During the Great Depression, movies provided an escape from everyday life and musicals offered hope for a better future. La La Land, a modern twist on a traditional formula, has rekindled interest in this musical genre.
The film won the following awards at the Golden Globes: Best Motion Picture (Musical and Comedy), Best Director (Damien Chazelle), Best Original Score (City of Stars), Best Screenplay (City of Stars), Best Actor, Best Original Song, Best Actress (Emma Stone), Best Actor (Ryan Gosling), Best Actor (Emma Stone), and Best Actor (Damien Chazelle).
La La Land was a great escape. I also enjoy the courage of the director and cast to take on a difficult field. There are many musicals that can be consider great.
Here’s my list of the ten best musicals, as a musical tragedy. This list is not definitive. It does not include silent films such as The Jazz Singer (1927); the first Hollywood musical,
The Broadway Melody (1929); groundbreaking films such as Grease (1978) or Fiddler on the Roof (71); cult musicals such The Rocky Horror Picture Show (1975); and jukebox musicals such as Mamma Mia! (2008) Shows that are based on classic music theatre should be credit, such as Crazy Ex-Girlfriend (a TV musical comedy-drama series).
The following musicals have influenced the world of music theatre today. Each musical has an iconic quality that makes it stand out.
42nd Street Musicals (1933)
42nd Street is based on Ruby Keeler’s creation of a musical show in the Depression. It was the beginning of her career, which has been synonymous with early musicals.
This film shows the visuals of Busby Berkeley, choreographer whose technique is still unparalleled today. Berkeley is known for his ability to film from the top. His choreography was visually striking for a seated audience.
However, when viewed from above each step helps illustrate an image. A group of girls in flowing dresses might turn in a circle with a number of them dancing. The viewer would see a spinning flower and a dancer at the center would spin in the opposite direction.
Top Hat Musicals (1935)
Ginger Rogers and Fred Astaire were the most prominent dancing couple of the 1930’s. They starred in 10 films. Their meeting was accidental, as they were introduce on the set for Flying Down To Rio (1933) as supporting characters.
The chemistry between them was so amazing that the production team was shock. The film was their first, and it featured them as the leading characters. According to The Oxford History of World Cinema, boy meets girl; girl dances with boy; boy gets girl in a Fred & Ginger musical.
Rogers was wearing a feathered dress during filming of the classic song and dance, Cheek to Cheek. One errant feather fell onto the set, which was not notice in post-production editing.
An American in Paris (1951)
The Oscar-winning film featured dancers Gene Kelly and Leslie Caron. It’s a simple story about a Parisian painter who falls in love with an American. The dance sequences are exquisite.
Kelly choreographed one of the dance sequences, An American in Paris ballet. It is a 17-minute long extravaganza. It includes costumes inspired by a few French painters, including Renoir and Toulouse-Lautrec, and a gorgeous George Gershwin score.
Singin’ in The Rain Musicals (1952)
This film is now more poignant after the passing of Debbie Reynolds. Reynolds, who was only 20 at the time of her film’s production, starred alongside Gene Kelly (and Donald O’Connor). It is one of the most popular musicals ever made.
It features memorable songs, elaborate dance routines, and, of course, the scene-stealing title song. This is a humorous look at Hollywood at the time that silent films were replaced by talkies.
In any survey of the best American films, Singin’ in the Rain is undoubtedly in the top ten. In recent years, there have been many stage revivals. Everybody I know can sing along to Good Morning.
Based on Lynn Riggs’ play Green Grow the Lilacs (1931), this first collaboration between Richard Rodgers II and Oscar Hammerstein II explores the love story of a cowboy (Gordon MacRae), and a farmgirl (Shirley Jones).
It introduces the concept of the book music, a musical performance where songs and dances are a part of the story, allowing the audience to feel profound emotions. The story also has a darker side, as Jud, a farmer hand, falls in love with the lead lady. The title song and Oh, What a Beautiful Morning are two of the most popular numbers from this production.