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Obviously the musical contains song and dance numbers--eruptions in the film narrative that often seem "unrealistic." Early musicals, such as those made by Busby Berkeley, are considered non-integrated, in that little attempt is made to weave the numbers into the narrative. Rather, they are highly stylized, exotic displays, usually of scantily-clad women. Later musical numbers, such as those with Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers, became more integrated into the storyline, which provided feasible reasons for the characters to transition into a vocal scene.

Often the musical weds elite and popular characters in performance, though the genre is ultimately much more invested in presenting utopian energy, abundance and community than specific narrative lines. There may be a push to "put on a show," and in the culminating gala, social and artistic differences are resolved.

Musicals became a favored form for audiences, especially during the Depression. These films celebrate spontaneity, both in terms of trying to replicate the experience of a live performance and having characters frequently pick up a prop and jump into a folksy number. In this way, classical musical films often gave the impression of an amateur's inspired and immediate performance--a type of sudden liberation and celebration that many claim makes for the most escapist-yet-intoxicating of the classical Hollywood genres.  (from AFI)

Renowned musicals from this period include, Gold Diggers of 1933, 42nd Street (1933), The Wizard of Oz (1939), Meet Me In St. Louis (1944) and An American In Paris (1951).

 Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers in Swing Time


Fred Astaire and Rita Hayworth in "You Were Never Lovelier" and "You'll Never Get Rich"

The Incomparable Gene Kelly

Form Object

Musicals PT. 2

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