The Oxford History of World Cinema

By Geoffrey Nowell-Smith | Go to book overview


Bazin, André ( 1971), The Western, or the American Film par excellence and "The Evolution of the Western".

Buscombe, Edward (ed.) ( 1993), The BFI Companion to the Western.

Cawelti, John ( 1971), The Six-Gun Mystique.

Frayling, Christopher ( 1981), Spaghetti Westerns.

Kitses, Jim ( 1969), Horizons West.

Slotkin, Richard ( 1992), Gunfighter Nation: The Myth of the Frontier in Twentieth Century America.

Turner, Frederick Jackson ( 1962), The Frontier in American History.

Tuska, John ( 1976), The Filming of the West.

Wright, Will ( 1975), Sixguns and Society.

The Musical


The term 'musical' is used in several different senses. In its weakest sense, 'musical' means simply a film with a significant amount of diegetic music (music made by onscreen characters). In this sense, the term designates an extremely diverse international genre, with important examples from every decade since the 1920s and from every continent.

In the 1930s European 'musicals' had little in common. British musical films typically featured music hall stars like Gertrude Lawrence, Evelyn Laye, and Jessie Matthews; German films borrowed their music and plots from the operetta tradition-though also, in the case of Die 3 Groschenoper ( 1931), from the theatre of Bertolt Brecht; in France, René Clair's musical films deployed avant-garde motifs and techniques. From the 1940s to the 1960s, a parade of idiosyncratic European directors created films often referred to as 'musicals', but which had little more in common than the use of diegetic music. British productions included the ballet-oriented films of Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger, Richard Lester's psychedelic Beatles films, Hollywood imitations such as Half a Sixpence ( 1967) and Oliver! ( 1968), and, more recently, Absolute Beginners ( 1986). France contributed the operatic creations of Jacques Demy, the parodic work of Jean-Luc Godard, and a series of Johnny Hallyday vehicles, while Sweden offered Abba the Movie ( 1977). Outside Europe, Jamaica made The Harder they Come and other reggae films and Egypt initiated an entire domestic musical genre. In fact, in recent years the largest producer of musical films has been India, where 'musicals' have long constituted one of the most characteristic Indian genres.

When the term 'musical' is used in its weaker sense, all of these films may be termed 'musicals'; that is, they include a great deal of diegetic music, some produced by principal characters. Such films will be referred to here as 'musical films', while the standalone term 'musical' will be reserved for films featuring not only the presence of music, but also a shared configuration of plot patterns, character types, and social structures associated with that music. In this stricter sense, the musical is not an international genre, but one of the most characteristic creations of the Hollywood film industry. To study the musical is thus primarily to analyse the history of Hollywood's 1,500 or so musical films.


Born during the heyday of popular melodrama, vaudeville, and song slides, cinema has from its very beginnings made use of various types of music. Even in the silent era, music was not restricted to the role of accompaniment. In the United States, at least as early as the 1907 film version of The Merry Widow, films based on operettas offered well-known music to be produced by live musicians in synchronism with on-screen action. In 1911, film versions of popular operas ( Pathé's Il trovatore and Faust, Edison's Aïda) were distributed with specially arranged music. In Europe, films like Johan Gildemeijer's Gloria transita ( 1917) and Gloria fatalis ( 1922) employed a similar system, with live musicians singing the operatic arias mouthed by the characters on screen. Throughout the silent era, film producers laced their stories with visible musical sources in order to provide overt opportunities for the use of 'cue' music (i.e. live music synchronized to specific on-screen cues like bugle calls, organ grinders, and national anthems).

Starting in the late 1920s, cinemas around the world exploited new sound technology by building scenarios on a generous dose of diegetic music. In the United States, producers called on every conceivable musical source: opera, operetta, classical music, military marches, Viennese waltzes, folk songs, gospel hymns, Jewish canticles, Tin Pan Alley tunes, night-club numbers, vaudeville routines, jazz riffs, and even burlesque favourites. Ever since, the musical genre has been characterized by its ability to assimilate each new musical style, from swing to rock and from be-bop to heavy metal.

