How Movie Musicals Can Connect Generations

Jennifer Butler

OnStage Massachusetts Columnist

For as long as I can remember I have always connected with people who are much older than I am. The shows that I enjoy the most are ones with the music considered before my time. The same goes with movie musicals. Nothing beats Meet Me in St. Louis, Singing in the Rain, An American in Paris, Guys and Dolls or Our Town. The movie musicals of the 50’s are where many classics lie and I can assure you that I would much rather watch those movies than pretty much anything on television these days.

Over the last couple of years I have been spending time with my cousins and taking care of my Uncle Bill who is now 91 years old. More recently, while visiting Uncle Bill, he and I got to talking about the theater and the shows that I am currently working on. One thing led to another and next thing I knew, I told him that I was going to bring an old movie musical for us to watch. I don’t think he believed me but for my next visit I walked in with An American in Paris and a laptop for us to watch it on.

I was watching it as a theater person because I know of the Broadway adaptation An American in Paris and some of the other movie musicals such as White Christmas. But he knows them as the originals. He can remember when they were originally released. Even though he said he wasn’t a movie guy, he was able to remember the stories of the actors that were in An American in Paris and the other projects these actors were apart of during that time. He repeated a number of times during the movie how great a pianist Oscar Levant was. But when we originally watched them doesn’t matter, what matters is that we laughed at the same parts, both sang along to “I’ll Build A Stairway to Paradise,” created cherished memories for the two of us, and gave us something to talk about.  

Now, I don’t need these classic movie musicals to talk to him. I could sit and listen to him for hours, but I do appreciate the conversations and the stories that they led him to share.  He not only talked about the actors, but he told me about his favorite music, the records that he used to collect and even told me stories of life in general when he was growing up and of his time in the Army during World War Two. 

It’s not every day that I get the opportunity to sit and chat with him about his early life but when I do, I hear stories that I plan to cherish for as long as I can. And just as I re-watch these movies with him, I plan on sharing them with both my future children and grandchildren.

Though these movie musicals are like the ones made today, only now with the advancement of technology, they are still one of a kinds and are something special because after all these years these movies are still connecting people, connecting families, and most importantly connecting generations.