The US government's Office of War Information OWI , formed in , served as an important propaganda agency during World War II, and coordinated its efforts with the film industry to record and photograph the nation's war-time activities. Tinseltown aided in the defensive mobilization, whether as combatants, propagandists, documentary, newsreel or short film-makers, educators, fund-raisers for relief funds or war bonds, entertainers, or morale-boosters. Films took on a more realistic rather than escapist tone, as they had done during the Depression years of the 30s.
Hollywood Canteen , the West Coast's answer to Broadway's Stage Door Canteen , was typical of star-studded, plotless, patriotic extravaganzas, one of several during the war years which featured big stars who entertained the troops.
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It provided free meals and entertainment, and was located at Cahuenga Boulevard, off Sunset Boulevard. Many of the leading stars and directors in motion pictures joined the service or were called to duty - Clark Gable, James Stewart, William Wyler, and Frank Capra to name a few, and male actors were definitely in short supply. Rationing, blackouts, shortages and other wartime restrictions also had their effects on US film-makers, who were forced to cut back on set construction and on-location shoots.
Betty Grable had signed with 20th Century Fox in and would soon became a major star of their musicals in the s. A Story of a Flying Fortress The most subtle of all wartime propaganda films was the romantic story of self-sacrifice and heroicism in Michael Curtiz' archetypal 40s studio film Casablanca With a limited release in late and wider release in , the resonant film was a timeless, beloved black and white work originally based on an unproduced play entitled Everybody Comes to Rick's.
The quintessential 40s film is best remembered its superior script, for piano-player Dooley Wilson's singing of As Time Goes By , and memorable lines of dialogue such as: The 40s also offered escapist entertainment, reassurance, and patriotic themes, such as William Wyler's war-time film Mrs.
Miniver , starring Walter Pidgeon and Oscar-winning courageous heroine Greer Garson as husband and wife.
It was a moving tribute and account of courageous war-besieged Britishers reliving the trauma of Dunkirk and coping with the war's dangers in a village. Alfred Hitchcock, who had recently migrated to the US, directed Foreign Correspondent , ending it with a plea to the US to recognize the Nazi menace in Europe and end its isolationist stance. A variety of war-time films, with a wide range of subjects and tones, presented both the flag-waving heroics and action of the war as well as the realistic, every-day boredom and brutal misery of the experience: The musical film was a natural development of the stage musical after the emergence of sound film technology.
Typically, the biggest difference between film and stage musicals is the use of lavish background scenery and locations that would be impractical in a theater. Musical films characteristically contain elements reminiscent of theater; performers often treat their song and dance numbers as if a live audience were watching.
In a sense, the viewer becomes the diegetic audience, as the performer looks directly into the camera and performs to it. The s through the early s are considered to be the golden age of the musical film, when the genre's popularity was at its highest in the Western world. Musical short films were made by Lee de Forest in — Beginning in , thousands of Vitaphone shorts were made, many featuring bands, vocalists, and dancers.
The earliest feature-length films with synchronized sound had only a soundtrack of music and occasional sound effects that played while the actors portrayed their characters just as they did in silent films: Historian Scott Eyman wrote, "As the film ended and applause grew with the houselights, Sam Goldwyn 's wife Frances looked around at the celebrities in the crowd. She saw 'terror in all their faces', she said, as if they knew that 'the game they had been playing for years was finally over'.
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The enthusiasm of audiences was so great that in less than a year all the major studios were making sound pictures exclusively. The Broadway Melody had a show-biz plot about two sisters competing for a charming song-and-dance man. There was a rush by the studios to hire talent from the stage to star in lavishly filmed versions of Broadway hits.
Warner Brothers produced the first screen operetta, The Desert Song in They spared no expense and photographed a large percentage of the film in Technicolor. This was followed by the first all-color, all-talking musical feature which was entitled On with the Show The most popular film of was the second all-color, all-talking feature which was entitled Gold Diggers of Broadway This film broke all box office records and remained the highest-grossing film ever produced until Suddenly, the market became flooded with musicals, revues, and operettas.
The following all-color musicals were produced in and alone: In addition, there were scores of musical features released with color sequences. Hollywood released more than musical films in , but only 14 in For example, Life of the Party was originally produced as an all-color, all-talking musical comedy.
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Before it was released, however, the songs were cut out. The same thing happened to Fifty Million Frenchmen and Manhattan Parade both of which had been filmed entirely in Technicolor. Marlene Dietrich sang songs successfully in her films, and Rodgers and Hart wrote a few well-received films, but even their popularity waned by The taste in musicals revived again in when director Busby Berkeley began to enhance the traditional dance number with ideas drawn from the drill precision he had experienced as a soldier during World War I.
In films such as 42nd Street and Gold Diggers of , Berkeley choreographed a number of films in his unique style. Berkeley's numbers typically begin on a stage but gradually transcend the limitations of theatrical space: Musical stars such as Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers were among the most popular and highly respected personalities in Hollywood during the classical era; the Fred and Ginger pairing was particularly successful, resulting in a number of classic films, such as Top Hat , Swing Time , and Shall We Dance Many dramatic actors gladly participated in musicals as a way to break away from their typecasting.
