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!

20170421_191519_resized

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. 🙂

Advertisements

Music to my ears… partially…

So, there’s lots of audiowork from Richard right now…

First off, he narrated a very iffy romance called Wanderlust by Lauren Blakely. When Richard speaks about this project, it does sound interesting in theory…

… but in practice I remain sceptical. Also, it’s an audiobook, which I’m generally not into anyhow. Perry was kind enough to listen to it so that I don’t have to and share her thoughts. Thank you for that! And yeah, I’m convinced more than ever that this is not for me. Don’t get me wrong, I’m a sucker for a good romance but this doesn’t sound good to me at all… Sounds like more sex than plot & character, and while I don’t mind a graphic scene or two, I hate when there’s too much of it. It’s basically why I skipped through 80% of Fifty Shades of Grey and never bothered with the two sequels. I’m not sure I want to listen to some guy or girl masturbating on tape and, really, I mostly only like to hear dirty talk from my husband anyhow… So, yeah, I’m skipping this one, this project is not music to my ears.

The other project, the Wolverine one, IS music to my ears, as I already posted about here! It’s the first audio project of Richard’s that I am actually looking forward to! He’ll be on a panel at the South by Southwest (SXSW) Festival in Austin, Texas on March 11th, talking about Wolverine. Here’s also a press release about that. I’m looking forward to hearing more about what he says there, hope some fans can go and report back!

A third audio project that Richard narrated was released yesterday and is The Martian Invasion of Earth which I understand is a retelling of H.G. Wells’ The War of the Worlds. This could possibly be music to my ears, even though it is an audiobook! I don’t think I ever read the actual book and the movie with Tom Cruise was alright but not great. The adaptation I have always really loved of this book, however, is the rock musical Jeff Wayne made in 1978, narrated by none other than the late and great Richard Burton (that man had a great voice)!

Richard Burton

It’s the only audiobook of sorts that I’ve ever really enjoyed. What I love is the combination of Burton’s voice, the manner of narration and the great music that gives this an extra dramatic character.

So, I’m curious about the adaptation Richard A. has done and whether it can live up to the Jeff Wayne / Richard B. version. Richard A. is following into some big footsteps!

Martian Invasion Richard Armitage

The bits I have heard do sound promising, so I am going to try this despite it being an audiobook. Here’s hoping this will become music to my ears.

Yesterday news also came that Richard is filming again, this time a horror picture. “Noooo!”, was my first thought. Guess he changed his mind about not wanting to do horror. This is definitely no music to my ears. If there’s one genre I really can’t do, it’s horror. He’s filming something called The Lodge now.

Yeah, I can’t follow him there, I don’t think. I was only just about able to bear Hannibal, and admittedly, I think he did a great job there! However, it’s not something I can revisit and watching more horror is not something I can do… probably…

This horror movie and the sex book job sound like odd choices to me and it has me wondering whether he actually wanted to do these, or whether he was just obligated to do them, or whether he still feels like he can’t refuse stuff during down times even if they are iffy, or whether he finds them to be new challenges that somehow give him something, or whether he’s just a workaholic. I hope the answer is about new challenges and I hope he enjoys them…

Anyway, quickly shaking off this ice cold horror vibe that just ran down my spine from the horror movie choice, let me move on to another piece of audio. This time no Richard, but Hugh Jackman (yes, I know, him again). I was driving to work yesterday morning, listening to The Greatest Showman soundtrack yet again and having such a blast with it, I decided to film the experience on my way home from work. This is what came of it… It’s my current fave song from that soundtrack, called ‘From Now On’.

And while I have Richard and Hugh in one post yet again, here are two more pictures of these two dashing gentlemen. I saw this picture of Hugh…

HJ

…. which somehow made me think of this picture of Richard, one of my faves ever of him…

richard_2a-20161016

These are not music to my ears but a feast for my eyes to end this post on instead. 🙂

Falling in love with Hugh again…

I have always liked Hugh Jackman, ever since I saw him in Kate and Leopold and in that first X-men movie back in 2000. He’s very much my ‘tall, dark, handsome’ type but while I always really liked him a lot, something held me back a little from absolutely loving him. Maybe it was the Wolverine thing. I really like the X-men movies, I think I’ve seen all of them, including the Wolverine ones, but Jackman was mostly an action star from my perspective and that’s not usually what I go for.

