Kidnapping, Prostitution, Racism, Satanism: Those Wonderful Old Movie Musicals

“They just don’t make movies like they used to.” That’s the sort of line you’ll likely hear from older filmgoers who yearn for the days of Saturday matinee twin bills at the local picture house and wouldn’t be caught dead at a 24-screen megaplex to view one of today’s $200 million-plus, effects-laden behemoths…and certainly wouldn’t pay $10 or more to be exposed to the preponderance of sex, curse words and bad behavior in such contemporary Hollywood musicals as 8 Mile and Burlesque. “Why,” these longtime movie fans ask, “can’t they make wholesome, old-fashioned stories for the whole family like they did back in the day, with good songs that everyone can enjoy and not rap noise like (as one ex-U.S. senator called them) the Enema Man and Snoopy Snoopy Poop Dog?”

I like to think of myself as a still-relatively young and hip cinephile (I’m not, but that’s how I like to think of myself), and the musical genre was never one that I spent a lot of time watching, so I set out to view a cross-sampling of vintage Tinseltown toe-tappers and see just what the post-MTV generations have been missing. And what did I find?  How about shockingly racist stereotyping, non-stop profanity, sado-masochism, abduction and implied “coerced intimacy,” near-pedophilia, white slavery and Satanic worship? If you don’t believe me, just check out the following examples:        

Wonder Bar – It goes without saying that blackface minstrel songs were a trademark of Al Jolson’s career, both on the stage and in films from The Jazz Singer on. Nor was he the only performer–white or black–in the first half of the 20th century and beyond to do so (check out Fred Astaire in Swing Time or Judy Garland and Mickey Rooney in Babes in Arms sometime). Even so…and even by the standards of its release year of  1934…the Warner Bros. musical Wonder Bar certainly lowered the bar for race relations when Al, owner and featured performer of the title Paris nightclub, does “one of his characteristic numbers for which he is famous,” as bandleader Dick Powell puts it. That number is the now-infamous “Goin’ to Heaven on a Mule” sequence, choreographed by the legendary Busby Berkeley. Elderly farm worker Uncle Abner (Jolson) passes away and ascends, beloved mule in tow, to the Pearly Gates and an afterlife that manages to work in just about every offensive depiction relating to African-Americans (along with references to Uncle Tom’s Cabin and The Emperor Jones).  Here’s a taste of the “heavenly” goings-on:

Did you notice how they also managed to turn Al’s “wing tailor” into a gay stereotype while they were at it (this film also features the scene where two men are dancing in the club, while Jolson throws his hand in the air and exclaims “Boys will be boys…WOOOO!”)?  From a purely technical standpoint, “Goin’ to Heaven” is another of Berkeley’s typically well-staged and elaborate numbers, but to watch the white (and black) performers surely must have made viewers squirm uncomfortably in their seats, even 77 years ago. Oh, and don’t get me started on the bizarre phallic symbolism on display in another of Wonder Bar’s dance routines, “Don’t Say Good-Night,” where chorus girls dance around majestically tall columns from which masked, tuxedo-clad men magically emerge.

The Goldwyn Follies – Movie mogul Samuel Goldwyn’s all-star tribute to the vast panoply of popular music–as well as, judging from the title, to himself–is a slapdash smorgasbord of musical numbers (George and Ira Gershwin songs, a sampling from La Traviata, and dancing by The American Ballet of the Metropolitan Opera, among others) and comedy bits (Edgar Bergen and Charlie McCarthy, The Ritz Brothers, and others) that tanked in its 1938 release. One segment that merits notice, however, comes when the brothers Ritz, playing animal trainers and would-be singers who want producer Adolph Menjou to hire them for his film-within-a-film project, serenade him with a song called…, well, just watch and listen:

I think this holds the record for the greatest number of times that word was used on the screen…pre-Quentin Tarantino, of course.          

Kiss Me Kate – Cole Porter’s Tony-winning 1949 Broadway musical apparently had to have some of its racier lines and lyrics cleaned up before MGM brought it to the screen in 1953 (a changing of “You bastard!” to “You louse!,” for example, and the borrowed-from-Noel Coward bon mot “women should be struck regularly, like gongs.”). Not to worry, though, as this show-within-a-show re-staging of Shakespeare’s The Taming of the Shrew still has plenty of casual misogyny hurled by Howard Keel at co-star Kathryn Grayson, highlighted by several spanking scenes. And just think, audiences back in ’53 got to see Grayson’s fanny slapped in 3-D.   

