Lovers of musicals check in here!

There was some discussion in another thread (modesty prevents me from linking to it) about the fact that we have an invisible subculture here at the Dope of people who love movie musicals. We need to band together and form our own clique, folks! So check in here to stand up and say “bursting into song at the drop of a (top) hat? I am so there!”

Share any special memories – weigh in in the issues (Fred Astaire or Gene Kelly? Moulin Rouge or Chicago?*) – speculate as to the causes of the death of the musical as a mainstream genre in the '60s (what did Barbra Streisand’s ego have to do with it?) – or whatever.

I became a lifelong musicals type back in the late '60s, when I was in junior high, when a theater here in Philly put on a double feature of two Busby Berkeley flicks. One was Gold Diggers of 1935, with the fabulous “Lullaby of Broadway” number. Once you’ve seen that on the big screen, you’ll never be the same. Other classics I’ve seen on the big screen include The Wizard of Oz (revival house in San Diego) and Top Hat (Des Moines Art Museum).

Come and share, folks! And then – hey! Let’s put on a show! I can teach you a time step in half an hour – the Maxie Ford will take a little longer.
*Fred and Moulin Rouge for me

Say, my Dad’s got an old Hippodrome we could use!

Ah…the eternal cosmic question of Astaire or Kelly. This is such a mainstay in my family that it’s become a joke.

I maintain that it depends on what you want…since both men are such different performers. That’s how I avoid choosing–which, to me, is impossible.

I grew up on a farm with only public television as a friend, so I watched musicals all my life (god bless public television). As a young adult, I was amazed that none of my friends even knew about them, much less had seen them. What a shame.

This is a mistake I did not want to make with my own children, who have been nursed on musicals. I’m taking care of the future. :slight_smile:

The most valuable thing I learned from musicals was how to burst into spontaneous song. I do it. People who know me know I do it. If done with care and finesse, it works.

Let me know when we can start bemoaning the short musical careers of Donald O’Connor, Russ Tamblin and the likes.


I can’t watch the barnraising scene from Seven Brides for Seven Brothers without having to explain to my daughter that musicals weren’t cool anymore–and that’s why she hasn’t seen Tamblin in more.

O’Connor…what can I say? I feel like he’s the Ed Norton of smooth dancing leading men. There could be only one…apparently.

While I was growing up, my folks had season tix to Starlight Musicals. Road shows of Broadway musicals would play at the Hilton U. Brown Theatron, an outdoor amphitheater at one end of the Butler University football field. I started going when I was 6, in 1955. The first show I saw was Pajama Game. I can’t even guess how many shows I’ve seen.

The top of my list is Robert and Elizabeth. It’s a soaring romantic comedy about Robert Browning prying Elizabeth Barrett away from her sheltering Papa. If you haven’t heard the soundtrack, you’re really missing something great.

I envy you.

“Did I hear right?
Did you say the Hippodrome? …
It ain’t there anymore.
Aida sang an “A”
And blew the place away!”

I love movie musicals (and Broadway ones). Favorite is “Singin’ in the Rain” (of course).

I grew up on musicals. There were radio stations in NYC that played nothing but songs from musicals (this was in the early 60s, Before Sondheim and Webber began to wreck things).

Funny this should pop up at this time…my kids have shown some interest in movie musicals lately, and it made me realize that there are lots I haven’t seen but would like to. I meant to ask for recommendations. We’ve seen the super-obvious: My Fair Lady, The Music Man, Oklahoma, etc. I got West Side Story from the library this weekend and it was a flop. I couldn’t get through it myself. Next weekend we’re getting Phantom of the Opera. Suggestions?

[QUOTE=RealityChuckFavorite is “Singin’ in the Rain” (of course).[/QUOTE]

I actually don’t own a copy of this. It’s the contrarian in me.

Phantom of the Opera? no no no!

Depending on how old your kids are, you might want to consider some of the following:

[li]Singin’ in the Rain[/li][li]Bye, Bye Birdie[/li][li]Seven Brides for Seven Brothers[/li][li]Top Hat (the quintessential Fred and Ginger film)[/li][li]On the Town[/li][/ul]

There are billions more, but these all seem real accessible to me, even to newbies.

I’m tempted to add an Esther Williams film, like Neptune’s Daughter, but these may be more of an aquired tase.

Too true, Brunhilde Esterhazy, too true. The Hippodrome is long-gone, replaced with a Kleeex-box office building, with a parking garage called, adding insult to injury, “the Hippodrome Parking Garage.”

Hooray!! You really did start a thread! Very cool.

sigh…Gene Kelly over Fred Astaire. They both had grace, but Kelly put something into his dancing that’s missing in Astaire’s moves.

Eve, can we pretty please do Kiss Me Kate first?
[li]All That Jazz[/li][li]Chicago[/li][li]Oklahoma[/li][li]Paint Your Wagon (yup, I’m hopeless, sorry)[/li][li]The Music Man[/li][/ul]

Yeah – fear of being taken for a sissy. He’s too butch for me – Fred was secure enough in his masculinity to not need to put on the tight T-shirts.