Then I remember seeing him presenting the Oscars in 2009, doing the opening number. I can tell you, I was blown away by that. Up until that point I had no idea he could even do that (silly me, if I had cared to look, I could have found out that he’s won Tonys on Broadway!).

I fell a little bit in love with him that evening. I have rewatched that opening sequence countless times since and I still love it! I started paying a little more attention to Hugh after that but still didn’t watch everything (there were more X-men). Then he did Les Miserables and he blew me away in that too!

He got nominated for an Oscar for the role of Jean Valjean, but alas lost out to Daniel Day Lews in Lincoln. My admiration has been growing for him since then. Then last week, I went to see The Greatest Showman.

Reviews for it have been so-so, I didn’t expect that much. There had been such a hype about La La Land last year and, though alright, I didn’t really like that movie that much. So, with the so-so reviews, I thought this would be in the ‘just OK’ category as well. The movie has Hugh Jackman, however, so my friend and I decided to give it a shot and we were not disappointed! It’s not a true portrayal of P.T. Barnum’s life, it’s rather a fairytale interpretation, but I have to say I loved every second of it! The acting and singing and dancing was great, the music was totally awesome, it was upbeat, happy, had a message of tolerance and inclusion, I left the cinema with a huge smile on my face and Hugh Jackman finally, totally won me over! I am so going to go see this one again… Here’s a video of the final song of Hugh’s in the movie, taped during a private performance to get the filming greenlit…

In a later interview I saw, he said he had popped a few stitches in his nose after doing this performance (he had just had cancerous tissue removed from his nose). Here is another clip from that same session, of the song This Is Me from the movie, which garnered an Oscar nomination yesterday!

Alas, that’s the only nomination this movie got, which I think is a shame (especially compared to La La Land last year!).

After seeing that, I remembered that I hadn’t watched Logan yet, which was released early in 2017 and which is the absolute last movie in which Jackman plays Wolverine. I had heard good things about it, that it was grittier and different from other Wolverine movies, and so I finally watched it last weekend.

OK, so this remains a superhero movie, but my goodness, it really was different! It was more real than any of the other movies ever felt, and yes, gritty. Wolverine is weary and battled and scarred and very touchingly cares for a very old and fragile Professor X (Patrick Stewart being brilliant again) and the young girl that comes into Wolverine’s reluctant care (played by Dafne Keen) is also excellently played! Wow, this really was a great, gritty end to the Wolverine saga, with the message that a life of killing really has it’s price… The screenplay for Logan was nominated for an Oscar yesterday as well, and I think that’s the only Logan nomination, which is really a huge shame! To me, Hugh Jackman should have received his second Oscar nomination for this!

When I think of these two polar opposite roles Hugh plays so extremely well, one right after the other, I have to say that I am blown away by this man’s talent! The man really is being robbed by not being recognized with at least an Oscar nomination for one of these two movies…

While I was catching up on Hugh Jackman movies, I also watched the movie he did in 2016 called Eddie the Eagle where he plays a down on his luck ex-Olympian ski jumper who coaches a hopeful Olympian (based on a true story). In that movie he was excellent as well, in a more supporting role!

In this movie he also reminded me of Richard Armitage more than ever before. Here he is in the movie with sunglasses…

Hugh Jackman Eddie the Eagle

… and here’s Richard with sunglasses…

I can understand how people mix them up!

Oh, and Hugh Jackman has another huge thing going for him: a very happy marriage for over 20 years to his wife Deb, who is 13 years his senior.  He still seems head over heels in love with her (he mentions her constantly, lovingly, in interviews)…

… and adores the two children they adopted together…

This man is maturing so very nicely and doing such great things with his career right now! I’ll be following his projects more closely now and have just started dreaming about seeing him live on Broadway one day… 🙂