Ahem. Imagine, if you will, the following scenario:
You’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?
Things 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?).
The 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.
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.
Because 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.