Musical short

The musical short (a.k.a. musical short film, a.k.a. musical featurette) can be traced back to the earliest days of sound films.

Performers in the Lee De Forest Phonofilms of 1923-24 included Eddie Cantor, George Jessel, Abbie Mitchell ("The Colored Prima Donna") and comic singer-dancer Molly Picon, plus the team of Noble Sissel and Eubie Blake. The husband-and-wife vaudeville team of Eva Puck and Sammy White (billed as Puck and White) starred in the Phonofilm Opera vs. Jazz (1923). Max Fleischer used the Phonofilm process in 1924 when he introduced his animated Song Car-Tunes series.[1]



The nearly 2,000 Vitaphone short subjects produced by Warner Bros. and its sister studio First National from 1926 to 1930 included vaudevillians, opera singers, Broadway stars, dancers, bands and popular vocalists. One and two-reel short musical films were valuable to the movie studios as springboards for new talents. Performers who made their film debuts in short films include Joan Blondell, Humphrey Bogart, Burns and Allen, Sammy Davis, Jr., Judy Garland (as Baby Gumm), Cary Grant, Bob Hope, Bert Lahr and Ginger Rogers.[1]

Ruth Etting sang "My Mother's Eyes" (by Abel Baer and L. Wolfe Gilbert) and "That's Him Now" (by Milton Ager and Jack Yellen) in the Paramount Movietone Ruth Etting in Favorite Melodies (1929), filmed in a single take at the Astoria Studios in Queens, New York.[2] Astoria Studios was built by Paramount in the early days of sound films to provide the company with an audio-capable facility close to the Broadway theater district. Many features and short subjects were filmed there between 1928 and 1933, including the 16-minute St. Louis Blues (1929), the only film of Bessie Smith.[1]


Orchestra leader Phil Spitalny made a series of musical shorts beginning with Phil Spitalny (1929) at MGM, followed by shorts for both Vitaphone and Paramount, including Big City Fantasy (1929), Phil Spitalny and His Musical Queens (1934), Ladies That Play (1934), Phil Spitalny and His All Girl Orchestra (1935) and Sirens of Syncopation (1935).

For promotional purposes, major film stars, including Gary Cooper and Clark Gable, made guest appearances in such musical shorts as MGM's Star Night at the Cocoanut Grove (1934) and Starlit Days at the Lido[3] (1935), while others featured a single band, such as Freddie Rich and His Orchestra (1938).

Richard Barrios (author of A Song in the Dark: The Birth of the Musical Film) provided notes for Kino Video's compilation, The Best of Big Bands and Swing:

During the "Dawn of Sound," musical short subjects were the hors d'œuvre before the main feature, and an effective means for the studio to test their freshly signed talent in front of the camera. Aggressively pursuing the top singers, songwriters and musicians of Tin Pan Alley, Paramount's roster of contract players was composed of some of the top names in the world of entertainment. Cary Grant makes his film debut as a sailor cruising the Far East in search of whoopee in Singapore Sue. Artie Shaw presents a master class in the elementals of swingband construction (Artie Shaw's Class In Swing). A very young Bing Crosby croons three ballads in Dream House, a comedy-musical directed by slapstick impresario Mack Sennett. This collection showcases several top female vocalists, including Ethel Merman (Her Future), Ruth Etting (Favorite Melodies and Lillian Roth (Meet The Boyfriend). There's also a two-edged homage to that icon of 1930s naughtiness, Betty Boop, with appearances by Betty's prototype, "Boop-a-Doop Girl" Helen Kane (A Lesson In Love), and Betty's actual voice, Mae Questel (Musical Doctor, in which Dr. Rudy Vallee finds musical deficiencies to be the root of all ills). Perhaps the gem of this collection, however, is Office Blues, in which a pre-Astaire and pre-stardom Ginger Rogers cavorts with Broadway chorines in an Art Deco extravaganza. With artists like these on the bill it's clear that the short subject -- not the feature -- was often the highlight of the program![4]


Vincent Lopez and Betty Hutton in 1939.

