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oldmoviefan88

Best Musicals of all time

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It is funny. When you watch the musical numbers in Star!, you think you are seeing a '40s/50s MGM musical. Compare them to, say, Till The Clouds Roll By (1946) and it is very hard to "date" them. I think anybody who likes the earlier stuff would love Star! Of course, 1968 was a bad year for something like this to be released. It is always about timing. Maybe had it come out in '74 when the That's Entertainment! series started, it would have done better at the box office? There was more nostalgia and less revolution by then, as the success on TV of The Waltons and Happy Days proved.

Julie is somebody who was lampooned for her flops, but still loved as an actress by those working with her. One wonders the "why" something like Darling Lili got filmed, but I guess there was some need to promote the 50th anniversary of Armistice Day in order to please the parents of The Silent Majority (who, of course, were mostly the parents of the Baby Boom getting all of the attention) since the second world war was already milked to death that decade. Oh! What a Lovely War was also filmed in '68, but not delayed in release because of nervous Paramount executives witnessing how Hello Dolly! was sinking rival 20th Century Fox.

Stumbled on this vintage chestnut...

 

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I read something where two of Julie Andrews' projects were killed at MGM when Jim Aubrey took over at the studio in 1969. Supposedly she had a contract for two musicals. One of them was in pre-production. But Aubrey deemed them too expensive and he halted production and cancelled both films. I imagine she was paid off. Aubrey felt musicals were going out of fashion. Aubrey also killed a costly Fred Zinnemann drama that was only days from going in front of the camera. He ushered in a new era of budget-conscious movie-making, but a lot of what MGM made during his tenure was not very "cinematic" and would be on a par with TV movies of today.

Julie's next project was 1970's DARLING LILI at Paramount a studio that still had faith in the musical genre, having recently made money on PAINT YOUR WAGON. But then she had a four year gap. Her next film was 1974's THE TAMARIND SEED, which was not a musical. Then she disappeared from movie screens again until 1979's 10. Her movie career reached new heights in the early 80s, mostly with husband Blake Edwards guiding her performances.

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It is interesting to note that Darling Lili, Paint Your Wagon, Oh! What A Lovely War, Sweet Charity, Hello Dolly! and Goodbye, Mr. Chips! were all filmed pretty much within a six month period in 1968. The executives at Columbia were pretty confident in both Funny Girl and Oliver!, the latter completing principal photography across the big pond at Shepperton Studios in January 1968. Star!, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, The Night They Raided Minsky's and Finian's Rainbow were in their post-production editing stages, but there was a lot of confidence in them even if Camelot and Doctor Doolittle were losing money at the start of the year and The One And Only Genuine Family Band practically died at Radio City Musical Hall. It was like the Hollywood (and British) musical meets Titanic. The "iceberg" took the shape of the Tet offensive, Martin Luther King's assassination (prompting a temporary shutdown on the sets of Sweet Charity and Disney's non musical but still "wimsy" The Love Bug when the news hit), Robert Kennedy's assassination, the upheaval at the Democratic Convention... all bang! bang! bang! (Not the Chitty kind... hope I don't sound vulgar.)

Initially there was the thought of "well, we've experienced this before". Audrey Hepburn once delivered the news of JFK's assassination on the set of My Fair Lady and business continued as usual. This year is no different. Yet something was definitely different in the water this time. The Academy made sure TWO musicals (two rare ones that were profitable) were nominated for Best Picture and one won for that year, almost as a farewell before the great sinking. Even as Babs Streisand accepted her award, there was already a dark cloud suggesting her recently completed Hello Dolly! and her ready-to-start-filming On A Clear Day, You Can See Forever weren't going to survive the ship going down.

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Incidentally I think Julie Andrews deserves to be honored as a Star of the Month on TCM.

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Forgot three titles above and had to re-edit. Forgot just how many musicals came out at once.

 

I must be slipping...

