April 3, 2003

Viewer Discretion Advised

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The Academy Award results are in, and Chicago fever seems to have taken the nation –and the Oscars — by storm. With six Oscars, Chicago proves that a little music can win the hearts of moviegoers and critics everywhere. But looking back in the movie archive you’ll see this is no new phenomenon. In fact, musical-turned-movies have been gracing the silver screen, and making film history in the process, for some time now.

WEST SIDE STORY

This classic updated version of Romeo and Juliet is set in multicultural New York City, where two teen gangs battle it out for control of their neighborhood while stars Maria (Natalie Wood) and Tony (Richard Brenner), from opposing sides, begin a secret romance that can only end in tragedy. The star-crossed lovers are soon caught in the midst of a winner-takes all battle between the two gangs in which many loves and lives are lost, and many more grim lessons are learned the hard way. Unlike many other movie musical remakes, all the original Broadway songs by Leonard Bernstein and Stephen Sondheim were used in the movie. Equally memorable as the songs are the dance sequences, which brought this film major critical acclaim. Fact: You can’t visit the site of the film anymore–it’s now occupied by Lincoln Center.

MY FAIR LADY

Once the longest-running Broadway musical, My Fair Lady made it to the big screen in 1964 with Audrey Hepburn in the lead as the loveable, uncultured, street rag Eliza Doolittle and Rex Harrison as smart-man Henry Higgins who makes a bet that he can turn Eliza into a proper lady within six months. It may come as no surprise that when Eliza does finally become a lady of class and proclaims her independence from Higgins, her charm ignites a memorable spark of romance. This classic Cinderella rags-to-riches story snagged eight Oscars. Fact: Julie Andrews, the original lead in the Broadway version, wasn’t considered popular enough to claim the leading role. Andrews went on to win Best Actress over Hepburn in the same year for her performance in Mary Poppins.

THE SOUND OF MUSIC

This timeless blockbuster hit, fashioned after the Rogers and Hammerstein musical about the Trapp Family Singers, still remains at the top of the list of most popular movie musicals. Julie Andrews established her name in the leading role as aloof Austrian nun Maria, who leaves the convent to take a job in the Von Trapp family household teaching a single former war captain’s (Christopher Plummer) seven notoriously out of control children. After finally winning over the children, Maria starts to win the recently engaged Captain’s heart as well, but leaves for the convent before the relationship goes any further. The Captain seeks her out, wins her back, and they all become one big happy family just in time for war to strike. To avoid enrollment in the Nazi army, the Captain and his family flee the country and seek a new life. The overall success of the film led to record-breaking numbers at the box office and five Oscars.


Archived article by Laura Borden