Who doesn't love a great musical, on stage or at the cinema? And a Western musical is even BETTER! Sure, it might not show the real wild and woolly west, and today it might be considered old fashioned and silly. But for pure fun and some sweet (and heart-tugging) romance, check these classic Western musicals that made their way to film.
As a kid, I always woke up in the summer sunshine streaming in the bedroom window, stretched and thought, "Oh, what a beautiful morning..." So naturally I loved this musical's songs.
Gordon Macrae and Shirley Jones head up a fabulous cast. Rogers & Hammerstein first teamed up for the musical score - and what songs they were! Had I ever been to Oklahoma? Nope. I'd never seen the prairie, only read about it in the Little House series. But there's something about "Oh What a Beautiful Morning" that makes you feel glorious. My husband had lived in Texas during part of his Army career, and also loved the play. We still tease each other whenever one of us says, "Oh--" with "OOOOOOOOOOOOKLAHOMA where the wind comes sweeping 'cross the plains..."
There are plenty of fabulous Western musicals to consider -- and remain classics to this day.
One of my favorites (and my daughter's too) is SEVEN BRIDES FOR SEVEN BROTHERS. The handsome actors, the dancing, the music, the romantic story -- it may be quaint now, of course, but we still love it. The costumes are colorful, if not accurate to the times, but who's noticing anyway? Howard Keel and Jane Powell! The dancing, and the acrobatics by the brothers in the spectacular Barn Dance! The musical is just marvelous. Fun for the whole family.
CALAMITY JANE -- "America's Sweetheart" Doris Day gets a chance to "rough it" - ha! - in this musical, also starring Howard Keel. Doris doesn't seem to fit the authenticity of the real Calamity Jane, but neither does Howard Keel act like Wild Bill! Some of the songs are plenty of good fun, though. Keel seemed to be the go-to guy when it came to the hero in these musicals. Really disliked how he called Doris "Calam" which seemed silly. Oh well.
SHOWBOAT -- Talk about a real showboat!! This musical is another true favorite of mine because it has *everything.* Great costumes (not always accurate, of course), a wonderful setting, an in-depth complex story, great actors who can sing their hearts out! Joe E. Brown provided both a comedic and sympathetic air, and Agnes Moorhead was also great as a harridan with heart. Ava Gardner was gorgeous, and this time Oscar Hammerstein teamed up with Jerome Kern to give us such fabulous numbers. William Warfield singing Ol' Man River! Marge and Gower Champion, dancing! Kathryn Grayson, trained for the opera since she was 12 years old! And of course, Howard Keel. Yes, some may claim the 1936 film is more authentic, showing the true poverty on the river, the dockworkers, the issue of miscegenation, but I loved this film and still shed a tear while watching it.
ANNIE GET YOUR GUN -- Betty Hutton and Howard Keel team up as Annie Oakley and her husband Frank. Urp. There's something about Hutton I never liked -- quite possibly her gravelly voice, along with her attitude as shown in her performance here and in other films. Not a favorite. But here it is if it's one of yours. Keel comes through once again as the hero.
PAINT YOUR WAGON -- Clint Eastwood? in a MUSICAL? Yup. Along with Lee Marvin, who is hilarious. A fun film, based on the Lerner & Lowe theatrical musical, that rips and roars its way through a Gold-Rush era California mining camp (No-Name City). I confess I've only seen bits and pieces, but I do know that many friends love this film. And really, Clint Eastwood? Singing?? Gotta admit, he was good compared to Lee Marvin. But this song sums up the film best.
THE HARVEY GIRLS -- Judy Garland, John Hodiak and Angela Lansbury! Virginia O'Brien and Ray Bolger! Chill Wills and Marjorie Main! And accurate costumes when the girls come to town in Arizona on the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe, at least! It faces off the Harvey Girls, waitresses who come for a job and a husband, if they meet one in a wild western town, against the local "soiled doves" working at the local saloon. If you've researched the real Harvey Girls, the women did bring a touch of civilization to wherever they went. And petite Judy is fun to watch in this film, squaring off against the conniving gambler-owner who stole the restaurant's meat.
Sure, there are other musicals we could revisit, but that's enough for now. Hope you enjoyed some of the videos and songs!
Mystery author Meg Mims lives in Southeastern Michigan with her husband and a 'Make My Day' Malti-poo dog.Meg loves writing novels, short novellas and short stories, both contemporary and historical. Her Spur and Laramie Award winning Double series is now among the Prairie Rose Publications book list. Meg is also one-half of the D.E. Ireland team writing the Eliza Doolittle & Henry Higgins Mystery series for St. Martin's Minotaur. WOULDN'T IT BE DEADLY is out now! It's based on George Bernard Shaw's Pygmalion, play and film, with a nod to Lerner & Lowe's My Fair Lady -- so Meg does love musicals! Book 2, MOVE YOUR BLOOMING CORPSE, will be out in 2015. You can find Meg (and D.E. Ireland) on Twitter, Facebook and Pinterest.
