Star Struck and Falling Hard!
So, came the war era of Broadway! With the 1920s stock market crash and subsequent Great Depression which followed, the level of Broadway activity had dwindled as the War Era followed. The new motion picture genre had ignited the hearts and hi-jacked the imagination of the public. Broadway, for a while, was left to a smaller, still valiant, but more ardent and discerning sophisticated audience.
Yet still while the audience was smaller, today, surely and most assuredly, you'll smile and nod knowingly and familiarly at the mention of many now Iconic Broadway musicals produced during the war era! At the very least, you'll recollect the melodies of the past few, the witty, ingenious, inventive lyricists of Broadway musicals!
Many of these lyricists produced a long line of World War II-era musicals that blended a subtle choreography, punctuated with quasi to full blown, bawdy humor, and dialog intended to provide the audience with a bit of the aura from “USO Show” feelings. These musicals, from blase to suave, to sophisticated and complex, showcased some of the greatest talents that even today, still stand apart from the shadows of others who followed. These talents have withstood the true test of a timeworn art.
Why, memorable World War II melodies, borne of Broadway musicals of the 1940s, were heard by an audience of people whose husbands, fathers, sons and daughters were supporting and fighting the war campaigns! Is it any wonder one can still hear the echos nobly straining through our todays?
It was, in part, through pure Broadway talent that America was able to find inner strength and resilience and endurance during the War Era. The musicals served a lighthearted escape from all that troubled the world and reality by adding vitality and humour to the tragedy of life.
True, the characters of these Broadway musicals, at times, could be one dimensional, downright unbelievable or believable as the case may be, to their audience. Whatever the occasion, the characters were capable of resting squarely amidst the qualitative pillars of our empathy and sentiments.
Finally, the musicals, in themselves, offered distraction and a bit of escape and yet had all the makings to produce a plethora of pride, love, sentimentality, patriotism. Why at any given moment, audiences could find themselves proud, amorous, patriotic, and joyous! And, oh yes...a bit of down home hokey was always a score! But never you mind hokey! Come now! This was America against the backdrop of WWII and anything that could go... would!
All in all, and nevertheless, the audience goers to Broadway, willingly subjected and indulged in the blurry-eyed, nostalgic tributes that, to them, unknowingly hailed another coming-of-age and post WWII America.
What were some of these provacative Musicals of the 1940s?
"Something for the Boys" with the piquant yet robust Ethel Merman in the following biting and risque innuendo excerpted from the script:
Mac: Hey Hattie?
Hattie: What Do You Want
Mac: There's four guys down here to see you.
Hattie: Only four? I must be slipping.
"Pal Joey" with the wonderful song of collaborated and grand scale "Bewitched, Bothered, and Bewildered."
"Lady in the Dark" was a work of finesse all in dream sequence!
"Oklahoma!" hailed as a unexpected surprise and resounding success to all and capable of awakening any inert lifeless soul!
"Miss Liberty" depicting the depth of meaning that Statue of Liberty held for our GI's followed by:
"Gentlemen Prefer Blondes"
"Little Girl from Little Rock"
"Diamonds Are A Girl's Best Friend."
"Kiss Me Kate"
"Annie Get Your Gun"
"Let's Face It"
Did this new Broadway that began and ended the 1940s still exalt in the hey day of activity of the once formerly prosperous pre-World War II? History will have decided as will you, yet today. You may just emphatically glance back to New York and Broadway and, from your safe vantage point indisputably consider this era the "all- hail-to the queen" hub of the musical world! Why?
Broadway's last musical hit of the decade happened to be one of the biggest ever? The name? Oh you'll all recall..."South Pacific"
A note: Frankly, though any era, there is no debating the delightfully evident appeal and stick-to-itiveness, dogged preservence and tenacity of Broadway!