Best of Warner Bros.: 20 Film Collection - Musicals [21 Discs] [DVD]
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On the verge of starvation in 1930s Paris, erstwhile entertainer Victoria (Julie Andrews) is rescued by gay cabaret performer Toddy (Robert Preston). What she needs to succeed, opines Toddy, is a gimmick. What if she becomes a male impersonator? Better still: what if she becomes a male impersonator, pretending to be a female impersonator? As "Victor/Victoria," s/he becomes the toast of Paree, and an object of fascination for big-time Chicago gangster King Marchan (James Garner), who can't quite understand the teasing sensations he experiences whenever watching her in action-especially since he, like everyone else, assumes that she is a he. Enjoyable though the stars of Blake Edwards' comedy may be, the film is stolen by Lesley Ann Warren, who won an Oscar nomination as King's screechy-voiced moll, and Alex Karras as King's chief henchman, who, assuming that his boss is "that way," literally comes out of the closet. Victor/Victoria was a remake of the 1931 German film Viktor und Viktoria, which had previously be reworked in 1937 as the Jessie Mathews vehicle First a Girl. In 1996, Victor/Victoria was transformed into a Broadway musical, again directed by Edwards and starring Andrews. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi
The Broadway Melody
This landmark MGM backstage musical of the early sound era about broken dreams on the Great White Way features a bevy of standards by the songwriting team of Arthur Freed and Nacio Herb Brown. Freed later became unit producer of the legendary Freed Unit at MGM, which is the reason many of the tunes from Broadway Melody --""You Were Meant For Me"", "Broadway Melody", ""The Wedding of the Painted Doll""-- later appeared in Freed's seminal MGM musical Singin' in the Rain. The nominal story concerns midwestern sister act The Mahoney Sisters --Queenie (Anita Page) and Hank (Bessie Love)-- who come to New York to try to make it big on Broadway. Hank's song-and-dance man boyfriend Eddie (Charles King) has promised the gals a part in the new Broadway revue in which he is soon to appear. When Hank and Queenie come to see him, Hank is pleasantly surprised at the way Queenie has filled out. Soon enough, Eddie is making advances to Queenie. Queenie is attracted to Eddie too, but she doesn't want to steal her sister's boyfriend. So she Queenie takes up with a lecherous playboy, leaving it to Hank to put all the confused love relationships in perspective. ~ Paul Brenner, Rovi
Joshua Logan directs this lavish version of the Alan Jay Lerner and Frederick Loewe Broadway success with Richard Harris, Vanessa Redgrave, and Franco Nero in the lead roles originally portrayed on Broadway by Richard Burton, Julie Andrews, and Robert Goulet. The musical, based on T.H. White's The Once and Future King, chronicles the legend of King Arthur (Richard Harris) and his tortured love affair with his queen Guenevere (Vanessa Redgrave). Arthur first encounters Guenevere, on the day of their wedding, in the enchanted forest surrounding Camelot. After the wedding, Arthur's bliss at his marriage to the lovely Guenevere prompts him to establish the Knights of the Round Table, a lofty order of chivalry in which all the member knights are bound by a desire the help the oppressed, keeping faith with trust and honor. Such is the fame of the Knights of the Round Table that a young French knight, Lancelot Du Lac (Franco Nero), seeks to join the order. Lancelot quickly becomes the most celebrated of all the knights, and Guenevere, aloof at first, falls in love with him. Although both have a deep love for Arthur, their passion knows no bounds, and they begin an illicit love affair behind Arthur's back. Arthur ignores the rumors circling around him, but when his illegitimate son, Mordred (David Hemmings) arrives at Camelot, he exposes Lancelot and Guenevere during a tryst. Lancelot escapes, but Guenevere is sentenced to be burned at the stake. Lancelot rescues her at the last minute, and Arthur prepares for battle, his dreams of an idealistic Camelot shattered. ~ Paul Brenner, Rovi
Little Shop of Horrors
