Musicals through the decades

The latest Mach Was challenge is about musicals and ever since I saw that call, all sorts of musicals have been floating around in my head! Even though I am not the world’s greatest musical fan or connoisseur, I really do enjoy a good (movie) musical and I’ve come to the conclusion that I’ve seen quite a few of them over time – enough to be able to pick my favourites for each decade in musical movie history…


The 1930s – The Rogers & Astaire era

I realize that I should probably choose The Wizard of Oz (from 1939) as a favourite musical from the 1930s but I have to confess that I have never seen that movie! I’ve seen many clips & excerpts, I have read about it, but I have never actually watched it. For me, 1930s musicals are synonymous with Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers! I have already once before enthused here on blog about this dancing and singing screen couple. I’ve been reviewing their movies again and I think my favourite would have to be Top Hat (1935), although I also really liked Swing Time (1936). The plots for both movies are somewhat contrived but, oh, the dance numbers!

Top Hat is a mistaken-identity movie. It centers around a model (Ginger Rogers) on holiday in London and Paris who mistakes an entertainer (Fred Astaire) for the husband of her friend. The movie features the very famous Fred Astaire in top hat dance…

… and the ‘Cheek to Cheek’ feather-dress-dance (the feathers on Ginger Rogers’ dress were flying around everywhere, if you look closely in the video you can see it – apparently after that, Fred Astaire nicknamed Ginger ‘Feathers’)…


The 1940s – More Fred Astaire!

The 1940s are still about Fred Astaire for me. He reunited with Ginger Rogers in The Barkleys of Broadway (1949), which I really enjoyed (and of all the Astaire/Rogers movies the plot of this one makes the most sense to me), but the movie I liked even more was Easter Parade (1948) with Astaire and Judy Garland. Easter Parade is about nightclub performer Don (Fred Astaire) who hires naive chorus girl Hannah (Judy Garland) to become his new dance partner to make his former partner jealous. He wants to prove he can make any partner a star. Hannah bristles against Don’s attempts to make her just like his old partner and grows into her own kind of performer.

‘Steppin’ Out With My Baby’ may be the most well-known song from that movie…

… and here’s a fun number,  ‘A Couple of Swells’, where Hannah truly is very different from Don’s elegant former partner…

It’s a fun watch! Especially Judy’s acting, and of course Fred’s dancing, stand out here.


The 1950s – The Gene Kelly era

The 1950s had a ton of musicals. I really like another Fred Astaire musical called Funny Face (1957), also starring my darling Audrey Hepburn, and a lovely jazz musical with Danny Kaye called Five Pennies (1959) but, most of all, the 1950s is Gene Kelly’s decade to me! He did An American in Paris (1951) with Leslie Caron, which is a fun musical, but I think my fave 50s musical has got to be Singin’ in the Rain (1952), which Gene Kelly did with Debbie Reynolds.

Singin’ in the Rain is set in the late 1920s when movies went from silent to sound. When two silent movie stars’ latest movie is turned into a musical, a chorus girl is brought in to dub the female movie star’s singing and speaking. Gene Kelly plays the movie star Don Lockwood and Debbie Reynolds plays the chorus girl Kathy Selden. The very iconic title song is maybe the most well-known musical number ever. It never gets old looking at this…

The one I catch myself singing sometimes, just like that, is ‘Good Morning’…

I swear, virtually every number in this musical is legendary, there isn’t a bad song and dance routine in it!


The 1960s – The Julie Andrews era

I liked Hello Dolly (from 1964, with Barbra Streisand) but the mid 1960s is really the Julie Andrews era. She famously starred in My Fair Lady on stage but wasn’t deemed well-known enough for the movie, so the Eliza Doolittle role for the 1964 movie went to Audrey Hepburn instead. In the meantime Julie Andrews made Mary Poppins (yes, we’re still in 1964!) and became very famous for that.  However, my fave 60s musical has got to be The Sound of Music, which was made a year later in 1965.

The Sound of Music is about a young postulant, Maria (Julie Andrews), who is sent to be the governess to the children of naval officer and widower, Captain Von Trapp (Christopher Plummer). It is set in Salzburg (Austria) in 1938 around the time the Nazis gain power there and is based on a true story. It’s awfully corny in many ways, but I do love it; it is well-acted and has real heart. There are some songs there I don’t like very much (like when the Mother Superior sings ‘Climb Every Mountain’ or the ’16 going on 17′ song), but others are absolutely irresistible, like ‘Do-Re-Mi’, ‘Edelweiss’ or ‘My favourite things’ (which incidentally is also the tag-line of this blog)…

There is also this very romantic dance. Normally I wouldn’t be caught dead listening to German/Austrian ‘Volksmusik’, which this is to a certain extent. This scene, however, always makes my heart skip a beat…

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen this movie; I even went to a Sound of Music sing-along once, eight years ago!

