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A Song in the Dark: The Birth of the Musical Film

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Chronicling the early musical film years from 1926 to 1934, A Song in the Dark offers a fascinating look at these innovative films, the product of ... Show synopsis

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Reviews of A Song in the Dark: The Birth of the Musical Film

Overall customer rating: 5.000
drednm

Fascinating Film History

by drednm on Jul 20, 2007

Richard Barrios is a film historian and musician, a perfect combination to write the history of American film musicals. In A SONG IN THE DARK, he delves into the history of American musicals as Hollywood was changing over from silent films to talkies. Musicals of course played a major part of that transition. Barrios looks as the famous successes and the infamous flops of the time as well as the stars who appeared in these famous films. In meticulous detail culled from obscure Hollywood records, Barrios examines how Hollywood went from silence to "all singing, all dancing" movies (some in color) in a matter of months. He talks about famous filmmakers like Louis B. Mayer, William Fox, Busby Berkeley, Irving Thalberg, Harry Beaumont, Flo Ziegfeld, and Irving Berlin as well as the stars. We get an inside look at Al Jolson, Eddie Cantor, Fanny Brice, Joan Crawford, John Boles, Carlotta King, Bessie Love, Nancy Carroll, Buddy Rogers, Anita Page, William Haines, Clara Bow, Gloria Swanson, Marion Davies, the Duncan Sisters, George Jessel, Charles King, Bebe Daniels, Ben Lyon, Laura LaPlante, Betty Compson, Alice White, Lawrence Gray, Ramon Novarro, and Richard Barthelmess. We find out who really sang and who was dubbed. We also learned how the stars were coached in dancing and movement as well as how to project their voices for the new talkies. Barrios gives a lot of detail about the various recording devices and systems of the 1920s and how these systems probably scuttled talkie careers for people whose voices didn't record well (a fault of the systems) like John Gilbert, Dolores Costello, May McAvoy, Marilyn Miller, and Frank Fay. Barrios also talks about the newcomers to films whose careers took off because of their musical abilities. Aside from Jolson and Cantor , we see the rise of Jeanette MacDonald, Irene Dunne, Maurice Chevalier, Claudette Colbert, Dick Powell, Lawrence Tibbett, and even Bing Crosby. Barrios pulls no punches in calling a clunker a clunker and the book is filled with his wit and humorous asides as he looks back on these films from 80 years ago., many of which are still available to the public. He gives us a fascinating new way to look at films like THE BROADWAY MELODY, ON WITH THE SHOW, THE KING OF JAZZ, WHOOPEE, MARIANNE, HOLLYWOOD REVUE OF 1929, PARAMOUNT ON PARADE, TENDERLOIN, APPLAUSE, THE DANCE OF LIFE, IT'S A GREAT LIFE, and the first filmed version of SHOW BOAT. Good reading and an invaluable film history.

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