In the late 1930s and early 1940s, Betty Hutton made a half-dozen musical shorts before her feature debut in The Fleet's In (1942) and then continued to make shorts for the war effort. She was seen in Paramount Headliner: Queens of the Air (1938), Vitaphone's Vincent Lopez and His Orchestra (1939), Broadway Brevities: One for the Book (1939), Paramount Headliner: Three Kings and a Queen (1939), Broadway Brevities: Public Jitterbug Number One (1939), Paramount Victory Short No. T2-1: A Letter from Bataan (1942), Army-Navy Screen Magazine #20: Strictly G.I. (1943), Paramount's Skirmish on the Home Front (1944) and Hollywood Victory Caravan (1945), produced on the Paramount lot by the Treasury Department for the 1945 Victory Loan Drive. Several of Hutton's musical shorts have been shown on Turner Classic Movies in recent years.

Modern jazz was added to the mix in such films as the 16-minute Artistry in Rhytym (1944), with Stan Kenton and Anita O'Day, later re-edited into another short, Cool and Groovy (1956), which also featured Chico Hamilton and The Hi-Los. In the mid-1940s, Louis Jordan made short music films, some of which were spliced together into a feature-length musical Western, Look-Out Sister (1947).


During the 1950s, musical shorts were revived for telecasting on local stations. Feature films in that decade were usually not edited to fit. Instead, if a feature ended 20 minutes before the hour, footage from musical shorts was used to fill the gap.

Snader Telescriptions were musical shorts made for television from 1950 to 1954. There were thousands of these three- and four-minute films, covering various genres from jazz and pop to R&B and country. Louis "Duke" Goldstone directed for Louis D. Snader.[5]

See also


  1. ^ a b c Barrios, Richard. A Song in the Dark: The Birth of the Musical Film, Oxford University Press, 1994.
  2. ^ "Ruth Etting". IMDb.
  3. ^ jackusdk (9 February 2015). "Early three-strip Technicolor in HD -- Henry Busse and His Band -- Hot Lips -- Read Notes!" – via YouTube.
  4. ^ Barrios, Richard. The Best of Big Bands and Swing, Kino Video. Archived 2008-06-22 at the Wayback Machine
  5. ^ "Snader Telescriptions".


  • Bradley, Edwin R. The First Hollywood Sound Shorts, 1926-1931, McFarland, 2005.

External links

Bert Gilroy

Bert Gilroy (May 7, 1899 – January 16, 1973) was an American film producer of the 1930s and 1940s. Born in Arizona in 1899, he began his Hollywood career behind the scenes on the 1926 silent film Pals in Paradise. In 1934, he began producing by overseeing short films for RKO Radio Pictures with Bandits and Ballads, a musical short. After four years of producing shorts, he would be given a chance at producing a full-length feature at RKO, with the western film, Gun Law. Later that year he would produce Painted Desert, a remake of the 1931 film The Painted Desert for which he was the assistant director, and was memorable as containing the first speaking role for Clark Gable. During the decade he was active, he would produce over 150 short and feature films. His feature films would overwhelmingly consist of westerns, many of which would star RKO's leading western star of the 1930s, Tim Holt. Gilroy spent almost his entire career at RKO studios, after its creation in 1929. His last credited film on which he was an associate producer on in 1946, Hollywood Bound was a compilation of three 1930s Betty Grable RKO short subjects

that was released by Astor Pictures.

Broken (1993 film)

Broken (informally known as The Broken Movie) is a 1993 horror musical short film/long form music video filmed and directed by Peter Christopherson, based on a scenario by Trent Reznor, the founder of the industrial rock band Nine Inch Nails.

The film is a companion piece to the band's 1992 EP Broken, featuring its songs and music and compiling its music videos (the exception being "Last" and the two hidden tracks). The movie, roughly 20 minutes in length, weaves Broken's four music videos together via a violent "snuff film" framing sequence, concluding with an otherwise unreleased video for the EP's final song "Gave Up," setting the conclusion of the film's frame story to the song.

