24 November 2010

Magical Musicals No More?

Where have they gone? The musicals. Some claim the genre is now dead, and that it is only kept alive, hidden in an immortal time, and brought back from our memory when nostalgia seems to take over. The magic has died, apparently. Or has it?

Sure, musicals are still seen in our modern society – after all, Broadway still exists – so the magic cannot be entirely dead, can it?

Actually, we do have some good examples of musical creativity in this century: Rob Marshall’s successful “Chicago” (2002), Baz Luhrmann’s popular “Moulin Rouge!” (2001), and other hit-musicals such as “Dreamgirls” (2006) and “Sweeney Todd” (2007) - and even new geeky high school tv series "Glee" (2009-present) - among others. Yet, so few, compared to the number of musicals the studios once made.

"Chicago" (2002)

In the heyday of musicals, that is, about the ‘20s-‘50s, people flocked to the cinema to watch Fred and Ginger do their famous light-footed dance steps or to see Gene Kelly turn art, passion and emotions into dance. Then, during the late ‘50s and in the ‘60s, musicals started to be a bit worn out and though some had touched heavy topics from real life, the good old musicals were soon replaced by film genres that dealt with social problems and the more harsh facts of life. Time was changing and people just weren’t the pleasing kind anymore. They wanted to be slapped in the face with reality and questions of morality, sexuality, politics and ethics. There was a revolution going on; not just in the world, but also on the screen. Films like “The Godfather”, “Taxi Driver” and “The Deer Hunter” came in the ‘70s and confronted everyone with their blatant images and messages. The other side of the coin was shown. The darker, dirtier and more tabooed side. And it affected the musicals which were made in that time. Step dancing, bright colors and cheerfulness weren’t enough anymore. During the ‘70s and ‘80s, rock and pop became more prominent, bringing new dance steps to the screen and with storylines more fitted for the younger audience; some satirical, others not. You could ask yourself, if the motive of these musicals was to please the crowd; utterly pragmatic and up to the beat, or if they could still manage to capture the soul and feelings of their generation?

"An American in Paris" (1951)

Another genre that we don’t see much of anymore is the gay (lively) screwball comedy. We miss that film genre, surely? It’s not that I’m asking that we should copy what they did then (it’s not possible to even touch those magnificent pieces of film work!). But shouldn’t we at least try to dig up some of those sassy, ironic and sharp lines, attitudes and characters which were so prominent in the ‘20s-‘40s screwball days? The wonderful battle of the sexes where you didn’t have to talk about or show sex but just used your inner wipe and sexuality through guts, stubbornness and wit? Where you showed your weaknesses as well as your strengths without making it stereotype or melodramatic? Where your personality and self-irony were major contributing factors for all the bantering, flirting and falling in love? It was short, wisecracking, ironic and light, but hilarious as hell because they used wit, quirks and cleverness to get what they wanted.

"The Philadelphia Story" (1940)

Well, needless to say I miss this certain zest in our current time. I haven’t seen much of it yet, not in films at least, whereas television series, such as “Cheers” (1982-1993), “Moonlighting” (1985-1989), "10 Things I Hate About You" (2009-2010) and “Bones” (2005-present), have got the upper hand in the matter. The Brits are still running the business with their self-proclaimed self-ironic humor. It’s somehow always a blast. And the Americans are actually not so far behind, as the state of their country often makes room for a good satirical and political joke (but hey, what country doesn't?).

Maddie Hayes (Cybill Shepherd) and David Addison (Bruce Willis)

"10 Things I Hate About You"
Kat Stratford (Lindsey Shaw) and Patrick Verona (Ethan Peck)

Seeley Booth (David Boreanaz) and Temperance Brennan (Emily Deschanel)

So, perhaps musicals and screwball comedies are not so dead, after all. They’re just not … in the center anymore. The film industry is constantly changing and expanding and that’s a good sign, I guess. Yet, I still think we shouldn’t let ourselves be totally devoured by the consumerism and the norms of our society when we want to entertain, renew and please. It will rub off onto the movies, the television and the next generation. Let it not take over-hand, guys. We may swallow up some of our hidden treasures in our hurry.


  1. Hey Ur blog is interesting.. have u watched "The scent of green papaya" and "In the mood for love"? try it, worth watching.

    Peace Out

  2. Did you ever see the attempted neo-screwball "What's Up, Doc", with Barbara Streisand and Ryan O'Neal? Peter Bogdanovich wrote and directed, just in between his successes with Last Picture Show and Paper Moon. He went at it with the strength of his great work in the sixties as a scholar of 1930's and 40's cinema...aaaannnnd he still didn't get it quite right. Nevertheless, it's neat to see a more contemporary (70's, granted) shot at what is one of my favorite movie genres.

  3. @Black to Black
    No, I haven't seen these movies (I should watch more Asian movies really), but they sure sound interesting. Thanks for the recommendations and for stopping by ;)

  4. @zeldafitz79
    It's funny that you should mention this movie...I saw the trailer on YouTube the other day and got really hooked! I totally get why Bogdanovich wanted to recapture the spirit of the classic screwball comedies and though I haven't seen this movie yet, it seems to be on the right track, on the whole. We could need some more of that!
    Thanks for your comment! :D