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Great American Songbook, The


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Great American Songbook, The + Michael Feinstein's American Songbook + Michael Feinstein: The Sinatra Legacy
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Product Details

  • Actors: Andrews Sisters, Michael Feinstein, Fred Astaire, Irving Berlin, Fanny Brice
  • Directors: Andrew J. Kuehn
  • Writers: Joe Gilford, Mary Cleere Haran
  • Producers: Michael Feinstein, Andrew J. Kuehn, Stephen Netburn, Susan B. Landau
  • Format: Multiple Formats, Closed-captioned, Color, Dolby, Full Screen, NTSC, Subtitled
  • Language: English (Dolby Digital 5.1)
  • Subtitles: English, Spanish, French
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated: NR (Not Rated)
  • Studio: Warner Home Video
  • DVD Release Date: April 22, 2003
  • Run Time: 175 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (50 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B00008AOWT
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #42,498 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
  • Learn more about "Great American Songbook, The" on IMDb

Special Features

Audio Commentary: Audio commentary by Michael Feinstein Featurette: Vintage musical short "A New Romance of Celluloid: We Must Have Music"Audio Commentary: Audio commentary by Michael Feinstein Featurette: Vintage musical short "A New Romance of Celluloid: We Must Have Music"Audio Commentary: Audio commentary by Michael Feinstein Featurette: Vintage musical short "A New Romance of Celluloid: We Must Have Music"Audio Commentary: Audio commentary by Michael Feinstein Featurette: Vintage musical short "A New Romance of Celluloid: We Must Have Music"

Editorial Reviews

Product Description

Great American Songbook, The (DVD)

Amazon.com

The Great American Songbook is an ambitious documentary that chronicles 100 years of American popular song through film clips and photographs. It stretches from minstrel shows to Elvis, but features most prominently the "Golden Age" songwriters of the 1930s through the 1950s--Jerome Kern, Irving Berlin, the Gershwins, Richard Rodgers with both Lorenz Hart and Oscar Hammerstein, and others. That means you can enjoy some of the most exquisite music of the 20th century including Paul Robeson singing "Old Man River," Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers dancing "Cheek to Cheek," and Judy Garland's "The Man That Got Away," plus performances of historical importance such as Al Jolson's "Swanee."

Over the course of its three hours (it was cut for PBS broadcast), the program has some drawbacks--performers are identified but films aren't, the performances tend to be almost complete rather than complete, and scenes from fictional films illustrate the earliest historical moments, which doesn't feel true--but they're minor, and Michael Feinstein proves a perfect host, narrating and occasionally singing at the piano. Fans of Feinstein's cabaret shows will also enjoy his commentary track, which provides a lot of interesting and funny background on the songs and songwriters. His commentary isn't constant, but a useful icon allows the viewer to find the next section of commentary with the click of a button. Another slight inconvenience is that chapters are named by subject matter rather than by song title so if you're skimming for highlights you have to know what you're looking for. --David Horiuchi

Customer Reviews

I and my 87 year old Mom loved it.
Amazon Customer
Much of the music is drawn from Broadway and Hollywood musicals, with some great film clips and other footage from the historical archives.
Chris Luallen
This is a DVD indeed worth investing in.
Manny in Miami

