- Written by Sandi Tracey
I love musicals and had seen that Warner Brothers is continuing their 90th Anniversary Celebration with various collections of movies - 100 movies, 50 movies, 20 musicals. Pure heaven for the classic film lover!
So imagine how thrilled I was to be given the opportunity to review one of those! Wow!
I love musicals - always have, always will. They just add this little extra bit of fantasy that makes life fun. The music lives on and is great for housecleaning, too!
My favorite musicals are the ones based on Broadway plays. It's fun to see the play and compare it to the movie.
I'll never forget the Colorado Springs Christian School's rendition of Fiddler on the Roof back in the 1980's. Having seen the movie numerous times, it was fun to watch it on the stage, and that group of kids was awesome! I could not believe how well they pulled that off - the gal who played Fruma-Sarah, Lazar Wolf's deceased wife who haunts Lazar in a dream - classic! Better than the movie! I can only imagine having seen professional bards pulling that off!
I can't watch Fiddler on the Roof anymore without re-seeing that beautifully delivered scene in my mind.
Unfortunately, Fiddler on the Roof is not part of this collection, but that's no matter because there are 20 other wonderful musicals to enjoy in this collection! I promise you - if you like musicals, this collection is for you! Might make a great gift for someone, too, come to think of it.
The musicals contained in this collection are:
- The Jazz Singer (1927)
- The Broadway Melody of 1929 (1929)
- 42nd Street (1933)
- The Great Zigfield (1936)
- The Wizard of Oz (1939)
- Yankee Doodle Dandy (1942)/li>
- An American In Paris (1951)
- Show Boat (1951)
- Singin' in the Rain (1952)
- Seven Brides for Seven Brothers (1954)
- A Star is Born (1954)
- The Music Man (1962)
- Viva Las Vegas (1964)
- Camelot (1967)
- Willie Wonka and the Chocolate Factory (1971)
- Cabaret (1972)
- That's Entertainment (1974)
- Victor Victoria (1982)
- Little Shop of Horrors (1986)
- Hairspray (1988)
Now, I've already reviewed some of these - you can click on the links to read those reviews. I'll be reviewing more of these as days go by, but in the meantime, I'd like to tell you about some of the others in this collection, aside from those that I've reviewed that I've already seen:
The Broadway Melody of 1929
Billed as "History's first 'All Talking! All Singing! All Dancing!' movie, this rather successful musical plays out like a soap opera. Two sisters (who are rather affectionate with each other for sisters - I guess that this is how things were in those days) are working a stage act together. The one sister's fiance enters the scene and sees the younger sister for the first time since she was a kid. My, how she has grown! And boy, has she grown! It's instant crush for this guy - he's practically drooling all over her, right in front of his fiance. So the story is basically about the quest of these girls to make it in show biz, and the sub story has more to do with whether the younger sister will make off with the fiance, and whether the older sister realizes that her intended is more interested in her sister than he is her. Stars Bessie Love, Anita Page, and Charles King. Directed by Harry Beaumont. Musical numbers include the famous, "You Were Meant for Me".
Incidentally, according to the booklet that accompanies this collection informs us that this movie was, "All Hit, drawing enough 35-cent admissions to pile up an enormous $4-million box office." WOW!
I was surprised at how risque this was! What a jaw dropper for this time period! I don't think I'll let my kids see this one. Some of the camera angles are probably man-teasers, even by today's standards. In one scene the camera takes us between the legs of several lined up dancers - coming very close to showing female crotches. There's another scene where the camera is situated under some open stairs - so as the girls are cascading down the stairs rushing to their places on stage, you can see up their skirts. It's a good thing they had their BVDs on! Some of the clothes these gals wore in this one were so clingy - I'm wondering whether this musical was considered controversial in its day.
The music was great - I LOVE the 42nd Street theme song! I could listen to that all day!
Basically, this musical gives us a hardlined backstage look at what goes into producing a musical on stage. Stars include Warner Baxter, Bebe Daniels, George Brent, and Ruby Keeler. With Ginger Rogers as Ann 'Anytime Annie' Lowell, Dick Powell as Billy Lawler and Allen Jenkins as Mac Elroy. Directed by Lloyd Bacon.
