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NZ

WORST MUSICALS EVER

90 posts in this topic

Okay, I'm going to kick this one off with what I would consider unqualified stinkers:

 

Casa Manana (yes, we have no mananas...)

Comin' Round the Mountain

The Strip (waiting for the sequel - The Tease)

Meet Danny Wilson (do I have to)

I'll See You In My Dreams (or nightmares)

Skirts Ahoy (desperate gals in the navy - novel treat)

The Merry Widow (1950 - bad idea to remake an operetta with a lead who can neither sing or dance)

The I-Don't-Care Girl (and neither did we)

The Stars Are Singing (but we're hopeful of an eclipse)

Top Banana (badly bruised and green)

Jupiter's Darling (Esther Williams outstaying her legacy one waterlogged acquacade too many)

Anything Goes (and it did - unfortunately)

The Opposite Sex

Ten Thousand Bedrooms (and only one port-a-potty)

Beau James

Loving You (hating the rest)

The Helen Morgan Story (who?!?)

The Girl Most Likely (to what?)

For the First Time (hope it's the last...oh good, it is)

Li'l Abner (big mistake)

Song Without End (aaahhhhh!!!!)

Let's Make Love (can't we just rent a dirty movie and be done with it?)

Babes in Toyland

Follow the Boys (I prefer the girls, but hey, to each his own)

Sergeant Deadhead (oh yeah - divine sublime synopsis here)

Get Yourself A College Girl (then what)

Camelot (should'a, could'a, would'a - but didn't)

Good Times

Goodbye Mr. Chips (1969)

Finian's Rainbow

Star!

Paint Your Wagon (and your fence, and your vocal chords...please!)

Sweet Charity (sour chastity)

On A Clear Day You Can See Forever (unfortunately, but we're expecting fog...it can't come soon enough)

Song of Norway (and Sweden, and Istanbul, and Nigeria, and...)

Man of LaMancha (the only impossible dream was expecting that O'Toole and Loren could carry a tune)

Lost Horizon (1973)

Lost in the Stars (where's a good meteor shower when you need it?)

Tom Sawyer

Phantom of Paradise

Funny Lady (No - try again...please don't)

At Long Last Love (but precious little else)

The Little Prince

The Blud Bird (1976)

Scott Joplin

Grease II (yeah, let's do it over again with really bad acting and campy eighties twang)

I Wanna Hold Your Hand (then how will I be able to cover my ears?)

Thank God It's Friday (Saturday hangover definitely)

Hair

The Jazz Singer (1980)

Can't Stop the Music (sadly)

Popeye

Xanadu

Yes Giorgio (NO - thank you!)

Stayin' Alive (but dying quickly)

Beat Street

School Daze

Bert Rigby You're a Fool (and so were you if you bought a ticket to this one!)

 

TELL ME YOUR WORST!

 

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NZ

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I think you're gonna get some arguments from Jack on some of those! ;-) This one was showing on IFC while I was cooking supper recently. It said it had Gene Kelly in it, so I left it on. I couldn't make it to the end. "The Young Girls of Rochefort" (1967). I lost my appetite soon thereafter.

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"I think you're gonna get some arguments from Jack on some of those!"

 

Actually, I'd say that's a pretty good list, though some of them I haven't seen to judge for myself. There are a few there that I'd like to check out too: The Helen Morgan Story, the biopic of the legendary torch song singer (and star of the 1936 Showboat) with Ann Blyth. The mystery to me regarding this movie is not "why choose Helen Morgan for a biopic" (sounds good to me!), but rather why they dubbed Ann Blyth's voice with that of Gogi Grant. And I'm curious to see Jupiter's Darling.

 

I'd move On A Clear Day... up to the mediocre level too, as there are some great scenes (the Brighton Pavilion, for example) to counterbalance the tedium. It's Minnelli, Beaton, Streisand...

 

Most surprising about NZ's list of the worst is that A Chorus Line, Annie, and Chitty Chitty Bang Bang didn't make it. A great disappointment of mine is Athena. I love the Martin/Blaine score and the recording is one of my favorites thanks to Jane Powell and Vic Damone. But the story line is so poorly written and executed; character motivations make no sense. The first time I saw it was about a year after I'd bought the recording and looked forward to finally seeing the images that went with the score. Oy. But you know -- I'd watch it again. And it has camp value (as anything with Steve Reeves does!).

 

I always imagined that A Little Night Music would be bad, but have never seen it...

