June Highlights on TCM
In partnership with The Film Foundation, Turner Classic Movies is proud to bring you this exclusive monthly column by iconic film director and classic movie lover Martin Scorsese.
TCM SPOTLIGHT: MAD ABOUT MUSICALS (Tuesdays & Thursdays in June) - This month, TCM is doing a massive salute to the American musical with 95 pictures, from The Broadway Melody (1929), made and released near the dawn of sound, to Ken Russell's adaptation of The Who's rock opera Tommy (1975). The program gives a good overview of the genre, of the many ways that it developed and adapted to changing times and the artistic evolution that hit peaks in the mid-30s (with Busby Berkeley on the one hand and Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers on the other) and in the early 50s with the pictures coming out of MGM and the other studios, and then with Bob Fosse's pictures in the 70s. The genre, more or less, began with the "backstage musical"--stories about song and dance performers. But then again, in King Vidor's Hallelujah, made in 1929, the songs are in cotton fields and juke joints and at revival meetings. During those early years, Ernst Lubitsch made a series of pictures with Maurice Chevalier (The Love Parade and The Merry Widow are included here) in which he took the then-popular light opera form and turned it into cinema. In the early 30s, Berkeley (in pictures like 42nd Street and The Gold Diggers of 1933) opened up the backstage musical (with the help of art directors Anton Grot and Jack Okey), giving it greater scope and dynamism. Berkeley used the cinema to give form to what happens in the imagination during a great live production--the boundaries of the stage expand in the mind--and he expanded the art form in the process. In the 40s, Vincente Minnelli, Gene Kelly, Stanley Donen, Betty Comden and Adolph Green, Fosse, Michael Kidd and others came from Broadway and made a series of films at MGM, most of them included here, that are high points not just in the history of the genre--including Meet Me in St. Louis, On the Town, Singin' in the Rain and The Band Wagon, each one an artistic milestone--but of the cinema itself (and I have to mention another great picture, made at Warner Bros.: George Cukor's 1954 remake of A Star Is Born with Judy Garland and James Mason, production design by Gene Allen and very special color design by the photographer George Hoyningen-Huene). As the studio system gave way, popular tastes changed and the rock 'n' roll musical came into being, first as a series of vehicles for performers like Elvis Presley and, later, The Beatles...and with A Hard Day's Night by Richard Lester, the musical merged with the spirit of the new pictures coming out of Europe by Godard and Bertolucci and others. And as the last of the great old-fashioned musical stage adaptations were being made (including My Fair Lady in 1964 and Funny Girl in 1968), Fosse merged and cross-pollinated new and old energies to make Cabaret (1972), an impressive picture. It's an awe-inspiring lineage.
by Martin Scorsese