I really like watching musicals, especially those from the 1930s to 1960s. It started with watching The Sound of Music and The Wizard of Oz and then the perfect partnership of Ginger Rogers and Fred Astaire. The songs are joyous, the costumes exquisite and you can trust a Hollywood musical to end happily ever after. I find a certain joy in watching them that lifts me up when I am feeling down. Here are my favourites:
Meet Me in St. Louis (1944)
Judy Garland stars alongside Lucille Bremer, Mary Astor and Margaret O’Brien. The Smith family live in St. Louis and a series of seasonal vignettes show the build up to the 1904 World’s Fair. The family is torn over moving to New York, each realising that St. Louis is an important part of their lives. Garland sings the poignant ‘Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas’ and emotionally explores the true meaning of Christmas. The film has many comedic attributes as well, little ‘Tootie’ played by Margaret O’Brien brings plenty of humour.
Singin’ in the Rain (1952)
Singin’ in the Rain follows the awkward transition of film from the silent picture to the ‘talkie’. The character of Cosmo Brown, played by Donald O’Connor is witty and Debbie Reynolds dances beautifully despite only being 19 when filming. The choreography of the dances is inventive with the well-known title number bringing a unique emotion – happiness, joy and some sorrow all in one. The musical is charmingly lovable and considered one of the greatest of all time.
The Wizard of Oz (1939)
This musical is particularly special to me and one which I will never forget. The Wizard of Oz is based on the book by L. Frank Baum, following Dorothy as she is whisked away from Kansas by a cyclone. She falls into the strange land of Oz and meets friends and enemies and learns an important and powerful lesson: ‘there is no place like home’. There are many messages that can be taken from the narrative. Love and kindness will always have value and that is why The Wizard of Oz will remain relevant into the future.
Calamity Jane (1953)
This enjoyable musical is loosely based on the life of Calamity Jane, the Wild West frontierswoman, and the alleged romance between her and the Wild Bill Hickok. The likeable Doris Day and her warm singing voice are perfect for the role of feisty Calamity, opposite Howard Keel as Bill. The film has a great energy and controversially I believe it to be favourable to the often-compared ‘Annie Get Your Gun’. I am looking forward to watching more musicals starring Doris Day.
The Sound of Music (1965)
The first musical I ever watched, following Maria as she joins the Von Trapp family and their escape from Nazi-occupied Austria. Through the fear and sadness of slowly losing one’s homeland, the heartfelt tale holds love and family above all. Music is at the heart of this musical, it transforms a grieving man, and helps a young woman to find her place in the world. Julie Andrews shines in the caring role of Maria, and altogether The Sound of Music is a warm family film.
Easter Parade (1948)
This musical entails a complicated love-triangle leading up to the Easter Parade. Don Hewes (Fred Astaire) meets Hannah Brown (Judy Garland), whom he brags he can make a star of and despite failing to start with, Brown stays true to herself and becomes a successful dancer. It is a nice way to celebrate Easter and the score by Irving Berlin shines. Sadly, this is the only film of Fred Astaire and Judy Garland, I would have liked to see more musicals with them together.
Shall We Dance (1937)
Shall We Dance is my favourite Astaire and Rogers musical, where the two are famous dancers who fall in love after rumours of their marriage. The various dances between them are perfectly executed, they really are a magical match. Also, the musical score by George and Ira Gershwin is a big feature too, including ‘Walking the Dog’ played to a scene of all the dogs being walked on a cruise ship, and ‘Let’s Call the Whole Thing Off’, followed by an amazing dance routine with the duet on rollerskates.
Thoroughly Modern Millie (1966)
Julie Andrews is perfect in the role of enthusiastic Millie, a determined ‘modern’, intending to marry a wealthy business man. She meets the uncaring, yet charming, Jimmy Smith (James Fox) at a friendship dance and unwillingly falls in love with him. Through Jimmy’s friend, Muzzy (Carol Channing), Millie learns to marry who she really loves, and not for money. The lively songs and dances, the comedic attributes and the upbeat pace of this musical really make it a lovely viewing. I am sad to hear that Carol Channing passed away recently, as she was a wonderful actor.
Thank you for reading!