Turner Classic Movies: Must See Movie Musicals: 50 Show-Stopping Movies We Can’t Forget

42nd Street - Ruby Keeler
Ruby Keeler, 42nd Street (1933)

While you might be tempted to lightly peruse and selectively reference Turner Classic Movies: Must See Musicals: 50 Show-Stopping Movies We Can’t Forget, don’t.  If you don’t read this one cover to cover, you’ll miss out on the lovely pleasure of discovering the evolution of the movie musical and all that the genre has meant to cinema and classic movie fans everywhere.  Mirroring their times and technology, musicals are unique in their ability to transport, uplift and move.  They are so frequently the panacea for their moment.

Must-See Musicals

Starting with The Broadway Melody (1929) and moving on through to La La Land (2016), author Richard Barrios has put forth a love letter, highlighting some of the most iconic musical moments in movies.  Might your favorite film be missed?  Perhaps.  But each selection and their accompanying chapters not only details why that film has its place in history but also gives hints for several others who share its space. You’ll likely find your personal preference somewhere in these pages.


The book opens with a foreword by Michael Feinstein and a heart-stopping full-page shimmering black and white image of Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers; it only gets better from there.  A dive into the chapters finds a nice structure.  Each carefully selected musical is given an overview that includes its special place, appeal and most iconic moments as well as a few luscious behind the scenes tidbits.  Barrios’ moves on to ‘What’s More’, generally more fun background and ‘Musically Speaking’, a bit about the songs and numbers themselves.   A movie poster, cast and credits, and four or more photos, some from in-production, completes each section.

Classic movies can be like comfort food and a musical perhaps more than any other genre really hits that sweet spot.  While many are timeless confections, others move in the realm of resonant relatability. From the soaring strains of Streisand belting a heart-breaking ‘My Man’, the defiant, gritty synchronicity of the Jets in West Side Story, a luminous Judy Garland’s aching rendition of ‘Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas’, and the bright, technicolor joyousness of An American in Paris, musicals stir a place inside rarely touched by other films. It’s no wonder we welcome them into our homes time and time again. And you’ll do the same with this guide.  In handy paperback, it’s a quick way to not only catch up on some easy information but also a neat way to relive a few memorable movie moments.

While I’m a big fan of movie musicals I confess to having given a few a cursory or partial viewing.  Some perhaps seemed dated, others a little too frothy. I found that even for those films I may not prefer or have yet to discover, I have now been given enough background information to appreciate their place in cinema history and what might make a particular picture shine for a particular fan.  Many of these films have continued to move audiences’ hearts and spirits for decades and there’s always a good reason why.  Barrios finds that reason.

Printed in luscious heavy stock, the book is worth the price of admission for the photos alone; many are full page. I found myself stopping just to appreciate their glamour and artistry.

I can’t begin to tell you how much I loved this book.  I was moved to tears both by the joyful eloquence of its author and by a genre that sometimes gets overlooked in our ‘oh so serious’ times; I’ve added many new films to my ever-growing list of ‘Must See’.

This book is sooo highly recommended. Not only would it make a perfect holiday gift but it’s also just the escape from the madness that we all need right now. Here’s to 2018!!!

La La Land - Gosling and Stone
Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone, “Planetarium,” La La Land (2016)

Thank you to Running Press/Turner Classic Movies for providing me with an advance review copy of this lovely book.  Turner Classic Movies: Must-See Musicals: 50 Show-Stopping Movies We Can’t Forget (Running Press 2017) is available in sturdy paperback or eBook from SHOPTCM.com and Amazon.com.

West Side Story - Wood and Beymer

harlow peeking red dust