My Fair Lady
1964
Dir: George Cukor, Scott Heming
Of course, the whole concept of a musical is somewhat ridiculous.

Very rarely do people suddenly break into song as a way of expressing their emotions. If they did, they would probably be locked up.

And what's more amazing is that when people start up a song in public, passers-by either do not notice, or they join in.

Everyone can dance. Whether you are a policeman, chimney-sweep or fishmonger, the merest tinkling of a piano causes you to jump up and dance in perfect unison with all your fellow workers, brandishing either your truncheon, brush or cod as a dancing accessory.

But at the moment the music stops, everyone must return to their work, with apparent total amnesia of their recent dancing outburst.

When a single lady sings about her desire for love, lost love, dream of love or just about anything about love, not only will she find her love, but at the end of the film she will repeat her little song with the same tune, but with the lyrics changed to reflect her love success.

A lot of gambling goes on in musicals, and it's usually over women. People bet that they can get the girl, or turn her into a movie star, or teach her to dance. We all know what happens next. They will succeed, the girl will find out about the wager, the girl will hate the guy who bet on her, but eventually forgive him, and they'll get married.

Subterfuge is always rewarded. By pretending to be a relative, a priest, a policeman or someone of the opposite sex, you will always get the girl in the end.

Whenever there is a task to be performed, whether it is building a house or mounting an entire stage production, and particularly when the task is to be completed within an impossibly short length of time, the solution is to sing a song, and it is guaranteed that by the end of the song, the task will be finished.

Secretaries, assistants, and understudies who wear spectacles and have their hair tied up will instantly become plain and unattractive to men. But wonderfully, all they have to do is remove their spectacles, let down their hair and put on a dress to become suddenly amazingly attractive.

When someone sits at a piano and starts to play, they will inevitably be joined at some point by an invisible orchestral accompaniment.

When a musical has to show a newspaper article or review, it will always spin out of the screen like an airplane propeller.

In a musical, if a pretty woman hates a man's guts, it is a clear sign that they will soon get married.

If a song ends on a final climactic beat, the camera must end on a close up of the singer. If a song ends with the music fading away, the camera must crane slowly out.

If a man puts on a dress, or a woman puts on a fake moustache, everyone including their own mother will fail to recognize them.

Since it is rather hard to eat and sing at the same time, scenes at dinner tables will always place before or after food has been served.

When two characters gossip, there is a very good chance that the person they are gossiping about is round the corner, behind the door, or under the bed.

Never die your hair too blonde. If it's a golden blonde you're lovely. But just a bit too much bleach and you become mean, spiteful and jealous. (Marilyn Monroe is of course an exception.)

A musical number is a great way to eradicate pomposity. Whenever there is a particularly pompous judge, headmaster, dignitary or military general, and particularly if they have a large moustache, they will at first look perplexed by the musical antics of those around them, but within a few seconds, they will grab their wig and gown and join in, chortling manically. If they have a gavel, microphone or other implement in their hand, they will toss it aside.

If the pretty girl sings to the moon, it must be a full moon.

If you have a misunderstanding, or break-up and someone has left you never to come back, simply sing a sad solo, and by the end of the song, the person who has left will step out of the shadows to join in the chorus.

If you have something important to tell someone, it is a good idea to sing it, but more importantly you should turn away from them at some point and sing it to a spot in the far corner of the ceiling, or a distant treetop, or mountain etc.

However energetic the dancing, no-one ever gets breathless.

Please feel free to post your own movie musical cliches.

But the most extraordinary thing is that not only do we forgive musicals for their lack of realism and their strange internal logic, the familiarity of the musical genre seems to actually add to the enjoyment.

Perhaps the easiest way to understand musicals is to think of them as an alternate universe. The simplicity, predictability and benevolence of that universe is attractive. The guy always gets the girl. No-one ever remains lonely. Poverty can never be a lasting barrier to happiness. Meanness is punished. The sun will always come out tomorrow.

Our world has become a lot more cynical since the heydays of movie musicals.
To allow yourself to be transported into the magical world of the musical nowadays seems to imply that you are somehow a little stupid, gullible, too easily influenced.

'How ridiculous', people say. 'As if that would really happen'. For a generation who have been brought up on behind-the-scenes documentaries and know the difference between a gaffer and a grip, the conventions of a movie musical can often seem too obvious.

But I suspect that those who scoff at musicals have often never actually watched a musical on the big screen with big sound.
Musicals weave a wonderful magic that pulls you in, and soon you are under their spell.

This month, we celebrate the magic of the musical with some of the very finest examples.

If you have seen them before, enjoy them again on the big screen.
If you've never seen them, prepare for a treat!
Paul Spurrier