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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 o 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 o 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 summer o 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. 4 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 d 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. 4 out of 5

    carrietracy

    The brightly colored cover featuring Gene Kelly sells a book full of all of the joy of the musical. What lurks beneath is a dense text that feels academic in tone rather than accessible and seems bogged down in minutiae and technical competency. Rather than delve into famed musical classics (or their beloved stars) or unearthing hidden gems to be tracked down, Basinger follows the exact progression of the musical, devoting sometimes 4-5 pages to an obscure musical, requiring a full play-by-play r The brightly colored cover featuring Gene Kelly sells a book full of all of the joy of the musical. What lurks beneath is a dense text that feels academic in tone rather than accessible and seems bogged down in minutiae and technical competency. Rather than delve into famed musical classics (or their beloved stars) or unearthing hidden gems to be tracked down, Basinger follows the exact progression of the musical, devoting sometimes 4-5 pages to an obscure musical, requiring a full play-by-play retelling since it is unknown to most readers while at the same time just not, ever once, even mentioning in passing the existence of something like Brigadoon. (Okay fine, using the index, I can see Basinger did in fact mention Brigadoon. It is listed in a literal list of musicals and never again.) I've been an avid musical watcher my whole life. I've seen more than most casual fans due to my father's background in film and extensive video collection as well as hours spent in front of TCM. I've seen the full complement of Nelson Eddy/Jeanette MacDonald vehicles. I'm no casual fan. And yet time and again I was left either on the outside of things I'd never heard of or frustrated at the way space was divided between "stars". Sonia Henje receives exactly as many pages as Astaire/Rogers. While I am willing to cede that the ice musical is a very different creature, I just can't justify that division. While Hayworth's dancing skill was made much of (not sure why? does Basinger think we don't believe Hayworth could dance?) Ann Miller is mentioned in passing at best, and poor Cyd Charisse only when ABSOLUTELY NECESSARY. But while Hayworth's grooming into a star (a process that involved changing everything about her that read as Latina) isn't even mentioned, we get a 4 page write up on how a British skating champion couldn't quite be groomed into a second coming of Henje. WHY? If you're looking for the hidden gems, the movie facts and insider gossip, the camera tricks and choreography secrets, the casting decisions that changed fate, you'll find few to none of them here. A brief paragraph makes mention of women sometimes having multiple similar dresses made for a dance number so that it flowed properly at different points in the scene. I would have loved to read more about that. I learned that at some point, someone clearly lacking some common sense, was set to cast Howard Keel, wooden thing that he was in the Gene Kelly role from Singin' in the Rain. But overall, you're not going to get any of that good stuff here. Basinger's attention to racism in this very white genre is haphazard at best. At times she quickly mentions a blackface number is racist, but doesn't seem to feel the need to offer the same for shows featuring white people playing "Indian" or for a white woman in "mulatto" makeup. Often these racist numbers are just discussed, business as usual, expecting perhaps that the one time mention of "racist" would work as a group disclaimer? I don't know. She also has a small section at the end where she's almost ghettoized all the contributions of Black musicians, artists and dancers that she "wishes we'd seen more from". Jeanine, we KNOW why we didn't see more from them. BECAUSE RACISM. She should have just called it out. If she's not a scholar in this area, I DO NOT GIVE A DAMN. She works at Wesleyan University. I am fairly certain she has access to a colleague who could have provided her some handily phrased quotes to walk her through it*. Why did these pages at the end have to serve as a catch-all for Black entertainers? Why was the book structured in such a way that it couldn't have been addressed THROUGHOUT. It was frustrating at best. *In re-reading my review it sounds as though I'm asking POC, especially Black people, to do Basinger's work for her, and I really do NOT want to give that impression. My feeling is that white authors, when dealing in issues of race/racism which they are unqualified or under qualified to handle, should consult with experts and pay them duly for their time, expertise and contribution and should further cite and thank whomever they have consulted with. Black people should not be asked for free labor in assisting white people understand or write about racism. Another issue: the photos are largely black and white - with some rare color shots, which are mostly spent on VERY modern things (Disney's Lion King/Frozen/Snow White). I know color is expensive. So why burn it on images that everyone can envision in color? Why not use some extra color shots on the glorious technicolor costuming/sets. Almost no time is spent on costumes/lighting/design overall so I guess it wasn't a priority to showcase it in the photos either. And of course, there's just...I didn't agree with her on a lot. In the places she does make judgment on the quality of a singer/show/etc, it sometimes just rubbed me the wrong way. She calls the costuming in On the Town hideous (I fantasized about those brightly colored petticoats for years! I love them!) She called Brando's singing in Guys and Dolls not just inept but calamitous (look, he couldn't sing and I promise, I've never once cared). She says the Young Girls of Rochefort (a delightful French romp) falls flat. I don't NEED to agree with an author's opinion, but I want you to imagine yourself in a lecture hall where someone is droning on at length about things you are not particularly interested or invested in. And then BAM! they mention something you know! Something you know and like! You perk up! You will not actually fall asleep in class today! And then what they have to say is that what you like is kinda crap. Go back to sleep. Nod off. You don't need to endure 5 pages devoted entirely to the Strauss biopic The Great Waltz just so you can eventually learn that they wanted Cary Grant for the Rex Harrison part in My Fair Lady.

