"The Jazz Singer"
It is no accident that "The Jazz Singer", the first
contemporary talking picture, was also a musical! How better
to showcase the newest version of the art form. The story of
young Jakie Rabinowitz who is torn between family tradition
and the roar of the crowd and the smell of the grease paint
captured the hearts of audiences everywhere. The film's star
Al Jolson was the primary inspiration
for the essential story.
Winner of the Academy Award for Best Picture (Harry Rapf), the film also received
two other nominations, one for Best director (Harry
Beaumont) and one for Best Actress (Bessie Love).
of 1933" (1933)
LeRoy's depression era extravaganza is a classic example
of 1930's era escapism. A well done version of a classic plot,
which features a beautiful chorus girl falling in love and being
rescued by a millionaire and getting her big break on stage
to boot. Watch for Ginger
Rogers as Fay Fortune. The film features extraordinary choreography
by Busby Berkeley
including his signature kaleidoscopic patterning that not only
revolutionized choreography but also had a lasting impact on
cinematography. Watch for two of the film's celebrated numbers,
"We're in the Money" and "My Forgotten Man".
to Rio" (1933)
Originally conceived of as a vehicle for RKO's Dolores Del Rio this film
is most notable for its star making pairing of Fred Asiaire and Ginger
Rogers. The two relative unknowns smoked up the screen in
a dance number called "The Carioca" that generated
such a positive response form critics and fans that they were
eventually reunited in nine subsequent films.
and Fred Astaire
are magical in this romantic musical about mistaken identities.
Irving Berlin's music and Hermes
Pan and Fred Astaire's fluid choreography combine seamlessly
with the films story line. The film features three classic numbers
"Top Hat", "Isn't This A Lovely Day?", and
"Dancing Cheek to Cheek". Rogers and Astaire epitomized
the grace and charm of the 1930's. Nominated for four Academy
Awards, the film was made for $620,000 and grossed over $3million
in its initial release.
"The Music Man"
is a delight as Professor Harold Hill, the con man who comes
to River City, IA, to organize a boy's band. His plan is to
head out of town with the dough, but he gets caught when - of
course -- he falls in love with the town librarian (Shirley Jones). The production
quality isn't top notch, but the songs are fun, and the film
features some of the best character actors in film, including
Ford, and an itty-bitty Ronny Howard.
"The Wizard of
After she is knocked unconscious during a tornado Dorothy awakens
in Munchkin Land with no idea of how to return home to her family
in Kansas. She is helped in her quest to find her her way home
by Glinda the good witch (who gives her a pair of magical ruby
slippers) and a trio of companions, a scarecrow, a cowardly
lion., and a tin woodsman. The film ultimately proves that there
is no place like home, even if it is Kansas. The film features
marvelous performances from a young Judy Garland (the studio originally
wanted Shirley Temple for the role of Dorothy), Ray
Bolger (The Scarecrow/Hunk), Bert Lahr (The Cowardly Lion/Zeke),
Jack Haley (The Tin Woodsman/Hickory),
Billy Burke (Glinda), Frank
Morgan (The Wizard), and the wonderfully evil Margaret Hamilton (The Wicked
Witch/Miss Gulch). Love those flying monkey's!
to look at David Letterman's top ten ways the "Wizard Of
Oz" would be different if it were made today.
all American musical tells the story of George M. Cohan the
all American entertainer who wrote the patriotic homily "Over
There" and eventually received a Congressional medal of
honor from President Roosevelt. This film was star James Cagney's favorite film
and won him his only Best Actor Award. The most Patriotic Musical
ever made this film made the AFI list of the 100 greatest movies
"Meet Me in
St. Louis" (1944)
This romanticized musical details the trials and tribulations
of a closely knit turn-of-the-century family living in suburban
St. Louis in 1903. Based on the memoirs of Sally Benson which
were published in The New Yorker as the "Kensington stories"
the movie was filmed in luscious Technicolor. The film was produced
by the legendary Arthur Freed and directed by
Minnelli (who subsequently married Judy Garland).
