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I don't care.

I have a lot of trouble understanding this point-of-view, that in real life people don't suddenly start singing, so why make a stage production or movie where they do?  It's about the marriage of music and story. If the music is good, it works. 

I completely agree with you MissWonderly.  I absolutely love musicals and I can get past the bursting out into song.  I'll admit I'm a bigger fan of the musicals that have dancing as part of the singing.  If there isn't dancing, then the songs better be catchy and the performances be fun.  I am not a fan of many of the Rogers and Hammerstein films, nor do I care for Busby Berkeley's kaleidoscope numbers-- I found both to be incredibly boring.   I don't understand why someone would even go into a musical thinking it'd be realistic.  I watch musicals for escapism.  I don't need every film I watch to be realistic.  I love to get caught up in the music, the dancing, the overall aesthetic, everything. 

 

With West Side Story, the crux of the story is the love between Maria and Tony--two people from rival gangs.  Technically Maria isn't in the Sharks, but her brother is, so Maria is a member by proxy.  Tony is a member of the Jets.  This affair proves to be even more problematic due to the race relations between the two gangs.  The Sharks are made up of Puerto Rican immigrants and the Jets are a white gang. 

 

In West Side Story, the music fits the action perfectly, which is what makes this film so successful.  It's successful as a film, not just as a musical.  Yes, the gangs break into a dance during their brawl, but that didn't ruin the film for me.  It was still a fight of sorts.  It just didn't involve knives or violence.  Anita, tired of Bernardo (Maria's brother)'s overprotection of Maria, argues the advantages the USA has over Puerto Rico through her song "America."  Tony and Maria's intense love for one another is illustrated through their song "Tonight." The songs in this film were excellent and successful in conveying the emotion behind all the situations in the film. 

 

This film, while a musical, has some very intense and serious moments and I think Robert Wise and Jerome Robbins did a fantastic job directing and choreographing this film. 

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Great post, speedy.  (Hey, do I sound like someone? )   :o

 

Something I've been wanting to say about West Side Story is, strangely, not once has anyone mentioned the chef of this great musical feast, Leonard Bernstein.

 

Bernstein wrote this wonderful music. Let's keep in mind that while the story is very moving, tragic even (yes, like Romeo and Juliet ), we would not love this film the way clearly many of us do were it not for the beautiful, deeply affecting melodies throughout.

 

Credit must be given to Stephen Sondheim, of course, for the lyrics that make a perfect fit with both the storyline and Bernstein's compositions. But, when it comes to musicals, for me it's ultimately the music that matters the most. And the music in West Side Story soars right into our ears and our hearts. It's timeless.

 

By the way, I agree with you about the dancing in musicals. Often the best musicals have a sublime combination of both - such as West Side Story !

I'm surprised you don't like Rogers and Hammerstein musicals. Oklahoma !  is one  of my very favourites. If you like dancing, I would think you would love this one. And - back to the music point - the songs are great. Strong, sweet melodies and elegant lyrics. Of course, it is rather long at 150 minutes. And that dream sequence is definitely overwrought and over-the-top.

 

But if you like musicals, how can you resist  delightful melodies such as "Oh What a Beautiful Morning", and fun numbers like "I'm Just a Girl Who Can't Say No" ?  I can't say no to "Oklahoma".

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Great post, speedy.  (Hey, do I sound like someone? )   :o

 

Something I've been wanting to say about West Side Story is, strangely, not once has anyone mentioned the chef of this great musical feast, Leonard Bernstein.

 

Bernstein wrote this wonderful music. Let's keep in mind that while the story is very moving, tragic even (yes, like Romeo and Juliet ), we would not love this film the way clearly many of us do were it not for the beautiful, deeply affecting melodies throughout.

 

Credit must be given to Stephen Sondheim, of course, for the lyrics that make a perfect fit with both the storyline and Bernstein's compositions. But, when it comes to musicals, for me it's ultimately the music that matters the most. And the music in West Side Story soars right into our ears and our hearts. It's timeless.

 

By the way, I agree with you about the dancing in musicals. Often the best musicals have a sublime combination of both - such as West Side Story !

I'm surprised you don't like Rogers and Hammerstein musicals. Oklahoma !  is one  of my very favourites. If you like dancing, I would think you would love this one. And - back to the music point - the songs are great. Strong, sweet melodies and elegant lyrics. Of course, it is rather long at 150 minutes. And that dream sequence is definitely overwrought and over-the-top.

