30 Fabulous Facts About Your Favorite Movie Musicals

Updated on June 7, 2019
Rachel M Johnson profile image

Rachel M. Johnson is a lover of all things pop culture. She's been writing about music and entertainment online for over two years.

Musical films captivate audiences through their dramatic storytelling, catchy dance numbers, and powerful soundtracks. During the 1950s, 60s, and 70s, musical film was a hot commodity and many popular musicals were released during this period. As the years have progressed, Hollywood's fascination with this storytelling method dwindled, but it has seen a resurgence in recent years. Here are some fabulous facts about your favorite movie musicals.


1. During the entire production of West Side Story (1961), the actors wore out 200 pairs of shoes, split 27 pairs of pants, applied more than 100 pounds of make-up and performed in 30 different recording sessions.

2. Walt Disney cast Julie Andrews for the lead in Mary Poppins (1964) after seeing her performance in Broadway's Camelot. Andrews initially hesitated to take the part because she was hoping to star as Eliza Doolittle in My Fair Lady.

3. Hugh Jackman was offered the chance to audition for the Phantom in 2004's The Phantom of the Opera, but had to decline due to scheduling conflicts with Van Helsing. The role ultimately went to Gerard Butler, who had no prior singing experience. Both Katie Holmes and Anne Hathaway were initially cast as Christine Daaé before Emmy Rossum nabbed the lead.

4. Nicole Kidman fractured two ribs and tore knee cartilage after falling during a performance of "Diamonds Are a Girl's Best Friend" in Moulin Rouge! (2001). She also revealed that she broke a rib while getting into a corset, by tightening it as much as possible to achieve an 18-inch waist.

5. Due to the intense physical demands of singing, none of the cast in Les Misérables (2012) were allowed to drink alcohol. Amanda Seyfried and Russell Crowe both admitted it was a challenge, and Crowe bought the actress a bottle of whiskey as a gift once filming wrapped.

6. Gene Kelly often insulted Debbie Reynolds' lack of of dance experience during the production of Singin' in the Rain (1952). Fred Astaire, who was in an adjacent dance studio, once found her crying under a piano and reassured her that all her hard work would pay off.

Julie Andrews as the titular character in Mary Poppins.
Julie Andrews as the titular character in Mary Poppins. | Source
Nicole Kidman as Satine in Moulin Rouge!
Nicole Kidman as Satine in Moulin Rouge! | Source
Debbie Reynolds & Gene Kelly in Singin' in the Rain.
Debbie Reynolds & Gene Kelly in Singin' in the Rain. | Source

7. The role of Billy Flynn in 2002's Chicago was first offered to John Travolta, before going to Richard Gere. This is the third film Travolta turned down that Gere accepted; the other three were American Gigolo, Days of Heaven and An Officer and a Gentleman. Travolta has since expressed his regrets turning down the part.

8. During filming of Gentlemen Prefer Blondes (1953), Jane Russell and Marilyn Monroe got along well and Russell called Monroe "Blondie." She was also the only person who could coax Monroe out of her trailer to begin the day's filming.

9. Frank Sinatra and Marlon Brando did not like each other during Guys and Dolls (1955). Sinatra loathed the non-singing Brando for getting the starring role, while he got a lesser part. His nickname for Brando during filming was "Mumbles."

10. Henry Winkler was offered the role of Danny Zuko in 1978's Grease, but turned it down in fear of being typecast.

11. West Side Story (1962) won ten Academy Awards, making it the musical with the most Oscar wins ever.

12. Julie Andrews was always the first choice to play the role of Maria in The Sound of Music (1965), but Shirley Jones and Grace Kelly were also considered.

Marilyn Monroe & Jane Russell in Gentlemen Prefer Blondes.
Marilyn Monroe & Jane Russell in Gentlemen Prefer Blondes. | Source
Rivals Marlon Brando & Frank Sinatra in Guys and Dolls.
Rivals Marlon Brando & Frank Sinatra in Guys and Dolls. | Source
Henry Winkler & John Travolta.
Henry Winkler & John Travolta. | Source

13. Dorothy's iconic ruby red slippers in The Wizard of Oz (1939) now reside at the Smithsonian Institution, and are so popular that the carpet in front of the exhibit has had to be replaced numerous times due to wear and tear.

