Typically, we all know that there are movie musicals. Today, most of them aren’t even very good. They’re usually shoved aside into the abyss of forgotten movie history that hardly anybody ever talks about. This list of 10 classic film musicals are good (to me: hella good, even). Some of them were even critically acclaimed and garnered Oscar attention. But today they are nearly forgotten. They don’t stay in the ranks of such films like “West Side Story” (1961), “The Sound of Music” (1965) or “Grease” (1978), which audiences still watch and love today. But these movies don’t deserve that. They’re classics in their own right. Some I could even say are much better then those movies. Here’s a list of 10 Forgotten Movie Musicals That Modern Day Audiences Should See.
10. VIVA LAST LEVAS (1964) – A lot of people are against Elvis as an actor. I agree. He’s a great singer but not so much of a brilliant actor. But in “Viva Las Vegas” he brings such charisma and fun that it’s hard to resist the movie. Casting the fierce and sexy Ann-Margaret to star across him was an absolutely perfect idea too. The movie tells the story of Lucky Jackson (Elvis), a gambler and professional race car driver trying to earn money to fix his car and earn big at the annual Las Vegas derby. But when he meets a vivacious life guard named Rusty Martin (Ann-Margaret), things begin to spin out of the place. The movie is filled with such vibrant colours and fun dance numbers that “Viva Las Vegas” is nothing but good old fun. It emulates everything that the swinging 60s was! It also features one of Elvis’ most famous numbers in the title tune and a lot of showstoppers from the young Margaret. But the best number in the whole movie is their pool side, flirty duet called “The Lady Loves Me”.
9. WHITE CHRISTMAS (1954) – I actually watch this movie every Christmas with my family. Though the song ‘White Christmas” didn’t actually originate from the movie (another Bing Crosby flick called “Holiday Inn” released in 1941 has that honour), using the Irving Berlin song was nothing short but genius. When two song and dance men (Bing Crosby and Danny Kaye) follow two beautiful sisters (Rosemary Clooney and Vera-Ellen) to Vermont, they are surprised that they’ll be spending a snowless Christmas. When they discover that their old army general owns the almost-out-of-business hotel they are staying in, the four decide to put up the best Christmas show the likes of anyone has ever seen. Everything comes together in a cheesy, glittery musical extravaganza. Not to mention the introduction of numerous famous Christmas songs that we still sing today. My favourites gotta be “Snow”. No, “Count Your Blessings Instead of Sheep”. No, “Snow”! There’s too many to choose from!
8. SWING TIME (1936) – This has got to be my favourite film out of the 10 movies Fred Astaire and Gingers Rogers made together. I mean, it’s just brilliant. Not only the wonderful score, or the usual boys-meets-girl plot they use, but it’s truly great filmmaking. Fred Astaire plays Lucky, a gambler and performer who decides to go to New York and raise $25,000 to marry his fiancee. He seeks for the help from a dance instructor named Penny (Rogers) to help him win the money. But Lucky and Penny’s relationship begins to blossom into an odd but “fine romance”. “A Fine Romance” is just one of the many cute musical numbers that Fred and Ginger get to perform together. Them dancing together doesn’t only put beauty of form on film, but magic as a whole as well. And you’d be surprised too because this is where the very famous love song “The Way You Look Tonight” first appeared in…and it won an Oscar for Best Original Song too. Put that in your pipe and smoke it!
7. CALAMITY JANE (1953) – One of the most underrated movies of 1953 is this one. Doris Day plays her best performance in her career as cowgirl Calamity Jane, a tomboy in love with a hopeless lieutenant. But her passion for him is threatened when she brings in a beautiful, young actress to the town of Deadwood to entertain the crowds. What Calamity doesn’t know is that love is starring at her right in the face. The score of “Calamity Jane” IS movie musicals. The story is entwined with the music with its specialised lyrics and how they present it. Not to mention 1953’s Best Original Song Oscar winner “Secret Love” which is probably one of the most romantic love songs ever written and performed. Doris Day shines here. These were the years when she was far from type casting, like in her 1960s sexual charged screwball comedies, and boy, does she shine. She’s charming and funny, and she keeps you interested throughout the entire narrative. Her leading man in Howard Keel, didn’t only have the voice to keep up with her, but their duet “The Blackhills of Dakota” is endearing and pleasurable to the ears.
6. CAMELOT (1967) – If you know me well, I get obsessive tendencies when it comes to 1967’s “Camelot”. First of all, it’s like my moms favourite movie of all time. Meaning, I grew up with the images and of course, the music. I’m a big fan of Vanessa Redgrave (she plays Queen Guinevere in the movie), and I believe this is her most underrated performance to date. And also the medieval storyline just gets to me every time! If you’re not familiar with the legend of Camelot, it tells the story of how King Arthur (Richard Harris) loose his mighty Kingdom when his beautiful wife Guinevere (Redgrave) starts an affair with his most trusted knight, Lancelot (Franco Nero). Also, Lerner and Lowe (the brilliants minds behind 1958’s “Gigi” and 1964’s “My Fair Lady”) wrote the music, and they are my favourite composers of all time. The movie boasts extravagant sets and costumes to match their equally extravagant music that is really out of this world. “How to Handle a Woman” and “If Ever I Should Leave You” are possibly some of the greatest love songs ever penned down.
