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Classic Musicals: 3 Movies That Helped Shape the Genre

Image: Classic Musicals: 3 Movies That Helped Shape the Genre
The Wizard of Oz, 1939. (wikimedia/commons)

By    |   Thursday, 16 Apr 2015 05:39 AM

Musicals have long been a part of American cinema's fabric, especially in the Golden Age of Hollywood. While the production of song-and-dance films has waned in recent years (fans are lucky to get one or two big-screen musicals a year at this point), recurring landmarks like the 50th anniversary of "The Sound of Music" in 2015 remind that despite the peaks and valleys, musicals will continue to endure.

Here's a look at three musicals that helped shaped the genre.

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1. "The Wizard of Oz" (1939)

While the film didn't quite achieve the same Academy Award glory of such predecessors as "The Great Ziegfeld" (which became the first musical to win Best Picture in 1936), there's no question audiences found a golden classic with Dorothy Gale (Judy Garland) and her mystical trek down Yellowbrick Road in the Land of Oz. The film features many musical numbers that are forever parts of the American movie lexicon, including "We're Off to See the Wizard," "If I Only Had a Brain," "Ding Dong! The Witch is Dead" and "The Lollipop Guild," but perhaps none is more recognizable than the emotionally charged Judy Garland classic "Over the Rainbow." The film had the great distinction of being the highest-ranked musical (at No. 6) in the American Film Institute's first "100 Years … 100 Movies" list in 1998.

2. "Singin' in the Rain" (1952)

Co-directed by Stanley Donen and Gene Kelly, "Singin' in the Rain" is known as much for its dancing as it is its singing. Sound is of the utmost importance to the film, which is, ironically, about a silent movie production company adjusting to the time of talkies. While Kelly provides the film's most iconic moment while singing and dancing to the classic tune "Singin' in the Rain," he's only one-third of the film's stellar core cast, which also included Debbie Reynolds and Donald O'Connor. Ranked No. 10 on the American Film Institute's "100 Years … 100 Movies" list in 1998, the film escalated up the charts for the updated AFI list in 2007 to No. 5 to become the prestigious institution's highest-ranked musical ("The Wizard of Oz," which ranked No. 6 on the original AFI, fell to No. 10).

3. "The Sound of Music" (1965)

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The Best Picture Oscar winner of 1965, "The Sound of Music" reverberated as loud and beautiful as ever at the 2015 Oscars as Lady Gaga sang a melody of songs made famous by Julie Andrews in the Robert Wise-directed classic movie musical. A World War II-era story of how of how a befuddled nun, Maria (Andrews) went from being a nanny to the matriarch of the Bavarian Von Trapp family singers earned the stage-turned-film star her second Best Actress Oscar nomination (she won the statuette a year before for playing the title role in "Mary Poppins"). But, Andrews wasn't the only singer to impress audiences: Charmian Carr and her fellow cast of child actors also gave new meaning to the numbers in the adaptation of the Rodgers and Hammerstein stage production, which produced such standards as the title tune, "My Favorite Things," "Climb Ev'ry Mountain," Do-Re-Mi" and the family version of "Edelweiss" near the film's conclusion (Bill Lee provided the singing voice for Christopher Plummer's Captain Von Trapp in the film's solo version).

Reflecting on the 50th anniversary at the celebration of "The Sound of Music" in March, Plummer, who attended the event with Andrews, told Variety "The Sound of Music" is "the primal family movie of all time" and a "fairy tale come to life."

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Musicals have long been a part of American cinema's fabric, especially in the Golden Age of Hollywood. Here's a look at three musicals that helped shaped the genre.
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