Film Appreciation 2015: Lecture 34: Musicals in Hollywood


good morning we have been talking about musicals
in general with particular reference to hindi film cinema and we talked about the hindi
film great musicals and also the great artists from the hindi film scenario today i am going
to refer to as promised earlier to hollywood musicals and what were the landmarks in the
development of the musical genre so here are some of the names the broadway melody is a
movie one of the foremost one of the earliest films of this genre musicals are an important
genre as you know we will be talking about someone called flawrance zigfield who was
a producer then we will be talking about the great artists
that great dancers you remember you must note that dance is generally considered a domain
of women the female actors but how a couple of male performers change the perception about
dancing especially about men dancing so there is a whole lot of research done about the
male dancers and the construct of masculinity there so we have the great performers such
male performers gene kelly fred astaire and also frank sinatra i will write the name on
the board frank sinatra actor singer and dancer so gene kelly frank sinatro and fred astaire
these are the men associated with the musical genres
we also have the great jean hagen from the film singing in the rain not to confuse this
jean with this gene other female artists include ginger rogers cyd charsse and judy garland
these are the personalities we will be talking about we will also talk about the great directors
of musicals so ernst lubish who i have already referred to in one of my earlier lectures
on studio years studio periods in hollywood cinema stanley donen and vincent manely so
these are the directors at least the key directors we will also talk about the growth of hollywood
musicals from the tradition of american vaudeville and these are the most renowned personalities
and names they were earlier associated with broadway and then they made a move to the
hollywood screen ivan george geshwin these are all song writers
and composers so ivan george geshwin rodgers and hart irving berlin cole porter and oscar
hammerstein these are the people these are the names that we are going to refer to in
today’s lectures now why musicals and what is the importance of relevance of musicals?
we have to know that in at least in early periods of or early years of hollywood film
makers saw musicals as the most convenient way to give expressions to their creativity
now be it in the form of set designs choreography costumes and the way body would perform so
there musical was one of the most vivid and most acceptable kind of channel through which
artists give expression to the creativity in hollywood the musicals were at the peak
within the studio system of the Nineteen Thirties to the fiftys we have been talking about the
studio years we have been talking about the golden age of hollywood cinema so you should
be aware of the studio system and musicals were an important part of that period now
each major studio had its trademark esthetics we will be talking about the studio politics
as well but more than that it is important to know that like film making as in film making
you know that mgm was renowned for something the great grand spectacles if you remember
what i told you in my earlier classes more stars than the sky above that was mgm whereas
warner brothers existed on some other philosophy paramount on something else columbia pictures
on something else warner brothers was known for gangster cinemas
not mgm each major studio had its trademark esthetics so some of the greatest musicals
of the period were produced and released from the mgm lot they had their own sets of stars
dance directors and designers a major advantage of making musicals was that this genre enabled
the film makers to easily work around censorship see when you do a musical and just imagine
the grand hollywood kind of a musical in the early years in the 30s we are talking about
so you did not have to worry about the heroine’s costume we are still talking about the time
when haye’s code was in existence haye’s code the censorship code
so it has certain restrictions certain tableau on the way stars would be portrayed on the
screen but in the musicals you could work around the censorship code by way of body
movement gestures the kinds of any undos that the artist would dabble in and also the kinds
of costumes the stars and the dancers would wear so they could get away resort in by breaking
certain kinds of limitations the history of american or hollywood musicals can be traced
back to the notion of american vaudeville and musicals grew out of the culture of incorporation
of that defined american life after the civil war so american vaudeville was in existence
after the civil war from the late nineteenth century onwards
the development of the vaudeville marked the beginning of popular entertainment accessible
to all and that could become understood and afforded by all like cinema in its later years
vaudeville was also the domain or the big business and was dependent on the organizational
efforts of a growing number of upper class workers the bureaucrats the industrialists
they appeal to these people they were financed by these people these people have the spending
power they could produce this film they could also spend money to enjoy the show so vaudeville
change according to the changing taste of an urban middle class audience just like cinema
and then soon business savvy showmen utilize development in industrialization and communication
technologies they created and control vast networks of
theatre circuits and control popular american entertainment so musicals are marked on a
screen by several terms the operator review musical comedy musical drama and the back
stage musicals these are all just names given to the kinds of musicals that prevailed now
coming to back stage musicals this is also a kind of musical which grew out of the tradition
of the american vaudeville so one of the earlier rather the foremost film or the musical film
was the nineteen twenty nine the broadway melody which invented the genre called the
