Music in the Movies: The Classic Hollywood Musical

singin-in-the-rain-movie-poster-1952-1020144314.jpgThe classic Hollywood musicals of the 1930s, 1940s, and 1950s can look odd or even silly to contemporary audiences. Whether you’ve seen a classic Hollywood musical or not, it is possible you have an idea about what these movies are like and whether or not you’ll like them. As a class, describe your expectations of Hollywood musicals. Do you think you will enjoy Singin’ in the Rain? Why or why not?

It can be argued that the spirit of 1950s Hollywood musicals like Singin’ in the Rain doesn’t quite fit with the tone of contemporary pop culture. Today, music, movies, and TV are characterized by a sense of irony and cynicism that makes older musicals appear naïve. Because of this argument musicals are not nearly as common today as they once were.

Class Discussion Questions:
  • What do you make of this argument? Do you agree that the tone of movies like Singin’ in the Rain is too naïve and unsophisticated for audiences today?

  • After watching Singin’ in the Rain, are there any reasons to think that these kinds of movies could still be successful with audiences today?

Assignment Directions:

Decide whether you favor the argument that older musicals are too naïve for modern audiences, or whether you believe musicals like Singin’ in the Rain could be successful in theatres today? Now construct an argument and write a defense of your position and post it in the discussion board below.

For Example:
  • If you believe older musicals aren’t sophisticated enough for modern audiences, use clips from more recent movies and evidence from box office reports (available on the IMDB or Rotten Tomatoes Website) to suggest which movies are successful today. Be sure to indicate how these movies are different in tone and spirit from musicals like Singin’ in the Rain.

  • If you want to argue that classical musicals could be successful with audiences today, talk about what elements you saw in Singin’ in the Rain that would work. You might also want to talk about the success of more recent musicals (ie: Chicago, Moulin Rouge!, High School Musical) and whether this success has created an opportunity to produce more classical musicals.