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Musicals in the 1950s
Singin' in the Rain
I love watching movies set in the ’50s, especially musicals. The 1950s was the last major decade for movie musicals made specifically for films. In the middle of the decade, most of the movie musicals were adapted from Broadway plays like those of Rodgers and Hammerstein. The beginning of the decade had your typical story in the musical like An American in Paris (1951). The story that boy meets girl, boy falls for girl, boy chases girl, boy gets girl. The dancing by Fred Astaire is phenomenal, but there was not that much singing. Two movie musicals won Academy Awards for Best Picture, An American in Paris (1951) and Gigi (1958). Both movie screenplays were written by Alan Jay Lerner and directed by ViNcente Minnelli, and both won Academy Awards for screenplay and direction. Also, both movies were produced by MGM studios. The difference between these two movies is that Gigi had a stronger storyline and new music. An American in Paris had great dancing but a weak storyline and no new songs.
Singin’in the Rain (1952) is one of my all-time favorite movie musicals. I have watched it at least many times whenever I’ve had a chance to catch it on TV. Gene Kelly and Debbie Reynolds are my favorite actors. I did not know that that was Debbie Reynolds from the Halloweentown movie series. She was so young. Gene Kelly was such a brilliant dancer, as was Donald O’Connor as well. This movie is one of the most loved and celebrated films of all time for MGM. It was the first musical that was only made for film and not a Broadway adaptation. It was written by Adolph Green and Betty Comden and directed by Gene Kelly and Stanley Donen. All of the choreography was created and taught by Gene Kelly. It stars Gene Kelly as Don Lockwood, Donald O’Connor as Cosmo Brown, Debbie Reynolds as Kathy Selden and Jean Hagen as Lina Lamont. The movie is a spoof of making films with spoken dialogue or ‘talkies’. While all of that is happening, there are stories that Don Lockwood and Lina Lamont are in love, but Don does not love her at all, because she is vapid, vain, and selfish.
Don and Cosmo are best friends since childhood and they have always performed together. When the opportunity came for Don to be a stuntman, he took it and they liked him so much, they made him do movies with Lina, but he has no interest in her whatsoever. He meets Kathy, an aspiring actress and singer, at a party they are throwing for him and falls for her instantly. The most memorable musical numbers of these movies are ‘Singing in the Rain’, ‘Make em’ Laugh’, and ‘Good Morning’, because of the incredible singing and dancing. Also all three of these songs and performances were referenced in the media today. The song ‘Make em’ Laugh’ was used in Family Guy, Glee, and Saturday Night Live. The ‘Singing in the Rain’ song was used in Glee also as a mash-up song, in Kenan and Kel. The Suite Life of Zack and Cody and The Simpsons. ‘Good Morning’ was used also in FamilyGuy and Charlie'sAngels: Full Throttle.
Other musicals in the ’50s were successful, like Annie Get Your Gun (1950) and Anything Goes (1956). Gene Kelly also was famous for the musical Anchors Aweigh (1945) and An American in Paris (1951). His third and final musical with Stanley Donen was It’s Always Fair Weather (1955) about three WWII soldiers who meet up after ten years and realize that they have nothing in common. This movie’s most memorable scene is when three guys are dancing on the street with trashcan lids. This scene was referenced in the movie Step Up 3D with Adam Sevani and Alyson Stoner’s characters. Not all musicals were happy all the time. A '50s decade Warner Bros. film called A Star is Born directed by George Cukor was more romantic tragedy drama. It was a remake of a 1937 drama non-musical film with Janet Gaynor and Fredric March. It is about an alcoholic actor/mentor who is declining as he sabotages the show business career of his partner. It stars Judy Garland and James Mason.
The demise of cinematic musicals happened in the ’50s and early ’60s when the public grew tired of a long succession of musicals, as expensive products. Risky screen musicals were the first genre to be discarded. Television was making inroads and grabbing much of the film-going public. Many of the screen musicals’ biggest stars were approaching their swan song years, like Gene Kelly, Fred Astaire and Frank Sinatra. Some Hollywood musicals were made cheaply, for instance Top Banana (1953) starring Phil Silvers,adapted from the Broadway hit, and WB’s Damn Yankees (1958) starring Gwen Verdon. These films were examples of the decline of musical feature films in the 1950s.