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

33 of 34 people found the following review helpful By Gwendolyn Aughtry on May 24, 2003
Format: DVD
This wonderful DVD features songs written by the Gershwins, Cole Porter, Frank Loesser, Irving Berlin, Rodgers & Hart, Rodgers & Hammerstein, Jerome Kern & Dorothy Fields just to name a few composers and lyricists. A big plus is that the entire musical numbers are shown, but not just short clips. If you love great American songs, this DVD is for you. Highly recommended.
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30 of 32 people found the following review helpful By Kimberly S. Loeffler on March 15, 2003
Format: DVD Verified Purchase
I just saw this wonderful PBS special last night on the "Great Performances" special and I must say that this is one of the best and well documented accounts of the most incredable music from the song writers and the stars who made these songs Unforgettable. This show pays tributes to Jerome Kern, Irving Berlin, Johnny Mercer, Cole Porter and countless other composers.
The Musicals of Astaire and Rogers, Rooney and Garland, Bing and Bob, Ethel Merman and many others. I really learned alot and enjoyed this DVD greatly. This show is hosted by Michael Finestein and full of the best pre-war, post-war and Big band music that movie lovers are acustomed too! If you love this era of popular song, Love Judy Garland who is featured 4 times or just enjoy musicals. This is the program to have in your collection. I can't wait to get my copy.
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37 of 41 people found the following review helpful By Kimberly S. Loeffler on May 2, 2003
Format: DVD Verified Purchase
The Great American Songbook is one of the best recent Documentaries about the songwriters and the music of America. Short Bio's of Porter, Berlin, Gershwin and a slew of others. The best parts of this program are the clips of stars Like Bing Crosby and Ethel Merman singing "Anything Goes", Ray Bolger, Fred Astaire, Sophie Tucker singing "Some Of These Days" from (Broadway Melody Of 1938) My favorite clips were of Judy Garland performing with Mickey Rooney "I Wish I Were In Love Again" from (Words And Music) "Easter Parade" with Fred Astaire and Singing "Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas" to little Margaret O'Brien in (Meet Me In St. Louis) special feature includes Judy's 1942 appearance in the MGM short film "We Must Have Music"
It was only disappointing that Deanna Durbin, Betty Grable and Marilyn Monroe were not featured as they sang songs from these great songwriters. also featured was Mel Torme, Dinah Shore, Ann Sothern, And the list is endless. Michael Fienstein hosts this 176 minute program. It is truly the best re-telling account of American popular song and the music EVERYONE loves.
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19 of 21 people found the following review helpful By Kurt Tostenson on March 7, 2003
Format: DVD Verified Purchase
This was a wonderful trip down memory land with some of the best known songs and the preformers who made it Great. From Lena Horn to Judy Garland, Fred Astar, Gene Kelly, Frank Sanatra, and more this show is packed with clips of your favoriate songs. Kate Smith and God Bless America, Judy Garland and On the Atchicison & Topka and Santa Fay, Fred Astar dancing to putting on the Ritz, Have your self a Merry Little Christmas, The Last Time I saw Paris and others. This is one show you will watch over and over again. It is well put together and well narited.
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Bill Emblom on August 3, 2005
Format: DVD Verified Purchase
I suppose anyone can get picky and find fault with this or any other similar musical DVD. I enjoyed it immensely, and the choice of Michael Feinstein to do the narrating was excellent. I would have liked to have more of the lyrics sung to some of the songs, but in the interest of time this wasn't possible even though the program is nearly three hours long. On the other hand many of the songs I enjoyed hearing did have more of the lyrics than I expected. The great songwriters are all here. It's not necessary for me to mention all the names, but George M. Cohan, Irving Berlin, Cole Porter, Richard Rogers, Larry Hart, Oscar Hammerstein, and several others are all here. If you enjoy American music I can't imagine you not enjoying this historical program.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Michael J. Klementovich on April 7, 2006
Format: DVD Verified Purchase
Perfect!!!!!!! Right from the first moment to the last this was fantastically researched and the narrative was wonderful. Ohhhhh and those old never seen before pieces of footage from the era that made music what it is today. I always said that the 20's 30's and 40's had more true genius musical minds than any other time in the history of the world. All of those immigrants landing in NYC with all of that yet to be discovered talent...Like Israel Baleen (Irving Berlin) and George and Ira Gershwin and Harold Arlan...WOW what a DVD!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
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23 of 32 people found the following review helpful By spacedog on November 17, 2003
Format: DVD
i agree with most of horiuchi's review except i found feinstein's narration to be irritating. he's too earnest and has a rather plastic smile, and i found myself fervently wishing that they had replaced his performances (of which there are too many, esp in the second section) with real footage. the pacing is a little rushed b/c of the large amount of territory covered, and a bit confusing in the way the film jumps back and forth between composers b/c everything is presented chronologically. clips are generally great, but ultimately disappointing because usually they just show the verse and the first chorus and then sometimes they skip to the finale, i.e. less than 1/2 of the actual song. in other words, all in all it's good as an introduction to this genre, but for many of these you'll want to see the movies the clips are from.
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6 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Philip R. Snyder on June 27, 2004
Format: DVD Verified Purchase
My wife and I found this tremendously entertaining, informative and absorbing.
We sang along with most of the songs and found some of the moments definitely moving. The host was not intrusive and the use of movie clips to illustrate the narrative was ingenious.
In a period when most movies are made for 14-year old boys, this is a treat for those of us who love movies and music. Having a Cosmopolitan while watching is definitely advised.
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