144: TCM Mad About Musicals
June 8, 2018 6 a.m.
Episode 144: TCM Mad About Musicals
TCM is offering its fourth annual free online movie course and this one is Mad About Musicals. Cinema Junkie talks with TCM host Alicia Malone and Dr. Vanessa Theme Ament, veteran Foley artist and endowed chair of telecommunications at Ball State University about the musical's place in cinematic history.
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Related Story: Podcast Episode 144: TCM Mad About Musicals
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Turner Classic Movies is once again acting like a benevolent educational institution rather than a cable network and offering up another free online class this time focused on musicals. Mad about musicals will be TCM fourth annual massive open online course and will run concurrently with TCM programming taking participants through the history of the movie musical. Although the course officially launched on June 3rd you can register at any time online. Up until June 17th and it's all free. More than 44000 people have enrolled in CMS pass three classes on topics like film noir and Alfred Hitchcock. This time the free month long multimedia course will explore the musical's place in cinematic history. You'll get coarse lessons with movie clips from Dr. Vanessa thema Moland a successful Hollywood foley artist and Endowed Chair of telecommunications at Ball State University. Plus interviews with guests such as Academy Award winning sound designer Gary Wright Strohm discussing sound in the Hollywood musical and with film scholar Richard Edwards examining the connection between musicals and melodrama. TCM claims to be looking for ways to create immersive experiences so fans can engage with TCM on a deeper level. These online classes are one of those ways. Personally I've always had a love hate relationship with musicals I adore most of the MGM musicals and anything with Gene Kelly. I have some issues with some later musicals like The Sound of Music. But maybe that's in part because I played for more than three years at one of San Diego's movie palaces and it just started to become an annoyance. But later films such as A Hard Day's Night cabaret Godspell and Jesus Christ Superstar proved that the genre could evolve and
reinvent itself to start the discussion. I speak briefly with TCM host Alicia Malone who's really too young to have seen any of those classic MGM musicals when they first came out. So I asked her how she got her first introduction to those classic all singing all dancing films.
I got into these musicals when I was really young by my dad who was a huge classic film fan and I remember saying Singin In The Rain. Jack. Thomas. Every.
Star in Hollywood's heaven is here to make money. Pictures from near the outstanding. Band. 1927. Everyone. From. Your wedding.
And secondly I was really confused because I thought it was a film from the 20s 30s because that's when it set rather than the 50s when it came out but I fell in love with musicals from that point on. And I did my best to see as many as I could. And then what's been fun about preparing this month as being on a heist is that I got to go through the mall again and re watch them all.
And what is it about the musicals that kind of sucked you in. What is it about them that you found was irresistible.
It just makes me so happy. I mean still if I'm having a down moment put on a musical and it just brings up my happy made. I used to love as well trying to learn all the songs and dances. Do not recommend trying to do that wool thing that tumbles iconic in Singin in the rain and it is but I just feel like they're so full of energy and life and I love the fact that it breaks out in these huge spectacular songs and dances it's such a visual treat to watch.
Now TCM has done these online classes before for things like Hitchcock and film noir and to some people those may seem like very obvious things to delve into in depth. Musicals may not strike some people right off the bat as something like Wow you can do a four week class on this you. What is it about musicals that you think lends itself to doing a class like this and that may surprise people as they look into them.
Well I think what's great about musicals is that you not only learn about the genre but you end up learning about film history self because musicals started right at the very beginning of the talkies as a great way to showcase sound and how they could use this new format right the way through to the 70s or it's still going with films like lala land. Then you have the heyday of the movie musical in their 40s and 50s and as Technicolor said come and you got to see suddenly the costumes in these bright colors. So I feel like you not only learn about the schools themselves but you end up just getting a whole overview of film history and how movies have evolved since the 1920s.
Give people an idea of kind of what the interaction is going to be between this online class and between what you're doing at CNN and the kinds of films that are going to be presented on the air.
Yes. So along with the course you can watch a few sign ups at the course you can watch special lessons with Dr. Vanessa Mente and movie clips. You get interviews with different guests that have been on TCM and different guests talking about musicals. You get a little social conversation with fellow participants some fun games but then you get to see the on film introductions with ducked Mente and Ben Mankiewicz and then I also do some introductions on Tuesday night. And so it's like a little partnership with the course you get to learn about the musicals and then you get to watch them on air and on air. We have almost I think over 90 different musicals on every Tuesday and Thursday nights throughout June and we get everything from the 1920s right through to the 1970s. So it's a whole range of movies. You get the big hits like Singin In The Rain. Seven Brides the seven brothers. My Fair Lady. Wizard of Oz as well so some of the Busby Berkeley musicals of the early 20s and 30s and then right the way through to films like Cabaret and Fiddler On The Roof. So it's a really broad range of movies and in prepping for all this.