Due to its extremely graphic content, the Broken movie was never officially released, but was leaked as a bootleg which became heavily traded on VHS in the 1990s, and more recently via the Internet. Reznor once said that the Broken movie "...makes 'Happiness in Slavery' look like a Disney movie." While his comments about the movie have been cryptic at best, he makes no secret of the film's existence.

Five Guys Named Moe

Five Guys Named Moe is a musical with a book by Clarke Peters and lyrics and music by Louis Jordan and others. The musical is based on an earlier musical short of the same name by Louis Jordan from 1943. It had its UK debut at the Cottesloe Theatre at the National Theatre followed by a short run at the Theatre Royal Stratford East, before moving to the West End for over four years in, and finally premiering on Broadway in 1992. It was revived in 2010 at Edinburgh Festival, starring Peters himself, and returned later in 2010 to the theatre in which it originally premiered. The musical won the Laurence Olivier Award for Best Entertainment.

Nomax, whose girlfriend has left him and who is without money, finds Big Moe, Four-Eyed Moe, Eat Moe, No Moe, and Little Moe emerging from his 1930s-style radio to comfort him. They sing the hit songs of songwriter and saxophonist Louis Jordan, whose new slant on jazz paved the way for rock and roll in the 1950s.

I Cried for You

"I Cried for You" is a pop and jazz standard with music written by Gus Arnheim and Abe Lyman, with lyrics by Arthur Freed. It was introduced by Abe Lyman and His Orchestra in 1923. The recording by Benny Krueger and His Orchestra the same year peaked at number 2 for two weeks and remained in the charts for ten weeks at large. Also in 1923 another interpretation of the song by the Columbians reached number 14 for one week. 15 years later in 1938 two new recordings peaked both number 13 in the Billboard charts, Bunny Berigan and His Orchestra with Kathleen Lane on vocals and an interpretation by Bing Crosby (a minor hit for him). Glen Gray and his Casa Loma Orchestra followed the next year, peaking at number 6, and in 1942 Harry James' recording was the last to get into the Billboard charts, peaking at number 19.I Cried for You was also featured in several films including the musical short Alladin from Manhattan (1936) (starring Ruth Etting), The Women (1939), Idiot’s Delight (1939) and Babes in Arms, sung by Judy Garland (1939). In 1944 Helen Forrest sang it in Bathing Beauty with Harry James and His Music Makers. Frank Sinatra interpreted the song in The Joker Is Wild (1957), and Diana Ross sang it in Lady Sings the Blues, personifying Billie Holiday (1972).

I Surrender Dear

"I Surrender Dear" is a song composed by Harry Barris with lyrics by Gordon Clifford. It is debatable who first performed this, though Bing Crosby performed the song in 1931, which became his first solo hit. On the same year, it was performed by Sam Lanin, as well as Ben Selvin, under the pseudonym "Mickie Alpert". It has been covered by a large number of artists, making it a jazz and pop standard. The first jazz vocalist to record the song was Louis Armstrong in 1931.The song is referenced in the 1949 war film Battleground, which depicts the hardships of American troops attempting to hold the town of Bastogne in late December 1944, during the Battle of the Bulge. German radio is heard broadcasting the song to the entrenched American troops to demoralize them. This psychological warfare is shown to have the opposite effect on the GIs, who hum along (to the old chestnut), but prefer to hear real American radio.

"I Surrender Dear" inspired two motion pictures bearing that title: a 1931 Bing Crosby musical short I Surrender Dear produced by Mack Sennett, and a 1948 feature film starring one of Crosby's co-stars, singer Gloria Jean. An instrumental 1930s-esque Jazz cover of this song was recorded for the 1996 movie Kansas City as part of the soundtrack. This song was also the comical introduction to the pre-code film, The Tip Off 1931, in which actor Eddie Quillan is a window singer at a radio repair shop. He mouths the song while it is being played over a new "Human Voice Amplifier".

