Driving Out Jack Frost - Movie Musicals to Warm You Up
The weather was pretty brutal this weekend in upstate New York, and from the weather map, it appears that most of the country has been plunged into a deep freeze that even the creators of Frozen hadn't envisioned. I spent my weekend curled up under a blanket, drinking coffee and watching movie musicals. I do this on warm days as well, but considering the draft that was coming in the window via 40 mile-an-hour winds this Sunday, I decided to put together the ten-best movie musicals to watch on a cold winter's day.
Ten-Best Movie Musicals to Watch on a Cold Winter's Day
10. Teen Beach Movie
Laugh all you want to about my starting this list with such a corny entry, but I will make an argument for this feel-good Disney Channel musical laden with perky performances and a plot that steals from Grease, West Side Story, and every Annette Funicello/Frankie Avalon movie ever made. In truth, the film never takes itself too seriously and it has a delightful sense of whimsical satire. Ross Lynch, Maia Mitchell, and especially Garrett Clayton perform with unfettered joy and energy. if none of this appeals to you, at least you can sit back and enjoy the ocean and beach scenes, transporting yourself to someplace warm and summery.
9. In the Good Old Summertime
Following the same plot as She Loves Me, but featuring a score made up of turn-of-the-century standards, In the Good Old Summertime is a quiet little gem of a movie musical, featuring Judy Garland and Van Johnson giving some of their best comedic performances. A man and a woman, each in love as pen pals, hate each other at work where they have no idea that the other is the object of their epistolary romance. The odd thing about this film's title is that it barely takes place in the summertime, with most of the action happening in and around Christmas time. However, in this frosty February, we will take the suggestive sell that the title offers.
8. South Pacific
Those peculiar amber washes that accompany the songs aside, the film of South Pacific does feature some beautiful, tropical locales where heat and humidity are the order for the day. The film may seem turgid at times and its pace is often slow and lazy, but that simply offers all the more opportunity to drink in the ambiance. Mitzi Gaynor and Ray Walston give lively, cartoonish performances that work hard at keeping John Kerr's and Rossano Brazzi's wooden performances from sinking the piece. It's a beautiful film to look at and that is enough for a wonderful afternoon of escapist entertainment.
7. State Fair
I have always been partial to the Rodgers and Hammerstein score of State Fair, especially in its 1945 film inception starring Jeanne Crain and Dana Andrews. Nothing says summertime quite like a trip to the state fair, and the Frake Family of Iowa take us along for the ride. Mincemeat competitions, midway rides, carnival games, and camping are all the backdrop for fun and romance. The film takes me back to the summers of my childhood, visiting the hog pavilion and the horse corral at the county fair. Nostalgia for warmer, simpler times.
6. The Music Man
Centering in and around July 4th, The Music Man is a joyous film that happens to take place during the summer. The floor-length dresses with long sleeves on the ladies, and three-piece suits and hats on the men, seem to add to the uncomfortable hotness of the summer. You get itchy just thinking about it. It is however, the bravado and charm of Robert Preston melting the icy exterior of a fragile Shirley Jones where the real heat in this film derives, as a fast-talking musical instrument salesman maneuvers his way into the heart of a hard-nosed librarian.
5. The Pirate
The Caribbean setting of the Judy Garland and Gene Kelly film musical The Pirate is just the exotic retreat the doctor ordered for those of us trapped in the frigid tundra of reality. Cole Porter's score, especially in the exotic "Mack the Black", conjures the flavors of this mysterious setting. A young woman pines to be whisked away by the legendary pirate named "Mack the Black." How exciting for her when her wishes come true, all in a location that is reminiscent of a Disney World theme resort.
4. Mamma Mia
The movie is as "corny as Kansas in August," and yet its Mediterranean locales and its sunny score comprised of ABBA songs put you in the mind of summer romance and parties at the beach. No one is at their vocal best in the cast, but it hardly matters when they are delivering them with all of the gusto and tongue-in-cheek humor they can muster. Simple plot: girl is getting married and she doesn't know who her daddy is. There are three possible candidates, so she invites the trio to the ceremony and her mother is forced to relive her romance with all three men.
3. Beach Party
You cannot think about summer musicals without conjuring images of the series of Beach Party musicals of the 60s that starred Annette Funicello and Frankie Avalon. Sure, the premise of each of them was a thinly veiled reason to sing, dance and sport swimwear, but that is where the fun resides. Equal parts screwball comedy and frothy musical, these films were mere escapism. Isn't that what summer is all about?
I think we all love Camp for its audacity, humor, and even its empowering message about the performing arts. Didn't we all know that Anna Kendrick was going to be a big star the minute we heard her dead-on rendition of "The Ladies Who Lunch"? So many of us longed for a summer camp experience where we could retreat to a pastoral setting and sing showtunes with all of our misfit counterparts. There is enough electricity in the singing and dancing of the "Turkey Lurkey Time" sequence to power the furnace that will keep us warm until spring.
Go with me on this...
You say "how is Annie on this list?" and I reply that the film promises something we are all holding onto through these cold winter days, that "the sun will come out tomorrow." It is easy to get down in the dumps in these days of limited daylight and unlimited snowstorms. Annie symbolizes a promise of better things to come and that helps us see it though. There is nothing like a spunky orphan with a sunny outlook to help us put our problems (and miserable weather) in perspective. Spring is just around the corner and despite the "hard knocks" of shoveling snow, salting ice, and paying astronomical heating bills, just "maybe" we can "stick out our chin and grin."