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Cinema and Media Studies Musicals
by
Steven Cohan

Introduction

The film musical is usually identified almost exclusively with Hollywood, specifically those lavish star-filled films made during the heyday of the studio era. Furthermore, it has often been considered a genre that sings volumes about the American character and national sensibility, and for this reason, the film musical has also been taken to be an American “invention” tied to American show business traditions. Neither premise is entirely true, however. Other national film industries—most famously but not exclusively, the Hindi cinema nicknamed “Bollywood”—have their own histories of producing musicals that reflect their culture’s own popular entertainment tradition, tastes, styles, and ideological tensions. Nonetheless, it is the case that most scholarship on this genre has concentrated on the American musical, usually on its own terms but sometimes as it has influenced productions from Britain, France, or elsewhere in the West. While a few references to other national industries that heavily feature musical elements, such as Bollywood, are included in this bibliography, those films and their cinemas are most usually studied by scholars in other generic, national, or cultural contexts. Finally, while The Wizard of Oz (1939) or full-length animation films epitomize the musical genre for many of today’s young audiences, these more properly belong to the genre of children’s (or family) film, so they are not given much attention here.

Surveys and Reference Works

The titles in this section are of value either for their encyclopedic coverage of the genre or for their scope in surveying or archiving its history, or for doing both. Readers untutored in the film musical’s past or who know the genre primarily from Broadway megahits should start here. “Class Act: Those Golden Movie Musicals,” Parish and Pitts 1992, and Hirschhorn 1991 offer detailed listings of Hollywood’s output. Comparable information for musicals can also be obtained from individual entries at the Internet Movie Database, which is not listed here. Fehr and Vogel 1993 organizes a survey of the genre around its relation to music. Henderson and Bowers 1996 integrates visual archival material into its presentation of the genre’s history. Fordin 1996 and Knox 1973 offer valuable insights into the production of musicals at MGM, the studio most identified with the genre; Fordin 1996 distills production files of the Arthur Freed unit, which mostly made musicals, and Knox 1973 is an oral history of the making of Freed’s An American in Paris (1951), directed by Vincente Minnelli and starring Gene Kelly. Frank 1994, finally, includes some illuminating interviews with tap dancers who appeared on screen as well as on stage.

  • Class Act: Those Golden Movie Musicals.

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    Alphabetically arranged encyclopedia of classical-era US musicals; put together by a well-informed fan-scholar.

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    • Fehr, Richard, and Frederick G. Vogel. Lullabies of Hollywood: Movie Music and the Movie Musical, 1915–1992. Jefferson, NC: McFarland, 1993.

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      History of the genre through its relation to song writers and the development of popular music.

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    • Fordin, Hugh. M-G-M’s Greatest Musicals: The Arthur Freed Unit. New York: Da Capo, 1996.

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      Informative and revealing chronicle, based on production files, of the MGM films produced by Arthur Freed, most of which were musicals. Previously published by different publishers and under alternate titles: in 1975 as The World of Entertainment! Hollywood’s Greatest Musicals (New York: Doubleday) and again in 1984 as The Movies’ Greatest Musicals: Produced in Hollywood USA by the Freed Unit (New York: F. Ungar).

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    • Frank, Rusty E. Tap! The Greatest Tap Dance Stars and Their Stories, 1900–1955. Rev. ed. New York: Da Capo, 1994.

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      Interviews with dancers, many of whom appeared on screen, such as Ann Miller, Gene Nelson, Ruby Keeler, Shirley Temple, and Fayard Nicholas of the Nicholas Brothers.

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    • Henderson, Amy, and Dwight Blocker Bowers. Red, Hot & Blue: A Smithsonian Salute to the American Musical. Washington, DC: Smithsonian Institution, 1996.

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      Lavishly illustrated monograph presenting the genre’s history in an archival context, which was published in conjunction with a major exhibition on the musical held at the Smithsonian museum in Washington, DC.

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    • Hirschhorn, Clive. The Hollywood Musical. 2d ed. New York: Portland House, 1991.

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      Complete year-by-year chronology of musicals produced in the United States with listings of numbers and their performers, including voice doubles, for each film. Essential for its encyclopedic coverage, which vividly illustrates the expanding and shrinking quantity as well as quality of annual output during the many decades covered by the volume.

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    • Knox, Donald. The Magic Factory: How MGM Made An American in Paris. New York: Praeger, 1973.

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      Invaluable oral history of the making of An American in Paris (1951) with participants ranging from all aspects of the production; informative as case study of this film’s production and as an exemplary document of how MGM made musicals. Out of print but worth tracking down.

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    • Parish, James Robert, and Michael R. Pitts. The Great Hollywood Musical Films. Metuchen, NJ: Scarecrow, 1992.

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      Alphabetical listings of musicals produced in the United States with credits and plot synopses.

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    Anthologies

    Beginning with Altman 1981, anthologies have been a useful place to start serious research on the musical. Altman 1981 and Cohan 2002 are notable for bringing together in a single volume important pieces that were previously published. Marshall and Stillwell 2000 and Cohan 2010, on the other hand, feature original essays commissioned for the occasion. These last two anthologies are of great value for introducing new scholarship while expanding the range of scholarly study, since they include chapters that take a more global, non-American approach. Marshall and Stillwell 2000 has sections on music and structure, classical Hollywood, star texts, European forms, minority identities, and youth cultures. Musicals treated in depth include Show Boat (1936), The Band Wagon (1953), Funny Face (1957), Les Parapluies de Cherbourg (The Umbrellas of Cherbourg) (1964), Yentl (1983), Golden Eighties (1986), and Zero Patience (1993). Topics covered in Cohan 2010 include Rick Altman’s reconsideration of his dual focus paradigm, Bollywood’s musicality, Britain’s Gaiety tradition, the international art musical, the eclectic styles of dance in early musicals, the World War II revues, and labor issues during the production of South Pacific (1958); star studies of Frank Sinatra, Julie Andrews, and Barbra Streisand; and analyses of musicals from the New Hollywood, France, Ireland, and India.

    • Altman, Rick, ed. Genre, the Musical: A Reader. London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1981.

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      First collection of scholarly essays on the musical; mostly reprints of what were at that moment ground-breaking articles, some of which became chapters in subsequent books. Well represents the state of scholarship on the genre before the flood of new work beginning in the 1980s. The annotated bibliography at the end lists the academic and journalistic scholarship published up to that point. Out of print but worth tracking down.

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    • Cohan, Steven, ed. Hollywood Musicals, The Film Reader. In Focus. London: Routledge, 2002.

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      Reprints excerpts of most major books and essays on the studio-era musical; has sections on genre and form, gender and spectacle, camp and queer perspectives, and race and ethnicity. Introduction offers a concise history and formal account of the studio-era musical. Can be considered a follow-up to the Altman collection, since it provides examples of the resurgence of scholarship on the genre since the 1980s.

