1950s EASY-POP Songs and Singers...on the verge of Rock 'n Roll
Popular Movie Musicals of the 50s Film title, studio, musical composer, year released, stars, and popular musical numbers
Annie Get Your Gun MGM Music & lyrics by Irving Berlin 1950 Betty Hutton, Howard Keel, Keenan Wynn, Louis Calhern Songs:There’s No Business Like Show Business (Hutton, Keel, Wynn, Calhern)
Summer Stock MGM Music & lyrics by Harry Warren, Jack Brooks, and Saul Chaplin 1950 Judy Garland, Gene Kelly, Phil Silvers, Gloria De Haven, Eddie Bracken Songs:Get Happy, written by Harold Arlen & Ted Koehler (Garland); If You Feel Like Singing, Sing(Garland)
On the Town MGM Music by Leonard Bernstein, lyrics by Betty Comden & Adolph Green 1950 Gene Kelly, Frank Sinatra, Jules Munshin, Vera-Ellen, Ann Miller, Betty Garrett Songs:New York, New York (Kelly, Sinatra, Munshin)
Three Little Words MGM Music & lyrics by Bert Kalmar & Harry Ruby 1950 Fred Astaire, Red Skelton, Vera-Ellen, Phil Regan, Debbie Reynolds Songs:Three Little Words(Astaire, Skelton, Vera-Ellen); You are My Lucky Star(Regan); I Wanna Be Loved By You Boop-Boop-a-Doop(Reynolds dubbed by Helen Kane)
The Toast of New Orleans MGM (operatic standards) 1950 Mario Lanza, Kathryn Grayson, David Niven, James Mitchell, Rita Moreno Songs:Be My Love, written by Nicholas Brodszky & Sammy Cahn (Lanza, Grayson)
Young Man with a Horn Warner Brothers (1920’s and 1930’s music) 1950 Kirk Douglas (with trumpet dubbed by Harry James), Doris Day, Lauren Bacall Songs:Lullaby of Broadway, Too Marvelous for Words, I Only Have Eyes for You (Day)
Show Boat MGM Music & lyrics by Jerome Kern & Oscar Hammerstein II 1951 Kathryn Grayson, Howard Keel, Ava Gardner, Marge & Gower Champion Songs:Make Believe (Keel, Grayson); Old Man River(William Warfield)
An American in Paris MGM Music & lyrics by George & Ira Gershwin 1951 Gene Kelly, Leslie Caron, Oscar Levant, Georges Guetary Songs:I Got Rhythm(Kelly); American in Paris(ballet – Kelly, Caron)
Royal Wedding MGM Music & lyrics by Alan Jay Lerner & Burton Lane 1951 Fred Astaire, Jane Powell, Peter Lawford, Sarah Churchill Songs: Too Late Now(Powell); You’re All The World To Me(Astaire, dancing on the ceiling)
On Moonlight Bay Warner Brothers (period music standards) 1951 Doris Day, Gordon MacRae, Leon Ames, Rosemary De Camp, Mary Wickes Songs:On Moonlight Bay, written by Percy Wenrich & Edward Madden(Day, MacRae)
The Great Caruso MGM (various operatic extracts) 1951 Mario Lanza, Ann Blythe, Dorothy Kirsten Songs:The Loveliest Night of the Year, adapted from Juventino Rosas’ Over the Waves, lyrics by Paul Francis Webster (Lanza)
Here Comes the Groom Paramount Music & lyrics by Johnny Mercer & Hoagy Carmichael 1951 Bing Crosby, Jane Wyman, Anna Maria Alberghetti, Dorothy Lamour, Phil Harris Songs:In the Cool, Cool, Cool of the Evening(Crosby, Wyman)
With a Song in My Heart 20th Century Fox (Jane Froman Standards) 1952 Susan Hayward (vocals dubbed by Jane Froman), David Wayne, Rory Calhoun Songs:With a Song in My Heart, Blue Moon,Tea for Two(Hayward dubbed by Froman)
Singin’ in the Rain MGM Music & lyrics by Arthur Freed & Nacio Herb Brown 1952 Gene Kelly, Debbie Reynolds, Donald O’Connor, Cyd Charisse, Jean Hagen Songs:Singin’ in the Rain(Kelly); Good Morning(Kelly, Reynolds, O’Connor); Make ‘Em Laugh(O’Connor)
Hans Christian Andersen RKO Music & lyrics by Frank Loesser 1952 Danny Kaye, Jeanmaire, Joey Walsh, Farley Granger, Roland Petit Songs:Anywhere I Wander, No Two People, Thumbelina, The Ugly Duckling(Kaye)