Seven Brides for Seven Brothers – Speaking of casual misogyny, if spanking isn’t the way to a woman’s heart, how about just out-and-out taking her from her family’s home and holding her captive until she “comes around”? That, as far as I could tell, is the premise of this beloved 1954 MGM frontier tunefest by Singin’ in the Rain director Stanley Donen.  Kiss Me Kate’s corporal punishment Casanova, Howard Keel, is back as the oldest of a septet of siblings in mid-1800s Oregon. After he weds local gal Jane Powell, his backwoods brothers start pining for brides of their own…especially ones that will do all the cooking and cleaning for the  household, as Powell does. After a barn-raising face-off for the affection of some townswomen turns into a brawl that gets them banned from the community, the fellas are inspired by Plutarch’s account of the Rape of the Sabine Women to head down from the mountain and make off with their would-be “sweethearts.” A long winter follows and, as always happens in real-life kidnapping cases (he said sarcastically), the girls fall for their abductors and agree to marry them. Yes sir, a true love story if ever there was one.               

Daddy Long Legs – Jean Webster’s 1912 “for young women” novel has been filmed several times over the years. In it, a wealthy middle-aged man serves as benefactor to an orphaned schoolgirl, and years later she falls in love with him, unaware of his true identity. The age of the girl varies depending upon which movie version (1919 with Mary Pickford, Janet Gaynor in 1931) you’re watching, but for our purposes we’ll look at the 1955 20th Century-Fox musical starring Fred Astaire and Leslie Caron. Here Astaire is a visiting American millionaire who meets 18-year-old Caron in a French orphanage, anonymously pays for her college education, and then re-enters her life three years later. Okay, so it’s not exactly Lolita territory, and the film does make references to the three-decade age difference between the two, but there’s still something a bit unseemly about the whole affair. Perhaps a modernized version by a respected director would help remove some of the stigma around the story…Woody Allen, for example?       

Damn Yankees – What could possibly be more American than baseball? Why, baseball and trading your soul to the Devil for worldly success and fame, according to this 1958 hit which slapped a little horsehide on the Faust legend. Joe Boyd (Robert Shafer), a middle-aged fan of the hapless Washington Senators, makes a deal with the Satanic “Mr. Applegate” (Ray Walston) and is transformed into muscular slugger Joe Hardy (Tab Hunter), who helps the perennial also-rans challenge the Bronx Bombers for the pennant. When it looks as though Joe might use an “escape clause” to get out of his contract, Applegate sends seductive assistant Lola (Gwen Verdon) to keep him ensnared…which shouldn’t be too hard, as Joe already abandoned his long-suffering wife (via farewell note) to follow his dreams of ballpark glory. Of course, Boyd/Hardy eventually sees the light and returns to his old life, but only after taking advantage of his supernaturally-derived skills to win the pennant for the D.C. nine. So, let’s see: a guy enters into a legitimate business arrangement, leaves his spouse behind, carouses with another woman, benefits from said deal and then reneges on it…and he’s the hero? (By the way, it took over a decade, but Satan did get even with Washington sports fans by moving the Senators to Texas in 1972 and then, after 30-plus years of watching them wander in the baseball wilderness, “rewarded” the town with the just-as-pathetic Nationals.)    

Gigi – Based on a novella by acclaimed French writer Collette, Vincent Minnelli’s lush winner of the 1958 Academy Award for Best Picture features Daddy Long Legs gamine Leslie Caron in the title role of a tomboyish young woman in early 20th-century Paris who is groomed by her aunt and grandmother to follow in their footsteps…as a kept woman for single and/or married men. Yes, these two older women want their young charge to grow up to be someone’s mistress, although the film uses the euphemism “courtesan,” for surely what more romantic notion could there be than to make a movie musical about long-entrenched prostitution among the well-to-do in fin de siècle France? That Gigi does (unknowingly at first) rebel against her fate and ultimately finds true love with her intended “gentleman,” playboy Louis Jourdan–who already has at least one such arrangement under his belt, as it were–really doesn’t help much with the  “ick factor” inherent in this supposedly charming and touching film. And that’s without my mentioning the undertones that now accompany Maurice Chevalier’s “Thank Heaven for Little Girls” sequence. Is this really the kind of message we want to send impressionable girls today in order to keep them away from Madonna, Britney and Christina?

