Thursday, July 24, 2014
the film musical: overlooked gems
In fact, the "film version" of a stage hit was seen as some kind of validation, much to the chagrin of Broadway types who would invariably complain about the bastardization of one of their own.
Exacerbating this was the fact that certain bona fide hit musicals somehow fell through the cracks, also inciting the Broadway community.
You're damned it you do and damned if you don't.
Some shows finally made it to the screen after a long delay - "Chicago," "The Phantom of the Opera," "Dreamgirls," "Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street" and "Les Misérables."
But there are other titles that have been neglected for several decades.
Say, five decades.
Instead of doing remakes (new versions of "Gypsy," "Carousel" and "My Fair Lady have been threatened), why not be adverturous and committ some longgone, once-legendary stage musical to celluloid?
I'm thinking specifically of two superior shows by composers Jerry Bock and Sheldon Harnick, the Pulitzer Prize-winning "Fiorello" and the endlessly enchanting "She Loves Me"; John Kander and Fred Ebb's "Zorba" and "70 - Girls - 70"; Frank Loesser's masterwork, "The Most Happy Fella," adapted from Sidney Howard's "They Knew What They Wanted," and his underrated "Greenwillow," and Robert Merrill's hugely popular hit "Take Me Along," based on Eugene O'Neill's "Ah, Wilderness!," which caused quite the stir in its day, thanks to Jackie Gleason's star power.
Prior to his death, Bobby Darin had talked about buying "Fiorello" as a starring film vehicle for himself, and Tony Perkins, who starred in the Loesser show on Broadway, wanted to film "Greenwillow" with Jane Fonda (his "Tall Story" co-star) as his leading lady.
And, saddest of all, "She Loves Me" was once the dream project of Blake Edwards who hoped to film it at MGM with Julie Andrews in the Barbara Cook role, but MGM's long-time instability was starting up at the time.
Meanwhile. producers Menahem Golan and Yoram Globus were once so committed to filming the stage musical of "Zorba," with the original film star, Anthony Quinn, encoring in the title role, that they even took out one of those "production about to begin" ads in Variety. John Travolta was listed in the ad as Quinn's co-star, presumably in the Alan Bates role.
It never happened, natch. And neither did the others.
Film them already!
Posted by joe baltake at 3:33 PM