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    • Cohan, Steven, ed. The Sound of Musicals. London: British Film Institute, 2010.

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      Collection of sixteen new essays that study the musical from varying methodological perspectives, historically and globally. Sections on genre, the studio era, and post-Hollywood. The introduction includes discussion of the High School Musical trilogy (2006, 2007, 2008) and the TV series Glee (2009–present), and the final chapter covers the two versions of Hairspray (1988, 2007).

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    • Marshall, Bill, and Robynn Stilwell, ed. Musicals: Hollywood and Beyond. Exeter, UK: Intellect, 2000.

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      Collection of twenty-one mostly new essays on classic and contemporary musicals. The scope of chapters ranges from mainstream to avant-garde and queer inflections of the genre, and the films discussed hail from Hollywood and Europe, with attention given to French, German, and Greek musicals. E-book.

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    Foundational Works from the 1970s and 1980s

    One commonplace about the musical, as has been restated often enough by pundits and scholars alike, is that the genre is all glitter and tinsel: scrape away the surface, the saying goes, and you just find more glitter and tinsel. Although the ongoing history of film scholars’ interest in musicals testifies that the opposite is true, it was not until after the genre became marginal both to studio production and audience tastes that it became a serious object of academic study; not coincidentally, this new interest in the genre occurred as part of the emergence of film studies itself as an academic discipline. Before then the musical was received as frivolous if well-made popular entertainment, so it was rarely written about as serious art. While interviews, coffee-table–type books, and the occasional essay in an academic or cinephile journal appeared before then, the late 1970s and 1980s saw a surge of critical interest in the musical from several distinguished scholars; taking a formalist approach for the most part, these works remain foundational some three decades later. Although genre study has moved beyond purely formalist understandings of how a film genre functions aesthetically, industrially, and historically, the musical still stands out to viewers and scholars alike, at least initially, by virtue of its distinctive form, starting with its dialectic arrangement of narrative and number. An understanding of the genre’s formal conventions, which are often layered, complex, structural, and intertextual, is therefore essential. Anyone writing on the musical today, even outside the Hollywood framework and from a more materialist or historiographic approach, still does so at least implicitly in dialogue, with the terms established for the genre by Altman 1989 and Feuer 1993. You may not agree with these two critics on every point, but you need to read them. Mast 1987 offers a comprehensive account of the genre’s first five decades in the context of its interaction with Broadway and Tin Pan Alley traditions; Delamater 1981 approaches the genre through its evolution into the integrated dance musical perfected by Gene Kelly and the Arthur Freed production unit at MGM; and Babington and Evans 1985 shapes its argument about the genre’s substance through their reading of representative films. Schatz 1981, Dyer 2002, and Feuer 2002 elaborate on key issues that are still construed as the grounding of the musical’s formal conventions—namely, its integration aesthetic, utopian sensibility, and self-reflexivity. Finally, Dyer 2005 is an influential study of how stars signify historically for their culture, and the author’s case studies feature three stars identified with the musical: Marilyn Monroe, Paul Robeson, and Judy Garland.

    • Altman, Rick. The American Film Musical. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1989.

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      A fundamental and thorough study that establishes the genre’s dual-focus structure and identifies three subgenres: the fairy tale musical, the show musical, and the folk musical. Still required reading.

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    • Babington, Bruce, and Peter Williams Evans. Blue Skies and Silver Linings: Aspects of the Hollywood Musical. Manchester, UK: Manchester University Press, 1985.

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      Close readings of ten musicals from the 1930s through the 1960s; emphasizes form and ideology as a means of documenting the genre’s seriousness and of analyzing its pleasures. One of the first major works to take the musical seriously.

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    • Delamater, Jerome. Dance in the Hollywood Musical. Studies in Photography and Cinematography 4. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Research Press, 1981.

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      Ground-breaking history of dance in the film musical, with particular chapters on the important figures—Busby Berkeley, Fred Astaire, Gene Kelly—and special attention to the genre’s aesthetic maturity as the integrated musical. Appendix includes interviews with major performers, choreographers, and directors.

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    • Dyer, Richard. “Entertainment and Utopia.” In Only Entertainment. 2d ed. Edited by Richard Dyer, 19–35. London: Routledge, 2002.

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      A much-reprinted and quoted essay from 1977 (Movie, Spring, 2–13). Focuses on the film musical to offer arguments about how numbers express the utopian spirit of popular entertainment, even though that entertainment is itself produced within and for a capitalist economy. Main examples include Gold Diggers of 1933 (1933), On the Town (1949), and Funny Face (1957).

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    • Dyer, Richard. Heavenly Bodies: Film Stars and Society. 2d ed. London: Routledge, 2005.

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      First published by Macmillan Education in 1986, very influential study of stardom in its cultural and historical settings. Includes chapters on Marilyn Monroe and 1950s discourses about sexuality; Paul Robeson and the racialization of his crossover stardom; and Judy Garland and gay fandom.

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    • Feuer, Jane. The Hollywood Musical. 2d ed. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1993.

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      Still the most accessible book on the film musical, particularly for readers interested in its conventions. Examines how numbers are filmed and how they function, how they use stars, why they break with cinematic realism, how and why they work self-reflexively, and how they recycle song and musical traditions. Originally published in 1982 (Bloomington: Indiana University Press); revised edition adds new final chapter bringing the study up to the nineties.

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    • Feuer, Jane. “The Self-Reflective Musical and the Myth of Entertainment.” Reprinted in Hollywood Musicals, The Film Reader. Edited by Steven Cohan, 31–40. In Focus. London: Routledge, 2002.

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      Much-reprinted essay originally published in 1977 (Quarterly Review of Film Studies 2.3, 313–326). Using the musicals written by Betty Comden and Adolph Green for the Freed Unit at MGM, including Singin’ in the Rain, Feuer presents a template for understanding the genre’s self-reflexivity, particularly as it works to defend and rationalize its own forms of entertainment.

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    • Mast, Gerald. Can’t Help Singin’: The American Musical on Stage and Screen. Woodstock, NY: Overlook, 1987.

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      A full and knowledgeable history of the film musical set alongside that of its stage counterpart; excellent background for the mutual influences of stage and film. Insightful and detailed analyses of songs, individual films, stars, and directors.

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    • Schatz, Thomas. “The Musical.” In Hollywood Genres: Formulas, Filmmaking, and the Studio System. By Thomas Schatz, 186–220. New York: Random House, 1981.

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      Clear and straightforward view of the genre’s form, with emphasis on its evolution from the 1930s into the integrated musical perfected in the early 1950s. Also introduces topics that remain central to the musical, such as its basis in romance and courtship, its utopian ethos, and incorporation of star personae.