  • S.M. Ballard

    Speaking of the blackface routines in the early musicals, how ’bout the “Abraham” dance number in one of my favorite movies, “Holiday Inn?” This sequence must have made someone unhappy at, can’t remember if it’s TCM or AMC, because the last couple times the movie played, that entire routine was exorcised.

  • bogart10

    AGREEING THAT ALL OF THE ABOVE IS TRUE, WHY IS SUCH A WARM AND WONDERFUL DISNEY FILM “SONG OF THE SOUTH” STILL BANNED FROM AN OFFICIAL STUDIO RELEASE ON DVD? I HAVE A COPY OF A BOOTLEG EDITION, BUT OF COURSE SOMETHING IS MISSING IN SEEING A REALLY GREAT PRINT OF THIS FILM…I UNDERSTAND AT THE TIME OF IT’S ORIGINAL RELEASE IN 1946, THERE WERE SOME COMPLAINTS ABOUT THE WAY BLACKS WERE PRESENTED….BUT AT THAT TIME THE BLACKS WERE ALWAYS PRESENTED AS SERVANTS, ETC….NOW IT IS 2011 AND THE BLACK PEOPLE ARE GETTING THEIR RESPECT, SO HOW ABOUT A NEW, DIGITAL, BLUE RAY EDITION RELEASED BY THE STUDIO…COME ON DISNEY, OPEN UP THAT VZULT…..

    • Hainul

      I agree, this is the MIllionDollarHomepage all over again. Kids these days, psh, just not ciaetrve enough got to leech of someone else’s ideas Jim’s last blog post..

  • Debbie

    Hello there SM Ballard just so you know it was AMC network that deleted that scene from Holiday Inn and not TCM. I don’t see what all the fuss is about anyway, it is just a wholesome movie to enjoy. So lighten up.

  • JUanita Curtis

    Interesting perspective on the film musical. I agree with your thoughts on Gigi – I too found Maurice Chevaliers song to be a bit tasteless. Even though Kiss Me Kate is a tad misogynistic you can forgive it because of the great performance and singing of Howard Keel and it isn’t supposed to be taken too seriously.

  • Robert Wills

    What a stupid, misguided article this is. Of course you can put this kind of a slant on any movie musical in history, if you try to. So what was your point? I would still take almost any vintage movie musical over 8 Mile and Burlesque any day. There’s a world of difference. If you can’t see it, you shouldn’t be a critic.

  • John Quinlan

    This so called critic is a real dork. His political correct ideas are stupid. get a life.

  • Susan Hall

    You left off “Carousel” all about wife beating. I cringe every time I hear that line about being hit but not feeling it because he loves you.

  • jeanine

    I think the article was meant to be “tongue- in-cheek”, but the truth is I loved most of those movies when I was younger and unaware of all the bigotry in the world. After living through a time when being black or being white and helping a black was an offense that could result in your execution, a time when even with the vote women were more possessions than equal partners, I hurt a little when I see the callous treatment of human beings. They are a reflection of their times. Most of us are beyond them. Some are not. Some not having experienced discrimination have no idea what it is like.

  • hiram grant

    Some of the responders, especially Mr. Quinlan, might think themselves of lightening up. The piece was clearly meant to be amusing, which doesn’t mean that it isn’t true about the actual plot of “Gigi,” one of the worst Oscars in the admittedly checkered history of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.

    • Jamed

      OK, bfeore any one of you guys goes like hahahahahah, he is a noob, he does not know shit , and stuff like that. I just want you to look when this video was uploaded!

  • Jim

    Don’t forget “Gypsy” where the hero is a stripper!!

  • Eddie Quillen

    Jeepers, lighten up, Francis.

    Oh, and BTW, in 1960 the Washington Senators of Damn Yankees fame moved to Minnesota to become the Twins. It was the next iteration of the Senators, a D.C. expansion team of 1961, that moved to Texas.

  • http://www.facebook.com/kenneth.m.henderson Kenneth Henderson

    Song of the South. There was a British VHS once and in Japan there is no such policies so they issued it on Laserdisc, I believe, but I never saw it. They also had Tom & Jerry cartoons in 2 x 5-discs DVDs, supposedly the uncut versions(unlike the US network censored ones)but then the uncut pre-1950 negatives were burned in the 1967 MGM fire so where did they get those from, safety back-ups?