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While I agree there have been some awful musicals, several of which I can find on your list (but I won't be providing their names or those of any others because I always try to find something good to say about a movie, in lieu of bashing it), I personally think that The Girl Most Likely (1957) and Sweet Charity (1969) have their merits. I wouldn't rate either of them among my favorite musicals, and neither is great, but each certainly has some charm. I actually find TGML to be more tolerable than the original Ginger Rogers film (Tom Dick and Harry (1941)) on which it's based (sacrilege, I know) because of Jane Powell's performance (and I don't normally like her films). And how can anyone not like Shirley MacLaine? Sure, I can do without the doofus who played her co-star, but "Hey, Big Spender!", "If They Could See Me Know", and Sammy Davis Jr. can't be all bad.

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I guess I'll have to go back and watch "Li'l Abner" and "Finian's Rainbow" again. Being a former hater of musicals, I remember these two as the only musicals I liked as a kid (other than "Tommy", which I can't stand now). Were they really that bad?

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Everyone knows that Ann Blyth has a beautiful singing voice. But I think the reason they chose Gogi Grant to do the singing is that her style is more in keeping with the torch singer that Helen Morgan was. Ann Blyth's voice tends to be more operatic, as she displayed in "Kismet" and "The Great Caruso". Just a thought.

 

Also, as far as worst musicals, the ones that come to mind are "Gentlemen Marry Brunettes" and "So This is Paris" with Tony Curtis and Gloria De Haven.

 

And I also don't think that "The Girl Most Likely" was all that bad. It did have a couple of terrific numbers, and Jane Powell is her usual charming self.

 

Terrence.

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"I think the reason they chose Gogi Grant to do the singing is that her style is more in keeping with the torch singer that Helen Morgan was."

 

So why not hire Gogi Grant to play the part? Because she didn't have box office appeal? It seems so odd and wasteful of Miss Blyth's talents to have discarded her vocals. Perhaps a part of her thought it as complimentary though; I mean perhaps it's a testament to her acting ability if they didn't hire her for her singing.

 

There must have been someone else who could have played it and used their own voice. Anyone have ideas of who might have played it? Miss Garland? Peggy Lee?

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My understanding is that THE HELEN MORGAN STORY was originally one of the three projects envisioned for "Miss Garland" at the time she and husband Sid Luft signed their contract with Warner Bros. to make A STAR IS BORN. The subsequent perceived economic failure of that film, part of which, rightly or wrongly, was ascribed to Garland's temperamental and mercurial behavior during production, caused Warner to cancel the two additional film projects with Garland and Luft.

 

However, even though Judy was now "out" of the running, Warner still wanted "a Garland type voice" for Morgan, leading to Gogi Grant's hiring to ghost Ann Blyth's vocals. This is somewhat ironic, since, as anyone who has heard the real Helen Morgan can attest, her singing voice was much more soprano than alto, though a lighter soprano even than Blyth's lovely lyric voice. It's also possible that Warner's choice of Grant may have been influenced by a very successful television adaptation of Morgan's life story produced around the same time as the film, starring alto vocalist, Polly Bergen.

 

While it's too bad Blyth didn't get to do her own singing, at least Warner's choice of Grant isn't as odd as Rodgers and Hammerstein's decision to dub Juanita Hall's vocals in the film version of SOUTH PACIFIC. Although Hall had originated the role of "Bloody Mary" in the original Broadway production of SP, R & H apparently preferred Muriel Smith's voice to Hall's and signed her to do Hall's singing for her in the film.

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Thanks for the background on "The Helen Morgan Story." I had no idea that it originally was supposed to be a vehicle for Judy Garland.

 

Terrence.

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I rate your reply ****!

 

I had no idea that Juanita Hall was dubbed in South Pacific. And you'd think I would have noticed since I grew up hearing the original Broadway cast recording.

 

And I also found the Judy Garland connection with The Helen Morgan Story fascinating. She would have been great for this part. Too bad it didn't happen... And I didn't know Polly Bergen sang. It's posts like your's, markus21, that really make me appreciate this message board.

 

Thanks!

 

P.S. Do you know what the third picture envisioned for Miss Garland at Warners was?

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"The Dolly Sisters" was pretty awful, just annoying. "The Golden Girl" with Mitzi Gaynor just wasn't going anywhere...and though some people find it appealing in a child-like way, the musical "Lilli" with Leslie Caron and Mel Ferrer just weirded me out.

ps I agree with Patful-"The Young Girls of Rochefort" was a dive, and Gene Kelly is my favorite.

"Grease Two" "The Blue Bird" were very dull. However, for some strange reason, I kind of like Xanadu; there were some really bizarre parts, I'll admit, but I bet if they were to re-make it today, or make a broadway show of it, the story has potential. Someone just seemed to cut corners, that's all.

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Response to NZ 'way down at the bottom of this thread.

