From home recording studios and Vube videos popping up to barroom karaoke and TV competitions churning out the next Paul Potts, popular singing’s gone local and small-screen in the past two decades. But little more than a half-century ago, singing was a glamorous, big-screen spectacle, wrapped by the studios—led by MGM’s Freed Unit in the ’40s and ’50s—into a bow-tied package for an audience to unwrap on an evening at the cinema.
Continuing its tradition of melodic summer fare, the Edmonton Film Society kicks off the song-and-dance routine with 1957’s Silk Stockings (June 30), a Freed-produced picture. It’s a Cold War reworking of 1939’s Ninotchka, about a severe envoy (Cyd Charisse), sent from the gray Soviet Union to bring three commissars back from sunny Paris, who falls for an American movie producer (Fred Astaire) … or, as Ninotchka puts it, “The arrangement of your features is not entirely repulsive to me.”
Gender war’s at the heart of swing-era musical Orchestra Wives (1942; July 7), the second and last film to feature Glenn Miller and his famous band—it’s a story of band members’ wives acting catty and petty. Small Town Girl (1953; July 14), starring Jane Powell and Farley Granger, features the peppy “Jumping Song.”
It Started with Eve (1941; July 21) stars Deanna Durbin in one of her most acclaimed roles, as a hat-check girl posing as a young man’s fiancée for his dying father. Sidestepping out to the frontier, Red Garters (1954; July 28) is a send-up of Westerns, sparing and suggestive in its sets but full of costumes.
The seventh in the decalogue of Astaire-Rogers musicals, Shall We Dance? (1937; August 11) sees an American dancer in Paris getting his jazz on for a famous toe-tapper. Still touring the City of Lights, Lovely to Look At (1952; August 18) sees Al Marsh (Red Skelton), searching with his partners for backers for their Broadway show, suddenly discover that he’s part owner of a dress salon in France’s capital. And Young at Heart (1954; August 25) stars Frank Sinatra, influential enough in Hollywood by then that he could change the ending for his black-mood character to a happily-ever-after.
Jun 30 – Aug 25 (Mondays, 8 pm)
Royal Alberta Museum, $5 – $6, $30 series pass