in the Rain
Decades before the Hollywood film
industry became famous for megabudget disaster and science fiction spectaculars,
the studios of Southern California (and particularly Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer)
were renowned for a uniquely American (and nearly extinct) kind of picture
known as The Musical. Indeed, when the prestigious British film magazine
Sight & Sound conducts its international critics poll in the second
year of every decade, this 1952 MGM picture is the American musical that
consistently ranks among the 10 best movies ever made. It's not only a
great song-and-dance piece starring Gene Kelly, Donald O'Connor, and a
sprightly Debbie Reynolds; it's also an affectionately funny insider spoof
about the film industry's uneasy transition from silent pictures to "talkies."
Kelly plays debonair star Don Lockwood, whose leading lady Lina Lamont
(Jean Hagen) has a screechy voice hilariously ill-suited to the new technology
(and her glamorous screen image). Among the musical highlights: O'Connor's
knockout "Make 'Em Laugh"; the big "Broadway Melody" production number;
and, best of all, that charming little title ditty in which Kelly makes
movie magic on a drenched set with nothing but a few puddles, a lamppost,
and an umbrella.
Universal wasted no time in exploiting
14-year-old Deanna Durbin's star power; after
screening the dailies from
her feature debut, Three Smart Girls, studio execs expanded Durbin's supporting
role and doubled the budget. Their investment paid off: this breezy comedy-musical,
about a young singer determined to reunite her parents, earned a then-extraordinary
$2 million and three Oscar nominations (including Best Picture).
Smart Girls Grow Up VHS
Doodle Dandy (1942)
Hattie (1942) VHS
Sings Again (1949) VHS
Me and My Gal (1942) VHS
Jolson Story (1946) VHS
You're Mine (1952)
Benny Goodman Story
King and I (1956) DVD
No Business Like Show Business
American in Paris
A GI (Gene Kelly) stays in Paris
after the war to become an artist, and has to choose between the patronage
of a rich American woman (Nina Foch) and a French gamine (Leslie Caron)
engaged to an older man.
The plot is mostly an excuse
for director Vincente Minnelli to pool his own extraordinary talent with
those of choreographer- dancer-actor Kelly and the artists behind the screenplay,
art direction, cinematography, and score, creating a rapturous musical
not quite like anything else in cinema. The final section of the film comprises
a 17-minute dance sequence that took a month to film and is breathtaking.
Songs include "'S Wonderful," "I Got Rhythm," and "Love Is Here to Stay."-Tom
Parade (1948) VHS
Starring: Judy Garland, Fred Astaire.
The silver screen shimmers like never before in this star-studded hit.
An Irving Berlin spectacular in which Astaire plays the part of a dance
man whose partner abandons the act. Fortunately, his new partner turns
out to be Garland. This is the only picture in which the two superstars
worked together. Academy Awards: Best Scoring of a Musical Picture.
Brides for Seven Brothers (1954) DVD
Well, bless my beautiful hide!
Director Stanley Donen invests this rollicking musical with a hearty exuberance.
Howard Keel, with his big-as-all-outdoors baritone, stars as a bold "mountain
man" living in the Oregon woods who brings home a bride (plucky songbird
soprano Jane Powell) to his six slovenly brothers. Taming the rambunctious
brood, Jane proceeds to make gentlemen of them so they can woo sweethearts
of their own. But old habits die hard: their flirting gives way to fighting
in the film's celebrated barn-raising scene, a lively acrobatic dance number
exuberantly choreographed by Michael Kidd. Big brother chimes in with his
own brand of advice--an old-fashioned kidnapping! Donen manages to get
away with such a politically incorrect plot by investing the boys with
a innocent sweetness, most notably the youngest brother played with genial
earnestness by Rusty (Russ) Tamblyn (pre-West Side Story). This modest
production became a huge hit and remains one of MGM's best-loved musical
comedies, an energetic, high-kicking classic. --Sean Axmaker
Side Story (1961) DVD
Starring: Natalie Wood, Richard
Beymer, Russ Tamblyn, Rita Moreno. Classic musical based on a smash Broadway
play updating Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet to the 1950s era of juvenile
delinquency, the film stars Natalie Wood and Richard Beymer as the star-crossed
lovers from different neighborhoods--and ethnicities. Inventive song-and-dance
numbers, the passionate ballads and the moody sets. Academy Award Nominations:
11, including Best (Adapted) Screenplay. Academy Awards: 9, including Best
Picture, Best Director, Best Supporting Actor (George Chakiris), Best Actress
(Rita Moreno), Best Scoring of a Musical Picture.
The hit Broadway musical from the
1940s gets a lavish if not always exciting workout in this 1955 film version
directed by old lion Fred Zinnemann (High Noon). Gordon MacRae brings his
sterling voice to the role of cowboy Curly, and Shirley Jones plays Laurie,
the object of his affection.
The Rodgers and Hammerstein
score includes "The Surrey with the Fringe on Top," "Oh, What a Beautiful
Mornin'," and "People Will Say We're in Love," and Agnes DeMille provides
the buoyant choreography. Among the supporting cast, Gloria Grahame is
memorable as Ado Annie, the "girl who cain't say no," and Rod Steiger overdoes
it as the villainous Jud.
Starring: Kathryn Grayson, Mario
Mario Lanza in his film debut
about an aspiring opera diva finding the tenor of her dreams in a singing
for Two (1950) VHS
Spunky heiress Doris Day cures
the blues with Gordon MacRae, Gene Nelson and Eve Arden in a sparkling
movie version of No, No Nanette. Evergreen songs: "I want to Be Happy,"
"Do Do Do," the title tune. Year: 1950 Director: David Butler Starring:
Doris Day, Gordon MacRae, Gene Nelson