Greatest Song and Dance
Musical Moments and Scenes

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Greatest Song and Dance Musical Moments and Scenes
Film Title/Year and Brief Musical Scenes Description

Babes in Arms (1939)

Busby Berkeley directed this very successful MGM musical loosely based on the 1937 Richard Rodgers and Lorenz Hart stage show.

This was the first of the many "Mickey-Judy" musicals (the most successful musical team of the studio) produced by Arthur Freed, with Oscar-nominated Rooney as energetic Mickey Moran and Garland as Patsy Barton in a "let's put on a show" plot.

The two rebellious teens sang the Arthur Freed/Nacio Herb Brown song Good Morning (pictured) (reprised over a decade later in Singin' in the Rain (1952)), and Garland sang the plaintive I Cried For You.

During the performance of the title tune Babes in Arms, the pair strode through their town gathering others kids to join them in the street, and the film ended with the patriotic finale God's Country (pictured).

Babes in Toyland (1934) (aka March of the Wooden Soldiers)

MGM's Christmas musical produced by Hal Roach Studios (best known for The Little Rascals short films) contained music by Victor Herbert and lyrics by Glen MacDonough. The film was remade in 1961 in Technicolor by Disney, starring Ann Jillian and Tom Sands as Bo Peep and Tom Piper, and co-starring Ray Bolger, Annette Funicello, Tommy Kirk, and Ed Wynn (and two other comedians impersonating Laurel and Hardy).

It featured the famed comedy duo Laurel and Hardy (as Stannie Dumm and Ollie Dee) as apprentices for the toymaker in Toyland. The film was best known for the theme song "Toyland" ("Toyland, toyland / Little girl and boy land / When you dwell within it / You are ever happy there!").

In the storybook fable-come-to-life romantic melodrama based upon Mother Goose characters, they provided comic relief for the two leads:

  • Felix Knight as Tom-Tom Piper
  • Charlotte Henry as Little Bo-Peep

The two tried to save her from marrying mean Silas Barnaby (Henry Kleinbach).

Back in the Saddle (1941)

"Singing cowboy" Gene Autry's signature western for Republic Pictures in the early 40s took the name of Autry's Back in the Saddle tune, penned by Ray Whitley.

The theme song was originally written by Whitley for RKO Radio's western crime film Border G-Man (1938) starring George O'Brien, and then revived for Autry's own Rovin' Tumbleweeds (1939).


Back to the Future (1985)

Marty McFly (Michael J. Fox), a mid-80s teen stuck in the year 1955, played lead guitar and sang the 1950's rock 'n' roll song Johnny B. Goode [originally recorded by Chuck Berry in 1958] at his parents' "Enchantment Under the Sea" prom night dance, to encourage their romance when the lead musician was put out of commission.

But he became carried away during his performance - playing 1980's heavy metal guitar riffs, strumming behind his head, skidding on the floor with his knees and knocking over an amplifier. At the end when he remembered belatedly that he was playing to a 1950's audience, he told the stunned, blankly-staring prom-goers:

"I guess you guys aren't ready for that yet. But your kids are gonna love it!"

Ball of Fire (1941)

Singer/burlesque dancer 'Sugarpuss' O'Shea (Barbara Stanwyck) made a stunning entrance into a nightclub, singing "Drum Boogie" (performed by Gene Krupa and his jazz band) - in this Howard Hawks screwball comedy.

In the audience was stuffy and priggish linquist professor Bertram Potts (Gary Cooper), taking notes on slang words for a project he was leading on writing an encyclopedia. The leggy Sugarpuss was wearing a glittering, sequined outfit with a high-slit up the side.

Afterwards, she sat at a table with a black polished table-top next to drummer Krupa, while surrounded by a crowd of spectators. With Krupa, who had exchanged his drum-sticks for a pair of matches, the two performed a more hushed rendition of "Drum Boogie" to the beat of the matchsticks on the side of a matchbox.

Later in the film, she taught the seven elderly bachelor professors she was living with how to do the conga dance. She first taught them the proper tempo, and then led them in an energetic dance line. When an amazed Potts entered the room along with shocked housekeeper/cook Miss Bragg (Kathleen Howard), 'Sugarpuss' invited 'Pottsie' to "hook on" to the snaking line, but he refused and turned off the music.

The Band Wagon (1953)

This Vincente Minnelli-directed MGM film, with a witty screenplay by Betty Comden and Adolph Green, has often been thought of as Fred Astaire's best MGM musical, although it did only moderately well at the box-office. Many remember the film's anthem song That's Entertainment - a celebration of show-business that was sung by the ensemble (Jack Buchanan, Oscar Levant, Nanette Fabray), and reprised at the end of the film (pictured).

Five songs were reprised from the original 1931 Broadway musical called The Band Wagon (which also starred Astaire), created by the song-writing team of Howard Dietz and Arthur Schwartz.

The film included Tony Hunter's (Fred Astaire) classic, graceful, and elegant "falling-in-love" dance with ballerina Gabrielle Gerard (Cyd Charisse) in Central Park to the melody of Dancing In the Dark (pictured).

The character of Tony Hunter also performed the solo song By Myself as he strolled down a railroad platform after reporters favored the arrival of Ava Gardner instead, and the duet A Shine On Your Shoes with a black shoeshine boy (Leroy Daniels) in a 42nd Street penny arcade.

In addition, in the hilarious Triplets (pictured) - Astaire, Nanette Fabray, and Jack Buchanan were dressed up as baby siblings.

The film's jazzy balletic finale Girl-Hunt Ballet (pictured) with Tony Hunter and long-legged Gabrielle (as a red-dressed femme fatale) was a take-off on the hard-boiled Mickey Spillane detective novels ("She came at me in sections...more curves than the scenic railway"). It was memorably choreographed by Michael Kidd.

