• Short Summary

    A documentary tracing the history of 35 years of musicals on film.

  • Description

    Made in 1964.

    Compilation of lots of extracts - check copyright especially for feature films.

    Reel 1
    High angle shot of a dance floor. A man and a woman dance down long curved staircases. "Elstree Presents the Shimmy Queen Gilda Gray" announces the narrator. The camera moves closer as the couple dance. C/Us the man and the woman dancing. Title flashes up "The Singing Cinema". Gilda does her shimmy. Another title: "35 Years of British Musicals." Another C/U of Gilda. "Written and produced by Denis Gifford." The camera moves in a circle as the couple dance around the edge of the dance floor. "your host Pete Murray." The dancing couple bow to the audience and he kisses her arm and then her bare back.

    C/U of Pete Murray. He tells us that we have just seen Cyril Ritchard (Cyril Richard for search purposes) getting the cold shoulder from Gilda Gray. Pete Murray talks about all the various elements that are part of a musical. The opening extract was taken from the silent film "Piccadilly" - Murray describes how in 1928 every cinema had its own orchestra as every big picture had its cabaret scenes. There follows extracts of from various 1920s films including Olga Tschechowa dancing in front of a group of black and white minstrels in the film Moulin Rouge. C/Us of the blacked up minstrels. The next extract shows Vera-Ellen and partner David Lober dancing in the musical "Happy Go Lovely". Various shots of the Piccadilly Ballet sequence. Cicely Courtneidge is shown singing and dancing on a stage set. The song is "I've fallen in love" and Murray describes how in 1930 the colour was "painted on" (the black and white version looks strange without colour). Jack Hulbert performs a tap dancing routine. Helen Burnell sits and watches the dance. They are all in "Elstree Calling" which Murray describes as "the first all star musical." Helen Burnell then dances with the Adelphi Girls. Lilian Harvey performs a dainty dance in "Invitation to the Waltz." A nightclub scene follows with Jack Holland and June Hart dancing to "The Valperasio" (sp?) - I think this is from the film "Dance Band". People seated at tables duck as June is spun around by her partner.

    High angle shot of chorus dancing Fred Conyngham and troupe. Conductor is dressed in fabulous silver tailcoat. "Elstree beats Hollywood at her own game" states Murray. We see the Black Shadows production number from "Radio Parade of 1935." Alberta Hunter sings and scantily clad chorus girls dance on top of enormous tom tom drums. Some of the girls are dressed in leopard skin bikinis. L/S of the vast production number which includes a black gospel choir. Impressive stuff. The song seems to be about racism.

    Reel 2

    M/S of the front of a large theatre "The Magador". Inside the theatre we see a music hall act. Tommy Trinder sings a song about alcohol - various shots of him as he sings and strides across the stage. "Champagne Charlie" is the song from the film of the same name. Footage of Tommy is intercut with shots of the audience. They are dressed in old fashioned clothes - Edwardian? One man has a coughing fit and his wife hits him on the back. Good shot of the inside of the theatre from behind Tommy on the stage. The audience sings along. A group of well to do gentlemen in top hats drink beer. M/S of the orchestra. A man stands in the foreground operating a pop gun at appropriate moments in the song. A drunken man in a top hat speaks to a statue: "Sing Madam Sing!" The glamorous barmaids lift bottles of wine or champagne onto the bar singing away.

    Pete Murray talks of how music hall acts such as Tommy Trinder were "murdered by the movies." He then states: "Now only the movies can bring it back to life again." We then see an act by Stanley Holloway who acts in the role of "The Great Vance". He sings a song called "A Glass of Sherry Wine" - a song about getting drunk basically! Good shots of girls dancing on the stage and C/Us of women in the boxes singing along. Audience sit at tables singing along.

    Lily Morris sings a song against a painted backdrop - "Why am I Always the Bridesmaid, Never the Blushing Bride". She dances holding a bouquet of flowers. (From 'Elstree Calling').

    George Formby plays his little ukulele in "Trouble Brewing" with Esma Cannon. He sings a song: "Fanlight Fanny the Frowsy Nightclub Queen" Good C/Us of George and Esma. We hear the whole song. Esma and another actress react to the funny song.

    C/U of Gracie Fields. She whistles and says: "Go on, play up." She wears a backless dress and makes a joke by turning away from the audience then scratching her back. Shot of the audience for her song - mostly middle aged women crowded into a small hall. She sings "Sally". Ian Hunter is led into the hall by Florence Desmond - he is "back from the war". As the curtain closes Ian Hunter goes backstage and embraces Gracie. This is an extract from the 1931 film "Sally in Our Alley."

    Note: see other reels. There is a documentation file for this film. Includes music cue sheets and some correspondence between Terry Ashwood and Harry Wynder.

  • Tags

  • Data

    Film ID:
    Media URN:
    British Pathé
    Issue Date:
    1928 - 1935
    HD Format:
    Available on request
    Black & White
    Time in/Out:
    01:00:08:00 / 01:19:09:00

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