 

Your list was a really good one with the exception of 'Paint your Wagon' and 'Jupiter's Darling' but then I loved Esther and the Channings. Altho neither Eastwood nor Lee Marvin could hold a tune I think the choice of them in those particular parts was perfect. Clint was already considered a 'cowboy' and Lee had that terrific gruff attitude that evoked an image of a 49er. Besides, would you rather have seen Frankie Avalon and Andy Williams who could sing? But...with my love of musicals and especially Howard Keel in his prime, nobody ever has or will sing, 'I Call the Wind Maria' like John Raitt does in that show.

 

What's your take on my impression of true musicals?

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I agree with Paint Your Wagon and Grease 2 but I do like some of those musicals but only on stage, not the film versions. Such as Man of La mancha and Sweet Charity. But we're talking about movies so thats okay.

I do, however, love Phantom of the Paradise. Something about it drew my interest so I bought it and the soundtrack. Yes, I'm a loser.

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Reply to myself:

 

I cannot believe I got Marge and Gowers' last name wrong. I'm so embasrr****ed but I'll redeem myself one day!

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Replying to the person who said "Hello Dolly!" was a terrible musical - WHAT?!? It's one of the best and brightest of the 60s - hardly a stellar decade for musicals in general. The production values are sterling. Streisand is too young to be a widow but she is utterly charming in the lead. She turns what was essentially a Broadway caricature back into a flesh and blood woman who is savvy, sassy and ultimately lots of fun to be around.

 

Other "REAL" stinker musical...

You Can't Have Everything (1937) and boy, this one didn't!

Today We Live (1933) tomorrow we die.

The Kid from Spain (1932) the idiot producer from Hollywood.

One Night of Love (1934) a life time of total hell.

I'll Take Romance (1937) not after seeing this one!

We're Not Dressing (1934) and no one would expect anything fully clothed from a film as thinly garbed as this

Waikiki Wedding (1937) - aloha!

Star Spangled Rhythm (1942) - it's no This Is The Army or Thousands Cheer.

Down To Earth - Not a Hayworth classic

Lady in the Dark (1944) lights out...nobody home!

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It's a fine list overall, NZ, though I'm puzzled at you including I'LL SEE YOU IN MY DREAMS on it. Although this musical biography of lyricist Gus Kahn contained the standard biographical alterations anjd fictions endemic to most film biographies of that period, I thought it was one of the best of the "composer" biographies.

 

I realize this genre is hardly praiseworthy as a rule, but unlike bloated biographical misfires like WORDS AND MUSIC and TILL THE CLOUDS ROLL BY, which strove for "greatness" in their depictions of the rather mundane lives of Richard Rodgers and Jerome Kern (and couldn't show the more controversial/explicit aspects of Rodgers' partner, Lorenz Hart's private life), DREAMS, in delineating the conflict between Kahn and his loving but controlling wife, Grace, was much less ambitious, and, I thought, much more natural and likeable than these other unfortunate efforts.

 

In so doing, I thought I'LL SEE YOU IN MY DREAMS also gave one of her best roles/performances to the often too over-eager and over-emphatic Doris Day, who, in the role of Mrs. Kahn, was for once playing a young woman of her own age and thus was able to shed the canonfire coyness and eviscerating energy of her trademark "adolescent" parts, for which she was almost a decade too old even by 1952.

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Okay, I'm willing to let that one go, I suppose - though I found the bio turgid in more than a few spots and the musical numbers merely passable. Unlike WORDS and MUSIC or TILL THE CLOUDS ROLL BY - both of which possessed superlative production values, all star casts and thrilling musical sequences. In my opinion the paramount responsibility of any director undertaking a musical is not to be accurate in their account of history - no film, musical or otherwise, ever is.

 

But entertainment should do what it says - ENTERTAIN. In the case of a musical, the audience has NOT come to the theater for great melodrama or fact. They've come for the moment the emoting stops and the music begins. The aforementioned flicks both have enough music to fill at least four films. They are sumptuous film fantasies of the highest 'musical' order and enchanting time capsules from a studio that truly had 'more stars than there are in heaven.'

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But I would argue that I'LL SEE YOU IN MY DREAMS wasn't really a musical, but like several other films with a bumper crop of musical numbers (e.g., WITH A SONG IN MY HEART, THE GREAT CARUSO, INTERRUPTED MELODY, LOVE ME OR LEAVE ME, etc.) a biography of a muscial personality with several muscial sequences in it.

 

Personally, I found the more intimate and genuine focus on the Gus Kahn-Grace LeBoy relationship/marriage in I'LL SEE YOU IN MY DREAMS far more entertaining and satisfying than the invariably turgid and enbalmed non-musical sequences of overblown MGM extravaganzas like TILL THE CLOUDS ROLL BY and WORDS AND MUSIC. The poor actress who plays "Eva Kern" in CLOUDS has her role reduced almost to a cameo appearance when Robert Walker's Kern bicycles to her house and we see her singing a few bars of "They Didn't Beleive Me," while the even alway-excellent Betty Garrett can't perk up the preposterous "romantic" storyline concocted for Mickey Rooney's (over-the-top) Lorenz Hart.

