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Entries in musicals (310)

Wednesday
May182016

Judy by the Numbers: "Embraceable You"

Anne Marie is tracking Judy Garland's career through musical numbers...

Throughout the 1930s, Mickey and Judy had been one of America's favorite musical duos. With Mickey in the lead and Judy providing musical support, the two young teenagers - with the help of the Freed Unit - dominated the box office, regularly grossing $1 million even during the Depression. However, by the beginning of the 1940s, both 21-year-old Judy and 23-year-old Mickey had grown past the simple comedies in which they'd made their names. While both continued to pull in the same amount at the box office, Mickey was moving into more serious roles - though he still had a few more Andy Hardy movies in his contract - and Judy was dropping her hems and trading in her hair ribbons for hats. So, at the end of 1943, Mickey and Judy starred in their last musical together.

The Movie: Girl Crazy (1943)
The Songwriters: George Gershwin (music) & Ira Gershwin (lyrics)
The Players: Judy Garland, Mickey Rooney, June Allyson, directed by Busby Berkeley and Norman Taurog

The Story:  This transition affected their partnership in Girl Crazy as well. While before, Judy had been Mickey's sidekick, now she was her own force to be reckoned with. Director Busby Berkeley gave 3 musical numbers to Judy alone, while Mickey appeared with her in 2 more (and also was dubbed on piano for one number). While the plot still mostly fell on Mickey's shoulders, the musical was entirely Judy's. In fact, she got two more iconic hits from it: "Embraceable You," and "But Not For Me."

Though Mickey and Judy would continue to be friends (and perform together - once more in a movie and again later on her TV show), their onscreen partnership had run its course. And though Judy couldn't have anticipated it, right around the corner was another movie that would change her life forever.

Previous Related Highlights:
"Our Love Affair," "Good Morning," "Got a New Pair of Shoes"

Saturday
May142016

Q&A: Everybody Wants Drop Dead Gorgeous Editing & Combative Personalities

It's the time again: Reader Questions hooray. I picked 8 to answer this week. Thanks to everyone who asked. I can't answer all but who knows - the unanswered might well inspire something down the road, conciously or otherwise. You never know...

MARSHA: Are people like Ted Cruz, Mitch McConnell, and Donald Trump just so evil and insane that they are beyond parody, or are there actors and directors you can think of who could convey their humanity and worldview?

NATHANIEL: Marsha, I promised I wasn't going to talk about politics until September, remember?!? Don't tempt me.  All I will say is that a great actor can perform magic even under impossible circumstances. Remember how deep Julianne Moore was able to go with Sarah Palin?

JB: Can we discuss Drop Dead Gorgeous. In spite of having all the right ingredients, it's never quite hit cult (gay) status like I always assumed it would. Why do you think that is?

lots more after the jump...

Click to read more ...

Wednesday
May112016

Judy by the Numbers: "The Joint Is Really Jumpin' in Carnegie Hall"

Anne Marie is tracking Judy Garland's career through musical numbers...

Judy Garland was wrapping production on one movie and starting production on another when she filmed a cameo for the WWII wartime musical, Thousands Cheer. Despite the fact that Garland was one of MGM's biggest stars, this cameo with José Iturbi was the first Technicolor movie she had made since The Wizard of Oz four years previous. The films between Oz and Thousands Cheer, though large in spirit, were small in budget due to Great Depression constraints. However, the onset of World War II brought about an audience boom - everyone was going to the movies to catch a newsreel and escape the fears of the war. As a result, budgets were about to skyrocket as MGM began to give Judy Garland big and colorful sets, costumes, and scenery to match her big and colorful voice.

The Movie: Thousands Cheer (1943)
The Songwriters: Roger Edens, Ralph Blane, and Hugh Martin
The Players: Kathryn Grayson, Gene Kelly, Mary Astor, Jon Boles, directed by George Sidney

The Story: The man playing both jazz and classical music as Judy swings is (as previously mentioned) José Iturbi, a Spanish conductor and pianist. Surprisingly for a classical musician, Iturbi also started an improbably successful parallel career as a character actor in MGM movies of the 1940s. While composers and musicians would show up periodically in films to "class it up" (or "brass it up," depending on whether it was Bob Crosby or Oscar Levant), none was quite so prolific onscreen as Iturbi. From 1943 to 1949, Iturbi appeared in about a picture a year, with small but noticeable parts. After all, it's hard to find a pianist with enough personality to pleasantly play for a put out Judy Garland.

Select Previous Highlights:  "Dear Mr Gable" (1937), “Zing Went the Strings of My Heart” (1938), "Over the Rainbow" (1939), "I'm Always Chasing Rainbows" (1941), "For Me and My Gal" (1942)

Wednesday
May042016

Judy by the Numbers: "Caro Nome/When I Look At You"

Anne Marie is tracking Judy Garland's career through musical numbers...

With Judy Garland now such an established hit, MGM worked overtime to make the most of its musical star. This meant that while Arthur Freed and the Freed Unit "made" her by crafting her star image (and arguably used her to her best advantage), Judy couldn't work with them exclusively. She was too valuable a commodity for that. So, MGM also put her under the watchful tutelage of another producer well-known for his musical mojo: Joe Pasternak. 

