In realist fiction films, characters frequently sing or hum, singly or
with other characters. Such moments are not presented as 'musical
numbers' with the production values this term implies; they are
emphatically not perceived as 'departures from reality'. Such 'artless
singing' falls through the cracks of film criticism, as it is not quite film
music, nor dialogue, nor performance as usually considered.
Examination of a number of examples shows that having characters
sing in a realistic mode has a surprising variety of narrative, dramatic,
and structural functions. Finally, an auteur approach to instances of
artless singing shows consistent uses of the trope by directors as diverse
as Kubrick, Hawks, and Hitchcock.