Stars and Stripes Forever 20th Century Fox (John Phillip Sousa music) 1952 Clifton Webb, Robert Wagner, Debra Paget Songs: Stars and Strips Forever, El Capitan, Washington Post March, King Cotton
Call Me Madam 20th Century Fox Music & lyrics by Irving Berlin 1953 Ethel Merman, Donald O’Connor, Vera-Ellen, George Sanders, Billy De Wolfe Songs:Hostess With the Mostest(Merman); You’re Just in Love(Merman, O’Connor)
Calamity Jane Warner Bros Music & lyrics by Sammy Fain & Paul Francis Webster 1953 Doris Day, Howard Keel, Allyn McLerie, Philip Carey Songs:Secret Love(Day); The Deadwood Stage(Day); Black Hills of Dakota(Day)
Kiss Me Kate MGM (in 3D) Music & lyrics by Cole Porter 1953 Kathryn Grayson, Howard Keel, Ann Miller, Keenan Wynn, Bobby Van Songs: So In Love(Grayson, Keel); Wunderbar(Grayson, Keel); Too Darn Hot(Miller)
The Band Wagon MGM Music & lyrics by Howard Dietz & Arthur Schwartz 1953 Fred Astaire, Cyd Charisse (vocals dubbed by India Adams), Jack Buchanan, Nanette Fabray, Oscar Levant Songs:That’s Entertainment(cast); Dancing in the Dark(Astaire, Charisse, dubbed by Adams)
By the Light of the Silvery Moon Warner Bros. (period music standards) 1953 Doris Day, Gordon MacRae, Leon Ames, Rosemary De Camp, Mary Wickes Songs:By the Light of the Silvery Moon, Ain’t We Got Fun(Day, MacRae)
Gentlemen Prefer Blondes 20th Century Fox Music & lyrics by Jule Styne & Leo Robin 1953 Marilyn Monroe, Jane Russell, Elliot Reid, Tommy Noonan, Charles Coburn Songs: Diamonds are a Girl’s Best Friend(Monroe); Little Girl from Little Rock(Monroe, Russell)
White Christmas Paramount (in VistaVision) Music & lyrics by Irving Berlin 1954 Bing Crosby, Danny Kaye, Rosemary Clooney, Vera-Ellen Songs: White Christmas(Crosby, Kaye, Clooney, Vera-Ellen); Sisters(Clooney, Vera-Ellen)
The Glenn Miller Story Universal International (Big Band era music) 1954 Jimmy Stewart, June Allyson, Louis Armstrong, Gene Krupa, Francis Langford Songs: Moonlight Serenade, written by Mitchell Parish & Glenn Miller; In the Mood, written by Andy Razaf & Joe Garland
Seven Brides for Seven Brothers MGM Music & lyrics by Gene DePaul & Johnny Mercer 1954 Jane Powell, Howard Keel, Russ Tamblyn, Julie Newmar, Virginia Gibson Songs: Goin’ Courtin’ (Powell and the brothers); Lonesome Polecat (the brothers); Wonderful Day(Powell)
A Star is Born Warner Brothers Music & lyrics by Harold Arlen & Ira Gershwin 1954 Judy Garland, James Mason, Charles Bickford, Tom Noonan Songs:The Man That Got Away(Garland); Born in a Trunk(Garland)
There’s No Business Like Show Business 20th Century Fox Music & lyrics by Irving Berlin 1954 Dan Daily, Ethel Merman, Marilyn Monroe, Donald O’Connor, Mitzi Gaynor, Johnnie Ray Songs: There’s No Business Like Show Business(entire cast); Heat Wave(Monroe)
Young At Heart Warner Brothers music & lyrics from various writers 1955 Doris Day, Frank Sinatra, Gig Young, Dorothy Malone, Ethel Barrymore Songs:Young at Heart, written by Johnny Richards & Carolyn Leigh (Sinatra); Ready, Willing and Able,written by Floyd Huddleston & Al Rinker (Day); One for My Baby, written by Harold Arlen & Johnny Mercer (Sinatra)
Guys And Dolls Samuel Goldwyn Music & lyrics by Jo Swerling, Abe Burrows, & Frank Loesser 1955 Marlon Brando, Frank Sinatra, Jean Simmons, Vivian Blaine, Stubby Kaye Songs: Luck Be a Lady (Brando); Guys and Dolls(Brando, Sinatra); Sit Down You’re Rockin’ the Boat(Kaye)
Kismet MGM Music & lyrics by Bob Wright and Chet Forrest 1955 Howard Keel, Ann Blyth, Vic Damone, Delores Gray, Sebastian Cabot Songs: Stranger in Paradise(Damone, Blyth); Baubles, Bangles, and Beads(Chorus)
