On Mon, 9 Mar 1998, Donald Larsson wrote:
> Although it thoroughly avoids any kind of racial reference, I can think
> of no better film as a prototypical musical than SINGIN' IN THE RAIN.
> Not only is it a fine example of the zenith of the fully-formed movie
> musical before the genre was overwhelmed by cinematized Broadway hits
SINGIN' IN THE RAIN is generally considered to be one of the best
musicals ever made, however it is an obvious choice and one that many
would have seen anyways. I'm all for a choice like Spike Lee's SCHOOL
DAZE which would carry on the racial themes of the clips you have already
chosen. Musical historians have all but erased blaaack musical
performers from existence but they were there (Bill Robinson with Shirley
Temple for example), Spike Lee refers back to many less studied
aspects of the musical in his film. For example, the teenage musicals:
like campus musical (Debbie Reynolds, Judy Garland and Mickey
Rooney made countless films which took place on college campuses) which
arguably lead into BEACH BLANKET BINGO, the Elvis musicals and GREASE.
Comparing SCHOOL DAZE to GREASE would be an extremely worthwhile
exercise. HOwever, if you don't like my whole teenage theme you could
show a movie like ON THE TOWN (Frank Sinatra, Gene Kelly, Ann Miller).
It would make an interesting comparison to your clips beacuse there is
a famous tap dance scene in a museum called 'Prehistoric Man' which plays
on almost every racist sterotype in vaudeville and earlier musicals.
This was also an important (and hugely successful) musical because it
takes place in New York and this was the first time that a musical did on-
location shooting. Gene Kelly took advantage of this fact (he was the
one who had been pushing for the on-location) to create some really
interesting dance numbers. Another good choice would be CABARET with Liza
Minelli because while it has aspects of the typical ingenue (Ruby Keeler
characters in the 30's musicals) it goes into the real assumptions of the
musical and breaks them apart. This is one of the best musicals of all
time (has a chilling racial/Jewish subtheme) and I don't think that
'classical' musicals are the only ones worth showing to students.
Screen-L is sponsored by the Telecommunication & Film Dept., the
University of Alabama.