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From My Truthful Girl to Grease 2: Guardian writers on their favorite film musicals | Musicals

The Gold Diggers of 1933

The Gold Diggers of 1933 is a movie of quarters, and never simply the large cash that cowl the refrain line’s modesty. 4 wisecracking children are dying to make it on Broadway: Joan Blondell is a singer, Ginger Rogers a intercourse kitten, Ruby Keeler a sweetheart and Aline MacMahon has the jokes. However the exhibits they hustle into shut earlier than they open. As Rogers snarls, it’s “the despair, dearie”. However then Dick Powell adjustments their luck with catchy tunes and deep pockets. This can be a bona fide pre-Code musical, so the talkie scenes burst with prohibition-busting backstage antics and a bit of Park Avenue farce, however the curtains open huge on 4 of essentially the most outlandish numbers ever filmed, courtesy the kaleidoscopic visions of Busby Berkeley and what deadpan Ned Sparks calls: “The homosexual facet, the hard-boiled facet, the cynical and humorous facet of the Despair!” Vivacious financial optimism in We’re within the Cash and heartbreaking social commentary for the postwar technology in My Forgotten Man (blues vocals by Etta Moten) bookend the movie. In between, the dazzling neon-lit magic of the Shadow Waltz competes with the cheerily vulgar surrealism of Pettin’ within the Park to cease the present. Pamela Hutchinson

Singin’ within the Rain

A lot has been written about Singin’ within the Rain that it’s straightforward to overlook that it’s not simply concerning the beginning of the talkies. Speaking is the least of it. It’s concerning the beginning of music on display screen, the beginning of the film musical. Gene Kelly famously performs Twenties silent film star Don Lockwood who falls arduous for good, fairly wannabe actor Cathy Selden, performed by Debbie Reynolds. He will get her a job dubbing his immodest co-star, Lina Lamont, who seems to have a really squeaky voice, however they’ve an excellent greater and extra revolutionary thought. Why not put music into these newfangled sound footage? The musical is born. Cinema itself is reborn. Don’s pal Cosmo, splendidly performed by Donald O’Connor, will get a job as musical director and the cliches are true: the entire image erupts with pleasure, and with fantastic songs like All I Do Is Dream Of You, Moses Supposes, Make ’Em Snigger and naturally the indomitably romantic Singin’ within the Rain itself. Peter Bradshaw

Grease 2

Three years after the 1978 traditional Grease, audiences returned to Rydell excessive for the yearnings and hijinks of a brand new class of seniors. The plot is a gender-swapped (and lots of say feminist) reprise of the unique, with Michelle Pfeiffer in her first starring position as a cool-girl robust chick and Maxwell Caulfield as an egghead British trade pupil. A vital and industrial flop upon its launch, it’s since turn out to be a cult traditional, with standout numbers just like the 80s-rock-tinged Cool Rider and the infectious, none-too-subtle Rating Tonight (set in – what else? – a bowling alley) residing hire free in my head for many years. Directed by Patricia Birch, choreographer of the unique Broadway and movie variations, the ensemble dancing is exuberantly impeccable, and the costumes pitch good, notably within the expertise present. Certain, nobody appears to be like like an precise teen, however Grease 2 precisely captures the mercurial nature of adolescence, together with its strict hierarchies and codes and unrestrained horniness. With its fortieth anniversary developing subsequent yr, right here’s hoping that this under-recognized gem will lastly get its due because the uncommon sequel that’s superior to the unique. Lisa Wong Macabasco

My Truthful Girl

It’s outstanding a movie as luxy as My Truthful Girl – in 1964 the most costly film ever made – feels so weirdly genuine. Prime frocks, sure, and dazzling design, but additionally smog you may style and the real sense no less than two of the characters sleep of their tweeds. In some methods, this could possibly be a little bit of a downer. Our main man is – cor! – a misanthropic phonetics professor in late center age. His love rival is a wimpy stalker. Essentially the most interesting fella right here might be Wilfred Hyde-White, and he’s pushing 400. Both him or Stanley Holloway’s alcoholic binman. However the movie understands the issue. Seen from at this time, the plot – snobbish codger moulds spunky lady to his tastes; she melts – appears to be like dodgy. But it surely isn’t. George Cukor at all times took his main woman’s facet, and that is no exception. Rex Harrison’s Higgins is indulged, however nearly each lyric lampoons him. There’s two transformations right here: the one during which a lady has a wash and learns to enunciate about Andalucia. After which one during which a person realises he’s a nightmare. Eliza stays the identical inside; Higgins is modified perpetually. That’s why the ultimate scene seems like a rescue, not a coffin closing. Catherine Shoard


Bob Fosse introduced a writhing, sweaty, bowler-hatted eroticism to the Hollywood movie-musical, however intercourse was just one a part of the darkening, maturing affect he exerted over the style. His opulent route embraced the script’s literary origins in Christopher Isherwoood’s 1939 novel Goodbye to Berlin, putting the movie in a lineage courting again to Conflict and Peace, one other maximalist melodrama monitoring just a few people whereas historical past crashes down throughout them. As Nazism threatens to crash the whooping, hedonism-numbed occasion of Weimar Germany – lorded over by impish Joel Gray because the trickster-demon emcee – the incandescent Sally Bowles (Liza Minnelli, her efficiency incomes considered one of eight Oscars whole) shares a dalliance with British author Brian Roberts (Michael York) that ends in tragedy, each for them and for Europe. Past the jagged modernist perfection of the units, cinematography, costuming, choreography and performing, there’s a canny intelligence undergirding the spectacle. It’s all far too attractive to be branded the pondering individual’s musical, however Fosse masterfully splits the distinction between the 2. Charles Bramesco


