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The Movie Musical!

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Irresistible and authoritative, The Movie Musical! is an in-depth look at the singing, dancing, happy-making world of Hollywood musicals, beautifully illustrated in color and black-and-white--an essential text for anyone who's ever laughed, cried, or sung along at the movies. Leading film historian Jeanine Basinger reveals, with her trademark wit and zest, the whole story Irresistible and authoritative, The Movie Musical! is an in-depth look at the singing, dancing, happy-making world of Hollywood musicals, beautifully illustrated in color and black-and-white--an essential text for anyone who's ever laughed, cried, or sung along at the movies. Leading film historian Jeanine Basinger reveals, with her trademark wit and zest, the whole story of the Hollywood musical--in the most telling, most incisive, most detailed, most gorgeously illustrated book of her long and remarkable career. From Fred Astaire, whom she adores, to La La Land, which she deplores, Basinger examines a dazzling array of stars, strategies, talents, and innovations in the history of musical cinema. Whether analyzing a classic Gene Kelly routine, relishing a Nelson-Jeanette operetta, or touting a dynamic hip hop number (in the underrated Idlewild), she is a canny and charismatic guide to the many ways that song and dance have been seen--and heard--on film. With extensive portraits of everyone from Al Jolson, the Jazz Singer; to Doris Day, whose iconic sunniness has overshadowed her dramatic talents; from Deanna Durbin, that lovable teen-star of the '30s and '40s; to Shirley T. and Judy G.; from Bing to Frank to Elvis; from Ann Miller to Ann-Margret; from Disney to Chicago . . . focusing on many beloved, iconic films (Top Hat; Singin' in the Rain; Meet Me in St. Louis; The Sound of Music) as well as unduly obscure gems (Eddie Cantor's Whoopee!; Murder at the Vanities; Sun Valley Serenade; One from the Heart), this book is astute, informative, and pure pleasure to read.


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Irresistible and authoritative, The Movie Musical! is an in-depth look at the singing, dancing, happy-making world of Hollywood musicals, beautifully illustrated in color and black-and-white--an essential text for anyone who's ever laughed, cried, or sung along at the movies. Leading film historian Jeanine Basinger reveals, with her trademark wit and zest, the whole story Irresistible and authoritative, The Movie Musical! is an in-depth look at the singing, dancing, happy-making world of Hollywood musicals, beautifully illustrated in color and black-and-white--an essential text for anyone who's ever laughed, cried, or sung along at the movies. Leading film historian Jeanine Basinger reveals, with her trademark wit and zest, the whole story of the Hollywood musical--in the most telling, most incisive, most detailed, most gorgeously illustrated book of her long and remarkable career. From Fred Astaire, whom she adores, to La La Land, which she deplores, Basinger examines a dazzling array of stars, strategies, talents, and innovations in the history of musical cinema. Whether analyzing a classic Gene Kelly routine, relishing a Nelson-Jeanette operetta, or touting a dynamic hip hop number (in the underrated Idlewild), she is a canny and charismatic guide to the many ways that song and dance have been seen--and heard--on film. With extensive portraits of everyone from Al Jolson, the Jazz Singer; to Doris Day, whose iconic sunniness has overshadowed her dramatic talents; from Deanna Durbin, that lovable teen-star of the '30s and '40s; to Shirley T. and Judy G.; from Bing to Frank to Elvis; from Ann Miller to Ann-Margret; from Disney to Chicago . . . focusing on many beloved, iconic films (Top Hat; Singin' in the Rain; Meet Me in St. Louis; The Sound of Music) as well as unduly obscure gems (Eddie Cantor's Whoopee!; Murder at the Vanities; Sun Valley Serenade; One from the Heart), this book is astute, informative, and pure pleasure to read.

30 review for The Movie Musical!

