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Dangerous Rhythm: Why Movie Musicals Matter Hardcover – May 6, 2014

4.2 out of 5 stars 16 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews


"Barrios knows this material inside out, which allows him to step back to make often inspired observations." -- New York Times Book Review

"[Barrios] writes about his subject authoritatively ...and always directly. He does so with an absence of heavy theorizing and an abundance of strong opinions. Part of what makes Dangerous Rhythm enjoyable to read is its idiomatic prose." --Wall Street Journal

"[A] hugely readable, authoritative meditation on the Hollywood musical." -- Philadelphia Inquirer

"Simultaneously a rigorous dissection of and a valentine to the movie musical." -Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

"Few people can discuss early-talkie musicals and television's Glee with equal authority. Richard Barrios sees it all as part of a continuum, which is what makes his wide-ranging book so relevant. His sense of humor and lively prose style transform a scholarly treatise into a highly enjoyable reading experience." --Leonard Maltin, film critic and historian.

"Barrios knows his stuff, and musical film aficionados are well advised to get a hold of Dangerous Rhythm. He combines vast knowledge of the subject with tangy writing, resulting in a hard-to-put-down read." --Matthew Kennedy, author of Roadshow! The Fall of Film Musicals in the 1960s

About the Author

Richard Barrios worked in the music and film industries before turning to film history with the award-winning A Song in the Dark. He lectures extensively and appears frequently on television and in film and DVD documentaries. Born in the swamps of south Louisiana and a longtime resident of New York City, he now lives in bucolic suburban Philadelphia

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press; 1 edition (May 6, 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0199973849
  • ISBN-13: 978-0199973842
  • Product Dimensions: 9.2 x 1.1 x 6.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (16 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #665,062 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I am a lifelong fan of the Hollywood musical. I have believed movie musicals matter since I was 10 years old. And while I have not written an opinionated critical history of the movie musical, if I were to write one, I could only hope to come up with something as enjoyable and thought-provoking as Dangerous Rhythm. Mr. Barrios' obvious affection and respect for the genre is apparent on every page. He's got 87 years to cover and he makes no attempt to mention every film, every performer. If you, too, think movie musicals matter, you will no doubt find a favorite movie conspicuous by its absence. But make no mistake, he gets the high points - the movies important for artistry, financial success, influence or any combination thereof, are given their due; from "The Jazz Singer" and "Love Me Tonight" to "The Wizard of Oz" and "Singin' in the Rain", with a tip of the hat to spectacular flops like Jolson's "Say It With Song" and the Village People vehicle "Can't Stop the Music". While we don't see eye-to-eye on everything (He loves Maurice Chevalier, whom I cannot stomach), even where we disagree, Mr. Barrios' arguments are always well articulated and reasonable. (I still don't care for Chevalier, but I understand why Mr. Barrios does.) I smiled and whispered "Yes!" when "the joyous and under-appreciated Donald O'Connor" was finally given some of the respect he so richly deserves. (Come on, he wipes the floor with Gene Kelly in the "Moses Supposes" number.) And I had an "Aha!" moment when I learned that the not-untalented but utterly blank Lucille Bremer, inexplicably starred in far too many big-big MGM musicals in the 1940s and 50s, was a "friend" of uber-producer Arthur Freed. Seldom have I read a more enjoyable combination of scholarship and dish.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Author Richard Barrios has always had a knack for providing the history and the stories of different areas of the American Film Industry in ways that are informative, fascinating and engaging. "Dangerous Rhythm" continues in this vein - not so much as a historical summing up, but instead Mr. Barrios gives a very thoughtful look at the Hollywood Movie Musical and its place in both the film industry and in American culture. Different musicals are examined and often compared with films from other studios and times to show the way Hollywood developed (or mishandled) ideas, how different connections, events and trends could bring success or disaster and why the Movie Musical has always been a very unique creation.

While I certainly must praise Mr. Barrios' thoroughness in covering his subject, I really appreciate his ability to share his enthusiasm with the reader. Even the footnotes have a level of zest which demonstrates that "Dangerous Rhythm" is no mere book of scholarly observation but a good, solid and entertaining work that can be read and reread with pleasure. There are going to be many films that I will now watch in a whole new light.
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Format: Hardcover
Not satisfied with just writing about the birth of musical films (A Song in the Dark - 1995), Richard Barrios looks at the importance of movie musicals of all types via a kaleidoscope of lenses. In twelve short chapters, an introduction, and epilogue, he discusses the past and future of movie musicals, the origination of the concept of the musical, who have been the stars, the role of music versus plot, etc., not neglecting animated musicals and television musicals.

The book and the chapter titles all come from song titles or lyrics sung in a movie musical which is an example of how Barrios infuses a quirky viewpoint into this series of essays. He also provides informative footnotes that add interest without slowing the reader with extraneous information. Each chapter is a different lens on movie musicals with focus on a specific aspect such as animated musicals or musicals on television; the reader is not compelled to read the chapters in sequence, but is free to skip to what interests them.

Dangerous Rhythm reads easily and has appropriate and interesting illustrations. Barrios writes well for the general reader, providing a list of his sources but not documenting enough to be considered as a serious scholarly tome. He has his own lists of movie musicals he like and dislikes. As is often the case in these types of books, he does miss certain musicals. How important that is depends upon your love for that musical.

In the end, Dangerous Rhythm provides provides plenty of fodder for discussions. Read it, and start yours!
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Format: Hardcover
I would be hard-pressed to say which I enjoyed more—reading Dangerous Rhythm: Why Movie Musicals Matter by Richard Barrios, or watching him at an author event recently at the Free Library of Philadelphia. Barrios describes several musical films as having “texture and richness.” Well, Dangerous Rhythm is not only textured, and rich, but multi-layered, as well. This wonderful book is part cinema history and part music appreciation with a bit of gossip sprinkled on top. Barrios is also a delight in that he is not just a well-respected and knowledgeable cinema historian, but he also has a musical background. This makes Dangerous Rhythm even more a treat.

Dangerous Rhythm begins with the first movie musicals in the 1920s. From that time onward, studios have been trying to chase critical and financial movie musical success. Barrios’ multi-layered approach touches on so many topics. He talks about composers, lyricists, writers, and choreographers. He discusses music and songs, and how songs cut from one film might pop up somewhere else. He mentions the many directors, producers and the big studios which created musicals, as well as the money that was needed for this genre. He contrasts the direct and sometimes complex relationship between Broadway and Hollywood. He lists stars whose vocal skills were made for the silver screen (think Julie Andrews) and those who were not (think Lucille Ball in Mame). Barrios shares tales about musical trends, flash-in-the-pans, and fickle audiences. Viewers loved Esther Williams and her aquatic productions, until they didn’t love her anymore. He talks about the history of race and sexuality in musicals, as well as musicals as cartoons.
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