Thesis: Movie musicals reflect the culture of the time period during which they were made by portraying societal values through scenery and costumes, style of language and music, and cultural references.
A Brief History of the Movie Musical
Before the 1920s, the idea of a screen musical was unheard of. The first full length film with sound was made in 1927, and the thought of a musical in the firm of a film was novel. After they began to make them, however, the movie musical rose in popularity and many were made. Soon, original compositions were created for the screen and new songwriting teams were formed. In 1929, after existing for just two years, a musical (The Broadway Melody) won the Oscar for best talking picture. Soon, though, it was realized that to make Hollywood musicals would need to be adapted to make the dancing and singing work well with the medium of film. After this began to take effect, the movies grew in popularity. During World War II, movie musicals began to also act as support for the military, having patriotic themes. After the war, the movies continued to succeed and iconic stars such as Judy Garland, Gene Kelly, and Fred Astaire appeared on the scene. The genre remained relatively popular in the 50s as Marilyn Monroe gained popularity and many classic musicals such as Singin' In The Rain, Oklahoma!, and Guys and Dolls were made. The 60s turned out gems such as The Sound of Music, West Side Story, and Funny Girl. Although the 60s were the end of the so-called 'Golden Age' of movie musicals (1930s-1960s), there continued to be many well-liked shows afterward. Barbra Streisand rose to fame in the 70s and Jesus Christ Superstar, Fiddler on the Roof, and Man of La Mancha were made. Starting in the eighties, the genre began to lose popularity. Fewer and fewer musical films were made and those that were weren't very popular. The 90s had fewer than ever. The new millennium, however, brought a renewed interest in big budgets musicals. Films like Chicago, Rent, and Les Miserables gained much attention from the media and provide hope that the Hollywood musical will continue to exist as it has for years, being saved again and again even as it seems to be dying out for good.