 

I agree that some (but by no means all) of the production numbers in both films were excellent, but they often came far too infrequently for the pompous, pandering and posturing non-musical longeurs one had to endure between them in both productions. I'LL SEE YOU IN MY DREAMS was one of the few cinematic biographies of a musical talent/personality from that era that I didn't find affected by this condition (it also was, despite the standard biographical fictions, more accurate than most biographies of the time), and I would rate it very highly in any survey of musical biogrpahies of that era.

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Sorry, I still can't agree with you on your assessment of TILL THE CLOUDS ROLL BY or WORDS AND MUSIC. The films are full throttle entertainment with blinding star power. They continue to endure and entertain. As for infrequency of musical offerings...there are more than a dozen numbers in each film - ample showcases for the works of Kern and Rodgers and Hart. Outstanding numbers in CLOUDS include the title song sung by Ray MacDonald and danced by he and June Allyson, the colossal Showboat opener - with Lena Horne, Tony Martin and Kathryn Grayson, 'Sunny/Who', and, 'Look For the Silver Lining' with Judy Garland, Van Johnson and Lucille Bremer's 'I Won't Dance', Dinah Shore's They Didn't Believe Me' and 'The Last Time I Saw Paris' and, the massive spectacle that concludes the show with Sinatra's Ol' Man River. In WORDS & MUSIC we get two Perry Como zingers 'Blue Room' and 'Moutain Greenery', the Garland/Rooney pas deux to 'I Wish I Were In Love Again', 'On Your Toes' with Cyd Charisse, Ann Sothern's 'For Everybody But Me', and the Gene Kelly/Vera Ellen 'Slaughter on Tenth Avenue.'

 

I think perhaps you're missing the point of these bios. They're not meant to be factual or accurate; merely showcases for songs and numbers that put the roster of MGM talent on full display. It's part the studio's own vanity and part to showcase their supremacy in the musical genre. NO ONE DID MUSICALS LIKE Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (particularly in the mid to late 30s right on up to the late 50s). You could argue that the studio would have done better to jettison the melodrama in between and just string together the song and dance numbers (as they did in Ziegfeld Follies) but I would suggest that these films are the creme of their crop for bio/fiction/musicals that became all the rage for a brief period in the early 40s. If you ever want to see just how painful and lack luster this hybrid of the Hollywood musical can be, see Warner's Night and Day with Cary Grant as a singing Cole Porter or Rhapsody in Blue - the sort of story of the Gershwins - abysmal doesn't begin to describe the experience!

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I've never liked MGM's "Dancing Lady" from 1933. It was so blatant an attempt to be like "42nd Street" that I couldn't take it seriously. Also, it suffered from having non-musical leads, Gable and Crawford.

 

Leaping over the decades, one movie I can't make up my mind about is "Absolute Beginners," a British musical from the late 80s. It is set in the Fifties and deals with the clash between native British teens and West Indian teens. I would watch it and think for ten minutes "This is utterly lousy and I'm going to leave the theater," and then the movie would suddenly become very good for about ten minutes, then plunge back into lousiness, only to veer back into the supremely entertaining. By the end of it, I realized I had no overall opinion of the movie. Still I never watched it again, so I guess my negative feelings won out.

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I could do without musicals altogether on TCM (oh, I may have just stepped on a lot of ppl's toes - sorry) - maybe the award winners only - there are so many really, really bad Nelson/Jeanette films.

 

I enjoy the 30s-50s comedies (isn't Irene Dunne simply the best?! - a true comedic genius often overlooked) - and technicolor - if I'm feeling blue, a technicolor comedy classic is the cure. Doris Day - gotta love Send Me No Flowers, Pillow Talk, etc.

 

Oh- we're supposed to be talking about bad musicals - sorry. LOL

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"I could do without musicals altogether on TCM... (I)sn't Irene Dunne simply the best?! - a true comedic genius often overlooked... Doris Day - gotta love Send Me No Flowers, Pillow Talk, etc."

 

We could compromise and show Roberta, Show Boat and High Wide and Handsome -- Irene Dunne musicals. Not only was she a sparkling comedienne, but she was a beautiful soprano. Interesting that you'd choose two musical stars, but would eschew their musicals...

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No intentional eschewment (lol) just a random thought, of which I have far too many. When Dunne sang her flapper/burlesque number in The Awful Truth (pretending to be Grant's sister, barging in on the engagement announcement)....now that showed her complete range of abilities, although she sang purposefully baaaaaad.

 

Thanks for mentioning her musicals - I've yet to see them.

 

Now I have to get back to "Love in the Afternoon" - have a swell day.

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