Disintegrating the Musical: Black Performance and American Musical Film (Paperback)Arthur Knight (author)
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Arthur Knight focuses on American film's classic sound era, when Hollywood studios made eight all-black-cast musicals-a focus on Afro-America unparalleled in any other genre. It was during this same period that the first black film stars-Paul Robeson, Louis Armstrong, Lena Horne, Harry Belafonte, Dorothy Dandridge-emerged, not coincidentally, from the ranks of musical performers. That these films made so much of the connection between African Americans and musicality was somewhat ironic, Knight points out, because they did so in a form (song) and a genre (the musical) celebrating American social integration, community, and the marriage of opposites-even as the films themselves were segregated and played before even more strictly segregated audiences.
Disintegrating the Musical covers territory both familiar-Show Boat, Stormy Weather, Porgy and Bess-and obscure-musical films by pioneer black director Oscar Micheaux, Lena Horne's first film The Duke Is Tops, specialty numbers tucked into better-known features, and lost classics like the short Jammin' the Blues. It considers the social and cultural contexts from which these films arose and how African American critics and audiences responded to them. Finally, Disintegrating the Musical shows how this history connects with the present practices of contemporary musical films like O Brother, Where Art Thou? and Bamboozled.
Publisher: Duke University Press
Number of pages: 352
Weight: 730 g
Dimensions: 235 x 156 x 31 mm
"Knight's fine book is compelling reading that takes black cinema scholarship into new unmapped issues and territories. Notable is Knight's thoroughly innovative and nuanced discussion of `blackface' (and its `whiteface' counterpoint) and how blacks deployed forms of `black blackface,' to discover pain, pleasure and irony in its complexities. Importantly, Knight charts the power of black musical performance, illuminating the schizophrenic disjuncture between the pervasive influence of the black Jazz sound and the simultaneous erasure, segregation, or devaluation of the African American musician's visual presence in mainstream cinema. Disintegrating The Musical casts its arguments in bold, lucid strokes, standing out as a solid contribution to the fields of cinema and performance studies and Jazz scholarship."-Ed Guerrero, New York University