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Feb 12 2013
Musicals To My Ears: Reviewing Best Of Warner Bros. 20 Film Collection-Musicals Comments (7)

Warner-Bros-20-Film-Musicals-Collection
Out today is Best of Warner Bros. 20 Film Collection: Musicals, which is described in a press release as follows:

Pop-Warner-Bros"Warner Bros. continues to entertain the world with films passionately produced, selectively acquired, carefully preserved and impeccably curated for both the casual and ultimate movie lover to enjoy forever. Best of Warner Bros. 20 Film Collection: Musicals will be released February 12 and will include films such as Singin' in the Rain, The Wizard of Oz and many more."

Talk about a killer collection! The full list is:

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The Jazz Singer (1927): The best movie with blackface outside of Joan Crawford's 1953 WTFlick Torch Song, The Jazz Singer was the first film to contain synchronized sound dialogue. It was based on a play based on star Al Jolson's life...but he was the studio's third choice for the role! (After George Jessel and Eddie Cantor.)

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The Broadway Melody (1929): I'm fairly obsessed with the concept of "lost" films, and this Oscar-winner (the first sound film to win) had a Technicolor musical sequence that is now lost. Luckily, it exists in B&W.

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42nd Street (1933): Ruby Keeler and Ginger Rogers light up this backstage musical. For me, now that I live on 42nd Street in NYC, all I can think of every time I get close to home is Keeler and Dick Powell belting the title song.

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TGZ
The Great Ziegfeld (1936): Iconic screen duo William Powell and Myrna Loy are stellar in this life story of Florenz Ziegfeld. If ever a movie would be more perfect to see at NYC's Ziegfeld, I haven't discovered it yet. Incredibly, Luise Rainer—who also stars—is still alive and kicking 77 years after the film's release.

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The Wizard of Oz (1939): What more can be said about this, one of the best movies ever made? It never fails to captivate.

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Yankee Doodle Dandy (1942): I  just last week received an autograph in the mail from one of this film's stars, Joan Leslie. Another winning biopic, it stars Jimmy Cagney in one of his most unique performances as George M. Cohan.

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An American in Paris (1951): It's a great film with memorable songs like "'S Wonderful", but let's not kid around—it's alll about the 16-minute ballet featuring Gene Kelly and Leslie Caron.

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Show Boat 1951 movie

Show Boat (1951): The Technicolor version improves on the earlier black-and-white (from 1936), holding up well over 60 years after its release thanks to its timeless songs and a cast including Ava Gardner, Kathryn Grayson and even Agnes Moorehead.

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Singin' in the Rain (1952): I'd argue that this hysterical send-up of the silent era is one of the best movies ever made. It also ballsily features Debbie Reynolds lip-synching to Marni Nixon in a film about stars having to lip-synch! Aside from that, Gene Kelly and Donald O'Connor are solid gold in their dance sequences and Jean Hagen as idiotic "Lina Lamont" gives one of the best Best Supporting Actress-nominated performances imaginable.

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Seven Brides for Seven Brides (1954): Stanley Donen (still alive and pushing 90) directed this most unusual musical, which contains some truly inventive choreography.

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A Star is Born (1954): One of my all-time favorite films, A Star is Born contains Judy Garland's finest performance and a vocal (on "The Man That Got Away") that rivals even "Over the Rainbow". A rare case where the remake is markedly superior to the original. (Not the case with the Barbra Streisand version!)

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The Music Man (1962): One of this collection's most beloved entries, this musical was from the latter part of the Golden Age, yet it stands up well—it's still as on point as a marching band. Bonus: Contains the work of Pert Kelton, my buddy Ivan's muse.

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Viva Las Vegas (1964): I'm so not an Elvis man, but I do like Ann-Margret; and let's face it, if you're gonna check out an Elvis flick, this is the classic one to start with.

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Camelot (1967): Who says flashbacks never work? Still dreamy over 45 years after its release, Camelot's A-list cast (Richard Harris, Vanessa Redgrave) gets most of the credit.

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Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory (1971): My sister and I can't ever get enough of this mesmerizing flick, an old-fashioned musical made when they were out of fashion (and about to be re-invented by the next movie on the list). Gene Wilder's effortlessly zany performance puts Johnny Depp's redo to shame, and no one who was a kid when this came out can forget the indelible contributions of the child actors, from "you're turning violet, Violet!" to "I want it now!"

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Cabaret (1972): I somehow never saw this one until recently, but count me among its converts—it truly changed what movie musicals could and should be.

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That's Entertainment! (1974): A treasure trove of classic musical film clips and commentary, this is a must-see for cinephiles. Liza Minnelli described the studio experience as "heaven," and that's pretty much what this movie is.

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Victor/Victoria (1982): My favorite Julie Andrews film (yes, even more than that one...or that one), this delightfully raunchy, brash, breezy flick has not only tremendous vocals but unexpectedly successful humor. R.I.P. to Alex Karras, who really pulled a Joe E. Brown with this.

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Little Shop of Horrors (1986): One of the first (if not the first) movie musical I paid to see in a theater, this one blew me away. I just thought it was unlike anything I'd ever seen before, especially Ellen Greene's trippy performance complete with lisp. I dragged all my co-workers from a department store to see it again the following night...and they totally did not get it. So if you're a 17-year-old from Michigan and it's 1986, this might fly over your head.

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Hairspray (1988): I wrote about my  personal attachment to this, John Waters's masterpiece. back in 2007. It's all about Divine, but it helps that every member of the quirky cast—from then-newbie Ricki Lake to Ruth Brown to Debbie Harry and even the future Vitamin C—truly delivers. It's not technically a musical, but its love and respect for music permeates almost every scene. A great way to end this must-have set.

   

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