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Entries in musicals (340)


John McMartin (1929-2016)

Good lord but 2016 has been rough on the showbiz community. It's as if the Grim Reaper is trying to meet some new end days quota starting with entertainers.

John McMartin has passed away at 86 from cancer. While the name might not wring a bell to everyone surely the face will. In his 60 year career he worked across all three actor's mediums regularly: stage, tv, and film...

Click to read more ...


Judy by the Numbers: "Johnny One Note"

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

There's a musical number I should be showing you for this week's post. It's the last musical duet between Mickey Rooney and Judy Garland captured on film, as part of her guest appearance in the Rogers & Hart biopic Words and Music. It's a fun but slightly awkward number. Despite the joy of seeing Mickey & Judy reunited after half a decade apart, there's also a sense that they're almost too mature for their mugging. They're still sweet together, but the frenetic energy of youth has been replaced by practice. Contemporary audience must have agreed to some extent, since the Judy Garland number that made a hit off this movie was not her nostalgic reunion but rather a signature brassy belter.

The Movie: Words and Music (MGM, 1948)
The Songwriter: Richard Rogers (music) and Lorenz Hart (lyrics)
The Players: Mickey Rooney, Tom Drake, Judy Garland, Lena Horne, Janet Leigh directed by Norman Taurog

The Story: Full confession: I have a selfish reason for choosing "Johnny One Note" this week. It has been (improbably) the most requested song outside of "Over The Rainbow." It even tops "The Man That Got Away"! The Rogers & Hart belter may have been cut from the movie verson of Babes in Arms, but nine years later it landed Judy another solid hit. And why not? It's Judy at her best - big presence, big joy, big voice!

Though Judy probably didn't know it at the time, 1948 was her zenith at MGM. Her relationship with MGM was souring rapidly. The story would become familiar too quickly: marriage on the rocks, trouble with pills, and too many missed shoot days. Over the next three years, she would make only three more films with MGM and the Freed Unit. Her talent was undeniable, but soon her problems were as well.


On this day: Royalty Porn, Superman Returns, Stonewall Riots

On this day in history as it relates to the movies...

1461 Edward IV is crowned King of England. Over a dozen actors will play him from silent film to TV miniseries including Roy Dotrice (The Wars of the Roses), John Wood (Richard III), and Max Irons (The White Queen) but despite awards-voters fetish for royalty porn this role has never resulted in an Oscar, Tony or Emmy nomination.
1838 Queen Victoria is crowned. Emily Blunt reenacts the ascenscion for Young Victoria (2009) receiving her third of five Golden Globe nominations (she's won once). Oscar, though, has yet to notice her gifts. When Oscar, when? What do you require?...

Click to read more ...


Judy by the Numbers: "Be A Clown"

Just as there are films that shine bright in a star's history, there are also films whose histories are controversial at best. The Pirate is an odd contradiction of a movie. As one of Judy Garland's most expensive films, it was also her first MGM bust. Released two years after childrearing had put Judy on hiatus, it was nonetheless stuck in preproduction for five years before that. While it landed Judy another hit song, the knockoff written four years later would become a classic. Though The Pirate was the loudest, brightest movie Judy had made to date, its most interesting sequences were left on the cutting room floor. What to do with The Pirate?

The Movie: The Pirate (1948, MGM) 
The Songwriter: Cole Porter
The Players: Judy Garland, Gene Kelly, The Nicholas Brothers, directed by Vincente Minnelli

The Story: The Pirate must have seemed cursed from the start. By the time Vincente Minnelli started filming, it had already been stuck in pre-production hell since 1943. This meant that even though Minnelli tried to keep costs down, enough money had already been sunk into it that the budget ballooned to almost $5 million. Judy wasn't helping either - she reported sick to work 99 times. Then there was the issue of reshoots. The song "Voodoo" apparently enraged Mayer so much that he ordered the nitrate negative burned. The ending was a mess and had to be reshot. Then that ending got the boot in the South because it featured black men tapdancing

All of these production problems took their toll, and the resulting movie is a little bit of a beautiful mess. Nonetheless, there are three reasons to see this movie:

  1. It's the first A Movie appearance of the Nicholas Brothers
  2. Vincente Minnelli makes really beautiful color movies
  3. Judy Garland throws china like a red-haired Bucky Walters 

However, the scene that would make the film famous was "Be A Clown." As previously mentioned, it would become a modest hit for Judy, but the real hit came four years later when Judy's friend Donald O'Connor sang "Make 'Em Laugh" in Singin' in the Rain. Nacio Herb Brown and Arthur Freed whipped up the song while trying to find a number for O'Connor. Luckily for them, Cole Porter was under MGM contract and wasn't feeling particularly litigious. While Judy would continue to sing the original throughout her career, ultimately Singin' in the Rain made Freed's version more popular. Even great talent couldn't keep The Pirate from sinking.


Best Shot: "One From the Heart"

This week's Hit Me With Your Best Shot was derailed by a very tough communal week and also a busy one for entirely different reasons for yours truly. But a few of our regular participants soldiered on. Please read their lovely pieces on this underappreciated Francis Ford Copoola curiousity from the early 80s. I think you can see a bit of it in the DNA of Moulin Rouge! if you need extra incentive to watch it on Amazon Prime.

Antagony & Ecstasy chose...

The film that was meant to be a quick cheapie designed to provide a financial shot in the arm to the fledgling American Zoetrope, but instead almost destroyed the company that Coppola had dreamed up as a sort of director-driven filmmaker's commune. It's one of the most idiosyncratic films of its era, overwhelmingly pleasurable despite being entirely unlikable and toxic in every possible way. I have no idea if it's a great film or a terrible one that could only have been made by a great talent. Frankly, I don't know that I care one way or the other: when all is said and done, we have the film itself, and I adore it even as it maddens me.

Sorta That Guy chose...

Apparently Coppola insisted that the whole thing be shot on a sound stage to make it feel more artificial, which he might have seen as a good thing, but... 

Dancin' Dan on Film chose...

To call Francis Ford Coppola's One From the Heart "stylized" would be an understatement. To call it "artificial" would be even more of an understatement. It is, by a pretty good margin, the strangest American film I've ever seen, and were it not for Nobuhiko Obayashi's completely batshit insane House, it would be the absolute weirdest fucking film I've ever seen, period.


Next Tuesday June 21st
I promise we will get back on track with RAINER WERNER FASSBINDER'S THE BITTER TEARS OF PETRA VON KANT. Please watch it on any of these services and join us. It's shot by one of my all time favorite cinematographers, Michael Ballhaus. [Hulu | Amazon | Netflix | iTunes


Hamilton Mania, Pixar Short, Gay Rage, New Musical

• Variety Zac Efron possibly joining headliner Hugh Jackman in the new PT Barnum movie musical The Greatest Showman on Earth
Universal Studios Wicked, the movie has a release date. More on this tomorrow
Playbill Tony Kushner writing an adaptation of West Side Story for a remake by Steven Spielberg! Since that's my favorite movie of all time I feel very weird about this. Strangely the article stays that Kushner is "currently adapting the screenplay of August Wilson's Pulitzer-winning drama Fences" which would be really bad news for the movie since it's already done filming ;) 
• My New Plaid Pants ...reacts to the news with a shout out to PT Barnum look-alike Jim Broadbent

• THR The British Independent Film Awards, which helped Ex Machina along last awards season, and are adding award categories this year will try a new system to coincide with what voters have seen and where there are conflicts of interest. Interesting.
EW Tyler Hoechlin will play Superman for the CW
The Stake Batman v Superman gets a new trailer for its expanded DVD edition. It's LONGER now?!? Jesus Christ. 
• THR That Noah Galvin interview we discussed is still prompting news stories. Apparently ABC is coming down hard on him. Guess they're sensitive about Modern Family!  
• NYT She Loves Me will be the first Broadway show streamed live. One night only June 30th. It will cost you $10 instead of the normal $100+
• Vanity Fair on the making of the new Pixar short "Piper". The buzz is true. The short is super adorable / impressive after a patchy run for the most recent Pixar shorts
Awards Daily Oscar nomination frontrunners thus far?
• Facebook if you missed Jeffery Self's live feed "It's Awesome to be Gay" with lots of LGBT actors and performers all five parts are available to watch! I haven't finished watching it but there's much talking, funniness, and even some musical numbers. Loved Jordan Firstman singing "Smile," Brian Jordan Alvarez's story about Kevin Spacey, and Drew Droege and Sam Pancake talking about playing gay characters on TV, Darryl Stephens unconventional queer awakening via Prince's Under the Cherry Moon and more... 