Lava (2014 film)

Lava is a 2014 American computer-animated musical short film, produced by Pixar Animation Studios. Directed by James Ford Murphy and produced by Andrea Warren, it premiered at the Hiroshima International Animation Festival on June 14, 2014, and was theatrically released alongside Pixar's Inside Out on June 19, 2015.The short is a musical love story that takes place over thousands of years. It is set to a song written by Murphy, and was inspired by the "isolated beauty of tropical islands and the explosive allure of ocean volcanoes."In an interview with KHON, Murphy explained that his interest in Hawaii began 25 years prior while honeymooning on the main island of Hawai'i. Years later, he heard Israel Kamakawiwoʻole's rendition of "Somewhere Over The Rainbow", which touched him. "I put together this fascination and love and this experience I had with my wife in Hawaii, with this feeling I had for this song and thought, wow, if I could blend those two things, it would be really—a film I would love to see."The idea began to coalesce while attending the wedding of his sister, who married at the age of 43. "As my sister stood up on the altar, I thought about how happy she was and how long she’d waited for her very special day. There, at my sister’s wedding, I remembered Loihi and I had an epiphany… What if my sister was a volcano? And what if volcanoes spend their entire lives searching for love, like humans do?"

Les Brown (bandleader)

Lester Raymond Brown (March 14, 1912 – January 4, 2001) was an American jazz musician who led the big band Les Brown and His Band of Renown for nearly seven decades from 1938 to 2000.

Music video

A music video is a short film that integrates a song with imagery, and is produced for promotional or artistic purposes. Modern music videos are primarily made and used as a marketing device intended to promote the sale of music recordings. There are also cases where songs are used in tie-in marketing campaigns that allow them to become more than just a song. Tie-ins and merchandising can be used for toys or for food or other products. Although the origins of the music video date back to musical short films that first appeared in the 1920s, they again came into prominence in the 1980s when the channel MTV (originally "Music Television") based their format around the medium. Prior to the 1980s, these kinds of videos were described by various terms including "illustrated song", "filmed insert", "promotional (promo) film", "promotional clip", "promotional video", "song video", "song clip" or "film clip".

Music videos use a wide range of styles and contemporary video-making techniques, including animation, live action, documentary, and non-narrative approaches such as abstract film. Some music videos combine different styles with the music, such as animation and live action. Combining these styles and techniques has become more popular because of the variety for the audience. Many music videos interpret images and scenes from the song's lyrics, while others take a more thematic approach. Other music videos may not have any concept, being merely a filmed version of the song's live concert performance.

Nivek Ogre

Nivek Ogre (born Kevin Graham Ogilvie December 5, 1962) is a Canadian musician, performance artist and actor, best known for his work with the industrial music group Skinny Puppy, which he co-founded with cEvin Key. Since 1982, he has served as Skinny Puppy's primary lyricist and vocalist, occasionally providing instrumentation and samples. Ogre's charismatic personality, guttural vocals and use of costumes, props, and fake blood on stage helped widen Skinny Puppy's fanbase and has inspired numerous other musicians.

In 2001, he formed the electronic music group ohGr along with longtime collaborator Mark Walk. Originally named W.E.L.T., ohGr has released five studio albums since 2001, three of which have placed on Billboard's Dance/Electronic Albums chart. Ogre has also been involved with several other musicians including the Al Jourgensen bands Ministry and Revolting Cocks, Pigface and Rx with Martin Atkins, and KMFDM.

Ogre has on several occasions worked as an actor in low-budget horror films. He appeared as Pavi Largo in the rock opera film Repo! The Genetic Opera, as well as Harper Alexander in the comedy-horror film entitled 2001 Maniacs: Field of Screams. Ogre was reunited with Repo! director Darren Lynn Bousman for the 2012 musical short film The Devil's Carnival and its sequel Alleluia! The Devil's Carnival. In 2014, he starred in the Canadian film Queen of Blood.

