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Musicals that Have Won the Academy Award for Best Picture
1929 – The Broadway Melody: This movie stars Charles King, Bessie Love, and Jed Prouty. The Broadway Melody is about the trials, tribulations, and love triangles involved in working fulltime on the stage. In general, this does not seem to have as many songs as modern musicals do. However, as this was the first sound movie to win the Best Picture award, it is easily forgiven.
1936 – The Great Ziegfeld: This film is not a musical from the standpoint that the characters spontaneously break into song. Instead, as this is a biopic of Florenz Ziegfeld Jr., it shows full-scale reproductions of his stage works, as well as songs sung by Fanny Brice (playing herself) and Luise Rainer as Anna Held. Rainer, by the way won an Academy Award for her performance. William Powell plays Ziegfeld and the production was directed by Robert Z. Leonard.
1951 – An American in Paris: This was the first musical in the modern sense and style to win the Academy Award for Best Picture. Gene Kelly plays an American veteran who has gone to Paris in search of a Bohemian lifestyle. Along the way he meets a concert pianist, played by Oscar Levant, and a beautiful Parisian, played by Leslie Caron. All the music in this film was written by George and Ira Gershwin.
1958 – Gigi: Seven years after An American in Paris, Leslie Caron starred in yet another Best Picture winner: Gigi is an adaptation of Colette’s story about a Parisian courtesan. Caron plays the title role, with Louis Jourdan as Gaston Lachaille, and Maurice Chevalier as his uncle. The music is by Lerner and Loewe.
1961 – West Side Story: This is arguably the best retelling of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet as well as one of the best movies ever made. The one downside is that practically nobody did their own singing: Richard Beymer, as Tony, was dubbed by Jimmy Bryant; Natalie Wood’s songs – and a few of Rita Moreno’s high notes – were sung by Marni Nixon; Moreno sang America, but everything else was dubbed by Betty Wand; Russ Tamblyn, as Riff, did sing some of his own songs, but When You’re a Jet was sung by Tucker Smith who played Ice.
Even with all this, who cares?! It is still a wonderful movie. This was also the first adaptation of a Broadway musical to win the Academy Award for Best Picture.
1964 – My Fair Lady: This was another work by Lerner and Loewe. And, once again, Marni Nixon saved the production by providing the singing voice for Audrey Hepburn as Eliza Doolittle. Rex Harrison, as Eliza’s stingy mentor, did his own singing; but a very young Jeremy Brett, as Eliza’s love interest, was dubbed by Bill Shirley (Prince Philip in Disney’s Sleeping Beauty). This was done much to the chagrin of Brett, who was perfectly capable of singing the songs himself.
1965 – The Sound of Music: No musical has ever been filmed on such an epic scale as Robert Wise’s version of The Sound of Music by Rodgers and Hammerstein. How many musicals are actually filmed on location? – forget on location! How many musicals escape being filmed on a soundstage?
Christopher Plummer, not surprisingly, was dubbed; but Julie Andrews and the children all did their own singing.
1968 – Oliver!: While it may not be the purest version of Dickens’ book, Oliver! has certainly become the most popular. Oddly enough, the entire cast (which includes Ron Moody, Shani Wallis, and Jack Wild) did their own singing – with the exception, that is, of Mark Lester, as Oliver Twist. Lester’s voice was, of all things, dubbed by Kathe Green, the 24 year old daughter of the movie’s music director.
2002 – Chicago: This movie undoubtedly helped skyrocket Chicago into being one of the most performed musicals of all time. Renèe Zellweger and Catherine Zeta-Jones are the two murderesses; Richard Gere plays their sleazy lawyer and Queen Latifah is their corrupt prison warden. Chicago is one of the few musicals ever filmed with the singing and dancing all being done by the credited performers. Yes, Richard Gere did that tap-dance and yes, Bridget Jones sang for herself.