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History of Musical Films Essay

By 1928, Hollywood was invaded by sound theater. Silent films made an honorable exit. Vaudeville was also being wiped out. It signaled a phenomenon Tinseltown was not quite prepared for. It was the time of sound facilities and infrastructures. Later on Broadway composers were hired to write screen musicals (“History of Musical Film”, 2004). The first picture to make a transition from silent film to sound was Warner Bros. ’ 1927 The Jazz Singer starring Al Jolson who mostly did the singing in the movie (“Musical Film”, 2006).

One MGM musical hit opened the doors to the musical film genre. This was the 1929 Broadway Melody with a score by Nacio Herb Brown and Arthur Freed. The story was about two sisters fighting over their love of a song and dance man. It cost $379,000. 00 and grossed for $1. 6 million in its first release. Its title tune is “You Were Meant for Me. ” It was the first sound film to win an Academy Award for Best Picture. MGM’s production chief Irving Thalberg was credited for bringing in a string of musical hits since Broadway Melody. (“History of Musical Film 1927-1930 Part II”, 2004).

Love Parade from Paramount followed on the same year by silent screen director Ernst Lubitch. It is a lighthearted operetta inspired by Broadway to fit the screen starring soprano Jean Macdonald as a young royalty and Maurice Chevalier as the French playboy diplomat. (“History of Musical Film 1927-1930 Part II”, 2004). The 1930s, 1940s, and 1950s were considered the golden age of musical films. Following are some of the popular musical films: Hollywood Revue of 1929 with Joan Crawford from MGM, Cecil B. Demille’s Madam Satan (1930). 932 mid-Depression saw the making of Love Me Tonight, a collaboration of Richard Rogers, Lorenz Hart, and director Rouben Mamoulian. Rogers and Hart continued with Hallelujah, I’m a Bum (1933) with Al Jolson. (“History of Musical Film 1930s: Part I”, 2003).

Forty Second Street by dance Broadway director Busby Berkeley choreographed the dance sequences while composer Harry Warren and lyricist Al Dublin created the score. It was a million dollar hit for a $400,000 production. It was followed by Footlight Parade (1933), The Gold Diggers (1933) and Hollywood Hotel (1937). “History of Musical Film 1930s Part II” 2004). Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers entered the musical scene in 1933 through Flying Down to Rio, The Gay Divorcee (1934), Top Hat (1935) with a score by Irving Berlin. It was also the time of Shirley Temple in movies such as Stand Up and Cheer (1934), The Little Colonel (1935), among others. Disney produced Fantasia (1940). MGM revived its musical genre with the release of The Merry Widow (1934) (“History of Musical Film 1930s Part IV” 2004). The 1940s saw Warner Brothers’ Yankee Doodle Dandy (1942) with James Cagney in his Oscar-winning performance.

Then independent producer Samuel Goldwyn found Danny Kaye and made Up in Arms (1944, Wonder Man (1945), among others. It was also the time of Bing Crosby (Road Series, Going My Way, Holiday Inn) and Bob Hope (“History of Musical Film Screen 1940s: Part I” 2003). Judy Garland starred in Little Nellie Kelly (1940), Ziegfeld Girl (1941), Meet Me in St. Louis (1944) directed by Vincente Minneli, her future husband. She appeared in sixteen MGM musicals. Gene Kelley also was a big MGM star in musical movies like For Me and My Gal (1942), On the Town (1949), among others (“History of Musical Film 1940s Part III” 2004).

The 1950s was the decline of the musical film genre and the emergence of television. Some of the musicals produced from 20th Century Fox were Richard Rodgers & Oscar Hammerstein II’s. Oklahoma (1955), Carousel (1956), King and I (1956). South Pacific (1958). Warner Brothers released some Doris Day films, Love Me or Leave Me (1955), The Pajama Game (1957). Paramount produced What Christmas (1954) while Walt Disney released musical animations such as Cinderella, Alice in Wonderland, Peter Pan, Sleeping Beauty. MGM released Kiss Me Kate (1953) and High Society (1956) (“History of Musical Film Screen 1950s”, 2003).


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