Sunday, February 12, 2017


They had singing and dancing chops then
Now that La La Land has cleaned up at the Golden Globes and BAFTA (British Academy of Film and Television Awards), and director Damien Chazelle has been anointed with the DGA award, the inevitable backlash has begun — mostly by people saying, you know, it's not that great.

Much of the objections stem from Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling not being as adept at song and dance as movie musical stars of yore.

I would remind these critics that the star systems that produced the Judy Garlands and Gene Kellys of the Golden Age of movie musicals (like the Arthur Freed unit at M-G-M) no longer exists. Hell, movie musicals as a genre no longer exists!

Kelly came to the movies from the Broadway hit, Pal Joey. But he still had to work his way up through the studio system in innocuous fluff like For Me and My Gal, and DuBarry Was a Lady (along with a string of wartime dramas in the '40s) before he got a chance to start crafting his own classics like An American in Paris, and Singin' in the Rain.
Chakiris 1954: uncredited

Garland toiled away for a decade in musical shorts and revues before somebody at M-G-M got the bright idea to cast her in The Wizard of Oz.

And look at George Chakiris, an uncredited chorus boy dancing behind Rosemary Clooney in White Christmas in 1954 — one of many musicals, from a variety of studios, that he hoofed his way through during the 1950s.

Chakiris 1961: Oscar bait
(Another one was Gentleman Prefer Blondes, dancing in the chorus behind Marilyn Monroe in the number, "Diamonds Are A Girl's Best Friend.")

In 1961, after a decade of paying his dues, he was cast in West Side Story — and won a Supporting Actor Oscar as Bernardo, leader of the Sharks.

Sure, there are zillions of talented musical theatre performers out there at the regional theatre level, or even on Broadway. But they don't have the brand-name recognition by Hollywood standards that could get a crazed idea for a movie like La La Land financed these days.

Chazelle made the compromises he had to to get his movie made. But the result is something unexpectedly wonderful!

I admit, he had me at the opening dance number on the freeway! Seriously, haven't you always wanted to do this in the middle of an LA traffic jam?

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