The musical tour de force Les Misérables has been both a commercial and critical success, but what are its actual chances of snagging the Oscar for Best Picture? If history is any indication, the odds are not in its favor. Only ten musicals out of the past 84 winners have won Best Picture. Here's the list of the very select musicals Les Misérables hopes to join as a Best Picture winner.
If you want to see how Les Misérables does, the 85th Annual Academy Awards telecast hosted by Seth MacFarlane will air live on ABC Sunday February 24 at 4 pm PST/7 pm EST.
In 2002, the Academy awarded the Best Picture to a musical for the first time in 34 years. Based on the Broadway musical about two murderous women who clamor for sensationalized infamy, Chicago managed to beat out heavy dramatic favorites like The Pianist and Gangs of New York. Rob Marshall directed an all-star ensemble cast that included Richard Gere, Renée Zellweger, and Catherine Zeta-Jones, who won for her performance as the fame-hungry showgirl Velma Kelly. Chicago reinvigorated the musical in Hollywood by showing how Bob Fosse-style musical and dance numbers are enjoyable and relevant in the 21st Century. If Les Misérables hopes to win Best Picture, it can look to Chicago for inspiration.
By 1968, musicals had dominated the Academy Awards, grabbing half of the Best Picture awards the past ten years. Oliver!, the musical adaptation of Charles Dickens's Victorian Age novel, Oliver Twist, punctuated that dominance in the 41st Academy Awards. Oliver! won a total of six Oscars that year, including a win for Englishman Carol Reed for Best Director, and acting nominations for Jack Wild as the Artful Dodger and Ron Moody as the villainous Fagin. Oliver! would be the last musical to win the Academy's top award for over thirty years.
The Sound of Music (1965)
Not only is The Sound of Music one of the greatest film musicals of all time, it's also simply one of the greatest films of all time. The American Film Institue ranked The Sound of Music the fourth greatest musical of all time and it made their list of 100 greatest movies each time it was updated. Written by the legendary pair of Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II for the original Broadway musical, instantly recognizable songs like "My Favorite Things" and "Do-Re-Mi" have taken on an identity outside of the musical. Director Robert Wise won his second Oscar directing amazing talent like Julie Andrews who played Maria, the lovable governess of the Von Trapp family, and Christopher Plummer the strict patriarch Captain Georg Von Trapp. The movie was also a commercial success; it currently sits on the fifth spot of the highest grossing movies of all time.
My Fair Lady (1964)
Based on George Bernard Shaw's play Pygmalion, My Fair Lady depicts the wager made by misogynistic elocution professor Henry Higgins that he can remold Audrey Hepburn's lower class Eliza Doolittle into a member of English high society. The movie claimed several top awards that year. Director George Cukor won the Oscar for Best Director, Rex Harrison won Best Actor for his portrayal of Higgins, and André Previn scored another win for his work on film's music. The music and lyrics of Alan Jay Lerner and Frederick Loewe will keep you hooked for many days, or at the very least repeating "The rain in Spain stays mainly in the plain."
West Side Story (1961)
"Maria." "America." "I Feel Pretty." "Somewhere." "Tonight." These memorable songs belong to West Side Story, the modern retelling of William Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet. Directed by Robert Wise and Jerome Robbins and starring Natalie Wood and Richard Beymer as star-crossed lovers Maria and Tony, West Side Story not only had several of the best musical numbers ever, but also displayed several of the most electrifying dance numbers ever seen on film. It's no wonder people are still singing and dancing to this Broadway adaptationl, which was ranked by the American Film Institute as the second best musical of all time.
Vincente Minnelli won the Best Director award that eluded him in An American in Paris for his masterful effort directing Gigi. As the musical adaptation of French author Colette's novella, Gigi set a record, albeit short-lived, for the most Oscars. It swept all nine awards it was nominated for, which included a win for André Previn's magnificent score and a Best Original Song award for the movie's title song "Gigi," which was composed by Alan Jay Lerner and Frederick Loewe.
An American in Paris (1951)
Starring Gene Kelly, arguably Hollywood's greatest singer and dancer, An American in Paris is a romantic film musical inspired by composer George Gershwin's orchestral piece of the same name. Helmed by Vincente Minnelli, who earned a nomination, and featuring such classic songs as "'S Wonderful," "Our Love Is Here to Stay," and "I Got Rhythm," An American in Paris is often regarded as on of the best musicals of all time.
Going My Way (1944)
At the 17th Academy Awards, Going My Way walked away the night's big winner, nabbing Oscars for Best Writing, Best Story, a Supporting Actor win for Barry Fitzgerald, and a Best Director win for Leo McCarey. However, the legendary singer and actor Bing Crosby may have been the movie's biggest winner. Starring as the pious Father Chuck O'Malley, Crosby won Best Actor and solidified his reputation as a huge box office star. Also, his performance of the movie's key song "Swinging on a Star" helped it win the Academy Award for Best Song, and undoubtedly made the song popular for many years after.
The Great Ziegfeld (1936)
The second musical to win Best Picture was The Great Ziegfeld, a biopic of one of Broadway's most successful impressarios, Florenz "Flo" Ziegfeld, Jr.. Starring William Powell as the titular character, the film tells the story of Ziegfeld's rise to fame and his fall to economic ruin due to onset of the Great Depression. The Great Ziegfeld successfully captured the lavish production of Ziegfeld's greatest work, his tribute to the American woman, The Ziegfeld Follies. The film's marquee moment was the elaborate sequence for "A Pretty Girl Is Like a Melody," which was rumored to have cost more to film than one of Ziegfeld's shows.
The Broadway Melody (1929)
The second film to win Best Picture in Academy history was also the first winner to feature sound. Directed by Harry Beaumont, The Broadway Melody tells the story of a romantic triangle between two sisters, played by Anita Page and Bessie Love, and a Broadway star played by Charles King. The classic George M. Cohan song "Give My Regards to Broadway" was used for the first time in a movie. The Broadway Melody also popularized the song "You Were Meant for Me," which has been covered by numerous artists including Jackie Gleason, Gene Kelly, and Sting.
Do you think Les Misérables will claim the Best Picture prize? If not, which of this year's nine films do you think will come out on top? Let your voice be heard in the comments below!