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The American Film Musical Reprint Edition

3.8 out of 5 stars 5 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0253205148
ISBN-10: 025320514X
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Editorial Reviews

Review

"The American Film Musical is a truly admirable book which is well worth making a song and dance about. It will immediately assume biblical authority for all who are seriously interested in the dream-factory's most lavish fantasies, and it may even come to stand as a landmark in our understanding of Hollywood as a whole. . . . Altman's book is thorough, well informed and warmly good-humored. It has brought the study of musical films out of the dark ages. . . ."

-- Times Literary Supplement

""The American Film Musical is a truly admirable book which is well worth making a song and dance about. It will immediately assume biblical authority for all who are seriously interested in the dream-factory's most lavish fantasies, and it may even come to stand as a landmark in our understanding of Hollywood as a whole. . . . Altman's book is thorough, well informed and warmly good-humored. It has brought the study of musical films out of the dark ages. . . .""

-- Times Literary Supplement

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 400 pages
  • Publisher: Indiana University Press; Reprint edition (February 22, 1988)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 025320514X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0253205148
  • Product Dimensions: 8 x 1 x 10 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #730,357 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

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Top Customer Reviews

By A Customer on July 26, 2001
Format: Paperback
This book may not be what the average fan of film musicals is after, but there are plenty of picture books and reference works on the musical for such readers. This is the most significant and wide-ranging study of the musical as a narrative and cinematic form anyone has yet attempted. No other serious work on the musical comes close, and despite another reviewer's complaint about academic writing, Altman's prose is in fact clear and witty -- which is not to say that he doesn't work through some sophisticated ideas: indeed, half of the book is a consideration of the notion of genre itself, with the musical the specific example for the book's deeper investigation. But for all the "serious" thought and research that went into this work, one always senses Altman's enthusiasm about the musical. Academic writing gets a bad rap: this is what academic writing is supposed to do -- explore, expand, and force the reader to grapple with, rather than just accept, ideas.
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I love Altman's categorization of the genre: the show musical, the folk musical, and the fairytale musical. I've cited this text in almost every major research paper I've written in the last two years. Not too verbose, very clear, and a very interesting year. I also love the chart at the back which breaks down all of the Hollywood musicals up until the book's publishing date into these categories.
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Format: Paperback
Finally, I found in "The American Film Musical" a critic who takes this genre seriously and has worked to understand its intricate and complex layers and patterns. Altman divides his study into three "subgenres" - the fairy tale musical, the show musical, and the folk musical - and demonstrates how most every example of the genre falls into one of these categories to some extent.

As well as being devoted to the musical, Altman also provides a method for genre study in general, which some readers will want to skim or even skip if their only interest is research on the musical. However, to truly understand the workings of the genre it is beneficial to read the whole book, because the musical is surely one of the most complex art forms ever, and Altman does so much to break into the problems that many critics have ignored that it's worth being enlightened as to his process.

The book makes you reconsider all the presuppositions you may have about the film musical and what constitutes a musical. The patterns and workings he reveals, particularly with regard to the dual-focus narrative, are fascinating: instead of just the old "how many songs?" question, Altman uses the criteria of "coupling" to form his theory of what constitues a musical.

A definite YES for anyone searching through the dark for a more modern study of the genre.
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One of the weirdest diatribes on movies I have ever tried to read. If you are a Ph.D candidate in movie musicals and have been hiding under a rock for most of your life,than maybe this thing would be useful as a door stop..........otherwise,forget it!
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This is a classic example of a writer letting the constructs of academic verbage get in the way of his message. Altman has some solid original ideas about the history and construction of American screen musicals, but he lets the language get in the way. He also gets too many little facts wrong -- for example, he refers several times to Shirley Jones having a little sister Amarylis in THE MUSIC MAN, but Amarylis was only her piano student and NOT a relative! Its hard to respect someone who is so sloppy about research.
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