"On The Town"
Freed hired Gene
Kelly and Stanley
Donen to direct this musical about three sailors on shore
leave in New York. This film is often credited as launching
the modern musical. The film certainly marks a departure from
the classic decade (the 1930's), and incorporates numerous new
cinematic techniques. For starters, many of the films sequences
were shot on location on the streets of New York rather than
on a studio set. The film also fully integrated the dance sequences
and musical numbers into the action in a way that was seldom
seen during the 1930's. This marks a shift in musicals as songs
increasingly become used to advance the plot and or the relationships
of the characters. Putting that aside the movie features wonderful
performances by Gene Kelly, Frank Sinatra and Ann
in Paris" (1951)
One of the most sophisticated musicals ever produced. Director
Vincent Minnelli and an
outstanding cast that included Gene Kelly,Leslie Caron and Oscar
Levant successfully recreated Paris on the backlot at MGM
and took the musical to new artistic heights. The story of an
American GI who remained in Paris after the war to become a
painter and to eventually discover love with a beautiful dancer
captured the hearts of the film going public (it was the third
highest grossing film in America that year). Producer Arthur Freed's groundbreaking
film received six of the eight Academy Awards (including Best
Picture) it was nominated for and star-choreographer Gene virtually
rewrote the book on dance with this movie. Featuring the music
of George Gershwin the films
climactic modern ballet sequence draws on the work of Manet,
Lautrec and Raoul Duffy literally changed the way the artistic
community looked at films in general and musicals in particular.
"Singin' In the Rain"
Certainly one of the greatest Hollywood musicals ever the movie
is based on the inspired idea of depicting the transition between
silent films and talking pictures. The film is a virtual catalogue
of musical styles utilized during the 30's and 40's. It quite
literally shows you virtually a sample of every thing you ever
need to know about the golden age of Hollywood musicals and
quite a bit about Hollywood itself. Featuring Gene Kelly, Donald O'Connor, Debbie
Hagen and Cyd
Charisse performing, among other numbers "Singin' in
the Rain" and "Make 'Em Laugh". Directed by Kelly
and Stanley Donen, and written by
the legendary team of Betty Comden and Adolph
Green the film is everything a musical should be. If you
see only one musical in your life, make it this one.
"The Band Wagon"
Minnelli directs this comeback story of a Hollywood star
who revives his career by trying a Broadway show. This companion
to "Singin' In the Rain" was also produced by Arthur Freed and written by Betty
Comden and Adolph
Green and is as much a satire of Broadway as the former
film was a satire on Hollywood. The film stars Fred Astaire, Cyd Charisse, Oscar Levant, Nanette Fabray, Jack
Bucahanan., and a young James Mitchell, (Palmer
Cortland to all of you AMC fans) Watch for these classic musical
numbers "Triplets", "That's Entertainment",
and "Dancing in the Dark" which is one of Astaire's
"West Side Story"
One of the all-time Oscar champs (ten statues, one less than
Ben-Hur), the movie version
of the Bernstein / Sondheim
stage show takes Shakespeare's Romeo
and Juliet to the streets. A delight. (reviewed by Sean
"Sound of Music"
Based on the true story of the Von Trapp families flight to
Switzerland from the Nazis in 1938 the film was directed by
Oscar winner Robert
Wise and featured outstanding performances from virtually
all of its performers. The film solidified the star status of
its leading lady Julie
Andrews (fresh from her Best Actress Oscar win in "Mary Poppins" ),
and rapidly became a box office sensation grossing $80 million
dollars in box office sales it beat out previous record holder
"Gone With The Wind"
as the most popular film of all time. The film won five Oscars
including Best Picture and Best Director. Blatantly manipulative
and excessively sentimental (costar Christopher Plumber once
reportedly referred to it as "The Sound OF Mucus"),
the film is none the less brilliant and can correctly be categorized
as one of many peoples "favorite things".
"So, we made this movie, and it did very, very well. Do
you think it would be safe to make another one?" Hmmm.
One of the things Alfred
Hitch did after he had established himself as a commercially
successful auteur was go back and remake one of his earlier
films, "The Man Who
Knew Too Much". He kept roughly the same story, adding
in big name stars, exotic locales, and a new song. This is relatively
similar to the idea behind "Help!", the second Beatles
film vehicle. With their last outing a hit, the Beatles brought
back director Richard Lester and gave him
plenty of wacky toys, colorful actors, and bizarre sets to play
with. The storyline (a "filthy Eastern cult" tries
to steal back Ringo's sacrificial ring) is secondary to the
spectacle, which is the Beatles acting silly and singing. Unfortunately,
despite the vast improvements in production quality, "Help!"
fails to capture the fun of the first film but it does serve
as an entertaining satire of all the Bond films of the 60's.
