Fox Musicals - The Pre-merger Years

Though the Twentieth Century-Fox musical began in actuality during 1935, its antecedents dated back some six years and the beginnings of sound movies with high musical content. This was the Fox early Sound Era and, during 1933, was augmented by the newcomer on the block, 20th Century pictures - headed up by Daryl F Zanuck. Though much of this period is now antiquated and/ore inaccessible, a few pictures indicate the future and at least two of the major Twentieth Century-Fox Musical stars began their meteoric rise during these early years.

1929 - 1934: The 'pre-merger' beginnings:

As soon as the talkies arrived, Fox jumped on the early musical bandwagon with spectaculars like Fox Movietone Follies of 1929, (a second edition appearing in 1930 this time with a drama attached), Words and Music (29) - boasting an early appearance of John Wayne! - and the all-star Happy Days (30). Fox made the first Hollywood Viennese Operetta Married in Hollywood (29). Its then roster of players included Dixie Lee (Mrs Bing Crosby), early black performerStepin Fetchit,Sharon Lynn,Marjorie White, the busily employed comedic El Brendel and most significantly - though neither were really musical talents, the pair Janet Gaynor and Charles Farrell, who in '29 made the most important early Fox musical Sunnyside Up. This featured a DeSylva-Brown-Henderson score including 'If I Had a Talking Picture of You' with dances were staged by Seymour Felix one of the longest serving Fox choreographers. Other Gaynor/Farrell musicals followed including High Society Blues (30) and Delicious (31) graced with a Gershwin score. An unusual follow-up for DeSylva-Brown-Henderson was the first Science Fiction musical Just Imagine (30) which boasted incredible sets. Away from her Paramount contract, the musical programmer Oh for a Man (30) starred Jeannette MacDonald.

After initial activity, the interest in musicals dropped hugely (due to overkill and the rudimentary skills of the time). There were no Fox musical productions in 1932 - it would be the 60s before this reoccurred. After interest had been restored by Warner Bros. '42nd Street', instigated by the future Fox studio head Darryl F Zanuck, 1933 brought the melodramaticBroadway Bad featuring Ginger Rogers and Joan Blondell, and an attempt to make popular Lilian Harvey in the vehicles My Weakness and My Lips Betray (both 33) and I am Suzanne (34).

Zanuck left Warners in '34 and established 20th Century Pictures (with initial distribution through UA) which would release 3 musicals over the next 18 months. Moulin Rouge (with a Al Dubin/Harry Warren score, musically directed by future Fox supremo Alfred Newman),Broadway Thru the Keyhole (song lyrics by future Fox lyric supremo Mack Gordon in tandem with his usual 30s collaborator Harry Revel) and most ambitiously Folies Bergere starring Maurice Chevalier and Ann Sothern. The latter would be remade twice in future years, presaging a common trend at Fox. Back at ailing Fox, Rudy Vallee featured inGeorge White's Scandals (34) which also includedAlice Faye (in her debut, replacing the originally announcedLilian Harvey) who would soon become the second most valuable musical inheritance for Zanuck. The same film provided the debut for dancer Dixie Dunbar. The most valuable would sign for Fox in '34  and appear in such movies as Stand Up and Cheer and Bright Eyes - Shirley Temple. She was about to become the biggest draw in the industry. A '34 oddity was Music In the Air - a Hammerstein/Kern operetta opus starring Gloria Swanson paired with stolid singer John Boles who also turned up in some Temple vehicles in the mid 30s.

The follow up George White's Scandals of '35 starred Alice Faye once more with a pre-MGM Eleanor Powell. Soon however the struggling Fox Picture Corporation was to merge with the much smaller 'new kid on the block' 20th Century Pictures - with Zanuck as studio head, 20th Century Fox was born!

.... continue now onto 20th Century-Fox Musicals

To check out the box office champions of the Fox musical .. go toThe Box Office stars page.

Email me regarding 20th Cnetury-Fox Musicals via the main Fox Musicals page.
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