Interesting post, Meg. Unfortunately, I'm on a train to London and the videos won't load on my phone. I'll check them out when I get home after the conference. Some great musicals there, though.ReplyDelete
:-D Make sure you WATCH the movies, if you haven't seen them! well, except for Calamity Jane and Annie Get Your Gun. Urp.Delete
Funnily enough, Calamity Jane is touring the UK at the moment and I went to see a showing at our local theatre a couple of weeks ago. It was great. :-)ReplyDelete
Really?? wow. As long as you can get over the "Calam" in Calamity... made me think Bill was calling her a Clam. ;-DDelete
Fun post, Meg. They bring back great memories. Saw them all except for The Harvey Girls.ReplyDelete
Oh, TOM!!! you must see Judy. She's marvelous in this film, even if in real life she was fighting off demons at the time. Pretty good story, although I'm not sure it's truly accurate to the HGirls.Delete
I've seen all except The Harvey Girls and performed in community theater productions of both Oklahoma (as Ado Annie) and Annie Get Your Gun (as Annie). (What is it with me and all the Annie's? I just realized that. I also played Anne Sullivan in The Miracle Worker. Weird.)ReplyDelete
One of my favorite western musicals is Seven Brides for Seven Brothers -- and nobody ever mentions that one!
Thanks for bringing all these to mind, Meg. Nice trip down memory lane. :-)
You trouper, you!! LOOOVE 7 Brides - probably the best in my book. Silly story, but FUN! the boys are all named from the Bible, even Frank -- and he always starts a fight when the other brothers whoop because it's from "Frankincense" and not a Biblical figure. LOLDelete
Oh yes, what a great list of fun make believe. I will say, however, the version of Showboat I prefer the 1936 version with Irene Dunne and Paul Robeson. To me, no one does 'Ol' Man River' better than Robeson does. But that is a personal preference. Fun post and enchanting trip down memory lane. DorisReplyDelete
IRENE DUNNE!!!! Oh, I'll have to look that one up and see it, although I bet it's in black/white. She was MARVELOUS as a singer -- another actress trained for opera. I did hear that Paul Robeson did a better job with that song, too. Thanks, Doris!Delete
It is black and white but I enjoyed it. Hope you will also. It also had Hattie McDaniel.DorisDelete
Oooh, Hattie McD! She was fabulous in GWTW!Delete
I ALWAYS liked Doris Day. She said that Calamity Jane was the only movie she made that was closest to her real tomboy personality.
I read she is feeble and a former caretaker complains that her house is overrun with strangers. Sad if true.
The musicals you mention are timeless.
My hub is a rabid Doris Day fan, so I've watched most of her movies. She's so funny in The Thrill of It All, and I don't mind her performance in Calamity Jane -- it's just so inaccurate, and the "Calam" nickname grates every time. LOL. Love the DD movie she did with Tony Randall set in a fishing town, also the one where she ran a ranch.Delete
Before there were videos, cable channels, movies on demand and RedBoxes, I used to scour the Sunday paper TV listings for reruns of all these movies...especially OKLAHOMA. I managed to see it eleven times in this way before I graduated high school.ReplyDelete
Thanks for the memories!
WOW, eleven times!! I've seen that one once. Now I do confess to seeing 7 Brides/7 Bros at least SEVEN times. LOLDelete
I always enjoyed OKLAHOMA quite a bit.ReplyDelete
It's a good'un!Delete
Oklahoma is (of course!) my favorite, since I was born and raised here. Just love those songs!ReplyDelete
Not surprised a'tall! ;-DDelete
Had to see The Harvey Girls way back. I later learned my wife's sister was one of them in KC.ReplyDelete
Wow, that's awesome!Delete
Just to correct a few errors.... Doris Day is not feeble. Around the time of her 90 birthday on April 3, 2014, she did a 20+ minute phone interview with TCM host Robert Osborne. It was broadcast on TCM's web site and in it she was very articulate and humorous. Her home is not overrun with strangers. It might be overrun with dogs; she is a great dog lover and runs a pet foundation.ReplyDelete
In 1959, she made a movie called "It Happened to Jane". Her costar was Jack Lemmon and she plays a young mother who runs a lobster business.
The western you may be thinking about is "The Ballad of Josie" in 1967 with Peter Graves. I enjoyed your post.
Yes, It Happened to Jane -- LOVE that one! And I loved The Ballad of Josie too. Doris is a true animal lover and has done great things for rescue organizations. I rather doubt she is feeble too, and has lived a good long life!Delete
I pray you are right.