In its sixth installment of the popular summer film series, UCSB Arts & Lectures turns to another staple of Hollywood: The Musical. “Over the Rainbow: Great American Movie Musicals” runs from July 8 through Aug. 21 and features free screenings of seven musical movie classics.
Previous years have focused on a director like Alfred Hitchcock, or on silent comedies or classic Universal Studios horror or sci-fi. But this is the first time such a wide-ranging genre over such a long period has been chosen, with a nod to audience favorites and less to a comprehensive overview.
For several decades Hollywood studios put their money into musicals, with large budgets up on the screen for all to see – the equivalent of action films today. And just like today, Hollywood loved a sure thing. So after successful runs on Broadway, musicals quickly got optioned to be turned into films . . . but not always. The masters of the craft soon realized they could do things in film that could never be replicated on stage, and some films in this series are as visually delightful as you’re going to get.
As usual the screenings, both in the Courthouse Sunken Gardens and at the Isla Vista Theatre, are free. For the Friday Sunken Gardens screenings don’t forget to bring a blanket, a foldable chair and layers of clothing because it gets chilly – even in the summertime.
JULY 8 AND 10
“SINGING IN THE RAIN” (1952)
One of the best musicals of all time, maybe THE best. Why? Gene Kelly at the apex of his powers, Debbie Reynolds at her most charming and Donald O’Connor who gets his own bravura number “Make ’em Laugh.” And let’s not forget the stunning Cyd Charisse who catapulted to fame with her one number. The film is a love letter to the end of the silent era as well, a very suitable subject for a movie bursting with song.
JULY 15 AND 17
“THE WIZARD OF OZ” (1939)
Not a musical in the traditional sense but more a fantasy film with musical interludes, although it does contain the undeniable “Over the Rainbow” with music by Harold Arlen and lyrics by E.Y. Harburg. Still an endearing film to this day, it is filled with quotable moments and hidden treasures that unveil themselves on repeat viewings. The switch from black-and-white to color continues to produce goosebumps.
JULY 22 AND 24
“WEST SIDE STORY” (1961)
The musical that revolutionized the genre and also began its death toll, as realism began to creep in at the edges. It started Stephen Sondheim’s decades-long career and allowed Leonard Bernstein to cross over into pop culture. And all based around Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet. Lastly: Are you on team Maria (Natalie Wood) or team Anita (Rita Moreno)?
JULY 29 AND 31
“AN AMERICAN IN PARIS” (1951)
More of the wonderful Gene Kelly, here falling in love with Leslie Caron, with help from Oscar Levant and Georges Guet ry. Huge dance sequences, classic numbers from Ira and George Gershwin, a closing 16-minute ballet, and a romantic vision of Paris that still holds sway in the public’s subconscious. The film went on to win several Oscars, including Best Picture, although “Singing in the Rain” from the very next year did not.
AUGUST 5 only
“MARY POPPINS” (1964)
Disney’s charming musical fantasy about a magical nanny contains a number of earworms (“A Spoonful of Sugar,” “Chim Chim Cher-ee” and of course “Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious”) the lovely Julie Andrews and Dick Van Dyke, who charms despite (or due to) his dubious Cockney accent. Fun fact: the film was so profitable that Walt Disney used that money to purchase the land in Florida for Walt Disney World.
AUGUST 12 AND 14
“THE SOUND OF MUSIC” (1965)
The film version of Rogers and Hammerstein’s stage musical went all out, filming on location in Salzberg for its tale of a nun – Julie Andrews – who is tasked with looking after the seven children of a widowed naval officer while Austria is about to fall to the Nazis. Now regarded as one of the best musical films of all time, it was not a critical success upon its release. But the public loved it, and why not? It’s got all the singalong tunes, from the opening number to “My Favorite Things.”
AUGUST 19 AND 21
More Nazis ‘n’ musicals! Bob Fosse’s film version of the John Kander and Fred Ebb musical, itself a version of Christopher Isherwood’s “I Am a Camera,” is one of the darkest musicals of its time, which suited the early ’70s mood of war and pessimism. Joel Grey, Michael York and Liza Minnelli are all fabulous, and this final film sees the UCSB series out with a fiendish smile.
“Over the Rainbow: Great American Movie Musicals”
When: 7:30 p.m. Wednesdays and 8:30 p.m. Fridays, July 8 through August 21
Where: Isla Vista Theater, 960 Embarcadero del Norte, Isla Vista (Wednesdays);
Santa Barbara County Courthouse Sunken Gardens,1100 Anacapa St. (Fridays)
Information: (805) 893-3535, www.artsandlectures.ucsb.edu