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    Newer Works from the 1990s and 2000s

    The past two decades have seen the publication of new books on the musical, which take advantage of university and library archives, availability of previously scarce titles on home video, and new interdisciplinary methodologies. Barrios 1995 is a rich source for learning about the musical’s early years after the introduction of sound technology. Rogin 1996, Knight 2002, and Smith 2005 each address the musical’s very vexed relation to both the representations of race and ethnicity and the marginalization or effacement of nonwhite performers. Cohan 2005 and Kessler 2010 work within the framework of gender and queer studies. McLean 2008 looks at the musical from the perspective of ballet, an influential but often-ignored tradition of dance central to the genre. Herzog 2009, finally, takes a highly theoretical and quite rewarding view of an eclectic assortment of international musicals.

    • Barrios, Richard. A Song in the Dark: The Birth of the Musical Film. New York: Oxford University Press, 1995.

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      Detailed and informative history of the film musical’s origin with the introduction of sound technology. Indispensible archival background for anyone studying early musicals during the genre’s first half decade; traces the musical’s initial explosion on screen after 1928 through its abrupt decline in popularity right before its resurgence in 1933 with the great Warner Bros. musicals.

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    • Cohan, Steven. Incongruous Entertainment: Camp, Cultural Value, and the MGM Musical. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2005.

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      Argues for a counter-hegemonic reading of the MGM musical with chapters on the studio’s house style, Judy Garland and the camp female star turn, Gene Kelly, Singin’ in the Rain (1952), the That’s Entertainment! trilogy (1974, 1976, 1994), and contemporary Garland fandom on the Internet.

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    • Herzog, Amy. Dissonance and Refrain: Time, Space, and the Musical Moment in Film. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2009.

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      Drawing on the work of Gilles Deleuze, a subtle theoretical exploration of time, movement, and their spaces in nontraditional musical films. Chapters on the jukebox precursors of music videos, Otto Preminger’s Carmen Jones (1954), the all-music films of Jacques Demy, and Esther Williams water musicals in conjunction with Ming-Liang Tsai’s surreal Dong/The Hole (1998) from Taiwan.

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    • Kessler, Kelly. Destabilizing the Hollywood Musical: Music, Masculinity, and Mayhem. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2010.

      DOI: 10.1057/9780230290556Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

      Traces the dystopian inflection of the postclassical-era American musical, focusing a study of the past half-century’s films and their more dystopian inflections of the genre through cultural concerns about masculinity.

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    • Knight, Arthur. Disintegrating the Musical: Black Performance and American Musical Film. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2002.

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      Studies representations of African Americans in the genre, as well as performances by important black singers, dancers, and musicians; focus includes mainstream musicals, all-black musicals, and short subjects.

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    • McLean, Adrienne L. Dying Swans and Madmen: Ballet, the Body, and Narrative Cinema. New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 2008.

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      Historical study of ballet in film, including many musicals from the sound era through to the present day, and with a chapter on the American context of the postwar British musical success, The Red Shoes (1948).

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    • Rogin, Michael. Blackface, White Noise: Jewish Immigrants in the Hollywood Melting Pot. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1996.

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      Provocative book whose arguments about blackface, racial masquerade, and Jewish assimilation in early sound and New Deal cinema are still being debated. While the book’s scope extends beyond the genre, its thesis is crucial to its history; and chapters are devoted to The Jazz Singer (1927) and to 1930s and early 1940s musicals.

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    • Smith, Susan. The Musical: Race, Gender and Performance. London: Wallflower, 2005. Short Cuts.

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      Approaches the genre through its recurring performances of gendered and racial roles, with one long chapter on blackface and a second on the female singer, two topics ordinarily not considered together in a single study.

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    Recent Specialized Studies

    This section includes representative work of the past two decades that is of article or chapter length. The focus is on issues that are presently central to scholarship on the musical but narrowed down to a defined topic. Doty 2000, Hallas 2003, and Leff 1999 discuss gender and queerness via readings of single films. Negrón-Muntaner 2000 does the same with West Side Story (1961) while overlaying analysis of queerness with the equally important issue of Puerto Rican ethnicity for this beloved and acclaimed musical. On the other hand, other citations in this section discuss particular industrial protocols of the musical during its history but study either particular moments or trends: Wills 2001 discusses the representation of femininity through spectacle, Siefert 1995 traces the historical practice of dubbing, and Griffin 2002 examines the racial politics of 1940s Hollywood by looking at the often-discounted vaudeville traditions enabling the racially and ethnically mixed Fox musicals. In an entirely different industrial context, Gehlawat 2006 discusses Bollywood’s musical conventions as they play against the Hollywood model, Petty 2009 calls attention to African cinema’s incorporation of the genre for its own cultural purposes, and Napper 2009 problematizes the trope of London in four iconic musicals set in Britain’s historical past.

    • Doty, Alexander. Flaming Classics: Queering the Film Canon. New York: Routledge, 2000.

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      Chapters offering provocative “queer suggestive” readings of The Wizard of Oz (1939) and Gentlemen Prefer Blondes (1953).

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    • Gehlawat, Ajay. “The Bollywood Song and Dance, or Making a Culinary Theatre from Dung-Cakes and Dust.” Quarterly Review of Film and Video 23.4 (2006): 331–340.

      DOI: 10.1080/10509200690897590Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

      Discusses Bollywood’s musical conventions as the inversion of Hollywood’s example, arguing for the revelatory purpose of numbers as narrative ruptures and interruptions.

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    • Griffin, Sean. “The Gang’s All Here: Generic versus Racial Integration in the 1940s Musical.” Cinema Journal 42.1 (Fall 2002): 21–45.

      DOI: 10.1353/cj.2002.0021Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

      Makes a convincing case, as progressive counterpoint to MGM’s more aesthetically integrated yet socially conservative musicals, for the critically unappreciated import of Twentieth Century-Fox’s more formally loose yet also more racially integrated musicals of the 1940s.

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    • Hallas, Roger. “The Genealogical Pedagogy of John Greyson’s ‘Zero Patience’’.” Canadian Journal of Film Studies 12.1(Spring 2003): 16–37.

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      Examines how this Canadian independent film uses musical conventions to comment on its narrative and take a self-reflexive perspective on the relation of narrative to spectacle in representations of the AIDS pandemic.

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    • Leff, Leonard J. “‘Come on Home with Me’: 42nd Street and the Gay Male World of the 1930s.” Cinema Journal 39.1 (1999): 3–22.

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      Comparing the film with the novel on which it is based, recontextualizes the theatrical world in the diegesis and the numbers in the gay demimonde of New York.

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    • Napper, Lawrence. “‘There’s No Place Like London’: London Musicals and the Traffic in Souls.” Journal of British Cinema and Television 6 (2009): 220–231.

      DOI: 10.3366/E1743452109000892Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

      Examines the trope of Victorian/Edwardian London, used for purposes of social critique more than nostalgia, in Mary Poppins (1964), My Fair Lady (1964), Oliver! (1968), and Sweeney Todd (2007).

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    • Negrón-Muntaner, Frances. “Feeling Pretty: West Side Story and Puerto Rican Identity Discourses.” Social Text 18.2 (Summer 2000): 83–106.

