Archive for September 23rd, 2011

by Sam Juliano

With the single resounding exception of 1965’s The Sound of Music, the films made from Rodgers & Hammerstein’s stage musicals have all shared critical disdain for a host of reasons, ranging from their style and technique to their exceeding theatricality.  In what can now be seen as one of the major ironies surrounding the musical theatre and Hollywood’s interpretation of it’s most celebrated properties, the form’s most beloved composing team have been “cinematically translated” at a level that is hardly commensurable to the rapturous music they created.  Over eight collaborations beginning with Oklahoma! in 1943 and concluding with the aforementioned The Sound of Music two decades later Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II set the bar for creating what are now regarded as timeless scores and music that is distinguished for it’s musical and homespun purity and entrancing melodic lilt.  As recently as this past year, a revival at Manhattan’s Lincoln Center of South Pacific reminded theatregoers of the beauty of their compositions and the intimacy that always made their stage work shine far brighter than the subsequent cinematic incarnations.

Of course, aside from State Fair (1945), which was written directly for the screen, and a 1957 television musical of Cinderella it was for the theatre that Rodgers and Hammerstein’s shows were originally conceived, and it was through the devices, structures and practices of the theatre that they were first brought to life.  What works within the space, confines and imagination of the stage is often compromised in another medium, where delicate chemistry is unavoidably amplified.  In the case of the film version of South Pacific, a colored filter violated the tenuous artistic balance, while in Fred Zinnemann’s Oklahoma! the cheery small-town atmosphere was turned into a Western epic, with heavy-handed Freudian underpinnings thrown into the mix for good measure.  Only Walter Lang’s 1956 The King and I escaped the prevailing wrath of the nay-sayers, much because it’s inherent pagentry benefited by the expansive screen transference, drawing as it did on the lavish sets, costumes and other studio resources. (more…)

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by Allan Fish

(USA 1941 92m) DVD1/2

A lamp chop in an ashtray

p  Joe Pasternak  d  Henry Koster  w  Norman Krasna, Leo Townsend  ph  Rudolph Maté  ed  Bernard W.Burton  md  Charles Previn, Hans Salter  art  Jack Otterson

Deanna Durbin (Anne Terry), Robert Cummings (Johnny Reynolds), Charles Laughton (Jonathan Reynolds), Margaret Tallichet (Gloria Pennington), Guy Kibbee (Bishop Maxwell), Walter Catlett (Dr Harvey), Catherine Doucet (Mrs Pennington), Irving Bacon (Raven), Gus Schilling (Raven), Charles Coleman (Roberts), Clara Blandick (nurse), Sig Arno (waiter), Alexander Granach (Popalard)

There’s a scene in Frank Darabont’s The Shawshank Redemption when Tim Robbins’ Andy Dufresne locks himself in the warden’s office and plays the Mozart ‘Sull Aria’ over the loudspeaker system.  Morgan Freeman’s Red talks of how its beautiful sounds were as if “a bird beautiful bird had flapped into our drab little cage and made those walls dissolve away.”  It was one of the most sublime moments in an otherwise rather schematic piece, but it only goes to illustrate that one man’s manipulation is another’s heaven. 

            Take Deanna Durbin for example.  She and her best director Henry Koster are already represented here with One Hundred Men and a Girl and there would seem to be no need to include another one of her films.  It Started With Eve is not a musical, rather a romantic comedy with musical interludes, but these are musical interludes that enter the bloodstream of the film itself.  (more…)

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