(reviewed by Sean Henry)
Click here for more information about "Help!"
"Paint Your Wagon"
Probably the last real musical until 1996 blessed us with Evita. Liza Minelli is a down and out
cabaret singer in pre-war Germany. By turns dazzlingly romantic
and harshly cynical, Bob Fosse directs with Joel
Grey mirroring the action on the cabaret stage. Fosse, Minelli,
and Grey all won Oscars. (reviewed by Sean Henry)
directs superstar Barbara Striesand's (who
won an Academy Award for Best Actress) in one of her best films
(Yentl not with standing). The story of comedienne Fannie Brice
who overcame her early days in the Jewish slums of the Lower
East Side, to become one of the top stars in the Ziegfield Follies.
The film also details her marriage to and eventual divorce from
her first husband, Nick Arnstein (Omar Sharif). The film was nominated
for eight Academy awards and won one.
Rocky Horror Picture Show" (1975)
A musical about transvestites (from Transylvania, no less)?
The popular midnight movie is 100% pure schlock, but it's incredibly
amusing schlock. Tim
Curry has never been wilder as Dr. Frank N. Furter and Susan Sarandon makes a doe-eyed
debut as Janet. This is another "don't watch it at school,
and don't blame us if you rent it and then Oklahoma City police
break down your door and take it away - kind of movie."
(by Sean Henry)
The movie that made John Travolta (he received an
Oscar nomination for Best Actor), a star and legitimized disco,
Saturday Night Fever" is one of Roger Ebert's favorite
films. A coming of age film about a young man trapped in a boring
day job who comes alive on the dance floor. The film is a good
explanation of disco and the pop culture of the 70's. At the
very least it proved that Travolta has some of the best moves
and pop star Olivia Newton John made
this movie a sizzling summer success and favorite with musical
lovers everywhere but particularly teenagers. The film cause
a revival of 50's chic and features some memorable songs. Putting
all that aside if we are to believe the song "Grease is
"All That Jazz"
screamingly autobiographical musical features the most innovative
choreography ever captured on screen. It also features open
heart surgery (Fosse's own). To say that it is a controversial
film is putting it mildly! Essentially, it details the life
of a Broadway choreographer and filmmaker whose life is spiraling
completely out of control. The film was nominated for nine Academy Awards
(including Picture, director, and Actor) and won four. Featuring
memorable performances from Roy Schieder, Jessica Lange, Ann Reinking, and Ben
Vereen the movie is a must see for any dance student.
This contemporary adaptation of the Hans Christian Anderson
tale features one of the best musical scores ever captured on
film. Allen Menken's
memorable score features such wonderful songs as "Under
the Sea" and "Kiss the Girl" both of which were
nominated for an Academy Award for Best Song. The film not only
won for best song ("Under the Sea"), it also won best
Musical Score. The story of a little mermaid (Ariel - Jodi Benson), who falls in love
with a human prince and must sacrifice everything in order to
be with him, features wonderful animated characters including
the deliciously evil Ursula (Pat Carroll), and Ariel's staunchest
protectors Scuttle (Buddy Hakett) and Flounder (Jason
Marin). A genuine toe taper, kids will enjoy it and adults
will appreciate it.
the Beast" (1991)
A contemporary masterpiece Disney's "Beauty and the Beast"
was the first animated film ever to be nominated for the Academy Award
for Best Picture (it won the Golden Globe). The story of the
independent Belle (a beautiful young woman who prefers books
to peoples opinions of her), and her encounter with a cruel
prince who has been turned into a hideous beast by an enchantress
instantly captured the hearts of viewers everywhere. The classic
story is brought to life by memorable songs (the film's songs
received an unprecedented three Oscar nominations), and a series
of colorfully endearing characters including Belle (Paige O'Hara), The Beast (Robby
Benson), Lumiere (Jerry Orbach), Cogsworth(David
Ogden Stiers), and the fabulous Mrs. Potts (Angela Lansbury). The films
extraordinary use of the multi-plane camera makes this not only
a wonderful musical but also a fabulous animated film.
to read Christa Williams' review of "Beauty and the Beast"
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