 

Getting back to topic (so sorry), I don't know what qualifies as "best", but I have a good dozen old reliables that I always go back to (besides those I've mentioned already):

The Three Caballeros

Singin' In The Rain

42nd Street

Spreadin' The Jam (MGM short, 1945)

The Music Man

Dames

The Band Wagon

Take Me Out To The Ballgame

Top Hat

Jammin' The Blues (Warner short, 1944)

Symphony Of Swing (Warner short, 1939)

Lady And The Tramp

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On 4/17/2018 at 10:53 AM, TopBilled said:

I read something where two of Julie Andrews' projects were killed at MGM when Jim Aubrey took over at the studio in 1969. Supposedly she had a contract for two musicals. One of them was in pre-production. But Aubrey deemed them too expensive and he halted production and cancelled both films. I imagine she was paid off. Aubrey felt musicals were going out of fashion. Aubrey also killed a costly Fred Zinnemann drama that was only days from going in front of the camera. He ushered in a new era of budget-conscious movie-making, but a lot of what MGM made during his tenure was not very "cinematic" and would be on a par with TV movies of today.

Julie's next project was 1970's DARLING LILI at Paramount a studio that still had faith in the musical genre, having recently made money on PAINT YOUR WAGON. But then she had a four year gap. Her next film was 1974's THE TAMARIND SEED, which was not a musical. Then she disappeared from movie screens again until 1979's 10. Her movie career reached new heights in the early 80s, mostly with husband Blake Edwards guiding her performances.

Jim Aubrey, he was the man they called  "The Smiling Cobra ". He was the man who tortured and harassed Judy Garland, when he was the head of CBS.

I had no idea that he was involved with trying to screw over Julie Andrews too. Obviously he had a hatred of musicals and the women who were the singing stars of those musicals.

Gerold Frank wrote a definitive biography " Judy ", which, of course, is a good source for this subject.

Mel Tormé's book about the The Judy Garland Show, "The Other Side of the Rainbow", is an egocentric, envious small- minded poke at the star. However, it does contain some good details and realistic backstage stories.

What I resented about Tormé's book was the mean-spirited tone in which it was written in. He agreed to be in charge of speciality numbers and arrangements for her show, yet he resented the fact that he did not have a show and that he was not being featured  on Judy's show every week. That was his problem, not Judy's.

Reportedly before he died, he apologized to both of her daughters for the nasty quality of his book, as he and Judy had known each other since MGM in the 40s.( He even ended up trying to sue Judy just before her death .)

Liza accepted the apology; Lorna did not.

 

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On Tuesday, April 17, 2018 at 8:15 AM, Jlewis said:

I like the Flamingos' 1958 version of "I Only Have Eyes For You".

There have always been great musicals and bad musicals. There certainly was plenty of boring stuff alongside the masterpieces throughout the thirties and forties. The only problem after the fifties was that there were fewer musicals... and the bad ones often were expensive affairs getting a lot of publicity. Although I was a childhood fan of Doctor Doolittle and Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, even I understood that neither would make Time Out's Top 100 lists... even if I still don't quite understand all of the hate they receive even today.

Basic problem: there was less money to spend on them and, when there was money, it was mostly spent on the scenery rather than the story and songs. I recall an interview Debbie Reynolds did for some 1970s retrospective, maybe it was to promote the second That's Entertainment? I can't remember exactly. Yet she said that by the time she made The Unsinkable Molly Brown, everything had to be done so quickly and on budget that there was little effort to make any numbers perfect like the good ol' days when Arthur Freed was in control. Mind you, Molly Brown was still a grade A production compared to the competition. I don't know how many takes Fred Astaire did for The Band Wagon a decade earlier with Arthur Freed and Vincente Minnelli saying "you're the boss", but you just know he was operating in a completely different climate by the time of Finian's Rainbow and it is no wonder he was so much happier voicing cartoons like Santa Claus Is Coming To Town after that point.

Yet the situation is blatantly obvious when you compare a 1940s "aquamusical" of Esther Williams with an Elvis Presley vehicle of the 1960s, since they often resemble each other in basic plots. Just that there was so much more... there... in the earlier production numbers. Certainly enough for Miss Piggy to lampoon in The Great Muppet Caper (one excellent but under-rated musical of a later generation). Comparing Esther with Elvis, just in terms of their films and NOT their talent (because Elvis deserves all of his popularity and, yes, he did make a few winners like Viva Las Vegas, also made at MGM like Jailhouse Rock), it is like comparing a Chuck Jones directed Roadrunner cartoon Gee Whizzz with Rudy Larriva's The Solid Tin Coyote a decade later. Both have the same you-know-what-to-expect quality about them, but there is huge difference in so many other departments. I am sure Esther had way too much dignity to sing "Yoga Is As Yoga Does".