 

But if you like musicals, how can you resist  delightful melodies such as "Oh What a Beautiful Morning", and fun numbers like "I'm Just a Girl Who Can't Say No" ?  I can't say no to "Oklahoma".

Rodgers and Hart were a great songwriting team. With Hammerstein, they were too syrupy.

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I'm talking about the entire concept of gang members breaking out in song at the drop of a hat, complete with arms thrusting in the air as if they were ballet dancers or Judy Garland parodies.   I know I'm in a minority here, but that just ain't my cup of tea.

 

West-Side-Story-Film-stil-007.jpg

 

RussTamblyn.jpg

This issue was much discussed in a recent thread about Cabaret. If one walked into a theatre (or turned to a channel) to see WSS and was shocked, (shocked!) to discover that it was a MUSICAL involving gang members who would (OMG) sing and dance, then I suppose one might find it amusing. Otherwise it's a bit disingenuous, to say WSS is comedic anymore than a singing cowpoke, a carny barker breaking into song, or a crippled ghetto dweller singing gorgeous duets with an unrequited love. (Oklahoma!, Carousel. Porgy and Bess) it simply requires what most theatre does - A WILLING SUSPENSION OF DISBELIEF! While I don't admire the performnces of the two leads in WSS, I think the movie otherwise deserves the acclaim it has gotten from many. I think it is interesting that generlly it is the opening ballectic (establishing) number that is most often ridiculed ("Oh, jeez those dancing gang members!") and not mentioned are numbers like "America" thrilling in its dynamic choreography and satiric lyrics, the dance at the gym or "Cool" - a rare ( for musicals anyway) "dramatic" scene (the post-rumble trauma) played out in song and dance. And by the way Judy Garland never in her life danced anything like the Jets or the Sharks as choreographed by Jerome Robbins.

It's easy ( too easy, Andy, for a discerning critic such as you) to mock WSS's main conceit, but then a movie star dancing and singing in the rain has to be seen as equally riiculous. Either one can enjoy the musical in its usual format or not, but West Side Story doesn't deserve scorn for its form anymore than does My Fair Lady.

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Rodgers and Hart were a great songwriting team. With Hammerstein, they were too syrupy.

 

Oklahoma is not "syrupy", it's just good. 

I will concede, The Sound of Music is a bit sentimental, yes, but the songs are good, and as I keep saying, that's what counts in a musical.

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Oklahoma is not "syrupy", it's just good. 

I will concede, The Sound of Music is a bit sentimental, yes, but the songs are good, and as I keep saying, that's what counts in a musical.

I heartily agree. One of the remarkable aspects of Hammerstein's lyrics is the veracity of the lyric to the characters depicted. The simplicity is for me brilliance - lines such as "where the waving wheat can sure smell sweet when the wind comes right before the rain" are wonderfully poetic in their simplicity and exactly right for the character, the piece, the moment and this is emblematic of all their great shows.
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This issue was much discussed in a recent thread about Cabaret. If one walked into a theatre (or turned to a channel) to see WSS and was shocked, (shocked!) to discover that it was a MUSICAL involving gang members who would (OMG) sing and dance, then I suppose one might find it amusing. Otherwise it's a bit disingenuous, to say WSS is comedic anymore than a singing cowpoke, a carny barker breaking into song, or a crippled ghetto dweller singing gorgeous duets with an unrequited love. (Oklahoma!, Carousel. Porgy and Bess) it simply requires what most theatre does - A WILLING SUSPENSION OF DISBELIEF! While I don't admire the performnces of the two leads in WSS, I think the movie otherwise deserves the acclaim it has gotten from many. I think it is interesting that generlly it is the opening ballectic (establishing) number that is most often ridiculed ("Oh, jeez those dancing gang members!") and not mentioned are numbers like "America" thrilling in its dynamic choreography and satiric lyrics, the dance at the gym or "Cool" - a rare ( for musicals anyway) "dramatic" scene (the post-rumble trauma) played out in song and dance. And by the way Judy Garland never in her life danced anything like the Jets or the Sharks as choreographed by Jerome Robbins.

