Greatest Song and Dance
Musical Moments and Scenes

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Greatest Song and Dance Musical Moments and Scenes
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Title Screen
Movie Title/Year and Scene Descriptions

Pin Up Girl (1944)

During the early 40s (the war years), one of the most popular stars at the film box-office was 20th Century Fox's' 'pin-up girl' -- Betty Grable-- with her famous long-legged gams in a widely-distributed swimsuit photo.

Grable starred in a number of entertaining but mindless and escapist musicals such as this Technicolored romantic comedy (named to take advantage of her status) - it turned out to be one of the most lightweight of her many starring vehicles.

She took the role of canteen lady Lorry Jones who passed out autographed pin-up photos to the soldiers at the local USO in Missoula, Missouri. In the plot, she also traveled to New York City and to Washington, DC (to be a stenographer), where she became embroiled in romantic complications when she masqueraded as singer Laura Lorraine, a world-famous Broadway star.

Grable's most memorable song-dance performances were:

  • You're My Little Pin-Up Girl (pictured), sung under the title credits and in the opening scene at the USO
  • Don't Carry Tales Out of School (pictured), accompanied by a male chorus
  • The Story of the Very Merry Widow (pictured)
  • I'll Be Marching to a Love Song (pictured) - one of Grable's best career dance numbers, when she led an all-female, arms-bearing, uniformed marching troupe

Co-star Martha Raye (as Molly McKay, the star singer at NYC's Club Chartreuse) also performed in a few musical sequences:

  • Yankee Doodle Hayride (pictured)
  • Red Robin, Bob White & The Bluebird (pictured twice), a major production number

The Pirate (1948)

Director Vincente Minnelli's and MGM's Technicolored musical romance with a Cole Porter score was adapted from S. N. Behrman's 1942 non-musical Broadway play (starring the sophisticated acting team of Alfred Lunt and Lynn Fontanne).

The plot was set in 1830s West Indies, in the village of Calvados. It was about notorious 'pirate' or 'sea wolf' Mack the Black (or Macoco) - a strolling, hammy philandering, traveling troubadour-actor named Serafin (Gene Kelly) who was posing as "Mack the Black" (played as swashbuckling Douglas Fairbanks or Errol Flynn with a mustache and black hair).

Serafin fooled naive and moony Caribbean girl Manuela Alva (Judy Garland) into falling in love with him (and believing he was the romantic buccaneer) rather than marrying duplicitous, fat mayor Don Pedro (Walter Slezak) - the real Macoco who had become old and obese.

It was the only Garland MGM film that lost money, at a time when Garland (married to director Minnelli) was personally struggling with drug addiction.

The most noted musical numbers were:

  • Kelly's splendid rumba-rhythmed opening debonair number Nina (pictured) in which he danced with and attempted to seduce various senioritas in the town of Port Sebastian
  • Garland's Mack the Black ballet (pictured), staged as a passionate hypnotic dream about her love for the "pirate" Mack the Black; she began by repeating the chant: "Underneath this prim exterior, there are depths of emotion, romantic longings" before singing about the famed pirate-lover: ("There's a pirate known to fame, Black Macoco was the pirate's name, In his day the tops was he, Round the Caribbean or Caribbean Sea....")
  • Garland's love ode to Serafin: You Can Do No Wrong (pictured)
  • Garland's lilting profession of love with Love Of My Life (pictured)
  • the famous Cole Porter tune Be a Clown (pictured twice) reprised in the final number between Kelly and Garland - but earlier seen in a song-and-dance number by Kelly in green and yellow clown makeup when he acrobatically danced with the Nicholas Brothers duo

Pocahontas (1995)

Best Original Song: Colors of the Wind

This under-rated Disney animated feature film was the studio's first to highlight an actual historical figure.

It offered up Alan Menken (music) / Stephen Schwartz (lyrics) musical production numbers, and won two Academy Awards for Best Original Song (Colors of the Wind) and Best Musical Score.

  • the dramatic, show-stopping, imaginative and poignant Oscar-winning number Colors of the Wind (pictured twice) was sung by Pocahontas (voice of Irene Bedard, performed by Vanessa Williams) to Captain John Smith (voice of Mel Gibson) to show him the ways of her naturalistic world in the forest: ("...Have you ever heard the wolf cry to the blue corn moon Or asked the grinning bobcat why he grinned? Can you sing with all the voices of the mountain? Can you paint with all the colors of the wind?")
  • Just Around the Riverbend (pictured), also by Pocahontas (singing voice of Broadway star Judy Kuhn) was performed as she canoed down the river with her friends Meeko the raccoon and hummingbird Flit: ("...What's around the river bend Waiting just around the river bend. I look once more just around the river bend. Beyond the shore where the gulls fly free Don't know what for What I dream the day might send Just around the river bend For me, coming for me")

Poor Little Rich Girl (1936)

Fox Studios capitalized on its greatest moneymaker in the 30s --- young Shirley Temple, and this display piece was no different than many other Temple "moppet" films (with weak plotlines and mostly ridiculous circumstances), highlighted by fantastic dance and singing scenes.

