From Film Quarterly, Vol. 36, No 4, Summer 1983. In 1996, during my first visit to Australia, I had the pleasure of “touring” with Feuer in various southern locations where we both lectured. -– J.R.
THE HOLLYWOOD MUSICAL
By Jane Feuer. Bloomingtion: Indiana University Press, 1982.
Since the advent of Pauline Kael and the anti-intellectual approach to popular genres that she has successfully championed, serious writing about the Hollywood musical that wishes to offer anything more than consumer tips, stray bit of gossip or trivial local evaluations — all useful enough services in their own right – has often had to remain doggedly academic in order to be recognized at all. Yet it is one of the rare virtues of Jane Feuer’s long-awaited The Hollywood Musical that, contrary to the ideological assumptions of the Kaelians and neo-Kaelians, it manages to be rigorously analytical and loads of fun at the same time. And thanks to Feuer’s witty style, the intellectual vantage point and the sense of play, far from seeming in any respect contradictory or inappropriate to its subject, work together to mutual advantage –- creating, like the musical itself, a high concentration of energy and grace under pressure.
Rick Altman’s excellent BFI Reader on the musical, which I reviewed in these pages last year, gave more than one foretaste of this possibility.… Read more »
From the Summer 1982 issue of Film Quarterly. — J.R.
Four Books on the Hollywood Musical
THE HOLLYWOOD MUSICAL, by Clive Hirschhorn. New York: Crown.
HOLLYWOOD MUSICALS, by Ted Sennett. New York: Harry N. Abrams.
THE HOLLYWOOD MUSICAL, by Ethan Mordden. New York: St. Martin’s Press.
GENRE: THE MUSICAL, edited by Rick Altman. London & Boston: Routledge & Kegan Paul (BFI Readers in Film Studies).
If the musical has nearly been vanquished as a popular form by the increasing subdivision of its audience into separate classes, age groups, and ethnic interests, these four books on the subject which nostalgically chart its heyday are similarly compartmentalized and exclusive. It seems inevitable that each of these four elegant receptacles for the most libidinal of American movie genres should address a different portion of our psyches: after all, if our society and minds are splintered, why shouldn’t our integral genres be as well?
The glib marketing strategies that aim each book at a somewhat different audience create the odd social effect of four high-rises, each constructed inside a separate ghetto — although the attractive coffee table books of Clive Hirschhorn and Ted Sennett might also be regarded with some justice as adjacent towers on somewhere like Sutton Place.… Read more »
Published in Contrappasso, coedited by Matthew Asprey Gear and Noel King, in 2015. — J.R.
AN INTERVIEW WITH
Matthew Asprey Gear
JONATHAN ROSENBAUM is one of the most respected film critics in the United States. His many books include Moving Places: A Life in the Movies (1980/1995), Placing Movies: The Practice of Film Criticism (1995), Movies as Politics (1997), Movie Wars: How Hollywood and the Media Limit What Films You See (2000), Essential Cinema: On the Necessity of Film Canons (2004), and Goodbye Cinema, Hello Cinéphilia: Film Culture in Transition (2010).
Rosenbaum has also been a lifelong champion of Orson Welles. Many of his writings on Welles are collected in Discovering Orson Welles (2007). He also edited and annotated This Is Orson Welles (1992/1998), an assembly of the legendary Peter Bogdanovich-Orson Welles interviews.
This brief conversation for Contrappasso, an update on Rosenbaum’s recent activities, was conducted by email in early 2015.
ASPREY GEAR: Jonathan, you retired from your position as film critic at the Chicago Reader in 2008. You now teach, write as a freelancer, and republish your voluminous archive at www.jonathanrosenbaum.net. How have your priorities changed since 2008?
ROSENBAUM: I’m no longer a regular reviewer, and therefore I no longer have to keep up with current releases and see films that I don’t want to see (the majority of what I was seeing at the Reader).… Read more »