It's easy ( too easy, Andy, for a discerning critic such as you) to mock WSS's main conceit, but then a movie star dancing and singing in the rain has to be seen as equally riiculous. Either one can enjoy the musical in its usual format or not, but West Side Story doesn't deserve scorn for its form anymore than does My Fair Lady.

 

You're right, of course, but I find some suspensions of disbelief easier to take than others.  West Side Story may be particularly hard for me not to guffaw at, since I was born on and formed much of my consciousness on 110th Street in New York, but it's hard to argue objectively that it's any more or less ridiculous than Singin' in the Rain or My Fair Lady, both of which I love.  And FWIW, call it ironical if you wish, The Umbrellas of Cherbourg, with nothing but singing, may be my favorite "singing" musical* ever.

 

But hey, if I were 100% consistent, I'd be running for president, or something like that.

 

* "Singing" musical, as opposed to the likes of A Star Is Born or 42nd Street, where the music is presented as part of an actual performance within the movie.  That type of musical I think of as a variant of drama rather than as a "musical" of the type I've been talking about.

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....But hey, if I were 100% consistent, I'd be running for president, or something like that.

 

 

But you did. The "something like that" part, anyway.

 

"Politics[edit]

Starting in the 1940s, Arnold became involved in Republican politics and was mentioned as a possible G.O.P. candidate for the United States Senate. He lost a closely contested election for Los Angeles County Supervisor and said at the time that perhaps actors were not suited to run for political office"

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But you did. The "something like that" part, anyway.

 

"Politics[edit]

Starting in the 1940s, Arnold became involved in Republican politics and was mentioned as a possible G.O.P. candidate for the United States Senate. He lost a closely contested election for Los Angeles County Supervisor and said at the time that perhaps actors were not suited to run for political office"

Who is "Arnold"? Edward Arnold? Arnold Stang?Arnold from "Happy Days"?

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But you did. The "something like that" part, anyway.

 

"Politics[edit]

Starting in the 1940s, Arnold became involved in Republican politics and was mentioned as a possible G.O.P. candidate for the United States Senate. He lost a closely contested election for Los Angeles County Supervisor and said at the time that perhaps actors were not suited to run for political office"

 

Hey, like Robert Ryan or Richard Widmark used to say, don't confuse my political beliefs with those of of my "screen" persona (or avatar). B)  

Anyway, a fairly big majority of big name stars back then were Republicans.   It wasn't only Arnold.

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Hey, like Robert Ryan or Richard Widmark used to say, don't confuse my political beliefs with those of of my "screen" persona (or avatar). B)  

 

 

Now, now, Andy baby, I was joking, as I'm sure you know. 

Actually, Edward Arnold did play politicians a lot. Often corrupt ones. Guess he looked the part.

 

Also, it is a little known fact that Edward Arnold, who wanted to stretch out a bit, career -wise, auditioned for the role of Jerry Mulligan in American in Paris. But they felt he was too old for the part.

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Gee, I don't know what planet some of you all live on; but all my life I've been around people who, from time to time, hum, whistle, or even sing a little song as they go through the day.  More often than not, however, they don't have a pit band to back them up.  But that doesn't seem to deter them from a bit of joyful noise now and then.

 

 The point being that sometimes a measly sentence just doesn't convey the emotional overflowing that a little music provides.  When that impulse gets translated into art -- movies, opera, stage musicals, etc. --  the form takes on more structure.  But human beings are musical creatures and will not suppress extraordinary, heightened means of expression.   

 

Isn't it a "Grand Night for Singing" after all?

 

Brian

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Gee, I don't know what planet some of you all live on; but all my life I've been around people who, from time to time, hum, whistle, or even sing a little song as they go through the day.  More often than not, however, they don't have a pit band to back them up.  But that doesn't seem to deter them from a bit of joyful noise now and then.

 

 The point being that sometimes a measly sentence just doesn't convey the emotional overflowing that a little music provides.  When that impulse gets translated into art -- movies, opera, stage musicals, etc. --  the form takes on more structure.  But human beings are musical creatures and will not suppress extraordinary, heightened means of expression.   

 

Isn't it a "Grand Night for Singing" after all?

 

Brian

Agreed.

 

While people probably don't break out into choreographed dances w/ jazzy songs (unless they're the coolest people ever!), most people get songs stuck in their head and sing to themselves, sing little snippets of songs, hum, etc. I often sing along to songs on the radio only because driving on long straight stretches tends to make me sleepy.  I also just love music in general.  I love to have it blasting at work, blasting in the car on a long road trip, or even just driving around town. 

