May 30, 2007


From my upcoming review in The American Conservative:

Musicals won six Best Picture Oscars in the 1950s and 1960s, but only one since ("Chicago" in 2002). Why aren't movie musicals terribly popular anymore? Americans will often tell you that it's just not realistic for somebody standing on a street corner to burst into song, accompanied by 100 violins.

Common as this criticism is, it's a rather unpersuasive explanation because we remain perfectly happy with many other implausible artistic conventions. We seldom scoff that a novel's omniscient third person narrator presumes a point of view that only God enjoys; that stage plays are ridiculous because normal people don't converse in complete sentences while all facing toward an invisible fourth wall; or that, unlike in sitcoms, families don't actually sit around in vast living rooms cracking wise.

If lack of realism truly is the cause of the musical's decline, then "Once," a tiny Irish musical written and directed by John Carney, should win box office success comparable to the enthusiasm it has inspired in critics. "Once" overcomes this common objection by giving its hero (played by an oversized red-headed teddy bear named Glen Hansard, the guitarist in the last Irish musical, 1991's "The Commitments") a practical reason to break into song on the sidewalk: he's a street musician who does indeed routinely pour out his heart, as battered as his old acoustic guitar, to the passing multitudes. So, the musical interludes in the film are perfectly plausible.

My published articles are archived at -- Steve Sailer


Anonymous said...

Steve -- Musicals are thought of as gay. Straight guys don't like being thought of as gay. Mostly I suspect because it forecloses the possibility of any action from women. So they actively avoid them like the plague.

The Commitments was successful IMHO because it was a musical masquerading as a rock and roll story.

Lesson: movies can't survive on just women and gays. They are still mass-market media.

Anonymous said...

Steve, you're looking for musicals in the wrong place.

Three act Broadway musicals morphed into music videos, of which there are many at

I suggest a look at the Amy Winehouse music vids there. All they need is a prose writer to supply plot and dialog to stitch numbers such as "I'm Bad" and "Rehab" into a musical so-called musical.

Anonymous said...


Please email me at I am working on ONCE and I would like to see your full review of the film.

Thank you.

Anonymous said...

Lesson: movies can't survive on just women and gays. They are still mass-market media.

51 % of the population + 3-plus % = 54-plus %, majority.

The other 46 or less per cent put their money down for action movies, sports, or video games.

... No such thing as a small "c" catholic audience.

Anonymous said...

Great news for fans of the musical!!!!


Travolta Is 'Divine' in 'Hairspray' Film
Friday, June 01, 2007

By Roger Friedman

Travolta 'Divine' in 'Hairspray' | Oprah Gets Moore; Woody and Harvey

Travolta 'Divine' in 'Hairspray' Film

And now, “Hairspray,” the John Waters musical film based on the Broadway musical that was based on the original 1988 John Waters non-musical film that launched Rikki Lake.

It’s brought to us by the producers of the movie musical version of “Chicago” and directed by Adam Shankman, a choreographer with some pretty awful movies on his resume.

Into this mix comes John Travolta, looking a little like Barney the dinosaur (except not purple) as Edna Turnblad, previously played on Broadway by Harvey Fierstein and in the movie by Divine, Waters’ late transvestite of choice. Who can forget Divine in “Pink Flamingos”? Did we ever think that Vinnie Barbarino would play his/her part?,2933,277008,00.html

Anonymous said...

Musicals didn't become gay until they became bad. The first rate musicals by Rodgers and Hart/Hammerstein, Irving Berlin, Jerome Kern, Cole Porter (yes, Porter himself was queer as a scoutmaster), Frank Loesser, and others had no taint of fagginess then and shouldn't be seen that way now.

When the halfway competent-Bernstein (a strutting and quite gay mediocre classical conductor-if Mitch Miller didn't prove the general rule of classical musicians having their pop music taste buds in their sigmoid colon I can't imagine what would) and Sondheim-made way for utter bums like Lloyd Webber and teams like Rado and Ragni, the die was cast.

The reason theatrical/musical cabaret poseurs-Liza Minnelli, David Johansen's alter ego Buster Poindexter-have such big gay followings is the reason why the gay rock audience dotes on non-mainstream artists that don't quite have it-the bold and inept strike a chord in the gay consciousness. Consider the gay act itself-it's a frustrating imitation of the normal heterosexual act, inasmuch as two whats or two wheres don't work like one of each. Bad musicals are, in that sense as well as others, "gay".

That's not to say we will ever have good musicals again. They were a product of a time, just as Mozart's violin concerti and Strauss' waltzes were-or for that matter Pete Townshend windmilling and smashing guitars. Nonetheless, people will be listening to and playing the musicals' tunes, and acting in productions, for centuries to come.