The 1960s was the last great decade of the Hollywood musical. Although the genre has experienced a bit of a revival in recent years, most modern-day movie musicals are adaptations of long-running Broadway hits, often starring famous actors with iffy singing voices ("Les Miserables," "Sweeney Todd," "Mama Mia!"). Given that the '70s, '80s, and '90s were more or less a complete wasteland for musicals on film, the '60s were indeed a prolific period, producing many classics of the form, even if many of them lost money for the studios.
So, in honor of the Paramount Theater's screening of "West Side Story" tonight, here are the Top Ten Movie Musicals of the '60s. This list is mostly limited to the traditional Broadway-type musical, the kind where the characters burst into song at regular intervals. It doesn't include rock 'n' roll movies like "A Hard Day's Night" or "Riot on Sunset Strip" (that's another list entirely).
Some of the films that didn't make the cut were largely responsible for putting the movie musical in mothballs by bombing at the box office: "Paint Your Wagon!" (Clint Eastwood and Lee Marvin sing!), Francis Ford Coppola's misguided adaptation of "Finian's Rainbow," and the Julie Andrews flop "Star!" all famously failed to connect with the audiences of the time.
Other also-rans include "Gypsy," another case of casting famous movie stars (Rosalind Russell, Natalie Wood) who couldn't carry a tune; "Stop the World, I Want to Get Off!" which was doomed to obscurity when Anthony Newley passed on recreating his iconic role in the West End/Broadway triumph, letting his understudy do the film instead, and "Viva Las Vegas," the quintessential Elvis movie.
"West Side Story" screens tonight, Friday August 31st, at 7 p.m. at the Paramount Theater, 713 Congress Avenue in downtown Austin.