back stage musical so it is a musical genre within the back stage musical you also remember
that the jazz singer was the very first talking picture nineteen twenty seven now the plot
of back stage musicals involve the problems of putting onus to this is something very
common in our films also you can relate to perhaps a number of films
that you must have watched in any language within our own country so the problems are
putting on the show the process includes the concept of the process of audition getting
the right kinds of people for the show the rehearsals the gossip the bantering the back
biting the financial hurdles some kinds of obstacles are put in the way and then the
final show that is staged to thunders applause so that is the formula of back stage musicals
it is a in-depth process is put before you how difficult it is or how challenging it
is or how exciting it is to put up a show so needless to say there was a plenty of singing
and dancing during the rehearsals as well as the show on screen and the actors would
stage and dance and perform as if they are actually on the stage and viewing the audience
or in a real theatre watching these people perform just for us that was the impression
given to it so trying to perhaps break the wall that exist
between the cinema audience and the actors at the broadway melodies also notable film
because the title as i have already told you broadway refers to new york’s broadway as
a major source of hollywood musicals so it refers to something that is such an important
landmark in american culture and therefore very uptitle the film features lyrics by someone
called arthur freed who joined mgm as a regular and also were instrumental in inducting a
number of musical stars at the studio some of the greatest names from broadway were brought
to hollywood these are the names cole potter the geshwin rozer and hammerstein irwin berlins
so these are the names if you go back to broadway if you are interested in hollywood musicals
and the genre these are extremely important names
if you watch classic hollywood films you may often come across these names on screen the
earlier musicals plot wise they had little to do with the stories or with plotted so
the song and dance now must have thrown it thrown there characters would often break
into songs arbitrarily and randomly not necessarily to push the narrative forward soon musicals
got a european touch when artists from europe started to flood hollywood we are talking
about the late thirties earlier forties and introduced the operator style on american
screen now musicals change there they became a little more professional and classy
one of the earliest directors to whom we credit the growth of the early musicals at least
we are talking about the more sophisticated kinds of musicals was ernst lubish he is credited
with four musicals in the early years of sound the love parade monte carlo the smiling lieutenant
and one hour with you and these musicals helped define what talking movies would be what musical
genres would be lubish was embraced with open hours by the hollywood moughals and the famous
lubish touch included his felicity with actors he is genius for concentrating their maximum
amount of narrative information in a few carefully chosen shots and symbolic details and his
masterful sense of ellipses you know presenting only the important story points and leaving
the rest to the viewer’s imagination so what we are talking about? plenty of
details plenty of research would go in the way he would compose his shots but he would
also not tell the audience all what he was just showing you and the audience also had
to use their imagination the same concepts the same philosophy was applied for his musicals
also here enjoy the song beyond the blue horizon from lubish’s monte carlo the depression years american depression which
started with the crash of the wall street in nineteen twenty nine and continued till
the early years of the nineteen thirties like a decade so surprisingly or maybe not so surprisingly
musicals were very popular during the financial crisis of the thirties perhaps because of
the escapist elements say you go to a movie you forget for two hours
or so all your worries and problems and you lose yourself in a spectacle so musicals gave
the audiences a hope it is not surprising that the greatest musicals and composers flourished
during the worst financial crisis in the early years of the last century that is the great
depression a star that emerged during this decade was the child star sherley temple who
starred in eleven films between nineteen thirty four and thirty six she was a money ticket
for the studio she lead the fox studio out of financial problems and also brought hope
to the audiences as well to the studios alike through her songs and performances
a movie musical that made history during the great depression was the snow white and the
seven dwarfs the first full length animated feature which was a huge lead for both the
film and the musical industries we move on now to talk about someone who most people
consider the greatest ever performer and dancer on screen the hollywood screen fred astaire
as they form the legendary partnership with ginger rozers at rko studio and is considered
the greatest dancer ever together they worked on films such as the gray divorcee top hat
roberta and swing time after ginger retired prematurely astaire starred in several other
films successful films with actresses such as rita havord sheth shales judy garlin and
also in the films like the band wagon and funny face
so a number of popular film s starring fred astaire most are still ginger rozer films
are lead through the prism of sexual politics and ideology so gender ideology gender politics
through critics or film historians and scholars have done a major amount of research on the
sexual politics that was played out between the performance on stage so that is something
you know our topic or a discussion for some other class so here is a scene as a musical
moment by fred astaire the mgm musicals are remarkable for the way
the directors weave the songs and dances into the narrative
