You’ve got to remember a musical or two, from these late 1950s and 1960s musicals…
Looking back at 4 Broadway Inspired Musical Films that I loved when I was wee (and still do).
Choosing my favourite Broadway musicals, threw me into a major dilemma. As the musical genre is one of those genres that keeps on giving.. be it guilty pleasures (see Xanadu (1980) and Grease 2 (1982)), surprising stars in song (Michael Caine in Little Voice (1998) and Lee Marvin in Paint Your Wagon (1954) and great wonderful (badly replicated by me) dance numbers (Annie (1982) and Chicago (2002)). There’s just too many to choose from.
So I thought about how to reduce this number, and that was the easy part. I feel Hollywood musical movies made from Broadway shows are much more palatable than Hollywood films made into musicals. There is something for me, quite disconcerting of the thought of Groundhog Day (1993) or Somewhere in Time (1980) characters bursting into song. So I shuddered and immediately discounted this list for this review. And so this article is not about these movies.
So what to review? There is a wealth of musicals out there, that I’ve seen and loved. So after much deliberation, I’m writing on four musical films that I loved as a kid. All of which
luckily originated in Broadway. There is something wonderful about those retro late 1950s and 60s musicals in a film that I still feel now as I did back then. Then it was perfect escape fodder and just like a lozenge as it soothed those troubled childhood times. So here in no particular order, here are just four of these musicals.
My Fair Lady (1964)
My Fair Lady Trailer 1964, Video Detective
I do love this musical, even after the disillusion finding out it wasn’t Audrey Hepburn singing as Eliza Doolittle, but it was Rex Harrison.. yay! And now lost in a reverie of his musical turns in this movie.. and remembering his turn as Dr Dolittle (1967). Tells the tale of Professor Higgins, a man with the belief that one’s voice determines one’s place in society.
Dr Dolittle Professor Higgins then bets a friend that he can make cockney Eliza Doolittle (no relation) ‘o can’t speak proper, pass over as a lady. It was kinda updated by Pretty Woman (1990) although Julia Roberts’ could speak properly. With Richard Gere and a possible romance.
Of course Darlin’ Husband on hearing I liked this musical, got me thinking after telling me to shut my eyes, (fatal mistake). Then he told me that Family Guy‘s Stewie Griffin is voiced by Seth MacFarlane and a Rex Harrison impersonator. But he didn’t spoil it for me.. but this kinda did. This story was kinda updated by Pretty Woman (1990).
Oliver! original trailer, troz2000
Or the one that should have been titled Oliver (Reed is in this musical!). Kind of an Annie for boys. So don’t read on for spoilers for either film.. or read Dickens’ Oliver Twist which it’s based on. An orphan living in an orphanage – escapes orphanage and bad guys – then cared for by rich benefactor then – then kidnapped by bad guys – escapes and for some bizarre reason – leads to precarious escape plan eg climbs up pylon/railway track (which only little person can escape from) – then adopted by nice benefactor – cue possible annoying sequel.
Memorable for the lovely ballad As Long As He Needs Me sung by Nancy (Shani Wallis) and for Reed – as Bill Sykes – not singing (unless I’ve blanked this from my head). Led to a childish crush on Jack Wild, which disappeared long before his appearance in Robin Hood Prince of Thieves (1991).
This is another musical, that prompted Darlin Husband to show me a musical parody with Kyle’s Mom Is A Big Fat Bitch.. this time courtesy of South Park (1994). Where in Oliver, practically everyone in the film dances in From postmen to soldiers to dairy girls (for your dad). Here it’s mercilessly parodied and it is ruthlessly good. It’s one of those best musical parodies making Family Guy‘s Seth McFarlane’s Stewie and Brian’s “Road to” homages look tame in comparison.
