I feel that this column needs a proper explanation, although I believe it is absolutely impossible that there are people who are not completely mesmerized and fascinated by the world of musical movies.
Ever since I was at a friend’s place as a child and she showed me her cool new yellow plastic recorder, with a real microphone attached to it, performing Britney Spears’ ‘Oops…I did it again’, I knew music was for me. I never got a cool yellow recorder but, nevertheless, I performed Britney’s songs in front of our mirror – to my parents’ delight. And although I slowly realized Britney might not be the best musical role model for me (‘Time to say goodbye’) I’ve never lost my love for music.
I remember the first time I watched a musical movie, ‘Moulin Rouge’ (covered in a later installment), quite vividly. The fact that all these songs were somehow connected to an actual storyline just made music even more special to me.
In school I was an active member of drama club and the choir where we performed some of the musicals I’ll cover in later segments of this column. I guess this is where my real love for musicals derives from.
Why do I think it is impossible not to like musicals and musical movies? Writing songs is a challenging task, every artist will agree with me on this one, but writing songs that interweave an entire story is even more difficult, especially when you constantly have to put yourself into someone else’s shoes. And so a musical has not only the magical power to make you fall in love with the songs but also with the story, the accompanying pictures and the different characters.
I start off my journey (the emphasis lies on ‘my’, as these are primarily my favourite movies) through the history of musical movies with the classics – three musical movie diamonds that will never lose their charm: The Wizard of Oz, An American in Paris and Singing in the Rain.
The Wizard of Oz
As a young girl I was so afraid of the Wicked Witch of the West that I hid behind the sofa every time she appeared on the screen. Now, a bit older, and a bit less scared too death whenever the green faced woman appears, I manage to watch The Wizard of Oz without jumping behind any pieces of furniture.
In its essence this film has never lost its charm for me, though. The story of a young girl that feels misunderstood and runs away from her family – ending up in the fantastical world of Oz – only to realize that ‘there is no place like home’ is heart-wrenching and gets me every time. Her friendly companions Tin Man, Lion and Scarecrow show us that all you could wish for is already within you, you just have to believe in yourself.
‘Somewhere Over the Rainbow‘ – a timeless classic, most prominently covered by Israel Kamakawiwo’ole
‘Ding-Dong the Witch is Dead’ – surely, this choreography must have been rehearsed long before the witch was dead
‘If I only had a Brain/If I only had a Heart/ If I only had the Nerves + If I were King of the Forest’ – although the lyrics are wonderfully on point I always ask myself why the three characters Scarecrow, Tin Man and Lion were not worthy enough of their own melody?
Maria’s verdict: Musical Madness
An American in Paris
The longest one of these three classic musical movies depicts the story of a young American falling in love with a young beautiful woman in, you guessed it, Paris, the city of love. And Gene Kelly tap dances himself into the heart of every (musical) movie lover.
However ‘An American in Paris’ poses a real challenge – even to me, and I consider myself a true fan. The tap dancing choreographies are painfully long at times – as it was for the artists, probably- and some musical sequences are overwhelmingly colourful, as if trying to hypnotize the spectator (perhaps into tap dancing?).
And yet the movie sends the wonderfully naive message that true love will win with the help of tap dancing and singing of course.
‘I got Rhythm’ Gene Kelly shows off his impressive dance moves and French accent – ‘who can ask for anything more?’
‘Tra La La’ Gene Kelly tap dancing on a piano
”S’Wonderful’ Gene Kelly is simply wonderful – and marvellous
‘Our Love is Here to Stay’ Gene Kelly serenading the female protagonist
Maria’s verdict: Dazzling Dances
Singing in the Rain
I can’t imagine you haven’t heard the lines ‘I’m singing in the rain’ at least once in your lifetime. The film centres around Hollywood and the rise of ‘talking pictures’ that threaten those actors and actresses who used to be the stars of ‘silent movies’ and their reactions to this development. And, surprise, surprise, there is a reason some of them lost their job in the wake of the businesses’ discovery of recording voice and picture simultaneously. (Hint: They had to talk now.)
First of all, let me just say, even in a ridiculous yellow raincoat, umbrella and rain hat Gene Kelly looks mighty fine. And, obviously, a man who can tap dance gets all the ladies (see above).
The highlights of this musical movie are once again the songs, varying from grand musical numbers – quite meta actually to include the idea of writing a musical into a musical movie – to romantic ballads.
Here are my favourite songs (sing-along tested, of course):
‘Moses Supposes’ especially interesting to all the linguistic geeks among our readers.
‘Good Morning!’ finds you shouting ‘good morning’ in the middle of the night – at least that was the case when I watched the film.
‘Singing in the Rain’ – a true classic. And Gene Kelly dances.
‘Would You’ for all the hopeless romantics.
‘The Broadway Melody’ – at one point I stopped counting the minutes and set changes, this one’s just amazingly contagious (and again, Gene Kelly dances).
Maria’s verdict: Effortlessly Enigmatic
….next time on Maria’s Musical Movie Mania: Audrey Almighty
Maria was listening to various songs from the above listed musical movies while writing this article.