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Musicals as a Genre

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kingrat
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Musicals as a Genre

Postby kingrat » March 19th, 2010, 4:00 pm

Our musical NCAA tournament--thanks to ChiO for a great job running it--got me thinking about the special questions raised by the musical as a genre. Many of us wondered whether certain movies were musicals: is Victor/Victoria a comedy with a couple of songs, or is it a musical? Is A Star Is Born a drama with songs, or a real musical? Is the biopic of a singer a musical? Interrupted Melody, with Eleanor Parker lip-synching to opera recordings, probably isn't, but what about Love Me or Leave Me? With a Song in My Heart?

How many songs does a film have to have? Some 1930s musicals have only two or three songs, although they may include a couple of spectacular Busby Berkeley production numbers. A number of John Ford films have more musical performances than that, and so does the oddball Bogart film It All Came True, yet no one would consider them musicals. Speaking of lip-synching, does it affect our view of a film if Marni Nixon is doing the singing instead of Natalie Wood or Audrey Hepburn?

Strict notions of auteurism also run aground on the shoals of the musical. After all, the direction of our tournament winner is credited to both Donen and Kelly. For another instance, the muscleman number in Gentlemen Prefer Blondes clearly reflects the sensibility of the choreographer, Jack Cole, rather than the sensibility of Howard Hawks. In Call Me Madam, recently seen on TCM, "What Chance at Love Have I?", an imaginatively staged number, features Donald O'Connor dancing on a xylophone. On the other hand, both scenes featuring "You're Just in Love" have a nearly static presentation of O'Connor and Ethel Merman. It's a safe bet that the director did those scenes without help from the choreographer who did such a delightful job with the xylophone. But on the other hand (we need an octopus for all the extra hands), "You're Just in Love" is one of Irving Berlin's best songs, Merman and O'Connor know how to put it across, and plenty of people would name this as a highlight of the movie. My Fair Lady may be static, but it has that great Lerner and Loewe score. Even if you don't love the first two hours of An American in Paris, there's the great ballet sequence that ends the film.

All of these questions and anxieties and second-guessings came out in the comments to our voting. I tend to remember musicals for their high points rather than for their overall effect, though the very best ones keep me continuously engaged.

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charliechaplinfan
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Re: Musicals as a Genre

Postby charliechaplinfan » March 20th, 2010, 4:22 pm

When I think about musicals, I tend to put musicals into two categories, musicals with stand out scores, like My Fair Lady, Oklahoma, Fiddler on The Roof, Guys and Dolls, to be more specific musicals with scores that are so well known to us. Then there are musicals that are made by the dancing, think Fred and Ginger, the scores are lovely, many from the American song book but watched more for the sheer elegance of Astaire and Rogers. Into this categroy I'd put in anything with Gene Kelly and Busby Berkeley. There are many films that meet both requirements, Singin' in the Rain being an example. Then there are films like A Star Is Born that don't neatly fit into either of my categories but I included it because it has songs, I think it's a great movie and deserved to be included.

My musical preference is nearly always for the dancing.
Failure is unimportant. It takes courage to make a fool of yourself - Charlie Chaplin

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mrsl
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Re: Musicals as a Genre

Postby mrsl » March 20th, 2010, 8:51 pm

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I've had the discussion many times with friends about what is a musical and what is a movie with music. The last being with our esteemed Mr. Rubini who finally made me give up my objections and just enjoy the show. I dropped out of this tournament in the second round because immediately I saw I could not choose judiciously. How could I possibly decide which was better - 7Brides for 7 Brothers or Oklahoma? Those were not the choices but the choice was similar.

I stated once that whatever musical I'm watching at the moment is my favorite. My idea of a musical is one whose songs replace spoken dialog such as when Lauri asks Ado Annie (in Oklahoma), what to do when a man holds your hand, and Annie starts singing "I cain't say no", she answers the question in song. Or when Will returns on the train and they ask him what's going on in Kansas City, and he sings "Everythings up to date in Kansas City", singing about the tall buildings and the paved streets, etc. Then there are the great musicals that don't replace dialog, but the songs reflect what is happening in the scene, such as "How can I ignore the boy next door", in Meet Me in St. Louis.

Biographies, and movies with songs in them are another category (to me). They inject songs, but the songs generally have nothing to do with the story or plot. Victor/Victoria is an example. Julie is a singer, so naturally she does songs on stage. Likewise with bios - the musicians music must be heard whether it is a Lerner & Lowe, or Ruth Etting. I was surprised to see a couple of Rogers/Astaire movies fit the 'musical' category, but the rest were movies with songs.

This, of course is just my opinion, and I bow to everyone else's choice. I feel the same about comedy also. There is the slapstick kind, like Bob Hope offers, and the pity/self pity kind of Charlie Chaplin. As long as there is music, I'm happy, and as long as something makes me laugh, I'm happy.
.
Anne


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feaito

Re: Musicals as a Genre

Postby feaito » March 21st, 2010, 7:58 am

Sorry to be so reiterative, but for me the epitome of the perfect musical is "Love Me Tonight" (1932), the perfect blending of plot, dialogue and music. Unsurpassed!