  4. 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 ever 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.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Michael Berens

    I have not read any other of professor Basinger's books, but based on the titles on the back of the dust jacket, it's clear that she has put a lifetime of studying movies--how they are made, what makes one a success or not, what makes a performer a star or not, etc.--into this massive but by no means exhaustive study of the American movie musical. This is film history, not film criticism or pop culture studies. Professor Basinger steers clear of picking favorites or top 10 lists and such, althou I have not read any other of professor Basinger's books, but based on the titles on the back of the dust jacket, it's clear that she has put a lifetime of studying movies--how they are made, what makes one a success or not, what makes a performer a star or not, etc.--into this massive but by no means exhaustive study of the American movie musical. This is film history, not film criticism or pop culture studies. Professor Basinger steers clear of picking favorites or top 10 lists and such, although she clearly admires some movies and performers more than others. For an academic and a semi-academic book, her writing is clear and accessible, although her phrasing can get repetitive at times. My mother loved musicals, especially the big hit Broadway musicals of the 50s and 60s, and I grew up listening to them--as well as "The Wizard of Oz" and "Peter Pan" and Disney musicals--and singing those songs. Later I discovered the great film musicals as well. Personally, I appreciated professor Basinger's insights into the genre and its various permutations and performances. The book for me was not so much nostalgia as a new way of looking at these films. I found myself going repeatedly to You Tube to watch again some musical number she describes in great detail and see nuances I had never noticed before. Yes, the book is long and a bit dense in parts. Still, I was sad to say goodbye when I came to the end.

  6. 4 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 scrupulo 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.

  7. 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 a 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!

  8. 5 out of 5

    Susan Liston

    This is the second book about movies by this author I've read.** Like her other book, this contains a ton of information, but it's almost like you are reading a transcript of a talk. Full of editorial comment so everything is heavily colored by her opinion. Which makes it probably less dry and more readable then just the facts, ma'am, but you are getting a slanted view if its something you aren't familiar with yourself. Also, not a coffee table book, so it's text and not photo oriented. **I had f This is the second book about movies by this author I've read.** Like her other book, this contains a ton of information, but it's almost like you are reading a transcript of a talk. Full of editorial comment so everything is heavily colored by her opinion. Which makes it probably less dry and more readable then just the facts, ma'am, but you are getting a slanted view if its something you aren't familiar with yourself. Also, not a coffee table book, so it's text and not photo oriented. **I had forgotten about her penchant for footnotes! Footnotes, footnotes, footnotes! Teeny weeny print footnotes, that could have been incorporated into the text.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Cook Memorial Public Library

    A 2019 staff favorite recommended by Jenn and Becky. Check our catalog: https://encore.cooklib.org/iii/encore... A 2019 staff favorite recommended by Jenn and Becky. Check our catalog: https://encore.cooklib.org/iii/encore...

  10. 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.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Riegs

    The author devoted about 15-20 pages of to Al Jolson, and provided less than a few sentences about the blackface. She later on devoted about 3-5 pages to the "lost" African American musicals, like The Wiz. Does this woman really have no research about the Harlem Renaissance, tap dancing, or any of the blatantly stolen African American dance and music styles that permeate the musical as an art form????

