The Movie Musical Review

Leading film historian Jeanine Basinger reveals, with her trademark wit and zest, the whole story of the Hollywood musical in the most telling, most inclusive, most detailed, most gorgeously illustrated book of her longer 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 the late, lamented 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-Margaret; from the lavish extravagance of Busby Berkeley to the turbulence of Bob Fosse, Basinger focuses on the many beloved, iconic films (Top Hat, Singin’ in the Rain, Meet Me in St. Louis) as well as unfairly obscure gems (Eddie Cantor’s Whoopie!, Murder at the Vanities, One from the Heart). The Movie Musical! is astute, informative, and a pure pleasure to read.

While nothing beats the power of live theater, musical movies are still incredible to watch. The Movie Musical explores the history of musical movies. It especially looks at the classic musicals- after all, that is the beginning of musical movies. It first looks at how sound came into film. There were some things I was expecting to see in this book- and those things did show up. As in certain stars (as in actors, composers, lyricists) and films.

It would come of no surprise that it all started with the introduction of sound. Without that, there is no way musical films would exist. I was expecting Gene Kelly, Judy Garland, Shirley Temple, and other popular stars to be talked about. Gene Kelly is one of the best dancers in the world of movie musicals. As far as composers and lyricists go- I knew it bring up George Gershwin, Rodgers and Hart, Rodgers and Hammerstein. If this book didn’t bring up R/H, that would be wrong- Rodgers and Hammerstein is one of the best duos that exist and do play an important part in musicals today. Actually there were some names I wasn’t expecting- I knew they were celebrities, but not musical film stars (Elvis Presley and Frank Sinatra for instance.

As far as films go- I had a feeling it bring up Wizard of OZ, Oklahoma (among other famous R/H films), West Side Story, Singin’ in the Rain, and Disney musicals. Those are some of the most famous musicals from the past and still are well-loved today even from me. I love the movie musicals, “Sound of Music”, “Singin’ in the Rain”, “South Pacific”, “Oklahoma”, “White Christmas” for instance. As far as Disney musicals (only bringing up the successful movie musicals)- “Lion King”, “Beauty and the Beast”, “Aladdin”, and “Frozen”.

If you love musicals and want to know the history of musical movies, I suggest reading this book.

10 thoughts on “The Movie Musical Review

  1. Sounds like a great book! I haven’t read any like it before, but the subject sounds really interesting. I think movie musicals have done a lot for the world of musical theatre, so it’s cool that there are people out there studying that history!

    Liked by 2 people

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