  1. 5 out of 5

    Lisa Vegan

    This is not the coffee table book I was expecting. It’s a text heavy book. There were photos, some B & W and some color, but not nearly enough for my taste. Like the author, I grew up on and loved musicals, but not the early ones she did. In 1964, during the summer living in NYC I saw about 30 of them. Great ones! Most with their original casts. (Hello Dolly, Fiddler on the Roof, Oliver, Here’s Love, among them) and I love many earlier and later ones too. My first musical/play was in the This is not the coffee table book I was expecting. It’s a text heavy book. There were photos, some B & W and some color, but not nearly enough for my taste. Like the author, I grew up on and loved musicals, but not the early ones she did. In 1964, during the summer living in NYC I saw about 30 of them. Great ones! Most with their original casts. (Hello Dolly, Fiddler on the Roof, Oliver, Here’s Love, among them) and I love many earlier and later ones too. My first musical/play was in the summer of 1962 at a partially outside tent theater and it was Bye Bye Birdie and I loved it. Some of the last musicals I saw, a few years ago, I also loved: Beautiful, The Book of Mormon, from seeing it in 1972 Pippin is a favorite, and my very favorite movie (I love the play album too) is The Sound of Music. I guess it makes sense for this book to have a main focus on early musicals. There were times I was tempted to skim or to even return it unfinished, but I’m glad that I persisted and stuck with it. Approximately half way through the book musicals and stars with which I’ve been familiar for a long time, and many I’ve enjoyed and some that are favorites. It’s still not what I’d hoped for re finding all the musicals that have meant so much to me and it’s more text heavy and less photograph heavy that I would have preferred but I did enjoy it. However; I did not agree much of the time with the author’s opinions about musicals regarding them changing over time and many more recent musicals I enjoyed are not included. Some very recent productions are included but so many over the past several decades are left out, ones important to me. I guess those included were meant to be a smattering of the total. I would have appreciated and expected a more comprehensive treatment. I do appreciate how the author addressed some social issues and how they related with the making of musicals. Very few of the missing ones/scenes I noticed as missing were mentioned in the Acknowledgments section. Even though I did not love this book I will be recommending it to at least a couple of people (not on Goodreads) but recommend it only with great interest in the history of English/NYC musical theater and Hollywood musicals movies, and are okay with an incomplete history, and those who can enjoy reading it in one place if they read the hardcover edition. It’s large and heavy and not something I was willing to carry with me to read when I was away from home. From me, only 2-1/2 stars, rounded up, but that’s mostly because I had high expectations and different expectations. For the right reader, I think it’s a good book. Contents: Introduction I About Musicals II Origins: The Arrival of Sound III 1933: A Musical Year IV Stars and Strategies V The Musical as an Art Form VI The Death of the Musical VII Epitaph VIII Final Number Acknowledgments Bibliography Index

  2. 5 out of 5

    Mjspice

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. As a big Gene Kelly fan, the cover was the whole reason why I even picked this up lol. It's quite dense with a few images but overall informative on its subject. I was kinda surprised to see that some old songs were actually covers (Elvis' "Are You Lonesome Tonight?", "Good Morning" from Singin' In the Rain and the now infamous "Baby It's Cold Outside" which was originally a Esther Williams number). I also didn't know that "A Star is Born" had been remade 3 times before! The only reason why this As a big Gene Kelly fan, the cover was the whole reason why I even picked this up lol. It's quite dense with a few images but overall informative on its subject. I was kinda surprised to see that some old songs were actually covers (Elvis' "Are You Lonesome Tonight?", "Good Morning" from Singin' In the Rain and the now infamous "Baby It's Cold Outside" which was originally a Esther Williams number). I also didn't know that "A Star is Born" had been remade 3 times before! The only reason why this doesn't get 5 stars is because they relegated racism and cultural appropriation as footnotes. They do try to make it up with a chapter on African American performers but I feel it's too late by then. Other than that it's a good & extensive research on American musicals.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Niamh

    This is an extensive, hugely in-depth exploration of the Hollywood movie musical spanning from its iterations at the birth of the sound era to the decades that many people saw it's death, low-level popularity and then eventually, re-birth in the twentieth century. And whilst I really enjoyed reading this stupidly long book, I had one main issue with it. The movie musical is a very expansive genre - even the author notes that it's ninety years and thousands of films- and any attempt to cover This is an extensive, hugely in-depth exploration of the Hollywood movie musical spanning from its iterations at the birth of the sound era to the decades that many people saw it's death, low-level popularity and then eventually, re-birth in the twentieth century. And whilst I really enjoyed reading this stupidly long book, I had one main issue with it. The movie musical is a very expansive genre - even the author notes that it's ninety years and thousands of films- and any attempt to cover every corner and element of it is setting yourself up to fail. Because Basinger is attempting to cast a wide net, things slip through the cracks. Certain elements - people, movies, directors - are discussed at great length when their importance is minimal. It's impossible to cover everything and so it feels as though this book is missing something. Hence why I couldn't give it five stars.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Jeff J.

    A comprehensive and well-researched history of movie musicals. Rather than tackle the subject chronologically the structure was more thematic. By bundling the topic by subject - dancers, duos, studios, etc. - certain figures showed up repeatedly (the author really likes Fred Astaire). Others were barely mentioned, I would have liked more on the Nicolas Brothers, for example. The contributions of Disney and other animated films are mentioned briefly, almost an afterthought. While she was A comprehensive and well-researched history of movie musicals. Rather than tackle the subject chronologically the structure was more thematic. By bundling the topic by subject - dancers, duos, studios, etc. - certain figures showed up repeatedly (the author really likes Fred Astaire). Others were barely mentioned, I would have liked more on the Nicolas Brothers, for example. The contributions of Disney and other animated films are mentioned briefly, almost an afterthought. While she was scrupulous about documenting her sources with footnotes I wish the book had included an index.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Michael Sparrow