Hamilton Mania
I was finally able to see the insanely popular  Hamilton on Broadway last night. For this I must thank the very talented Rory O'Malley (who broke through with Book of Mormon five years back) that's us on stage after the show to your left) who plays King George III. We met because of Into the Woods and this blog and long story.

King George III is such a fun role with perfect little comic interludes to comment on all the chaos in America. (That's the role Jonathan Groff originated but he had to leave the show early due to Looking and other commitments). Otherwise the original cast is still with the show -- for another couple of weeks at least. Good news: they'll be filming it soon for posterity! There will also be a Hamilton mixtape of cut songs and covers and a documentary later this year since people are insatiable.

We had excellent seats -- I nearly smacked the actor Josh Charles in the face (who happened to be sitting next to us) before the show while trying to send a selfie with too little wi-fi. The show lived up to the hype. Great energy, fun, and memorable music and an incredibly finessed marriage of content, form, and theme. 

Tis the season. With the recent tragedy in Orlando it's hard to not focus on politics, and how broken the GOP is, basically serving only as meat puppets for the NRA who are holding us all hostage (and executing thousands of people each year) via lax gun laws. So here are a few political pieces worth reading/watching:

BET an amazing open letter to straight people from Dominick Pupa which was banned from Facebook -- I guess because it upset sensitive straight people who don't like being reminded of the existence of gays? Not sure how Facebook can justify removing it
•  The Daily Beast "Admit it..." a thought provoking piece on religion and mass killings and theocratic community's culpability 
Gawker the essential Rich Juzwiack on Anti-Gay hatred and gay resistance 


Judy by the Numbers: "Look For The Silver Lining"

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

Believe it or not, 1946 actually represented a change of pace in Judy Garland's career. Judy only had three credits to her name that year: one starring role (The Harvey Girls), one cameo delayed by reshoots (Ziegfeld Follies), and one appearance in a biopic (Till The Clouds Roll By). In fact, this change of pace was a conscious choice on the part of Mr. & Mrs. Minnelli. If Judy looks like she's glowing a bit more than usual under those arclights, that's because Judy Garland was pregnant.

The Movie:
 Till The Clouds Roll By (1946)
The Songwriter: Jerome Kern (music), Buddy G. DeSylva (lyrics)
The Players: Judy Garland, Robert Walker, Van Heflin, June Allyson, Lucille Bremer, directed by Richard Whorf & Vincente Minnelli 

The StoryTill The Clouds Roll By is a Jerome Kern biopic, which (in the true MGM style) fabricates or glosses over nearly all of the composer's life in favor of a Technicolor musical extravaganza. Judy plays Marilyn Miller, a megawatt Ziegfeld Follies star whose heyday was encompassed the 1920s. At her peak, Miller had had musicals and songs written for her on Broadway, including "Look For The Silver Lining," from Kern's musical Sally. Miller was even beginning to break into Hollywood when illness, substance abuse, and alcoholism forced her into retirement in the early 1930s. Marilyn Miller died in 1936 at age 37, another sad showbusiness story. None of this makes it into the movie, though. Besides, Judy was so focused on the upcoming birth that she may have missed the all-to-prescient warning of the woman she portrayed.

When Garland filmed her two songs for the Jerome Kern biopic, she was already four months pregnant. MGM covered up the pregnancy by fitting her clothes a little looser, and inserting a sink, some dishes (and some dancers' hands) between Judy and the camera. Five months later (nine months before the movie was released) Judy and Vincente welcomed into the world a bouncing baby talent: Liza May Minnelli.


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