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Saturday Art: Essential Movies (Music, Song and Dance – and Elvis)

I decided to lighten up on the movies today and cover some of the fun movies that revolve around music, musicals, singing, and dancing. Of course, I recognize that not all of these actually fit the formal definition of “musical” including the bio pics but as I’ve stated previously, after all, this is my list so my rules.

I think I will start with the straight up concert films. The combination of the music and movie, it’s tough to go wrong. The Last Waltz is the film of one of the handful of concerts that I really wish I could have seen in person. Monterey Pop is another of those concerts as well. (There are a couple of other concerts on my list of “I wish I coulda been there” but they don’t have films associated with them.) I’m content with the film (and soundtrack) for Woodstock. I gave my sister a copy of the soundtrack one year for Christmas way back when. It was a bit of a surprise when my dad listened to it with us that evening without condemning everything but Dub could surprise us like that sometimes. Festival Express came out in 2003 but was actually filmed in 1970.

There are a number of bio pics that I enjoy watching. Some of them surprised me that I enjoyed them as they were about people from my parent’s generation but that’s one of the areas I grew to enjoy as I’ve gotten older. The Benny Goodman Story with Steve Allen as Benny Goodman. The Glenn MIller Story with Jimmy Stewart. St Louis Blues (W. C. Handy) with Nat King Cole and Eartha Kitt. Yankee Doodle Dandy (George M. Cohan) with Jimmy Cagney. Moving forward a couple of decades (at least), there’s The Buddy Holly Story with Gary Busey, Coal Miner’s Daughter (Loretta Lynn) with Sissy Spacek, and What’s Love Got to Do With It (Tina Turner) starring Angela Bassett.

Some of the more traditional musicals I enjoy include Paint Your Wagon (even though Lee Marvin and Clint Eastwood both almost make my singing voice sound good), Guys and Dolls with Frank Sinatra and Marlon Brando, Seven Brides for Seven Brothers, and Streisand’s Funny Girl. And Li’l Abner. A couple of more recent movie musicals I enjoy are Rocky Horror Picture Show and The Blues Brothers:

Elwood: It’s 106 miles to Chicago, we got a full tank of gas, half a pack of cigarettes, it’s dark… and we’re wearing sunglasses.
Jake: Hit it.

Now I’ll admit, I’m not all that big a fan of Blues Brothers 2000. The only reason I mention it is that they used my hometown as the location for the “warm-up concert” in this one although they did make a small error. The movie had them playing at the “Cynthiana, KY County Fair” when in fact, it would have been the “Harrison County Fair” since the fairgrounds belong to the county. But that’s just a quibble.  . . .

A couple of fairly recent movies (relatively speaking) with a music theme although not quite musicals are Mr. Holland’s Opus and Music From the Heart. While the latter is based on a true story, I do find it a bit interesting that both of these movies deal with teaching music and cover at least peripherally the cutting of music out of school as part of the ongoing budget battles. Mambo Kings (with Armand Assante and Antonio Banderas) is also a pretty good movie with a lot of music.

A few movies with some heavy dance that I’ve enjoyed many times include Singing In the Rain, There’s No Business Like Show Business, It’s Always Fair Weather, The Cotton Club, and Tap.

Now then. While Elvis movies probably don’t fit the official definition of “musical,” I figured putting the ones I enjoy re-watching many times under music is probably the best fit. They are fluff and fun and should be watched mainly within the context of them being fluff and fun. And of course, there are always one or two or three or four or more beautiful women. Here are the ones I will watch most anytime they show up on the tube. I have to start with Jailhouse Rock, even though it gets a bit serious for me in places. GI Blues (Juliet Prowse). Blue Hawaii. Follow That Dream. Girls! Girls! Girls! (Stella Stevens). Fun In Acapulco. Kissin’ Cousins. Viva Las Vegas (Viva Ann-Margaret!). Girl Happy (Shelley Fabares). Spinout (also with Shelley Fabares). Easy Come, Easy Go. Clambake (and Shelley Fabares once again). Of course, this is not near all the Elvis movies out there, but they are the ones I find most fun.

Other posts in this series are Essential Movies, Westerns, Historical Settings (pre-1500), Historical Settings (post 1500), Sword and Sorcery, Science Fiction, War Movies, and Crime and Punishment.

And because I can:

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Small town Kentucky country boy lived all over the country. Currently in Ruskin, FL