1950s Film, musicals, Pre-Code Hollywood, Star Profiles

Dueling Divas: Kathy Seldon vs. Lina Lamont

Classic film mega-fans, casual fans, and people who don’t normally watch old films have one thing in common when it comes to Singin’ in the Rain: they’ve all probably seen this movie at least once…so this movie doesn’t require much of an introduction. But I’ll give one anyway. You know how it goes: It’s 1927 and famous silent film star Donald Lockwood (Gene Kelly) meets aspiring stage actress Kathy Selden (Debbie Reynolds) when he jumps into her car after nearly being torn apart by a mob of his fans. They don’t quite hit it off; she makes fun of his profession and he thinks she’s a stuck up wannabe stage actress. But he realizes after meeting up with her again at a party that he has fallen in love with Kathy. She’s the only girl who’s not crazy about him and he responds accordingly. His frequent squeaky-voiced co-star Lina Lamont (Jean Hagen, in her Oscar-nominated role), however, is determined to prove the gossip magazines true and make Don realize that they are meant to be together. Don, of course, has other ideas:

Lina spends the entire movie acting off her jealousy of Kathy. Lina tries to use her power to get her fired from Monumental Pictures after landing some screen time. Kathy’s a sweet girl but she doesn’t once give in to Lina’s conniving ways. That’s basically the one thing Lina’s good at. Cosmo Brown sums it up best by declaring: “She can’t act, she can’t sing, she can’t dance. She’s a triple threat.”

Jean Hagen as Lina Lamont (courtesy of http://it.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jean_Hagen)
Jean Hagen as Lina Lamont
(courtesy of http://it.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jean_Hagen)

We learn that, following the huge success of 1927’s groundbreaking film The Jazz Singer, talking films are the future of the motion picture industry. Many people in the industry are very much against this. It just can’t be done. Here’s where Lina really comes into play. Because she has such a glass-shattering voice, she can’t possibly make the switch from silents to talking pictures. Everyone except for her comes to realize this. She cannot accept the fact that she just plain sucks when it comes to talkies. In her mind, she’s still Queen Bee of Monumental Pictures and nobody will get in the way. Lina sees Kathy as a gold-digger, using Don Lockwood as a ticket to stardom.

Lina and Kathy’s feud is not your typical Hollywood production fight. There’s no real big confrontation between them, aside from one. Lina walks in on Kathy and Don sharing a kiss after Kathy finishes dubbing Lina’s lines for The Dancing Cavalier. Lina’s BFF Zelda Zanders tips her off about the sparks flying between Don and Kathy and she decides to do something about it. She yells at them and threatens them.

Debbie Reynolds as Kathy Selden (courtesy of highlighthollywood.com)
Debbie Reynolds as Kathy Selden
(courtesy of highlighthollywood.com)

What else is there to do but sabotage Kathy’s career? Nothing. Lina goes wild with envy and does everything in her power to make sure Kathy does not take credit for her dubbing in the film, with would make her a likely candidate for a string of her own films to star in. Lina goes against the studio and uses blackmail to back herself up. Of course, her plan goes awry and Lina is exposed at the end of the film for being the fraud and the spiteful woman she truly is.

This allows Kathy and Don to finally enjoy some peace and quiet. We discover at the end that Kathy will be starring opposite Don in a film called–you guessed it– Singin’ in the Rain.

Have you ever wondered what became of Lina after the end of the film? If she had a sense of humor, perhaps she could have gone on to make pictures to simply make fun of her voice, but perhaps that would be too self-depreciating– and that’s not good. Perhaps she became a model. Maybe she took up cooking. Who knows? Any way you look at it, Lina put up quite a fight, but her intentions were downright silly and ridiculous. But who knows? Maybe the talking pictures just weren’t ready for a ‘force of nature’ like Ms. Lamont.

This post is part of the Dueling Divas Blogathon, hosted by Lara over at backlots.net. Special thanks to Lara for allowing me to participate in her fourth annual “Dueling Divas” blogathon. Be sure to head over to backlots.net to see the rest of the awesome submissions.

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12 thoughts on “Dueling Divas: Kathy Seldon vs. Lina Lamont”

  1. I enjoy Singing in the Rain quite a bit, even if it did give rise to some unfortunate stereotypes about the silent film era. Jean Hagen really is a lot of fun in this. I like to think that Lina Lamont went on to host a variety show of some sort.

  2. I’ve also thought about what might’ve become of Lina, and I’ve never been able to come to a conclusion. Perhaps that’s because a big part of me DESPISES her histrionics! But it’s funny that there isn’t more confrontation between Lina and Kathy, I can imagine it would’ve been pretty explosive!

  3. I am a HUGE supporter of the much maligned Lina. Poor thing- carried Monumental Pictures on her back and then thrown to the curb over a young chippie who jumps put of a cake. Based on inside information I have learned that Lina became a big exec at Monumental, fired Lockwood and Selden, and had oil wells in Bakersfield pumping…pumping. p.s. She and Norma Desmond were BFFS who frequently lunched on Sunset Boulevard (canapes served by Max, of course). Sometimes they were joined by the chimp….

  4. LOVED your description of Lina’s voice as “glass shattering”. It certainly is!

    Great pick for the blogathon. I often did wonder what became of Lina after the movie was over. I prefer to think she married some European minor royalty and spent the rest of her life in big hats, bossing people around.

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