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CMTH 220: Introduction to Film: Musicals

This guide will help you find film criticism, biographies of directors, definitions of film genres, and information about the Library's DVD collection.

Classic Musicals on DVD

What characteristics define Musical movies? Visit the “Film Genres” page on the American Movie Classics (AMC) web site to find out!



Now Streaming: Films on Demand

The documentary series Hollywood Singing and Dancing examines the changing nature of the musical film, from the earliest "talkies" in the 1920s to the "jukebox" musical -- based on the story-songs popularized by pop and rock musicians -- that developed in the 2000s. In every decade, musicals from the Broadway stage made the transition to the screen, each reflecting the singing styles, dance genres, and social issues of the day (even if their subject was a nostalgic look back at the past). In recent years, a new phenomenon emerged: the story that started out as a movie, then became a stage show, then got remade into another movie -- think Hairspray and The Producers.

For a bit of feel-good time travel, view these episodes and visit the make-believe land of the musical, where nobody thinks it's odd when the characters randomly burst into song.

  • 1930s -- This program explores how Hollywood used the musical as a way to provide much-needed escapism during the Great Depression, and introduced stars like Shirley Temple and Betty Grable.
  • 1940s -- Big band music and musical comedies helped Americans keep their spirits up during World War II.
  • 1950s -- Experimenting both technically and creatively, filmmakers would find this decade to be revolutionary, especially after the explosion of rock 'n' roll.
  • 1960s -- Topics in musicals ranged from the mythical (Camelot) to the groovy (Hard Day's Night), with lots of jazz hands thrown in for good measure (Sweet Charity). And let's not forget Elvis!
  • 1970s -- Judy Garland was gone, but fortunately for the musical form, she left us a remarkable legacy -- and Liza Minnelli. Disco and rock were transforming the musical as audiences knew it. Stories about families dancing together on rolling hills were replaced with rebellious kids, strutting disco dancers, and transvestites with a taste for intergalactic mayhem. This episode discusses John Travolta's performances in Grease and Saturday Night Fever, as well as the edgy tone of Cabaret, Tommy, and the Rocky Horror Picture Show, among others.
  • 1980s and 1990s -- Disney films were bigger than ever, and biographies set to music brought us Evita, Coal Miner's Daughter and La Bamba. The quick-cut camera style of music videos on MTV influenced dance films like Footloose and Flashdance.
  • 2000s -- Dark and gritty themes appeared in musicals like Chicago, Nightmare Before Christmas, Rent and Dreamgirls, while hip-hop flavored dance films like Stomp the Yard.

Genre-Related Books