Evolution of the Movie Musical

5:30 – 8:00 p.m.
Harding Fine Arts Academy Auditorium
3333 N. Shartel Avenue, Oklahoma City, OK 73118
All films appropriate for ages 8+.

Join us as we explore the changing face of the American movie musical as represented by six feature-length films supplemented by clips from others, as well as a few musical short films.

FREE admission. RSVP encouraged.

Concessions will be available and all proceeds will benefit the Film Production Club at HFAA.

Singing and dancing are immemorial forms of human entertainment, so it should come as no surprise that as soon as technology allowed synchronized sound to be added to moving pictures, movie musicals became a staple of the American movie-going diet. They not only captured performances by some of the 20th century’s greatest entertainers, they also vastly expanded the variety of heretofore stage-bound stories that musical entertainment could tell and the ways those stories could be told. As the art of filmmaking progressed, the movie musical evolved with it (though not always linearly), reflecting changing tastes and styles of music and movement as well as the national mood, but remaining throughout fundamentally entertaining.

Film historian Elizabeth Anthony, president of Reel Classics, provides introductions and commentary.

Sept. 21- 42ND STREET (1933)

This infectious Warner Bros. spectacle was neither the first movie musical nor the first so-called “backstage” musical, but it was both innovative and enormously popular during the Great Depression, setting a standard of entertainment against which future musicals would be judged. Starring Ruby Keeler, Dick Powell, Warner Baxter and Ginger Rogers, featuring choreography by the incomparable Busby Berkeley, and showcasing now-standard Harry Warren songs like “42nd Street,” “Shuffle Off to Buffalo,” and “You’re Getting to Be a Habit with Me,” in 42ND STREET the movie musical goes out a youngster, but comes back a star!

Oct. 19 - TOP HAT (1935)

The films of Ginger Rogers and Fred Astaire at RKO broke new ground in their use of dance to reveal character and show developing relationships between characters in movie musicals. Boy could now meet girl in entirely new ways! The fourth of their ten movies together, TOP HAT introduces such Irving Berlin classics as “Cheek to Cheek” and features a host of supporting comedians including Edward Everett Horton, Helen Broderick, Eric Blore and Oklahoma’s own Erik Rhodes. The music, dancing and Art Deco sets are all equally spectacular, contributing to the film’s four Oscar nominations and its second place finish at the box office at the height of the Great Depression.

Nov. 9 - LOVE ME TONIGHT (1932)

This oft-overlooked musical gem from Paramount Pictures is little known today because a lot of its pre-Code sexual innuendo is so well integrated, it couldn’t easily be edited out for re-release in theatres or on television once more stringent censorship codes were implemented. Nevertheless, its cinematic innovations and influence within the industry were immense. French musical hall star Maurice Chevalier and soprano Jeanette MacDonald star in this charming fairytale free-flowing with delightful Rodgers and Hart songs including “Isn’t It Romantic?” – apparently the national anthem of France in this period!

Feb. 22 – THE WIZARD OF OZ (1939)

Not altogether flawless, but in many ways a perfect movie musical, this iconic MGM masterpiece is such an integral part of the fabric of American culture, it’s easy to simply sit back and enjoy it without ever noticing how seamlessly the parts are coming together to form the whole. With Judy Garland, Ray Bolger, Jack Hayley, Bert Lahr, Margaret Hamilton and Frank Morgan all in career-defining roles, and such memorable Yip Harburg/ Harold Arlen songs as “Follow the Yellow Brick Road,” “We’re Off to See the Wizard” and the Oscar-winning “Over the Rainbow,” no matter how many times you’ve seen it, THE WIZARD OF OZ is a perpetual spirit-lifter, and always better on the big screen!

Mar. 29 – STORMY WEATHER (1943)

This all-Black musical extravaganza from 20th Century-Fox chronicles the history of African American contributions to American musical entertainment, from spirituals and soft shoe, blues and zoot suits, to jazz and jive. Standards like “Ain’t Misbehavin’,” “Diga Diga Doo,” “I Can’t Give You Anything But Love,” and “Stormy Weather” are brought to life by an all-star cast including Bill “Bojangles” Robinson, Lena Horne, Cab Calloway, Fats Waller and the Nicholas Brothers. Made during wartime, STORMY WEATHER was part of a bevy of movie musicals that helped buoy spirits and bolster the patriotic fervor of Americans at home and overseas during World War II, but the performances it captures have endured long since.

Apr. 12 – AN AMERICAN IN PARIS (1951)

Composer George Gershwin died tragically of a brain tumor in 1937, but his melodies linger on. With the help of his brother and songwriting partner Ira Gershwin and Broadway songsmith Alan Jay Lerner, MGM wove more than a dozen of those melodies together to create an otherwise wholly-original movie musical starring Gene Kelly as the title character and as the choreographer of some sparkling production numbers, including the now-legendary “American in Paris” ballet. Accentuated by the talents of Leslie Caron and Oscar Levant as well as art/set direction inspired by French impressionist painters, this showcase of creativity earned six Academy Awards, including the Oscar for Best Picture. S’Wonderful!

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