One Froggy Evening

One Froggy Evening is a 1955 American Technicolor animated musical short film written by Michael Maltese and directed by Chuck Jones, with musical direction by Milt Franklyn. The short, partly inspired by a 1944 Cary Grant film entitled Once Upon a Time involving a dancing caterpillar in a small box, marks the debut of Michigan J. Frog. This popular short contained a wide variety of musical entertainment, with songs ranging from "Hello! Ma Baby" and "I'm Just Wild About Harry", two Tin Pan Alley classics, to "Largo al Factotum", Figaro's aria from the opera Il Barbiere di Siviglia. The short was released on December 31 (New Year's Eve), 1955 as part of Warner Bros.' Merrie Melodies series of cartoons.

Filmmaker Steven Spielberg, in the PBS Chuck Jones biographical documentary Extremes & Inbetweens: A Life in Animation, called One Froggy Evening "the Citizen Kane of animated shorts". In 1994, it was voted No.  5 of the 50 Greatest Cartoons of all time by members of the animation field. In 2003, the United States Library of Congress deemed the film "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant", and selected it for preservation in the National Film Registry.

The film is included in the Looney Tunes Golden Collection: Volume 2 DVD box set (Disc 4), along with an audio commentary, optional music-only audio track (only the instrumental, not the vocal), and a making-of documentary, It Hopped One Night: A Look at "One Froggy Evening". It was also attached to the theatrical release of Little Giants in 1994 and was subsequently featured on that film's VHS release.

Opera film

An opera film is a recording of an opera on film.

Paul Bunyan (film)

Paul Bunyan is a 1958 animated musical short film released by Walt Disney Studios It was based on the North American folk hero and lumberjack Paul Bunyan and was inspired after meeting with Les Kangas of Paul Bunyan Productions, who gave Mr. Disney the idea for the film. The film was directed by Les Clark, a member of Disney's Nine Old Men of core animators. Thurl Ravenscroft starred as the voice of Paul Bunyan. Supporting animators on the project included Lee Hartman.Paul Bunyan received an Academy Award nomination for Best Animated Short in 1959, but lost to Warner Bros. Cartoons' Looney Tunes cartoon Knighty Knight Bugs. It was also included on the 2002 DVD release Disney's American Legends

DTV set clips of the short to Annette Funicello's Tall Paul and was featured in an episode of Sing Me a Story with Belle.


Phonofilm is an optical sound-on-film system developed by inventors Lee de Forest and Theodore Case in the 1920s.

Runaway (2010 film)

Runaway is a 2010 American musical short film directed by Kanye West.It serves as the music video for a compilation of songs from West's album, My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy. It is inspired by other music-related films such as Purple Rain, Pink Floyd The Wall and Michael Jackson's Thriller and painters Pablo Picasso and Henri Matisse. Directors Federico Fellini and Stanley Kubrick as well as fashion designer Karl Lagerfeld are also direct inspirations. The film depicts a romantic relationship between a man and a half-woman, half-phoenix, and is set to music by Kanye West from his album My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy (2010).

Spring Is Here (film)

Spring Is Here is a 1930 American Pre-Code musical comedy film produced by First National Pictures and distributed by Warner Bros. It was adapted by James A. Starr from the 1929 musical play, of the same name, by Owen Davis, with music by Richard Rodgers and Lorenz Hart. The film stars Lawrence Gray, Alexander Gray, and Bernice Claire.

An abridged version of the film was released in 1933 as the musical short Yours Sincerely.

The Line, the Cross and the Curve

The Line, the Cross and the Curve is a 1993 British musical short film directed by and starring singer Kate Bush, co-starring Miranda Richardson and choreographer Lindsay Kemp, who had served as dance mentor to Bush early in her career.

This short film is essentially an extended music video featuring songs from Bush's 1993 album, The Red Shoes, which in turn was inspired by the classic movie musical-fantasy The Red Shoes.

