Friday, July 11, 2014

the film musical: palatable

While the film musical has generally been dismissed, disparaged and ridiculed - largely by those who don't understand it or would even bother to sit through one - there are those precious few that have enjoyed wide popularity.   These tend to be musicals in which music itself is inherent to the narrative, in which singing, dancing and performing drive the plot.

These musicals are naturally ... musical.

The most obvious case-in-point is Stanley Donen and Gene Kelly's "Singin' in the Rain" (1952), which ostensibly chronicles the transition of silent moviemaking to sound films but actually revolves around the making of a film musical.  George Cukor's remake of "A Star Is Born" (1954), although not a book musical, also chronicles the production of soundstage musicals.

Other musical/musical films that the public have accepted include Morton DaCosta's "The Music Man" (1962), about a con man selling small-town denizens on a boys' band; Mervyn LeRoy's "Gypsy," (1962), about vaudeville and the early days of burlesque; Robert Wise's "The Sound of Music" (1965) about the von Trapp family singers, and George Sidney's "Bye Bye Birdie" (1963), about a rock star's induction into the military.

The respective subjects of each of these films make all the singing and dancing palatable, even to people who say they don't like movie musicals.


t. nijman said...

I believe that you're onto something here. I'm not what you would call a film-musical enthusiast, but I do love the ones you mentioned. I think that having a plot that naturally sings makes all the difference.

James K. said...

Absolutely. It helps the audience to accept "the weirdness" of characters bursting into song when the movie is about musical people to begin with. In fact, I think it's the only way to make musicals acceptable to the modern moviegoer.

joe baltake said...

The "modern moviegoer" can sit through any kind of SciFi nonsense and super-hero garbage, but the idea of people singing on-screen creeps them out. I ask you, James, exactly who's "weird"?