Hollywood Musicals is a delightful book that comes accompanied by a CD. The introduction to the book starts with “In the beginning there was light. Electric light.”
In that vein, starting with Edison, the book continues with the technical history of the photography, moving pictures, Kinetograph and the Nickelodeon, ten-minute shorts of Griffith, and the silent films that followed.
Among the first silent films, the book cites Edwin S. Porter’s (1903) “Life of an American fireman” and “The Great Train Robbery,” Griffith’s (1915) “Birth of a Nation” and “Intolerance.” Together with the top producer Cecil Blount De Mille, the stars of the silent era are also mentioned: Mary Pickford, Dorothy and Lillian Gish, Charlie Chaplin, Douglas Fairbanks, Greta Garbo, and Rudolph Valentino.
Sound to the movies came through the efforts of four Warner Brothers: Harry, Sam, Albert, and Jack. The Jazz Singer (1927), starring Al Jolson is considered to be the first talking picture, in which Jolson spoke the prophetic words: “Wait a minute…You ain’t heard nothin’ yet.”
Talking pictures or the talkies had their birthing pains. Big stars like Pola Negri, Norma Talmadge, and John Gilbert were snuffed out because their voices did not sound good in the talkies. Yet, some actors like Greta Garbo made a spectacular transition and became etched in the history of the motion pictures.
The first real musicals were born under MGM with Broadway Melody later to be followed by The Wizard of Oz and Little Caesar. In the beginning, musicals featured similar themes, revamped versions of stage plays, and backstage tales. When the song from The Wizard of Oz won an Academy Award, it opened the doors to other more spectacular musicals with extravagant, artistic sets and expensive costumes.
Among those who followed the way to stardom in the musicals were Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers, Gene Kelly, Howard Keel and Kathryn Grayson, and Gordon MacRae.
Some of the earlier musicals of note are: Show Boat, Singing in the Rain, For Me and My Gal, Ziegfeld Follies, Brigadoon, Oklahoma, The King and I, Carousel, South Pacific, Gigi, West Side Story, The Sound of Music, My Fair Lady, and The Music Man.
The CD has fifteen tracks starting with “Over the Rainbow” from The Wizard of Oz and ending with “Where Is Love?” from Oliver. The CD has been remastered with a good sound quality.
The author, Julie Koerner, has several books on music and writing. Besides Hollywood Musicals, she has written these books: Fms Remarkable Reptil, Big Bands, Love songs from stage & screen (The life, times & music series), More Scary Story Starters, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (Music Books), Gifted & Talented Story Starters: Stories About Animals (Gifted & Talented), Big bands (The life, times & music series), Swing Kings (The life, times & music series),The Traveler (Literature Points the Way), More Scary Story Starters: Write Your Own Story Stories!
Hollywood Musicals (the book) has ISBN-10: 1567990436 and
ISBN-13: 978-1567990430. Hollywood Musicals (the compact disc) has ASIN: 1567993540. Both the book and the CD are very informative, entertaining, and delightful.