There is an odd peculiar feel to the sixties musicals that always leaves an odd taste in my mouth, but also adds to their curious doomed-to-failure charm. They were obviously made by That Older Generation with no clue how to deal with the younger Rock & Roll generation. Even Barbra herself seems a bit out of place in the much cherished (and, therefore, not a failure) Funny Girl, despite her well-deserved Oscar performance. She is way TOO animated even by Fanny Brice standards, as if she feels like all of the weight of the production is put on her shoulders alone. I think she was more comfortable in the later romantic comedies and dramas of the seventies. The problem had to do with the struggle of matching the right role with the right personality. I think she was chosen for Hello Dolly! simply because she had talent, but not because she fit the character at all. I was equally disappointed with Natalie Wood in Gypsy, despite all of the energy she displays in her performance (and she tries awfully hard), although I thought she was great in West Side Story. Then again, the real Nat's personality was closer to Maria than Gypsy anyway. Even Carol in Bob, Ted, Carol & Alice is more like Maria and Nat than Gypsy. There just wasn't much pre-planning in character/actress analysis in these sixties elephants.

Much praise has been given to the rock musicals of the seventies, but many haven't aged well for me. Even the contemporary Fiddler On the Roof ages better despite its affection for "traditions! traditions! traditions!". I understand the cult appeal of Rocky Horror Picture Show, but it is among those films I am happy to have only seen once. Grease never impressed me apart from Eve Arden's hilarious role as the high school principal. I feel that the wrong people were making these. Those who wanted to make a musical weren't the ones making the musical. Mostly the seventies and eighties stuff, the awful Footloose included, are merely loud on the ears. At least with the Muppets, there was so much effort to make them more human (like the Disney studio making drawn images photographed with cells more human) and, thus, more affection towards the production.

I do need to re-watch Chicago again for a newer appraisal. It was a good musical, but also a loud and obnoxious one that seemed to try too hard to please the newer generation that must have constant bombardments of images at all times or else they get too bored. Yet I had a massive headache leaving the theater back in 2002. Dreamgirls was a bit better for me, even if it failed to win Best Picture.

 

On Tuesday, April 17, 2018 at 8:15 AM, Jlewis said:

I like the Flamingos' 1958 version of "I Only Have Eyes For You".

There have always been great musicals and bad musicals. There certainly was plenty of boring stuff alongside the masterpieces throughout the thirties and forties. The only problem after the fifties was that there were fewer musicals... and the bad ones often were expensive affairs getting a lot of publicity. Although I was a childhood fan of Doctor Doolittle and Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, even I understood that neither would make Time Out's Top 100 lists... even if I still don't quite understand all of the hate they receive even today.

Basic problem: there was less money to spend on them and, when there was money, it was mostly spent on the scenery rather than the story and songs. I recall an interview Debbie Reynolds did for some 1970s retrospective, maybe it was to promote the second That's Entertainment? I can't remember exactly. Yet she said that by the time she made The Unsinkable Molly Brown, everything had to be done so quickly and on budget that there was little effort to make any numbers perfect like the good ol' days when Arthur Freed was in control. Mind you, Molly Brown was still a grade A production compared to the competition. I don't know how many takes Fred Astaire did for The Band Wagon a decade earlier with Arthur Freed and Vincente Minnelli saying "you're the boss", but you just know he was operating in a completely different climate by the time of Finian's Rainbow and it is no wonder he was so much happier voicing cartoons like Santa Claus Is Coming To Town after that point.

Yet the situation is blatantly obvious when you compare a 1940s "aquamusical" of Esther Williams with an Elvis Presley vehicle of the 1960s, since they often resemble each other in basic plots. Just that there was so much more... there... in the earlier production numbers. Certainly enough for Miss Piggy to lampoon in The Great Muppet Caper (one excellent but under-rated musical of a later generation). Comparing Esther with Elvis, just in terms of their films and NOT their talent (because Elvis deserves all of his popularity and, yes, he did make a few winners like Viva Las Vegas, also made at MGM like Jailhouse Rock), it is like comparing a Chuck Jones directed Roadrunner cartoon Gee Whizzz with Rudy Larriva's The Solid Tin Coyote a decade later. Both have the same you-know-what-to-expect quality about them, but there is huge difference in so many other departments. I am sure Esther had way too much dignity to sing "Yoga Is As Yoga Does".

