Somewhere over the rainbow…The IGGPPC is celebrating a conviviality of color and music this month! In our continuing series of classic film suggestions, we have a list of bright and beautiful musicals for you to explore! We take our inspiration from the 1939 classic, The Wizard of Oz, which brings us from sepia-toned dolor to the vibrant and magical world of Hollywood musicals!
Deep in the highlands, the highlands of Scotland, two weary hunters lost their way…with these haunting lines, we’re introduced to the mystical village of Brigadoon, a quaint, Scottish town lost to time. Friends Tommy Albright (Gene Kelly) and Jeff Douglas (Van Johnson) are on a hunting trip when they stumble across Brigadoon, a town not on their map. The friends are immediately swept up by the village’s enchanting townspeople and the excitement of their day.
The Blues Brothers (1980)
You might not consider this a musical in the strictest sense but it DEFINITELY is. Never has so much musical talent come together in one film from Cab Calloway to Aretha Franklin to James Brown. John Belushi and Dan Ackryod are on a mission from God to get the band back together. Standing in their way are Illinois Nazis, a Country Western bar, and Carrie Fisher.
The Harvey Girls (1946)
The Wizard of Oz and Meet Me in St. Louis get all the spotlight in Judy Garland’s filmography but The Harvey Girls is a hidden gem. Based on the real life Harvey girls, the film tells the stories of the brave young women to ventured West to work for the Harvey Hotel. Something like the last homely house of the late 19th century United States, these women provided impeccable service to those seeking good food and good rest on their travels into the frontier. ALSO, check out Angela Lansbury!
The Muppet Movie (1979)
This Somewhere Over the Rainbow list would not, could not, be complete without The Rainbow Connection. Jim Henson’s Muppets are joined by an amazing all-star cast to tell the story of how the Muppets came together and their quest for fame in Hollywood! This first full-length film, is the origin story for The Muppet Show and all the films that would follow.
The Music Man (1962)
Any musical with an entire song dedicated to librarians is worth your time. A small town in Iowa is next on the list to be duped by the charlatan salesman, Professor Harold Hill. With no previous musical experience, he’ll wheedle the town into funding a band for their youngsters and skip town before they’re the wiser. But Marian, the librarian, is onto Hill’s tricks and won’t be dazzled by his flirtations either. This irresistible film stars the original Broadway Harold Hill, Robert Preston, Shirley Jones, Buddy Hackett, and Ron Howard, long before he became the Narrator for Arrested Development.
Royal Wedding (1951)
Fred Astaire was in a long list of musicals, this won’t be the last time his name is mentioned in this list but Royal Wedding is unique. He’s apart from his frequent partner, Ginger Rogers. The film is in color. The plot, about a brother & sister dance duo invited to England during the royal wedding of Elizabeth II, echoes Astaire’s own dance beginnings when his first partner was his sister, Adele. And in a marvel of cinematic magic, Fred Astaire dances on the walls and ceiling. Check in with Steena on Twitter (@steenaleen) if you want to know how it was done.
Shall We Dance (1937)
Fred Astaire & Ginger Rogers made a total of ten films together. They were a classic song and dance partnership and their bright, effervescent films were the perfect escape for depression-era movie-goers. You could just as easily slip any of their other nine films into this slot but Shall We Dance, an ode to George Gershwin’s musical genius, for one reason above all others:
Singin’ in the Rain (1952)
When the writers of this film (Betty Comden & Adolph Green) began plotting, they knew only one thing- there would be a song and someone would be dancing in the rain. Around that, Comden & Green built up a fabulous story of silent era film transitioning to the talkies, the technical difficulties faced by the studios, the challenge for formerly-silent film stars to remain relevant in a new epoch, and weaving throughout beautiful music, stunning choreography, and a LOT of laughs. There’s also a LOT of intriguing trivia to know about this film, if you’d like to know more or want to do a watch-along, reach out to Steena on Twitter (@steenaleen) or Discord.
The Sound of Music (1965)
Maria is seeking to become a nun in 1930’s Austria but struggles to devote herself to the strict rules of the convent. In an effort to help Maria determine her call, Maria is sent to serve as a governess for the seven children of naval captain Von Trapp. The Von Trapp children are known for their mean pranks and running off governesses, while their widowed father is distant and strict. Maria’s bright personality and kind patience slowly wins over the Von Trapp family, bringing joy and understanding to the fractured family. Based very loosely on the autobiography of Maria Von Trapp, the film follows their pursuit as family entertainers and their escape from Austria prior to the Anschluss.
At the turn of the 20th century a young Jewish woman wants desperately to study and learn but is not permitted due to her gender. Disguising herself as a young man, Yentl is admitted into a Jewish school and is taken under the wing of another student, Avigdor. Their friendship deepens and Yentl struggles with her feelings for Avigdor while still concealing her identity. Barbra Streisand’s directorial debut is not her strongest musical achievement but it is so unique as to not be missed.
I try not to make assumptions about what films people have and have not seen, while also trying to highlight some of the less well-known films. I’m including the titles below as musicals you really should see if you haven’t already.
- Meet Me in St. Louis (1944)
- Kismet (1955)
- The King & I (1956)
- West Side Story (1961)
- My Fair Lady (1964)
- Fiddler on the Roof (1971)
- Grease (1978)