Get ready to tap your feet through some favorite film musicals this weekend on broadcast and cable television. Yes, the movies love to sing and dance. And, after checking out these titles, you may, too.
A Star Is Born (1954)
By the time Judy Garland scored a comeback with this musical version of a classic Hollywood story, she was a 32-year-old veteran considered over the hill by movie moguls. A few years before, after being abruptly fired by MGM for dropping out of Royal Wedding and failing to film Annie Get Your Gun, she roared back with legendary performances at The Palace in New York City and this magical film for which she was nominated for an Academy Award. As a young woman with a song in her heart, a career moving forward, and a man for whom she would gladly give it all up, Garland delivers a spontaneous, authentic performance that permanently captures her celluloid magic. The movie works on every level. As a drama, the relationship between Garland and James Mason authentically evolves from infatuation to love to uncertainty; as a musical, the solos and production numbers remind us why we can’t ever get enough of Garland, more than 40 years after her death. Surprisingly, she lost the Oscar that year to Grace Kelly for her least interesting performance in The Country Girl.
Sunday, Nov. 16, 2:45 p.m., Turner Classic Movies (TCM)
When this Oscar-winning film based on the Broadway hit opened in 1968, the movie musical was on its way out. Too many studios tried to duplicate the 1965 success of The Sound of Music by releasing a record number of song-filled movies. While Camelot, Finian’s Rainbow and Star! bombed at the box office, Oliver! thrilled audiences with its strong narrative, appealing characters and dazzling choreography. Best of all, director Carol Reed filled the screen with a lot of heart without letting sentiment overwhelm the proceedings. The result is such a solid adaptation of the Charles Dickens novel that it could work without the songs. With the music the film becomes a remarkable study of how to make a tune-filled movie that can please even the most severe musical skeptic. Savor the spectacle of the “Who Will Buy” and “Consider Yourself” sequences where everyone in London seems to join the fun.
Sunday, Nov. 16, 12 noon, Turner Classic Movies (TCM)
Sweet Charity (1969)
When Universal announced plans to make this movie — based on the Broadway hit directed by Bob Fosse — many wondered how a sordid story could be told as a G-rated family film. After all, in the stage original, based on a Federico Fellini film, Charity is a slightly older “taxi dancer” who shows little discretion when selecting her men, for the night or a lifetime. So the movie moguls toned down the content, hired Fosse to direct his first film, and crossed their fingers. What emerges on screen is, perhaps, more interesting in its pieces than satisfying as a whole. What works is a riveting performance from Shirley MacLaine, strong supporting work from Chita Rivera and John McMartin, a tight screenplay by Peter Stone (based on the Neil Simon original) and Fosse’s thrilling choreography. But the director doesn’t trust the material enough to simply let it flow, instead using too many camera tricks that get in the way of the delightful tale, solid production numbers and a touching star. Still, any chance to see MacLaine sing and dance, in one of her two movie musicals, is worth putting up with Fosse’s over-eager camera.
Sunday, Nov. 16, 8 p.m., Turner Classic Movies (TCM)
Dick Tracy (1990)
When Warren Beatty hired Broadway’s Stephen Sondheim to write the score for this film based on the beloved comic strip, musical movie fans rejoiced that the legendary composer would secure a solid movie showcase. While the film is not a traditional musical, each Sondheim song enhances the story, develops the characters and entertains the audience. And even though co-star Madonna was reportedly less than thrilled with the score, Sondheim fans will enjoy such songs as the Oscar-winning “Sooner Or Later” and “Back in Business.” No, Beatty does not sing, but he wisely has Mandy Patinkin carry many of the musical moments as well as the golden-voiced Madonna who brings her unique style to Sondheim no matter her view of their value. Visually, this film is a wonder with its creative use of primary colors; musically, it preserves some of Sondheim’s most delightful melodies.
Friday, Nov. 14, 8 p.m., Flix
Show Boat (1951)
When MGM filmed this classic Jerome Kern-Oscar Hammerstein musical the second time, they spared no expense. The film looks beautiful. But the studio severely trimmed the score, and simplified the narrative, leaving the film an interesting suggestion of what a real movie of this show could be. The cast doesn’t help. While Ava Gardner is moving as the tragic Julie, her dubbed vocals — a pattern in Hollywood musicals of the day — detract from her impact. Years later, the legendary Lena Horne described, in her one-woman show, her severe disappointment when she did not get the part. Howard Keel, a familiar face in MGM musicals in the 1950s, delivers the same performance he delivers in any role as a man who resists the obligations of married life while Kathryn Grayson trills her way as a heroine with a quivering chin. Best in the cast are Agnes Moorehead and Joe E. Brown as the parents who watch the action. But they don’t get to sing.
Sunday, Nov. 16, 6 p.m., Turner Classic Movies (TCM)
Sharing nutritional movies can be as easy as turning on the television or going online. And, when you watch as a family, take the time to chat about what you’re seeing. That makes it even more fun.