Were there any films that you discovered that you hadn't been familiar with before.
Yeah I mean I've never seen the pirates. It's a film with Judy Garland and Gene Kelly and I thought I had exhausted all of the Gene Kelly movies. But somehow that one missed my list and it was so much fun it is like a new discovery. Getting to see a film that I'd heard about but never actually sat down to watch. And also just to re watch some of the films the early films from the 30s I loved just getting to say a whole block of films with dance sequences by Busby Berkeley because they always just amaze me what he was able to do with all those people. And no special effects. You know just in camera special effects it's truly incredible. And I had only seen Easter Parade once before which is sacrilege because a lot of people watch that every single year but that one was never high on my list.
And so I had a new appreciation for it watching it now.
Saw you saw it. Never saw your flights canceled.
What's. I. Came through the. Stuck. On. The site.
And are there any films that are part of that collection that are screening this month that are kind of hidden gem something that people may not be familiar with at all and that you're really excited to present to them.
So yeah there are lots of the big hits that I get to present like I get to do Singin In The Rain which I mentioned military times because that is my favorite film. But then there's also some little hidden gems that part of Ben Mankiewicz is Bluck. I really loved watching someone the Elvis Presley movies and I know people probably familiar with Jailhouse Rock. Viva Las Vegas is another one there as well suited to sodomize. New. To. Get. To. Where you.
Are. I'm. Just. A. Durable. Bag. But just some movies that may have been. I looked at the time. I really enjoyed getting to delve into them and rediscovering them through new eyes.
Well it's funny you've mentioned singing in the rain a number of. And and I just came from seeing a Kubrick documentary where they had the classic scene with singing in the rain from Clockwork Orange.
I'm just curious like what you think about kind of resurfacing of that song and mixing that the joy of that film with the pilot Kubrick.
Oh I thought that was actually brilliant on the part of Stanley Kubrick because it is such a joyful song. And then to read it in that way was completely haunting. I saw a clockwork orange when I was way too young and it messed me up for a long time especially because it used that song from one of my favorite movies. But I just thought that was really clever. But to me anytime I hear that song I just think about Gene Kelly dancing in the rain.
I think it just goes to also just how pervasive because musicals were kind of like the fact that you could use that anyway to have such an impact because it has this kind of cultural significance.
Yes absolutely I mean these songs and these moments from these movies a band into our brains and they become so influential. We've seen things like lala land. I mean that's definitely influenced by movies like singing in the rain Umbrellas of Cherbourg these and classic musicals that many people might not have seen people coming to see la la land so I just love how influential these films have been.
You know the class sort of ends in the 70s with a look at those musicals. How are you feeling about the future of musicals now you've mentioned La La Land. But is that a fluke or do you think that's something to say that musicals still have a strong life here in Hollywood.
I think musicals still have a strong life in Hollywood. I think that they won't be as prevalent as they were once before but they will still continue to be popular musicals every once in a while. You know they started to wind down in the late 50s and the 60s there were a couple of hits and then like you said in the 70s and we end our programming with films like Fiddler on the roof and Oliver and funny go. But I think that they'll continue to pop up. I think they genre that's here to stay and still attract the crowds and definitely with Broadway and theater thing still as popular as ever. I think we'll continue to see more. I mean this. Yeah I think we got a new Mary Poppins coming out.
Do you feel that musicals have kind of a distinctly American quality to them or you mentioned The Umbrellas of Cherbourg. So you know musicals are done everywhere but does this kind of classic musical kind of root itself in America in some way.
Yeah I think to me nothing says musical more like Hollywood. You know Hollywood is such a big influence on film obviously but then it's so baked into music Demis because the film musicals I mean a lot of them goes I love these backstage musicals these ones that look behind the scenes whether it is on Broadway or in Hollywood studios. I love to see that and I think there is something very American about them particularly the films in the 40s and 50s they often had great American you know all American values. What people say about their lives and romance and there was something dreamlike about them. I just remember watching these movies when I was young and hoping that one day I would get to go to Hollywood and even films like the umbrella's or ship was inspired by the MGM musicals.
And then what how do you feel about some of the more contemporary musicals because you've got things like Cabaret which has some like real grit to it as well in terms of dealing with the politics of its time. And then you've got kind of the cinema verité of something like A Hard Day's Night. I mean how do you feel about the like those musicals that came up in the 70s and 60s.
