Our second program in this series presents films on three related musical genres that first flourished in the earlier part of the 20th Century. Vaudeville, Tin Pan Alley and The Musical.
"Rude Songs" examines the world of Vaudeville which has its roots in what the British call "Music Hall". "Music Hall" as a description, means exactly what it says. A hall, usually at the back of a tavern or pub, in which music was performed by local entertainers for financial gain. It is thus the earliest example of a popular music industry. In a sense, through all its manifestations, music hall or vaudeville or variety has remained true to this original description. Thus, the film begins and ends in Las Vegas (with Judy Garland), a palace of varieties to end all palaces of variety. We will also encounter Mae West, Liberace, Marlene Dietrich, Edith Piaf, Maurice Chevalier and Charles Aznavour.
“Always Chasin' Rainbows” is about music as popular (and populist) entertainment pure and simple. Tin Pan Alley existed to make money. It organized and rationalized an embryonic music industry for the mutual benefit of these who did the organizing. Tin Pan Alley brought to popular music a collective sense of purpose. Songs were no longer the creative prerogative of a few gifted, composers. They could be written to order, in ten minutes, for all combinations of instruments and voices. Its organization included pluggers, copyists, demonstrators and arrangers. Songs were written by committee, by number, and by rote. The songs were “product” and the greater the “product” - the greater the profit. We will hear from some of the key proponents of Tin Pan Alley - including an ultra-rare interview with Hoagy Carmichael. And observations (some archival - some specially filmed) from Irving Berlin, Bing Crosby, George Gershwin, Harry Warren and many others.
“Diamonds As Big As the Ritz” This is a story of how a remarkable and very different number of theatrical elements were welded together into something also remarkable and very different called “The Musical”. From operetta, vaudeville, variety, burlesque, revue and most importantly, British music hall, came “The Musical”. But it did not come about by accident. It was the deliberate and conscious achievement of lyricist Oscar Hammerstein (who wrote, among many shows, “Showboat” and “Oklahoma”) and the director Rouben Mamoulian. Against considerable opposition, both critical and commercial, they created a new art form which was unique and yet familiar. Perspectives in the film include those of Bob Fosse, Oscar Hammerstein Jr., Lorenz Hart, Joseph Papp, Harold Prince, Richard Rodgers and Stephen Sondheim.
Introduced by Tony Palmer