The Sounds of Music from 10 to 1

By Tom Titus

Let’s strike up the band for the top 10 movie musicals of all time – at least in one columnist’s opinion. We’ll start from the bottom and work our way up to the summit.

10. “The Band Wagon.” Fred Astaire and Cyd Charisse lit up this Broadway backstage flick about turning a dismal flop into a megahit production. The extended number near the end is right out of Gene Kelly’s playbook.

9. “Kiss Me, Kate.” Shakespeare gets an assist on this one, Cole Porter’s revitalized version of “The Taming of the Shrew” with Howard Keel and Kathryn Grayson headlining. Comic relief abounds with Keenan Wynn and James Whitmore brushing up their Shakespeare.

8. “The Producers.” Broadway-themed shows were never funnier than this musical reworking of a vintage Mel Brooks comedy. Nathan Lane and Matthew Broderick hit all the right notes in creating “Springtime for Hitler.”

7. “The Sound of Music.” This Oscar-winning story of a young woman who chose marriage and instant motherhood over the convent truly warms the heart. Julie Andrews and Christopher Plummer head the cast.

6. “Chicago.” The first musical to win a best picture Oscar in 34 years, it’s a snappy story set mostly in a women’s prison. Catherine Zeta Jones (Oscar for best supporting actress) and Renee Zellweger head the cast along with hotshot lawyer Richard Gere.

5. “An American in Paris.” Also an Oscar winner, this 1951 dazzler celebrates the music of George Gershwin and the prodigious talents of Gene Kelly with a teen-age Leslie Caron making swell screen debut. Kelly choreographed his classic ballet sequence.

4. “My Fair Lady.” Like the last three, also an Oscar winner. Rex Harrison recreated his stage triumph with Audrey Hepburn playing the Cockney flower girl while the actress who created her, Julie Andrews, won that year’s Oscar for “Mary Poppins.”

3. “Singin’ in the Rain.” Hollywood’s transition to sound inspired this outstanding musical comedy with Gene Kelly as the soaked singer, ably assisted by a young Debbie Reynolds and the brilliant comic Donald O’Connor.

2. “West Side Story.” This 1961 adaptation of the 1957 Broadway hit won the Oscar, as did performers Rita Moreno and George Chakiris. The Jets and the Shark duke it out with tragic consequences, while director Robert Wise put his Oscar beside the one for “The Sound of Music.”

1. “Les Miserables.” This cinematic adaptation of the Broadway smash isn’t perfect (Russell Crowe and Sasha Baron Cohen disappoint), but Hugh Jackman’s tremendous Valjean and Anne Hathaway’s wrenching Fantine help to place it on a lofty pedestal.

That’s one moviegoer’s opinion, but the only one that counts in this column. Next we’ll head out west to assess the best of the horse operas.

77 – tt –

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