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Academy Award Winning Movie Musicals

Hollywood’s biggest night is just around the corner, and after a brilliant season of movie musicals, it is so exciting to see films like West Side Story and Tick, Tick… Boom among the nominees.

(Since we’re Tony Awards people, here’s a little bit about the Oscars:

The Oscars, or The Academy Awards are for artistic and technical merit in the film industry, and are considered the most prestigious awards in the entertainment industry.)

At these 94th Annual Academy Awards, nominees from the world of movie musical adaptations include:

  • Best Picture - Steven Spielberg and Kristie Macosko Krieger, Producers - West Side Story

  • Actor In A Leading Role - Andrew Garfield - tick… tick, boom!

  • Actress In A Supporting Role - Ariana DeBose - West Side Story

  • Cinematography - Janusz Kaminski - West Side Story

  • Costume Design - Paul Tazewell - West Side Story

  • Directing - Steven Spielberg - West Side Story

  • Film Editing - Myron Kerstein and Andrew Weisblum - tick… tick, boom!

  • Production Design - Production Design: Adam Stockhausen; Set Decoration: Rena DeAngelo - West Side Story

  • Sound - Tod A. Maitland, Gary Rydstrom, Brian Chumney, Andy Nelson and Shawn Murphy - West Side Story

It got me wondering: How many movie musicals have won Oscars? Specifically, the coveted win for Best Picture.

So I did some Google-ing, and here’s what I found out:

The Broadway Melody (1929)

A pair of sisters from the vaudeville circuit try to make it big time on Broadway, but matters of the heart complicate the attempt.

The Broadway Melody, also known as The Broadway Melody of 1929 was written by Norman Houston and James Gleason based on a story by Edmund Goulding, with original music by Arthur Freed and Nacio Herb Brown. This 1929 picture directed by Harry Beaumont was actually the first sound film to win the Academy Award for Best Picture. It was also one of the first musicals to feature a Technicolor sequence, which then became a trend in movie musicals that followed.

The Great Ziegfeld (1936)

The ups and downs of Florenz Ziegfeld Jr., famed producer of extravagant stage revues, are portrayed.

The Great Ziegfeld was written by William Anthony McGuire and directed by Robert Z. Leonard. The 1936 film tribute to the real life Florenz Ziegfeld Jr. starred many performers from the real-life Follies, and featured Billie Burke as a supervisor.

Going My Way (1944)

When young Father O'Malley arrives at St. Dominic's, old Father Fitzgibbon doesn't think much of the church's newest member.

Going My Way was written by Frank Butler and Frank Cavett, based on a story by the film’s director Leo McCarey. Starring Bing Crosby and Barry Fitzgerald, this film was the highest grossing picture of 1944, and even received a sequel The Bells of St. Mary’s.

An American In Paris (1951)

Three friends struggle to find work in Paris. Things become more complicated when two of them fall in love with the same woman.

An American In Paris was inspired by the 1928 composition of the same name by George Gershwin. The script was written by Alan Jay Lerner, and featured many songs from Gershwin’s catalogue, with lyrics written by his brother Ira. Additional music was provided by music directors Johnny Green and Saul Chaplin. The 1951 film was directed by Vincente Minnelli and starred Gene Kelly and featured Leslie Caron’s film debut.

In addition to winning Best Picture, the film won 6 Academy Awards.

Gigi (1958)

Weary of the conventions of Parisian society, a rich playboy and a youthful courtesan-in-training enjoy a platonic friendship which may not stay platonic for long.

Gigi was written by Alan Jay Lerner, based on the 1944 novella of the same name. Lerner also provided lyrics for the picture’s songs, written by Frederick Loewe.

In addition to winning Best Picture, the film won the 9 Academy Awards it was nominated for in 1958. Gigi held the record for the highest sweep of nominations until Lord of the Rings: Return of the King in 2004.

West Side Story (1961)

Two youngsters from rival New York City gangs fall in love, but tensions between their respective friends build toward tragedy.

West Side Story is a film adaptation of the 1957 stage musical of the same name by Arthur Laurents, Jerome Robbins, Leonard Bernstein, and Stephen Sondheim. The screenplay was written by Ernest Lehman, and the film was directed by Robert Wise and Robbins himself. The 1961 film became the highest grossing film of the year.

In addition to winning the Academy Award for Best Picture, the film won 10 of the 11 awards it was nominated for, including a special award for Jerome Robbins. This made it a record-holder for most Oscar wins for a movie musical.

My Fair Lady (1964)

In 1910s London, snobbish phonetics professor Henry Higgins agrees to a wager that he can make crude flower girl Eliza Doolittle presentable in high society.

My Fair Lady is a film adaptation of the 1956 stage musical by Alan Jay Lerner and Frederick Lowe, which is in turn based on George Bernard Shaw’s 1913 play Pygmalion. Lerner wrote the screenplay for the film, which was directed by George Cukor.

The film became the second highest-grossing film of 1964 and won 8 Academy Awards.

The Sound Of Music (1965)

A young novitiate is sent by her convent in 1930s Austria to become a governess to the seven children of a widowed naval officer.

The Sound Of Music is a film adaptation of the 1959 stage musical of the same name by Richard Rogers, Oscar Hammerstein II, and Lindsay Crouse, which was inspired by Maria Von Trapp’s 1949 memoir. Ernest Lehman wrote the screenplay, and the film was produced and directed by Robert Wise.

The Sound Of Music was the highest grossing film of 1965, and became the highest grossing film of all-time in 1966 and held the title for five years.

Oliver (1968)

After being sold to a mortician, young orphan Oliver Twist runs away and meets a group of boys trained to be pickpockets by an elderly mentor in 1830s London.

Oliver is based on Lionel Bart’s 1960 stage musical of the same name, which in turn is an adaptation of Charles Dickens’s Oliver Twist. The film was directed by Carol Reed, with a screenplay by Vernon Harris.

In addition to Best Picture, the 1968 film won 6 of the 11 Academy Awards it was nominated for.

Chicago (2002)

Two death-row murderesses develop a fierce rivalry while competing for publicity, celebrity, and a sleazy lawyer's attention.

Chicago is based on the 1975 stage musical of the same name, which in turn is adapted from the 1926 play by Maureen Dallas Watkins. The film was adapted by screenwrite Bill Condon, keeping the original score by John Kander and Fred Ebb, and directed by Rob Marshall, who also provided the adapted choreography.

The 2002 film became the first movie musical to win Best Picture since Oliver in 1968, and won 6 Academy Awards.

What’s incredibly exciting about this year’s Oscars is that the 2021 adaptation of West Side Story is nominated for Best Picture, 60 years after the original film adaptation’s win. (It’s also been 20 years since we’ve had a movie musical take home the award.)

The question on my mind is: Will West Side Story make history at the Oscars once more?

For those of you tuning into the Academy Awards on March 27th, I would love to hear your thoughts and predictions in the comments below!

Personally, I would love to see Ariana DeBose (West Side Story) and Andrew Garfield (tick… tick, boom) win for their phenomenal performances, but as with all award shows: they will still be incredible artists regardless of the final results.

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