At the beginning of the 20th century, in Great Britain there was the renewal (rinnovamento)of the comedy. People wanted to find entertainment (intrattenimento) and run away from the anguish and fears of the period. The play Peter Pan (1904) by the Scottish playwright and novelist James Matthew Barrie (1860-1937) represented the escape from reality through the story of a boy who refuses to grow up (crescere). The play was then retold in narrative form as Peter and Wendy (1911) adapted as a musical comedy and later made into a silent film (1924) and an animated cartoon (1952). Other comedies accepted the influence of the new means of communication (mezzi di comunicazione) like radio and cinema. William Somerset Maugham (1874-1965), British famous novelist, playwright (drammaturgo) and short-story writer, introduced his frequent trips (viaggi) as a member of the British Intelligence in his famous stories. An example is the popular Rain, contained in The Trembling of a Leaf (1923), later made into a play and into several movies. The same happened to the novels The Moon And The Sixpence (1919) about Paul Gauguin’s life, and Razor’s Edge (1944, Sul filo del rasoio), about a spiritual quest (ricerca). He described people and events with his sardonic and amoral view of human behaviour (comportamento). It is said that the modern spy story began with Maugham’s Ashenden; Or The British Agent (1928), that Alfred Hitchcock used in his film Secret Agent (1936).
The musical The Wizard of Oz is an adaptation of L. Frank Baum’s novel The Wonderful Wizard of Oz about the adventures of Dorothy, a young girl from Kansas. A tornado sweeps away (spazza via) Dorothy, her farmhouse home (fattoria) and her dog Toto to the fantastic place of Oz. Dorothy, Toto and their house land (atterrano) in Munchkinland, the most magical place that Dorothy has ever seen or dreamed of (sognato). The people who live here are very small and proclaim Dorothy their heroine because she has landed (è atterrata) – and killed – the Wicked Witch (malefica strega) of the East, a creature that dominated the country. Dorothy is amazed (stupita), but Glinda, the Good Witch of the North, appears and explains her what has happened. Of course Dorothy would like to go back home, but the Wicked Witch of the West – sister of the dead Wicked Witch of the East – suddenly appears. Glinda defends Dorothy and fortunately the magical Ruby Slippers (magiche ciabatte di rubino) of the Wicked Witch of the West go on the feet of (sui piedi) Dorothy . Glinda reveals (rivela) Dorothy that she is safe (sicura) with the slippers. The Witch of the West leaves, and Dorothy starts travelling to find the Wizard of Oz who can help her return to Kansas. On her way (sulla strada) , Dorothy has many adventures and meets a talking scarecrow (spaventapasseri parlante), a tin man (uomo di latta) and a coward lion (leone pauroso). They are all looking for something – a heart (cuore), a brain (cervello) and the courage – and need to find the Emerald City, where the Wizard of Oz is master(padrone): he will give them what they need. …The musical got popularity thanks to the 1939 film adaptation by Victor Fleming.
The Musical is a genre in which music and songs mingle (si mescolano) in the narrative. The musical film developed (si sviluppò) from the stage musicals during the 1930s, 1940s, and 1950s which are often considered the golden age of them. The first movie, said to be (considerato) a musical, was The Broadway Melody, which won the Academy Award (Oscar) for Best Picture for 1929. In the same year the film entitled (intitolato) Gold Diggers of Broadway broke all box office records (sbaragliò il box office). Suddenly (improvvisamente) the market became saturated with musicals, revues and operettas. Musical stars such as Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers were among the most popular personalities in Hollywood with their movies such as Top Hat (1935), Swing Time (1936) and Carefree (1938). Many dramatic actors took aprt in musicals like the multi-talented (talentuoso) James Cagney, famous for his roles as a criminal, won the Oscar for Yankee Doodle Dandy (1942).
During the late 1940s and into the 1950s, Arthur Freed transformed the old-fashioned (vecchio) musical films, to something new. His production started in 1939 with The Wizard of Oz, directed by Vincente Minnelli, and went on with Meet Me in St. Louis (1944), Easter Parade (1948), On the Town (1949), An American in Paris (1951), Singin’ in the Rain (1952) and The Band Wagon (1953). This It was the era of the greatest talents in movie musical including Judy Garland, Gene Kelly, Ann Miller, Donald O’Connor, Cyd Charisse, Mickey Rooney, Vera Ellen, Jane Powell, Howard Keel, and Kathryn Grayson. Since the 1950s, the musical film has declined in popularity. One reason was the rock n’ roll culture and the freedom and youth (gioventù) associated with it. Elvis Presley made a few movies that were inspired by the old musicals in terms of form. Most of the musical films of the 50s and 60s, for example Oklahoma! and The Sound of Music (Tutti insieme appassionatamente), were adaptations of successful stage (teatrali) productions. After the 1960s, filmmakers tended to avoid (tesero ad evitare) “musical films” in favour of using music by popular rock or pop bands as background music. Only in the cartoons the tradition was maintained (Beauty and the Beast and The Lion King). In the early 2000s, the musical film began to rise in popularity once more, with new works such as Moulin Rouge!, Across the Universe, High School Musical, and Enchanted, Chicago, The Phantom of the Opera, Rent, Dreamgirls, Sweeney Todd, Mamma Mia!, The Producers, Hairspray and Reefer Madness. Another exception is the Indian film industry, especially Bollywood (image), where most of the films are still musicals.
