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The one with the musical numbers and no plot


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That's what I love about Gene Kelly musicals-- he really tries to present his musical numbers within the context of a good story.

 

The only one of his musicals that I can think of that has a pretty weak plot (not no plot persay, but definitely not as developed as "Singin' in the Rain" or "An American in Paris") is "Summer Stock." It is basically one of those "lets put a show" type musicals-- and they actually do put the show on in Judy Garland's barn! None of the musical numbers make sense to be a cohesive musical show, even though at the beginning when Gene Kelly is rehearsing Gloria DeHaven and Hans Conreid, it seemed like that number was supposed to be integral to a plot. By the time Judy joins the show, that number is out the window and it's just a hodgepodge of random songs. I do love the movie, because I like Kelly and Garland, and Garland's "Get Happy" number is fantastic.

 

Another musical with a weak plot is "There's No Business Like Show Business" with Ethel Merman, Mitzi Gaynor and Marilyn Monroe. It's really no more than a bunch of unrelated musical numbers or illogical plot devices to create excuses for more musical numbers-- for example, I find it hard to believe that Ethel Merman would be a likely excuse for Donald O'Connor's replacement for a musical number about sailors getting tattooed; however, the final number is fantastic and I do enjoy the move just for the music alone.

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MGM did a number of minor musicals which are driven more by the music than the plot. Some of my faves are "I Love Melvin", "Give A Girl a Break" and "Everything I Have is Yours". Comcast recently offered a 50's Columbia musical called "Three For the Show", with Betty Grable, Jack Lemmon and Marge and Gower Champion. It's really standard fare story-wise, but the musical numbers are spectacular ripoffs (homages?) of famous musical numbers from other films of that era, like "Kiss Me Kate" and "There's No Business Like Show Business." Fun

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Are you thinking about review type movies like " Zigfield Follies" ? A lot of movie musicals have very light plots- the kids puts a show in the barn or the always reliable boy meets girl. Movies based on Broadway shows usually have better plots. Original movie musicals like "Singing in the Rain" have the perfect balance between song and story.

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I love "Xanadu." I'll never claim that it's a great movie and that it belongs anywhere close to "Singin' in the Rain" and "An American in Paris." It has Gene Kelly, who I love. Roller Skating. Gene Kelly roller skating. Gene Kelly plays the clarinet (which I played in band)! Plus it's god Greek Gods, catchy music, dancing, neon! This movie has got it all!

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>Are you thinking about review type movies like " Zigfield Follies" ?

 

Not necessarily. Some of those films do have a plot-- they are putting on a show and various complications occur. It's been awhile since I have seen ZIEGFELD FOLLIES, but THE GREAT ZIEGFELD shows us Ziggy's personal life, in addition to the acts on stage.

 

I think the ones that really have little or no plot are the ones where we start out with someone reminiscing about when they used to put shows on back in the day, and the whole movie is about that. It's just a hodgepodge of musical numbers connected by the person in the present day flashing back.

 

Though not every movie that does this is a failure. Bob Hope flashes back about raising his children in THE SEVEN LITTLE FOYS, but there is a good deal to that story.

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One classic musical film that fully fits that description is *The King Of Jazz (1930)*.

 

Filmed entirely in early, surreal looking two strip technicolor, the film is a collection of musical numbers, cartoon segments and vaudeville skits, performed by a number of different artists. No pretense of a plot or story is presented.

 

Unfortunately, this is a rarely seen film nowadays. It is currently owned by Universal, and is one of the many classic films from that era that Universal is simply hoarding for the sake of hoarding, with no plans for video or broadcast release. They did release it on VHS many years ago, and a tape copy of it is available on Amazon.

 

(Universal has a hoarding problem; they should get help. Some corporate equivalent of a "counselor" should tell them to clean out their storage and attic of old stuff they are keeping and making no use of. They should sell or donate these old film properties that they have no interest in.)

 

The centerpiece of the film is the *Paul Whiteman Orchestra*, performing Gershwin's *Rhapsody in Blue*. The orchestra is positioned inside a giant grand piano! This was a big orchestra, hence the stage piano had to be huge! Just one indication of how surreal parts of this odd film are.

 

Some of the segments are unbearably corny, others are highly inspired. (A lot of those old vaudeville routines did not transfer well to film.) The film is a collective collaboration and patchwork that is of uneven interest.

 

King Of Jazz gets beyond imaginative in some parts. There is a segment that is pure 1960's psychedelia! I'm not kidding- it really is psychedelic art that predates the psychedelic art of the 60's by a good 30 years. Watching that segment, one can't help but wonder if those who conceived it had some chemical help!

 

Sadly, youtube does not have a complete upload, but segments are available. (The psychedelic part is not however- that is a loss!)

 

TCM has shown this film before. You might want to suggest it to them. If they ever do show it again, make sure you record it! Lord only knows if Universal will ever release it in a modern video format!

 

 

 

Youtube poster "Tom Samuels" has the most extensive record of this film, with 27 clips from it uploaded. Check his playlist!

 

*King Of Jazz-Trailer in Technicolor*

 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YToJiBvkjRw

 

*Rhapsody In Blue - King of Jazz (1930) - Paul Whiteman - George Gershwin*

 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oadzppD9Rv8

 

 

*Paul Whiteman - King Of Jazz: "I Like To Do Things For You" (Meet The Girls)*

 

 

 

 

 

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There is one movie that fits this description that has been shown on the TCM Underground (I apologize if I mess up the title): The Incredibly Strange Creatures Who Stopped Living And Became Mixed-Up Zombies. This movie is all musical numbers and no plot, though they try to introduce three story lines that go nowhere. In the end, it's too hard to go back, so they have zombies attack everyone.

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