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Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Favorite Show Biz Movies

          I have been an avid fan of the movies since I was a child. My parents used to take my sister and me to the movie theater with fair regularity during the 1950s and early 60s. We would see all kinds of movies--musicals, monster movies, comedies, romances, and especially circus movies. My parents were professional jugglers and if my father thought a juggler would be in the film we would go see it.

                Television also brought many more opportunities for film viewing as stations did not have much in the way of syndicated programming and often resorted to movies to fill up time. There were midday movies, before dinner movies, Saturday night movies, and the late night movie programming, which regularly showed horror films, which were my favorites.  I was watching an average of about 7 to 10 films per week.

            Due to my show business background, I have a special interest in movies about show business.  These films were often formulaic and centered around the music and dance numbers.  Because of the nature of the subject matter, these films are often musicals.  My list today is not musicals in general, but films about entertainers and the entertainment industry.  They are often biographical, depicting a rise to stardom and sometimes a fall, but some of them are just stories where the show business life is the background of the story and the lifestyle of the characters.  

Some Favorite Show Business Movies:


Fred Astaire -- Many of his films are great show biz pics, but my choice for this list is  Broadway Melody of 1940 (1940).   This uses the formula of song and dance buddies meet girl, act breaks up, Fred saves the day, and Fred wins girl.  Great songs and dances, and there is a good juggling scene.  Fred also shows some adept juggling moves.  In my opinion, Fred Astaire was one of the greatest actors, singers, and dancers of the 20th century.




Busby Berkeley was a specialist in amazing synchronized dance numbers and of course his films are typically about show business. I would recommend most any of his movies.   One of my favorites is Footlight Parade (1933).   It's a lightweight silly story, but the dance numbers are awesome.  They are supposed to be taking place on a stage in a theater, but it's movie magic at its best.  Great singing and great dancing and James Cagney to boot.   He was no slouch of a dancer either.





Federico Fellini is one of my top favorite directors.  I have three show biz picks for him--- La Strada (1954), The Clowns (1974),  and Ginger and Fred (1986).   La Strada is a heartbreaking film with Anthony Quinn in the role of a strongman with his travelling one man circus.  He acquires a mentally deficient young girl to act as an assistant and wife.  His mistreatment of her leads to a tragic end.  It is a real tearjerker.
The Clowns is a docu-fantasy about clowns and how they affect us.  There are some wonderful circus scenes of clown routines.  You can read my review of Ginger and Fred in an earlier post.




Yankee Doodle Dandy (1942) is a rousing bio-pic with James Cagney starring as song-writer vaudeville entertainer George M. Cohan.  Starting with little Georgie's childhood with his travelling family's vaudeville act and into his rise as a successful Broadway star and songwriter, this will make you want to wave the American flag and stand up and cheer.  It's a wonderfully entertaining movie.




  
 
 
Rhapsody in Blue (1945) is another bio-pic, this time about composer George Gershwin.  Hollywood's version about how Gershwin got his start in the music industry called "tin pan alley" and eventually became a respected composer of modern music.  Some fine musical performances including Gershwin's famous "Rhapsody in Blue". 





Give My Regards to Broadway (1948) -- This elusive film is one I discovered only a few years ago, but is perhaps dearest to my heart.  The story is about a family of vaudeville jugglers at the end of the vaudeville era.  The father and the son (played by Dan Dailey) are convinced that vaudeville is going to make a comeback and they want to put the act together again.  The mother wants to just stay home and retire while the two sisters are thinking of marriage and settling down.  It reminds me of my own father and our family juggling act.  It's a movie I can identify with and it's a realistic view of a show biz family.




Jolson Sings Again (1949) --This is the sequel to The Al Jolson Story, which was on my Monday list.   The movie starts where the first movie left off and follows Jolson's subsequent comeback to stardom as he becomes a popular radio and television artist.  It's probably truer to life than the first film, but it's still Hollywood and it's very entertaining.







Singin' In The Rain  (1952)-- A true Hollywood classic with wonderful performances by Gene Kelly, Donald O'Connor, and Debbie Reynolds.  A story about silent film actors making the transition to the talkies.   It's pure fun all the way.






7 Faces of Dr. Lao (1964) --Tony Randall plays the roles of seven different strange characters in this fantasy about a mysterious circus that visits a small town in the West at the beginning of the 20th century.  This unusual circus is not there so much to entertain as to teach the town's citizens some important lessons about themselves.  Juggling plays an important role in this film as a symbol of developing hidden talents to do what you thought you couldn't do.





Circus World (1964)-- The circus creates a vibrant, exciting backdrop full of color and visual wonders, but unfortunately circus movies are usually somewhat weak and cliche ridden.  No matter though, I like circus movies and they are always entertaining.  This one stars John Wayne as the circus owner.  I don't know why this one is so hard to find, but I'm looking for it to come out on readily available DVD.