Oklahoma 20th Century Fox Music & lyrics by Richard Rodgers & Oscar Hammerstein II 1955 Gordon MacRae, Shirley Jones, Gene Nelson, Gloria Graham Songs: Oh What a Beautiful Morning(MacRae); I Cain’t Say No(Graham)
Love Me or Leave Me MGM (Singer Ruth Etting’s 20s and 30s music standards) 1955 Doris Day, James Cagney, Cameron Mitchell Songs: Me or Leave Me (Day); I’ll Never Stop Loving You, written by Nicholas Brodszky & Sammy Cahn (Day)
The King and I 20th Century Fox Music & lyrics by Richard Rodgers & Oscar Hammerstein II 1956 Yul Brynner, Deborah Kerr (vocals dubbed by Marni Nixon), Rita Moreno Songs: Getting to Know You(Kerr, dubbed by Nixon); Shall We Dance(Brynner, Kerr, dubbed by Nixon)
High Society MGM Music & lyrics by Cole Porter 1956 Bing Crosby, Frank Sinatra, Grace Kelley, Louis Armstrong, Celeste Holm Songs: True Love(Crosby, Kelly); Now You Has Jazz(Crosby, Armstrong); Well Did You Evah (Crosby, Sinatra)
Bundle of Joy RKO Music & lyrics by Josef Myrow & Mack Gordon 1956 Eddie Fisher, Debbie Reynolds, Nita Talbot, Tommy Noonan Songs:Lullaby in Blue(Fisher, Reynolds); All About Love (Fisher); Someday Soon (Fisher)
Carousel 20th Century Fox Music & lyrics by Richard Rodgers & Oscar Hammerstein II 1956 Gordon MacRae, Shirley Jones, Barbara Ruick, Claramae Turner Songs:You’ll Never Walk Alone(Turner); Soliloquy(MacRae); If I Loved You(Jones, MacRae)
Pal Joey Columbia Music & lyrics by Richard Rodgers & Lorenz Hart 1957 Frank Sinatra, Rita Hayworth (vocals dubbed by Lu Ann Greer), Kim Novak Songs: Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered(Sinatra and Hayworth, dubbed by Greer); The Lady is a Tramp(Sinatra)
The Pajama GameWarner Brothers
Music & lyrics by Richard Adler & Jerry Ross 1957Doris Day, John Raitt, Carol Haney. Songs:I’m Not At All In Love (Day);Hey There (Raitt);Steam Heat (Haney). Jailhouse Rock MGM Music & lyrics by Jerry Lieber & Mike Stoller 1957 Elvis Presley, Judy Tyler, Mickey Shaughnessy Songs:Jailhouse Rock(Presley); Treat Me Nice(Presley);You’re So Square(Presley)
South Pacific 20th Century Fox Music & lyrics by Richard Rodgers & Oscar Hammerstein II 1958 Mitzi Gaynor, Rossano Brazzi (vocals dubbed by Giorgio Tozzi), Ray Walston, Juanita Hall (vocals dubbed by Muriel Smith), John Kerr (vocals dubbed by Bill Lee) Songs:Some Enchanted Evening(Gaynor, Brazzi dubbed by Tozzi); Younger Than Springtime(Kerr dubbed by Lee); Bali Ha’i(Hall dubbed by Smith); There is Nothing Like a Dame(Walston and sailors)
Gigi MGM Music & lyrics by Alan Jay Learner & Frederick Lowe 1958 Leslie Caron, Louis Jourdan, Maurice Chevalier, Hermione Gingold, Isobel Jeans Songs:Gigi (Jourdan); I Remember It Well(Chevalier, Gingold)
Porgy and Bess Samuel Goldwyn Music & lyrics by George & Ira Gershwin 1959 Sidney Poitier, Dorothy Dandridge, Brock Peters, Sammy Davis Jr., Diahann Carroll, Pearl Bailey Songs:I Got Plenty O’ Nuthin’(Poitier); It Ain’t Necessarily So (Davis)
The Hollywood Musical
Movie musicals hit the peak of their popularity in the fifties and many popular songs came from these films. During the early and mid-fifties more than two dozen musical movies were turned out by the major studios each year. A new musical was released every two weeks!
In the first half of the fifties, movie studios created an active production schedule for musicals. MGM was the most productive and innovative in story, music, and dance and their 1952 ‘Singing in the Rain’ is considered the quintessential Hollywood musical movie. The sparkling 1958 ‘Gigi’ was the last hurrah for MGM musical movies although ‘The Sound of Music’ from 20th Century Fox would light up screens in 1965.