5. ALL THAT JAZZ (1979) – If you like R-Rated films and movie musicals, then this is the movie for you! When people think of “All That Jazz”, they instantly think of “Chicago” (2002). Not me. When I think of that phrase, I instantly think of Bob Fosse’s 1979 classic “All That Jazz”. Fosse is a brilliant director in his own right. Originally a Broadway director, Fosse chronicles his life in the form of this autobiographical film focusing mainly on the three women in his life: his daughter, his ex-wife and his girlfriend. All set around a story telling session he has with the angel of death (played by Jessica Lange). The movie is filled with dazzling and sexy musical numbers with perfect choreography (duh! It’s Fosse) and an intense storyline that will keep you at the edge of your seat. Roy Schieder plays the director Joe Gideon (Fosse’s alter ego) whose health is consumed because of drugs and cigarette smoking. The movie is dark and truly shows another side of show business.
4. HELLO, DOLLY! (1969) – “Funny Girl” (1968) is brilliant, but “Hello, Dolly!” (1969) is most definitely much more fun. When you have Barbra Streisand in your movie (especially in the late 60s to the late 1970s) prepare to be entertained and enthralled. She plays the loud mouthed matchmaker Dolly Levi who finally decides that it’s time for her to enter the world again and set herself a match, found in the stubborn, old half-a-millionaire Horace Vandergellar (Walter Mathau). As she releases the tricks up her sleeve, the side line story of 2 other younger couples (most notable Michael Crawford’s supporting role as the optimistic Cornelius) is shown as they fall in love in a musical filled day around New York City. Just like most of the old school film musicals, “Hello, Dolly!” boasts ultra extravagance in their sets and costumes. Sadly it marks the last of Hollywood”s Golden Age of musical films. You don’t see movies like this anymore AT ALL. The thousands of extras directed by the legendary Gene Kelly makes such wonderful and overwhelming scenes. The music is family friendly and meaningful. But the best number is “Put On Your Sunday Clothes” which features the cast strutting around town in a happy and colourful film moment.
3. THE UMBRELLAS OF CHERBOURG (1965) – For those of you who are anti-comformist and want to be a little bit more “hipster”, then check out “The Umbrellas of Cherbourg”. Why is it special? Well the whole movie is sung…IN FRENCH. But apart from the that, it truly has some of the most beautiful images ever seen in a 1960s movies. Director Jacques Demy, really pulls out all the stops here when it comes to aesthetics. The cinematography is groundbreaking, ultimate eye candy. Catherine Deneueve and Nino Castelnuevo play the doomed couple separated by battle in World War II France. As she must continue to lead her life without him, she discovers something crucial – she is pregnant. The music of French composers Michael Legrant and Jacques Demy plays perfectly in the background or upon the dialogue the ensemble cast sings. This is a true cinematic gem and a very pleasing experience that beats almost all “fully sung” movie musicals today like that movie “Rent” (2006) which was an utter mess of a film.
2. EASTER PARADE (1948) – Films like this hardly miss. Most especially if you have two musical giants like Fred Astaire and Judy Garland star in a musical comedy for MGM. This is one of the studios best products from their Golden Age of musical pictures from the late 30s all the way to the 50s. It’s hilarious, witty and actually very heartwarming. We are brought into the life of Don Hewes (Fred Astaire), a popular stage performer, who is left by his exotic partner who is seeking for greener pastures. He then recruits, Hannah Brown (Judy Garland), a nobody bar singer who he then trains and trains into something she is not just to be able to outshine his old partner. What he doesn’t realize is that Hannah has her own musical talents that genuinely come from the heart. The movie is perfect because it shows the sides of Astaire and Garland’s musical persona that they’ve come to be known for. He plays the overbearing, super talented, elegant dancer with a heart, and she plays the underdog, provincial, hella talented girl. What more can you ask for in a musical film! And damn, that title tune is amazing!
1. PAL JOEY (1957) – The number one of our list is 1957’s “Pal Joey” which is the strongest bunch of the film. What people tend to forget is that Frank Sintara was a pretty decent actor. He plays Joey Evans, a playboy who balances two girls in the San Francisco nightclub scene. One is the luscious socialite Vera Simpson (Rita Hayworth) and the other is a showgirl named Linda English (Kim Novak). I don’t wanna say much about it except that the movie really touches the heart. Even that typical, walk in the sunset ending. Just see it immediately! You won’t regret it, especially since it features some wonderful Frank Sinatra standards like “The Lady is a Tramp” and “I Could Write a Book”!