Perhaps even more than the western, the Hollywood musical is of a certain time. The heyday was from 1927 to 1964, from The Jazz Singer to My Fair Lady. There were sporadic attempts after 1964, but times had changed and what we saw was more experimental as the musical format gave way to licensed pop songs. It seems the further we get away from the glory days, the harder it is to capture the magic of that era. Dancer in the Dark? Uh, no thanks.
So here's my quick trawl through five decades of song and dance, mostly American, with a few excursions to Britain, France, and Brazil. For the musical is almost an indigenous American art form. Almost.
The Jazz Singer (for the sake of history)
top tune: "My Mammy"
Hallelujah (King Vidor)
top tune: "Waiting at the End of the Road"
Gold Diggers of 1933 (Mervyn LeRoy)
Footlight Parade (Lloyd Bacon)
Forty Second Street (Lloyd Bacon)
top tune: "Shuffle Off to Buffalo"
Flying Down to Rio (first Astaire-Rogers)
top tune: "Music Makes Me"
The Gay Divorcee (Mark Sandrich)
top tune: "Night and Day"
Gold Diggers of 1935 (Busby Berkeley)
top tune: "Lullaby of Broadway"
Top Hat (Mark Sandrich)
top tune: "Cheek to Cheek"
Follow the Fleet (Mark Sandrich)
top tune: "Let's Face the Music and Dance"
Swing Time (George Stevens)
top tune: "The Way You Look Tonight"
Broadway Melody of 1938 (first Judy Garland)
top tune: "Dear Mr. Gable"
Carefree (Mark Sandrich)
The Story of Vernon and Castle (H.C. Potter, last Astaire-Rogers)
The Wizard of Oz (Victor Fleming)
top tune: "Over the Rainbow"
Holiday Inn (Mark Sandrich)
top tune: "White Christmas"
Cabin in the Sky (Vincente Minnelli)
Going My Way (Leo McCarey)
top tune: "Swinging on a Star"
Cover Girl (Charles Vidor)
Meet Me in St. Louis (Vincente Minnelli)
top tunes: "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas", "The Trolley Song", "The Boy Next Door"
The Bells of St. Mary's (Leo McCarey)
top tune: "Ring-a-dem-bells!"
State Fair (Walter Lang)
top tune: "It Might As Well Be Spring"
Ziegfeld Follies (George Sidney + Vincente Minnelli)
The Harvey Girls (George Sidney)
top tune: "Atchison, Topeka and the Santa Fe"
Blue Skies (Stuart Heisler)
top tune: "Blue Skies"
Romance on the High Seas (Michael Curtiz, Doris Day's screen début)
top tune: "It's Magic"
The Pirate (Vincente Minnelli)
top tune: "Love of My Life"
On the Town (Stanley Donen)
top tune: "New York, New York"
Annie Get Your Gun (George Sidney)
top tune: "Anything You Can Do"
Summer Stock (Charles Walters)
top tune: "Get Happy"
An American in Paris (Vincente Minnelli)
top tune: "I Got Rhythm"
Singin' in the Rain (Stanley Donen)
top tune: "Singin' in the Rain"
Gentlemen Prefer Blondes (Howard Hawks)
top tune: "Diamonds are a Girl's Best Friend"
The Band Wagon (Vincente Minnelli)
top tune: "That's Entertainment"
Seven Brides for Seven Brothers (Stanley Donen)
top tune: "Bless Yore Beautiful Hide"
Carmen Jones (Otto Preminger)
A Star is Born (George Cukor)
top tune: "Peanut Vendor"
Oklahoma! (Fred Zinnemann)
Guys and Dolls (Joseph Mankiewicz)
High Society (Charles Walters)
top tune: "True Love"
Carousel (Henry King)
top tune: "You'll Never Walk Alone"
The King and I
top tune: "Shall We Dance?"
The Pajama Game (Stanley Donen)
top tune: "Hey There"
Funny Face (Stanley Donen)
top tune: "How Long Has This Been Going On?"
Pal Joey (George Sidney)
top tune: "The Lady is a Tramp"
Black Orpheus (Marcel Camus)
West Side Story (Robert Wise)
top tune: "Tonight"
Bye Bye Birdie (George Sidney)
Summer Holiday (Peter Yates)
I Could Go On Singing (Ronald Neame)
Viva Las Vegas (George Sidney)
Les Parapluies de Cherbourg (Jacques Demy)
A Hard Day's Night (Richard Lester)
Mary Poppins (Robert Stevenson)
top tune: "Chim-chim-cheree"
The Sound of Music
top tune: "My Favorite Things"
My Fair Lady
top tune: "I Could Have Danced All Night"
These are the films that matter.
..and why not?
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