Musicals of the 1950s

Written by nancy hayden
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Musicals of the 1950s
"Guys and Dolls" was a Broadway hit in 1951 and has been revived several times. (Andrew H. Walker/Getty Images Entertainment/Getty Images)

The 1950s were a heyday for musicals on Broadway and on the big screen. In Hollywood, large, lavish productions were filmed in full Technicolor and two movie musicals even won Oscars for Best Picture. On Broadway, some great composers of the decade created what became some of the strongest book musicals of all time.

Stage Musicals 1950-54

Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II were already the undisputed kings of the musical at the start of the '50s. Their musical "South Pacific," about love and loss on an island in wartime, won the Tony for best musical in 1950. Some of its memorable songs were "Some Enchanted Evening" and "Younger Than Springtime." They followed it in 1951 with "The King and I" about a woman teaching the king's children in Siam. That musical, which featured "Getting to Know You," won the Tony in 1952. Also produced in 1951 was Frank Loesser's "Guys and Dolls." The story of gangsters and gambling and love won that year's Tony for best musical.

Screen Musicals 1950-54

In the early 1950s, movie musicals were big business. In 1951, MGM's "An American in Paris" with Gene Kelly won the Oscar for Best Picture. In '52 MGM produced another smash with Kelly playing a jingle songwriter in "Singin' in the Rain." Walt Disney produced classic animated movie musicals during these years, including "Cinderella" in 1950, "Alice in Wonderland" in 1951 and "Peter Pan" in 1953. Paramount had a huge hit with the Bing Crosby Christmas classic "White Christmas" in 1954.

Stage Musicals 1955-59

The 1955 Tony for best musical went to "The Pajama Game" by Richard Adler and Jerry Ross. Adler and Ross won another Tony in 1956 for their baseball and the devil musical, "Damn Yankees." The '57 Tony went to Lerner and Loewe's "My Fair Lady," which produced the songs "Wouldn't It Be Loverly," "I've Grown Accustomed to Her Face" and "I Could Have Danced All Night." The 1958 Tony went to Meredith Willson's "The Music Man" about a con man conductor who runs into a shrewd librarian. Rodgers and Hammerstein had late '50s hits with "Flower Drum Song," in '58 and "The Sound of Music" in '59.

Screen Musicals 1955-59

20th Century Fox made several movie versions of the Broadway hits produced by Rodgers and Hammerstein. They included the cowboy love story "Oklahoma!" in 1955, "The King and I" in 1956 and "South Pacific" in 1958. Paramount had a hit with "Funny Face" starring Audrey Hepburn and Fred Astaire. MGM had smash successes with 1957's "Seven Brides for Seven Brothers," about the love lives of woodsmen seeking brides, and 1959's "Gigi." "Gigi" with Leslie Caron and Maurice Chevalier won the Oscar for best picture.

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