The Movie: Presenting Lily Mars (1942)
The Songwriters: Walter Jurmann (music) and Paul Francis Webster (lyrics)
The Players: Judy Garland, Van Heflin, Fay Bainter, Spring Byington, directed by Norman Taurog

The Story: Had Judy's fateful short with Deanna Durbin turned out differently only six years previous, she might have met Joe Pasternak earlier. For most of the 1930s, Pasternak was a top producer at Universal Studios, with major Marlene Dietrich titles such as Destry Rides Again to his credit. However, where Pasternak really made his name was in his big "get" for Universal; he was the man responsible for bringing Durbin to the studio after MGM rejected her. Under his production and guidance, Deanna Durbin became one of the biggest singing stars of the 1930s.

However, the fact remained that Universal was small potatoes next to MGM, so when Pasternak became a major musical producer it was only logical that MGM should hire him. Presenting Lily Mars was his second film for the studio. It was originally bought as a dramatic script for Lana Turner, but Pasternak convinced the studio to recycle some songs and turn it into a Judy Garland musical. Unsurprisingly, it was another hit, grossing over $3.5 million at the box office. What is surprising is that Pasternak and Garland only worked together one more time. After the near-miss six years before, it would take another six years for Judy to work with the high-spirited Hungarian again. And much would change for Judy in that six year period.

Monday
May022016

Stage Door: She Loves Me (and Tony Preview)

Overheard whilst exiting Broadway's She Loves Me this weekend:

[surprised] That was just like 'You've Got Mail'!

Bingo, tourist ladies, bingo. She Loves Me, the 1963 musical, currently in the middle of its second Broadway revival, is adapted from the 1937 Hungarian play Parfumerie by Miklós László. It's inspired so many riffs so often you'd think it was a Shakespeare comedy. The play has already resulted in three well-known movies in the form of the touching Jimmy Stewart clasic (The Shop Around the Corner, 1940), an undervalued Judy Garland romance (In the Good Old Summertime, 1949), and the Meg Ryan/Tom Hanks rom-com You've Got Mail (1998). The shop changes as does the mode by which the anonymous lovers correspond without realizing they know and hate each other in real life. Expect an internet catfishing riff on the story in 3...2...1... Anyway, in 1963 the play was adapted into She Loves Me for the musical stage...

Click to read more ...

Wednesday
Apr272016

Judy by the Numbers: "For Me And My Gal"

Anne Marie is tracking Judy Garland's career through musical numbers...

 In 1942, Judy Garland met a man who would come to be one of her biggest onscreen costars and supporters at MGM. When he was cast in For Me and My Gal opposite Garland, Gene Kelly was as upstart Broadway star, hot off Pal Joey and trying to make the transition to Hollywood stardom. According to Kelly, Judy Garland eased that transition; she was gracious, she was giving, and she was a consummate professional. Gene Kelly, stage dancer, learned how to perform for the camera by watching Judy Garland.

The Movie: For Me And My Gal (1942)
The Songwriters: Edgar Leslie & E. Ray Goetz (lyrics) and George W. Meyer (music)
The Players: Judy Garland, Gene Kelly, George Murphy directed by Busby Berkeley

The Story: The title number of For Me And My Gal shows off the unique partnership Garland and Kelly shared. The two costars sing at the piano, a staging familiar to Garland fans who'd watched her share a similar scene with Mickey Rooney many times in the past. But Kelly is no Rooney. Where Mickey would mug, Gene floats. Where Mickey would riff, Gene croons. This isn't to say that Kelly can't be funny, but his relationship to Garland is different. Mickey and Judy were a couple of firecracker kids; he gave her zing and she gave him class. Judy and Gene are two contrasting talents; his dancing complements her songs. Each provides where the other is weak, creating a harmonious musical union. It's no wonder than Judy and Gene would go on to share another three movies together.

Wednesday
Apr202016

Judy by the Numbers: "Chin Up! Cheerio! Carry On!"

Anne Marie is tracking Judy Garland's career through musical numbers...

1941 was a year of beginnings and endings for Judy Garland. It was the year of Judy's last Andy Hardy film (Life Begins for Andy Hardy, wherein nobody sang). And she wasn't just growing up on film - 1941 was also the year of Judy's first marriage: to David Rose, the musical director of the Tony Martin Radio Show. At only 19, Judy Garland was transitioning from child sensation to full fledged star.

 

The Movie: Babes on Broadway (1941)
The Songwriters: E.Y. Harburg (lyrics) and Burton Lane (music)
The Players: Judy Garland, Mickey Rooney, Virginia Weidler, Fay Bainter, Margaret O'Sullivan, directed by Busby Berkeley.

 

The Story: As the country entered World War II, the Freed Unit was lining up a series of nostalgia-inflected new hits starring Judy Garland for MGM. While Babes on Broadway looks at first glance like the typical "let's put on a show" backyard musical of 30's Mickey and Judy, some palpable differences manifest. First, there's the emphasis on Americana and patriotism, from Judy urging young British youths on in "Chin Up Cheerio!" to the (racist blackface) closing number, "Robert E Lee." This was the influence of World War II. Though Pearl Harbor happened mere days before Babes on Broadway was released, national sentiment was already turning towards the patriotic messages that would define wartime Hollywood. However, the movie's bigger hit was a more conventional Judy Garland number "How About You?"

In many ways, Babes on Broadway looks and sounds like the old Judy and Mickey - the two doe-eyed lovebirds sing to each other at a piano or on a stage while Mickey pulls faces. However, there are two marked differences: First, Mickey is no longer the focus of the movie - the two actors share camera equally. Second, Garland has graduated from the giant lace sleeves and tulle-lined skirts of "in-between" childish Judy, instead dressed fashionably in the latest style. Ziegfeld Girl and Little Nellie Kelly had proven Judy's talent was mature. Now it was time for her star image to reflect that transition, too.