American Film Musical Themes and Forms
The musical has been called “the most popular form of entertainment in the world.” This work examines the subjects, themes, and contemporary relevance of Hollywood musicals through their long popularity, placing each show in historical and political context and analyzing it in detail. A chapter is devoted to how Golddiggers of 1933 (1933) and Stand Up and Cheer (1934) deal with the economic crises of the Depressions. Another addresses race issues by examining the prevalence of blackface minstrelsy in the 1930s and 1940s, looking at productions like Swing Time (1936) and Dixie (1943). Rock and roll culture, which started in the 1950s and threatened America with teenage sex and rebellion, is addressed through such hits as Girl Crazy (1943), Bye Bye Birdie (1963), and Grease (1978). The work also explores dance as a signifier of character, the geography of musicals (such as New York or “the South”), fantasy settings, Fred Astaire and Gene Kelly, and the musical biopic (mentioning biographies of such figures as Ziegfeld, Cohan, Rogers and Hart, Cole Porter, and Jerome Kern). A later chapter discusses intertextuality in such shows as Singin’ in the Rain (1952), which refers to many earlier musicals; Kiss Me Kate (1953) which refers to Taming of the Shrew; and All That Jazz (1970) which refers to the life and work of Bob Fosse. The work concludes with an examination of the continuing popularity of the musical with such hits as Moulin Rouge (2001) and Chicago (2002). Instructors considering this book for use in a course may request an examination copy here.
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1 Hollywood Musicals and the Depression
2 Blackface Minstrelsy in Musicals
3 Confronting Rock Culture
4 Dance as a Narrative Agent
5 American Places and Spaces
6 Fred and Gene in Never Never Land
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Anna Arthur Astaire’s audience Babes in Arms Band Wagon Bing biographical biopic blackface Brad Brigadoon Broadway Bu›y Busby Berkeley Bye Bye Birdie camera characters chorus chronotope cinematic Cohan Cole comedy comic Cop Rock costumes critics Cromwell’s culture Dale dance number dancers Danny Depression di›erent diegetic dressed e›ect earlier entertainment example fantastic film’s Finian’s Rainbow first-person Fosse’s Fred Astaire Gene Kelly genre Ginger girls Golddiggers of 933 happy Hart Hollywood musical intertextual Jane Feuer Jazz Jerome Kern Jerry Johnny Jolson Jolson Story Judy Kern King Kiss Me Kate Larry Laurey Li’l Abner lovers lyric metadiegetic Mickey Minnelli minstrel minstrelsy movie musi musical films musical numbers narrative o›ered o‡ce performance play plot popular Porter production number Rain realistic reviewer rock and roll Rodgers role romantic says scene screen sequence setting sexual shots Singin singing and dancing song stage star Sun Valley Tommy Tony viewers writes Xanadu Yolanda York Ziegfeld