It was absolutely silly but a lot of fun.


The 1970s – The rock & pop musical era but I liked fairytales!

This is the time of the rock & pop musicals, like Rocky Horror Picture Show (1975) and Jesus Christ Superstar (1970), or Saturday Night Fever (1977) or Grease (1978). All of them fine! But, I was a little girl in the 1970s and just starting to learn about movies and musicals. At the tender age of 7 I fell in love with a kitsch Cinderella movie musical called The Slipper and the Rose (1976) with Richard Chamberlain as the prince and Gemma Craven as Cinderella. I have blogged about The Slipper and the Rose before here and I have shared some fun musical clips from that movie here. It’s probably got a lot to do with nostalgia, but I still love this musical (that virtually nobody knows anymore). Let me share another romantic dance video with you: the prince and Cinderella meet and dance…

… and my father’s favourite song, I always think of him when I see or hear this…


The 1980s – Youth musicals

There was Fame (1980) and Flashdance (1983) and Footloose (1984) and Dirty Dancing (1987), which was all very youth centered and I remember them all being very popular when they came out. I liked them and enjoyed them and fell in love with David Bowie and a teenage Jennifer Connelly in Labyrinth (1986), but the musical I loved most was Yentl (1983), which was not so youth oriented. In my house, the whole family loved that movie, we had the soundtrack on LP and played it continuously.

Set in early 1900s Eastern Europe, Yentl is about a young woman (Barbra Streisand) who dreams of studying Talmud but as a girl is not permitted to do so. After her father dies, she disguises herself as a boy and goes out into the world to find a place where no one knows her, so that she can get the education she so covets. Things get complicated when she falls in love (with Avigdor, played by Mandy Patinkin)…

The song ‘Papa’ from the movie, then and now, always makes me think of my own father. Again, in this movie, all the songs are great, like ‘One of Those Moments’…

… or the final song. ‘A Piece of Sky’…

This is also a musical I have seen many times and it never grows old!


The 1990s – Cartoon musicals

There were musicals like Sister Act (from 1992, which was fun) and Evita (from 1996, just OK) but to me mostly the Disney cartoon musicals stand out in the 1990s, like Beauty and the Beast (1991) and Aladdin (1992). The movie that sticks out most for me is The Lion King (1994). I thought I was all over cartoons by mid mid-20s until I saw The Lion King in the cinema (I only went because some friends wanted to see it). To my surprise, that movie made me cry in the first 15 minutes! For me it isn’t a musical masterpiece like some of the musicals I mentioned in earlier decades are, but I did love it! The ‘Hakuna Matata’ song was cute! At the time everyone also said ‘hakuna matata’ to each other, it was a bit of a hype.

Last year I went to London for a few days with my son and I promised him a stage show. He picked The Lion King, so we went to see that and very much enjoyed it!

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I like that this musical is now linked to my son like that. 🙂


The 2000s – Fairytales & books

Not many musicals spring to mind in this era, but I did really enjoy Moulin Rouge (2001 about a writer and a cabaret star). That movie didn’t have many original songs but it did have great covers of great pop songs which made it a joyous watch. As a Jane Austen fan, I also really loved the Indian answer to Pride and Prejudice, called Bride and Prejudice (2004). In fact, I need to share one clip from that movie. The actor Naveen Andrews (he plays Balraj, the Bingley character, dressed in black), really reminds me of my youngest brother and I could actually picture my brother doing this dance act as well…

I love the way P&P translates to an Indian story and the joy that seeps through in all the songs and dances.

My fave 2000s musical, however, has got to be Enchanted (2007). A young maiden called Giselle (Amy Adams) who lives in a land called Andalasia and is prepared to be wed to Prince Edward (James Marsden), is sent away to cynical New York City by an evil queen (Susan Sarandon), where she falls in love with lawyer, Robert (Patrick Dempsey). It’s a real princess story yet also a spoof on all (animated) Disney princess stories, with even a hint of The Sound of Music spoof thrown in. See if you can spot that reference in this joyous ‘That’s How You Know’ number…

It’s fun and funny for adults and there’s also serious princess stuff there for the little ones. I discovered Amy Adams through this; she plays the princess so brilliantly and is nicely offset by grumpy Patrick Dempsey who slowly thaws (and she learns how to be angry!).