There’s music within the voices and ambient noises interrupting or screaming over one another in Nashville, the Sistine Chapel of ensemble motion pictures. Robert Altman’s grand outdated tapestry is about nation musicians and the promoters, followers and wannabes who orbit them throughout live performance celebrations for America’s bicentennial. The movie is brimming with soulful ditties like Keith Carradine’s I’m Straightforward and Ronee Blakely’s My Idaho House. However Nashville’s famously dense and democratic soundscape finds its melody within the hum of site visitors and crowds and the rigorously amplified flirting, bickering, scheming, craving, hollering and political campaigning between them. Resonating simply as loudly at this time because it did in 1975, Nashville is a comic book and melancholic soundtrack to a nation divided between jingoistic patriotism and malaise. The 24 characters on its principal ensemble forged are like musical notes that complement and compete with one another. And all through Nashville’s epic runtime, Altman patiently waits and searches for a technique to get all of them in tune. Radheyan Simonpillai

Excessive Faculty Musical

My robust emotions for Excessive Faculty Musical, a groundbreaking cable TV occasion if not technically stellar film (the lip syncing? It’s off), owe principally to timing: I used to be 12 years outdated when it premiered in January 2006, the prime age to fall arduous for its traditional becoming in v being your self stakes and even more durable for Zac Efron’s hair swoop. It was a pleasure to get completely steamrolled by Disney’s appropriate calculation that scorching jock + lovely nerd + the plot of Grease + lunchroom choreography = generation-defining, inescapable hit. Watching HSM in its wave felt gravitational, enjoyably ridiculous; the primary film was earnest with out being too sentimental, your unhinged scream at a rollercoaster drop changed into the ethos of an entire franchise (whose endearment is evergreen – see: the very Gen Z meta HSM: The Musical: The Sequence starring one Olivia Rodrigo). However HSM is most beloved by me for its sturdiness – I’ve seen it dozens of instances, the soundtrack’s acquainted beats of teenage melodrama slicking each rewatch, each solidifying you could’t take your self too significantly when rising up (or bopping to the highest). Adrian Horton

Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Manufacturing unit

There are such a lot of alluring entry-points into Mel Stuart’s superb adaptation of Roald Dahl’s Charlie and the Chocolate Manufacturing unit – a deranged Gene Wilder going for broke, endlessly interesting, if disgustingly unhygienic, scenes of candy issues, a plot construction that resembles a chillingly informal slasher film however for annoying kids – that it’s straightforward to think about it working with out additionally being a musical (it was in any case a charming novel with out telegraphed tune breaks). However the delicate tonal steadiness of the story, from deliciously candy to stingingly bitter, works so properly as a result of of the music, a sprightly manner of dishing up spoonfuls of salt to youthful viewers. Dahl clearly hated the top product (he had the same distaste for Nicolas Roeg’s equally thrillingly perverse tackle The Witches) however it stays a wildly participating and trippy journey that manages, fairly deftly, to mix terrible children enduring merciless and strange, if arguably deserved, “deaths” (theories have since populated that evaluate Wonka to a deranged and ingenious moralistic killer a la Jigsaw) with full of life but sparsely scattered musical numbers. Singin’ within the Rain might by no means. Benjamin Lee

New York, New York

Hardly ever has the title tune from a musical eclipsed its supply fairly as cruelly as New York, New York. The movie, directed by Martin Scorsese on the again of his Taxi Driver success, was a pricey, grudgingly reviewed flop; the tune, composed by Cabaret geniuses Kander and Ebb, labored its manner swiftly into the American canon, made universally recognizable through Liza Minnelli’s authentic interpretation and Frank Sinatra’s subsequent cowl. However the movie, considered one of Scorsese’s biggest and gutsiest, deserved equal elevation. In 1977, audiences and critics weren’t positive what to make of a musical that married iridescent Forties showmanship with ugly post-Cassavetes relationship drama, exquisitely acted by Minnelli and Robert De Niro as a warring musician couple who had been by no means meant to be. However the pressure between these two modes is the purpose, capturing the disconnect between glistening onstage chemistry and abrasive backstage turmoil. It’s a disgrace the movie’s failure dissuaded Scorsese from ever trying the style once more: too lengthy dismissed, it sings, swings and slings pictures with the most effective of them. Man Lodge

O Brother, The place Artwork Thou?

There may be some debate as as to if the Coen brothers’ Homeric prison-escape comedy from 2000 is a musical in any respect, regardless of its T Bone Burnett-curated soundtrack of period-specific American people, spirituals and bluegrass. Effectively I say: if jukebox musicals like Mamma Mia can get away with a load of Abba cuts, or or certainly Throughout the Universe can chuck in random Beatles songs, then I relaxation my case. O Brother, in fact, advantages from the Coens on the prime of their recreation: a ridiculously convoluted idea (reimagining the briefly talked about movie challenge from Preston Sturges’ Sullivan’s Travels); a terrifically charismatic efficiency from George Clooney (additionally on the prime of his recreation) pulling the entire thing alongside; and naturally the music, central to the plot, fantastic to take heed to, and organised with scholarly rectitude. The 1913 tune Man of Fixed Sorrow, keened by these hilarious beards, is the showstopper; however I actually just like the baptismal sequence constructed round Down within the River to Pray – I don’t assume some other film-makers might have pulled that off. Andrew Pulver

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