Music and Cinema
Music is most typically considered to be a means of entertaining. Simultaneously, music is capable of conveying some specific messages. Music deals with a great number of political, economic, and social issues. Moreover, music is relatable as it reflects upon most topical personal issues. On the other hand, music is closely connected with the other forms of art. In this regard, the link between music and cinematography deserves particular attention.
The first half of the twentieth century was marked by the rapid development of cinematography in a sense that new tools were invented to make a movie more interesting to the viewers. As far as the link between music and cinematography is concerned, it is important to admit that a great number of musical films were created in the post-war years. Evidently, many people felt depressed and suppressed after the end of the World War II. Mankind was exhausted by the great deal of cruelty, hatred, and animosity that it faced in this devastating war. In some way, these particular aspects explain the fact that music is entertaining, relatable, and topical.
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Bing Crosby debuted as an actor in Pal Whiteman’s King of Jazz. The film was released in 1930. Bing Crosby starred as a band singer (Turner Classic Movies, n.d.). Crosby’s most successful movies, however, are considered to be so-called ‘road’ movies, starring also Bob Hope and Dorothy Lamour (Turner Classic Movies, n.d.). Typically, Bing Crosby is characterized as a charming, easy-going, self-mocking escapist (Turner Classic Movies, n.d.). In this regard, it is worth mentioning that the musician succeeded in transcending the limits of his ‘area of expertise’, which means that Bing Crosby extrapolated his style and manner from music to acting.
Bing Crosby’s major film works include Holliday Inn, Going My Way, The Bells of St. Mary’s, White Christmas, and High Society (Turner Classic Movies, n.d.). Bong Crosby’s life’s work is believed to have helped people to deal with and overcome the consequences of Great Depression and the World War II (Turner Classic Movies, n.d.). Bing Crosby’s style and manner that appealed to the audience has resulted in the artist being widely loved by music connoisseurs and cinema goers. Themes and motives of Bing Crosby’s songs and film works were topical; his characters were mainly relatable and appealing, which has contributed to the artist’s popularity as well (Turner Classic Movies, n.d.).
Bing Crosby asserted himself as talented dramatic actor in 1954 with the production and release of George Seaton’s The Country Girl (Turner Classic Movies, n.d.). Bing Crosby played a part of an alcohol-dependent doctor in Gordon Douglas’ remake of a movie Stagecoach, released in 1966 (Turner Classic Movies, n.d.). Call Me Lucky, Bing Crosby’s autobiography, was introduced in 1952 (Turner Classic Movies, n.d.). To conclude, it is important to admit that Bing Crosby was an ambiguous person, judging from what his son Gary Crosby said of him. However, this fact diminishes Bing Crosby’s talents and his life’s meaningfulness by no means.
Frank Sinatra is commonly referred to as the world famous performer of such hit songs as “Let it Snow”, “Strangers in the Night”, and “My Way”. Quite a limited circle of music connoisseurs and keen cinema goers are aware of the fact that Frank Sinatra has made a successful career as an actor. Having debuted in musical films, he has demonstrated a great deal of acting skills in dramas, action films, and political thrillers.
