Genre Analysis final paper

Genres were first created by the Hollywood studios as a means of classifying and help viewers to know what type of film they were going to go see. The genres of musicals film or just musicals could easily be described as a more elaborate Broadway play on film. Although, not all musical films started on the stage. In truth there is more depth to them than just that. With the rise of the talking picture or talkies is what really brought musicals to the fore front in the theater. “The Western is largely based on the subject matter of the American frontier, and the horror film is characterized by the emotional effect it wants to arouse. By contrast, the musical came into being in response to a technological innovation” (Bordwell, David; Thompson, Kristin, Page 344). As with any genre the musical has evolved in to what it is today. So by looking at Singin’ in the Rain (1952), a classical musical, along The Producers (2005) and Chicago (2002), both post classical musicals, we can see how this genre has evolved over time.

Before one can really compare, contrast, and analysis the classical and post classical films, one must have a base understanding of what makes a musical a musical. The biggest characteristic of the musical is that characters use song and dance to help advance the plot. It is important to keep in mind the just because there is singing in a musical does not make it one. What makes it one is that the characters are uninhibited and outwardly expressing their emotions through song and dance[1].

There are two main subgenres of musicals. The first one is backstage musicals, where the action is centered on singers and dancers who perform for an audience within the story world. The film 42nd Street is a marvelous example of backstage musicals. In back stage musicals the character will often sing and dance for sake of the viewers not the audience in the world. The second subgenre is the straight musical, take place in a show-business situation, however. There is also the straight musical, where character of film will sing and dance in situations of everyday life[2]. Since musicals often highlight musical artists or dancing stars, with lyrics supporting the story line, often with an alternative, escapist vision of their reality, a search for love, success, wealth, and popularity, this genre is seen by many as one of the most escapist genres[3]. The overall themes found in musicals are that of romance, comedy, and light- hearted drama. The music itself often lends itself to a big Broadway stage numbers since it where the musicals came from but there are other genres of music have been covered including do-wop as found in Little Shop of Horrors or rock music as found in Across the Universe which has a score solely comprised of the Beatles music.

The classic of golden era of the Musical genre is said to have been between the 1930s and early 1950s. Singin’ in the Rain is one of the best examples of the time period. Singin’ in the Rain, considered by many the greatest musical film[4], is a comic, satirical spoof of the raise of the Hollywood sound era. This film does what musicals do best in the film medium, making the most out of the movement and sound. Gene Kelly famous refrain in the, “Gotta dance,” refers not only to his own inclination in that specific film but to the genre as a whole. “Musicals tend to be brightly lit, to set off the cheerful costumes and sets and to keep the choreography of the dance numbers clearly visible” (Bordwell, David; Thompson, Kristin,Page 346). This idea is seen throughout the film and best seen in the number “Broadway Melody[5]”. Singin’ in the Rain is truly does help set the standard conventions for the musical genre

Chicago is a great example of how the musical genre evolved from the classical era. The evolution you can see in Chicago is that of the theme. As seen with Singin’ in the Rain the classics usually feature a lighthearted romantic comedy. Chicago on the other hand is a 1920s crime-comedy musical much darker than most of the genre. Chicago explores the themes of corruption, fame, scandal in Chicago during the Jazz Era. The film also helps to cement the core convention of escapism genre. In the film Roxi the main protagonist use her dreams of becoming a vaudevillian star, see a lot of her harsh life as an inmate on murders row if it were on a stage. This best seen in scene “the Hungarian disappearing act”[6]. The scene flashes in and out of Roxi’s mind and realty during the execution of one prisoners. The film also, helps reinforce the ideas and prominence of dance with the scene called “A Tap Dance[7]“. The other big evolution is the style of music it is more reminiscent jazz, ragtime and vaudeville than it is of the bigger Broadway number that one see in Singin’ in the Rain. Overall, Chicago both helps to cement and show how the genre has evolved from the classical time period.

Just as Chicago has shown how the musical genre has evolved same can be seen in 2005 film adaption of the musical The Producers[8]. The Producers helps show that all though genres evolve there can always be a remythologization of the classical form of the genre. The film is a backstage musical comedy following a down on his luck producer and an accountant in a get-rich-quick scheme to put on the world’s worst show. The film is brightly lit to help bring focus on the dancing number like in Singin’ the Rain. The film gives up holds the idea of escapism found in the genre with number “I Wanna Be a Producer[9]“. The film also pays homage to 42nd Street right be the show is to start the lead breaks there leg and in The Producers “You’re going out there a silly, hysterical, screaming queen[10]” which is a reference to “You’re going out a youngster, but you’ve got to come back a star![11]” (Bordwell, David; Thompson, Kristin, Page 346). The music found in film is very much in the Broadway style that is found in Singin’ in the Rain. The one major evolution that can be found in the film is the merging of the two subgenres. This is because they are not following the actors of the show but the producers.

Genres were first created by the Hollywood studios as a means of classifying and help viewers to know what type of film they were going to go see. So by looking at Singin’ in the Rain (1952), a classical musical, along The Producers (2005) and Chicago (2002), both post classical musicals, we can see how this genre has evolved over time.

Works Cited

Bordwell, David, and Kristin Thompson. Film Art: An Introduction. New York, NY: McGraw-Hill, 2013. Web.

Chicago. Dir. Rob Marshall. Perf. Renée Zellweger, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Richard Gere. Miramax, 2002. DVD.

Clapp, JC. “Codes and Conventions of Film Musicals.” Web. 16 Nov. 2015.

Dirks, Tim. “Musicals – Dance Films.” Musicals – Dance Films. American Movie Classics, 2015. Web. 20 Nov. 2015.

Grease. Dir. Randal Kleiser. Perf. John Travolta, Olivia Newton-John, Stockard Channing. Paramount Pictures, 1978.

The Producers. Dir. Susan Stroman. Prod. Mel Brooks and Jonathan Sanger. By Mel Brooks and Thomas Meehan. Perf. Nathan Lane, Matthew Broderick, and Uma Thurman. Universal Pictures, 2005. Online.

Singin’ in the Rain. Dir. Stanley Donen and Gene Kelly. Perf. Gene Kelly,Donald O’Connor, and Debbie Reynolds. Prod. MGM, 1952. Online.

[1] Clapp, 2015

[2] Bordwell, David; Thompson, Kristin pg.344

[3] Dirks 2015

[4] Dirks 2015

[5] Singin in the Rain 1952

[6] Chicago 2002

[7] Chicago 2002

[8] For the purpose of this paper, will refer to 2005 Broadway musical adaption and not the 1967 version unless otherwise noted.

[9] The Producers

[10] The Producers

[11] 42nd Street Via Film art book


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