As last week’s post on Show Boat showed, Hollywood has a history of repeating itself. (This is fortunate for me; otherwise this blog wouldn’t exist!) Here are 5 less complicated musicals that have been given the Hollywood treatment over and over.
5. Sparkle (1976 & 2012) – Sparkle was a proto-Dreamgirls, an early Motown musical based not-so-subtly on the Supremes and other girl groups of the ’70s. It boasted music by Curtis Mayfield (of “Superfly” fame). The remake was supposed to be a launch for an American Idol starlette. However, it’s best known for being Whitney Houston’s last film. Houston’s music packs a punch even though she’s only given one song. The rest of music is mostly forgettable in both films
4. Babes In Toyland (1961 & 1997) – This is rather a tangle because there are 4 movies listed under this title and none of them have the same plot. First came an Abbot & Costello film. Next was a 1961 Disney movie with music by Victor Herbert. Then came a 1986 TV movie with Drew Barrymore (but no music). Finally, in 1997 there was a cartoon version that also had music by Victor Herbert but a different lyricist. Did that make sense to you? Yes? Then explain it to me. I’m still confused.
3. The Jazz Singer (1980 & 1927) – If you were going to remake the groundbreaking film that introduced sound to cinema, you’d have to be gutsy. Looking closer at the film, it’s really a so-so story about a Jewish cantor’s son breaking into showbiz. The big moment is a very uncomfortable (and unfortunately iconic) blackface number. You know the one: “Mammy! Mammy!” If you wanted to make this film successful, you’d probably cast Neil Diamond. But why would you want to make this film at all?
2. Cinderella (1957 & 1965 & 1997) – The Rogers & Hammerstein musical so nice they made it 3 times! The first was for a young starlette named Julie Andrews. It was in the days of live TV, so the entire thing was a well-orchestrated television event. By the second go around (starring Leslie Ann Warren), pre-recording had come about. The third was just a wild and wonderful musical starring Brandi for some reason, with a few Rogers & Hart songs thrown in. The cast for all three was spectacular: the first included comedienne Kay Ballard. The second starred Celeste Holm, Ginger Rogers, and Pat Carroll (Ursula). The third featured Whoopi Goldberg, Bernadette Peters, Jason Alexander, and of course Whitney Houston as the fairy godmother. I really love these musicals.
1. Oklahoma (1955 & 1955) – Yes, this is one movie. It was shot two times. In the 1950s, 20th Century Fox was exploring new widescreen technologies. They’d already had success in 1953 with The Robe in CinemaScope. But Mike Todd (best known for marrying Elizabeth Taylor) was marketing a new 70mm widescreen format called Todd-AO. Todd-AO was flashy but complicated, so it was primarily used for big road shows. For wide release, 35mm CinemaScope was necessary. This meant that Oklahoma! had to be shot twice. The video below shows an example (skip to 3 minutes):
Of course, I haven’t covered all of the twice-made movie musicals here. What are your favorites?