Wednesday, April 15, 2020

Pin It


Day Two: Musical Score, 1956

It's easy to underestimate just how prolific the musical genre was pre-1970s. Nowadays, we get a Disney movie, maybe a stage adaptation of a Broadway hit, every once in a blue moon an original like The Greatest Showman, and it's enough to make us go, "wow! The musical is back!"

But man, the way the studios just pumped these babies out in the '50s! The volume! The variety! Enough so that there sub-genres within sub-genres: jukebox musicals, bandleader bios, remakes of non-musical hits, ballets - all in addition to the standard Broadway adaptations, even re-workings of past stage hits (Anything Goes, for example, completely rewrites a book that had already been re-written). And how do I even categorize something like The Girl Can't Help It? Showcase musical?

Anyway, there are over a dozen musical or musical-adjacent films from 1956. These are the five that were nominated for their score:

The Best Things in Life Are Free
Lionel Newman
adapting the music of Ray Henderson
third of nine nominations for Musical Score

An enjoyable romp through the songs of De Sylva, Brown and Henderson, presented on ukulele, full orchestra, gramophone, music box; via an Al Jolson impression, a gangster ballet, a standard chorus line. Creative, delightful, effective, from the opening rendition of the title tune all the way to the closing rendition of that same tune. What a way to take music that everyone knows, from a different time, and both pay proper tribute and revitalize it.

The Eddy Duchin Story
Morris Stoloff / George Duning
adapting the music of various artists
past two-time winner, 16th of 18 score nominations for Stoloff; fifth and final nomination for Duning

Oh gosh, how sublime. Haunting and romantic and frivolous, intimate and uproarious. You hear Duchin's sound develop, how he connects to people and life events through his music. It's quite marvelous.

High Society
Johnny Green / Saul Chaplin
adapting the music of Cole Porter
past two-time winner, fifth of twelve nominations for Green; past two-time winner, fourth of five nominations for Chaplin

A grand showcase for Porter songs. Romantic with its various arrangements of "True Love", playful with its underscoring via "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire", both when it comes to "I Love You, Samantha," and in the case of "Well, Did You Evah," creates a terrific new version that fits comfortably into the milieu of the new film.

The King and I
Alfred Newman / Ken Darby
adapting the music of Richard Rodgers
eighth of nine wins, 36th of 42 nominations for Newman; first of three wins, first of six nominations for Darby

I'm not about to argue the genius of Richard Rodgers in any form, sorryyyyyyy!

Meet Me in Las Vegas
George Stoll / Johnny Green
adapting the music of Nicholas Brodszky and Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky
past winner, seventh of eight score nominations for Stoll; past two-time winner, sixth of twelve nominations for Green

No matter how much this movie tries to make "My Lucky Charm" or "The Gal with the Yaller Shoes" or even "If You Can Dream" happen, they just don't have that zing, you know? You shouldn't be thinking, "I wish they'd get this number over with already" during a musical! The one standout: Sammy Davis, Jr.'s version of "Frankie & Johnny." Just electric, man.


Oscar awarded Best Picture nominee The King and I:

But I guess I have a slight bias in favor of a musical score that has more obvious work to do for a film, because my vote goes to:


Tomorrow, the nominees for Best Actress in a Leading Role: Ingrid Bergman (Anastasia), Carroll Baker (Baby Doll), Katharine Hepburn (The Rainmaker), Nancy Kelly (The Bad Seed) and Deborah Kerr (The King and I).
You May Also Enjoy:

Like us on Facebook

No comments: