Thursday, March 31, 2011

Top Ten MGM Musicals

1. An American in Paris (1951)

How could this film be anything less than number one, With music by Gershwin, choreography by Gene Kelly, direction by Vincente Minnelli, produced by Arthur Freed and Roger Edens, and the film debut of Leslie Caron? This musical has a simple but poignant, an elegant and lovely set (with scenes from famous French paintings), and lighthearted in its approach to entertainment. As Kelly sings in “I Got Rhythm,” “Who could ask for anything more?”

2. Meet Me In St. Louis (1944)

Judy Garland at her most fabulous. Youthful but mature, she carries the film with her grace and energy, and Minnelli’s direction makes the film lovely to look at over and over again. The supporting cast is a fantastic ensemble, with young Margaret O’Brien as a both funny and heartbreaking standout. The film also debuted a number of classic songs, including “The Trolley Song” and “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas.”

3. Singin’ in the Rain (1952)

Gene Kelly’s career triumph, he directed and choreographed the film as well as starred in the singing/dancing/acting lead. Debbie Reynolds and Donald O’Connor are unforgettable and Jean Hagen is stellar as the not-so-well spoken Lina Lamont. Cyd Charisse also smolders her way into the finale ballet. The songs (written in the 1920s by Freed and Brown) and storyline make this film not only a piece of movie history but a self conscious record of it, chronicling the shift from silent film pantomime to the modern sound movie.

4. Gigi (1958)

Another gorgeous Minnelli musical, with a standout Lerner and Loewe score, this film was the last gasp of the Golden Age of the MGM musical, winning the Academy Award for Best Picture in 1958. Leslie Caron is completely absorbed in the character of the young Gigi and the audience is barely disappointed by the lack of dancing in the film. Colette’s story is the perfect fodder for movie musicals and Caron, along with Maurice Chevalier, Hermione Ginghold, and Louis Jordan sell it all the way.

5. The Wizard of Oz (1939)

The oldest of the films on the list, and one of the earliest in Technicolor, this film boast perhaps the most talented ensemble cast in the history of the musical. Even though the film was made more than sixty years ago, the costumes, songs, sets, and even effects have stood the test of time. Timeless and classic, it is one of the greatest films of all time, not to mention musicals.

6. The Band Wagon (1953)

A story of an aging Hollywood hoofer and an uptight ballerina coming to terms with each other and of course falling in love, The Band Wagon is just plain fun. Cyd Charisse and Fred Astaire seem just made to dance together and again Minnelli ensures that the eye candy for the audience. Michael Kidd makes a notable scene appearance and the song, “That’s Entertainment!” makes its onscreen debut.

7. Easter Parade (1948)

A perfect integration of song and dance in a musical, Easter Parade takes you back to the days of vaudeville. Judy Garland is possibly at her most hilarious in this film. Astaire shines in his trick photography, “Stepping out with My Baby,” and Ann Miller wows in “Shakin' the Blues Away.” A perfect showcase for the classic upbeat tunes of Irving Berlin.

8. On the Town (1949)

The first musical to be shot on location, On the Town was Gene Kelly’s attempt to push the boundaries of the film musical. Many scenes were shot in New York City adding an authenticity to the story. Another film in the popular Kelly/Sinatra series, the supporting cast is also standout, including Vera Ellen and Ann Miller.

9. High Society (1956)

A crooner’s musical, we see a rare teaming of Bing Crosby and Frank Sinatra in this adaptation of The Philadelphia Story. Grace Kelly, though she doesn’t sing or dance, adds star power to the film, while the guest appearances by Louis Armstrong are an entertaining treat.

10. Broadway Melody of 1940 (1940)

Eleanor Powell and Fred Astaire star in this classic, “hoofer” musical. Resplendent in black and white the Cole Porter songs are highlighted by the number “Begin the Beguine,” which is a tap dance lover’s dream.

1 comment:

  1. GREAT list!! Only two I haven't seen and they're now on my Netflix list. Love this blog too. What an awesome idea! Good work!

    Also, just a note...Grace Kelley actually does sing in High Society. It's indeed her voice you hear on the boat accompanying Bing for "Sensational." And doing a fairly decent job of it. ;)



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