An American in Paris
An American in Paris (1951) was a landmark film in the careers of Vincente Minnelli, Gene Kelly and Leslie Caron. A joyous celebration of George Gershwin's music, French art, the beauty of dance and the fabled City of Light, the film was heralded as a rare example of entertainment 'for mass and class alike'. Choreographed by Kelly at the height of his career, it gave new stature to the Hollywood musical, and showcased as never before the artistic ambition, technical skills, creative imagination and collaborative ethos of MGM's pioneering Arthur Freed Unit. Sue Harris draws on archival material to trace the film's development from conception to screen. Offering new insights into the design process in particular, she shows how An American in Paris established the cinematic template for a city with which Hollywood would become increasingly infatuated in the decades to follow.
The Wizard of Oz
The Wizard of Oz 'was my very first literary influence,' writes Salman Rushdie in his account of the great MGM children's classic. At the age of ten he had written a story, 'Over the Rainbow', about a colourful fantasy world. But for Rushdie The Wizard of Oz is more than a children's film, and more than a fantasy. It's a story whose driving force is the inadequacy of adults, in which 'the weakness of grown-ups forces children to take control of their own destinies'. And Rushdie rejects the conventional view that its fantasy of escape from reality ends with a comforting return to home, sweet home. On the contrary, it is a film that speaks to the exile. The Wizard of Oz shows that imagination can become reality, that there is no such place like home, or rather that the only home is the one we make for ourselves. Rushdie's brilliant insights into a film more often seen than written about are rounded off with his typically scintillating short story, 'At the Auction of the Ruby Slippers,' about the day when Dorothy's red shoes are knocked down to $15,000 at a sale of MGM props …
In his foreword to this special edition, published to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the BFI Film Classics series, Rushdie looks back to the circumstances in which he wrote the book, when, in the wake of the controversy surrounding The Satanic Verses and the issue of a fatwa against him, the idea of home and exile held a particular resonance.
Singin' in the Rain
Sixty years after its release, Singin' in the Rain (1951) remains one of the best loved films ever made. Yet despite dazzling success with the public, it never received its fair share of critical analysis. Gene Kelly's genius as a performer is undeniable. Acknowledged less often is his innovatory contribution as director. Peter Wollen's illuminating study of Singin' in the Rain does justice to this complex film. In a brilliant shot-by-shot analysis of the famous title number, he shows how skilfully Kelly weaves the dance and musical elements into the narrative, successfully combining two distinctive traditions within American Dance: tap and ballet.
At the time of the film's production, its scriptwriters Betty Comden and Adolph Green, and indeed Kelly himself, were all under threat from McCarthyism. Wollen describes how the fallout from blacklisting curtailed the careers of many of those who worked on the film and argues convincingly that the film represents the high point in their careers. In his foreword to this special edition, published to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the BFI Film Classics series, Geoff Andrew looks at the film's legacy and celebrates the passion, lucidity and originality of Wollen's analysis. Summing up its enduring appeal, Andrew writes: 'Singin' in the Rain isn't just a musical, it's a movie about the movies.'
The Sound of Music
Fifty years after its release, The Sound of Music (1965) remains the most profitable and recognisable film musical ever made. Quickly consolidating its cultural authority, the Hollywood film soon eclipsed the German film and Broadway musical that preceded it to become one of the most popular cultural reference points of the twenty-first century.
In this fresh exploration, Caryl Flinn foregrounds the film's iconic musical numbers, arguing for their central role in the film's longevity and mass appeal. Stressing the unique emotional bond audiences establish with The Sound of Music, Flinn traces the film's prehistories, its place amongst the tumultuous political, social and cultural events of the 1960s, and its spirited afterlife among fans around the world.