western e musicals…
In America the musical was renewed (rinnovato) during the 1920s and early 1930s. Lyricist (scrittori di libretti) Oscar Hammerstein II (1895-1960) and composer Jerome Kern (1885-1945) created the musical Show Boat (1927). Later, the collaboration between librettist Oscar Hammerstein II and composer Richard Rodgers launched (lanciarono) light-hearted (leggero) musicals, in particular the love story Oklahoma! (1943) which was successfully performed (ebbe successo) until the 1960s, and The Sound of Music (1959) which was made into a movie (fu adattato in film) by Robert Nize in 1965. Oklahoma! is based on Lynn Riggs’ 1931 play, Green Grow (crescono) the Lilacs. It takes place in Oklahoma Territory in 1906 and it tells the love stories of cowboy Curly McLain and the farm girl (contadina) Laurey Williams and cowboy Will Parker and his flirtatious (civettuola) fiancée (fidanzata), Ado Annie. Oklahoma had been an immediate success since the opening of the production on March 31, 1943 and ran (furono fatte repliche) for an record period of time: 2,243 performances. Inspired to the previous musical Show Boat, it exemplified the development of the “book musical”: a musical play where the songs and dances are fully integrated (integrate) into a well-made story which mixes (mecsola) dramatic moments with laughters (risate).
The 1955 film adaptation by Fred Zinnermann was also awarded (premiata)of the Academy Awards (Oscar) for Best Music, Scoring of a Musical Picture and Best Sound.
The Sound of Music (1959) is a Broadway musical – based on the book The Story of the Trapp Family Singers by Maria von Trapp – with songs written by Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II. It is the story of an Austrian widower, ex- naval officer – Captain Von Trapp – who takes on (assume) a new governess (governante), Maria – a nun (suora) too free spirited (libera di spirito) for any convent – to look after his over-disciplined (disciplinatissimi) seven children. Maria makes the children happy and joyful (gioiosi) with music and trips (giri) in the country and they come to love her (le si affezionano) very dearly. Also the Captain grows closer (si avvicina) to his children, and starts understanding the value and beauty of the freedoms (libertà) Maria is teaching them. He begins loving her too and the affection is reciprocated (reciproco), but Maria is a nun and runs back to the convent and the Captain – consciuous Maria cannot marry him – engages with his former (prima) fiancé, a beautiful Baroness. But at the convent the reverend mother (madre superiora) suggests Mary to face (affrontare) the situation and go back to the Captain. On her return, the captain explains the baroness he loves Maria and the engagement is called off (si rompe). The Captain and Maria marry, but unfortunately Germany is marching into Austria – it is 1938 – and the captain is called (è chiamato) to serve the Third Reich in its navy (marina). He does not want to obey (obbedire) the Third Reich, and escapes with Maria to Switzerland on foot. The film adaptation of the musical was made in 1965 by Robert Wise and won 6 Academy Awards.
The King and I
The King and I is a 1951 musical by Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II based on the 1944 novel Anna and the King of Siam by Margaret Landon, which derives from the memoirs of Anna Leonowens, governess to the children of King Mongkut of Siam in the early 1860s. In the 1860s the King of Siam tries to bring Western (occidentale) culture to his country and engages (assume) Anna Leonowens, an attractive English schoolteacher, to teach his royal princes and princesses. She gets to Siam with her son, Louis, and is shocked because she will have to live in the palace. Soon Anna gets (conquista) the King’s children’s affection , but still insists on (insiste) having a a house of her own. Another story takes place in the musical, the love story between Tuptim – another future King’s wife – and Lun Tha. A crisis is developing (sviluppando) in Siam. An agent in Singapore has known that the king is a barbarian. Anna defends the king and when the King tells her that some high-ranking (alto rango) English men and women are coming to visit Siam and to judge him (giudicarlo), Anna suggests that they must be entertained (intrattenuti) with a European dinner and ball, and with all the Siamese princes and princesses wearing (che indossano) European dresses. Meanwhile (nel frattempo) Lun Tha and Tuptim are making plans to run away together . The visit is a great success and Both Anna and the King are joyful. But suddenly Tuptim is brought to the King because captured while trying to escape and Lun Tha has been killed. The King orders that she be whipped (frustata), but Anna fiercely oppose (si oppone). Anna feels that she can’t stay in Siam any longer, and makes preparations to return to England. But the King falls seriously ill (si ammala gravemente). On his death-bed (letto di morte) the King implores her to stay on in Siam, and she Anna cannot find the courage to leave a country, a people and, most of all, the pupils she has come to love. The musical was made into a movie in 1956 by Walter Lang – starring Yul Brynner and Deborah Kerr – and then in 1999 by Andy Tennant starring Jodie Foster and Chow Yan-fat.