Stanley Donen’s On the Town is a 1949 movie starring Gene Kelly, Frank Sinatra, and Jules Munshin (Dwyer, n.d.). It tells the story of three Navy sailors and their shore leave sojourn in New York, during which they make an acquaintance with three women, namely a dancer, played by Vera-Ellen, a cabbie, played by Betty Garrett, and an anthropology student, played by Ann Miller (Dwyer, n.d.). From Here to Eternity is 1953 movie directed by Fred Zinnemann and starring Burt Lancaster and Frank Sinatra (Dwyer, n.d.). The latter won the Academy Award as the best supporting actor for playing a part of Angelo Maggio in the film, “ill-fated” and “wisecracking army private targeted for persecution by a sadistic sergeant” (Dwyer, n.d.). The Man with the Golden Arm is 1955 movie directed by Otto Preminger. The work Frank Sinatra made in this movie is regarded as the best dramatic performance he has ever made (Dwyer, n.d.). Ocean’s 11, a 1960 movie directed by Lewis Milestone, stars Dean Martin, Sammy Davis, Jr., Joe Bishop, Peter Lawford, and Frank Sinatra himself as Danny Ocean (Dwyer, n.d.). The movie is typically characterized as “a lighthearted heist movie” (Dwyer, n.d.).It tells the story of a gang that is making an attempt to commit a robbery by breaking into five casinos in Las Vegas . Steven Soderbergh’s remake of Ocean’s 11 was released in 2011 and starred George Clooney as Danny Ocean (Dwyer, n.d.). The Manchurian Candidate, a movie released in 1962 and directed by John Frankenheimer, is defined mainly as “a tense political thriller that offered Sinatra one of his most challenging roles” (Dwyer, n.d.). It tells the story of Captain Bennett Marco, the veteran of a Korean war, who is brought home after years of imprisonment in Korean military institutions. Captain Marco’s part is played by Frank Sinatra. For this particular actor’s work Frank Sinatra received wide criticism. This particular part is considered to be artistically perfect and is regarded as one of Sinatra’s best dramatic works (Dwyer, n.d.). Von Ryan’s Express is a movie directed by Mark Robson and released in 1965 (Dwyer, n.d.). The distinctive feature of this particular work is the use of special effects “that were ahead of its time” (Dwyer, n.d.). Critics and viewers have approved of stunning cinematography and nearly flawless acting. It happened so that nowadays this piece of art is considered to be one of last good movies starring Frank Sinatra as an actor and musician since he retired within next few years (Dwyer, n.d.).
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Elvis Presley is acknowledged as ‘the king of rock-and-roll’. He is rightfully considered to be in the top list of the American icons of rock-and-roll. At the same time, his personality aroused a heated discussion among the critics, biographers, and music connoisseurs. There is no unambiguous opinion regarding Elvis Presley’s life, actions, and personal traits among his contemporaries and friends. However, Elvis Presely’s contribution to the development of rock-and-roll music is viewed as merely unparalleled. Furthermore, the musician has greatly influenced people’s perception of style and rock-and-roll music itself.
Presley’s television debut occurred in 1956. Throughout the year, Elvis had made six appearances on “Stage Show” and two appearances in each of “The Milton Berle Show”, “Steve Allen Show”, and “Ed Sullivan Show” (Elvis Presley, n.d.). Presley third appearance on “Ed Sullivan Show” took place in January, 1957. Ed Sullivan, the host of the show, made the following statement: “I wanted to say to Elvis and the country that this is a real decent, fine boy” (as cited in Film & TV, n.d.). Moreover, Ed Sullivan admitted that “his show had never had a better experience with a name act” (Elvis Presley, n.d.).
Love Me Tender, released in 1956 and directed by Robert D. Webb, has become Elvis Presley’s beginning of an acting career. Elvis Presley starred as an actor in 31 featured movies and two concert documentary movies (theatrically released) (Elvis Presley, n.d.). All of these works were of commercial success (Elvis Presley, n.d.). Jailhouse Rock and King Creole are counted among the most critically taken movies starring Elvis Presley (Elvis Presley, n.d.). Other significant works with him, among the others, are as follows: Loving You, Flaming Star, G.I. Blues, Follow That Dream, and Viva Las Vegas (Elvis Presley, n.d.).
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Bill Haley’s “Rock Around the Clock”, is one of the most recognizable rock-and-roll songs, became the soundtrack of Richard Brooks’ Blackboard Jungle. Blackboard Jungle was released in 1955 and nowadays is considered to be a controversial movie. It stars Glenn Ford and Anne Francis, and it is said to depict “the violence and romanticism of the social upheavals created by rock and roll” (Movies, n.d.).