The Barkleys of Broadway (1949)

This celebrated MGM film featured the legendary last performance that reunited RKO's dancing pair of Ginger Rogers and Fred Astaire after a ten-year gap - it was their first and only film in Technicolor.

They tap-danced in rehearsal clothes to the lively and light-hearted Bouncin' the Blues (pictured).

They also performed The Swing Trot (under the credits) (pictured) the Scottish-flavored song/dance My One and Only Highland Fling.

Astaire sang You'd Be So Hard to Replace to Rogers, and he also sang and they danced together to reprise They Can't Take That Away From Me (pictured) (from Shall We Dance (1937)) as well as the film's brief finale number Manhattan Downbeat.

The film was also notable for Oscar Levant's keyboard rendition of The Sabre Dance, and Astaire's solo Shoes With Wings On (pictured) to six disembodied pairs of feet.

Bathing Beauty (1944)

This MGM film was notable for being the first starring vehicle for Esther Williams (as pretty gym/swimming teacher Caroline Brooks).

Williams performed a famous Technicolored water ballet in the five-minute finale, setting the choreographical pattern for future aquacade musicals with:

  • fantastic patterns (sometimes photographed from above)
  • underwater swimming
  • water fountains (with flames shooting out from their center)

Beach Blanket Bingo (1965)

The Beach Party series of youth films or teen flicks included Beach Party (1963), Muscle Beach Party (1964), Bikini Beach (1964), Pajama Party (1964), and Beach Blanket Bingo (1965), some of which starred Frankie Avalon and busty All-American ex-Mouseketeer Annette Funicello. These mid-60s films were unique because they added pop music (almost presented as rock videos) to the fantasy 'beach party' theme, and always featured stereotypes such as sexy virginal females and lusty males. However, they were mostly sexless, lightweight, and antiseptic, and served to highlight the well-groomed antics of beachgoers (on a perpetual summer vacation).

Beach Blanket Bingo was the classic 'beach party' film, with Frankie Avalon (now 26 years old!, and in his last and major starring role in the 'Beach Party' films) who caused partner Annette Funicello (as Dee Dee) to try sky-diving when he went to rescue kidnapped pop singer Sugar Kane (future Dallas star Linda Evans) from biker Eric Von Zipper's (Harvey Lembeck) gang. Small roles were played by Hollywood icon Buster Keaton (as a lecherous beachcomber) and Beach Boys singer Brian Wilson.


Beaches (1988)

Gary Marshall's sentimental tearjerker about a lifelong friendship included many memorable songs performed by low-brow Jewish singer Cecilia C.C. Bloom (Bette Midler), including the Grammy-winning Wind Beneath My Wings on the soundtrack during a montage sequence.

Other songs included the dramatic expressionist, experimental stage song Oh Industry!, and the bawdy vaudeville musical number Otto Titsling (pictured) named after the inventor of the brassiere or 'modern foundation garment':

"For Otto Titsling had found his quest: to lift and mold the female breast; to point the small ones to the sky; to keep the big ones high and dry!...Yes! He had invented the world's first over-the-shoulder boulder holder!...The result of this swindle is pointedly clear: Do you buy a titsling or do you buy a brassiere?"

C.C. also delivered a powerful tribute to her deceased best friend - uptight WASP mother Hillary Whitney Essex (Barbara Hershey), by singing The Glory of Love (pictured) while wearing a wine-velvet gown:

"Ya gotta laugh a little, cry a little and til the clouds roll by a little / That's the story of, that's the glory of love..."

Beauty and the Beast (1991)

Some of the songs in this film (the only animated film to be nominated for Best Picture), a retelling of the classic tale by Jeanne-Marie Leprince de Beaumont, won Academy Awards for Best Original Score and Best Song (title track) - from a score by Alan Menken and Howard Ashman.

Its powerful and memorable tunes included:

  • the jaunty, introductory Belle
  • the bouncily-narcissistic Gaston
  • the show-stopping Be Our Guest performed by the Beast's vassals (Cogsworth (David Ogden Stiers) the clock, Lumiere (Jerry Orbach) the dashing candelabra, Mrs. Potts (Angela Lansbury) the teapot) who were transformed into enchanting inanimate objects
  • the Oscar-winning title song Beauty and the Beast sung by the motherly Mrs. Potts, accompanied the partially CGI-rendered, exquisite ballroom dance (waltz) between the Beast (voice of Robbie Benson) and Belle (voice of Paige O'Hara)

Bedknobs and Broomsticks (1971)

This film featured many lighthearted songs, including the animated/live-action song Beautiful Briny Sea, as charming witch Eglantine Price (Angela Lansbury) took her beau warlock Emelius Browne (David Tomlinson) and her three adopted surly charges under the sea in a fantasy sequence.

During the song Substitutiary Locomotion, Eglantine singlehandedly cast her telekenetic spell twice - the second time to reanimate suits of armor and old military uniforms from a local museum to frighten away an invading Nazi raiding party.

Beetlejuice (1988)

In this haunted comedy, there's the famous Day-O scene in which recently-deceased ghosts Adam and Barbara Maitland (Alec Baldwin and Geena Davis) pulled a 'parlor trick' at the dinner table.

The two attempted to spook the yuppie Deetz family at a hosted party by having obnoxious artist-wife Delia (Catherine O'Hara) belt out (lip-synch) the calypso Day-O (The Banana Boat Song) - in Harry Belafonte's voice - and by having everyone dance around the table.

In the finale scene, morose daughter Lydia Deetz (Winona Ryder) danced in mid-air and lip-synched Jump in the Line (Shake, Shake, Senora) with a chorus line of dead football player corpses.

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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