There is an odd peculiar feel to the sixties musicals that always leaves an odd taste in my mouth, but also adds to their curious doomed-to-failure charm. They were obviously made by That Older Generation with no clue how to deal with the younger Rock & Roll generation. Even Barbra herself seems a bit out of place in the much cherished (and, therefore, not a failure) Funny Girl, despite her well-deserved Oscar performance. She is way TOO animated even by Fanny Brice standards, as if she feels like all of the weight of the production is put on her shoulders alone. I think she was more comfortable in the later romantic comedies and dramas of the seventies. The problem had to do with the struggle of matching the right role with the right personality. I think she was chosen for Hello Dolly! simply because she had talent, but not because she fit the character at all. I was equally disappointed with Natalie Wood in Gypsy, despite all of the energy she displays in her performance (and she tries awfully hard), although I thought she was great in West Side Story. Then again, the real Nat's personality was closer to Maria than Gypsy anyway. Even Carol in Bob, Ted, Carol & Alice is more like Maria and Nat than Gypsy. There just wasn't much pre-planning in character/actress analysis in these sixties elephants.

Much praise has been given to the rock musicals of the seventies, but many haven't aged well for me. Even the contemporary Fiddler On the Roof ages better despite its affection for "traditions! traditions! traditions!". I understand the cult appeal of Rocky Horror Picture Show, but it is among those films I am happy to have only seen once. Grease never impressed me apart from Eve Arden's hilarious role as the high school principal. I feel that the wrong people were making these. Those who wanted to make a musical weren't the ones making the musical. Mostly the seventies and eighties stuff, the awful Footloose included, are merely loud on the ears. At least with the Muppets, there was so much effort to make them more human (like the Disney studio making drawn images photographed with cells more human) and, thus, more affection towards the production.

I do need to re-watch Chicago again for a newer appraisal. It was a good musical, but also a loud and obnoxious one that seemed to try too hard to please the newer generation that must have constant bombardments of images at all times or else they get too bored. Yet I had a massive headache leaving the theater back in 2002. Dreamgirls was a bit better for me, even if it failed to win Best Picture.

 

On Tuesday, April 17, 2018 at 8:15 AM, Jlewis said:

I like the Flamingos' 1958 version of "I Only Have Eyes For You".

There have always been great musicals and bad musicals. There certainly was plenty of boring stuff alongside the masterpieces throughout the thirties and forties. The only problem after the fifties was that there were fewer musicals... and the bad ones often were expensive affairs getting a lot of publicity. Although I was a childhood fan of Doctor Doolittle and Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, even I understood that neither would make Time Out's Top 100 lists... even if I still don't quite understand all of the hate they receive even today.

Basic problem: there was less money to spend on them and, when there was money, it was mostly spent on the scenery rather than the story and songs. I recall an interview Debbie Reynolds did for some 1970s retrospective, maybe it was to promote the second That's Entertainment? I can't remember exactly. Yet she said that by the time she made The Unsinkable Molly Brown, everything had to be done so quickly and on budget that there was little effort to make any numbers perfect like the good ol' days when Arthur Freed was in control. Mind you, Molly Brown was still a grade A production compared to the competition. I don't know how many takes Fred Astaire did for The Band Wagon a decade earlier with Arthur Freed and Vincente Minnelli saying "you're the boss", but you just know he was operating in a completely different climate by the time of Finian's Rainbow and it is no wonder he was so much happier voicing cartoons like Santa Claus Is Coming To Town after that point.