Half a Sixpence (1967)
Half a Sixpence, Trailer (1967) Tommy Steele, Julia Foster, Cyril Ritchard, nashersmediatrailers
I do love a musical romance, and as a kid, this one was a good one. With even a Blue Peter (1958-) presenter, in the form of Lesley Judd in a sparkly leotard and a plume. Also with really, really catchy songs. Here British pop star lovie, Tommy Steele adding his cheesy smile as a draper boy, Artie Kipps.
Kipps gives half a sixpence to his childhood sweetheart, Ann before leaving for the bright lights of London in the Edwardian Era. Then years later they reunite and fall in love. And luckily she hasn’t turned into a troll but pretty Julia Foster. Then he makes it rich, loses his money. Then makes it big again and all well with the world.
The infectious titular song and the dance accompanying it is the most remembered, followed by Money to Burn and Crash, Bang, Wallop. But I confess there are more now in my head after seeing the trailer. This film was another of the Bank Holiday in Scotland TV favourites, that we were plonked in front of as kids. And like North Sea Hijack (1980) but I’d gladly trade for this for the yearly Presidential Ball that is shown over here annually.
The King and I (1956)
The King And I Trailer [HD], FilmTrailersChannel
I’m sure I’ve told you I so wanted to be Anna, aka the” I” in the school production of the King and I but didn’t even get an audition as considered too small for the role (sob). This after I fell in love with this lavish, Hollywood version with Deborah Kerr and Yul Brynner as King Mongkut of Siam. And their dancing and singing – well his singing – in this Rogers and Hammerstein production…
He’s the King of Siam, she’s Anna the new governess to his fifteen (!) children. That’s double plus 1 more children than Captain Von Trapp (The Sound of Music (1965) for those of you who are musically illiterate). But Yul has substantially more wives.. so the King and Anna clash due to their cultural differences and beliefs and then reach a kind of understanding through song and dance.
And as long as you don’t think of that dream sequence in the future world it’s fantastic. But luckily its all sparkling jackets and glittery knee-high trousers for him, rather than a Stetson – as in Westworld (1973) / Magnificent Seven (1960) so you are less likely to be distracted.
Kerr is wonderful, but is her singing voice from Marni Dixon (again, she also dubbed Kerr in An Affair to Remember (1957).. and it is Yul singing for his supper. Kerr was so convincing in the governess role that she became governess to The Innocents (1961) Miles and Flora five years later.
I believed she was the nanny in another movie for years. In a film where Albert Finney played a detective, but it was Vanessa Redgrave. But it would have been great seeing Kerr teamed up with a fellow Scot in Sean Connery. But its fabulous here watching her chemistry and Brynner’s grow as they do the polka, sing in a wee duet and in their more touching scenes.
But these are just the tip of the musical as the honourable mentions of those watched and loved from my childhood also include The Sound of Music (1965) which has been reviewed at least 3 times here, Annie (1982), The Slipper and The Rose (1976), Chitty Chitty Bang Bang (1968), Grease 2 (1982) and those MGM Musicals also deserve a mention (reviewed here recently).
Its been a wee welcome break from the – Just how many superheroes and villains can we cram into – Avengers : Infinity War (2018). Even if it does have the holy Chris Combo in it, ie Hemsworth, Pratt and (do you really think Chris Evans floats my boat? (Bit too squeaky clean))… No, I’d prefer to remind myself of those wonderful musicals I loved as a wee girl. For I still remember them so vividly and so somewhere, in my youth and childhood must have heard something good.
For Taking Up Room’s Broadway Bound Blogathon I’m adding this review on 5 Broadway Musicals Made Into Movies. Other reviews here with this cast include Megs Jenkins in The Innocents with Deborah Kerr. Deborah Kerr also stars in 5 Golden Hollywood Greats and An Affair to Remember. Jack Wild stars in Robin Hood Prince of Thieves. Ron Moody in Dominique. Oliver Reed in Burnt Offerings. Half A Sixpence‘s Lesley Judd was a Blue Peter presenter in the 1970s. Yul Brynner in Futureworld. Julia Foster is in Alfie.