The genre of film musicals began to define itself as it moved past the desperate efforts of the late 1920's. Among other things, screen musicals made a point of depicting central characters as everyday, accessible people facing the same sort of public and private problems "ordinary folks" did. Even wealthy or aristocratic characters were given a rebellious streak to make them "just like us." Most of the musicals were based on jazz and tap dance or they were Broadway Shows that were recorded on stage because people did not know yet how to stage work for camera.
The 1930s were an era of depression after the Wall Street crash in 1929. Broadway musicals and films helped to bring people in another world. Artists like Fred Astaire, Busby Berkeley and child star Shirley Temple increased the popularity of the Hollywood musical. This essay examines their contributions to film musicals describing their dance styles and choreographies.
One of the greatest and most influential dancers in the history of musical theatre and film was Fred Astaire (1899-1987). He began his career at the age of seven, dancing in vaudeville with his sister Adele. Headlining for ten years, they became international musical comedy stars. His first film debut made Astaire in the movie Dancing Lady in 1932. After a few forgettable film appearances, Astaire caused an unexpected sensation dancing "The Carioca" with Ginger Rogers in Flying Down to Rio (1933). During the next 5 years they were staring in nine musical films. These films made them the most popular dance team in show business history.
In hid later career he established himself as the screen's most famous dancer and choreographer. His choreographies were devised especially for camera, rather than photographed stage routines. Even the camera was choreographed to move with the dancers.
Astaire always insisted that his dances have to be photographed in full figure shots and only with very few cuts.