now in the films of jean kelly stanley donnen and vincent manely music serves to advance
their story the early musicals were rather simple and lack the complexity or characterization
of the later works of the genre and with the arrival of jean kelly stanley donnen and vincent
manely musicals acquired a kind of respectability which they hadn’t before the another important
name is flawrance zigfield who was the most influential producer in the history of broadway
musicals and mgm paid homage to zigfield’s films such as great zigfield zigfield girl
and zigfield follies again this also starred fred astaire and jean kelly two of the biggest
products by mgm mgm’s other greats by greats i mean the great musicals include annie get
your gun guys and dolls oklahoma the king and i south pacific westside story my fair
lady and of course the sound of music judy garland till date is remembered for her
somewhere over the rainbow song from the wizard of ours in nineteen thirty nine and this movie
was directed by victor fleming now is a fantastic tale about a kansas farm girl named dorothy
and who gets magically carried off spirited away to the land of ours judy garland was
one of the most loved most admired child star who also became a great leading lady of her
times and acted in several great films most of which were musicals she is still remembered
for her songs she did meet me in saint louis in nineteen forty four and also matched steps
with jean kelly in the pirated nineteen forty seven
she was nominated for the oscar award in a star is born where she sings the man that
got away and those of you who are interested in a star is born is a very it is a classic
movie about it is a love story and story of the plot is propelled through songs and dances
so a third version of the film before judy garlands there was earlier version also but
the third version had barbara strison and many people feel that judy garland’s version
is the best of all here is judy garland is doing somewhere over the rainbow from the
wizard of falls we have been talking about jean kelly he is often compared to another
great dancer that is fred astaire jean kelly has his own unique style he was
very urban very modern very sophisticated he brought dance into real life in his films
performing largely in regular clothes and in common settings in anchors away kelly danced
a duet with jerry that is a cartoon mouse a first feet of its kind he has zealous performing
ballymore’s on the towns in which he also starred with a great frank sinatra he worked
with directors such as stanley donnen on singing in the rain and also vincent manely and where
he continued taking dance as an art form to greater heights with films such as an american
in paris so here is jean kelly in cover girl nineteen forty four one of the greatest musicals ever made is
seven brides for seven brothers this was again an mgm film and starred howard keel and jim
powell and the story is about a backwards man who meets a town girl and marries her
and this motivates his six younger brothers to find wives for themselves so they kidnap
six girls they meet at a country fair and then love happens so the entire story again
the plot is driven propelled by great music and also great dance numbers the film was
directed by stanley donnen so here is the farm scene the country fair dance and scene
from seven brides for seven brothers a film that most of you must be very well
aware of i am sure many of you have watched this film the sound of music this was a nineteen
sixty five film starring julia enrose and christopher plummer it is remarkable for its
excellent score and is based on the life of wantrop family who escaped from the nadzees
in austria along with their children the film was directed by robert wise and had music
by razars and hammerstein gentle men prefer blawns is a horward hox movie starring jayne
russel and marlyn mandro in the roles of show girls who are off to paris on a luxury ocean
liner the musical numbers include the classic diamonds or a girl’s best friend marlyn
mandro’s song who also sang some great numbers in willy wylder’s some like it hard
she was not just a great star she was not just a beautiful actor she was also a great
performer and a very good singer there are a number of songs and scores credited to marlyn
mandro again we cannot complete this lecture without referring to singing in the rain although
i may have referred to this film several times when i was particularly talking about studio
years so this is a nineteen fifty two film it is a musical spoof of holywood when talkies
first replaced silent films The Jean Kelly and Jean Hugen appear in a silent film stars
who must made the transition to sound or loose their careers the film is considered the greatest
musical ever made the unique quality of the film is that it spoof the old Hollywood while
still displaying a deep sense of nostalgia for it some of the memorable songs are make
a laugh my lucky star broad way melody and of course the the title track here is a track
from singing in the rain My Fair Lady is the Hollywood version of the
Broadway hit of the same name based on Bernat Shaw’s play Pigmenion Rex Harrison here
is professor Higgins and eliza dolittle is played by odry hebber professor Higgins who
is a distinguished professor of phonetics sets out to make a lady of eliza do little
the music is by Ellen j learner here is the song songs and dances were integrated although
the film didn’t really have dances but dialogs were integrated in the songs or may be the
other way around here is the beautiful song from My fair lady
A hard day’s night is a beatle’s movie when we were talking about the british new
way refers to this film it stars the beatles as beatles themselves and revolves around
their hectic work scheduled during a trip to London the fallsome demonstrates their
excellence at their music as well as comedy so there are plenty of beatle songs the film
had a documentary feel and was directed by Richard lester and another extremely popular
film that won ten academy awards during this time is Robert wilds directed Westside story
again this was a broadway musical which was brought to the Hollywood screen Natalie wood