Yeah I think you know they went from being the real escapist fun to being something that could talk more about what was happening at the time and I think that's why those films were hits at that moment because films were starting to speak about what was actually going on in the world. I love the different forms that the musical can take and particularly how it did evolve over the years. I mean I love to see Liza Minnelli in Cabaret and she dances as such an icon and those sequences particularly when she's in the club and on the chair I mean it's so iconic as well have to understand the way. On his.
Side or is it not a lot. You'll never go a jam. So I do. What I do. When I'm. On. And on. To do.
I think it just shows how the musical has evolved alongside film right from the start till the end till now and you've mentioned singing in the rain is one of your favorites if you could pick like another three what other three ones do you think are just like really important for people to make sure they see.
Well I I love an American in Paris. I don't know if it's super important would say but it's one that is also close to my heart. Has that incredible 17 minute ballet sequences to sequence at the end. That is so visually stunning but I think something that is important for people to see the movies that started it all right from the beginning. So one that I love is Footlight Parade from 1933.
This is where everybody comes in stage in the prologue in three days. We're going to work. On Saturday night we'll have what we walk through the Turner chair and I will say love the Gold Diggers of 1933.
There were so many musicals that came out in that year line and Gold Diggers of 1933 is one that did actually speak about what was happening right then at that moment which was the Great Depression and it has these big musical numbers and it's really interesting to watch it as a film that commented on what was happening and also was very much fun and escapist to watch as well. On My Mind. I'm.
Gone. Good news to me your.
Father had come back when you can tie your money in money. We're back. The sky is through we never see headlines red lights when we leave the land but we've got a lot more.
I would definitely encourage people to watch some of the earliest musicals if they haven't seen them already.
Well anything with Gene Kelly is important for people to love. I loved it.
So if you had to pick a musical number to go out with for you're out. Music what song or piece would you want.
Oh that is a good question. I would go with one of another one of my favorite musicals which is gentlemen Sablon. Starring Marilyn Monroe. And I would not go with the big pase which is Diamonds Are a Girl's Best Friend. But I would go with just two little girls from Little Rock. The opening number which I remember very very clearly learning with my sister Yvette and performing to my parents who were not that excited by. Just two little girls from Little Rock. The wrong side of the tracks. But the.
Friends who used to go they never did seem to. They came to the wrong side of the tracks.
That was TCM host Alicia Malone. Next up is Dr. Vanessa FEMA meant Endowed Chair in the Telecommunications Department at Ball State University. Before we started talking about musicals I had to ask her about her background as a foley artist working on films such as Die Hard and predator. I love talking to people who work in the sound department on films because that's an often underappreciated job. So to begin with I asked her to define exactly what a foley artist does.
So a foley artist is the person who replaces the footsteps the props and the cloth in any sort of film at all actually in sync to picture after it's been shot.
For example if you are watching a scene and somebody you hear somebody's footsteps or you hear their paper or any of the props are touching really well it's probably been done by a foley artist because production sound is concerned with picking up dialogue. So while a lot of the normal stuff in a scene is heard on a microphone in production it's not heard well. So typically what happens is a foley artist is enhancing or replacing it in post production. While we're looking at an edited version of the film were produced we're actually reproducing it in sync to picture. For example if I'm when I was working on diehard I would be walking the footsteps of a lot of the characters including Bruce Willis which I watched Bruce Willis doing also footsteps. Anything he touches all of the gun rattle and he sort of paper movement. Any of the walkie talkie any of anything anybody touching. In addition a foley artist is going to help enhance any of the big sound effects. For example if there's a car crash while the major parts of the car crash are going to be edited in. By sound editors any of the creeks or any of the impacts will be also enhanced on a fully staged by a fully artist. So we are doing a lot of the specialized enhancement of a lot of the sound design stuff. The editors are doing a lot of the major part of it but we're doing a lot of the specialized enhancement that might give it a certain character. So all of those things are done by a foley artist on a fully stage and I've been doing it since 1980
so that was I actually started out as a singer and an actor and a dancer. And those skills led me towards being a foley artist and a voice actor.
That seems like such a crazy path. I mean the other dancers are foliar artists but you know something to be very honest with you Beth.