The 2010s- The Hugh Jackman era

So, here we are – the musicals of this present decade! I probably should mention La La Land (2016) here, as it won so very many awards! I felt, however, that that movie was very over-hyped. It was nice enough but the quality of the main actors’ singing and dancing just couldn’t hold a candle to some of the musicals mentioned above. I was underwhelmed. For me, the best musicals of the past 7 odd years have starred Hugh Jackman, so to me this is the Hugh Jackman musical age!

First off, Les Miserables (2012). I have always loved Les Miserables. In the mid 1980s we had a tape at home with all the songs from the London stage musical. I knew all the songs before I even knew the story. I finally saw the musical live in the West End in London in the fall of 2013 which was a dream come true for me! About half a year before that, I saw the 2012 movie musical version with Hugh Jackman and Anne Hathaway in the cinema. I know several people who didn’t like it, but I absolutely loved it!

Les Miserables is set in 19th century France. It’s the story of Jean Valjean (Hugh Jackman) who has served 19 years of imprisonment for stealing a loaf of bread. He breaks parole and after that is hunted for decades by the ruthless policeman Javert (Russel Crowe). He agrees to take care of a factory worker’s (Anne Hathaway) daughter, Cosette (Amanda Seyfried). Once grown, Cosette falls in love with revolutionary Marius (Eddie Redmayne), while Valjean wants to keep Cosette and himself out of the way of Javert.

Jackman was brilliant, as was Hathaway (she deservedly won the Best Supporting Actress Oscar for this, I felt) and Eddie Redmayne has this surprising angelic voice. Recently I already shared a clip of Hugh Jackman singing ‘Who am I’, let me share Eddie Redmayne singing ‘Empty Chairs’ here (makes me cry every time!)…

I can’t possibly begin to select songs here to post, I would have to post the whole movie! So, here’s a trailer that gives a nice sampling overview…

I can’t just pick one favourite for this decade, now that the latest Hugh Jackman musical installment is here: The Greatest Showman (2017). I thought it would be a mildly amusing movie to go see, I never expected to love it this much!

The Greatest Showman is a musical inspired by the life of P.T. Barnum (played by Hugh Jackman). Barnum rises from nothing to create the “Greatest Show on Earth,” a spectacle and circus, starring ‘oddities’ like the bearded lady and a dwarf. It is inspired by true events but must certainly not be taken as gospel! It’s basically the fairytale version of Barnum’s life, with a nice message of celebrating difference and inclusion.

I can’t find many clips from the actual movie on YouTube (although you can see the trailer), but I can share a clip of a live performance the cast did of one of the songs…

And the anthem about being OK with who you are and showing yourself as you are, has been nominated for an Oscar for Best Song this year! Here is a clip from the movie, when the Bearded Lady (Keala Settle) sings ‘This Is Me’…

Again, with this movie I love every single song! I have been playing the soundtrack in the car virtually non-stop for all my commutes to work these past few weeks. I’m secretly hoping for the sing-along version to also come to The Netherlands… 😉


So, there you have it, my Mach’ Was musicals through the decades list! I’m sure I’m forgetting a ton of great musicals, so if there are any you feel should not be left unmentioned, feel free to do so in the comments. 🙂

Blog post 101

Apparently my post today about the Muse concert was my 100th blog post! So, I’ve decided that a year into blogging and after 100 posts it was time for a little blog facelift. I’d grown a bit tired of late of how my blog looked, it’s not really fun to look at the same image of yourself in the header over and over again… Also, I wanted something lighter than the dark blue. The 100th post milestone finally kicked me into action. So, I picked my The Crucible watercolour that my mother had painted for me for my birthday as a header image, picked a new layout theme and a different font and voilà, it all looks different! I’ve got to say that for now, I’m happy with how the blog looks. 🙂

The subtitle of my blog (“these are a few of my favorite things”) is taken from a song in “The Sound of Music”. This past spring was the 50th anniversary of that film, I only recently came across that fact. I also came across this  recent image of Julie Andrews and Christopher Plummer that I loved!

Julie Andrews Christopher Plummer
Photo by Annie Leibowitz

I saw it in this sweet article. They are looking happy and energetic and beautiful and, might I add, a little naughty too! Great picture and a very pleasing way to celebrate my 101st blog post and the blog facelift.. 🙂

The Oscars 2015

Every year, for many years now, I stay up all night to watch the Oscars live on TV (ceremony starts at around 2 am here and ends at around 6 am!). For the past 5 or 6 years a close friend of mine comes over to watch it with me. We take the Monday off work and after breakfast/lunch at around 1 pm she heads home again…

Oscars

Ever since my early teens in Germany ‘discovering’ Hollywood I always wanted to see the Oscars. It was a celebration of film and I could ogle actors in ‘real life’ – but more glamorously. Yes, there’s always criticism about the choice of nominations and who wins and the awards show itself and the speeches and who wore what and looked stunning/awful and in the grand scheme of things I do realize it is fluff and not so important. But it is fun and I like fun! I could never watch the ceremony then, it didn’t air on any channel we received. In later years in The Netherlands it occasionally aired somewhere on a channel somewhere and then some years I couldn’t find an airing of the ceremony anywhere, to my great chagrin. Only in more recent times have I been able to watch regularly on a paid cable film channel that opens up for free on Oscar night! And so, maybe 10 years ago or so, my all-nighters began and I could finally see for myself on a regular yearly basis what everyone was writing about.