    The Quiet Man with John Wayne sees give Maureen O’Hara’s butt a good going over on his knee.

    In about 1932 Ginger Rogers gets married to some jerk in a film and he takes her to his cabin for married life. Something riled him and Ginger ends up on his knee for a fanny wallop.A 1931 Pathe film, The Tip-Off, has her having had a shower standing looking at her bed bare-legged. Under the bed is a guy who is a radio man who impersonates Bing Crosby in a shop window. Ginger’s man is a gangster which is why the guy in under the bed and gets everyman’s desire to see a great pair of legs from a great vantage point.

    There are so many others from those days. And who can forget Shirley Temple(the Little Colonel?) telling Bojangles Robinson that she has just seen his brother(another Afro-American who had just passed her path)?

  • Jon DeCles

    Gosh, he didn’t mention “Cabaret,” a show about bisexuality during the rise of the Nazi Party. Or, for that matter, “The Producers,” with “Springtime for Hitler.” MY favorite moment of questionability in a great number in Frank Sinatra in a while suite with a white background singing “Old Man River.’ But hey, let’s go back further, to Verdi’s great auto da fe scene in Don Carlos, where everyone is cheering on the burning of heretics. Times change, but art holds on: we just tend to view it through different eyes.

  • tim

    my favorite all about life, and one you missed prostitution, greed, wife swapping, drinking, fighting, cheating, gambling. and all out fun, paint your wagon.

  • tim

    and kidnapping

  • Tommy T

    One of the great things about being a classic movie fan is seeing how much we have evolved as a society. For example, look how much a change of attitudes has taken place in the last hundred years regarding racism. In D.W.Griffith’s “Birth of a Nation”, the KKK was seen as a good thing by protecting Whites from malevolent Blacks and truly reflected the prevailing attitudes of the time of many people. Later in Shirley Temple movies we saw Blacks in a better light but still suitable only as servants, slaves and tap-dancing partners but at least not a menace to be feared. Then there’s the scene in Holiday Inn where “Aunt Jemima and two picking-ninnies are talking about “why does we-uns celebrate Lincoln’s birthday and the woman says, “‘Cause he’s da one that set all us darkies free.” Try getting a line like that by the viewing public today. More recently we had the “The Klansman” where Richard Burton(?) showed that the KKK was a hate group bent on fear mongering and repression. Then we have Sidney Poitier who was portrayed as a great soldier in the Korean War and so few people even today know of the heroism of Black soldiers and the sacrifices and contributions they made in the Korean War or even the Tuskeegee Airmen in World War 2. Then in “Lilies of the Field” where a Black man can be a reliable construction contractor and not just a black man with a shovel. Who can forget “Guess Who’s Coming To Dinner?” which examined interracial marriages at a time when in many states such things were illegal. To finally the movies of today where race is generally no longer an issue unless it is a part of the storyline. The same thing goes for other attitude evolutions such as roles for women and progress of egalitarianism between the sexes. But sadly some people do want to see such roles and movies in that light. I think because of frail egos, some people are too easily offended by old movies that are of another time and indeed of another world. But I think that stems from personal perception. Like Poitier said in “Dinner”, “Dad, you see yourself as a Black man. I see myself as a man.” I think it’s important to see the progress we’ve made while realizing that as a society we haven’t as yet achieved perfection.

  • michael j.

    Another movie/musical left out was 1967’s Thoroughly Modern Millie, w/ Julie Andrews & Mary Tyler Moore; about a boarding house in the big city just for young women w/ no family relatives who end up getting kidnapped for white slavery business.

  • Jim Foster

    I heartily agree with the writer who urges that the present custodians of the earlier Disney classics yield to popular demand and launch a DVD release of SONG OF THE SOUTH.

    Its story, which takes place after the Civil War, does not depict slavery. The blacks shown working in the fields surrounding the plantation aren’t slaves, but rather, sharecroppers. Being poor and likely uneducated, these folk are performing the only work they know. With this in mind, pray tell where were they supposed to go and what were they supposed to do to put bread on their tables and clothes on their backs?

    WERE they slaves, then how would it have been possible for Uncle Remus to pack his meager belongings and leave for Atlanta after having his heart broken by being ordered to stay away from young Johnny by the boy’s mother?

    The blacks you see in GONE WITH THE WIND are most definitely slaves, yet I’m not cognizant of any demands that it be withdrawn from the market!

