One thing that I’ve encountered in conversations with people about films is that they tend to be biased against musicals. It’s not outright hate that’s displayed towards the genre, mind you, but a sort of indifference that’s found in replies such as ‘eh, I’m not that much into musicals’. Such a reaction may be widespread as a result of an almost complete absence of quality musicals in today’s major releases. ‘La La Land’ seems to be the only real exception, but it’s not even a pure musical to start with, and it has Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone in it, so it’s no wonder that people flocked to see it. We will indeed talk about the film that held the Best Picture Academy Award for the shortest amount of time ever, but in another article. Today, we’re looking at five of the best classic musicals of the 20th century, so that we can lay a foundation on which we can build with a follow-up article. So, in order of release, we’ve got:
Everybody should presumably be well familiar with Dorothy Gale’s adventures in the mystical land of Oz – it’s one of those must have childhood memories. And while I did get to know the animated film released in 1990 quite a while before I gave the 1939 film a shot, the latter really impressed me. Starring Judy Garland and Frank Morgan as Dorothy and the wizard respectively, the film laid the foundations for the transition from silent films to musicals.
Nowadays, this short phrase might elicit memories of Stanley Kubrick’s ‘A Clockwork Orange’ more than the silent film it originates from, but Singin’ in the Rain was highly acclaimed in its days of glory. Co-directed by Gene Kelly, who also stars in the film alongside Donald O’Connor and Debbie Reynolds, this was a highly evocative homage to the transition from silent films to sound films – a successful venture that won two Oscars.
If Romeo and Juliet were to be set in New York, and the two rival families were to be involved in gang activities, West Side Story would be the film. Based on the book by Arthur Laurents, the film won an astounding 10 Academy Awards at the 1962 ceremony, and is widely regarded as one of the best musicals of all time.
Robert Wise, the co-director of West Side Story, certainly learned from his experience and resulting success, for three years later he was winning Best Picture again, with another musical, this time set in Europe. Julie Andrews and Christopher Plummer became synonymous with this film, which managed to win ‘only’ 5 major awards at the Oscars and became a family favourite for many people around the world.
The last film on this list might not have achieved the same immediate success its time of released when compared to many of the other entries, yet it has still cemented its status as one of the best musicals of last century. Set in pre-revolutionary Russia, it deals with antisemitic feelings exhibited toward a Jewish peasant who is looking to get his daughters married.