Watching the Oscars also means that I like to see at least some of the movies nominated. I don’t go see them all, just the ones that really interest me and sound good to me beforehand. I had seen The Imitation Game and loved it. Last week on a Wednesday afternoon, while my husband was working from home, I was able to catch the very last screening in our local cinema (on my own, with just 4 other people present in the room!) of The Theory of Everything. Yes, excellent performances by Eddie Redmayne and for me, especially from Felicity Jones! I wanted to blog about that as well, especially about Felicity, but I was too busy and then this past week I have been ill (hence the Oscar post only now and not 3 days ago).

Felicity Jones - Jane HawkingWow, I so would have liked for her to win an Oscar for playing Jane Hawking! So strongly acted and culminating in the heartbreaking  scene near the end at the break up of their marriage. Beautiful, understated, so well done!

David Oyelowo - Martin Luther King

Then on Sunday evening, before my all-night Oscar party, my friend and I went to see Selma. The name “Selma” is special to me and I love that it is now also associated with a good movie! For me, it was not the best movie of the year (somehow The Imitation Game touched me more, but that may be because that story is less known) but, boy, was it solid and good. And especially David Oyelowo was excellent! That man has been robbed for not being nominated for his role in Selma!

This year the Oscar viewing was a bit different – I didn’t have to stay awake after the Oscars to get the kids up and off to school as they have the week off. And they decided they wanted to watch the Oscars as well with my friend and I! So, kids had gone to bed early and we woke them up about an hour before the ceremony began (just after 1 am!). They watched some of the red carpet with us and then the ceremony as well. My husband gave up at around 3.30 am and went to bed but the kids, my friend and I watched till the end. It was so nice having the kids do this with us, although I suspect they were more fascinated by the staying-up-through-the-night aspect of it all than by the actual Oscars thing. 😉

ThiEddie Redmayne Oscars year I didn’t have so much to really root for. I would have slightly preferred Cumberbatch to win over Redmayne but did love that Redmayne had won and his joyous acceptance of the award. I really like Julianne Moore but I was rooting for Felicity Jones. Loved that The Imitation Game received one vital award (adapted screenplay – and the wonderful speech that went with that!) but wished they could have received more. I loved the speech the winner for best foreign film gave (Polish film called “Ida”) and how he went on talking through the music and the disarming honest humor in that speech. I couldn’t join in the Birdman fuss as that film isn’t out here yet I don’t think… and that’s where my gripe starts…

This was mostly about films no one the-hobbit-Thorinhas seen! Granted, I love small films and feel they deserve awards like these, but a little more recognition for a blockbuster like, oh, The Hobbit would not have been amiss! I think people are so used to the wonders of Middle Earth that it isn’t considered special anymore… I really missed The Hobbit in all this…

As for the show itself – Neil Patrick Harris didn’t do it for me as a presenter. I so much preferred last year’s Ellen DeGeneres and some years before that: Hugh Jackman, who had really surprised me at the time! Harris delivered some nice jokes – only to undo each and every one of them after the punchline with a little grin!

I really liked the song “Glory” from “Selma” that won the Oscar – very powerful performance on Oscar night with John Legend, Common and a gospel choir to back them up! And then the most surprising performance of the night and real high point for me – when Lady Gaga did that The Sound of Music medley! I mean, yeah, I knew Lady Gaga could sing – but like that?!? Wow!

Lady Gaga - Julie Andrews 2 Lady Gaga - Julie Andrews

And then Julie Andrews came out and hugged her and said “Dear Lady Gaga… thank you for that wonderful tribute, it warmed my heart”… my goodness, goosebumps and the best 5 or 6 minutes of the whole show for me!

So, yes, thereColin-Firth-Oscar was little for me to get excited over on the awards front this year (unlike 4 or so years ago when Colin Firth won – I was over-the-moon then! Still so happy about that, that I need to share a picture on the right here). And yet, this still was a memorable Oscar night for me: there was the Lady Gaga surprise and Julie Andrews, there was sadness at missing The Hobbit and, most memorable of all, there was the sharing of this Oscar night with my kids for the first time!