I'm sure that somebody's addressed Mike's question somewhere, but THE JAZZ SINGER is arguably a musical yet features no dancing that I recall. If we stipulate that at least some of the musical numbers must advance the narrative in some way for a film to be a true "musical" (and not just a film that features musical performances), then there are still a number of earlier sound-era examples with song but little or no dance, such as Mamoulian's LOVE ME TONIGHT.
The advancing-the-narrative definition of musicals is suspect from the vantage point of theatrical history, though. Jerome Kern's SHOWBOAT (1927) is often credited as being the first "true" Broadway musical--the same year as THE JAZZ SINGER--and many theater critics and historians list OKLAHOMA (1943!) as the first stage musical to fully integrate song *and* dance with the narrative. In that sense, it would seem, the theater world was lagging behind the cinema.
One other point--even in the silent era, experimentalists like Clair, Leger, Vertov and others were working with elements of editing that incorporated the kinds of rhythmic structures that are independent of human dancing but often featured in film musicals from Busby Berkeley to Luhrman's MOULIN ROUGE, and directors like Mamoulian, Donen and Minnelli would make the camerawork itself an element that could be called "dancing" too. Those features, of course, are generally inexpressible on a stage.
Donald F. Larsson, Professor
English Department, Minnesota State University, Mankato
President, MSU Faculty Association
Mail: 230 Armstrong Hall, Minnesota State University
Mankato, MN 56001
Office Phone: 507-389-2368
From: Film and TV Studies Discussion List [[log in to unmask]] On Behalf Of Frank, Michael [[log in to unmask]]
Sent: Thursday, August 30, 2007 4:57 PM
To: [log in to unmask]
Subject: Re: [SCREEN-L] Irish Musical Films
betty's question has led me to wonder about something that somehow never
occurred to me before . . . the american musical theater --and film
musicals that are a first cousin --almost always [so far as i can
recall] include dancing . . . and yet in opera, from which musical
theater presumably derives, dancing, while not uncommon, is at best an
optional feature . . . can this be right? . . . are there in fact very
few american musicals that lack dancing? . . . i don't remember any
dancing in meet me in st. louis, but that's the only one i can think of
and i don't even remember that one well enough to be certain . . . what
i am missing???
From: Film and TV Studies Discussion List [mailto:[log in to unmask]]
On Behalf Of Betty Bettacchi
Sent: Tuesday, August 28, 2007 1:41 PM
To: [log in to unmask]
Subject: [SCREEN-L] Irish Musical Films
Does anyone have information about Irish musicals on film? I'm thinking
of the moving Once. It seems to me that the Irish musical movie
(including music but not dancing) may be a very different genre from
American musicals--which are music and dancing.
Professor of English
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