For almost as long as there has been sound in movies, there have been big musical productions made into film. This is a genre that has mostly lost its appeal, but at one time, was the most popular type of movie to pay to go to see.
The Jazz Singer was the first movie musical released in 1927. Starring Al Jolson as the lead character, Hollywood made great use of its new sound ability and new era in cinema was born.
By the 1930’s Warner Bros and RKO began pumping out musicals in rapid secession. This was the dawn of stars such as Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers. Extravaganzas in music were the norm, during a time when bigger was always perceived to be better. Some of the more notable films included Alexander’s Ragtime Band, The Kid from Spain and Rose Marie. It was also at the end of this decade that a very young Judy Garland would walk the yellow brick road with Toto. Never in the history of musical film has one movie caused such a public sensation.
MGM took over the musical genre in the 1940’s with stars like Judy Garland, Fred Astaire and Mickey Rooney leading the way. It was during this time that the unforgettable My Gal Sal was put on the screen. The musical talent portrayed during that movie is unmatched. Even with today’s technology and the ability to learn how to sing online, reaching those highs would be hard. If you do take online singing lessons, make the soundtrack from this incredible film part of your repertoire.
Marilyn Monroe brought a new element to the musical movie during the 1950’s. This was also the time to bring Broadway to film in movies such as Oklahoma! And Guys and Dolls. Elvis also started to make the big screen his home, which is said to be the beginning of the end for the genre.
While the 1960’s did bring us many memorable musicals like Funny Girl, The Sound of Music and West Side Story, the public began to be turned off by the knowledge that many of the stars voices were being dubbed. Even so, musical greats Julie Andrews and Barbra Streisand were born during this time in musical productions.
The genre changed slightly during the 1970’s, where in some cases, such as Saturday Night Fever and Tommy, the stars were not the singers. The movie plot was being driven by song, but in a pre-recorded way.
There were a few musicals to note in the ‘80’s like Annie and Purple Rain, but for the most part, the entire genre had changed to musicians supplying the music. The only real musicals we see now are in the animated form. Disney is the only production company that has continually made blockbuster hits of the Hollywood Musical Variety.
Today you will very rarely find a new musical being shown on the big screen. That era of Hollywood history has ended forever.