Cabaret (1972) --This a dark, but entertaining movie about an American singer/dancer, played by Liza Minelli, in Germany during the rise of the Nazis.  Directed by Bob Fosse, the film has good cabaret routines and good story.   A true story depicted in a German film from 1997, The Harmonists based on the true story of The Comedian Harmonists, is an even more realistic depiction of a popular singing group who became persecuted when it was discovered that three of its members were Jews.



All That Jazz (1979) is a semi-autobiographical film by Bob Fosse, which depicts his downward descent due to stressful living from hard work and hard living.  It has some fabulous song and dance numbers.









Selena (1997) -- Jennifer Lopez stars in this bio-pic about the popular Tejano singer Selena, who was murdered by the president of her fan club.  The music is very good and the acting is top notch.  Based on my personal experience, this film effectively captures the life on the road with an entertainment family.  I could really relate to this film.







 That Thing You Do! (1996) -- Written and directed by Tom Hanks, who also has a role in the movie, That Thing You Do! is a fun romp that follows the rise of The Wonders, a fictional group from Ohio.  Full of good original songs and delightful acting performances, this movie also does a good job of capturing life on the road and in the entertainment business.




           Be sure to join us tomorrow when I pose a debate topic about the movies.  On Friday I'll be looking at some of my favorite dark movies.    And the Linky list is now up at the top of the page for next Monday's Blogfest about your 10 Favorite Love Songs and 10 Favorite Break Up Songs. 






16 comments:

  1. I loved many on your list today Lee, but my favourite I think was Yankee Doodle Dandy. I have that on video I recorded off the TV years ago.

    Yvonne.

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  2. My mom loved Yankee Doodle Dandy for all the reasons and because her dad was also born on the Fourth of July. My husband loves old movies and Gene Kelly. Singin' in the Rain is one of his favorites. I'm a Texan ... gotta go with Selena.

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  3. It must have been nice to have more movies than fluffy spit-balling on TV. "Reality" must make these old legends roll over in their graves!

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  4. Wow, the only one on today's list that I have seen is Tom Hank's, That Thing You Do. That was a very good movie.

    I guess I have not been interested in muscials. I think to date I might have only seen two musicals -On A Clear Day You Can See Forever, Barbara Streisand and Chicago.

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  5. Yvonne -- Yankee Doodle Dandy is a real classic.

    Carol -- I saw Selena a couple times in the theater and have watched it several times since I bought the video. Not a huge fan of her music, but I really liked the story in the movie.

    Will-- Thank goodness we have some of the classic movie networks like Turner Classic Movies or we'd rarely get to see a lot of the classics on TV.

    Gregg-- you really should watch some of the Rodgers and Hammerstein musicals like Carousel and The King and I-- they are classics with great music and stunning visuals and better moral values that we usually see in more modern movies.

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  6. Ah, yes, a little known little gem:
    "The 7 Faces Of Dr. Lao".
    Good stuffs there, rLEE-b.

    ~ "Lonesome Dogg" McD-Fens

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  7. I still remember seeing Selena in the theatre with you and That Thing You Do.

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  8. Selena was Jennifer Lopez's best movie.

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  9. StMc -- I read the book The Circus of Dr. Lao before I saw the film and it was pretty good.

    Emilee-- When we went to Selena that was the last movie that your Grandma said she saw in a theater. Of course, she doesn't even watch movies on TV anymore.

    Alex -- A fun movie with really fun music that sounded like it came from the era.

    Marjorie -- You may be right about that, though right now I don't really remember many other of her movies that I've seen.

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  10. I look forward to viewing some of your list; I loved Cabaret n' All That Jazz~ Oh, I loved Selena; Jennifer Lopez did a wonderful job~

    You love your music! These are great~

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  11. Great choices - my faves from your list: Singing in the Rain, Cabaret, All that Jazz :)

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  12. I've been meaning to see This Is It, but haven't been able to yet. Actually my dance company is watching it tonight without me, and I was so disappointed to find out they would be doing this while I was at work... guess I'll have to watch it on my own!

    But I really can't wait to see it, I bet it's fantastic.

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  13. Yankee Doodle Dandy and Singing in the Rain were also two of my favorites.

    I'd like to add - The Eddie Duchin Story, The King and I, and Oklahoma. :)

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  14. Ellie -- Thanks, I need to watch Selenaagain. It's been a long time since I last saw it.

    Jemi -- Thanks for the comment.

    Ginny -- I was really impressed by This Is It. It was neat to see how they were putting the show together.

    Paula -- I was thinking how I could do a whole other category about best band leader/musician stories besides Eddy Duchin, there are great ones about Benny Goodman, the Dorseys, Glenn Miller, and the wonderful Five Pennies starring Danny Kaye as Red Nichols.

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  15. I haven't seen any of these movies, but I'm familiar with many of the songs. I always intended to watch classic movies and musicals, so some day I hope to watch every single one of them.

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Lee