No foley artist started out as a fully artist. Every foley artist started out doing something that led to doing Foley. And for me it was having been a dancer singer and actor and those skills all lend themselves towards giving you a certain perspective on how you're going to be a fully artist for example because I've been a singer and a no musician. I'm listening to the musicality of what the sound might sound like and because I've been a dancer I've got a certain coordination expertise. So all of that helps but it's different for everybody who's come into Foley because they all have different gifts. So I think I'm coordinated and I have good sync and I'm listen to the musicality of it. Somebody who's been a filmmaker maybe they went to film school they're looking at it maybe from her director's perspective. So everybody's got a different way of looking at it. But for me I started out as a performer and so I'm looking at it from the performance of the actor trying to think about the character of the person. I'll never forget when I did the film malice and Alec Baldwin who plays the doctor comes in after running and he goes into a refrigerator and he starts handling all the stuff in the refrigerator. He did it in the character of the very arrogant doctor who had kind of a god complex. And he was very arrogant in the way that he handle all the props and the refrigerator. So I can't handle the sounds of the props I can't do the props sounds like some delicate person who's really you know under under understated and careful. I've got
to handle them with the arrogance that he was doing it to give them that kind of a sound because he's handling them differently. So that's what you're thinking about when you're handling props for any actor is you're thinking about the character and how that character is handling the props.
Because it sounds different Well it's great because when I first saw your credits I was thinking like wow how does someone go from platoon predator and die hard to teaching a class on calls.
Well that's because I started out as a musical theater performer so I loved musicals and I'm actually in equity as a musical theater performer I'm in the the the union for actors and so I started out in musicals when I was 10. I love musicals and when I was doing my Ph.D. one of my areas of expertise was musical sound and musicals and cultural studies. So I like looking at the culture of the people that make the films I like looking at the aesthetics of how they're put together. I like interviewing people that have worked on films and because I come from films I know the culture of it so I know a lot about how these people operate and how they look at the film and what goes into their decision making process a lot more than people who are looking at it as an object because I come from that world and my grandfather was a vice president at RKO with Joe Kennedy. So I remember hearing stories when he was in the industry and my mother was a choreographer and so I know some of her stories because she was working in the industry in the 30s. So there's an even though it didn't help me at all because they were completely out of it. I found my way into it by accident because I was the first college kid. No they weren't college people at all. And I was a college kid and I just wanted to be a nightclub singer but found my way into being in musicals. So that's my favorite genre of film although I love film noir and I love suspense films and I love a good drama and
I love a good western and a good baseball movie. But musicals are the ones that I feel like I know the best and then of course being a sound person there's such a connection because it's about the way it sounds and the way that sound and music tells the story. So it really is all connected even though it might seem it isn't.
Well yeah after I looked at your bio and then looked at the course syllabus I started to think about it and go like wow and you know what we couldn't have musicals before sound really. And so they're right at the birth of sound in movies which suddenly makes it seem and sound is so important to them. So after I saw that I was gone like this. This is interesting.
And so I think this went through to one of the very first sound movies was applause by Ruben chameleon who had been a director on stage and it's a musical with Helen Morgan but it's actually only a musical because they are musical theater performers. But he used direct sound. There was no there was no real rerecording at that point yet and there was no editing yet. And he used microphones. He wanted the the the camera which couldn't move around yet he insisted they find a way to have the sound be in a different room and be able to record something in a different room but be able to be on camera somewhere else and be able to be heard off camera like hearing a choir rehearsing hearing the nuns rehearsing music in a completely different room while you're walking by in the hallway. And it was very frustrating to the crew trying to figure out a way to do it but because he had come from stage he had a different vision about how to make this movie. So since it was all trial and error in the early days of sound trying to tell someone that there was no way to do it didn't really make sense because it's like we don't know if there's no way to do it because we're all experimenting here. So in the early days of sound trying to say that you couldn't do it yet didn't make sense since they were all trying to figure out how to do it anyway.
Well and also you seemed to emphasize sound by having one of your guest speakers be right strim. Yes so yeah you're carrying it through to a really strong degree.
And he knows a lot about musicals too. He's he's a real overall really brilliant guy. He went to USC and has a film degree from USC and he knows a lot of film history. He knows a lot of film technology. He knows a lot of film aesthetics he's a well-rounded film scholar. He's just a very inquisitive guy. He's very easy to talk to and listen to. He's got a great sense of humor. I think people are really going to enjoy the video lectures that I've done with him. He's just a joy and I've known I've known Gary for 30 years and I've really wanted to have him be involved and I was thrilled when he said yes absolutely thrilled.
See TCM has done a number of courses before they've done Hitchcock and film noir and you know to a lot of people those things feel like something you can really kind of sink your teeth into musicals have this kind of lighter sense to them and I'm not sure people think as much of musicals as something to really delve into deeply so was who came up with this idea and was it difficult to kind of pitch doing a whole course on musicals.
