- Thomas S. Hischak
By strict definition, a musical film, or movie musical, is a film that utilizes songs sung by characters rather than a movie that just includes singing or music on the soundtrack. There are exceptions to this definition, such as movies about classical composers that feature only instrumental music, or films that are comprised of dance and have no singing, but the true screen musical involves story, characters, songs, and usually dance. Since the very first talkies included songs, the history of the film musical begins with the advent of cinematic sound. Eventually most movies employed a musical soundtrack, much as stage melodramas had relied on an orchestral underscoring. It was the singing (and usually dancing as well) that made movie musicals distinctive. The genre has evolved over the decades and audiences’ expectations for a film musical have changed greatly. Yet movie musicals have always conjured up a somewhat fantastic and highly romanticized kind of reality that still makes them unique....