Mid-century movies: the musical

Musicals were a fixture of the entertainment scene during the mid-century years. The musical film took all the pageantry and glamour of Broadway stage shows, and packaged it perfectly for the silver screen.

Many moviegoers today tend to dismiss the musical genre out of hand, as just some silly, unrealistic fantasy. But I say, so what if it’s not realistic? When I go to the movies, I expect to be transported far, far away from conventional realism in two blissful hours of pure, unadulterated escapist spectacle. In this day and age of increasingly grim, heavy, joyless, and pretentious movies, a whimsical, colorful, and absolutely grand musical extravaganza is a welcome change of pace.

How can today’s mid-century revivalist indulge in the musical genre? One option is by going back to the original format, the stage show. If you are in a larger city, check your local theatre district for upcoming performances. The downside is that tickets for the higher-profile touring shows can be quite pricey, especially if you want to choose better seats. But if you have the opportunity to catch the occasional stage musical, prepare to be wowed by a truly memorable experience. Smaller local community theatre groups may offer more intimate (and affordable) performances.

Another option is to wait for the occasional contemporary musical movie. La-la Land is a good recent example. But personally, today’s musical film productions don’t quite take me away to another time and place like the classics do.

Thankfully, huge catalogs of vintage musical motion pictures are available for home viewing on DVD and blu-ray disc. Consider making your next home movie night a musical sojourn.

To conclude, I leave you with trailers for a few of my favorite mid-century musicals, courtesy of the Fandango Movieclips Trailer Vault channel on Youtube:

Guys and Dolls (1955)

An American in Paris (1951)

West Side Story (1961)

Stay tuned for some thoughts on mid-century music, next time on Living MCM…


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