Well actually it was. I don't you know that's a chicken and an egg question. I know that I was the one that pitched the idea to Richard Edwards who did the film noir and the Hitchcock course. We were having coffee because I took the Hitchcock course and I was so astounded at this course he put together I said I want to learn how to do this sort of online stuff from you because I'm amazed. And he said Well I would really like to have somebody else teach the course next year because I'm exhausted. And I said Oh. And he said would you be interested. And I went oh I don't know if I'm up to it. And he said well if you were going to do it what would you want to do it on. And I said well the two areas are really secure in our movie sound and movie musicals. And he said well I love that. And so he went to TCM and suggested those two ideas and they said we love the idea of movie musicals. The idea that movie musicals are kind of shallow and lightweight would be a mistake. There's a great deal of depth to storyline and the choices made on musicals and why people were stars in the musicals and what preco musicals are like as opposed to when the production code came in and they had to clean them up and take away a lot of the sexuality and the double entendre and a lot of the content the way they changed who the stars were and why the stars were the way they were. The House styles of the what the way
musicals look different depending on what studio did them the the reasons certain songs are in them and the reason that some composers wrote for them and some of them didn't. The reason that we have Latin America in the 1940s musicals is a political reason and a cultural reason and World War to reason. So our history comes very much into play with why the musicals are the way they are. It's not a shallow thing at all. It's extremely important. Also the reason people need musicals in film isn't a shallow thing at all. I think it's easy to think that they are because they're fun and there's a certain frivolity to it. But when you think about a musical like cabaret there's nothing frivolous about that musical at all. That's an extremely important musical that makes a very deep comment about a different culture at a different time that people needed to pay attention to. So I think sometimes musicals are to take in like or like a comedy. They give us a break from something that's very real but they also give us a mirror and a window in which to look at our society and critique where it was at at the time. So I think musicals are anything but shallow and lightweight. I think that can be a very deceiving perception of them.
Well as someone who's a huge fan of horror I've always felt horror doesn't get respect all the time and I'm wondering if in putting this class together part of what you felt good about was this sense of like finally I'm going to get to talk about these films in the way I'd like to see them looked at.
I think so and I would agree with you about horror if when you think about German expressionism and the fact that German Expressionism was taking psychology and putting it right there in visual context the way that people's fears and their psychological makeup is put right there on the screen for and manifest in an art form. And that's where horror comes from it's actually people's fears and their insecurities and their their dilemmas being put into an artistic form. Horror doesn't get anywhere near the kind of respect that it should and it is an extremely important art form so I would agree with you. We really need to look much deeper at film as a language and as a text and when we do that I think we can appreciate it even more.
Now for somebody who's not familiar with what these online courses are can you give kind of a brief kind of overview of what people can expect what they can get from this.
This is set up so that somebody can put in 15 minutes a day or an hour if they want. It really is up to the person it's extremely user friendly and it's also makeable. There are films on Turner Classic Movies which span quite a wide variety. It's a plethora of films so that people can pick and choose what they want to look at and I put up certain films that I think are absolute Masis but they're all really wonderful films I think. Turner's done a wonderful job of picking a selection of films. So the course is designed where you can look at these video lectures and get some real content that's pretty easy to understand on key things to understand about various films that we've decided to talk about. Then I'm putting up kind of PowerPoint type of lecture notes with images in them. That illustrate the point I'm trying to make that are a deeper way of looking at the particular decades from the perspective of history stars to look at particular kinds of music styles and singers and dancers to look at and the people behind the scenes that really had an impact in that decade. Then we've got games that you can interact with that will teach you certain things about people and songs and composers and times and what how can you tell a musical by looking at it. What are the components of a musical and how does it differ from a film that isn't a musical. What are the aesthetics what can you look for. What are the house styles. Why is the Warner Brothers musical look different from an MGM musical looks different from an RKO musical
and so on. We're looking at the director's white as Ernst Lubitsch look different when he's directing the musical than Vincent Maneli why do they look different. How is it all really different. All of these are in little stackable pieces so people can pick and choose like a menu of what it is they want to look at so they can do as much or as little as they want. Then there's a quiz at the end. Every week on a Saturday for 20 questions each with five points and a successful completion of that gets them a badge. So there's lots of ways of earning badges where you feel like you've completed a task and you have a certain amount of knowledge that was deeper than what you would have thought you had before. That gets you a real sense of what really goes into making these musicals important to our culture important to the making of an important aesthetically. You feel like you are more of an expert but it's all in these little bits and pieces. Also every Friday there's a pod cast that is put up that wraps up the decade. So if all you wanted to do is listen to the podcast you can do that if all you want to do is look at the video lectures you can do that if all you want to do is look at the PowerPoint lecture notes you can do that if all you want to do is play the games you can do that. We also have three directors kind of behind the scenes things that Gary Richard and I did talking about three different film scenes kind of analyzing them the way that extra
features on DVDs do sort of showing you how to do that. So then we have our daily doses which became a feature where we have a daily dose every single day Monday through Thursday. Picking a scene that looks at historically kind of illustrating a point about the history of the decade a star studied looking at a particular star and showing him why that Star has particular qualities that we think are important. Somebody behind the scene like an editor and what they do that we think is particularly important and then a song and somebody that sings why that makes a particular impact in a film or a dance or something like that. So you can do any of these components that you want all of them one or two of them put as much time or as little time as you want into this depending on how deeply you want to go into it. It's all pick and choose. So some people will want to do all of that plus there's a discussion board. You can go in and just talk about this stuff. We're also going to have a shindig where we have an open session where people can well have somebody we're not really sure who is going to be there several people we're looking at where they can talk to someone who's been in some of these films and they can ask them questions and have an event with them. So we're looking at all of this. So all of these little pieces somebody can pick and choose as many or as few as they want and get as much out of this it's free as many people who want a ticket can they
can do it any time they want. It's all up to the user. It can be done on a phone. So we're trying to make it as user friendly as possible so that nobody feels any pressure they can do it any way they want.