      DOI: 10.1215/01642472-18-2_63-83Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

      Provocative and intelligent reading of the film’s hybrid discourses about ethnicity and sexuality as a means of accounting for its conflicted receptions by Puerto Rican and queer audiences.

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    • Petty, Sheila. “The Rise of the African Musical: Postcolonial Disjunction in Karmen Geï and Madame Brouette.” Journal of African Cinemas 1.1 (2009): 95–112.

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      Argues for the role of the genre in expanding the political and aesthetic grammar of African cinema, while performing close analyses of two Senegalese films as a case study.

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    • Siefert, Marsha. “Image/Music/Voice: Song Dubbing in Hollywood Musicals.” Journal of Communication 45.2 (Spring 1995): 44–64.

      DOI: 10.1111/j.1460-2466.1995.tb00727.xSave Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

      Analyzes the practice of song dubbing as a major Hollywood industrial practice, tracing how the protocols established in the 1930s and 1940s were elaborated by the 1950s. Dubbing is often either a maligned or ignored element of the film musical but it is nonetheless crucial to the genre’s aesthetic.

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    • Wills, Nadine. “‘110 Per Cent Woman’: The Crotch Shot in the Hollywood Musical.” Screen 42.2 (Summer 2001): 121–141.

      DOI: 10.1093/screen/42.2.121Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

      Against the grain of traditional thinking about spectacle in the genre, Wills argues that the musical constructs an iconic “110 per cent woman” not through the heterosexual embrace, but through the convention of drawing attention to the female genital area. This convention makes musical spectacle a site of femininity and not one of heterosexuality.

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    Directors

    The musical, as Gene Kelly repeatedly argued, is a collaborative undertaking, which may be the reason why few directors specializing in the genre have gotten the kind of attention for their musicals that Alfred Hitchcock, say, has received for his thrillers or John Ford for his Westerns. Kelly himself is usually discussed in terms of his stardom, not his directing. The two directors who have been the subject of scholarly attention from various critical perspectives are Busby Berkeley and Vincente Minnelli.

    Busby Berkeley

    Berkeley is known most for 42nd Street (1933), Gold Diggers of 1933 (1933), and The Gang’s All Here (1943). His name is now synonymous with the lavish, over-the-top spectacular numbers he directed, most famously for Warners during the 1930s but also at MGM (where he worked with Judy Garland and Esther Williams) and for Twentieth Century-Fox (where he directed Carmen Miranda) in the following decade. While Rubin 1993 thoroughly analyzes Berkeley’s style both in terms of cinematic conventions and the aggregative traditions of vaudeville, the circus and carnival, and stage revues, Fischer 1989, Mellencamp 1995, and Mizejewski 1999 discuss tensions arising from the placement of women as fetishized objects in his numbers, although these critics do not each reach the same conclusions. Robertson 1996 is particularly concerned with exploring how and why Gold Diggers of 1933 melds together feminism and camp.

    • Fischer, Lucy. “Shall We Dance? Woman and the Musical.” In Shot/Countershot: Film Tradition and Women’s Cinema. By Fischer, Lucy, 132–162. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1989.

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      This chapter includes discussion of female spectacle in Dames (1934), which Fischer then contrasts with revisionist inflections of the genre by female directors.

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    • Fischer, Lucy. “City of Women: Busby Berkeley, Architecture, and Urban Space.” Cinema Journal 49.4 (Summer 2010): 111–130.

      DOI: 10.1353/cj.2010.0008Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

      Examines numbers staged by Berkeley in the musicals of 1933–1934 to establish connections with their architectural organization of urban space and European avant-garde cinema of that era.

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    • Mellencamp, Patricia. “Sexual Economics: Gold Diggers of 1933: 50 Romantic Delusions.” In A Fine Romance: Five Ages of Film Feminism. By Patricia Mellencamp, 50–73. Culture and the Moving Image. Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1995.

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      Examines how the economics of sexual difference, located both in the film’s text and in its historical contextualization in the Depression, multiplies the ideological contradictions played out in the bracketing of numbers from narrative.

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    • Mizejewski, Linda. Ziegfeld Girl: Image and Icon in Culture and Cinema. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 1999.

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      Excellent historical background on the Ziegfeld Follies and its showgirl image, one influence on Berkeley’s comparable use of women in his spectacular numbers. A long final chapter on the Follies’ presence in musicals of the 1930s concludes with a reading of Ziegfeld Girl (1941), whose numbers Berkeley staged.

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    • Robertson, Pamela. “What Trixie and God Know: Feminist Camp in Gold Diggers of 1933.” In Guilty Pleasures: Feminist Camp from Mae West to Madonna. By Pamela Robertson, 55–84. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 1996.

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      Chapter on Gold Diggers of 1933 which locates it in the cultural history of the gold digger figure and makes a case for reading the musical, with its masquerade narrative set against the Berkeley numbers, as feminist camp.

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    • Rubin, Martin. Showstoppers: Busby Berkeley and the Tradition of Spectacle. Film and Culture. New York: Columbia University Press, 1993.

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      Indispensible study of Berkeley’s musicals, with important background on the aggregative tradition of the genre and complete analysis of every number Berkeley staged and filmed.

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    Vincente Minnelli

    Minnelli, who began as an art director for Radio City Music Hall’s stage shows, directed many of the landmark musicals at MGM in the 1940s and 1950s: Cabin in the Sky (1943), Meet Me in St. Louis (1944), An American in Paris (1951), The Band Wagon (1953), and Gigi (1958). Accordingly, many critical studies emphasize his skills and influence as a major stylist who brings visuality to new heights as the musical itself developed at his studio under the leadership of producer Arthur Freed, with whom Minnelli worked closely during his long tenure at MGM. Dalle-Vacche 1992 and Higgins 1998 consider the director’s signature commitment to the visual dimensions of his musicals, whereas Harvey 1989 and Naremore 1993 extend that auteurist approach to study the body of work characterizing Minnelli’s career. Farmer 2000 and Tinkcom 2002, on the other hand, look at Minnelli’s musicals from the vantage point of queer theory.

    Other Directors

    Directors who have received attention by scholars include the unheralded George Sidney and influential Bob Fosse, an MGM contract player who became a major Broadway choreographer–director before making several innovative musicals prior to his death. Mizejewski 1992 and Seltzer 1996 each examine one of Fosse’s film musicals. Monder 1994 argues for a reconsideration of Sidney’s films through an overview of this director’s long career, mainly at MGM. Additionally, in large part due to feminist interest, two female directors working in France have been singled out for study: Agnes Varda and Chantal Akerman, whose musicals, as Fischer 1979 and DeRoo 2009 each demonstrates, need to be read against the tradition of Hollywood’s classical tradition as epitomized by directors like Sidney and as formally challenged by Fosse.