    This is a weighty and consequential history of the musical film. Basinger covers a lot of ground and goes into a good deal of detail of many stars and trends. It's not perfect, Basinger focuses on a couple of stars at too great a length and there are a couple of annoying (if minor) errors. Her section on B movie musicals is fairly superficial. But all in all, it's a very worthwhile read, she mentions a few musicals (mostly recent) that I haven't seen and now badly want to. It's not at all dull This is a weighty and consequential history of the musical film. Basinger covers a lot of ground and goes into a good deal of detail of many stars and trends. It's not perfect, Basinger focuses on a couple of stars at too great a length and there are a couple of annoying (if minor) errors. Her section on B movie musicals is fairly superficial. But all in all, it's a very worthwhile read, she mentions a few musicals (mostly recent) that I haven't seen and now badly want to. It's not at all dull and very gracefully written. Recommended!

  6. 5 out of 5

    Kristin Strong

    If you're looking for a coffee-table book with tons of images from classic movie musicals, this is not the book for you. If you're looking for a book about the inner workings of movie musicals -- what makes them sublime, what makes them dreck, what makes the mechanism run smoothly (or not) -- then this is your book. Basinger is a film scholar and a college professor, so she writes authoritatively on the subject. But this book, while scholarly, is very readable and accessible to the non-film If you're looking for a coffee-table book with tons of images from classic movie musicals, this is not the book for you. If you're looking for a book about the inner workings of movie musicals -- what makes them sublime, what makes them dreck, what makes the mechanism run smoothly (or not) -- then this is your book. Basinger is a film scholar and a college professor, so she writes authoritatively on the subject. But this book, while scholarly, is very readable and accessible to the non-film historian. Basinger does use photos, but she also writes vivid descriptions of film scenes and plots, adding in a healthy dose of humor to keep things moving along. This book is literally too heavy to carry around, so I advise you to have a comfortable seat, get a beverage, and enjoy large chunks of it at home. I learned a boatload of interesting stuff about movie-making in general, musicals in particular, and the why and how of the importance of the movie musical.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Liz

    Warning, this is a long book, but that being said it is a very interesting one. The author takes a deep look at musicals especially on screen; what does and does not make them work; why and how some performers make it work no matter the quality of the material & really make it work if there is quality writing/directing/producing involved.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Sarah Wolfe

    This feels like a book written to be the text for a specific college class (not to be confused with an authoritative textbook) rather than a wide-market nonfiction book. It lacks an engaging voice, or really anything particularly noteworthy other than some odd critiques.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Jennifer

    Pretty thorough book about the history of the American movie musical. Some minor errors keeps me from rating this 5 stars, though. If you love musicals, I recommend it, and take your time with it because you'll be like me and write down a bunch of musicals I'd like to revisit.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Susan

    This could be considered the definitive book on movie musicals. But, it seems like the author felt the need to include every single musical ever created, often in strings of titles, to meet that requirement. I felt the book could have been better had it limited itself to the ones that had an impact or offered something to the genre. I think that is what the author intended as she even mentions, regarding modern Disney musicals, that they don't influence the path of the musical. Then why bring This could be considered the definitive book on movie musicals. But, it seems like the author felt the need to include every single musical ever created, often in strings of titles, to meet that requirement. I felt the book could have been better had it limited itself to the ones that had an impact or offered something to the genre. I think that is what the author intended as she even mentions, regarding modern Disney musicals, that they don't influence the path of the musical. Then why bring them up and devote 2 pages to them? Instead of feeling inclusionary, this feels like padding. Likewise, multiple pages are spent on a musical that the author later concluded was a waste, and multiple pages were spend discussing concert documentaries with a final comment that they are not what the book is about. So why include them if they do not add value to the subject matter of the book? So while I enjoyed a majority of the book and learned a lot about a favorite topic, a more concise and focused approach would have been preferred.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Lisa

    I was wondering if this book had photos and if I purchased a kindle copy would the photos be included?

  12. 4 out of 5

    Doris Raines

    I LIKE THIS BOOK.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Rhys

    it sucked i hated the book and couldnt even finish reading it please dont read this book i regret it everyobne else is just stupid

  14. 4 out of 5

    Beth Tilley

    For those of you enthralled by musicals and their history, this book is for you. It is filled with information, history and photographs from then and now.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Rose Ann

    A great piece of research from this author, as always.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Robyn Martin

    Audible

  17. 5 out of 5

    Alex Nagler

  18. 4 out of 5

    R

  19. 4 out of 5

    Siobhan Pearce

  20. 4 out of 5

    Denise Dorn

  21. 5 out of 5

    Roland

  22. 5 out of 5

    Chris Pomeroy

  23. 4 out of 5

    Giulia

  24. 5 out of 5

    Kate

  25. 4 out of 5

    Ann

  26. 5 out of 5

    Pigfartese

  27. 5 out of 5

    Tara

  28. 5 out of 5

    Keith Runyon

  29. 4 out of 5

    Barb

  30. 4 out of 5

    Marilyn

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