So it's like you can be taking a college class but not have to worry about the grades.
That's right because this is about learning the way you want to learn. But my guess is since I know that's how I did that last year. Every piece starts to get you interested in another piece. It starts to become such an engaging way to learn and I'm someone that likes to make learning fun. I didn't get a Ph. I mean getting a Ph.D. is not fun. It is extremely difficult. But I got a Ph.D. because I wanted to learn more about this particular kind of content film as an object. But I think most people really want to get engaged when they learn. So I never liked online learning until I took the Hitchcock course and when I saw what Richard Edwards had figured out about how to get people really involved with learning I realized this is going to be so much fun. And now I'm really excited to be involved with it and Turner TCM is such a great partner. Got to tell you Beth they've just been so good to us and they've been particularly good to me and I'm very grateful if it's OK.
I was thinking we could walk through your course syllabus a little bit and just give people a sense of kind of what to expect and you've basically run it down into a chronological format so week one is kind of the introductions are what are like a couple of the key points you want to make about these musicals of the 20s and 30s for example in the 30s we're going to look at why the depression made such a difference in the way that the musicals were and why the pre code.
Once the Catholic Church got involved and there was a production code why it changed the way that men and women's relationships some film became more of the screwball comedy where there was more of the battle of the sexes going on between men and women and not so much sexuality.
We talked about that we talk about the way race becomes an issue and why we have the first black musical Holly Lluvia directed by King Vidor in the third and we are all through with the picking and be counted as a movement right.
Yes ma'am. Yes I do. And you know I never got to that we go into the 40s and we and we look at and also the way that musicals didn't have the bona fide story so much in the very beginning.
There were more like reviews we start to get into stories in the late 30s and that's more because of the way the code was. We needed to start having stories and we needed to start having a bonafide composer. So then you start having warmed over songs being used over and over again and that's because they're trying to sell sheet music. But when you get into the 40s now you've got the impending World War and you've got a real desire to unify the country. So the themes in films start changing and so we talk a lot about how the themes and the films change and what it is that the movies culturally are trying to bring the country together so that becomes what's going on cinematically. And you see it in the way that the stars change in how children are used how young people become youthful and vibrant and are problem solvers. Then in the 50s you've got the very vibrant films where America has won the war and how that changes the way the musicals are because now America is valiant and very pushing forward. So there's an optimism in everything and the buoyancy and the more musicals are done then than ever. And then you get into the 60s and you've got the turmoil you've got you've got cultural turmoil and you've got the independence taking over and the studio system falling. So now you've got a whole different reason for making musicals. You're looking at much more individualization you're looking at critiquing the political system you're looking at critiquing the studios you're looking at critiquing a lot of what's going on culturally. So you see how the musical changes and starts commenting
on what's going on in our country and may and reflecting our country. You're also seeing technological changes in the way that you get more sound you get more color you get more location shots because now people want to see more they want more sound they want more color they want to see different places. All of this going on you see more young people being included because we're now starting to market to young people because they are the ones with the money and they're starting to take their dates to the movies. All this changes you see theaters with with bigger sound systems. All of this happening. So we talk about all that that we talk about in the 30s with vertical structures where the studios own the way movies are made their own the way they're distributed and the way they're exhibited because they own the theaters that the distributed in X exhibited in so they have complete control but that changes after the Paramount decree that changes. And now you've got independent movie theaters you get to pick and choose what content goes in and that makes it more competitive. All of this changes how the musicals are done. It's fascinating stuff.
And why did you decide to end in the 70s and not bring it all the way up to the present day.
This had to do more with some of the movies that Turner can have access to. We will talk a little bit about what goes on past the 70s. But as far as the movies that Turner had access to and was able to show we work within what they are able to show. But of course we will talk especially on the podcast. We'll talk about movies as recent as across the universe and how that crosses over genres and repurposed as the Beatles and stuff like that. But I want to be sure that we focus on the movies that they can actually watch on Turner because we're in partnership with them and I want to make sure that people can actually see the movies and connect those to the points that we're trying to make culturally and historically.
Now to go back to the first week of class where you're talking about the 20s and 30s. I'm wondering are you going to be covering Mae West at all or do her films qualify as musicals really.
There are no Mae West film scheduled but it's a really good idea to mention her it's also a good idea to mention Marilyn Monroe there are no Marilyn Monroe films that I want to be sure to mention her when we get to the 50s. We haven't mentioned Mae West and I'm really glad that you say that. So I think what I'm going to be sure to do is bring her up when we get to the 40s. I think what we'll do is in fact I can probably throw her in on part of what we're doing for the 30s. I'm glad you mentioned her her movies are not really musical or comedy where she is.
She does a little singing but that's a good point.
I'm glad you mentioned her mom says Ms. I'm not my my my my the one that I want to be sure to mention as Marilyn Monroe.
Because even though we don't have access to her films I think she's an important figure.
Now Mae West always fascinated me because she was so much in control of her own career and then yep she's saying some of these songs that are so risque and you think how would she get away with it.
Well you know Praet code yeah you know in the early 30s she was getting away with a lot but they were very careful with her after that. To be very careful. She also I don't know if you know that she also wrote columns. She was very much in favor of birth control and and she was extremely progressive.
Yeah it's one of the reasons why I love her so yeah she was amazing.
Is there any film that you kind of dug up for this that you feel exceptionally happy that you were able to include you to find that something that maybe not everyone talks about.
I'm glad you're asking that because there are a bunch of films that I'm really really glad they're doing. I'm glad the cabarets on there. I'm glad that Gigi is on there. I'm glad that bandwagon is on there. I'm glad silk stockings is there because I think alluding to the Cold War is really important. I'm glad seven brides for seven brothers. Because Tommy Raal was a very good friend of mine. We celebrated up with this together because we're both Capricorn's. I mean there's a lot of films I'm really glad they're doing but the one that I'm most excited about actually is 1776 might have been sending some.
Stuff now. I second this this. Is something. You sent us.
I watch it every Fourth of July. I think it's a really important film because it's important to remember historically there's a lot of accuracy in it although it's not completely accurate but it's important to remember how complicated the Declaration of Independence really was. And I think it's just a marvelous marvelous show. And they stuck pretty accurately to what the stage play was and that's a very hard thing to do. And there's a couple of political things about Nixon and some demands he made on that film that a couple that a song be taken out because it made a comment about conservative people that I think is important. So that's what I'm really glad they're showing. But there are a lot of films I'm glad they're showing Broadway Melody. I'm glad they're showing gold diggers Gold Diggers of 1933 has my forgotten man in it which was moved around to be the last number in in the film because it was just so important and it really made a comment about the Depression men who had no way of supporting themselves but had fought in World War One that I think is really important. And here I look at. To lobby take me.
There's a lot of good stuff in this film festival the TCM is put together and of course singing in the rain.
I'm glad they're showing I LOVE GUYS AND DOLLS too. That's really one of my favorites. So they've made a lot of good selections.
Do you have some personal favorites films that are ones that you just had to include because you love them so much.
Well like I said 1776 American and Paris absolutely Star is Born. Absolutely. Cabaret. Absolutely. Seven Brides for Seven Brothers Gigi. Guys and Dolls. You know another one I need to mention Gypsy. It's a wonderful film but when you see Rosalind Russell's performance in that film you have to start asking yourself if there ever was a name on Broadway that was better not Mame Ansari Mama Rose on Broadway and I always say Rosalind Russell her performance in gypsy as Mama Rose is phenomenal. And Lisa Kirk did some of the singing notes and matched her own voice in it. Lisa Kirk was the original Lois Bianca in Kiss Me Kate on Broadway. One of the best voice matches ever in film and Rosalind Russell had been on Broadway and a bunch of musicals and she she's just magnificent so I'm glad that film was included. I'm very grateful. Meet Me in St. Louis is just perfect. Harvey Girls. Gosh I'm thinking off the top of my head. Several of the Fred and Ginger films Eleanor Powell a couple of her films I'm really glad she's included because that woman was amazing. And several of them said she reads films bandwagon silk stockings her part in Singin in the rain because since you're Reese was the all round best answer I think Anchors Away. High Society.
