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. 🙂

My ‘Bridget Jones’s Baby’ report

Finally getting around to writing this up! It’s been busy…

So, a few nights ago I went to see Bridget Jones’s Baby. I was very suspicious of a new Bridget Jones movie but I can’t resist Colin Firth as a Mr. Darcy character (I can not resist Colin Firth – period) so no matter what, I was always going to go see this.

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Before I say anymore I have to say that I regret seeing so many clips of this movie beforehand because it took away from some of the jokes once they came up – they weren’t all new to me, I had already seen some of the funny ones! Also, when we went to see the movie, it was shown in one of the largest theatres of the cinema we were at and it was sold out! That meant, quite some raucousness during the very funny scenes, which sadly also drowned out some of the funny dialogue. In writing this up,  I am aware that they colour my first impression of the movie.

So, I have said in the past how I didn’t much like the ‘who’s the baby daddy concept’ when I read about it beforehand. To my surprise, however, it was handled very nicely and it gave great friction for the two male characters, Mark Darcy (my Colin) and Jack Qwant (Patrick Dempsey)! Mark is still not good with emotions, somewhat repressed and a workaholic. Jack is the way I think many Europeans see many American men – touchy-feely with wide smiles, health-conscious, open charm and a go-getter. Bridget, once again, finds herself torn between two very different men, with both men vying to be with her. I thanked the stars above that there was no fight scene in this movie (I hated that the second movie had rehashed that from the first movie) but there was more than enough covert rivalry between these two men to make the situation even funnier. I found that especially Colin excelled in those situations, but then I may be biased…

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About Bridget – while she does still bumble around quite a lot she has also matured. She is quite competent in her job (even though she does still muck things up) and she is still single, with her friend seemingly more obsessed by her finding a partner than she is. She is still not the best public speaker around but she tries and succeeds alright and she still knows how to enjoy herself at a party! Her mother is still ridiculous and her friends are still around, now with families of their own. She has also made new friends, like the delightful Miranda (Sarah Solemani), her colleague. So, yeah, Bridget is back but with a little more wisdom.

About Mark Darcy – he still is emotionally uptight but there is also a sadness to him. I find the explanation as to why he isn’t with Bridget somehow lacking. Why he would even have felt the need to marry someone else, whom he is already divorcing at the beginning of the movie, is beyond me. The explanation of why he and Bridget broke up (they are just too different) would have been divisive enough, I didn’t see the need for the ex-wife. Sure, it gave him an extra air of tragedy which really made you feel for him, but that could also have been achieved in other ways. I would have been happier if more of a deal had been made about those differences and I don’t think Darcy could have married anyone else after loving Bridget. Bridget never married, I don’t see why he would have done so. In my view, I believe he just would have emotionally shut himself down even more and have drowned himself in work, instead of getting another wife and then divorcing her again. But that’s just the romantic in me… how could Mark Darcy ever love or marry anyone else than Bridget?

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So, the ex-wife storyline annoyed me, as did knowing some of the best jokes beforehand and the loudness of the crowd in the theatre but other than that: I truly enjoyed this movie and it had everything to do with stellar performances!

I really liked this Bridget, more mature, aware of her past mistakes and yet still the same bumbling person with her heart in the right place. I’m not a huge Renee Zellweger fan but she pulled this off beautifully! She truly is a great Bridget.

Of course Colin Firth was brilliant! The sadness he portrayed was heartbreaking, the way Bridget still touches him was sweet but what I think I loved most were his deadpan looks, especially in the scenes with Patrick Dempsey. Dempsey was alright, he’s a nice guy and a seriously good suitor for Bridget, but Colin outshone him in every way and really made me laugh in the rivalry scenes. I won’t go into the scenes specifically, I don’t want to spoil them, but pay attention to the looks Colin throws. The man acts beautifully with just facial expressions and eyes. Also, the magic between him and Bridget is still there… My bias, I guess, but boy, did I love Colin in this movie!

And then there was Emma Thompson as the gynaecologist Dr. Rawlings… She is all about the business she’s in, very experienced and matter-of-fact. She throws little lines of wisdom and some priceless one-liners out there that are truly funny. A few days later I’m still laughing out loud at the thought of some of them. I read that Emma pretty much wrote her own role and boy did she do it well! She was brilliant, she really stole the movie in the scenes she was in.

There was great humor in this movie – from the explanation as to why Daniel Cleaver isn’t around anymore, to the scenes of Bridget at work and the Jack Qwant interviewing section, to the Darcy-Qwant rivalry and more. I know the getting to hospital bit was a little over the top, but boy, did I laugh! Oh, and the whole labour and birthing section was truly hilarious. There were some sweet and sad scenes too, but mostly this really was a romantic comedy.

Final verdict from me? Bridget Jones’s Baby is not as great as the first Bridget movie (nothing can top that) but it is way way better than the second one. The story was generally good, as were the characterizations, and the acting was great. I’m not just talking about the lead roles here, the supporting roles were acted superbly as well! The movie did have a few annoyances for me but still it is thumbs up from me for this one, I quite loved it! Yes, I need to go see it again, even if only for Colin Firth’s deadpan looks and Emma Thompson’s dry remarks…

Colin at the London BJ premiere

And I was right, the man looked dashing at the Bridget Jones’s Baby premiere last night!

He also took a little time for his fans…

I always love seeing Colin Firth with his wife Livia. Before she went to the premiere, Livia (an eco-warrior for sustainable fashion) posted a video on her Instagram about her choice of outfit.

 

Then later she shared this snap of her and Colin on the pink carpet…

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… but I found many more cute shots of the couple together!

I love the way she looks at Colin here, and he at her. It’s so lovely seeing an ‘old married couple’ like that look comfortable and apparently still happy together! A man with a good marriage is very sexy… There are bound to be ups and downs after so many years together but ultimately they stick together because he knows how to make his woman happy and she knows how to make him happy. I find that extremely appealing. ♥

Emma Thompson (credited as co-writer, but I think mostly for her own character) was also there with her daughter Gaia. This woman always exudes irrepressible glee, I just love her! Emma apparently steals the show in the scenes she’s in, which I can very well imagine, judging from what I have seen in trailers.

And here’s a shot of the main cast (Patrick Dempsey, Renee Zellweger and Colin of course)

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I also found a nice little interview with Colin HERE (filmed a few days before the premiere during the press junket) about the movie, his co stars and if there could be even more Bridget Jones movies.

What maybe pleases me most, however, is that my go-to movie magazine “Empire” gives this latest Bridget Jones movie a 4 star review!  They say: “Though the story occasionally stretches credibility, the warmth and wit so reminiscent of the original Bridget Jones’s Diary propels you along, being due in large part to the return of one woman: director Sharon Maguire. […] While the dynamic between Zellweger and Firth is as solid as ever, her pairing with Dempsey never delivers; him playing a one-note nice guy with a megawatt smile.” This means, I hope, that Bridget wisely chooses Mark Darcy in the end! Empire’s final verdict: “More than a match for the original, the third outing for Bridget has a solid story with holes you’ll forgive thanks to the much-missed onscreen magic created by a director and her leading woman.

I have since read a few more positive reviews, looks like this movie may not be such a disaster after all! Fingers crossed that I’ll feel that way as well when I see it (I still feel nothing can touch the first BJ movie) and that this is the worthy sequel the second BJ movie never was.