 

The other day, my co-worker (who is always singing little pieces of songs) and I had a acapella moment singing The Guess Who's "These Eyes."  It was hilarious and awesome. 

 

Music is another technique (if you will) to convey emotion, plot points, etc. just like shadows, contrast and black and white are often used in film noir, musicals use singing, dancing, costumes, etc. to tell their story.

 

While everyone has their preferences and I would never dare try to convince someone to change their preferences, I think musicals get a bad rap.  There aren't many genres where if someone hears it's a musical, the film is automatically a no-go for them.  I'm not a big fan of horror or sci-fi, but I will watch a horror or sci-fi film if it sounds interesting. 

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Now, now, Andy baby, I was joking, as I'm sure you know. 

Actually, Edward Arnold did play politicians a lot. Often corrupt ones. Guess he looked the part.

 

I like to think of Edward Arnold more as the upright and straight shooting Pop Cain in Johnny Apollo, or the mink coat pitching J.B. Ball, The Bull of Wall Street, in Easy Living, or even better, as the mob boss "Ace" in Three on a Match.

 

(Well, to be honest, Arnold was only on the screen for about the blink of an eye in that last movie, but anyone named "Ace" is all right by me.)

 

Also, it is a little known fact that Edward Arnold, who wanted to stretch out a bit, career -wise, auditioned for the role of Jerry Mulligan in American in Paris. But they felt he was too old for the part.

 

Which was ridiculous. 61 is the new 51, 51 is the new 41, and never trust anyone under 40.

 

Okay, he might not have been Gene Kelly, but he would've shuffled around a lot better than Gary Cooper in Love in the Afternoon.

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Now, now, Andy baby, I was joking, as I'm sure you know. 

Actually, Edward Arnold did play politicians a lot. Often corrupt ones. Guess he looked the part.

 

Also, it is a little known fact that Edward Arnold, who wanted to stretch out a bit, career -wise, auditioned for the role of Jerry Mulligan in American in Paris. But they felt he was too old for the part.

He also auditioned for the role of Gerry Mulligan in the Dave Brubeck Quartet.

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I like to think of Edward Arnold more as the upright and straight shooting Pop Cain in Johnny Apollo, or the mink coat pitching J.B. Ball, The Bull of Wall Street, in Easy Living, or even better, as the mob boss "Ace" in Three on a Match.

 

(Well, to be honest, Arnold was only on the screen for about the blink of an eye in that last movie, but anyone named "Ace" is all right by me.)

 

Also, it is a little known fact that Edward Arnold, who wanted to stretch out a bit, career -wise, auditioned for the role of Jerry Mulligan in American in Paris. But they felt he was too old for the part.

 

Which was ridiculous. 61 is the new 51, 51 is the new 41, and never trust anyone under 40.

 

Okay, he might not have been Gene Kelly, but he would've shuffled around a lot better than Gary Cooper in Love in the Afternoon.

Arnold was almost "prosperous"-enough looking to play Chris Christie.

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Arnold was almost "prosperous"-enough looking to play Chris Christie.

 

...and who I understand once HIS political career is over has already been asked to play the title character in the proposed movie, "The William Howard Taft Story".

 

Word is there's already a set director sketching up ideas for recreating the White House bathtub circa the title character's era.

 

(...they're hoping the drought out in Tinseltown will be over by the time production commences or else filming will have to be moved to the East in order to not further stress the local water resources when said tub is filled for these scenes)

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It always amuses me when people comment on the 'artificiality' of musicals where people sing as part of the story, as opposed to the performances taking place as part of actual performances.  This in a medium the entire object and craft of which is to distort reality to excessive degrees so that, when taken a picture of, will represent on a two dimensional surface something that will generally be viewed as an acceptable representation of the three dimensional world.  The absurdity of people braking out into song in the middle of the action of a movie pales in comparison to the greater absurdity of the motion picture itself.

 

Also, people who criticize the "artificiality" of sung dialogue in a musical usually have no issues with dramatic moments is movies being punctuated by a music score OR  with the camera moving in for a close-up OR with a fade in and fade out OR with actors artiificially dropping their voices in "dramatic" moments.