    • DeRoo, Rebecca. “Confronting Contradictions: Genre Subversion and Feminist Politics in Agnès Varda’s L’une chante, l’autre pas.” Modern & Contemporary France 17.3 (2009): 249–265.

      DOI: 10.1080/09639480903037111Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

      Claims that the seeming incongruity of narrative and numbers in this film actually works in dialogue with Brechtian and feminist theories.

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    • Fischer, Lucy. “Shall We Dance?: Feminist Cinema Remakes the Musical.” Film Criticism (Winter 1989) 13.2: 7–17.

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      Discusses Ackerman’s The Eighties (Les années 80) (1983) as a feminist parody of the standard musical’s style and ideology.

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    • Mizejewski, Linda. Divine Decadence: Fascism, Female Spectacle, and the Makings of Sally Bowles. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1992.

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      Studies the various stage and screen adaptations of the “Sally Bowles” character in Christopher Isherwood’s Berlin Stories, with the final chapter analyzing the Bob Fosse film version of Cabaret (1972).

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    • Monder, Eric. “George Sidney’s High Tech Vaudeville Show.” Film Comment 30.4 (July–August 1994): 50–59.

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      Critical appreciation of the film career of George Sidney; popular with audiences but less so with critics, Sidney directed many musicals, including Anchors Aweigh (1945), The Harvey Girls (1946), and Show Boat (1951).

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    • Seltzer, Alvin J. “All That Jazz: Bob Fosse’s Solipsistic Masterpiece.” Literature/Film Quarterly 24.1 (1996): 99–104.

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      Close analysis of Fosse’s final musical through its apparent opposition of life and art as a means of expressing the basis of artistic vision.

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    • Shaviro, Steven. “Clichés of Identity: Chantal Akerman’s Musicals.” Quarterly Review of Film and Video 24.1 (2007): 11–17.

      DOI: 10.1080/10509200500485975Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

      Examines how Akerman’s Window Shopping (1986) cites the classic MGM musical, but via Jacques Demy, as the basis of its postmodern perspective.

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    Stars

    More than any other Hollywood genre, the musical was known for and built around stardom, whether these stars were “home-grown,” like Judy Garland, groomed as a youth and maturing within the studio system, or imported from Broadway, like Fred Astaire and Gene Kelly, or from records, like Doris Day, or even from swimming, like Esther Williams. Stars who have received the most attention are Garland, Astaire, and Kelly, although others have been the subject of excellent articles, book chapters, or book-length studies.

    Fred Astaire

    Astaire rose to stardom on Broadway as part of a dance team with sister Adèle. He became a big star in the 1930s in a series of great dance musicals from RKO in which he starred opposite Ginger Rogers. The most famous are Top Hat (1935) and Swing Time (1936). In the 1940s and 1950s, he mostly worked for MGM, and his popularity continued relatively unabated until his final retirement from dancing. Among his later films, he is remembered in particular for two he did with Bing Crosby at Paramount, Holiday Inn (1942) and Blue Skies (1946); also, MGM teamed him with Eleanor Powell in Broadway Melody of 1940 (1940), with Judy Garland in Easter Parade (1948), and with Cyd Charisse in two films, The Band Wagon (1953) and Silk Stockings (1957). Additionally, while at RKO, as a choreographer he established protocols for editing numbers that rather quickly became the standard practices for the genre. The main issues discussed by scholars concern his significance as a dancer—particularly given theoretical arguments in film theory about the more typical asymmetry of gendered spectacles in narrative cinema—his teaming with Rogers, and his staging of numbers. Croce 1972 and Mueller 1984 concentrate on the films Astaire made with Rogers as a series. While Mueller 1984 looks at early Astaire to show how the dancer–choreographer established conventions of the integrated musical, Mueller 1985 closely analyzes every number in Astaire’s filmography. Cohan 1993, Rickard 1996, and McFadden 2008 locate his dancing in questions about gender.

    • Cohan, Steven. “‘Feminizing’ the Song-and-Dance Man: Fred Astaire and the Spectacle of Masculinity in the Hollywood Musical.” In Screening the Male: Exploring Masculinities in Hollywood Cinema. Edited by Steven Cohan and Ina Rae Hark, 46–69. London: Routledge, 1993.

      DOI: 10.4324/9780203142219Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

      Analyzes how Astaire’s numbers, which place him as an object of spectacle, do not make him effeminate, as a binarized theorization of the spectatorial gaze might suppose, but instead project an alternative expression of masculinity.

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    • Croce, Arlene. The Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers Book. New York: Galahad, 1972.

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      The famous dance critic for the New Yorker discusses the ten musicals starring the Astaire-Rogers team, with close attention to all of their dances as well as commentary on their careers. One of the first serious studies of these musicals and still worth reading, though hard to find since it’s out of print.

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    • Gallafent, Edward. Astaire and Rogers. New York: Columbia University Press, 2002.

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      History of the Astaire and Rogers team, studying their appearances together at RKO and their subsequent solo careers.

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    • McFadden, Margaret T. “Shall We Dance? Gender and Class Conflict in Astaire-Rogers Dance Musicals.” Women’s Studies 37.6 (September 2008): 678–706.

      DOI: 10.1080/00497870802205225Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

      Historicizes the contradictory representations of the Depression in the RKO series as they registered the conflicted needs and desires of its contemporary audiences.

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    • Mueller John. “Fred Astaire and the Integrated Musical.” Cinema Journal 24.1 (Fall 1984): 28–40.

      DOI: 10.2307/1225307Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

      Makes a convincing case for appreciating the influence of Astaire’s RKO musicals, with their integration of dance and narrative, on the genre’s development.

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    • Mueller, John. Astaire Dancing: The Musical Films. New York: Knopf, 1985.

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      Complete and rewarding analysis of every filmed Astaire dance number; indispensible study for understanding the star’s contribution to the musical genre.

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    • Rickard, Sue. “Movies in Disguise: Negotiating Patriarchy and Censorship through the Dances of Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers.” In Approaches to the American Musical. Edited by Robert Lawson-Peebles, 72–88. Exeter, UK: University of Exeter Press, 1996.

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      Argues for a feminist reading of Astaire’s eroticized dancing and Rogers’s active diegetic spectatorship.

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    Judy Garland

    Garland began her career in vaudeville as a child performer working in a sister act and was subsequently signed by MGM, where she developed first into a popular teen star opposite the equally popular Mickey Rooney in many films, then into a full-fledged box-office attraction in the mid- and late 1940s: a star who could single-handedly sell a musical like Meet Me in St. Louis (1944) or The Harvey Girls (1946). On the one hand, she is best known for her signature role in The Wizard of Oz (1939). On the other hand, her biography, by now the stuff of legend due to stories about her addictions and her numerous comebacks, has in many respects become inseparable from her stardom. Yet from the viewpoint of her musicals and recordings, she is still considered one of the most natural and authentic, not to say multitalented, performers who has worked in the genre. Central to academic discussions of Garland and her films is her onscreen troubling of heteronormality and her significance to gay fandom during her career, especially after leaving MGM, when she made A Star Is Born (1954) and performed in concerts, cabarets, and several times at Broadway’s famous Palace theater. Fricke 1992 and Fricke 2003 offer a detailed and persuasive account of Garland’s entire career, while Coleman 1990 illustrates the star’s versatility through the documentary record of her output across all musical media. Dyer 2005, Jennings 1991, and Gross 2000 examine and historicize the terms of Garland’s iconic status among her gay fans, whereas Vare 1998 collects evidence of the reception of Garland by the press and Cohan 2001 studies the reception by contemporary fans. McLean 2002 looks at the filmed record of Garland’s performances to analyze what her body signified visually if often subtextually.

