Among of the most emotionally resonant and thrilling moments in movies are when a large group spontaneously expresses unity of mind, loyalty, sentiment, or just the joy of living by lifting up their voices in song, as one. A healthy society should engender such moments and nourish the shared values and emotions that create them.
What today could prompt a large group to sing together today? The National Anthem once provided such moments, but the NFL has aided race-separatists by forcing the so-called “Black National Anthem” to compete with the “Star-Spangled Banner,” making it, despicably, a “white national anthem.” Today’s preeminent musical form, hip-hop, doesn’t lend itself to mass singalongs.
Here are six memorable examples from the Hollywood archives of movies celebrating the human instinct to burst into shared intense feeling, expressed in song. Incredibly, I found none of these classics in various on-line lists of “greatest movie crowd singing scenes.” The people who put together those lists don’t get it (and also don’t know classic films.) No, the “Wayne’s World’ lip-syncing of “Bohemian Rhapsody” doesn’t qualify, great as it is. It’s not a crowd scene, and Queen is doing all the singing anyway.
The Ethics Alarms top six, in random order:
1. From “The Sound of Music”: “Edelweiss”
This is the only entry from a musical, but the context is entirely dramatic, and the scene could have easily been in a straight drama. The Nazis have taken over Austria. Captain Von Trapp (Christoper Plummer), ordered to take his place in the Nazi navy, mourns the end of the Austria he knew, and knows that his fellow Austrians watching his family perform in a music festival as the uniformed Nazis loom over them, share his sentiments. He sings a simple Austrian folk tune, manages to give the audience an opportunity to express their sadness and defiance.
2. From “San Francisco”: “The Battle Hymn of the Republic”
This isn’t even the best crowd singing moment in the great 1936 Clark Gable/Spencer Tracy/Jeanette McDonald movie that climaxes with the San Francisco earthquake of 1906. At the end of the film, Gable, a cynical rogue whose romance with opera singer McDonald has foundered on his rejection of religion, has searched for her in the ravaged city. He finds her alive and helping survivors, and is so moved that he thanks God for the first time in his life. Then the news comes that the fire is out, and the people of San Francisco resolve to rebuild their city bigger and better than ever, as Jeanette leads them in song…
3. From “Ferris Buhler’s Day Off”: “Twist and Shout.” Continue reading