Hollywood Singing And Dancing: A Musical History Mark McLaughlin

Hollywood Singing And Dancing: A Musical History Mark McLaughlin
There is a fundamental level of competence that a documentary about Hollywood musicals is unlikely to fall beneath. All you really need for this type of pop history lesson are a few clips of Judy Garland skipping down the yellow brick road or Gene Kelly singing in the rain and the audience is almost guaranteed to leave satisfied. Hollywood Singing and Dancing puts that truism to the test. Here is a documentary empty and superficial enough to prove intolerable for musical fans and novices alike. Tracing the evolution of the movie musical from the dawn of sound to the present day, director Mark McLaughlin dutifully checks off all the major landmarks (Gene Kelly, Frank Sinatra, Busby Berkeley, etc.) in a monotonous, slavishly chronological timeline that gives each of the key players a modest one-minute analysis. The film glosses over the most productive decades of the musical genre and intersperses too-short clips with uninformative, sound bite-heavy interviews (including Mickey Rooney, Jane Russell, Rob Marshall and Pat Boone). Astonishingly, McLaughlin spends just as much time profiling the movie musicals of the last 40 years as he does the golden age, despite the fact that the ’70s and beyond have seen exponentially fewer entries in the genre. Grease and Cabaret are influential enough to merit coverage but why do Victor/Victoria, Gypsy and New York, New York get the same amount of screen-time as The Jazz Singer, Umbrellas of Cherbourg and Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers? Chicago is undoubtedly popular but when it gets more attention than Singin’ in the Rain in a documentary about the history of movie musicals something is seriously askew. Somewhat better than the main feature is the second disc of extras, containing a collection of vintage short films that include footage from the premiere of The King and I, Betty Grable performing "I’ll be Marching to a Love Song” and, oddest of all, Nikita Khrushchev visiting the set of a Frank Sinatra obscurity called Can-Can — he seems to be having fun. A series of extended interviews are mostly vanilla but Debbie Reynolds tells a mildly amusing story about being told by Frank Sinatra not to marry Eddie Fisher. "I should have listened.” (Great Musical Treasures)