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    Three Great Movie Musicals

    By Jan Wahl–

    When all seems lost, become part of a movie musical! There are so many to choose from, but let’s begin with three of my favorites.

    Chicago (2002) is based on a true story of women in the Roaring Twenties who found themselves making headlines for murder, yet eliciting public sympathy. Their lives as a media circus of the time turned into a fabulous musical and a good Ginger Rogers movie, but this is the one to see over and over again for the dancing, music by Kander and Ebb, costumes (Colleen Atwood), and Rob Marshall’s taut yet joyous direction. The engaging singing and dancing made this film a modern classic, with deserved Oscars. Celebrity, scandal, the Jazz Age, corruption … who could ask for anything more? Available on Amazon.

    One of the best opening numbers in a movie musical (with apologies to Oklahoma and West Side Story) is Hairspray (2007.)  It’s the 1960s in Baltimore. We meet the loveable Tracy Turnblad when she auditions for the Corny Collins Show. Our Tracy becomes a teen sensation and trendsetter. But dance is not enough for her; she fights for racial integration as well. John Waters created this world for us, and I am lucky to receive a Christmas card every year from this enormously gifted man. This movie musical is worthy of him. Look for him in a cameo during that great number “Good Morning Baltimore.” Nicky Blonsky, Queen Latifah, John Travolta, and Christopher Walken lead a sparkling cast. Available on DirecTV and YouTube.

    Kiss Me Kate (1953) will have you “Too Darn Hot!” That’s the number that Ann Miller does to get a role in a musical version of Shakespeare’s The Taming of the Shrew. Divorced Broadway stars lead the cast of the musical play that makes it to Broadway.  We get a show within a show, complete with backstage quarrels, gangsters, and romantic complications. The dances are remarkable, including Bob Fosse and Carol Haney doing Fosse’s signature sharp, quirky, brilliant moves during “From This Moment On.” Cole Porter music, a studly Howard Keel, and every element that belongs in a movie musical are right here, folks!  Last seen on Amazon and YouTube, but look it up under Google. 

    I will have to revisit this theme. I am a true fan of this genre. It keeps me singin’ in the rain!        

    Emmy Award-winner Jan Wahl is a renowned entertainment reporter, producer, and teacher. A member of the prestigious Directors Guild of America, she is regularly featured on KPIX television (every Monday morning starting at 6:15 am) and on KCBS AM & FM and other media outlets. To read and listen to her reviews for KCBS, go to: https://kcbsradio.radio.com/authors/jan-wahl For more info about her remarkable life and career: http://www.janwahl.com/ Check out her entertaining and informative videos at http://sfbaytimes.com/


    Out of the Closet, Off the Screen: The Life of William Haines (2001)

    By Jan Wahl–

    For many years, I have been trying to get William Haines’ name on the Rainbow Honor Walk. He had showbiz courage and an amazing second chapter to his life. There is also a great 50-year romance here. 

    Haines was the number one movie star in America in 1930, sort of a present-day Tom Hanks. He had boyish charm and was known for his wisecracking wit and boy-next-door athletic looks. He had worked his way up, along the way becoming friends with Orry-Kelly, Cary Grant, George Cukor, and others. 

    After becoming a major star for MGM, he also became a popular man about town, often indulging in his favorite hobby: interior design. It all came to a screeching halt when it was decided by MGM’s Louis B. Mayer that Haines needed to stop living with his partner Jimmy Shields and also be the groom in a sham “traditional” marriage. 

    Haines refused it all, eventually turning to very successful interior design, doing homes for everyone from Jack L. Warner to the British Ambassador in London. There are books and references to his famed designs everywhere. His lifelong friend Joan Crawford said, “Billy and Jimmy had the happiest marriage in Hollywood.” 

    After viewing this documentary on YouTube, start researching this remarkable man!        

    Published on May 20, 2020