John Huston with his younger cast members, including title star Aileen Quinn (center), on the set of "Annie"
As the popularity of the film musical continued to wind down, the studios picked up on an added trend: Not only was the public ostracizing musicals, but critics as well - professionals who, one would assume, have adventurous, open-minded tastes and should know better.
But as they say, never assume.
It became apparent that whenever a new movie musical opened, it would be compared - unfairly - to "Singin' in the Rain," a film which, for some bizarre, irrational reason, became the template to which all subsequent movie musicals would be compared. Yeesh!
So how do the few remaining denizens in Hollywood who actually like musicals combat critics who, sight unseen, declare every new movie musical "an unmitigated, unwatchable disaster!"?
Well, you bring in the Top Guns. Which is exactly what the studios did. You hire respected filmmakers, honchos, who critics would never question.
And so it begun, in the late 1970s and early '80s...
- John Huston signed on to direct a really terrific film version of "Annie."
- Sidney Lumet did his part on behalf of "The Wiz."
- Milos Foreman - Milos Foreman! - brought his considerable skills to what is arguably the definitive version of "Hair."
- Sir Richard Attenborough - the operative word here being "Sir" - was given the delicate task of bringing that Broadway darling, "A Chorus Line," to the big screen.
- Francis Ford Coppola, who in his youth did "Finian's Rainbow," pursued the provocative "One from the Heart."
- Martin Scorsese, a veritable savior among critics, dared to try his hand at an original movie musical, "New York, New York."
- Peter Bogdanovich developed his "new Cole Porter Musical," "At Long Last Love."
- Hal Prince, who delighted critics with his off-beat debut movie, "Something for Everyone," decided to follow it up with a little Sondheim piece that he directed on stage - "A Little Night Music."
The ploy didn't work. In fact, it backfired. If critics weren't going to accept a musical directed by the venerable John Huston (abetted by the very qualified Joe Layton), exactly what would they accept?