    As said writer points out, there indeed were complaints at the time of the film’s original 1946 release just as there were when it hit the theatres again in 1956, 1972, 1980 and 1986. Undoubtedly there would be today, too, but after all, no one would be forced to either purchase or watch it, now would they?

    I first saw SONG OF THE SOUTH as a boy in 1946, and again on each of its subsequent theatrical reissues. This aging respondent, for one, hopes to live long enough to enjoy another “Zip-A-Dee-Doo-Dah” experience. So please, please, Disney, make this wonderful,classic motion picture available. I feel that Walt would wish it.

  • JOUDON FORD

    My friends, I think we all need to take a deep breath. Art is art, for its own sake, as Leo at MGM would say (were he to talk, instead of roar). History is fact. It is what it is. Some of us find amusement and entertainment, some of us find pain. But truth should not be curtailed, or be revised. “Birth of a Nation” and the Jolson video hurt me. But I’m better for having seen them. As for a critic not pointing out what Gary pointed out, I think criticizing him is wrong. He’s doing his job. Writing only what some people want to hear is not his job. His job is to stimulate thought. If I’m thin-skinned, that’s on me. But if I’m insensitive to mysogeny because I’m a man and think the world revolves around solely my interests, that’s also on me. For the believers among us, why don’t we try it God’s way? Love each other and live and let live. Revisionism and the spirit of Fahrenheit 451 never advanced either knowledge or joy.

    • Ledya

      lbaoayckjsdn on April 2, 2011 not working for me, i have an older toshiba tv that has dvd and vhs built in, the tech that installed my satelite got it to work but i can’t for some reason

  • Gord Jackson

    I must admit that I do feel uncomfortable watching white performers in blackface or the movie “Seven Brides For Seven Brothers” probably because the misogny in the latter is just so upfront and in-your-face. Sorry folks, but I do not think offensive is too strong a word to describe it even bearing in mind the times it is recreating.

    However, I do think Gary Cahall got off track when talking about “Damn Yankees”, beyond what has also already been referenced, when he talks about Joe Hardy carousing with the Lola character (Gwen Verdon). A careful viewing of the film will actually show that Tab Hunter’s Hardy, after Lola has tried to seduce him, refuses to fall in with her, telling her that while she may be a wonderful girl, et all, he is married and he will not go out dancing with her. Also, when it comes to “Damn Yankees” the subtext throughout the entire film is loneliness and alienation. The “Something About an Empty Chair” number and Hardy’s return to the family home on the pretext of renting a room there speaks volumes about his conservative, moral values. I do wish critics with a pet hobby horse to ride would first think through what they are writing about (or broadcasting) instead of going for the shallow putdown they all-too-often dish out. But then, don’t get me started on the subject of critics. That is a whole other topic.

  • Joe Gregorio

    Lighten up…oh, I’m sorry, that might be taken as a racist comment.

  • Trish

    While not on the “shocking list” along the lines of Al Jolson’s Mule number, I recall being shocked at how “dark” a song was in “South Pacific”, and mind you, I was 25 at the time, in 1996. I worked in a video store and put it on the tv for customers. Light, fluff musical, I thought. Until a song came on where a guy is singing to a woman about how people are bred to be racist. I’m not sure of the title, something like, “You Have To Be Carefully Taught”. WOW. Was not expecting a song on how to hate and kill people in a fluff romance musical, even if it was set in WWII.

  • tlynette

    Yeah, well …

    I agree with the comment about “You’ve Got to be Taught” from “South Pacific.” Different folk being discriminated against, but the point of the song is valid, whoever you are. That always brings to mind Puccini’s “Madama Butterfly,” w/the white Capt BF (or what it BS?) Pinkerton lovin’ and leavin’ the Asian Cio-cio San (after all that BS he gave her) for the more “proper” American white girl.

    Such is the nature of things. It’s a little tough to use post civil-rights era/late 20th-21st century PC logic on something done in the “Golden Age of Hollywood.” That’s just the way it was, in all its tainted glory.

  • Anne

    To those who want the critic to “lighten up” — that’s easy for you to say. I bet most of you are white and male. But for some of us, seeing those racist scenes in the middle of an otherwise enjoyable movie can come as a shock. I really don’t want to see that scene in Holiday Inn, and am glad they deleted it. I was also turned off by A Day at the Races for its idiotic scene.

