Musicals are my greatest, most reliable cinematic refuge, a warm blanket and hot toddy combined. Even on a bad day — and we’ve all had plenty of those lately — a musical can lift my spirits if only for a moment. Their otherworldliness is crucial because while all fiction depends on some kind of contract between creators and audiences, musicals also rely on us agreeing to voyage beyond consensus reality. No matter how far-fetched the premise or gossamer-thin the story, the musical invites (compels) us to go along with its essential surrealism, to travel to that dream space where everyday life suddenly moves and sounds deliriously out of this world.
Here are some 1940s musicals that send me, to borrow a phrase, over the rainbow.
‘Down Argentine Way’
There’s invariably a moment in a musical that you find yourself wildly grinning, and the room, the world and your cares fall away. That happens at the start of “Down Argentine Way,” a funny charmer that opens with Carmen Miranda in full tutti-frutti splendor singing, though more accurately, blowing your mind.
At once under- and overdressed in a peekaboo halter, Miranda is dolled up in her signature look,