My mother LOVED Howard Keel, so my first musicals were Show Boat, Seven Brides and Kiss me Kate. (I was about 11 - year was 1984) They’re still my favorites, even though I progressed on to Gene Kelly’s entire repertoire.

Mom used to tell me how her grandma would take her and her brother to the movies every Saturday. When they all saw Show Boat together, they stayed all day and watched it 4 times. When we’d watch it together, she’d always cry during Old Man River. I never used to, but after she passed away, I cry every time I see/hear it.

Anchors Aweigh, the dance number with Frank Sinatra hopping over the cots - aaah Kelly is a Master. But you can’t make me choose between Gene and Fred. It’s like saying which of your children is your favorite. You love them equally - for their differences, and for their similarities.

On the Town - the Hippodrome number - absolute FAVORITE! Skinny Scrawny Frank Sintra getting thrown all around that cab. “what - stop - for - did - you Hey?” Classic.

But while I’m talking about Howard Keel and even Anchors Aweigh - Catherine Grayson’s voice is agonizing. I can’t stand it. She’s great in Kiss Me Kate, but Show Boat is all OVERLY HIGH scales and - UGH! It’s ear-piercing.

Well then thank heaven for insecurity because I likes me some GK in a tight t-shirt. Although overall I give Astaire the (whisper-thin) edge.

Moulin Rouge! over Chicago every day of the week and twice on Sundays.

I finally watched Singin’ In The Rain last Christmas and it left me completely cold. I do not get the appeal.

No mention of Judy Garland yet? Wizard of Oz (less a “movie musical” than an icon of culture, but still), Meet Me in St Louis, The Harvey Girls, Easter Parade, Summer Stock, and on and on.

I did my Communication (film studies) thesis on Hollywood musicals from 1972-2002…a topic that seemingly no other scholar has ever bothered to focus on. I won a prize for it, though! Anyway, I did a whole section on the downward spiral of the Hollywood musical that began sometime in the 1960s, and here’s a rundown of my major points:

  1. The critical/commercial success of many '60s musicals (e.g. West Side Story, My Fair Lady, The Sound of Music) inspired Hollywood to commit one of its usual mistakes. It started churning out a bunch of lousy films in an attempt to cash in on a popular genre, and people got sick of it.

  2. Teenagers and young adults, especially young men, began replacing older women as the most profitable target audience for movies. Do most teenaged boys want to go see movies of a genre stereotypically associated with sappy housewives and gay men? Did young people in general during the Vietnam War era want to see people dancing around happily and singing in the rain? For the most part, no.

  3. Rock musicals could have brought in the kids, but around this same time the rock scene was becoming increasingly fragmented. The Beatles films did well, and so did Tommy (although it’s worth mentioning that these were British films, not Hollywood ones), but there weren’t many artists or albums with that kind of widespread appeal. Most rock movies don’t really appeal to anyone except the fans of the featured artists, and many aren’t musicals in the traditional sense at all but rather concert films, biopics, or straightforward dramatic films with a prominent soundtrack.

  4. The “adult musicals” of the 1970s (e.g. Cabaret, Nashville, All That Jazz) did gain an audience but turned off a lot of people by being too “dark”.

  5. Conversely, the “children’s musicals” (mostly Disney animated features), which were essentially the only major musicals of the 1980s and 1990s, helped to cement the musical’s reputation as a lightweight genre that only kids and the hopelessly naive could possibly enjoy. And after lyricist Howard Ashman died in 1991, even Disney couldn’t seem to put together a high-quality musical anymore.

As the millennium drew to a close, it looked like the Hollywood musical might be dead. But the genre had been pronounced dead before (many of you may know that it was considered “dead” for the first time in the early '30s, until 42nd Street came along!), and somehow always managed to rise again. I spent the bulk of my paper arguing that, beginning with Cabaret, a “new musical” or perhaps a “postmodern musical” was putting down roots, and that this plant finally produced its first ripe fruit with Moulin Rouge! Chicago soon followed, and I see reason to hope for revialized interest in the genre and its continuation (in various changing styles) well into the future.

In so far as Sondheim wrote the lyrics for “Candide,” “Company,” “A Little Night Music,” “A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum,” “Sunday in the Park with George,” “Sweeney Todd,” “West Side Story,” and “Gypsy,” among others, I don’t think you can put him in the same category as schlock-meister Andrew Lloyd-Webber.

You’ve mentioned this before – I would love to read it – is it available somewhere? Or if I paid for copying and postage, could you senc me a copy?

OH! I forgot all about Gypsy. GREAT movie.

There certainly seems to be a demand for well written, entertaining musicals. I for one have had enough CG explosions and storylines written around special effects. It’s refreshing to go to a movie and actually come out with a good feeling.