Oscar season just finished less than a week ago, and it was another year of Oscar musicals. The modern musical LaLa Land won five out of the twelve Oscars it was nominated for: Best Actress, Best Director, Best Original Music Score, Best Cinematography and Best Production Design. We thought, in the spirit of Oscar season, we could check out some other musicals that have also won the coveted Academy Award.
This musical, a favorite of ours here at this blog, was nominated for eleven Oscars and won six in 1968 including Best Picture, Best Director, Best Musical Adaptation Score, and Best Art Direction. The story follows the tale originally written by Charles Dickens, which was originally intended to expose the horrible conditions the orphaned youth in London, and England, had to endure.
Yet, it wouldn’t be a musical if the story wasn’t tragic in some way or another. In this story, we are first meant to think the tragic character is the name sake of the story. He is scolded for asking for more food and eventually finds himself on the streets of London.
Oliver meets up with the Artful Dodger, a young pickpocket who works for Fagin, an old man who provides housing and moldy sausages to orphaned boys in London. All they must do in return in pick a pocket or two. When Oliver meets the group, he is delighted because the whole idea is presented as a game, yet, when the actual pocket picking happens, Oliver freezes and is arrested.
Luckily for him, the gentleman that was the target of Dodger and the other boys takes him in not believing the boy to be of any threat. Still, the hoodlums like Fagin and Bill Sykes, who have a lot to lose if Oliver reveals their operation, steal the boy’s happiness from him. The truly tragic character is Nancy, who should have seen it coming.
This Oscar winning movie starred Mark Lester as Oliver, Ron Moody as Fagin, Jack Wild as the Artful Dodger and Shani Wallis as Nancy.
In 1959, this next musical won nine Academy Awards, which was a record at that time. Directed by Vincente Minnelli for MGM studios. It was based on a novel by the same name written by French author nominated for the Nobel Prize in Literature for this exact work. Alan Jay Lerner wrote the screen play and the lyrics with music by Frederick Loewe, an Austrian-American composer who also worked on My Fair Lady.
It is no wonder to us why this musical would set records at Oscar time when there are so many great scenes and songs. When Gigi is running around Paris as a girl complaining that she must spend her free time learning about how to be the perfect woman to catch a rich man, we fall in love the little scamp. Of course, it is her stubborn ways that first amuses Gaston.
Gigi wins a trip to see the ocean after beating Gaston in a card game and it is while they are there that he falls in love with her. Yet, he stays away, not wanting to feel these things for a girl he’s known and is so young.
When Gaston returns though, he finds that Gigi is no longer a little girl and has grown to be a beautiful woman. At first Gaston opposes the changes in her but then realizes he cannot fight his desire. Gaston proposes to her grandmother, Mamita, that Gigi become his companion, or mistress.
Mamita and her sister are delighted at the wonderful offer Gigi has received. This is what they have been training her for all along. Gigi is not so thrilled with the idea, fearing that once Gaston tires of her she will have no where left to go then another man’s bed. At first Gaston is insulted and swears he will never see her again.
Yet, when Gigi send for him Gaston goes running. She tells him she has changed her mind and would like to be his companion because she is happiest when with him. Of course, once they are seen together at Maxim’s the gossip starts to fly. Gaston realizes the position he has put this poor innocent girl in and drags her home crying.
The award-winning film stars Leslie Caron, Maurice Chevalier, Louis Jourdan, and Hermione Gingold.
3. The Sound of Music
This next Oscar winner was nominated for ten Academy Awards and took home five of them including Best Picture, Best Director, Best Sound Mixing, Best Film Editing, and Best Music, Scoring of Music-Adaptation or Treatment. Stars Julie Andrews and Peggy Wood were nominated for Oscars but did not win.
Released in 1965, this musical drama was produced by Robert Wise and starred Christopher Plummer opposite Andrews. IT was adapted from the Broadway musical that premiered in 1959, composed by the legendary Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II.
Maria is singing on the mountains in the opening scene, just taking in all that surrounds her and singing at the top of her lungs. Of course, she was supposed to be back at the abbey but is late as always. We know that this a reoccurring theme with Maria because of the delightful tune “Maria.”
To tame the wild child the Reverend Mother decides to send her to serve as a governess for seven children of a widowed naval captain. Maria is afraid of the unknown but she marches through the streets of Salzburg proclaiming “I Have Confidence” and we sing along knowing no matter what Maria finds, she will overcome it.
They are not so happy to see her because the children seek attention and the Captain is domineering and cold. Of course, we all know that Maria not only wins over the hearts of the children, the Captain falls in love with her as well. But then, once again, new love and a new mother cannot fight the onslaught of the Nazi regime.
In 1998, The Sound of Music was named the fifty-fifth greatest American movie of all time by the American Film Institute.
4. West Side Story
This last musical tops all the others on our list with ten Oscar wins out of its ten nomination. Based on the Shakespearean tale Romeo and Juliet, this tragic story unfolds on the streets of New York with two gangs, the Jets and the Sharks. These opposing forces are at constant odds with each other, which makes it difficult for Tony and Maria, who fall in love at a local dance.
Of course, if they fell in love, got married, and lived happily ever after, there would be no story. No such luck for Tony and Maria. When Tony is confronted by Bernardo, Maria’s brother, he kills him for killing his friend. Maria is brokenhearted that the man she loves would kill her brother, but she decides to forgive him and run away together.
As fate would have it though, their plans to live happily ever after never come to fruition. This iconic musical with dancing rumbles stars Natalie Wood, Rita Moreno, Richard Beymer, and Russ Tamblyn. It was released in Super Panavision 70.
Looking for more musicals to learn more about? Check out these 5 famous 20th century musicals.