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I noticed that Yankee Doodle Dandy was on the list of suggested musicals to watch and after I gave it some thought I remembered I had always been a little unsure if I would consider that particular film a musical. In my humble opinion for a film to be considered a complete musical I would consider such details as the following: songs that would express the storyline or feelings of a player in the picture, music that would sometimes come out of no where, random singing and dancing in a public place where it seems to be the normal behavior. The reason I lean toward thinking that Yankee Doodle is not a musical is because there is always an orchestra or an instrument. Whenever there is singing it is either because they were performing for an audience or auditioning for someone and the songs do not always express what the performers are feeling at that point in the film. The film was based on the life of George M. Cohan so you mite be able to say it is a biography or a drama that is musical. If Yankee Doodle is in fact considered a musical, then does that make the films "Ray" or "I Walk The Line" musicals as well? Both have lots of songs in them and are based on the writers and performers of the songs. As I said I am leaning to think that it is not a musical but I am open to hear thoughts and different points of view.

Edited by Jordan Mitchell
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There was a Broadway musical, George M!, in the late 60s/early 70s, and all the music was Cohan's, I think. So I would probably say that Yankee Doodle Dandy should be considered a musical as well. 

I generally consider a musical to be like what you said, although it wasn't always that way. I've read that Oklahoma! was the first musical to weave the songs with the story so that they are actually an integral part of the plot. But I've also read that Show Boat was the first, so I'm not sure. But I believe prior to that most of the songs had little or nothing to do with the storyline. I don't know if there's a word for that type of musical or not. 

I don't know if that helps any or not. Probably someone with more knowledge and expertise can explain it much better than I can.

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IMHO, I find your definition a bit too restrictive.  It excludes most of the backstage musicals, including The Great Ziegfeld, most of the Warner Brothers/Busby Berkeley musicals, and maybe New York, New York (though I haven't seen that in a while, and there may have been an "offstage" number in it).

But there is a fine line that separates movies that I think of as musicals and those that I don't, and it is a rather fuzzy line.  I do not think The Picture of Dorian Grey is a musical, even though Angela Lansbury sings a song or two in it.   Ditto Sinatra in A Hole in the Head.  But then you have something like Going My Way, which could go either way (sorry I had to ?), with a couple of songs by Crosby and some classical arias/songs by Rise Stevens.

There is a point where I think that assigning labels is counterproductive.  I have heard people go on and on with their opinions about whether Sweeney Todd is a musical or an opera.

 

8 hours ago, BlueMoods said:

I've read that Oklahoma! was the first musical to weave the songs with the story so that they are actually an integral part of the plot. But I've also read that Show Boat was the first, so I'm not sure.

As I understand it, Oklahoma! was the first Broadway musical where EVERY song and dance advanced the plot or the characterizations.  There had been other musicals that move in that direction, like Showboat.  But even Showboat had some specialty numbers that didn't push the plot or the characters forward.  Think "Life upon the Wicked Stage", some of the interpolated numbers at the Chicago World's Fair, and Kim's reprisal of "Why Do I Love You".  The thing about Showboat is that there are so many versions where songs have been added or dropped that it is hard to pin it down. 

And there had been other musicals with ballets (On Your Toes had two), but they did not move the plot forward or deepen our understanding of the characters as the dream ballet in Oklahoma! gave us insight into Laurey's conflicting emotions.  I don't think it is coincidental that after Oklahoma! (the stage play) ballets became more popular in movie musicals too.

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Stephen Sondheim has said that Sweeney Todd is a musical. So that works for me.

 

There are movies or plays that may feature one or maybe two songs but aren’t really musicals. For instance, Noel Coward’s “Private Lives” with the lovely song “Somewhere I’ll Find You”. Here’s a good rule of thumb: If you take out the songs, do you still have a movie? In the case of Yankee Doodle, definitely not, so: musical!

 

 

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And, for what it’s worth, the songs in Yankee Doodle Dandy are carefully woven into the story so that they usually express something about the situation or the characters’ feelings, even though they are not stream-of-consciousness but are actually performed by the characters, at the piano or on the stage.