For instance, the multi-talented James Cagney had originally risen to fame as a stage singer and dancer, but his repeated casting in "tough guy" roles and mob films gave him few chances to display these talents. Cagney's Oscar -winning role in Yankee Doodle Dandy allowed him to sing and dance, and he considered it to be one of his finest moments.
Many comedies and a few dramas included their own musical numbers. The Marx Brothers ' films included a musical number in nearly every film, allowing the Brothers to highlight their musical talents. Their final film, entitled Love Happy , featured Vera-Ellen , considered to be the best dancer among her colleagues and professionals in the half century. Similarly, The vaudevillian comedian W. The film also showcased the talents of several internationally recognized musical artists including: During the late s and into the early s, a production unit at Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer headed by Arthur Freed made the transition from old-fashioned musical films, whose formula had become repetitive, to something new.
However, they also produced Technicolor remakes of such musicals as Show Boat , which had previously been filmed in the s. In , Freed was hired as associate producer for the film Babes in Arms. Starting in with Meet Me in St. Louis , the Freed Unit worked somewhat independently of its own studio to produce some of the most popular and well-known examples of the genre.
Fred Astaire was also coaxed out of retirement for Easter Parade and made a permanent comeback. In the s, s, and continuing up to today, the musical film became less of a bankable genre that could be relied upon for sure-fire hits. Audiences for them lessened and fewer musical films were produced as the genre became less mainstream and more specialized. However popular musical tastes were being heavily affected by rock and roll and the freedom and youth associated with it, and indeed Elvis Presley made a few films that have been equated with the old musicals in terms of form.
Most of the musical films of the s and s such as Oklahoma! The most successful musicals of the s created specifically for film were Mary Poppins and The Jungle Book , two of Disney's biggest hits of all time. The phenomenal box-office performance of The Sound of Music gave the major Hollywood studios more confidence to produce lengthy, large-budget musicals. Despite the resounding success of some of these films, Hollywood also produced a large number of musical flops in the late s and early s which appeared to seriously misjudge public taste. Collectively and individually these failures crippled several of the major studios.
In the s, film culture and the changing demographics of filmgoers placed greater emphasis on gritty realism, while the pure entertainment and theatricality of classical-era Hollywood musicals was seen as old-fashioned. Despite this, Fiddler on the Roof and Cabaret were more traditional musicals closely adapted from stage shows and were strong successes with critics and audiences. Changing cultural mores and the abandonment of the Hays Code in also contributed to changing tastes in film audiences. By the mids, filmmakers avoided the genre in favor of using music by popular rock or pop bands as background music, partly in hope of selling a soundtrack album to fans.
The Rocky Horror Picture Show was originally released in and was a critical failure until it started midnight screenings in the s where it achieved cult status. The film version of Grease was a smash hit; its songs were original compositions done in a s pop style. However, the sequel Grease 2 released in bombed at the box-office. Films about performers which incorporated gritty drama and musical numbers interwoven as a diegetic part of the storyline were produced, such as Lady Sings the Blues , All That Jazz , and New York, New York.
Some musicals made in Britain experimented with the form, such as Richard Attenborough 's Oh! A number of film musicals were still being made that were financially and critically less successful than in the musical's heyday. The critical wrath against At Long Last Love , in particular, was so strong that it was never released on home video. By the s, financiers grew increasingly confident in the musical genre, partly buoyed by the relative health of the musical on Broadway and London's West End.
However, Can't Stop the Music , starring the Village People , was a calamitous attempt to resurrect the old-style musical and was released to audience indifference in Little Shop of Horrors was based on an off-Broadway musical adaptation of a Roger Corman film, a precursor of later film-to-stage-to-film adaptations, including The Producers. Many animated films of the period — predominately from Disney — included traditional musical numbers. Howard Ashman , Alan Menken , and Stephen Schwartz had previous musical theatre experience and wrote songs for animated films during this time, supplanting Disney workhorses the Sherman Brothers.
Beauty and the Beast and The Lion King were adapted for the stage after their blockbuster success. In the 21st century, movie musicals were reborn with darker musicals, epic drama musicals and comedy-drama musicals such as Moulin Rouge! Chicago was also the first musical since Oliver! Examples of Broadway-based jukebox musical films included Mamma Mia! Following a string of successes with live action fantasy adaptations of several of their animated features , Disney produced a live action version of Beauty and the Beast , the first of this live action fantasy adaptation pack to be an all-out musical, and features new songs as well as new lyrics to both the Gaston number and the reprise of the title song.
Pixar also produced Coco , the very first computer-animated musical film by the company. Other animated musical films include Rio , Trolls , and Sing. Biopics about music artists and showmen were also big in the 21st century. A , The Greatest Showman P. Spain has a history and tradition of musical films that were made independent of Hollywood influence. The first films arise during the Second Spanish Republic of the s and the advent of sound films. A few zarzuelas Spanish operetta were even adapted as screenplays during the silent era. The beginnings of the Spanish musical were focused on romantic Spanish archetypes: Andalusian villages and landscapes, gypsys, "bandoleros", and copla and other popular folk songs included in story development.
These films had even more box-office success than Hollywood premieres in Spain. The first Spanish film stars came from the musical genre: