Pardon our mixed animal metaphors here, but movie star Lina is a black widow in sheep's clothing. Sure, she acts like she's all sweetness and light, and the public adores her, but underneath all the toothy smiles and sequins she's a conniving jerk of the highest order. She's like the Regina George of 1920s Hollywood.
Obviously, They've Never Heard Her Speak
Lina's obsessed with her public image and reputation, and the movie suggests that both are in excellent standing. She's one of the biggest movie stars on the planet and she's worshiped by legions of fans who think she's unbelievably elegant. At the screening of The Royal Rascal, two young girls gaze up at Lina on the silver screen in admiration. "She's so refined, I think I'll kill myself," one says to the other. Obviously, they've never heard her speak.
That besotted young lady isn't Lina's biggest fan, though. Lina is. She's bought into the media's fawning portrayal of her hook, line, and sinker. "What's the matter with that girl? Can't she take a gentle hint?" Don asks Cosmo after Don rebuffs her insistence that they're an item. "Well, haven't you heard?" Cosmos says. "She's irresistible. She told me so herself."
Yes, Don Means That
The fact that Lina believes her own hype can, in part, be chalked up to her massive movie star ego. It can also be attributed to the fact that she's lost touch with reality. Let's backtrack for a second to this idea of Lina and Don as an item. That's not really a thing. You know that. We know that. Cosmo knows that. Don knows that.
Does Lina? Heck no. "There is nothing between us," Don tells Lina matter-of-factly. "There never has been anything between us. Just air." Lina's response? To tell her beloved "Donnie" that he doesn't mean that. Oof.
She gives almost the exact same delusional response later in the movie, after she and Don shoot a love scene in The Dueling Cavalier while simultaneously issuing threats against each other. The scene culminates in a kiss, and Lina sticks to her fabricated guns. She coos,
LINA: Oh, Donnie…You couldn't kiss me like that and not mean it just a teensy-weensy bit.
Don tells her he'd rather kiss a tarantula. And when she insists that he doesn't mean that, he calls for somebody to bring him a tarantula, pronto.
It's not so much that Lina can't get a clue, as it is that, for Lina, if the fan magazines print it, it must be true. That's just how it works. Or at least that's how you think it works when you're a manipulative movie star who needs to get a grip.
Nowhere is Lina's belief in the powerful fiction of the media more evident than when Lina enacts her revenge against R.F. When she discovers that Kathy will get on-screen credit for dubbing Lina's voice, she's incensed. So what does she do? She runs straight to the press, providing a totally made-up "exclusive" interview about how amazeballs R.F. thinks she is.
Lina may be a ditzy diva prone to mangling the English language, but she's an ace at controlling her own publicity. Her hold on reality may be tenuous at best, but she totally understands her place in the Monumental Pictures studio hierarchy. They can't make a fool out of her. She makes "more money than Calvin Coolidge! Put together!" She's a major star. That's why one bogus interview leaked by her can almost derail The Dancing Cavalier.
A Shimmering, Glowing, Crazypants Star
She's also an egomaniac, and that's how, with one raise of a curtain, Lina's entire career can really be derailed. As Boston Phoenix film critic Steve Vineberg points out in his review, Lina is a unique character. "She's not the protagonist," he writes of Singin' in the Rain, "but the plot revolves around her." Case in point: Don, Cosmo, and R.F. are able to out Lina's lack of talent to the Dancing Cavalier audience solely because Lina wants make the film's big night about her. More specifically, when the crowd calls for speech, Lina proclaims that she'll be the one to make it. Nevermind that she's harboring this huge secret about her voice. Lina Lamont wants to make a speech, so, by God, Lina Lamont is going to make a speech.
Ultimately, as Vineberg's observation attests, the movie needs Lina. The majority of the movie's momentum is sparked by her self-centered motives. And you know what, Shmooper? She probably wouldn't have it any other way. After all, she's "a shimmering, glowing star in the cinema firmament." It says so right there in the phony interview she gave to the press herself.