    To the writer who compared sharecropping with slavery: for many Blacks at that time, sharecropping WAS slavery, just under a different
    name. Blacks were prevented from leaving the places where they were working, and if they tried to they were brought back by force. And they very rarely got paid (the “company store” took care of that). Uncle Remus was able to get away because the movie was written by people who didn’t know the history of Blacks at that time and place. That’s probably why he was singing “Zip a-de-do-dah” too.

    On the other hand, GiGi is one of my favorite movies, in spite of its unsavory nature. I am not offended by it because we know that it’s a movie about prostitution from the very beginning, just as Sweet Charity is. The songs are great, and the art direction is wonderful.

    And, yeah, the article is probably tongue-in-cheek, but that doesn’t mean that it isn’t true.

    • John Patterson

      Also,Gary Cooper’s 1959 western”The Hanging Tree”dealt with lynch mob justice in the old west.

  • http://www.moviesunlimited.com Gary Cahall

    As the author of this article, I have to confess, Trish and Tlynette, that I’ve never seen South Pacific and had only a passing familiarity with the song “You’ve Got to Be Carefully Taught.” It’s an interesting tune that speaks out against racism and says that such prejudices are learned rather than inherient, and it (along with the play’s interracial themes) got Rodgers & Hammerstein condemnation in several circles, including a Georgia legislator who said, “a song justifying interracial marriage was implicitly a threat to the American way of life.” I bet he also liked Al Jolson films.
    My article is meant to display, in a tongue-in-cheek manner, how some “simple, old-fashioned” entertainment may hold up, but some of its themes don’t. Belive me, Robert Wills, I’d much rather watch Singin’ in the Rain or The King and I than 8 Mile or Burlesque, too.
    Oh, and you’re right, Eddie Quillen, about the two incarnations of the Senators. I opted to keep it simple for the non-sports fans (and since the 1901-60 Washington records were carried over to the expansion team), but that just shows how evil the Devil is, making poor D.C. lose a lousy team twice (and letting the Twins win the pennant in ’65 with a roster of ex-Senators like Killebrew, Allison and Pascual!).

  • KarenG

    I’m with Susan Hall. To me Carousel is the most offensive of the bunch. I saw it for the first time just a year or two ago, and I couldn’t believe that there were talks about remaking it. Ugh.

    As for Gigi, I’ve loved that one ever since I was a little girl, even though I found the subject matter icky.

    Music Man was also always a favorite, even though it’s about a con man who cheats hard working Iowans out of their hard-earned money. True, he does repent, and the band does play, so it all works out in the end.

  • Chris B

    and lets not forget THE DOLLY SISTERS and the musical number “The Dark Town Strutters Ball”

    LOVE IT one of my favourite musicals !!!!!!!!!!!!!

    • Bruce Reber

      If I recall, “The Dark Town Strutters Ball” was heard in “The Abominable Dr. Phibes”, as played by Dr. P’s mechanical band.

  • Grand Old Movies

    Great clip of the Ritz Brothers – somehow the Breen office missed that one (and where does the full orchestra come in? there’s only a piano in Menjou’s office – ah, old Hollywood!) — you might also want to check out Busby Berkeley’s “Lady in the Tutti Frutti Hat” number from THE GANG’S ALL HERE, which features a gaggle of chorines manipulating giant strawberries and 6-ft long bananas (something a Freudian would find interesting)…enjoyed the post, tongue-in-cheek & all.

    • Goa

      Posted on Kristina: Ha! That’s what Tony gets for being such a prick duinrg Civil War.Rich and Co.: Let’s get drunk and watch Elektra together on Twitter.

    • Nicola

      I cpolletemy agree. Thus far I have three girls and it is one of my most strident efforts: to shield them from the oversexed media aimed at them and ALL women!

  • William Sommerwerck

    “Seven Brides for Seven Brothers” is so blatantly misogynistic that its anti-male bias goes unnoticed. Jane Powell coerces the brothers into shaving, then tells them she hadn’t realized she’d married into a family of such handsome men. Indeed.

    The film is derived from Stephen Vincent Benét’s short story “The Sobbin’ [Sabine] Women”.

  • Christine

    I actually prefer (some) old movies because of their much superior production values – gorgeous old Technicolor, lush sets and costumes, lack of language, gore and bodily functions… their moral problems nothwitstanding.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100000876895229 Dolores Tamoria

    I go to the movies to be entertained as well as to escape todays materialism and reality. Today
    there is very little entertainment and too much sex, violence and reality. We need some form of escape to get our heads back together Thankfully, I can escape into my collection.

