Tuesday, January 25, 2011

More Movies -- the Musicals

1958 was a surprisingly good year for wretched excess in the movies, and I probably saw all the most excessively overwrought pictures released that year. Excess was the zeitgeist. Just look at a 1958 Buick to catch the spirit of the year!

One of the highlights of the 1958 movie season was the release of Rogers' and Hammerstein's "South Pacific," one of the all time movie musical excesses.

For example, "There is Nothin' Like a Dame"

But we could easily pull out any musical number from the film and revel in its cinematic and musical excesses. "South Pacific" was the climactic movie musical. After that, everything was anti-climax.

But before the innundation of the senses that was "South Pacific," another Rogers and Hammerstein movie musical entranced audiences (including me) in 1956: "The King and I."

As overdone as "South Pacific" is, "The King and I," though lush and exotic as can be, is by contrast restrained.

In 1961, "West Side Story," by Leonard Bernstein and Stephen Sondheim took the movie musical to another level altogether. I had been listening to the music from the Broadway show for years before I saw the picture, so I was pretty familiar with what it sounded like, but the movie experience it has stayed with me ever since. I love the show, I think it is great, one of the highest achievements of the American Musical Theatre bar none, and one that stands alone. There has been and is nothing else like it.

Well, except for this: "Web Site Story:"


In 1963, a simple little movie musical called "Bye Bye Birdie" was released, and I can't count the number of times I must have seen it. It was a delight, and I was a young teenager at the time, so... I could relate. Heh.

Then in 1964, audiences were treated to what is very nearly the penultimate American musical (before the form imploded and became a specialty entertainment for connoisseurs): "My Fair Lady." I didn't much care for it, to tell the truth, but it was nicely done, so any objection I might have had was mild.

From that point on, at least until the release of "Cabaret" in 1972, the American Musical Theatre and the films that were made from those musical plays, were darned near dreadful. Despite occasionally interesting attempts, the art for has not recovered. That's my opinion. And I'm sticking to it! ;-)

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