WAKE UP AND LIVE
1937, 20th Century Fox, 91 min, USA, Dir: Sidney Lanfield

Playing themselves, legendary gossip columnist Walter Winchell and bandleader Ben Bernie are embroiled in a feud (a long-running gag from their respective radio shows) in this energetic musical based on Dorothea Brande’s self-help bestseller. Alice Faye costars as a singer who helps another performer (THE WIZARD OF OZ’s Jack Haley) get over his fear of microphones.


PENNIES FROM HEAVEN
1981, Warner Bros., 108 min, USA, Dir: Herbert Ross

Dennis Potter's beautifully melancholic musical pairs unhappily married Depression-era Arthur (Steve Martin) and sweet, footloose Eileen (Bernadette Peters), setting the stage for bittersweet romance punctuated with astounding Busby Berkeley-style dance numbers. The last-ever MGM musical features eye-popping production design inspired by painter Edward Hopper, superb camerawork (Gordon Willis earned a National Society of Film Critics award for Best Cinematography) and Christopher Walken’s wonderful dance number, “Let's Misbehave.”


THE UMBRELLAS OF CHERBOURG
LES PARAPLUIES DE CHERBOURG
1964, Janus Films, 91 min, France, Dir: Jacques Demy

Auto mechanic Guy (Nino Castelnuovo) gets girlfriend Genevieve (Catherine Deneuve) pregnant just before he leaves to fight in the Algerian war; they swear eternal allegiance to one another, but circumstances force Genevieve to marry another man and move to Paris. Jacques Demy tells this story entirely through music and lyrics, yet his musical is no fantasy - as critic Jonathan Rosenbaum has pointed out, it's an accurate portrayal of Paris that uses style to "exalt the ordinary." It's a one-of-a-kind film opera: a movie that is entirely artificial and stylized yet tough, complex and unsentimental - and more deeply moving than a dozen more conventional melodramas. In French with English subtitles.


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