  • John Patterson

    Yep.Truth be known,some of the movies from the”Good Old Days”showed that the”Good Old Days”weren’t all that good!!”Anatony of a Murder”dealt with rape and murder as did”Last Train From Gun Hill”.
    “The Searchers”dealt with miscgenation.Natalie Wood’s charcter of”Debbie Edwards”*(*Losely based on Comanche captive Cynthia Ann Parker.Read”Empire of the Summer Moon”by S.C.Gwynne sometime).Her Uncle Ethan Edwards*(*John Wayne)spends most of the movie searching for her so her can kill her for consorting with the indians.
    At the end he has a sudden change of heart.
    “The Hustler”.Paul Newman’s”Fast Eddie Felsen”character was a pool hustler who travels from town to town making money off suckers.
    “Hud”.Another great Newman performance.His character of Hud Bannon is a womanizing wheeler dealer who’ll stop at nothing to get what he wants.

  • Joanna

    South Pacific shows racism, too. However, the leading lady is taught a lesson about racism by Emile. So I consider that a plus.

    • mplo

      So does West Side Story, for that matter, and it sends a message about the deleterious consequences of racism and ethnic bigotry, and the senselessness of gang violence. Yet, West Side Story sends a more hopeful message, as well; the possibility of reconciliation between people, as difficult as that can be and often is.

  • Ktmat

    not all movies of any genre are totally “family friendly”. I even refuse to see some Dysney movies for their content. I remember my big shocker of “not all musicals are family friendly” was when I went to see a Busby Berkley movie with my dad. I had seen 42nd street, and that was fine, so I didn’t think it’d be a problem….. until we are sitting there and seeing women and men undressing behind a very thin curtain… backlit for us to see all of their “glory”. I can’t recall which movie it was, but I was mortified. but…. the sad thing to me about todays musicals is that I can’t name any since The Newsies (and even that has a provocitive dancer in it) that I’d feel ok seeing with kids. yes, there are quite a few old movies that have thier very clear flaws, but todays are just so frustratingly 100% flawed…. I wish there’d at least be one or two comming out of Hollywood these days (that wasn’t ruining a classic) that I’d feel safe recomending….

  • Josep

    I was struck by how explicitly sex services for money were provided to soldiers in Stage Door Canteen. So many men alone and in war surely needed some relax, but the movie didnt imply that anything should be hidden from public eye

  • Wayne P.

    Ok, I get the point but how about considering that at least the music always had a melody and you usually could hear and understand the words they were singing back during the Studio Age–even if it wasnt always so golden, right? I used to hate my mom and dads swing time musicals (you know, you always start out seeming to love the music you grew up with best!); but now, I love ‘em. If the tune gets me humming, then I’m right there. Of course, I do have to draw the line with the minstrel shows, no matter how much I enjoy Stephen Fosters catchy classic Americana songs done on the sadly greying silver screen! ;)

  • jumbybird

    You cannot judge these movies by modern standards. I can deal with a little racism, misogyny and cigarette smoking by reminding myself that this is an old movie. I for one don’t want to go see a movie and be hit with blood and guts, “motherfuckers” and soft-core porn scenes every 5 seconds.

  • Bruce Reber

    What about the 1968 movie version of “Oliver!”, which happens to be one of my favorite musicals. It shows the abuse and exploitation of young boys in a 19th century workhouse and orphanage in England, just as in the Charles Dickens book “Oliver Twist” on which it’s based. Also depicted is the thief Fagin taking Oliver into his gang of young pickpockets, and Bill Sikes abuse of his wife Nancy. But these are elements of the story, around which the songs and dances are performed. “West Side Story”, another one of my favorite movie musicals has street gang violence between two ethnic groups as its central theme. “The Wizard Of Oz” has all those little people (the Munchkins). “Cabaret” has Nazi brown shirts beating up people, provocatively dressed dancing girls and a bisexual emcee. I haven’t seen most of the musicals mentioned, but there’s something in every movie musical ever made (or going to be made) that’s going to be construed as offensive to someone. But I watch a musical for the songs and dance and don’t focus on every little plot point. As someone once said “to each their own taste”.

  • mplo

    Hey! How come West Side Story wasn’t added to the movie musicals list?