Monday, January 14, 2008

My Top Ten Favorite Musicals (why not!)

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The other morning my friend Martin wrote on his blog:

"With the wife and son off visiting her relatives in Minnesota for the long weekend, what am I doing right now (besides blogging on the laptop from the kitchen counter)? I'm watching the beginning of High School Musical 2 for like the sixth or seventh time."

Now when I read that, I thought "What the heck??  I've never seen those Disney things--probably never will--and meanwhile he's seen this how many times?"   And then I remembered his fondness for movies like 'Grease', and then it hit me--I love musicals too!    

What follows is my personal 'Top Ten List of All-Time Favorite Musicals'; ranked in ascending order, of course (and followed by a couple Honorable Mentions).  Are there any surprises here?  It's doubtful; the films have lasted this long for a reason.  

10. Seven Brides for Seven Brothers (1954)

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Wait--this movie has a bunch of guys in fake moustaches & orange hair!

Yeah, freaky.  But it has Jane Powell.

But this movie has a bunch of 'lonely' hillbilly brothers swooping into town & kidnapping half a dozen single women for the winter!

Criminal.  But it has Jane Powell.

But it has a little too much 'Brother' and not enough 'Bride'--except for catty Julie Newmar, who has a little too much everything!

Brides

 

 

Doesn't matter--it has Jane Powell. 

While songs like 'When You're in Love' don't do a lot for me here, it still had a great score--well paced storyline, & gymnast/ballet dance routines that were brilliant.  And of course...Jane Powell.

 

9. 42nd Street (1933)  

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"You're going out there a youngster, but you've got to come back a star!"

What's not to love?  With a dowey eyed Ruby Keeler ready to save the day, Dick Powell shufflin' off to Buffalo, & Bebe Daniels saying "Now go out there and be so swell that you'll make me hate you!"  Throw in George Brent, Walter Baxter, a couple quarts of genuine flop-sweat and a Broadway stage decked in shabby Depression Art-Deco...I say again, what's not to love?  

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8. Calamity Jane (1953)    

Doris Day has said this was her favorite film of the 39 musicals she'd done; I agree.  From the 'backwoods varmint' in love with Wild Bill Hickok (Howard Keel) to her 'extreme makeover' complete with flowers, chintz curtains, & Maybelline cosmetics--Doris could do it all.   I defy you not to fall in love with this she-critter!  

 

7. A Star is Born (1954)

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This was Judy Garland's 'comeback film', her earnest attempt (after MGM dropped her contract) to show the world she could still deliver.  And boy does she--a bittersweet vehicle with James Mason as her 'washed up' actor husband, struggling to remain a star as she climbs the ladder of Hollywood Success.   

 

 

 

6. The Sound of Music (1965)

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Okay so those Von Trapp kids unnerve me a little; but Julie Andrews sure packs a wallop in this film--I don't own it, but I don't have to.  I know it by heart & watch it every year when ABC airs it around the holidays.   (Each time I see the darn thing, I pray Liesl doesn't go 'Whee' after that gay Nazi kisses her; but she always does!)

 

 

 

Musicals I've seen (and loved) performed live on Stage

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I saw Phantom twice, at the Pantages in Toronto; once with my pal Elisa, and with my sister Shawn.  Oklahoma & Miss Saigon, both at the Benedum Theatre in Pittsburgh; and Mama Mia, at Heinz Hall (again, with Shawn for her birthday).

 

5. Funny Girl (1968)

617D5C2B848A9C67_3078_15 If someone had told me I'd be writing (on my own behalf) about Barbra Streisand in the Teepee someday, I wouldn't believe it.  But here I am, and here she is.  And she was nothing short of amazing in this 'bio musical' based on the life of Fanny Brice--Streisand's film debut.  Growing up, my sister Shawn was Barbra's biggest fan; but it wasn't until she got this movie in the 80s that I finally saw it.  Over and over again, in fact. 

 

 

 

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"You think beautiful girls are going to stay stars forever? I should say not! Any minute now they're going to be out! Finished! Then it'll be my turn!"

 

   

4. Annie Get Your Gun (1950)

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What, another cowgirl story?  Yep!  I suppose everyone knows the backstory here--originally a Judy Garland film, but she was dealing with health issues.  The studio replaced her with Betty Hutton--who made the character her own.

Irving Berlin certainly cranked 'em out for this Wild West Show--"You Can't Get a Man With a Gun" (my personal favorite), "Doin' What Comes Naturally", "I'm an Indian Too", and of course "Anything You can Do". 

For legal reasons, this wasn't broadcast on TV until just a few years ago--and was just as difficult to rent or buy.  Thank God they finally cleared that mess up, because this is considered one of the top 5 musicals by the AFI -and- the Apache!     

 

3. Cover Girl (1944)

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Wow.

1) A lush technicolor musical from the 40s, and it's not MGM--it's Columbia Pictures??

2) Gene Kelly, Phil Silvers as "Genius" & Rita Hayworth as "Rusty Parker"--the small-time nightclub dancer who looks for her big break in a 'Cover Girl' magazine contest.

3) Did I say it stars Rita Hayworth?

 

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What You'll Love About 'Cover Girl'

In the first fifteen minutes of the film, Kelly, Hayworth & Silvers do a 'walkalong' dance/song routine 'Make Way for Tomorrow' on a city street-- designed especially for Gene Kelly by a grateful Columbia Pictures.

Hayworth's 'Broadway debut' features twenty giant-sized magazine covers, all in terrific color & some still around today!  (Remember Coronet?  Colliers?  Yeah, I don't either.  But it's still a fun trip into the past!)  

 

2. Singin' in the Rain (1952)

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It's no secret that Gene Kelly is my favorite musical actor.  In fact, when creating this list I wrestled with 'Summer Stock', 'The Pirate', 'On The Town', 'An American in Paris'...all wonderful films starring Gene Kelly. 

 

 

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Debbie Reynolds was only 19 & still lived at home with her parents while making this film; and did you know Howard Keel was MGM's original choice for the lead? I'm not joking.   

So who doesn't know the story, about the early days of Hollywood when the industry was attempting to switch from silent films to talkies?  Along with Donald O'Connor (who was secretly terrified of Kelly), Debbie Reynolds & a too-sexy Cyd Charisse--Gene didn't just make a fine movie here, he made history.  It's no wonder that the American Film Institute rated this the No.1 musical of all time--and the No.5 MOVIE of all time.  

 

1. The Wizard of Oz (1939)

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This took all of 3 seconds to decide.

1.  Judy Garland--the greatest star of all time.

2.  The Wizard of Oz is, and always will remain, my favorite musical of all time.

3.  This is also my favorite movie of all time.

 

 

 

Honorary Mentions - Three Personal Favorites that deserve to be listed here too

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On a Clear Day You Can See Forever (1970)

Let's see--ESP, reincarnation, hypnotism, mod 1970 fashion--and a Hitchcock-like opening sequence with the best title ever.

Waitaminute--why isn't this my Number One!? 

 

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Chicago (2002)

My friend Sue dragged me to this when it premiered; I haven't got Catherine Zeta-Jones or Renee Zelwegger outta my head ever since.  

 

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West Side Story (1961)

Natalie Wood plays Maria.  That's all you need to know.

 

 

The End!

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