and Richard are the lovers in this story about rival gangs in new York get to where Shakespere’s
Romeo and Juliet is relocated the film was shot on locations and had music by Leonard
Benstin and steven sontime the film was as I have already told you by broadway musical
here is a song from Westside story another popular genre especially that started
from the fifties onwards is the rock musicals with the team pictures such as elwis presslays
jail house rock now elwis as a star in number of popular musicals and he was not just a
super star singer and a rock and roll artist also and was fairly successful movie star
and his movies also like song and dance vehicles for him like made for elvis so don’t expect
too much of a plot but still they are quite popular they remain popular mainly because
of the music Another great film which utilize rock and wills music in that time was the
girl cant help it the 1955 teen picture black board jungle made the rock and roll revolution
by featuring the hit number by billy helly and his comics rock around the clock and here
is the scene from black board jungle rock around the clock
that was a landmark song which was later on used in other films also
now let us talk about American grafity and we move towards the seventies now the movie
directed by George lucas is an accurate picture of the American youth culture in the 60s there
is a nostalgic take on he 60s before as a nation of president JF Kennedy it is about
the experience of some high school seniors on the eve of leaving for college or military
services the coming of age film the plot is episodic in structure and the film is very
ground breaking it brims with nostalgic atmosphere and it has some of the best sound tracks sourced
as well as the original the sound track in this film is peppered with wolfman jacks non
stop disk jockey show which is very crucial and very right because the film is set in
those times when the radio was on every weekend movement
so the relevance of significance of that period is heightened because the radio was there
all the time when wood play seeslessly an interesting musical of the seventies is directed
by Robert altman now we are talking about the American new wave directors and this is
Nashville it is set in Nashville country and western music scene and is a panoramic reflection
of America’s joyce frustration and also smugners encompacency it has again the movie
too again has episodic structure the story is unfolded through the eyes of twenty four
characters who are eventually convened at a national political rally so they meet at
a political rally and there is a crisscross between the musical music festival and a political
rally the film arrived at the intersection of two important periods in American history
the scandle of water gate involving president nickson and Vietnam or which reduced America’s
fate in its government but then this was also a period when the country proceeded with celebrating
its bicentennial celebrations the altman’s films recognized the hypsography of celebrating
the roots of a nation amid such chaos Nashville the setting for the film is apt
because it is the home of country music the film depicts how over a course of five days
a music festival and a political campaign was passed the actors were encouraged to improvise
and work on their own musical materials the actors really shown in this film particularly
Keith Carrydine and his song I am busy Another great performer of this period is Barbara
stycin she performed on broadway in nineteen sixty four a funny girl the movie rolls include
funny girl for which she won the nineteen sixty eight best actress Oscar also The way
we were on a clear day you see forever funny lady and young till her range goes from comic
to tragic but has films worked within the framework of traditional music so here is
a song from Barbara stycin the way we were I would also like to refer to country music
in the seventies and eighties country music increasingly find a place in hollywood’s
sound tracks such as five easy pieces honky tonky man and the tender mercies major artists
of this genre were canny rozers and dally partin the 70s also witnessed an increase
in rock musicals again as we were talking about the nostalgia as displayed in the American
graffiti and we also had the documentary types of rock musicals as well for example Woodstock
and also Norman Judeson Jesus Christ super stars so they were more or less like rock
musicals as well as they had a documentary touch an unforgettable movie of this period
is Saturday night fever made in nineteen seventy seven John trevolt has starred as a young
disco dancer in this film about a tough teen ager from Brooklyn in his poverty stricken
life the only moment of glory comes every Saturday
night on the dance floor of a local disco the music by the great bg set the standard
for many years to come now this is also a period when musicals started losing their
power after the debacle of star studded hello dolly the musical as a genre fell out of favor
with the studios but is still it remains it shows bits and parts as we have already talked
about with films such as Saturday night fever and also John Trevolt’s As Greece we have
already talked about Greece in one of our earlier classes so musicals may be over but
we still get a glimpse of this genre occasionally in Hollywood films such as evita which was
made in 96 starring Madonna in the title role along with Antonio magnerise again bola rudge
was the block buster dream girls mamamya night Chicago and hair spray
I must mention Buz larment’s contribution towards generating interest in this genre
particularly with mola rudge which is like an MTV version of an 1890 Paris Paris in during
the later part of the last decade of the nineteenth century the film is a celebration of show
business as well as the great musicals here is a scene song from mamma mia starring pears
broslyn and marrel streak so as I was talking about though musical as
a genre is not or has lot of esteem in Hollywood in our cinema it continues
Thank you very much. We will meet in our next class.

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