It started as a 1960 Roger Corman horror comedy, filmed in two days; it then inspired a lavish 1982 Broadway musical with music and lyrics by Alan Menken and Howard Ashman. Finally in 1986, Little Shop of Horrors (1960) graduated into a multimillion-dollar, all-star film musical. Rick Moranis plays nebbishy Seymour Krelborn, who works in a rundown flower shop on Skid Row. While his boss (Vincent Gardenia) bemoans the lack of business, Seymour seeks a way of bringing the shop -- and himself -- fame and fortune. He purchases a strange plant from an even stranger oriental street vendor (Vincent Wong), naming the plant after his girlfriend Audrey (Ellen Greene, one of the few carry-overs from the Broadway version). Gradually, Seymour learns to his horror that "Audrey II" (given the voice of R&B performer Levi Stubbs) craves blood and flesh. With each of Audrey II's "FEEED MEEE"s, Seymour must scare up human food to satisfy the plant's appetite. One such victim is dentist Steve Martin, a leather-jacketed Elvis type (the dentist's ultra-masochistic patient played by Jack Nicholson in the 1960 original is here impersonated by Bill Murray). The lighthearted tone of the film darkens as Audrey II grows in monstrosity, but the unhappy ending of the Broadway version is avoided herein. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi
Yankee Doodle Dandy
The Jazz Singer
Seven Brides for Seven Brothers
Based extremely loosely on the Stephen Vincent Benet story Sobbin' Women," Seven Brides for Seven Brothers is one of the best MGM musicals of the 1950s. Most of the story takes place on an Oregon ranch, maintained by Adam Pontabee (Howard Keel) and his six brothers, played by Jeff Richards, Russ Tamblyn, Tommy Rall, Mark Platt, Matt Mattox, and Jacques d'Amboise (it is no coincidence that five of those six boys are played by professional dancers). When Adam brings home his new bride Milly (Jane Powell), she is appalled at the brothers' slovenliness and sets about turning these unwashed louts into immaculate gentlemen. During the boisterous barn-raising scene, the brothers get into a scuffle with a group of townsmen over the affection of six comely lasses: Virginia Gibson, Julie Newmeyer (later Newmar), Ruth Kilmonis (later Ruth Lee), Nancy Kilgas, Betty Carr, and Norma Doggett (yep, most of the girls are dancers, too). Yearning to become husbands like their big brother, they ask Adam for advice. Alas, he has been reading a book about the abduction of the Sabine Women (or, as he puts it, the Sobbin' Women); and, in order to claim their gals, Adam explains, the boys must kidnap them--which they do, after blocking off all avenues of escape. Vowing to remain on their best behavior, the boys make no untoward advances towards their reluctant female guests--not even during one of the coldest winters on record. Comes the spring thaw, the angry townsfolk come charging up the mountain, demanding the return of the stolen girls (who, by this time, have "tamed" their men). A happy ending is ultimately had by all in this delightful if politically incorrect concoction. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi
The Music Man
Meredith Wilson's hit 1957 Broadway musical was transferred to the screen in larger-than-life fashion in 1962. Robert Preston repeats his legendary stage performance as fast-talking con man Harold Hill, who goes from town to town selling citizens on starting a "boy's band," then extracts money from them by ordering instruments and uniforms, with the promise that he'll teach the kids how to be musicians. Once he's collected his bankroll, Hill skips town, leaving the kids in the lurch. Looking for new suckers in Iowa, Hill arrives in River City, where he declares that the only way to save the youth of River City from the lure of the poolroom is to organize a boy's band. He charms the mayor's wife Eulalie (Hermione Gingold) into forming a "ladies' dance committee" and sets his sights on winning over local music teacher Marian Paroo (Shirley Jones). Marian rightly considers Hill a fraud, especially when he espouses the "Think System" of learning music: if you think a tune, he claims, you can play it. But Marian becomes Hill's staunchest ally when her young brother Winthrop (Ronny Howard), sullen and withdrawn since the death of his father, exuberantly comes out of his shell at the prospect of joining Hill's band; and Marian's budding romance with the charming but unreliable Hill ultimately brings her out of her own shell as well. Marion Hargrove's script uses most of the original play, with a handful of amusing expansions, especially in the roles played by Gingold and by Buddy Hackett as Hill's comic sidekick. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi
The quintessential "backstage" musical, 42nd Street traces the history of a Broadway musical comedy, from casting call to opening night. Warner Baxter plays famed director Julian Marsh, who despite failing health is determined to stage one last great production, "Pretty Lady." Others involved include "Pretty Lady" star Dorothy Brock (Bebe Daniels); Dorothy's "sugar daddy" (Guy Kibbee), who finances the show; her true love Pat (George Brent); leading man Billy Lawlor (Dick Powell); and starry-eyed chorus girl Peggy Sawyer (Ruby Keeler). It practically goes without saying that Dorothy twists her ankle the night before the premiere, forcing Julian Marsh is to put chorine Peggy into the lead: "You're going out there a youngster, but you've got to come back a star!" Delightfully corny, with hilarious wisecracking support from the likes of Ginger Rogers, Una Merkel, and George E. Stone, 42nd Street is perhaps the most famous of Warners' early-1930s Busby Berkeley musicals. Based on the novel by Bradford Ropes (which was a lot steamier than the movie censors would allow), 42nd Street is highlighted by such grandiose musical setpieces as "Shuffle Off to Buffalo," "Young and Healthy," and of course the title song. Nearly fifty years after its premiere, it was successfully revived as a Broadway musical with Tammy Grimes and Jerry Orbach. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi
Singin' in the Rain
Hollywood, 1927: the silent-film romantic team of Don Lockwood (Gene Kelly) and Lina Lamont (Jean Hagen) is the toast of Tinseltown. While Lockwood and Lamont personify smoldering passions onscreen, in real life the down-to-earth Lockwood can't stand the egotistical, brainless Lina. He prefers the company of aspiring actress Kathy Selden (Debbie Reynolds), whom he met while escaping his screaming fans. Watching these intrigues from the sidelines is Cosmo Brown (Donald O'Connor), Don's best pal and on-set pianist. Cosmo is promoted to musical director of Monumental Pictures by studio head R.F. Simpson (Millard Mitchell) when the talking-picture revolution commences. That's all right for Cosmo, but how will talkies affect the upcoming Lockwood-Lamont vehicle "The Dueling Cavalier"? Don, an accomplished song-and-dance man, should have no trouble adapting to the microphone. Lina, however, is another matter; put as charitably as possible, she has a voice that sounds like fingernails on a blackboard. The disastrous preview of the team's first talkie has the audience howling with derisive laughter. On the strength of the plot alone, concocted by the matchless writing team of Betty Comden and Adolph Green, Singin' in the Rain is a delight. But with the addition of MGM's catalog of Arthur Freed-Nacio Herb Brown songs -- "You Were Meant for Me," "You Are My Lucky Star," "The Broadway Melody," and of course the title song -- the film becomes one of the greatest Hollywood musicals ever made. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi
The Great Ziegfeld
In MGM's three-hour-plus The Great Ziegfeld, William Powell stars as the titular theatrical impresario, whose show business empire begins when he stage-manages a tour for legendary strongman Sandow (Nat Pendleton). With nary a penny in the bank, he charms European stage star Anna Held (Luise Rainer) to headline his "Follies", and later marries the luscious Ms. Held. From 1907 onward, Ziegfeld stages annual editions of Broadway's most fabulous revue, dedicated to "Glorifying the American Girl" but also giving ample time to develop the comic talents of Fanny Brice (played by herself), Will Rogers, Eddie Cantor and many others. Eventually, Ziegfeld abandons Ms. Held in favor of other beauties, setting the stage for the "telephone scene" which won Luise Rainer the first of her Oscars. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi
The Wizard of Oz
The third and definitive film adaptation of L. Frank Baum's 1900 children's fantasy, this musical adventure is a genuine family classic that made Judy Garland a star for her heartfelt performance as Dorothy Gale, an orphaned young girl unhappy with her drab black-and-white existence on her aunt and uncle's dusty Kansas farm. Dorothy yearns to travel "over the rainbow" to a different world, and she gets her wish when a tornado whisks her and her little dog, Toto, to the Technicolorful land of Oz. Having offended the Wicked Witch of the West (Margaret Hamilton), Dorothy is protected from the old crone's wrath by the ruby slippers that she wears. At the suggestion of Glinda, the Good Witch of the North (Billie Burke), Dorothy heads down the Yellow Brick Road to the Emerald City, where dwells the all-powerful Wizard of Oz, who might be able to help the girl return to Kansas. En route, she