  12. 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 histor 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.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Paula

    It took me FOREVER to read this book, but not because I wasn't enjoying it. I'm just finding it difficult to concentrate on reading these days. You'd think it was the perfect opportunity to catch up on reading, but that's not been my experience. Anyway, if you love musicals like I do you must read this book. It's incredibly thorough, and I learned allo kinds of things about the history of musicals, and Hollywood, and behind the scenes gossip. BUT. While reading this I realized that it probably sh It took me FOREVER to read this book, but not because I wasn't enjoying it. I'm just finding it difficult to concentrate on reading these days. You'd think it was the perfect opportunity to catch up on reading, but that's not been my experience. Anyway, if you love musicals like I do you must read this book. It's incredibly thorough, and I learned allo kinds of things about the history of musicals, and Hollywood, and behind the scenes gossip. BUT. While reading this I realized that it probably should have been 10 different books, because Basinger just couldn't really cover everything in depth. I know there are books about Fred & Ginger, and Fred Astair alone, and Gene Kelly and Judy Garland. There could easily be a book about Black musical stars of the 40's and 50's like the Nicholas Brothers, Dorothy Dandrige, Ethel Waters, Jeni LeGon, Bill Robinson, and a book about all the wonderful choreographers - hermes Pan and Michael Kidd, and another book about some of the wonderful composers. I just wanted to know more. Conversely, Basinger merely mentions Shirley Jones in passing. Jones may not have been much of a dancer, and many performer featured here were good dancers, but she had such a beautiful voice, and I don't think I've ever not enjoyed a performance of her. The other thing about this book? It made me want to go and see all of the performers and routines she writes about. Much of that is possible through snippets on YouTube, and some things I dimly remembered from my childhood when these great old films would just appear on TV on sone random Saturday afternoon. I was able to find many of the films available for viewing - for a price - and I didn't necessarily want to watch an entire Sonja Henie film - I just wanted to sample it. I enjoyed every minute of this book, but I don't necessarily agree with her premise - that audiences must be gently and skillfully led into believing in a musical world where suddenly the mailman starts singing. I say you either buy into the whole idea of a community bursting into song, or you don't. I do, wholeheartedly.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Brenden Gallagher

    Just like the book's subject, "The Movie Musical!" by Jeanine Basinger isn't for everyone. Basinger's comprehensive history of the genre takes 24 hours to listen to, and spans every important development of the musical from the dawn of sound film to "A Star is Born" (2019). Along the way, Basinger dedicates ample attention to the great stars of the silver screen like Gene Kelly and Judy Garland as well as largely forgotten figures like ice skating musical queen Sonja Henie. Even the most ardent Just like the book's subject, "The Movie Musical!" by Jeanine Basinger isn't for everyone. Basinger's comprehensive history of the genre takes 24 hours to listen to, and spans every important development of the musical from the dawn of sound film to "A Star is Born" (2019). Along the way, Basinger dedicates ample attention to the great stars of the silver screen like Gene Kelly and Judy Garland as well as largely forgotten figures like ice skating musical queen Sonja Henie. Even the most ardent musical fan will feel that certain chapters just aren't for them, as the book covers every major trend of the musical from vaudeville to hip-hopera. That being said, you can't help but appreciate Basinger's passion for and knowledge of the musical. Furthermore, her gifts as a historian and critic are on full display here. She expertly weaves biography, genre history, film criticism, and scene analysis together, dipping from one to another as she sees fit, always finding the best way to present a particular artist, era, or film. As you might expect, the most exciting chapters of the book are those that feel the most relevant today. Basinger's comparative analysis of Bing Crosby and Elvis Presley is fascinating. Her breakdown of the Freed Unit is a masterful nuts and bolts breakdown of film logistics and technique. Her discussion of "Singin' in the Rain" is definitive. And her chronicle of the fall of the musical post-1970 giving rise to creative voices like Bob Fosse and Baz Lurhman is brilliant. If you are a film nut or work in the entertainment industry, the more obscure sections of the text will also be worthwhile. You don't have to have seen a particular film to understand how audiences and creatives shape and reinvent genres. You don't need to know every obscure musical star of the 30s and 40s to appreciate that familiar trajectories of stars and directors as they come and go. No, I don't think this is a book for the casual film fan or someone who doesn't love musicals. But, if you are a cinephile and/or a musical lover, this is an exhaustive, fulfilling read.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Patty

