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Old Film and Musical Ideas Never Die

Films and Musicals That Inspire More Films and Musicals

Superman Statue Celebrates Film Hits - Mark & Allegra

In the showbiz world the best new ideas for movies and musicals are often born from old ideas, recycled and reshaped for today’s hungry entertainment media.

While the arts are the personification of freedom of expression and the joys of creativity, often they are also about self-promotion and are totally inward looking. But if works of art about works of art and artists succeed in show business, and clearly they do, why would their creators need to look anywhere else for ideas, inspiration and income?

Films about Films

Films from novels we’re used to; films of plays often work. Even films of cartoon/comic book characters also work: Superman (1978), Batman (1989), Spiderman (2002), Watchmen (2009).

From the beginning of the cinema industry, excited by the possibilities of the camera, filmmakers turned the lens inward. Early silent movies like The Cameraman (1928) and Man With a Movie Camera (1929) are films about films.

Woody Allen is a later exponent, but other directors are wise to it too. The Player (1992) is the story of a Hollywood executive who kills an aspiring screenwriter he thought was sending him death threats.

White Hunter Black Heart (1990) is a Clint Eastwood directed piece, a thinly fictionalized account of a legendary movie director, whose desire to hunt down an animal turns into a grim situation with his movie crew in Africa.

Burden of Dreams (1982) is an extraordinary feature-length documentary shot during and about about the messianic German director Werner Herzog struggling against desperate odds in the Amazon basin to make his epic feature, Fitzcarraldo. A film within a film.

The Muppet Movie is About Fame

The Muppet Movie (1979) is the story of the already famous frog, bear and pig on the road to Hollywood, with cameo appearances from Orson Welles, among others. It is a film about actors, agents, directors and the whole Tinseltown dream.

So is Fame (1980, 2009), a chronicle of the lives of several teenagers who attend a New York high school for students gifted in the performing arts. This is one movie that began as a stage musical.

A film about musicals is The Producers (1968) in which a theatrical impressario plans to cheat investors by deliberately producing a Hollywood flop. Then there are films that inspired musicals, the opposite direction from the expected. Billy Elliot (2005) is based on the 2000 film, and Hairspray (2002) is based on the 1988 film.

Musicals and Films about Show Business

There’s No Business Like Show Business was originally a song by Irving Berlin for the musical Annie Get Your Gun (1950 film version), and was then featured in the 1954 movie of the same name. It’s all about the joys of performing in the ‘biz’.

The sentiment of that song sums up the whole notion of the movie business feeding on itself for ideas and treatments. Gypsy (1959) is a musical based on the memoirs of Gypsy Rose Lee, a famous striptease artiste. I’m Getting My Act Together and Taking It On the Road was an off-Broadway musical from 1978 in which a 39 year old woman attempts a comeback as a pop star.

The Full Monty was a musical made from the 1997 British film of the same title. The 2005 musical Jersey Boys is a documentary-musical based on the lives of 1960s rock ’n roll group, The Four Seasons. Cabaret (1966 stage musical, 1972 film), A Chorus Line (1976 stage musical, 1985 film) and Moulin Rouge (2001) about a poet and a courtesan are all musicals about showbusiness in some form or other.

In showbusiness, there truly is no business like it.

First published at Suite 101, 11 March 2010.

Photo: Superman Statue Celebrates Film Hits – Mark & Allegra

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