14. Stockard Channing, who played the leader of the Pink Ladies Betty Rizzo in Grease, was actually 33 years old when she portrayed a high school student.

15. The Rocky Horror Picture Show (1975) was Tim Curry's film debut; for a long time he was reluctant to discuss the movie due to some unpleasant memories regarding intense fans. He reportedly told VH1 that he grew "chubby and plain" in an effort to escape the role of Frank. He has since enjoyed discussing the musical.

16. Leonardo DiCaprio, Heath Ledger and Jake Gyllenhaal were considered for the role of Christian in Moulin Rouge! before Ewan McGregor was cast.

17. Drew Barrymore auditioned for the lead role in 1982's Annie, before the role was given to Aileen Quinn.

18. Grease's Jeff Conway (Kenickie) was so infatuated with Olivia Newton-John (Sandy) that he would become tongue-tied whenever she was around. He would later go on to marry her sister, Rona Newton-John.

Stockard Channing as Rizzo in Grease.
Stockard Channing as Rizzo in Grease. | Source
Tim Curry in The Rocky Horror Picture Show.
Tim Curry in The Rocky Horror Picture Show. | Source

19. For 2007's Hairspray, it took John Travolta four hours to put on the 30-pound fat suit and 5 gel-filled silicone face prosthetics to become Edna Turnblad.

20. Jennifer Hudson beat out a whopping 782 other actresses for the role of Effie White in Dreamgirls (2006); among those were fellow American Idol alum Fantasia Barrino and former Disney star Raven-Symoné. Hudson would ultimately win an Oscar for her performance.

21. To prepare for 2007's Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of the Fleet Street, Helena Bonham Carter rehearsed her songs while practicing baking techniques in order to perfect the quick, syncopated rhythm of the music.

22. During the production of My Fair Lady (1964), Audrey Hepburn reportedly walked out when she learned her voice wasn't good enough and would be dubbed. The next day, in true typical graceful Hepburn style, she apologized for her "wicked behavior."

23. Marilyn Monroe had wanted to play the role of Adelaide in Guys and Dolls, but director Joe Mankiewicz wanted Vivian Blaine from the original production. Grace Kelly was almost Sarah Brown, but had to turn down the part due to other commitments.

24. Shirley Temple was considered for the role of Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz, but producer Mervyn LeRoy was adamant on casting Judy Garland.

Jennifer Hudson as Effie White in Dreamgirls.
Jennifer Hudson as Effie White in Dreamgirls. | Source
John Travolta in Hairspray.
John Travolta in Hairspray. | Source
Audrey Hepburn in My Fair Lady.
Audrey Hepburn in My Fair Lady. | Source

25. Catherine Zeta-Jones was adamant that her character Velma Kelly have a short bob in Chicago. She would later explain that she didn't want her long hair to fall in her face and give people a reason to doubt that she did all the dancing herself.

26. Natalie Wood reportedly kept a list of people who had gotten on her bad side in her dressing room during the filming of West Side Story. Her on-screen love interest Richard Beymer made the list, although he didn't find out until years later.

27. For the musical number "Diamonds Are a Girl's Best Friend" in Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, Marilyn Monroe was originally going to be dressed in nothing but bands of black velvet and rhinestones, creating the illusion of a woman-sized diamond necklace. However, this design was deemed to risque and the iconic pink gown was chosen instead.

28. Hugh Jackman lost a considerable amount of weight to play Jean Valijean in Les Misérables; he went 36 hours without water, causing him to lose water weight around his eyes and cheeks, giving him the gaunt appearance of a prisoner.

29. Julie Andrews sang "Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious" to the children in the cast of The Sound of Music in order to keep them entertained between shooting. Since Mary Poppins hadn't been released yet, they just thought she made up the song for them.

30. The sound stage used for the signature "Singin' in the Rain" scene for the film of the same name, is used for the street scenes for the mega-hit sitcom Seinfeld.

Catherine Zeta-Jones as Velma Kelly in Chicago.
Catherine Zeta-Jones as Velma Kelly in Chicago. | Source
Natalie Wood (Maria) and Richard Beymer (Tony) in West Side Story.
Natalie Wood (Maria) and Richard Beymer (Tony) in West Side Story. | Source
Hugh Jackman in Les Misérables.
Hugh Jackman in Les Misérables. | Source

© 2019 Rachel M Johnson


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