    I am so torn about this book. What I wanted was a great read about the musical in Hollywood with lots of inside scoop and some analysis. What I wanted was to be able to glean a list of undiscovered musicals for me to watch. What I got was a reasonably interesting academic analysis of same, but only intermittently. (Intermittently interesting, that is.) There are lots of lists here, lots of them. Bing Crosby gets a lot of space. Sonia Henie gets 10 pages! Non, no, no. More Astaire Rodgers, please I am so torn about this book. What I wanted was a great read about the musical in Hollywood with lots of inside scoop and some analysis. What I wanted was to be able to glean a list of undiscovered musicals for me to watch. What I got was a reasonably interesting academic analysis of same, but only intermittently. (Intermittently interesting, that is.) There are lots of lists here, lots of them. Bing Crosby gets a lot of space. Sonia Henie gets 10 pages! Non, no, no. More Astaire Rodgers, please. More Rita Hayworth. There is no small detail uncovered here, making it suitable for a paper or academic study, but where’s the fun? Also, in spite of the fact that I have the utmost respect for Basinger, I think she’s wrong about the praise she heaps on Last Waltz. It may be cinematic with all the cutting and film techniques, but I find they detract from the music rather than adding to it. This probably works best as a term paper resource, and it is an excellent resource, or something to dip into, rather than read straight through.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Michael Samerdyke

    I wanted to give this one five stars, but I ultimately couldn't. The basic problem with writing about the musical is that the golden age of the Hollywood musical is from "Forty-Second Street" to "Gigi." After "Gigi" in 1958, you might have successful movies here and there, but they don't add up to a healthy genre. "The Movie Musical!" can't really get around that. Indeed, it is the coverage of the post-1958 era that damages the book for me. To be more specific, it is the treatment of "La-La Land" t I wanted to give this one five stars, but I ultimately couldn't. The basic problem with writing about the musical is that the golden age of the Hollywood musical is from "Forty-Second Street" to "Gigi." After "Gigi" in 1958, you might have successful movies here and there, but they don't add up to a healthy genre. "The Movie Musical!" can't really get around that. Indeed, it is the coverage of the post-1958 era that damages the book for me. To be more specific, it is the treatment of "La-La Land" that damages the book. Wow, Basinger dislikes "La-La Land." She dislikes the story, the staging, the director, and the performers. She is really unkind to Emma Stone in particular. Not only that, but she dislikes the movies that influenced "La-La Land." I liked, but didn't love "La-La Land," and I was just put off by this. Also, it is ironic that this book has Gene Kelly on the cover, when the book itself only praises Kelly with left-handed compliments. Parts of this book are fun, but the whole leaves a bitter aftertaste.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Michael Ritchie

    I was hoping this doorstop of a book would be the be-all and end-all of movie musical books. I came away sorely disappointed. Basinger's structure isn't quite chronological, it's sort of thematic, as she covers what she sees as important ideas and movements in the musical genre. She skips around, sometimes developing intersting ideas that she abandons before she plumbs their depths. Her writing style is generally strong, though an editior needed to weed out repetiton: if she calls a musical "col I was hoping this doorstop of a book would be the be-all and end-all of movie musical books. I came away sorely disappointed. Basinger's structure isn't quite chronological, it's sort of thematic, as she covers what she sees as important ideas and movements in the musical genre. She skips around, sometimes developing intersting ideas that she abandons before she plumbs their depths. Her writing style is generally strong, though an editior needed to weed out repetiton: if she calls a musical "colorful," she uses that same word two more times a paragraph or two later. She spends only one paragraph of West Side Story, a musical she sees as important, but spends many more paragraphs on One from the Heart and The Last Waltz (which, great as it is, I don't think of as a musical--she spends some time on documentaries which hardly belong to the genre even as she defines it). Interesting insights abound, but because the books feels like a mess, most of them didn't sitck with me.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Pauline

    It was like taking a film class on the history and techniques of the musical. It covers a lot of ground, but it can’t mention every star and musical in depth. The movies and people she dwells on are examples for the topics she covers - what makes them successful, star vehicles, innovations, studio finances, etc. I enjoyed her conversational writing style. She has opinions, but also a lifetime of scholarship to back them up. I wish it had an index of the movies. I did get a new list of movies to It was like taking a film class on the history and techniques of the musical. It covers a lot of ground, but it can’t mention every star and musical in depth. The movies and people she dwells on are examples for the topics she covers - what makes them successful, star vehicles, innovations, studio finances, etc. I enjoyed her conversational writing style. She has opinions, but also a lifetime of scholarship to back them up. I wish it had an index of the movies. I did get a new list of movies to watch, but I think some of them may not be available. She has access to film archives most people do not have. I got it from the library, but I will buy my own copy for a reference. There are sections I will read again.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Nic Carnes