    • Cohan, Steven. “Judy on the Net: Judy Garland Fans and ‘the Gay Thing’ Revisited.” In Keyframes: Popular Cinema and Cultural Studies. Edited by Matthew Tinkcom and Amy Villarejo, 119–136. London: Routledge, 2001.

      DOI: 10.4324/9780203279632Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

      Examines how, through evidence of fan sites and a Listserv devoted to discussing Garland and what her career means, contemporary Garland fandom deals with her legendary status as a gay icon.

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    • Coleman, Emily R. The Complete Judy Garland: The Ultimate Guide to Her Career in Films, Records, Concerts, Radio and Television, 1935–1969. New York: Harper & Row, 1990.

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      A record of Garland’s output; valuable for tracking down older material that had not yet been reprinted or reissued on disc at the time of publication. Still worthwhile as an archive of Garland’s multimedia career, though there reportedly are some errors in the account.

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    • Dyer, Richard. “Judy Garland and Gay Men.” In Heavenly Bodies: Film Stars and Society. 2d ed. By Richard Dyer, 137–191. London: Routledge, 2005.

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      Ground-breaking study of Garland’s star text both on its own nonconformist terms and as an explanation for her appeal to gay male fans. First published in 1986 (London: Macmillan Education).

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    • Fricke, John. Judy Garland: World’s Greatest Entertainer. New York: Henry Holt, 1992.

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      Lavishly illustrated and historically minded study of Garland’s career.

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    • Fricke, John. Judy Garland: A Portrait in Art and Anecdote. Boston: Bullfinch, 2003.

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      Follow-up to author’s previous book on Garland, this one is also gorgeously illustrated and offers a biography of the star through her career, with full accounts of it decade by decade.

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    • Gross, Michael Joseph. “The Queen Is Dead.” Atlantic 286.2 (August 2000): 62–70.

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      Muses on the importance of Garland’s importance as a gay icon while pointing out the historical ground of that significance, given the cultural shifts that have occurred decades after Stonewall.

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    • Jennings, Wade. “The Star as Cult Icon: Judy Garland.” In The Cult Experience: Beyond All Reason. Edited by J. Telotte, 90–101. Austin: University of Texas Press, 1991.

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      Illuminating analysis of Garland’s cult stardom in terms of not only her stage career but also her recorded performances. Focuses on three strands of the Garland myth: her suffering, her humor, and most of all, her transcendence of the personal.

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    • McLean, Adrienne L. “Feeling and the Filmed Body: Judy Garland and the Kinesics of Suffering.” Film Quarterly 55.3 (Spring 2002): 2–15.

      DOI: 10.1525/fq.2002.55.3.2Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

      Makes a case for why Garland’s body was so important a source for her signification of abjection, and a key to how her star text has been read. Ample illustration from the star’s filmed performances in her musicals.

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    • Vare, Ethlie Ann, ed. Rainbow: A Star-Studded Tribute to Judy Garland. New York: Boulevard, 1998.

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      Traces Garland’s career through reprints of numerous newspaper and magazine articles about the star. Useful as a source for these primary documents.

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    Gene Kelly

    Kelly broke into stardom in 1940 as the star of Broadway’s Pal Joey, a role he was unfortunately never able to do on film. Working at MGM, he made his name with Anchors Aweigh (1945) and thereafter became synonymous with the integrated musical that was in turn identified with the prestigious Freed unit. Though mostly remembered for his starring roles, Kelly began directing almost immediately insofar as he staged, usually in collaboration with Stanley Donen, his dance numbers and then codirected with Donen what for the time was the ground-breaking On the Town (1949). They followed that with their Singin’ in the Rain (1952), now considered the greatest musical ever made. Like Fred Astaire, Kelly has received critical attention for his innovative work on the dance musical and for his masculine persona, which was always much more driven than Astaire’s. McCullough 1989 and Cohan 2004 examine the tensions inhering in Kelly’s projection of masculinity, while Gerstner 2002 extends that concern to the dancer’s TV appearance in the 1950s. Genné 2001 focuses on the trope of the World War II sailor as this historically specific masculine figure informed Kelly’s choreography of that era.

    • Cohan, Steven. “Dancing with Balls in the 1940s: Sissies, Sailors, and the Camp Masculinity of Gene Kelly.” In The Trouble With Men: Masculinities in European and Hollywood Cinema. Edited by Phil Powrie, Ann Davies, and Bruce Babington, 18–33. London: Wallflower, 2004.

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      Discusses Kelly’s star persona in the discursive contexts of anxieties about heteromasculinity characteristic of 1940s culture.

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    • Genné, Beth. “‘Freedom Incarnate’: Jerome Robbins, Gene Kelly and the Dancing Sailor as an Icon of American Values in World War II.” Dance Chronicle 24.1 (2001): 83–103.

      DOI: 10.1081/DNC-100103142Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

      Examines the significance of the dancing sailor as an American male icon in the choreography of Robbins and Kelly.

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    • Gerstner, David Anthony. “Dancer from the Dance: Gene Kelly, Television, and the Beauty of Movement.” Velvet Light Trap 49 (Spring 2002): 48–66.

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      Analyzes how Kelly’s Omnibus special of 1958, “Dancing: A Man’s Game,” expresses and problematizes the star’s declared aesthetic as it combined choreography with masculinity through the dancer’s body.

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    • McCullough, John. “Imagining Mr. Average.” CineAction! 17 (Summer 1989): 43–55.

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      One of the first serious examinations of the tensions in Kelly’s masculine screen image. Still a good place to start thinking seriously about the star’s riven persona.

