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Musical

What is a musical?

The musical is a theatrical or cinematographic production that combines music, song, dialogue and dance. It is performed on large states such as the London West End theatres, or in Broadway or New York.

Its orgins go back to 19th century theatrical sources like operetta, music hall, minstrel show, vaudeville, burlesque, etc. Its biggest development took place in the 20th century in the United States.

George Olsen’s Orchestra – Who (1925)

Performance of a song composed by Jerome Kern with a libretto by Oscar Hammerstein II and Otto Harbach. It appeared for the first time in the musical Sunny premiered on Broadway.

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Jerome Kern was a popular composer born in New York to Jewish, German and American parents. After studying at The New York College of Music and in Heidelberg, Germany, he began working as a pianist.  In his more than forty-year career he wrote some seven hundred songs and more than one hundred full scores for Broadway musicals and Hollywood movies. His innovations, such as the use of dance rhythms and jazz progressions, were instrumental in building the tradition of musical theater. 

How does it settle in the cinematographic world?

The concept of spectacle or “show” that reigns in all aspects of American society reaches one of its greatest exponents in the masterpieces of musical cinema, with unforgettable choreographies and melodies.

Thanks to this genre, the melodies of Tin Pan Alley by Cole Porter, George Gershwin and Irving Berling have moved from the elitist stalls of the big cities to the cinema halls of any town.

Fred Astaire – Night and Day (1932)

Version of a song composed by Cole Porter and featured in the music film The Gay Divorcee. During his performance, Astaire dances with Ginger Rogers.

Cole Porter was born in Peru City, Indiana, into a wealthy Protestant family. He was introduced to music by his father, a businessman and good pianist from whom he inherited his qualities. Thus, at the age of six he played the piano and violin, and at ten he wrote his first operetta. After his time at Yale University (law) and Hardvard University (music), he devoted himself professionally to composition, creating songs that are considered standards or models to follow. He is an outstanding member of the Tin Pan Alley golden quintet.

How did music cinema start?

The genre's baptism took place on February 4, 1927, when Alan Crosland released his film The Jazz Singer, the first commercial feature film with synchronized sound. The cinema was changing radically.

Only two years later, in 1929, the industry awarded Harry Beaumont's The Broadway Melody the Oscar for Best Film. By the 1930s, the genre was already, along with film noir, the public's favorite.

Al Jolson – Mammy (1927)

Version of the film The Jazz Singer of the song composed by Walter Donaldson, Joe Young and Sam M. Lewis. In the early days of musicals, Al Jolson was a big star.

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Al Jolson was born in Lithuania. He was the son of a rabbi who, in 1893, moved with his whole family to the United States. He developed a great artistic variety from a very young age, first as a vaudeville entertainer and then in theater. Inspired by the minstrel show, he made burlesque repertoires by dyeing his face to make parodies of black singers. His participation in The Jazz Singer definitely catapulted him to fame. Later, he would travel around the United States and Europe performing the original version with great success in the theater.

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