Yet the situation is blatantly obvious when you compare a 1940s "aquamusical" of Esther Williams with an Elvis Presley vehicle of the 1960s, since they often resemble each other in basic plots. Just that there was so much more... there... in the earlier production numbers. Certainly enough for Miss Piggy to lampoon in The Great Muppet Caper (one excellent but under-rated musical of a later generation). Comparing Esther with Elvis, just in terms of their films and NOT their talent (because Elvis deserves all of his popularity and, yes, he did make a few winners like Viva Las Vegas, also made at MGM like Jailhouse Rock), it is like comparing a Chuck Jones directed Roadrunner cartoon Gee Whizzz with Rudy Larriva's The Solid Tin Coyote a decade later. Both have the same you-know-what-to-expect quality about them, but there is huge difference in so many other departments. I am sure Esther had way too much dignity to sing "Yoga Is As Yoga Does".

There is an odd peculiar feel to the sixties musicals that always leaves an odd taste in my mouth, but also adds to their curious doomed-to-failure charm. They were obviously made by That Older Generation with no clue how to deal with the younger Rock & Roll generation. Even Barbra herself seems a bit out of place in the much cherished (and, therefore, not a failure) Funny Girl, despite her well-deserved Oscar performance. She is way TOO animated even by Fanny Brice standards, as if she feels like all of the weight of the production is put on her shoulders alone. I think she was more comfortable in the later romantic comedies and dramas of the seventies. The problem had to do with the struggle of matching the right role with the right personality. I think she was chosen for Hello Dolly! simply because she had talent, but not because she fit the character at all. I was equally disappointed with Natalie Wood in Gypsy, despite all of the energy she displays in her performance (and she tries awfully hard), although I thought she was great in West Side Story. Then again, the real Nat's personality was closer to Maria than Gypsy anyway. Even Carol in Bob, Ted, Carol & Alice is more like Maria and Nat than Gypsy. There just wasn't much pre-planning in character/actress analysis in these sixties elephants.

Much praise has been given to the rock musicals of the seventies, but many haven't aged well for me. Even the contemporary Fiddler On the Roof ages better despite its affection for "traditions! traditions! traditions!". I understand the cult appeal of Rocky Horror Picture Show, but it is among those films I am happy to have only seen once. Grease never impressed me apart from Eve Arden's hilarious role as the high school principal. I feel that the wrong people were making these. Those who wanted to make a musical weren't the ones making the musical. Mostly the seventies and eighties stuff, the awful Footloose included, are merely loud on the ears. At least with the Muppets, there was so much effort to make them more human (like the Disney studio making drawn images photographed with cells more human) and, thus, more affection towards the production.

I do need to re-watch Chicago again for a newer appraisal. It was a good musical, but also a loud and obnoxious one that seemed to try too hard to please the newer generation that must have constant bombardments of images at all times or else they get too bored. Yet I had a massive headache leaving the theater back in 2002. Dreamgirls was a bit better for me, even if it failed to win Best Picture.

Miss Piggy referenced Esther Williams' water ballets, I just wasn't sure which Esther Williams film and water ballet they were referencing, since I've seen every Esther film and water ballet there was. Of course when I first saw "The great Muppet caper as a kid, I had no idea who Esther Williams was and I assumed that miss Piggy's water ballets was an original idea. I didn't start watching old films including Esther's until years later as an adult.

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The wonderful thing about the Muppets is that they referenced everybody. I think Jim Henson maintained a scrapbook of every memorable movie scene he could think of. Sesame Street was what got me into silent movies as a kiddie myself with their wonderful "find the exit" sequence (i.e. kids talking to a silent heroine on the screen while she's trying to escape a fire). The Muppet Movie (first one shown in theaters) was also a nice send-off for Edgar Bergen and Charlie McCarthy; Edgar and Candice each having star roles on the TV show earlier. No pop icon was overlooked. Not even Esther.

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6 hours ago, Jlewis said:

The wonderful thing about the Muppets is that they referenced everybody. I think Jim Henson maintained a scrapbook of every memorable movie scene he could think of. Sesame Street was what got me into silent movies as a kiddie myself with their wonderful "find the exit" sequence (i.e. kids talking to a silent heroine on the screen while she's trying to escape a fire). The Muppet Movie (first one shown in theaters) was also a nice send-off for Edgar Bergen and Charlie McCarthy; Edgar and Candice each having star roles on the TV show earlier. No pop icon was overlooked. Not even Esther.

I do remember those Sesame street skits where Maria referenced Charlie Chaplin.

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