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One thing that caught my eye was that someone said if you take out the songs Do you still have a movie. That is a very good thought. So with that in mind I want us to think about other biographies such as the ones I mentioned earlier such as I walk the line and Ray when we are Considering if Yankee doodle is a musical

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8 minutes ago, Jordan Mitchell said:

One thing that caught my eye was that someone said if you take out the songs Do you still have a movie. That is a very good thought. So with that in mind I want us to think about other biographies such as the ones I mentioned earlier such as I walk the line and Ray when we are Considering every Yankee doodle is in fact a musical.

Yes, indeed!  And all of those singing cowboy movies are not.  Although they are still great fun!

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37 minutes ago, MarkH said:

Stephen Sondheim has said that Sweeney Todd is a musical. So that works for me.

He has also wavered on this, and I think his most recent opinion is that if you do it in a theatre, it's a musical; if you do it in an opera house, it's an opera.

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I think it’s wonderful all of the different perceptions of what defines a musical I am really enjoying this topic. I have never liked Labels, however, The reason my definition of a musical is perhaps a bit restrictive is because when it gets to the Academy Awards it has to be put in to the correct category, because as we all know there are special awards for films that are placed in certain categories. So I guess I consider a lot of things When I am talking about my perceptions. Perhaps I am overthinking it a little But I guess it’s just because I love film so much. Please keep the posts coming I love to hear other people’s points of view and I am grateful that people are taking time out of their day to respond to this topic.

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1 hour ago, MarkH said:

There are movies or plays that may feature one or maybe two songs but aren’t really musicals. For instance, Noel Coward’s “Private Lives” with the lovely song “Somewhere I’ll Find You”. Here’s a good rule of thumb: If you take out the songs, do you still have a movie? In the case of Yankee Doodle, definitely not, so: musical!

Yowsa, yowsa, yowsa.  What about They Shoot Horses Don't They?  Music/songs are integral, and there's dancing, of a sort.  And one of the characters sings.  

What about the Road movies with Hope/Crosby?  Generally any crooner movie will have him singing, but does that count?   What if the song relates to something in the plot?  What about the Mae West movies?  The songs amplify her persona.  Or Laurel and Hardy, or Marx Brothers?  

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Well, no generalization is 100%. Sometimes a movie is a drama with music or a comedy with music, moreso than a “musical”. You just have to call it as you see it.

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As for “Ray” or “Walk the Line” those feel more like dramas that have music in them. But… a lot of music. I guess you could argue it either way. Like “Sweeney Todd”!

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11 minutes ago, Pastiche said:

Yowsa, yowsa, yowsa.  What about They Shoot Horses Don't They?  Music/songs are integral, and there's dancing, of a sort.  And one of the characters sings.  

What about the Road movies with Hope/Crosby?  Generally any crooner movie will have him singing, but does that count?   What if the song relates to something in the plot?  What about the Mae West movies?  The songs amplify her persona.  Or Laurel and Hardy, or Marx Brothers?  

The Road to Bali (1952) is included on the TCM schedule for Thursday, June 21. This should make for an interesting discussion later in the course, too!

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5 hours ago, Jim K said:

He has also wavered on this, and I think his most recent opinion is that if you do it in a theatre, it's a musical; if you do it in an opera house, it's an opera.

Interesting perception and since you brought that up here is a thought. If you recall in the movie Yankee doodle dandy Cohan ends up convincing an opera singer to perform at the theater in one of the plays he wrote. So to me that can open up another discussion. I definitely see where you’re coming from but earlier we were discussing about Restrictions and I don’t think you can restrict the definition of a musical to a building.

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Yes Yankee Doodle has always been one of my favorites as well. That is awesome that you got to see the Broadway play, I bet it was good. If you ever have the chance you should listen to the commentary on Yankee Doodle it is very interesting.

Edited by Jordan Mitchell
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5 hours ago, Jordan Mitchell said:

I definitely see where you’re coming from but earlier we were discussing about Restrictions and I don’t think you can restrict the definition of a musical to a building.

My point in mentioning the debate was that I have heard people debate this topic for years without ever coming to a resolution.

As for what Sondheim might have meant, he may have meant that when Sweeney Todd is performed in a theatre with Broadway actors with Broadway voices and using the Broadway conventions it is a musical, but when it is performed in an opera house with opera singers stressing the conventions of the opera stage it becomes more operatic.  I've seen it both ways, and it is a different experience.

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