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    Other Stars

    Gerald Mast remarks at one point in Can’t Help Singin’ that almost every MGM musical of the 1940s or 1950s seemed to feature Fred Astaire, Judy Garland, or Gene Kelly, but they were obviously not the only stars working at that studio or making musicals at other studios. Star studies have not ignored many of these talented performers whose films continue to be worth our critical attention. McLean 2005 and McNally 2008 are book-length studies of stars identified with the 1940s musical, Rita Hayworth and Frank Sinatra, who costarred in Pal Joey in 1958; both books view their subjects from the perspective of gender studies. Roberts 1993 and Landy 2001 examine very popular stars with strong ethnic inflections, Carmen Miranda and Mario Lanza, whereas Turk 1991 and Williamson 1996 analyze the import of two female stars who may, by today’s standards, seem odd instances of mainstream popularity—soprano Jeanette MacDonald and swimmer Esther Williams, both MGM headliners in their day. Cohan 1999 and Savoy 1999 reconsider from a queer theory perspective the enormous popularity of three stars who dominated postwar musicals: Bob Hope and Bing Crosby in their series of “Road to” musical adventures, and Doris Day in her musical Western, Calamity Jane (1953). Finally, Street 2005 looks outside of Hollywood to consider Jessie Matthews’s musicals in the context of the 1930s Art Deco style.

    • Cohan, Steven. “Queering the Deal: On the Road with Hope and Crosby.” In Out Takes: Film and Queer Theory. Edited by Ellis Hanson, 23–45. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 1999.

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      Analysis of the homosocial buddy dynamic of Bob Hope and Bing Crosby in their “Road to” series of Paramount musicals.

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    • Landy, Marcia. “Mario Lanza and the ‘Fourth World’.” In Keyframes: Popular Cinema and Cultural Studies. Edited by Matthew Tinkcom and Amy Villarejo, 242–258. London: Routledge, 2001.

      DOI: 10.4324/9780203279632Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

      Studies Lanza’s star image as contexualized both in the 1950s and in the alterations that characterize its more recent circulation in popular culture.

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    • McLean, Adrienne L. Being Rita Hayworth: Labor, Identity, and Hollywood Stardom. New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 2005.

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      Well-researched and innovative study of Hayworth’s career and star persona through her dancing and collaboration with leading choreographers. Important for its treatment of labor as an issue both in stardom and the production of musicals.

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    • McNally, Karen. When Frankie Went to Hollywood: Frank Sinatra and American Male Identity. Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 2008.

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      Studies Sinatra’s postwar star persona and his emergent iconic status beyond film, with analyses of musicals such as Young at Heart and Pal Joey, among his other 1950s films.

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    • Roberts, Shari. “‘The Lady in the Tutti-Frutt Hat’: Carmen Miranda, a Spectacle of Ethnicity.” Cinema Journal 32.3 (Spring 1993): 3–23.

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      Discusses how Carmen Miranda’s ethnic image was simplified of its more discordant elements while speculating that, even so, her Hollywood audiences responded to her star image as more than an eroticized and objectified stereotype.

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    • Savoy, Eric. “‘That’s Ain’t All She Ain’t’: Doris Day and Queer Performativity.” In Out Takes: Essays on Queer Theory and Film. Edited by Ellis Hanson, 151–182. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 1999.

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      Lively queer reading of Doris Day’s cross-dressing character in Calamity Jane (1953).

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    • Street, Sarah. “‘Got to Dance My Way to Heaven:’ Jessie Matthews, Art Deco and the British Musical of the 1930s.” Studies in European Cinema 2.1 (2005): 19–30.

      DOI: 10.1386/seci.2.1.19/1Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

      Studies British star Jessie Matthews’s performances in key 1930s musicals in relation to the art-deco sets of those films.

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    • Turk, Edward Baron. “Deriding the Voice of Jeanette MacDonald: Notes on Psychoanalysis and the American Film Musical.” Camera Obscura 25–26 (1991): 225–249.

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      Reconsiders the conflicting gendered attitudes toward the soprano as a means of understanding the reception of MacDonald’s singing.

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    • Williamson, Catherine. “Swimming Pools, Movie Stars: The Celebrity Body in the Post-War Marketplace.” Camera Obscura 38 (1996): 4–29.

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      Compelling study of the contradictions in Esther Williams’s swimming persona in the MGM water spectaculars of the 1940s and early 1950s and then in the extrafilmic enterprises that traded on her celebrity status to sell swimming suits and swimming pools.

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    Landmark Musicals

    Although many musicals have received substantial treatment by scholars, three titles stand out if only because they have galvanized so much attention as exemplars of the genre: The Jazz Singer (1927), for its legendary importance as the “first” talkie and its extremely problematic representation of Jewish ethnicity and “jazz” through blackface; Singin’ in the Rain (1952), as the one musical that most successfully sustains a level of popular art and still seduces more jaded, contemporary audiences; and A Star Is Born (1954), which exemplifies both star Judy Garland’s career and the imminent demise of the genre and the studio system supporting it.

    The Jazz Singer (1927)

    In no small way due to the retelling of the musical’s “birth” in Singin’ in the Rain (1952), The Jazz Singer has been credited with singlehandedly motivating Hollywood’s wholesale conversion to talkies. That account simplifies historical fact but does not minimize this musical’s importance, particularly given the prominence it gives to blackface and Jewishness, on one hand, and to popular music and “jazz” on the other hand. Gabbard 1996 places this film in Hollywood’s tradition of representing, usually by whitening, jazz on film. Rogin 1992 inspired debates about the overdetermined relation of blackface and Jewishness on stage and screen, issues that Knapp 2008 takes up with a counter-argument about the film’s deployment of popular entertainment and secularization. Stanfield 1997 and Williams 2001 both discuss this film in conjunction with the 1936 version of Show Boat. Finally, Wolfe 1990 locates this film, whose mystique still resonates with the instantaneous emergence of the talkies, within a history of what were at that time a continuity of studio experimentations with sound.

    • Gabbard, Krin. “The Ethnic Oedipus: The Jazz Singer and Its Remakes.” In Jammin’ at the Margins: Jazz and the American Cinema. By Krin Gabbard, 35–63. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1996.

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      Chapter on The Jazz Singer and its two remakes as well as some imitators, like The Jolson Story (1946) and The Benny Goodman Story (1956); discusses how black vernacular music is “whitened” and made central to Hollywood’s paradigmatic success story.

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    • Knapp, Jeffrey. “‘Sacred Songs Popular Prices’: Secularization in The Jazz Singer.” Critical Inquiry 34 (2008): 313–335.

      DOI: 10.1086/529059Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

      Counters the critical trend toward discussing the film’s importance for its representation of assimilation by arguing that its cultural work involves secularization—of identity as well as of music.

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    • Rogin, Michael. “Blackface, White Noise: The Jewish Jazz Singer Finds His Voice.” Critical Inquiry 18 (Spring 1992): 417–453.

      DOI: 10.1086/448640Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

      Provocative and still-controversial argument that shows how Jazz Singer crystallizes the Jewish entertainer of the early 20th century crossed over into mainstream success through his/her appropriation of blackness as troped by blackface.

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    • Stanfield, Peter. “An Octoroon in the Kindling: American Vernacular & Blackface Minstrelsy in 1930s Hollywood.” Journal of American Studies 31.3 (December 1997): 407–438.

      DOI: 10.1017/S0021875897005732Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

      Discusses the resonance of blackface in the early musical’s construction of an American vernacular tradition. Pays particular attention to The Jazz Singer and Show Boat (1936).

