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Last Updated:  Monday, 24 March, 2003, 05:10 GMT
Oscar's love of musicals
Singing in the Rain
Singing in the Rain became a movie classic
Academy voters have often been won over by big musicals, from The Great Ziegfeld to Oliver! and The Sound of Music.

But although Rob Marshall's Chicago was favourite to to win the big prizes, it is 35 years since another musical, Oliver!, won big picture.

The movie musical began at the very dawn of sound in films.

The Jazz Singer, starring Al Jolson, was the first feature film to use sound in 1927 - it is also seen as a musical, although it was really a silent movie with limited dialogue and song sequences.

But the first proper musical is considered to be Broadway Melody - and it won best picture Oscar in 1930.

The 1930s saw the golden age of the musical film, with the advent of improved sound technology and cinema-goers thirsty for this style of entertainment.

Luise Rainer with first husband Clifford Odets in 1938
Luise Rainer became the first musical actress to win an Oscar
It did not take long for the best actress Oscar to be awarded for the first time to an actress in a musical - Luise Rainer won in 1937 for her performance in the biopic of Florenz Ziegfeld's life, The Great Ziegfeld.

Such was the prestige attached to the first batch of big musicals that film studios could employ eminent songwriters such as Irving Berlin, Cole Porter and George Gershwin.

MGM led the way in musical making, employing songwriter and producer Arthur Freed.

It did not take much to lure Broadway actors like the great Fred Astaire to Hollywood, and choreographer Busby Berkeley dominated the genre during its early years.

He breathed life into the genre with his imaginative and extravagant choreography, and became known for his kaleidoscope images using beautiful dancing belles.

One of his major successes was 42nd Street in 1933, starring a 22-year-old Ginger Rogers.

Fred Astaire
Fred Astaire was one of the best-loved musical stars
Astaire and Rogers made one of the best-loved musical pairings in Hollywood history.

The pair began at RKO and in six years they made nine films including Flying Down to Rio and Top Hat.

Astaire's only Oscar nomination was for a straight supporting role in the disaster movie Towering Inferno (1975) - although he did win an honorary award in 1950.

The saccharine sweetness of Shirley Temple proved a winning formula for 20th Century Fox.

With her cute smile and ringlet hair she made her name in such films as Baby Take a Bow and Poor Little Rich Girl, and was given a special Oscar as early as the 7th ceremony.

Judy Garland, who made a highly successful career in musicals with her astounding voice, crowned her achievements early on as Dorothy in the musical spectacular The Wizard of Oz.

Although made in 1939 it has become a perennial favourite, consistently attracting new generations of fans - and the Academy awarded it best original score and best song for Over The Rainbow.

Julie Andrews
Julie Andrews: The Sound of Music smash
Garland's co-star on Me and My Gal, Gene Kelly, brought a new kind of dance athletisism to the screen

Singing in the Rain, which he starred in and co-directed, is considered an all-time classic.

The early 50s saw the revival of movie versions of Broadway shows including Annie Get Your Gun, Kiss Me Kate, Seven Brides for Seven Brothers and Guys and Dolls.

There was also recognition for the musical at the Oscars with two picking up best film - An American in Paris (1951) and Gigi (1958).

And the Academy was still enamoured during the 60s.

West Side Story won 10 Oscars, My Fair Lady collected eight, Oliver! and The Sound of Music five each.

This period saw the rise of Julie Andrews as one of the new breed of musical actors.

She won the Oscar for Mary Poppins in 1965 and was nominated for The Sound of Music the next year.

Madonna in Evita
Madonna: Tried musical acting in 1996's Evita
That film went on to become the most successful movie at the box office ever, outdoing previous leader Gone With the Wind.

But the 70s and 80s gave way to grittier films and the musical seemed to have had its day, with only Cabaret, itself a gritty musical, and All That Jazz making waves.

Alan Parker revived the genre in 1980 with Fame, which had a raw realism and setting.

Parker had already scored a success with Bugsy Malone in 1977.

But alongside the traditional musicals, the 50s saw the rise of the rock and roll films.

Moulin Rouge exploded onto the movie scene in 2001
Elvis Presley was the undisputed king of the rock movie with releases such as Jailhouse Rock and Viva Las Vegas.

The Beatles got in on the act with A Hard Day's Night in 1964 followed by The Who's Tommy in 1975.

These gave way to the pop/dance movies starting with Saturday Night Fever in 1977.

The following year Grease was the must-see movie - and its appeal is still felt today thanks to a re-release and its office party sing-a-long hits.

But musicals fell out of fashion with the public and the Academy during the 1980s and 1990s, despite Parker's Evita in 1996, with Madonna in the lead role.

In 2001, director Baz Luhrmann, always one to try something different, created the lavish musical Moulin Rouge for the big screen, starring Nicole Kidman.

Chicago: Tickled the Academy
Although largely ignored by the Academy, it was a great commercial success.

Now Chicago, with six Oscars and a host of other awards, seems to have brought the genre firmly back into the limelight.


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