In this version of the tale, Bush plays a frustrated singer-dancer who is enticed by a mysterious woman (Richardson) into putting on a pair of magical ballet slippers. Once on her feet, the shoes start dancing on their own, and Bush's character (who is never referred to by name) must battle Richardson's character to free herself from the spell of the shoes. Her guide on this strange journey is played by Kemp.

The film was released direct-to-video in most areas and was only a modest success; Kate Bush later expressed her displeasure with the final product, calling it "a load of bollocks". Soon after its release, Bush effectively dropped out of the public eye until her eighth studio album, Aerial, was released in November 2005.

Two years after the UK release, due to late promotion in the US, the film was nominated for the Long Form Music Video at the 1996 Grammy Awards.

The film continues to be played in arthouse cinemas around the world, such as a screening at Hollywood Theatre in 2014 where the film was screened along with modern dance interpretations to Bush's music.

Trace Beaulieu

Trace Beaulieu (; born November 6, 1958) is an American comedian, puppeteer, writer, and actor. He is best known for his roles on Mystery Science Theater 3000 (MST3K) as well as his work with MST3K's successor Cinematic Titanic with the original creators and cast of MST3K. In 2010 he published a book of poems entitled Silly Rhymes For Belligerent Children with illustrations by artist Len Peralta. He recently filmed a musical short film entitled The Frank with the original MST3K cast, including Bill Corbett, who assumed the role of Crow after Beaulieu left MST3K. (Joel Hodgson appears in The Frank only as a voice-over, while a stand-in wears Joel's trademark red jumpsuit; Michael J. Nelson does the same voiceover in the color version of "The Frank" available as a DVD extra.) Beaulieu briefly attended the University of Minnesota.

West Bank Story

West Bank Story is a comedy/musical short film directed by Ari Sandel, co-written by Sandel and Kim Ray, produced by Pascal Vaguelsy, Amy Kim, Ashley Jordan, Ravi Malhotra, Bill Boland, and featuring choreography by Ramon Del Barrio. The film is a parody of the classic musical film West Side Story, which in turn is an adaptation of Romeo and Juliet. The film follows the romance between the relatives of the owners of rival falafel restaurants, one Israeli and the other Palestinian, respectively named the "Kosher King" and the "Hummus Hut," in the West Bank. The film stars Ben Newmark as the IDF soldier, Noureen DeWulf as the Palestinian cashier, A.J. Tannen as the Israeli restaurant owner, and Joey Naber as his Palestinian rival.

Filmed on a Santa Clarita, California ranch, the short premiered at the 2005 Sundance Film Festival, and was screened at numerous additional film festivals across the world, garnering several awards. In 2007, at the 79th Academy Awards, it won the Oscar in the category Best Live Action Short Film.

What's Opera, Doc?

What's Opera, Doc? is a 1957 American animated cartoon comedy-drama musical short in the Merrie Melodies series, directed by Chuck Jones for Warner Bros. Cartoons. The Michael Maltese story features Elmer Fudd chasing Bugs Bunny through a parody of 19th-century classical composer Richard Wagner's operas, particularly Der Ring des Nibelungen (The Ring of the Nibelung), Der Fliegende Holländer, and Tannhäuser. It borrows heavily from the second opera in the "Ring Cycle" Die Walküre, woven around the standard Bugs-Elmer conflict.

Originally released to theaters by Warner Bros. on July 6, 1957, What's Opera, Doc? features the speaking and singing voices of Mel Blanc and Arthur Q. Bryan as Bugs and Elmer, respectively. The short is also sometimes informally referred to as ''Kill the Wabbit'' after the line sung by Fudd to the tune of Wagner's "Ride of the Valkyries", the opening passage from Act Three of Die Walküre (which is also the leitmotif of the Valkyries).

In 1994, 1,000 members of the animation industry ranked What's Opera, Doc? first in a list of the 50 greatest cartoons of all time.This is the third of the three Warner Bros. shorts (the others being Hare Brush and Rabbit Rampage) in which Elmer defeats Bugs, as well as the only one where the former shows regret for defeating the latter, and the last Elmer Fudd cartoon that Jones directed.

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