One of my favorite numbers ever in a musical is well did you ever between Frank Sinatra and Bing Crosby. I could watch that number over and over and over again.
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It sounds like you're so. Tune in tomorrow.
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I would say easily 40 percent of the films that TCM selected. I am just so grateful for.
And interestingly they're showing Godspell which is a small little musical that a lot of people don't see. But I did the like a live production of that show twice. Godspell is a really interesting encapsulation of an era in the 70s that I think is a really important film for people to see because the 70s was a real transition of innocence and idealism that I think people have forgotten. When we.
See people who are not. Oh. God. Let them pass like. A sunless.
The people show crime from strength readings too strong. Is it. That. Men who show on say I'm not. Say. I. Write. I.
Oh we live in a really cynical difficult time right now. As someone who remembers the 70s I think Godspell is a time that we can look at and remember the hopefulness that we had. In looking at innocence and looking towards that which is good in the world and good in people that I really remember.
So that musical is something that I think will remind us of that that I'm hoping people will look at and try to remember that too. I'll talk a little bit about that when we get to that era because I think the 70s is an important time to remember for that purpose. There was a movement towards ecology and there was a movement towards trying to renew that I think we have forgotten.
Now you mentioned Gene Kelly who is one of my all time favorites and one of the things that I have always enjoyed about his work is the fact that there are people like Jackie Chan who reference him saying that you know I learned how to shoot action based on watching Gene Kelly create dances for cinema. And I always find that just a lovely kind of connection across cultures.
I can see how that would be because he was extremely athletic and physical and did his own stunts. So there was and Jackie Chan is very dance like in the way that he does his martial arts movements.
So I can see the connection.
And I think he appreciates that that Gene Kelly often would use a single wide shot because he wanted people to appreciate all that athleticism that was going into it which is why Gene Kelly is my favorite.
I love Fred Astaire pitching Kelly is my favorite because of the athleticism of what he does. Yeah. By the way he also did his own replacement Foley taps for his dancing. He's one of the few that did. He would go into the Folies stage and do all of the Gregory Gregory Hines is another one who did his own because nobody could do Gregory Hines. I did white knights and I did all of the dance Foley except for Gregory Hines. I did the tapdancing for both he and Baryshnikov on the ones that they do together because that was easy tap but because he does it probably because he did rest in peace in profit. He did his own crazy complicated tap stuff. But Gene Kelly did all of his own dance. Foley he got back into the fully stage afterwards and do all of his own sounds for his chapping. That's how much of a perfectionist he was.
You're doing this in chronological order and you're ending in the 70s what are your kind of thoughts about the future of musicals now are you hopeful about it.
Very I am very excited. I am a huge fan of la la land by the way.
I loved that film and I think what's happening is we are culturally seeing that the musical really does have a place in our world now that there is a place for fantasy there's a place for people singing in their own voices and not necessarily having to be fantastic singers although being a really strong singer myself I love listening to fantastic voices. But I also think there's a place for people who are tremendous actors who sing but who are tremendous actors because for me it's the lyric that matters. So I'm seeing great hope for musicals. I think millennials are less cynical and they're much more open to the musical coming back. So yeah I'm extremely hopeful. I love what's happening.
And do you think the success of something like Hamilton and Book of Mormon on stage is also kind of helping to fuel that success.
Yes. I couldn't be more optimistic truly. And when I see how many people are signing up for this musical class and how many millennials I know personally who are signing up yeah I know lawyer millennial lawyers in New York signing up for this class.
All right well I'm looking forward to taking this musicals are not something I've delved into deeply and I'm looking forward to kind of seeing some of them with some fresh eyes.
Good well thank you for talking with me Beth.
Sure. And if I had to pick a song to go out with what would you want wherever we go whatever we do we're gonna go through it to gather that when.
We go. We. Got.
That was Vanessa thema meant who's overseeing CMEs fourth annual online film class mad about musicals. You have until June 17th to register and it's all free. For more information and programming details go to musicals dot TCM dot com. Thanks for listening to another edition of PBS cinema Junkie podcast. If you're new to the podcast please check out the diverse archive of shows ranging from interviews with Clive Barker David Cronenberg and Ian McKellen to exploring topics such as film noir horror and blaxploitation cinema. And if you're a longtime listener please remember to tell your friends about the show your recommendation is the best way to grow our audience. Cinema junkie comes out every other Friday or as close to that as I can manage. So thanks for your patience when I get delayed till our next film fix on that Komando your resident cinema junkie. Where. We see feisty always. What. I wrote you a lot though I hope you and I owe you I owe you all.
Together. We call it. Herbie's Louisa's verb. To to get.