By the time Singin' in the Rain came along, producer Arthur Freed felt like he was due some heavy-duty respect as a songwriter. The movie is basically a greatest hits album of Freed and his partner Nacio Herb Brown's work as songwriters. Sometimes, it's good to be a big deal movie producer.
So why did the song "Singin' in Rain" grab the title spot? Why isn't the movie called You Were Meant for Me (yawn)? Or The Wedding of the Painted Doll (uh…creepy)?
According to Gene Kelly: A Life of Dance and Dreams by Alvin Yudkoff, it was thoroughly sentimental. "Singin' in the Rain" was the first big hit that Freed and Brown had. Freed had no idea what the movie would actually be about, but it would definitely be called Singin' in the Rain.
Co-director Gene Kelly hated the idea. "Singin' in the Rain" didn't have any context, and, according to Yudkoff, "the blatant cheerfulness of the title set his teeth on edge." Kelly could leave the story setting up to screenwriters Betty Comden and Adolph Green, but it was his job as the film's choreographer to come up with the title dance number.
During pre-production, Freed came to Kelly and asked him if he'd come up with anything for the big number. Kelly told Freed he didn't just have an idea, he had a fantastic idea. Then Kelly laid it on him: "I'm gonna be singin' and dancin', and it'll be rainin'."
Freed wasn't amused.