    I don't think this book was marketed quite right- or maybe it's the deceptively fun Gene Kelly photo on the cover (which was 95% of what made me want this book so much). When you dive in, it's more like a film class textbook... then again the textbooks for film classes I had were filled with way way more photos and were more interesting on the whole. While I love musicals, I did not love this text-heavy book. I can't bear the fact that actual good musicals didn't have photos included but there wa I don't think this book was marketed quite right- or maybe it's the deceptively fun Gene Kelly photo on the cover (which was 95% of what made me want this book so much). When you dive in, it's more like a film class textbook... then again the textbooks for film classes I had were filled with way way more photos and were more interesting on the whole. While I love musicals, I did not love this text-heavy book. I can't bear the fact that actual good musicals didn't have photos included but there was a whole load of Disney photos. It just didn't seem right. Kudos if you can read this mammoth photo-light book and enjoy it.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Medlibrarian

    Jeanine Basinger wrote one of my favorite books on film (A Woman's View) and I've read a few of her others. She's knowledgeable, but personable. Her books aren't dense and if there's theory, it's presented at a level most can probably appreciate. This feels like it should be several books rather than just the one--my ebook was over 1500+ pages! And even with that, the later chapters where she's addressing more recent musicals felt rushed to me. I don't always agree with her opinions (for instance Jeanine Basinger wrote one of my favorite books on film (A Woman's View) and I've read a few of her others. She's knowledgeable, but personable. Her books aren't dense and if there's theory, it's presented at a level most can probably appreciate. This feels like it should be several books rather than just the one--my ebook was over 1500+ pages! And even with that, the later chapters where she's addressing more recent musicals felt rushed to me. I don't always agree with her opinions (for instance, I have seen Billy Rose's Jumbo and was not impressed), but it was an absorbing read.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Christine Sinclair

    If you love musicals, read this! It is packed with information and insight into the creation and development of Hollywood musicals from 1930 to today. The stars, the directors, the hits and the misses. (Basinger was not impressed with La La Land, like the rest of us were.) It also has lots of good photos to give us a stroll down memory lane, and even a few personal comments by the author (she was really scared as a child, by Fantasia!). Great book!

  22. 4 out of 5

    Anna

    A great book about musicals A very interesting book. It's written in a conversational (and entertaining) style and covers a great deal of material. I learned a lot. Only two nits....1) The Way You Look Tonight was not written by Irving Berlin (as stated in one of the notes) and 2) the author never misses a chance to direct a dig at Gene Kelly and seems reluctant to give him his due in the history of musicals.

  23. 4 out of 5

    James

    Great read that covers the origins of the Movie Musical, from the beginning of the sound era to present day, that answered many questions about musicals and explained what a unique and American art form it is. Singing, dancing moments are discussed including how the genre morphed into different forms like the concert film. The author's pointing out the "They live to sing. They sing to live" differential in plot/presentation was a great insight.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Molly

    I love reading about movie musicals, and I learned a lot about the making of movie musicals and their history in this book. It was sometimes hard to follow when Basinger is describing the plot of and specific scenes from movies without having seen them before. And I appreciated the conversational tone of the book, although sometimes it's hard to distinguish between fact and the author's opinion or analysis.

  25. 5 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. 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.

  26. 4 out of 5

    David

    Everything you ever wanted to know about the movie musical but were afraid to ask. And a whole lot of things you would never have asked. Ok, it is a history of the movie musical and Ms. Basinger is a very detailed writer. To read this you will want to deep dive the genre. Mostly it is worth it. I don’t always read non fiction swiftly but this book did grab my attention and held on to it.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Alistair

    The wonderfully knowledgeable Jeanine Basinger has written another “must read” for film aficionados. She has a genuine appreciation for the oft-derided form which shines through her critical, and often witty writing. I can enthusiastically recommend another Basinger title: A Woman’s View: how Hollywood spoke to women, 1930-1960. A true eye-opener.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Michele Mason

    Overall, a disappointing book which needed some aggressive editing so that the joy of movie musicals came through. Sadly, there was too much detail on minor movies and stars. For example, I would defy any movie buff to see the musicals starring Danny Kaye to be worthy of more pages of commentary than the great songwriters whose music was at the heart of the genre.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Alan

    Fabulous book -- she gets a few things wrong (Watch. Eleanor. Powell!) But she gets so much right, exposing underwatched gems like Doris Day's Romance on the High Seas, and her entire chapter on B musicals is a revelation. (Watch. Trocadero! Streaming free!!) A wonderful in-depth, scholarly addition to a genre that already has so much written about it, highest possible recommendation.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Bargain Sleuth Book Reviews

    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.

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