This Fox film by director Irving Cummings was loosely based on the 1917 silent feature of the same name (with Mary Pickford), with music and lyrics by Mack Gordon and Harry Revel.

Shirley starred as neglected child Barbara Barry of a wealthy, strict and widowed father (a soap-tycoon). When alone and stranded, she became friends with two unemployed vaudeville entertainers: Jimmy Dolan (Jack Haley) (Shirley called him "Pudd'nhead") and his wife Jerry Dolan (Alice Faye), who took her on as their "poor little rich girl" daughter. They were a song-and-dance team known as Dolan and Dolan.

As a budding radio star, Shirley had the opportunity to perform in a number of musical scenes:

  • Shirley's charming and cute solo number Oh, My Goodness (pictured) (sung to her dolls at bedtime): "...I wanna make mud pies, In fact I'd like to be a mess, I wanna make mud pies, I know that I'd find happiness. If I got jam on my fingers, Chocolate on my face and molasses all over my dress. You're the only friends I've ever had. But one minute you're good and the very next minute you're bad! At times I ought to hate you. You make me feel so blue. But honest I can't hate you. When you smile at me the way you do, Oh, my goodness!"
  • the comical You Gotta Eat Your Spinach, Baby (pictured), first performed by Faye and Haley at a microphone, and interrupted by Shirley, who asked: "Pardon me, did I hear you say Spinach?"; she then took the stage to speak and sing: "I represent all the kids of the nation who sent me to see you about it. I bring the message from the kids of the nation to tell you we can do without it. Kindly listen to me. I'm not alone in my plea. There are dozens and dozens and dozens of us Nephews and nieces and cousins of us. They want me to say -- Hallelujah! Hallelujah! No spinach, take away that awful greenery. No spinach, give us lots of jelly beanery. We positively refuse to budge. We'd like lollipops and we like fudge. But no spinach, Hosanna!..."
  • Shirley also performed an intricate military tap routine in uniform in the song-and-dance finale I Love a Military Man (pictured), a tacked-on sequence, with both Faye and Haley

Porgy and Bess (1959)

# 52 "Summertime"

This Gershwin musical (adapted from the 1934 opera) from Columbia Pictures was directed by Otto Preminger. It was produced by independent Hollywood producer Samuel Goldwyn. Copies of the film have been very hard to locate and it has been rarely seen.

It was an Academy Award winner (its sole win) for Best Musical Score (Andre Previn and Ken Darby). Its other three nominations were: Best Sound, Best Costume Design, and Best Cinematography.

An adaptation of the original 1935 Broadway play, it featured an African-American cast, mostly non-singers who were dubbed by others:

  • Sidney Poitier (as crippled South Carolina fishing village resident Porgy - with singing voice of Robert McFerrin, Sr.)
  • Dorothy Dandridge (as beautiful but disreputable and drug-addicted Bess - with singing voice of Adele Addison)
  • Sammy Davis, Jr. (as narcotics-dealing hipster Sportin' Life)
  • Diahann Carroll (as Clara - with singing voice of Loulie Jean Norman)
  • Brock Peters (as brutish Crown)
  • Pearl Bailey (as Maria)

The main numbers were:

  • Summertime, the trademark song, performed by Diahann Carroll in the opening
  • It Ain't Necessarily So, a rendition by Sammy Davis Jr.

The Poseidon Adventure (1972)

Best Original Song: The Morning After

The "Master of Disaster" producer Irwin Allen's quintessential, all-star ensemble cast/disaster film epic was about the capsized SS Poseidon on New Year's Eve when a tidal wave (caused by a submarine-induced earthquake) flipped the passenger ship upside down. It was followed by a lesser sequel Beyond The Poseidon Adventure (1979) and a critically-panned remake Poseidon (2006) 34 years later, directed by Wolfgang Petersen.

The Ronald Neame-directed film received eight nominations and one win - Best Original Song for The Morning After (aka The Song from The Poseidon Adventure), plus a Special Achievement Award (non-competitive) for Visual Effects! One of its non-winning nominations was for Best Original Music Dramatic Score (by up-and-coming composer John Williams).

Although most people recognize the Maureen McGovern version of The Morning After, she did not sing it in the movie (but did release a recording of the song after the film was released). The character of Nonnie Parry (Carol Lynley, dubbed by Renee Armand), performing in an on-stage band during a New Year's party rehearsal session onboard (pictured thrice), and then during the actual party (pictured), sang in the song in the film.

Postcards From the Edge (1990)

This Mike Nichols' film from Columbia Pictures was an adaptation of actress Carrie Fisher's own 1987 semi-autobiographical novel of the same name, loosely based upon her relationship with her mother Debbie Reynolds (who married Eddie Fisher).

