The Hollywood Musical

Originally published in December 2004, in 2 parts.
Book 43 in my first 52 books challenge.


Author: Jane Feuer
Series: British Film Institute Cinema Series
Year published: 1982/1993
Pages: 154
Genre: Cinema history and criticism
Where got: National/University Library

I came across this interesting volume while browsing at the library. As someone who possesses a growing collection of musicals and watches them frequently, I am naturally interested in the subject, which is why I picked it as the book of the week.

Contents and review:
A critical and analytic look at the Golden Era Hollywood musical as a genre. Feuer examines some conventions and formulas of the genre, how the earlier musicals refer back to stage shows, vaudeville and revues, while the later ones refer back to the earlier ones. She examines the importance of the songs, the standardized romantic storyline of the musical comedy, and in a postscript chapter takes a brief look at some post-Golden Era musicals and gay readings of the old musicals (especially those starring Judy Garland).

When I started reading this book I expected to find some insight into the musical genre and what makes musicals enduring and endearing to audiences. What I found was an attempt to analyse certain isolated themes and techniques of the genre.

The book is an academic work written for academics, and therefore full of academic and technical jargon. For persons who have read little or nothing about literary analysis and literary theory, it is – I wouldn’t say exactly useless, but rather not as useful as it could be. For film students it gives a valuable insight into the genre, albeit not a very complete one.

For me, it has mostly been useful in drawing my attention to musicals I would like to watch.

Rating: An academic look at the movie musical as a genre. Not rated.

P.S. I am quite surprised that neither Grease nor Saturday Night Fever - both very popular movies that have attained cult status - rate a mention in the text, as the former is so clearly both a parody and a celebration of the genre, and the latter subverts and deviates from many of the genre’s conventions.

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