Today: February 28, 2024

The wonderful world of the MGM Musical will be celebrated at BFI Southbank throughout November and December.

The wonderful world of the MGM Musical will be celebrated at BFI Southbank throughout November and December. From composers such as Cole Porter and Irving Berlin, choreographers and actors including Stanley Donen, Gene Kelly and Fred Astaire to the greatest musical singing and dancing stars including Judy Garland, Ann Miller and Cyd Charisse – they will all be presented in their full glory on the big screen.

Many musicals will screen in newly restored prints and there will be some very special guests and events to introduce well loved films from an age that has never been forgotten. As a centrepiece of this season, BFI Distribution will release two of the most dazzling titles – An American in Paris (1952) and Meet Me in St Louis (1944) – nationwide and each will screen in an Extended Run at BFI Southbank. The 50th anniversary release of West Side Story (1961), screening in an Extended Run at BFI Southbank from 16 September, will launch the MGM Musicals season and will also herald an ongoing tribute to the musical genre from the BFI, throughout the next three years. This instalment will conclude with a very rare outing for Ken Russell’s The Boy Friend (1971), a comic pastiche of the roaring 1920s starring Twiggy.

This golden era of Hollywood song and dance will begin with fare from the dazzling 1930s. With Joan Crawford and Clark Gable in Dancing Lady (1933), a time when Eleanor Powell began tapping her way to fascinating rythms in Broadway Melody of 1938 (1937) and Judy Garland was brought in to replace Shirley Temple as Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz (1939). By the 1940s Vincente Minnelli was in the director’s seat with Cabin in the Sky (1943) and Meet Me in St Louis, before The Band Wagon (1953) – the only film that Fred Astaire and Gene Kelly danced a routine together. Charles Walters directed Fred Astaire in Easter Parade (1948) and The Barkleys of Broadway (1949), the latter reuniting Astaire with Ginger Rogers. Singers such as Frank Sinatra became box-office hits with films including On the Town and Take Me Out to the Ball Game (both made in 1949), while Olympic medal winner Esther Williams became an underwater sensation in films such as Dangerous When Wet (1953).

The dynamic directing partnership of Stanley Donen and Gene Kelly was truly established with the event of the first musical feature to be shot on location – the Oscar-winning On the Town. They would go on to direct one of the most widely loved musicals, Singin’ in the Rain
(1952), along with It’s Always Fair Weather (1955). Musical adaptations were aplenty with Show Boat (1951), Seven Brides for Seven Brothers (1954), High Society (1956) and even Shakespeare was turned to as a basis for Kiss Me Kate (1953), which will be presented in 3D.

These titles are just an example of the glorious Technicolor spectacles that will be offered throughout MGM Musicals. Stay tuned for further details.

Alex Moss Editor

Alex Moss’ obsession with film began the moment he witnessed the Alien burst forth from John Hurt’s stomach. It was perhaps ill-advised to witness this aged 6 but much like the beast within Hurt, he became infected by a parasite called ‘Movies’. Rarely away from his computer or a big screen, as he muses on Cinematic Deities, Alex is “more machine now than man. His mind is twisted and evil”. Email: alex.moss@filmjuice.com

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