Oscar-nominated Meryl Streep starred as cocaine-addicted film actress/daughter Suzanne Vale, whose life was chronicled in postcards, conversations and journal writings. Susanne's heavy-drinking, self-interested star mother, Doris Mann, was portrayed by Shirley MacLaine. There were a few great musical performances:

  • Suzanne's own reluctant and sheepish rendition of Ray Charles' tune You Don't Know Me (pictured), at the encouragement and request of her mother Doris ("Sing one of your old numbers from my number for your old mother"), to celebrate Suzanne's discharge from a rehab center
  • Doris' sexily-exuberant, cabaret-style performance of the Stephen Sondheim song I'm Still Here (pictured)
  • Suzanne's rousing stage performance of the Oscar-nominated country-western song I'm Checking Out (pictured) (written by Shel Silverstein, with backup provided by the Blue Rodeo band) before the end credits: ("Pull back them dark and dusty drapes, let in some light. Here bellboy come get my trunk, cause I'm leavin' here tonight. And I've packed my bags, and I've paid my bill, and I'm turnin' in my key. And if those sad souls down in the lobby ask for me. Just tell 'em I'm checking out of this heartbreak hotel...")

The Prince of Egypt (1998)

Best Original Song: When You Believe

DreamWorks Pictures' dramatic animated recreation of the Biblical epic of Moses (from the Book of Exodus) was the studio's first traditionally animated film.

It featured songs written by Stephen Schwartz and a score composed by Hans Zimmer. Its two Academy Award nominations were:

  • Best Original Musical Score
  • Best Original Song (win): When You Believe

During the film, the song (pictured thrice) was performed by Sally Dworsky (singing voice of Miriam) and Michelle Pfeiffer (as Tzipporah), and a Boys Choir:

Many nights we prayed With no proof anyone could hear. In our hearts a hopeful song We barely understood. Now we are not afraid Although we know there's much to fear. We were moving mountains Long before we knew we could. There can be miracles When you believe Though hope is frail, It's hard to kill. Who knows what miracles You can achieve When you believe somehow you will You will when you believe...

Popular single (and album) versions of the winning song were performed by both Whitney Houston and Mariah Carey, heard during the end credits (pictured).

The Producers (1968)

# 80 "Springtime for Hitler"

Writer/director Mel Brooks' outrageous musical comedy (his debut film) was a zany, often brilliant spoof comedy about Broadway productions and the Nazis. A desperate, bankrupt, wild-eyed, hustling Broadway producer Max Bialystock (Zero Mostel) greedily paired up with his timid and high-strung auditor/accountant Leo Bloom (Gene Wilder in his first starring role).

Together, they concocted an illegal 'sure-fire' scheme to make a million dollars from investors by producing the worst, most tasteless play ever made - a perverted musical romp offensively named Springtime For Hitler. Their plan backfired when the flop was actually a surprise hit.

The remake The Producers (2005) adapted the award-winning Broadway show musical of 2001 (with 12 Tony Awards, breaking the record held for 37 years by Hello Dolly! which had won 10), starring stage performers Nathan Lane and Matthew Broderick in the roles made famous by Zero Mostel and Gene Wilder.

It was highlighted by:

  • the deliberately distasteful fictional musical Springtime for Hitler (pictured often), a major production number performed by a goose-stepping, black-booted Nazi chorus (of males and high-kicking females) that sang and danced with the lyrics: "Don't be stupid, be a smarty, Come and join the Nazi party!" - the sequence was filmed Busby Berkeley style in a revolving swastika formation from overhead

Pulp Fiction (1994)

Director Quentin Tarantino's Oscar-winning independent film (Best Original Screenplay), his second feature film, was a stylish, immensely-popular, violent, off-beat, modern B-movie cult classic.

One of its highlights was:

  • a famous dance scene at the Jack Rabbit Slims restaurant (with a 50's retro atmosphere) in which mob strongman Vincent Vega (John Travolta) danced with the mob boss' moll Mia Wallace (Uma Thurman) - they entered the Twist dance contest in which they danced to Chuck Berry's You Never Can Tell, as Vincent attempted to recreate the Batusi (made famous by Adam West in the campy mid-1960's television show Batman), by making a horizontal V-sign with his index and middle fingers of both hands, and drawing them across in front of his eyes, one hand at a time, with the eyes roughly between the fingers

Purple Rain (1984)

This was an electrifying, highly-profitable semi-autobiographical rock musical drama/concert film.

It won the Academy Award for Best Original Song Score (by Prince).

It starred pop singer Prince as The Kid (in his acting debut), who performed classic rock songs in the soundtrack (concert-style), such as:

  • Let's Go Crazy
  • When Doves Cry
  • the title track Purple Rain

Greatest Song and Dance Musical Movie Moments and Scenes
(alphabetical by film title)
Introduction | A-1 | A-2 | B-1 | B-2 | B-3 | C-1 | C-2 | D-1 | D-2 | E | F-1 | F-2 | G-1 | G-2
H-1 | H-2 | I-J | K | L-1 | L-2 | M-1 | M-2 | N-O | P-1 | P-2 | R-1 | R-2 | S-1 | S-2 | S-3 | T | U-V | W | X-Z

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