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Film Studies 101
Become A Musicals Expert In Ten Easy Steps
Master a genre in just a handful of films...

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Set hands to “jazz” people, it’s time to put on the Ritz. The latest in our series that will enable you to convincingly bluff a masterful command of any genre focuses on the musical, a form that bloomed the instant that sound was added to moving pictures and has flourished, to some degree or another, ever since. Waltz with us from the golden age of the 1930s to the 1950s and ‘60s second coming; play the piccolino as we pass the 2000s biopics – Ray, Walk The Line – in our quest for the most essential and most representative of the bunch. Raise the red curtain, ladies and gentlemen. The show must go on!

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Become A Musicals Expert In Ten Easy Steps | A Star Is Born (1954)
A Star Is Born (1954)

Director: George Cukor
Cast: Judy Garland, James Mason

Like a Capra flick with a belting hangover, this musical originally rolled off David O. Selznick’s chorus line in 1937 with a mic in one hand and a slug of Scotch in the other. A film about the sacrifices required to achieve stardom – love, sobriety, sanity, even surnames – its relevance to Hollywood life might explain why it’s been revisited time and again, most recently in The Artist (albeit, obviously, not a musical). This second version, directed by George Cukor, is still the best, thanks to a commanding performance by Judy Garland as ingénue Esther Blodgett. Her mix of steel and satin so dazzles fading svengali Norman Maine (Mason) that he propels her to stardom before falling back into the nearest bottle. Garland’s performance was juiced up with authenticity: the one-time Frances Ethel Gumm, a star with addiction problems of her own, must have looked at the script and seen her own life writ large. The story’s next rendition sees Clint Eastwood giving Beyoncé the chance to flaunt her not-insubstantial talents in the role – she’ll be going some to better Garland’s version.

What to sing: Ira Gershwin’s ‘The Man Who Got Away’, preferably in a smoky jazz club.

Pub trivia: Despite her character winning an Oscar in the film, Garland was famously pipped to the Academy Award by Grace Kelly and A Country Girl.

Further reading… A Star Is Born (1937), A Star Is Born (1976), The Artist (2012)

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Your Comments

1 It says...
...Musicals expert in ten easy steps, but you forgot 'Sound of Music'? No self-respecting Musicals "expert" should skip Rodgers & Hammerstein, regardless of whether they like their style of Musical or not. R&H (as no one calls them) also gave us 'The King and I,' 'South Pacific' and 'Oklahoma!' They're the candy coloured musical purveyors par excellence! Also... no 'West Side Story'? The Sharks and Jets leaping into jazz / ballet battle alone defines the incongruity of everyone jumping into a song and dance routine for thousands of people who ain't even watched 'West Side Story'! As such (and for "Somewhere"), it deserved a prominent place on this list. Now, I need to rent me some of these, 'cause I've only seen 'Beauty & the Beast.' More

Posted by HighwayJoe on Saturday April 27, 2013, 02:44

2 This is Spinal Tap
Has some great songs - though we don't hear them in their entirety. Beauty and the Beast . . . Dear God! More

Posted by badsanta on Tuesday March 27, 2012, 09:03

3 And the Sound of Music
And the Sound of Music More

Posted by badsanta on Tuesday March 27, 2012, 08:59

4 Beauty and the Beast? You're Kidding, Empire
Beauty and the Beast! Come on. You can do better than that: Mary Poppins, The Jungle Book, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, Bugsy Malone. And where's Jesus Christ Superstar, Grease, Hair, Rocky Horror? More

Posted by badsanta on Tuesday March 27, 2012, 08:57

5 Musical Addict
Well it's official. I'm an addict of the genre having seen not only the ten "all stars" but all the "recommended viewing" below each one. So glad musicals seem to be making a big comeback and I may or may not die of anticipation until Les Mis opens!! More

Posted by jessied44 on Friday March 23, 2012, 17:52

6 Interesting choice!
This is a very interesting choice of musicals, and thankfully I've seen all but one. I grew up watching musicals and love them for their diversity and passion. There are arguments for the inclusion of various others, but I like your selection.Rocky Horror is fun and different, but is hardly even a good film, let alone a good musical. Cabaret broke much of the same ground as Rocky Horror, but is also a brilliantly made film. And yes I know people still dress up to see RHPS in the cinema, but even though Mamma Mia broke every cinema record going, and I love it, I wouldn't class it as a great film. There are also arguments for Moulin Rouge and Chicago, but they owe their style and existence to other ground breakers. As for Grease and Hairspray, they are both fun and I like them, but personally I don't rate either of them next to some of the best of the 50's and 60s. If anything I'd have loved to have seen more from that era on your list, but as you've included two of the best I'll have toMore

Posted by Punchgirl4 on Thursday March 22, 2012, 18:33

7 Rocky, Rocky, Ra-ra-ra!
No Rocky Horror? For shame Empire. Rocky Horror was the eptiome of the musical. At a time when conseratism ruled, it broke the mould and brought sexual expression and freedom, not to mention kick-ass rock and roll, to the masses and inspired generations to do the time warp again. More

Posted by Y2Neildotcom on Wednesday March 21, 2012, 12:19

8 Hmmm
Where are Grease and Hairspray? Surely two of the best musicals ever! I'm not a fan but surely sound of music should have a place rather than Beauty and the beast? More

Posted by dontsayaword on Tuesday March 20, 2012, 16:26

9 The Swell Sessions?
Bit of a nitpick, but Glen and Marketa are part of THE SWELL SEASON. That is all... More

Posted by MacShordo on Tuesday March 20, 2012, 06:58

10 RE:
L: Whistler Um... High School Musical? ahahahahaha More

Posted by Agent69 on Monday March 19, 2012, 20:04

Um... High School Musical? More

Posted by Whistler on Monday March 19, 2012, 18:16

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