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  • 3 years later...
On 7/8/2015 at 2:13 PM, johnm001 said:

She did her own signing for WEST SIDE STORY, then was dubbed by Marni Nixon.  I'm talking about her voice on the songs in WSS.  Nixon's voice is better, with better intonation, but, I actually believe that all they needed to do was "sweeten" her voice, not completely replace it.

Natalie Wood did not have a bad voice at all.  The reason her voice was dubbed by Marni Nixon, however, is because she was not able to project her voice sufficiently enough.

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16 minutes ago, miki said:

Natalie Wood did not have a bad voice at all.  The reason her voice was dubbed by Marni Nixon, however, is because she was not able to project her voice sufficiently enough.

I like Natalie's voice, too! Her speaking voice was musical, too. :)

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The role called for a trained voice with an operatic range like the one Carol Lawrence had for the Broadway stage when she introduced the role of Maria.

When you're doing a great musical for posterity it's a shame to mess it up with either a movie star who can't sing or being forced to have a professional singer dub the movie star.

I think that Deborah Kerr's  dubbing by Marni Nixon worked so well because the material was not that difficult to sing and you could believe that someone one with a limited voice could handle that kind of music.

The public at the time was so aware and enjoying the television performances of Carol Lawrence and Julie Andrews both on regular variety shows and on specials that they had an expectation for those roles to begin with. Not to mention what the composers were going to demand.

 Audrey Hepburn thinking she could sing the role of Eliza Doolittle on Julie Andrews' level was a sick joke. She had sung a little in "Funny Face, but primarily she was presenting her credibility as a dancer, a model  and an actress in that movie. 

 The loss of Julie Andrews in "My Fair Lady" is for another thread but it's something that is a 20th century Hollywood musical tragedy.

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28 minutes ago, Princess of Tap said:

The role called for a trained voice with an operatic range like the one Carol Lawrence had for the Broadway stage when she introduced the role of Maria.

When you're doing a great musical for posterity it's a shame to mess it up with either a movie star who can't sing or being forced to have a professional singer dub the movie star.

I think that Deborah Kerr's  dubbing by Marni Nixon worked so well because the material was not that difficult to sing and you could believe that someone one with a limited voice could handle that kind of music.

The public at the time was so aware and enjoying the television performances of Carol Lawrence and Julie Andrews both on regular variety shows and on specials that they had an expectation for those roles to begin with. Not to mention what the composers were going to demand.

 Audrey Hepburn thinking she could sing the role of Eliza Doolittle on Julie Andrews' level was a sick joke. She had sung a little in "Funny Face, but primarily she was presenting her credibility as a dancer, a model  and an actress in that movie. 

 The loss of Julie Andrews in "My Fair Lady" is for another thread but it's something that is a 20th century Hollywood musical tragedy.

Yes, Hepburn's participation in MY FAIR LADY is what turns me off to her as an actress. The fact she had the temerity to think she should play that role and could do it convincingly with a subpar singing voice causes me to lose respect for her. She should have had the decency to step aside and persuade the producers to hire Andrews. That's what Cary Grant did when he was offered the male lead. He refused it and insisted they hire Harrison. But Audrey was determined to do Eliza, and she's horrible in those scenes where she thinks singing is all about volume and not about performing the material with grace or finesse. I am both pained by it and embarrassed for her when watching it.

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1 hour ago, TopBilled said:

Yes, Hepburn's participation in MY FAIR LADY is what turns me off to her as an actress. The fact she had the temerity to think she should play that role and could do it convincingly with a subpar singing voice causes me to lose respect for her. She should have had the decency to step aside and persuade the producers to hire Andrews. That's what Cary Grant did when he was offered the male lead. He refused it and insisted they hire Harrison. But Audrey was determined to do Eliza, and she's horrible in those scenes where she thinks singing is all about volume and not about performing the material with grace or finesse. I am both pained by it and embarrassed for her when watching it.

The irony or I should say maybe it was just the fate of the whole thing was that the day after the Academy Awards for 1964,

every major newspaper had a photo of the two Broadway stars of " My Fair Lady " happily smiling for the camera because they both had won the Best Acting Oscars. Rex Harrison for "My Fair Lady" and Julie Andrews for "Mary Poppins".

So in one way, things did turn out the way they should have. LOL

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