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Film Discussions > September 5th - 42nd Street

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message 1: by Kim, group moderator (new)

Kim | 350 comments Mod
So I've decided to start our month of musicals off with a musical from 1933. I found this little blurb about musicals online and it's very true - well for older musicals anyway.

"The musical film was a natural development of the stage musical. Typically, the biggest difference between film and stage musicals is the use of lavish background scenery which would be impractical in a theater. Musical films characteristically contain elements reminiscent of theater; performers often treat their song and dance numbers as if there is a live audience watching. In a sense, the viewer becomes the deictic audience, as the performer looks directly into the camera and performs to it." (Thanks Wiki)

The 30's through the 50's are considered to be the best musicals. It was Hollywood's Golden Age and musicals were incredibly popular. As stated above the film musical was done with things that weren't able to be done on a stage. Therefore there were larger casts, huge props, tons of big big production numbers, etc, etc. Musicals from the 30's-50's can be pretty outlandish when you watch them. That however is also what makes them great.

42nd Street was directed by Lloyd Bacon and choreographed by an absolute cinematic musical genius Busby Berkeley. He was famous for doing huge elaborate numbers that involved lots of showgirls creating large patterns. (Like when you looked from above they made a star or a triangle or some other shape or pattern)

The plot of the film is that it's the Great Depression and the director hired to do the show is broke. He states that the last show he does has to be successful so he can retire on the money, and 42nd Street is going to be just that. Watch the film to get the rest.

The ending of the film has almost a half hour worth of Busby's extravagant numbers. They're stunning to watch. It's said that Busby (who was in the military for a while) treated his dance routines very military. You'll see a lot of perfect lines and marching in his numbers, but they fit so well.

As I stated earlier - I tried to choose a film to start us off that showcases how huge musicals used to be back in the day. 42nd Street does that. I hope you enjoy this one as much as I did.

message 2: by Kim, group moderator (new)

Kim | 350 comments Mod
Really pumped to show this tonight!!

message 3: by Adam, The Baggage Handler (new)

Adam | 183 comments Mod
I was really impressed with the choreography of 42nd street. The last 30 minutes with the big numbers really showed what kim was talking about in her original post. The numbers were bigger than big, they were all very outlandish, but were spectacular to watch. My particular favorite was the one when they were on the train. When the train, opened up into the different compartments and the women were singing from them. I just thought it was such a cool scene.
I think our last musical Moulin Rouge kind of plays off the notion bigger is better. Some of the musical scenes in Moulin Rouge are HUGE productions, I think its interesting that this particular musical, kind of went back to the notion that musicals should have these big numbers and music enhances the story rather than hinder it.
I really enjoyed the old time musical feel and I'd actually like to watch more old ones to see the numbers. I wanna see the piano one

message 4: by Kim, group moderator (new)

Kim | 350 comments Mod
I'm trying to find video of the piano number. I can't remember which film it's from though, so I'm just going to have to re-watch some of the old ones. No biggie lol

message 5: by Kim, group moderator (new)

Kim | 350 comments Mod
Just another fun fact - 42nd Street is considered to be the reason the movie musical was saved. Production companies spent so much money on these outlandish crazy dance numbers and the films did not do well at all. 42nd street changed all of that. Due to the success of this about 4 other musicals were greenlighted for production.

Thank god this film did well. Who would Adam be today if there were no movie musicals!?!?

message 6: by Adam, The Baggage Handler (new)

Adam | 183 comments Mod
Seriously my life is defined by the musical I'm most into that year.

message 7: by Todd (new)

Todd | 89 comments Haha definitely true Adam. I know everyone says that currently musicals are making a revival (i.e. Glee), but when do you guys think musicals had their decline? I think it's safe to say that they were definitely running strong into the 40's, but when do you think audiences had their fill and movies like this ceased to be made?

message 8: by Kim, group moderator (new)

Kim | 350 comments Mod
I don't think there has ever been a "decline" - Musicals have always been made. The thing was SO many musicals were made in the 30's-40's because of what the time was like. The depression had happened and people went to the movies as a luxury. They wanted to be entertained and escape their lives for a hour or two. Musicals did that - it was a window into another life and it was a happy one. I think as times changed you started seeing darker musicals as well as darker films in general. Today there are TONS of films that end with a non happy ending. That didn't happen so often back in the day. Most films ended on a happy note. That’s why happy ending films are called "Hollywood endings". Lots of foreign films don't always end with such a great ending. (Watch a middle eastern film called Osama to get what I mean)

Anyway I'm getting off topic - I decided to just throw down a list of musicals from the 60's through 80's to show that even though musicals weren't the most popular films they were still being made and critically acclaimed.

West Side Story
Grease 2 (Yes this was horrible)
Fiddler on the Roof
Jesus Christ Superstar
Flower Drum Song
Bye Bye Birdie
Bells are Ringing
Guys and Dolls
(There were also a TON of Elvis musicals made in the 50's)

message 9: by Todd (new)

Todd | 89 comments I guess I thought there was a decline because the image of the "golden age" of Hollywood has always made me think more highly of musicals made during that era. I guess a movie that would prove my original point wrong is The Sound of Music. I grew up watching that over and over again because it was my brother's favorite movie. Therefore, it always seems like a timeless classic in my head, yet it was made in 1965, after Hollywood became less of a musical producing machine.

message 10: by Adam, The Baggage Handler (new)

Adam | 183 comments Mod
It seems that every once and a while a musical comes along that is financially and critically successful and people always claim its the return of musicals, but as Kim pointed out they never went anywhere. I thank god for that every day.

message 11: by Kim, group moderator (new)

Kim | 350 comments Mod
HA I know you do. What did you guys think of how large scale this was? Do you wish musicals were still this grand?

message 12: by Adam, The Baggage Handler (last edited Oct 10, 2010 06:47AM) (new)

Adam | 183 comments Mod
Yes and No. I love musicals as a whole, so I think both "large" scale musicals and smaller scales are amazing if done right. Moulin Rouge! which was a huge huge musical, I loved because the large-ness suited the plot line and the numbers, where as a quieter or more smaller scale musical, like "A little night music" was also really good because it had the smaller scale musical number. Had larger numbers been thrown in there, i think it would've taken away from the point of the story. So i think any musical, if done right is a job well done. Not to obsess over this movie, but when it's made I am going to be really interested in how the director chooses to film/produce the scenes of les miserables, because that's a musical that has REALLY BIG production songs/scenes (One Day More, The Barricade), and also really intimate solos (I dreamed a dream, on my own, Stars, bring him home, etc), so I am definitely going to be interested to see how they film/produce both sides of the spectrum.

message 13: by Kim, group moderator (new)

Kim | 350 comments Mod
I agree with you different stories require different approaches. I think Chicago shouldn't have been as big as it was, hence why I hateddddd the movie version.

message 14: by Adam, The Baggage Handler (new)

Adam | 183 comments Mod
I can see that. Did you think Nine was big too? Considering they have the same director, or did big numbers suit the movie better?

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