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Re: Musicals as a Genre

Postby stuart.uk » March 21st, 2010, 11:30 am

I split musicals into two. I call then either Drama/Musicals or just musicals. How I'm able to split them is that a movie where the performers start singing in a sort of fantasy way. Even though for example The Sound of Music, South Pacific, Funny Girl and West Side Story have plenty of drama in them, I still class them as musicals, because the artists for no reason suddenly still burst into song. In contrast, A Star Is Born, King Creole, Jailhouse Rock, Love Me Or Leave and even Fred and Ginger's The Vernon And Irene Castle Story are IMO drama/musicals, because the artists play musical performers who only sing and dance when on stage, or in a recording studio

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CharlieT
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Re: Musicals as a Genre

Postby CharlieT » March 21st, 2010, 12:53 pm

For what it's worth, I still think a "musical" is a movie that has its performers breaking out in song and dance for no particular reason with no one else finding it odd or out of place. Others that are generally catergorized as "musicals" are merely movies with a great deal of incidental music. Unfortunately, some films mix the two styles, which muddies the line separating the two.

But, hey. what do I know? :?
"I'm at my most serious when I'm joking." - Dudley

Don't sweat the petty things - don't pet the sweaty things.

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JackFavell
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Re: Musicals as a Genre

Postby JackFavell » March 23rd, 2010, 4:03 pm

I honestly never thought about it. A musical has musical numbers in it, and I don't care why. I think I tend to like the ones with spontaneous bursting better, but maybe that's not true - I haven't made a study of my favorites. All I can say is, who wants reality when they can have Fred and Ginger, Maurice and Claudette, Nelson and Jeannette, Betty and Don Ameche, Gene and Donald O'Connor, or Judy and anybody?

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knitwit45
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Re: Musicals as a Genre

Postby knitwit45 » March 25th, 2010, 6:46 pm

exactly!!!!! :lol:
"Life is not the way it's supposed to be.. It's the way it is..
The way we cope with it, is what makes the difference." ~ Virginia Satir
""Most people pursue pleasure with such breathless haste that they hurry past it." ~ Soren Kierkegaard

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intothenitrate
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Re: Musicals as a Genre

Postby intothenitrate » March 25th, 2010, 9:12 pm

I have to chime in with feaito about Love Me Tonight. I watched it one night after reading through the tournament posts. I have the nice Kino edition, and played it with the commentary track turned on. The commentator said that when Mamoulian (reluctantly) took the assignment, he got together with Rodgers and Hart first, and then built the film around what they were thinking about musically. He had just finished Jekyll & Hyde--which has a stunning array of innovative direction. The three of them must have thought they were inventing a completely new filmic language.

So by design, Love Me Tonight has great organic unity, with all the various elements balanced in the service of the music.
"Immorality may be fun, but it isn't fun enough to take the place of one hundred percent virtue and three square meals a day."
Goodnight Basington

feaito

Re: Musicals as a Genre

Postby feaito » March 25th, 2010, 9:30 pm

Hi Intothenitrate! Excellently put! My Kino DVD edition of the film is one of my cherished treasures. I watch the film and its extras every once in a while. What would I do to see the film complete without the cuts imposed by the Censors!

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mrsl
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Re: Musicals as a Genre

Postby mrsl » March 25th, 2010, 11:44 pm

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With my great love for musicals, and seeing them as often as I can, no matter what category they fall into according to my earlier explanation, I am going to go to the library and see if they have a copy of Love Me Tonight since I have never heard of it. I guess I'll go and look it up on imdB and see who's in it, but you guys have me curious. Everybody says how good it is, but nobody says what it is about, or who's in it.
Anne


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* * * * * * * * What is past is prologue. * * * * * * * *

]***********************************************************************

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intothenitrate
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Re: Musicals as a Genre

Postby intothenitrate » March 26th, 2010, 5:55 am

Oh Heavens. Maurice Chevalier and Jeanettte MacDonald are the principals, with a supporting cast including C. Aubrey Smith (love him), Charlie Ruggles, and Myrna Loy. And remember too that Chevalier and MacDonald played opposite one another in some earlier Paramount musicals directed by Ernst Lubitsch--so the bar was already set pretty high.

What do you think feaito, should we warn them about the song "Mimi?" It's trite, frothy and devilishly catchy. It's running through my head again even as I type this. It goes around and around in there and may make you start grinding your teeth!
"Immorality may be fun, but it isn't fun enough to take the place of one hundred percent virtue and three square meals a day."
Goodnight Basington

feaito

Re: Musicals as a Genre

Postby feaito » March 26th, 2010, 6:58 am

intothenitrate wrote:Oh Heavens. Maurice Chevalier and Jeanettte MacDonald are the principals, with a supporting cast including C. Aubrey Smith (love him), Charlie Ruggles, and Myrna Loy. And remember too that Chevalier and MacDonald played opposite one another in some earlier Paramount musicals directed by Ernst Lubitsch--so the bar was already set pretty high.

What do you think feaito, should we warn them about the song "Mimi?" It's trite, frothy and devilishly catchy. It's running through my head again even as I type this. It goes around and around in there and may make you start grinding your teeth!


And what about "Lover"??....and doesn't Charlie "fall flat on his flute"? :wink: And Myrna....she's priceless in this one.....and the scene with the doctor examining Princess Jeanette? And the hunt.....there are so many aspects to this film.

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JackFavell
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Re: Musicals as a Genre

Postby JackFavell » March 26th, 2010, 8:32 am

Love Me Tonight is wonderful, mrsl. Hope you enjoy it. I'd like to be able to see it again for the first time.

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intothenitrate
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Re: Musicals as a Genre

Postby intothenitrate » March 30th, 2010, 7:02 am

I'm just glad that we've been able to develop this thread without resorting to the term "goat gland." :shock:


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