An idea to promote rock-and-roll music through films came into the mind of James Myers, also known as Jimmy de Knight, acknowledged as the co-writer of the song “Rock around the Clock” (Movies, n.d.). Thus, Blackboard Jungle has become one of the first movies to use a rock-and-roll song as its main theme (Movies, n.d.).
A year later, in 1956, Sam Katzman from Columbia Pictures contacted and suggested Bill Haley and his band Comets to star in a movie. It was planned as “the fictional rags to riches story of the band’s rise to fame” (Movies, n.d.). The film also starred the Platters, Freddie Bell and the Bellboys, and Alan Freed (Movies, n.d.). Anyway, it happened that Bill Haley have become the first musicians to star in the first rock-and-roll movie (Movies, n.d.).
Full-length movies like A Hard Day’s Night, Help, Magical Mystery Tour, a documentary film Let it Be, and an animated cartoon “Yellow Submarine” were based merely on the music of the Beatles. They initiated the tradition of musical documentary and semi-documentary movies. The structure of music and the lyrics of their songs were usually simple, understandable and relatable for the listener, therefore it was popular.
A Hard Day’s Night which was released in 1964, is directed by Richard Lester, inspired by the Beatles’ music and based on the original screenplay by Alun Owen. Eponymous album was released in the same year by the United Artists in the US and by Parlophone in the UK and created the musical background of the movie plot as well as the movie itself, including its themes, motives, characters’ features, etc. Music, plotline, acting, and cinematography made a coherent whole. Help! was released in 1965 and was directed by Richard Lester. The original script was written by Marc Behm and Charles Wood. The movie has become the Beatles’ second screen performance. Magical Mystery Tour movie, released in 1967, deserves particular attention since the very idea of its creation belonged to all the members of the group.
John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison, and Ringo Starr have created the movie script and directed it together. This was unusual for that time since the split of the band has already begun. Yellow Submarine is an animated movie directed by George Dunning and released by Apple Films in 1968. Let It Be (1970) is a documentary movie directed by Michael Lindsay-Hogg and produced by the Beatles in association with Neil Aspinall. It is based mainly on the songs from the albums Let it Be and Abbey Road.
Generally, the movies and the animated movies have displayed the evolution of the band’s aesthetic views and beliefs as well as the relationships between the members of the group within the group itself and out of it. It is important to admit that all the works were successful.
As far as the influence of the group is concerned, it is important to mention the following. In 1966 the Beatles visited the USA for the second time. The New York Times published the interview with the Beatles on August,24 in 1966 and stated that the members of the group are totally against the War in Vietnam (Dallos, 1966). The Beatles there have also contemplated the issues of mutual understanding and differences between the British and American cultures (Dallos, 1966). With all things considered, until nowadays the Beatles were and remain acclaimed and loved widely throughout the world.
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Taking all the aforementioned facts into consideration, it is possible to sum up the following fact. Music is closely connected with the art of cinematography. It is also destined to entertain, relax, provoke thinking, and convey certain messages. The purpose of cinematographic art is to visualize what music was incapable to express. Revealing correlations, conveying implied meanings, but most of all reflecting life — all these shows what the purpose of cinematographic art particularly is. Bing Crosby, Bill Haley and Comets, Elvis Presley, Frank Sinatra, and the Beatles can be viewed as the most vivid examples of how music and cinema can intertwine. Entering the world of cinema can make one musician’s way to success and glory easier. Thus, it happened to Bill Haley and Comets.
Experimenting with other forms of art can possibly reveal the secret talents. Something very similar happened to Elvis Presley and each member of the Beatles band. Finally, one can show the talents in many spheres, like it was proved by Frank Sinatra and his life. When a song or a compilation of songs becomes a featured movie, thematic frameworks of music and the movie itself should be taken into consideration by all means. I am, however, inclined to think that the purpose is of paramount importance in this case. However, both the purpose and thematic framework are interdependent. People strive for happiness. Men of art know the truth. All I can presume is the following. It is a good thing that in the moments of deepest despair people can turn to something significant, eternal, beautiful, something that can comfort them and is capable of making them a bit happier.