The musical diversity of the late 1920s and early 1930s was matched by the breadth of narrative traditions invoked. Paramount's European directors Ernst Lubitsch and Rouben Mamoulian repeatedly called upon European male music hall stars Jack Buchanan and Maurice Chevalier to partner American opera singer Jeanette MacDonald


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The Oxford History of World Cinema
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Acknowledgements vii
  • Contributors ix
  • Contents xi
  • Special Features xv
  • List of Colour Illustrations xvii
  • General Introduction xix
  • 1 - Silent Cinema 1895-1930 1
  • Origins and Survival 6
  • Early Cinema 13
  • Transitional Cinema 23
  • The Hollywood Studio System 43
  • The World-Wide Spread of Cinema 53
  • The First World War and the Crisis in Europe 62
  • Tricks and Animation 71
  • Comedy 78
  • Documentary 86
  • Cinema and the Avant-Garde 95
  • Serials 105
  • French Silent Cinema 112
  • Italy- Spectacle and Melodrama 123
  • British Cinema from Hepworth to Hitchcock 130
  • Germany- The Weimar Years 136
  • The Scandinavian Style 151
  • Pre-Revolutionary Russia 159
  • The Soviet Union and the Russian émigrés 162
  • Yiddish Cinema in Europe 174
  • Japan- Before the Great Kanto Earthquake 177
  • Music and the Silent Film 183
  • The Heyday of the Silents 192
  • 2 - Sound Cinema 1930-1960 205
  • The Introduction of Sound 211
  • Hollywood- The Triumph of the Studio System 220
  • Censorship and Self-Regulation 235
  • The Sound of Music 248
  • Technology and Innovation 259
  • Animation 267
  • Cinema and Genre 276
  • The Western 286
  • The Musical 294
  • Crime Movies 304
  • The Fantastic 312
  • Documentary 322
  • Socialism, Fascism, and Democracy 333
  • The Popular Art of French Cinema 344
  • Italy from Fascism to Neo-Realism 353
  • Britain at the End of Empire 361
  • Germany- Nazism and after 374
  • East Central Europe before the Second World War 383
  • Soviet Film under Stalin 389
  • Indian Cinema- Origins to Independence 398
  • China before 1949 409
  • The Classical Cinema in Japan 413
  • The Emergence of Australian Film 422
  • Cinema in Latin America 427
  • After the War 436
  • Transformation of the Hollywood System 443
  • Independents and Mavericks 451
  • 3 - The Modern Cinema 1960-1995 461
  • Television and the Film Industry 466
  • The New Hollywood 475
  • New Technologies 483
  • Sex and Sensation 490
  • The Black Presence in American Cinema 497
  • Exploitation and the Mainstream 509
  • Dreams and Nightmares in the Hollywood Blockbuster 516
  • Cinéma-Vérité and the New Documentary 527
  • Avant-Garde Film- The Second Wave 537
  • Animation in the Post-Industrial Era 551
  • Modern Film Music 558
  • Art Cinema 567
  • New Directions in French Cinema 576
  • Italy- Auteurs and after 586
  • Spain after Franco 596
  • British Cinema- The Search for Identity 604
  • The New German Cinema 614
  • East Germany- The Defa Story 627
  • Changing States in East Central Europe 632
  • Russia after the Thaw 640
  • Cinema in the Soviet Republics 651
  • Turkish Cinema 656
  • The Arab World 661
  • The Cinemas of Sub-Saharan Africa 667
  • Iranian Cinema 672
  • India- Filming the Nation 678
  • Indonesian Cinema 690
  • China after the Revolution 693
  • Popular Cinema in Hong Kong 704
  • Taiwanese New Cinema 711
  • The Modernization of Japanese Film 714
  • New Australian Cinema 722
  • New Zealand Cinema 731
  • Canadian Cinema/Cinéma Canadien 731
  • New Cinemas in Latin America 740
  • New Concepts of Cinema 750
  • The Resurgence of Cinema 759
  • Index 785
  • List of Picture Sources 823


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