The Great Ziegfeld
This hilarious, multi award winning musical pits William Powell, as Florenz "Flo" Ziegfeld Jr, against Frank Morgan, as Jack Billings. You won't stop laughing at these two! No matter what Jack does, 'Flo' is right there to undermine it and swipe it away. Both men are buddies and show producers, competing with each other with side splitting antics. Also stars Myrna Loy and Luise Rainer. Directed by Robert Z. Leonard.
The Wizard of Oz
We all know the story of how Dorothy and Toto follow the yellow brick road and the trouble they get into. A timeless treasure that still scares the wits out of me today when they're in that great hallway approaching the wizard. When I was a little girl I used to hide behind the couch during that scene. Today I still do it. And this time I have company - my little girl hides with me. "Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain." Why not? I'd rather pay attention to him than that fiery face that acts like it wants to eat me for lunch!
Yankee Doodle Dandy
This is the perfect 4th of July flick, folks! James Cagney gives an awesome performance dancing his way across the screen with some of his boyhood mates. Famous songs from this musical are You're a Grand Old Flag, Over There, Give My Regards to Braodway, and The Yankee Doodle Boy.
An American in Paris
I haven't seen this one yet, but it stars Gene Kelly so it must be good.
The daughter of a river show-boat captain and producer/director of their traveling river show falls in love with a fast talking gambler. Probably the most memorable and well loved musical song of all time, Old Man River, sung by William Warfield. An earlier version is sung by Paul Robeson.
This musical explores many things - spousal abuse, gambling addiction, a girl who goes against her father's hopes for her, and his ability to have to let her go and make her own way in the world along with his never ending love for her and how he welcomes her back with open arms when she is in a rut. Kind of like the prodigal son talked about in the Holy Bible, only this is the prodigal daughter.
Additionally this musical explores some of the racist laws of the time period in which this story is set. This is the part that brings tears to my eyes - that a couple in love is given hell because she's part black. I am so glad we don't live in times like this anymore!
The Music Man
Robert Preston is con artist Howard Hill, who comes to River City to form a band. He's really a lot of fun, but the town busybodies don't like him or his sinful idea. Favorite songs include, (Ya Got) Trouble, Pick a Little/Goodnight Ladies, and Seventy Six Trombones. Fun for the whole family!
Willie Wonka and the Chocolate Factory.
A poor boy wins the golden ticket to go visit a rather eccentric chocolatier. Being a life long chocolate lover myself, how could I resist such a movie? I can't! This delightful movie came out when I was 9 years old. Years later Johnny Depp did a remake. (Sorry Johnny - I love ya, but your rendition of Willie Wonka sucks cadbury's creme eggs.)
Back in the day, there was a lot of ignorant hoolabaloo surrounding the song The Candy Man. When it came out in the musical, of course, it was about Willie Wonka. But maybe the conspiracy theorists in those days were ignorant of that fact - they claimed it was a song about drugs and their rhetoric scared many gullible parents into not allowing their children to hear the song. Despite this paranoia, it was a big hit for Sammy Davis Jr.
Little Shop of Horrors
You've probably seen the original, starring Jack Nicholson right here at Classic Cinema Online. Well, this is a hilarious musical remake of the same story. A kid working in a plant shop tries to satisfy the voracious appetite of a flesh eating plant - that extorts him! Stars Rick Moranis and Ellen Greene. Directed by Frank Oz. Notable musical numbers include, Feed Me (Git It), Suddenly Seymore, and, of course, the theme song.
More than Musicals
Each of these comes with special features, of course - commentaries, documentaries, shorts, newsreels, and cartoons to increase your viewing pleasure.
The picture quality and sound quality of all of these, so far, are extremely good. No issues whatsoever from my point of view, so they're well worth the price.
This set is available right now at wbshop.com. It just hit the street Feb 12.
Watch for more reviews of the musicals in this collection right here at Classic Cinema Online. Meanwhile, be sure to stop by and "like" Warner Brothers Entertainment on Facebook.