befriends a Scarecrow (Ray Bolger), a Tin Man (Jack Haley), and a Cowardly Lion (Bert Lahr). The Scarecrow would like to have some brains, the Tin Man craves a heart, and the Lion wants to attain courage; hoping that the Wizard will help them too, they join Dorothy on her odyssey to the Emerald City. Garland was MGM's second choice for Dorothy after Shirley Temple dropped out of the project; and Bolger was to have played the Tin Man but talked co-star Buddy Ebsen into switching roles. When Ebsen proved allergic to the chemicals used in his silver makeup, he was replaced by Haley. Gale Sondergaard was originally to have played the Wicked Witch of the West in a glamorous fashion, until the decision was made to opt for belligerent ugliness, and the Wizard was written for W.C. Fields, who reportedly turned it down because MGM couldn't meet his price. Although Victor Fleming, who also directed Gone With the Wind, was given sole directorial credit, several directors were involved in the shooting, included King Vidor, who shot the opening and closing black-and-white sequences. Harold Arlen and E.Y. Harburg's now-classic Oscar-winning song "Over the Rainbow" was nearly chopped from the picture after the first preview because it "slowed down the action." The Wizard of Oz was too expensive to post a large profit upon initial release; however, after a disappointing reissue in 1955, it was sold to network television, where its annual showings made it a classic. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi
Forever interested in the kitsch built into past eras, director John Waters chooses the TV dance show craze of the early '60s for his playful focus in Hairspray. Ricki Lake plays Tracy Turnblad, just one of several alliteratively named characters coming of age in 1962 Baltimore, where "The Corny Collins Show" is the most popular American Bandstand-type program, watched by hundreds of young dreamers each day after school. Being chosen to dance on it is the ultimate status symbol and every young girl's dream, and Tracy improbably wins a featured spot when she infiltrates a dance contest and makes a better impression than her favored rival, the catty Amber von Tussle (Colleen Fitzpatrick). Always able to have fun, even when she's being mocked by the jealous popular girls, Tracy wins the affections of Amber's boyfriend and soon begins leading a movement to integrate the dance show, which has previously featured blacks only in a once-weekly theme night. She is arrested following a demonstration at a local theme park owned by Amber's father (Sonny Bono), who subscribes to the same theory of race relations as "The Corny Collins Show." Tracy's adventures are also filtered through her loving but eccentric parents (Divine and Jerry Stiller) and involve a humorous cultural clash with pot-smoking beatniks (Ric Ocasek and Pia Zadora). ~ Derek Armstrong, Rovi
A Star Is Born
Viva Las Vegas
Viva Las Vegas, one of Elvis Presley's most popular vehicles, adheres as rigidly to formula as a Kabuki dance. Elvis plays a race-car driver competing in the Las Vegas Grand Prix opposite his principal rival, Cesare Danova. To finance his entry, Elvis takes a job as a casino waiter. Naturally, he is occasionally prevailed upon to sing, making one wonder why he didn't choose this talent as a means of making some quick cash. As always, Elvis chases all the wrong girls, only to ignore the "right" one, portrayed by Ann-Margret in her considerable youthful prime (We're supposed to believe that A-M is the daughter of irascible William Demarest. So much for the reliability of gene pools). With a pre-fat Presley, an indescribably gorgeous Ann-Margret, and no fewer than 12 songs on the soundtrack, how could Viva Las Vegas help but reap a fortune at the box office? ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi
It's ironic that MGM, in such dire financial straits in 1974 that it was selling its fabled back lot and auctioning off artifacts from past movie triumphs, enjoyed one of its biggest box-office hits with That's Entertainment, a compilation of musical highlights from the studio's golden days. Onscreen hosts Fred Astaire, Bing Crosby, Gene Kelly, Peter Lawford, Liza Minnelli, Donald O'Connor, Debbie Reynolds, Mickey Rooney, James Stewart, and Elizabeth Taylor introduce the various film clips while standing on what was left of the MGM lot (Rooney delivers his comments from the Andy Hardy street). The vignettes, in both color and black-and-white, include generous slices of such classic MGM songfests as The Wizard of Oz, Meet Me in St. Louis, An American in Paris, Singin' in the Rain, and Gigi. The film includes the montage of Mickey Rooney's "Let's put on a show!" speeches, Clark Gable hoofing to "Puttin' on the Ritz" in Idiot's Delight, and James Stewart (!) serenading Eleanor Powell from Easy to Love. Assembled by Jack Haley Jr., That's Entertainment proved such a hit that the 1976 sequel, That's Entertainment II, was a foregone conclusion. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi
An American in Paris
Gene Kelly does his patented Pal Joey bit as Jerry Mulligan, an opportunistic American painter living in Paris' "starving artists" colony. He is discovered by wealthy Milo Roberts (Nina Foch), who becomes Jerry's patroness in more ways than one. Meanwhile, Jerry plays hookey on this setup by romancing waif-like Lise Bouvier (Leslie Caron) -- who, unbeknownst to him, is the object of the affections of his close friend Henri (Georges Guetary), a popular nightclub performer. (The film was supposed to make Guetary into "the New Chevalier." It didn't.) The thinnish plot is held together by the superlative production numbers and by the recycling of several vintage George Gershwin tunes, including "I Got Rhythm," "'S Wonderful," and "Our Love Is Here to Stay." Highlights include Guetary's rendition of "Stairway to Paradise"; Oscar Levant's fantasy of conducting and performing Gershwin's "Concerto in F" (Levant also appears as every member of the orchestra); and the closing 17-minute "American in Paris" ballet, in which Kelly and Caron dance before lavish backgrounds based on the works of famed French artists. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi
Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory
Promoted as a family musical by Paramount Pictures, Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory is more of a black comedy, perversely faithful to the spirit of Roald Dahl's original book Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. Enigmatic candy manufacturer Willy Wonka (Gene Wilder) stages a contest by hiding five golden tickets in five of his scrumptious candy bars. Whoever comes up with these tickets will win a free tour of the Wonka factory, as well as a lifetime supply of candy. Four of the five winning children are insufferable brats: the fifth is a likeable young lad named Charlie Bucket (Peter Ostrum), who takes the tour in the company of his equally amiable grandfather (Jack Albertson). In the course of the tour, Willy Wonka punishes the four nastier children in various diabolical methods -- one kid is inflated and covered with blueberry dye, another ends up as a principal ingredient of the chocolate, and so on -- because these kids have violated the ethics of Wonka's factory. In the end, only Charlie and his grandfather are left. Ostensibly set in England, Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory was lensed in Germany (as revealed by the film's final overhead shot). ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi
Originally a 1966 Broadway musical, this groundbreaking Bob Fosse musical was in turn based on Christopher Isherwood's Goodbye to Berlin, previously dramatized for stage and screen as I Am a Camera with Julie Harris as Sally Bowles. Fosse uses the decadent and vulgar cabaret as a mirror image of German society sliding toward the Nazis, and this intertwining of entertainment with social history marked a new step forward for the movie musical. Michael York plays a British writer who comes to Berlin in the early 1930s in hopes of becoming a teacher. He makes the acquaintance of flamboyant American entertainer Sally Bowles, played by Liza Minnelli. Sally works at the Kit Kat Klub, a George Grosz-like Berlin cabaret where each night the smirking, androgynous Master of Ceremonies (Joel Grey) introduces a jazz-driven "girlie show" to his debauched audience. Virtually all the film's musical numbers are staged within the confines of the Kit Kat Klub, and each song comments on the plot and on Germany's "progression" from hedonism to Hitlerism. Most of the Broadway score by John Kander and Fred Ebb was retained, with the welcome addition of "The Money Song." Although it lost Best Picture to The Godfather, Cabaret won eight Oscars, including awards to Minnelli, Grey, and Fosse. A heavily expurgated 88-minute version of Cabaret has been prepared for commercial TV presentations, regarded by many as dramatically inferior to the full cut. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi
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