Warner Brothers has issued a spectacular collection of musical films, from the ground-breaking “The Jazz Singer” to classics like “Cabaret,” “Signin’ in the Rain,” “Seven Brides for Seven Brothers,” and “The Music Man.” This is a treasure that should be in every family DVD library, and every school and community library as well. It includes:
The Jazz Singer ( 1927) Al Jolson plays the son of a cantor who wants to sing popular music in this groundbreaking film that was the first live-action film with a synchronized soundtrack. (Remade twice, with Danny Thomas and Neil Diamond)
Broadway Melody of 1929 Winner of the second Best Picture Oscar, this early talkie includes “Give My Regards to Broadway,” “You Were Meant for Me.”
42nd Street (1933) “You’re going out there a chorus girl, but you’re coming back a STAR!” This classic pre-code backstage musical features the title tune and “Shuffle Off to Buffalo.”
The Great Ziegfeld (1936) Another Best Picture winner (and Best Actress for Luise Rainer), this story of impressario Florenz Zeigfeld has rare filmed performances by Fanny Brice (the singer Barbra Streisand played in “Funny Girl”).
The Wizard Of Oz (1939) One of the most beloved films of all time, this enduring classic has Judy Garland singing “Over the Rainbow” and following the yellow brick road to see the wizard.
Yankee Doodle Dandy (1942) James Cagney plays the bantam-like singer/dancer/performer George M. Cohan in this biopic of the superstar who wrote classics like “For it was Mary” and “Give My Regards to Broadway.”
An American in Paris ( 1951) Gene Kelly. George Gershwin. Vincente Minnelli. Glorious.
Show Boat (1951) This second version of the Jerome Kern musical based on the Edna Ferber story stars Ava Gardner, Marge and Gower Champion, Howard Keel, and Kathryn Grayson, with classic songs like “Old Man River” (sung by Wiliam Warfield in the part played by Paul Robeson in the original), “Life Upon the Wicked Stage,” and “Only Make Believe.”
Singin’ In The Rain (1952) This may just be the perfect movie as comedy, romance, satire, and musical. Gene Kelly is the silent movie star who has to adjust to the talkie era. In addition to the rapturous title number, the movie features Donald O’Connor’s classic “Make ‘Em Laugh.”
Seven Brides for Seven Brothers (1954) Seven rambunctious red-headed backwoods brothers named in alphabetical order (Adam, Benjamin, Caleb, Daniel, Ephram, Frank, and Gideon) are tamed by love in this rollicking musical with wildly athletic dance numbers choreographed by Michael Kidd.
A Star Is Born (1954) Judy Garland and James Mason star in the second (of three–so far) versions of the story of the fading star who marries a rising star. Garland sings “The Man That Got Away” and “Born in a Trunk” and introduces herself as “Mrs. Norman Maine!”
The Music Man (1962) Robert Preston re-creates his legendary stage performance as “Professor Harold Hill,” a con man who sells a small Iowa town on the idea of a boys’ band. He plans to skip town before they discover that he has no idea of how to teach kids to play instruments, but then he meets “Marian the Librarian” (an almost impossibly pretty Shirley Jones) and things get complicated. Songs include “Trouble,” “76 Trombones,” “Goodnight My Someone,” and “Til There Was You.” And a barbershop quartet singing “Lida Rose.”
Viva Las Vegas (1964) Elvis and Ann-Margret sing and dance. What else do you need to know?
Camelot (1967) The grand Lerner and Lowe musical about King Arthur, Guinevere, and Sir Lancelot stars Richard Harris, Vanessa Redgrave, and Franco Nero. Songs include “The Lusty Month of May,” “If Ever I Should Leave You,” and the poignant title number.
Willy Wonka & The Chocolate Factory (1971) This is the first and best version of Roald Dahl’s classic children’s book about the poor boy who finds a golden ticket to visit the world’s most magnificently magical candy factory. Too bad for the naughty kids who are greedy and spoiled!
Cabaret (1972) The film, director Bob Fosse, and stars Joel Gray and Liza Minnelli won Oscars for this searing musical about pre-WWII Germany, brilliantly presented in an adult musical that deals with issues like the rise of the Nazi party, anti-Semitism, and “divine” decadence.
That’s Entertainment (1974) This delicious compilation includes highlights of dozens of classic and underrated musicals and led to two sequels.
Victor, Victoria (1983) James Garner, Robert Preston, and Julie Andrews star in a wildly funny musical about an impoverished singer whose career takes off when she pretends to be a man pretending to be a woman.
Little Shop Of Horrors (1986) Possibly the most improbable source for a musical was a cheap horror film about a carnivorous plant, shot over a weekend. But the cheeky score made it a theatrical hit and this movie version is a lot of fun.
Hairspray (1988) John Waters’ non-musical film about the controversy over integration on a teen dance show in 1960’s Baltimore inspired this musical remake with John Travolta as the mother of the adorable Tracy (Nikki Blonsky). Michelle Pfeiffer, Queen Latifah, and Zac Efron co-star in this tuneful treat that includes “Good Morning Baltimore,” “Run and Tell That,” and “You Can’t Stop the Beat.”