businesswoman at an inopportune time too! Thanks for reading!

  9. Judy
    | Reply

    Haha, great stuff! I’ve always felt rather sorry for Lina – and for all the real actors whose voices didn’t fit into talkies. I’d love to think that in the end the audience could learn to love her real voice!

    • Emily
      | Reply

      I bet she could’ve had great success as a voice actor for cartoons! Though she’d probably think that beneath her talents :)

  10. girlsdofilm
    | Reply

    Judging by these stills, Lina clearly had a penchant for pink. I love that final outfit with the fur.
    But I digress…. this is a great post and a wonderful tribute. I love the idea that the male actors didn’t get as much stick for their inability to convert to talkies – probably because so much was made of actresses beauty it was important that they had a voice that matched it.

  11. Love the way you wrote your review! It was so much fun to read! Lina Lamont has always been one of m favourite movie characters. She’s so funny (well, not really on purpose I must say) and I love to imitate her voice. Thanks for the review!

  12. […] In Defense of Lina Lamont – The Vintage Cameo […]

  13. Bet
    | Reply

    Great post! Lina Lamont really deserves it!

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