Sunday, May 27, 2012

Memorial Day Musicals

On The Town Follow the Fleet
Oh What A Lovely War - Maggie Smith This Is The Army- Joan Leslie-Ronald Reagan
Clockwise: Gene Kelly, Frank Sinatra & Jules Munshin from On The Town; Fred Astaire & Ginger Rogers in Follow The Fleet; Ronald Reagan & Joan Leslie in This Is The Army; and Dame Maggie Smith in Oh, What A Lovely War!

This holiday was originally known as Decoration Day, a federal holiday set aside to remember those soldiers lost in the American Civil War. It was first celebrated for the freed slaves to recognize the soldiers who had given their lives to abolish slavery. The former slaves and their families would go to the cemeteries to decorate the graves of the soldiers with flowers and landscaping. Soon, the country had other wars and soldiers to commemorate, and the last weekend in May was picked to have an official day to remember all the brave members of the armed forces who has lost their lives in defense of the American ideals of freedom and democracy. So we have Memorial Day, a federal holiday so that we may remember and give thanks to those who have fought for the rights and freedoms of all. In order to recognize Memorial Day on the blog, I have come up with clips from movie musicals that have featured members of the armed forces. To start, I will offer up a song made famous by the incredible cast who gave it voice. Gene Kelly, Frank Sinatra, and Jules Munshin plays sailors who sing the iconic song "New York, New York" from the movie, 'On The Town'. The music was written by Leonard Bernstein and the lyrics by Betty Comden and Adolph Green.

If one was looking for music that was patriotic and uplifting, one never need to look further than the great Irving Berlin, who had countless songs that celebrated life in the United States of America. So I could not help but love when Fred Astaire sings "We Saw The Sea" from the movie 'Follow The Fleet'.

In 1943, Warner Brothers released a movie recreating a bit Broadway hit of 1942. It was another one from Irving Berlin. Berlin had so many successes at this time, both in Hollywood and on Broadway. Stars were lining up to participate, even before they were written. The movie 'This Is The Army' featured an stellar cast, including future President Ronald Reagan. While the big hit from the movie was Kate Smith belting out "God Bless America," but rather show the clip of Robert Shanley and the chorus sing "This Time."

And finally, I would like to share with everyone a show that began life as a radio entertainment, but was brought to the stage by the incredible Joan Littlewood and Theatre Workshop in 1963. The music of 'Oh, What A Lovely War!' was music that was sung turn of the century, especially around World War I. Many saw the original production as being very anti-war, and labeled it as treasonous. Some, of course, celebrated that view. Others saw it as patriotic, and affirming older worlds during the turbulent 1960s. I worked on a production of the musical in college, and the satire was biting and the performances saucy. And speaking of saucy, this is Dame Maggie Smith singing "I'll Make A Man of You" from Oh, What A Lovely War!.

Hope your Memorial Day weekend was great!

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