Movie musicals, a one-time staple of Hollywood, were all but extinct until “Chicago” won the Best Picture Oscar in 2002. Since then, a film adaptation of a Broadway musical has been released almost every year. These have a built-in audience with fans of both the original rialto run and the touring productions giving studios a better chance of recouping their investment.
That fact makes the decision by Lionsgate to finance Damien Chazelle ‘s original tuner “La La Land” even more impressive. This charming tale of the unlikely romance between a jazz musician (Ryan Gosling) and a would-be actress (Emma Stone) is poised to sweep the Oscars. In so doing, it will be the first original movie musical to win Best Picture since “Gigi” in 1958.
“Gigi,” based on the 1944 novella of the same name by Sidonie-Gabrielle Colette, was set in turn-of-the-century Paris and tells the story of a would-be courtesan (Leslie Caron) raised by her grandmother (Hermione Gingold) and her Aunt (Isabel Jeans) who enjoys a platonic friendship with a playboy (Louis Jourdan) until his uncle (Maurice Cheavlier) intervenes.
“Gigi” won all nine of its Oscar bids: Best Picture; Director (Vincente Minnelli); Adapted Screenplay (Alan Jay Lerner); Film Editing (Adrienne Fazan); Art Direction (William A. Horning, Preston Ames, Henry Grace and Keogh Gleason); Color Cinematography (Joseph Ruttenberg); Costume Design (Cecil Beaton); Original Score (Andre Previn) and Original Song (“Gigi” by Frederick Loewe and Lerner).
While that haul was the most for any movie, that record fell the following year when “Ben-Hur” won 11. “Gigi” was the only modern-era Best Picture to sweep all of its categories and has since been joined in that feat by fellow nine-time winner “The Last Emperor” (1987) and “The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King” (2003), which went 11 for 11.
“Gigi’ won three Golden Globes: Best Comedy/Musical, Best Director and Best Supporting Actress (Gingold). It had two bids for Best Comedy/Musical Actor (Chevalier and Jourdan) while Caron contended for Best Comedy/Musical Actress. And Minnelli won the Directors Guild of America Award as well.
“Gigi” faced tough competition at the Oscars from the Golden Globe Drama winner Stanley Kramer’s “The Defiant Ones,” which won two of its six Academy Award bids: Original Screenplay and Black-and-White Cinematography.
Also in the running for Best Picture were seven-time nominee “Separate Tables,” which won for lead David Niven and supporting player Wendy Hiller, as well as “Auntie Mame” and “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof,” which both went 0 for six.
“La La Land” is nominated for 14 Oscars, overlapping with “Gigi” in eight categories: Picture; Director (Damien Chazelle); Film Editing (Tom Cross); Cinematography (Linus Sandgren); Costume Design (Mary Zophres); Production Design (David Wasco and Sandy Reynolds-Wasco); Original Score (Justin Hurwitz); and two Original Songs: “Audition (The Fools Who Dream”) and “City of Stars” (Hurwitz, Benj Pasek and Justin Paul).
“La La Land” is also contending for: Actress (Emma Stone); Actor (Ryan Gosling); Original Screenplay (Chazelle); Sound Editing (Lee and Mildrerd Iatrou) and Sound Mixing (Andy Nelson, Ai-Ling Lee and Steven Morrow). Back in 1958, there was only one Sound category which was won by another musical, “South Pacific.”
According to Gold Derby’s exclusive odds “La La Land” is the frontrunner in 10 races: Best Picture; Best Director; Best Actress; Best Cinematography; Best Editing; Best Costume Design; Best Production Design; Best Original Score; Best Original Song (“City of Stars”) and Best Sound Mixing.
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