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    • Williams, Linda. “Posing as Black, Passing as White: The Melos of Black and White Melodrama in the Jazz Age.” In Playing the Race Card: Melodramas of Black and White from Uncle Tom to O. J. Simpson. By Linda Williams, 136–186. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2001.

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      Chapter on The Jazz Singer (1927) and the 1936 version of Show Boat in a cultural study of melodrama which views this mode as central to American representations of race and racial politics.

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    • Wolfe, Charles. “Vitaphone Shorts and The Jazz Singer.” Wide Angle 12.3 (July 1990): 58–78.

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      Examines the early Vitaphone shorts made by Warners to propose that Jazz Singer was not an abrupt moment of rupture in film history so much as part of an ongoing series of experimentations with the new sound technology.

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    Singin’ in the Rain (1952)

    Still the musical most identified with the genre and the one considered to be the most successful of all musicals as popular art, MGM’s Singin’ in the Rain has been written about from various critical perspectives. Scholars focus on the film’s self-reflexivity in terms of generic form, generic history, star-director Gene Kelly’s persona, his dance aesthetic, and his vexed relation to the tradition of African-American tap dancing. Comden and Green 1972, Baer 2002, and Hess and Dabholkar 2009 offer valuable historical documentation of the film’s production, while Wollen 1992 is a terrific introduction for anyone beginning to think critically about this important musical. Clover 1995 reconsiders the significance of dance for Kelly and this film, contextualizing its importance in the effaced history of African American dancers and choreographers. By contrast, Chumo 1996 rethinks the import of dance as the film’s expression of generic flexibility and renewal. Mellencamp 1991 is an early but still-valid view of the film’s gender politics, which this critic links to two issues characterizing classic film theory; and Prock 2000 returns to those gender issues to critique, from the double perspective of the narrative and Kelly’s career, the problematic status of women and femininity in this film.

    A Star Is Born (1954)

    A Star Is Born (1954) has received much attention from scholars for numerous reasons: not only was it director George Cukor’s first musical, but it was and remains central to star Judy Garland’s career and passionate fan base. Scholarship has concentrated on Garland’s performance style as well as the film’s intentional or contextual recognition of her own career as a crucial intertext to the narrative; additionally, attention has been paid to the film’s revision of its sources and to its reception. Jennings 1979 traces the film’s complex, sometimes direct and sometimes indirect, interaction with Garland’s history; Dyer 1991 makes a case for the artful construction of authenticity in her performance, while Staiger 1992 locates the film’s gay reception at the time of its release in the fan discourse about Garland. Lippe 1986, on the other hand, reads the film in terms of director George Cukor’s authorship. Haver 1988 is an informative and compelling account of this film’s often tumultuous production, mixed reception, and mangling by Warner Bros. after its first-run engagements and its later restoration in 1983.

    • Dyer, Richard. “A Star is Born and the Construction of Authenticity.” In Stardom: Industry of Desire. Edited by Christine Gledhill, 132–140. London: Routledge, 1991.

      DOI: 10.4324/9780203400425Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

      Analyzes the components of authenticity in the star’s performance of “The Man That Got Away” from A Star Is Born (1954).

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    • Haver, Ronald. A Star Is Born: The Making of the 1954 Movie and Its 1983 Restoration. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1988.

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      Detailed and informative history of the film’s production and its restoration three decades later by the archivist responsible for making that happen.

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    • Jennings, Wade. “Nova: Garland in ‘A Star is Born’.” Quarterly Review of Film Studies 4.3 (1979): 321–337.

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      Early but still-relevant account of the film’s interaction with Garland’s post-MGM star image.

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    • Lippe, Richard. “Gender and Destiny: George Cukor’s A Star is Born.” Cine-Action! 3–4 (January 1986): 46–57.

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      Insightful analysis of the film’s narrative with particular emphasis on its treatment of gender and significant comparisons to the sources in the original 1937 non-musical version as well as Cukor’s earlier What Price Hollywood (1932)

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    • Staiger, Janet. “The Logic of Alternative Readings: A Star is Born.” In Interpreting Films: Studies in the Historical Reception of American Cinema. By Janet Staiger, 154–177. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1992.

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      Chapter on alternative readings of A Star Is Born that historicizes the discursive contexts for the gay reception of the film at the time of its release.

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    Video Sources

    Availability of musicals on DVD or, increasingly, Blu-Ray is determined by release date and company policy. Contemporary musicals are regularly available on digital formats, whereas some older films can be more difficult to find; a previous release on VHS, laser disc, or even DVD is no guarantee that an older musical can still be found for viewing. Some studios such as Time-Warner, which controls the libraries of MGM, RKO, and Warner Bros.—studios known for their production of musicals during the studio era—have issued many famous and lesser titles, whether in stand-alone releases, boxed sets built around stars, or a system of on-demand sales via Warner Archive at the company’s Internet store. Other studios, such as Twentieth Century Fox, Paramount, and Universal (which also owns the pre-1948 Paramount Library), have been more selective about releasing their musicals. Issues over ownership of rights or the precarious condition of source material can also prevent some older films from being issued on DVD. In addition to the following sites that have extensive catalogues, Netflix is an obvious source for renting musicals, including many older ones; and one ought not to disregard ebay.com or iOffer.com when searching for out-of-print or hard-to-find titles. I have selected three sites that are worth checking out as different sources of archival material available to students as well as scholars. ClassicFlix has a subscription plan, a blog, and some useful links to other fan websites. By now, most people with cable know about Turner Classic Movies, but not everyone may be familiar with the channel’s Internet presence; its site has multimedia features (clips, trailers, photos, advertising) that can be used in preliminary scholarly research. Warner Archive began an ambitious project of selling DVDs on demand from the catalogue holdings of MGM, RKO, and Warners, and this website has consequently made available many older musicals that are otherwise difficult to find.

    • ClassicFlix.

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      In addition to selling DVDs of classic films, site also has a subscription plan similar to Netflix for renting videos by mail; inventory of films through the 1960s includes the Warner Archive Library, along with the other on-demand series that other companies are slowly establishing on the Warner model. The site also has a blog which covers announcements of all new releases of classic films.

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      • TCM: Turner Classic Movies.

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        The cable network features the old MGM, Warner Bros., and RKO libraries, as well as films from the catalogues of other studios, so it well represents the musical in each month’s lineup. The Internet site has a store, a searchable database, a regularly updated three-month schedule for the cable network, and an archive of video (clips, trailers) and visual (stills, publicity) materials from many of the films shown.

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        • Warner Archive.

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          In addition to commercially available DVDs of the most popular musicals, the Warner Archive section of the site has for purchase nearly six hundred titles for on-demand purchase on DVD-R from the old MGM and Warner Bros. libraries, many of them musicals.

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        LAST MODIFIED: 10/28/2011

        DOI: 10.1093/OBO/9780199791286-0047

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