The musical, more than any other type of film, depended on the ‘studio system’ to assemble the necessary cadre of musical specialists required to create the expensive Hollywood musical movies. The major studios kept the musicals alive and the musicals kept the studios alive during the post-war years. In 1950, the United States Department of Justice decided to break-up the movie studio’s monopoly on distributing the films that they produced in the movie palaces that they owned. The decision required movie studios to divest themselves of their movie theaters and the ‘studio system’ began to unravel.
Even with the addition of technical innovations like wide-screen Cinemascope, multi-speaker Stereophonic sound, and 3-D, the number of Hollywood musicals had dropped to just a dozen released annually by 1958 and 1959 and the number continued to decline. Although musical movies continued to be produced after 1959, the peak of the genre had passed.
In addition to the mainstream, traditional Hollywood musicals, there were several, hard-to-classify, ‘films-with-music’ in the fifties. The famous series of spontaneously zany ‘road’ pictures with Bing Crosby, Bob Hope, and Dorothy Lamour, continued with the 5th film in the series ‘Road to Bali’ in 1953.
There were seventeen Dean Martin & Jerry Lewis movies-with-songs including ‘Jumping Jacks’ in 1952, ‘Scared Stiff’ and ‘The Caddy’ (that introduced Dean Martin’s hit song That’s Amore) in 1953, ‘Living It Up’ in 1954, ‘Artists and Models’ in 1955, and finally their 17th and last film together ‘Hollywood or Bust’ in 1956.
Walt Disney studios created memorable full-length animated musical films during the fifties: ‘Cinderella’ in 1950, ‘Alice in Wonderland’ in 1951, ‘Peter Pan’ in 1953, ‘Lady and the Tramp’ in 1954, and ‘Sleeping Beauty’ in 1959. You Can Fly, A Dream is a Wish Your Heart Makes and the spaghetti-sharing Bella Notte were all introduced in Disney films. Peggy Lee recorded the memorable He’s a Tramp from ‘Lady and the Tramp.’ The catchy tune Bibbidi-Bobbidi Boo from ‘Cinderella’ was a hit recording for Jo Stafford & Gordon MacRae and for Perry Como and for Dinah Shore.
In addition to their animated films, Disney studio’s introduced the unforgettable children’s favorite The Mickey Mouse March (M-I-C, K-E-Y, M-O-U-S-E) on their daily television series ‘The Mickey Mouse Club’ and their Sunday evening ‘Disneyland’ TV series introduced The Ballad of Davy Crockett in 1955. Bill Hayes, Tennessee Ernie Ford, and Fess Parker (who originated the title role) all had top-ten hit recordings.
Musicals targeted for teenagers—capitalizing on the popularity of young performers—have been popular since Judy Garland and Mickey Rooney starred in several in the thirties and forties. During the mid-fifties, studios featured teen favorites in movies like Elvis Presley’s ‘Love Me Tender’ in 1956, ‘Loving You’ and ‘Jailhouse Rock’ in 1957, and ‘King Creole’ in 1958. Pat Boone starred in ‘April Love’ in 1957 and ‘Mardi Gras’ in 1958. Not quite as successful were Tommy Sands’ ‘Sing Boy Sing’ in 1958, Fabian’s ‘Hound Dog Man’ in 1959, and Louis Prima and Keely Smith in ‘Hey Boy, Hey Girl’ in 1959. These musicals did help establish a younger-generation genre to appeal to the teenage moviegoer.
The growing generational conflict of the time was the subject of a serious, landmark, dramatic film in 1955, ‘Rebel Without a Cause.’ According to rock historian Charlie Gillett: James Dean, Natalie Wood, and Sal Mineo provided figures with whom the new teenagers could identify; figures whose style of dress, speech, movement, facial expressions, and attitudes helped give shape and justification to unrealized feelings in the audience. The integrity of James Dean was simultaneously a reflection of, and a model for, large segments of the audience. (Gillett, 1972, p.24)
At the other end of the dramatic spectrum, and perhaps the most unbelievable movie phenomenon in the fifties, was the success of Olympic swimmer Esther Williams and her musical ‘water’ spectaculars. Her fifties films included: ‘Pagan Love Song’ in 1950, ‘Million Dollar Mermaid’ and ‘Skirts Ahoy!’ in 1952, ‘Dangerous When Wet’ and ‘Easy To Love’ in 1953, and ‘Jupiter’s Darling’ in 1955.
Hundreds of 50s EASY-POP songs originated in fifties movies. The musical tastes in film influenced a wide variety of audiences—in big city movie palaces, small town theaters, and outdoor drive-ins. But movies were not the only influence—the arrival of television at the beginning of the decade would precipitate another huge influence on fifties pop music.