Guide Disintegrating the Musical: Black Performance and American Musical Film

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Black Performance and American Musical Film Disintegrating the Musical tracks and analyzes this history of musical representations of African Americans, .
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The full text of this article hosted at iucr. If you do not receive an email within 10 minutes, your email address may not be registered, and you may need to create a new Wiley Online Library account. If the address matches an existing account you will receive an email with instructions to retrieve your username. Journal of Popular Music Studies. Garcia Boston University Search for more papers by this author. Read the full text. Tools Request permission Export citation Add to favorites Track citation.

Share Give access Share full text access. Share full text access. 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. Finally, we have a first-rate book offering a new slant on everything from blackface and Paul Robeson to the film version of Porgy and Bess.

Finally, we have a first-rate book offering a new slant on everything from blackface and Paul Robeson to the film version of" Porgy and Bess. Convert currency. Add to Basket.

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  4. Disintegrating the musical : Black performance and American musical film, Arthur Knight;

Language: English. Brand new Book. 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.

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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.

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Table of Contents

During their time with Palmer, they were able to gain bookings in a nationwide tour. However, live performances were falling in popularity as nickelodeons attracted audiences; by , nickelodeon theaters were dominant throughout New York City. While performing in a Brooklyn theater in , [16] Jolson began performing in blackface , which boosted his career.


He began wearing blackface in all of his shows. In late , Harry left the trio after an argument with Jolson. Harry had refused his request to take care of Joe Palmer, who was in a wheelchair. After Harry's departure, Jolson and Palmer worked as a duo but were not particularly successful.

By [16] they agreed to separate, and Jolson was on his own. In Jolson, needing money for himself and his new wife, Henrietta, returned to New York. In , his singing caught the attention of Lew Dockstader , the producer and star of Dockstader's Minstrels. Jolson accepted Dockstader's offer and became a blackface performer. According to Esquire magazine, " J. Shubert , impressed by Jolson's overpowering display of energy, booked him for La Belle Paree , a musical comedy that opened at the Winter Garden in Within a month Jolson was a star.

From then until , when he retired from the stage, he could boast an unbroken series of smash hits.

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La Belle Paree helped start his career as a singer. Opening night drew a large crowd, and became popular with the audience by Stephen Foster songs in blackface. He was given a position in the show's cast.

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  • The show closed after performances. After Vera Violetta closed, Jolson starred in another musical, The Whirl of Society , propelling his career on Broadway to new heights. During his time at the Winter Garden, Jolson told the audience, "You ain't heard nothing yet" before performing additional songs. In the play, he debuted his signature blackface character "Gus. In , Robinson Crusoe, Jr. In , his acting career was pushed further after he starred in the hit musical Sinbad.

    Jolson added " My Mammy ". By , he had become the biggest star on Broadway.

    Black Performance and American Musical Film

    His next play, Bombo , became so successful that it went beyond Broadway to performances nationwide. At the age of 35, Jolson was the youngest man in American history to have a theatre named after him. Out of fear, he lost his voice backstage and begged the stagehands not to raise the curtains. But when the curtains went up, he "was [still] standing in the wings trembling and sweating. In March , he moved the production to the larger Century Theater for a benefit performance to aid injured Jewish veterans of World War I.

    The reviewer for The New York Times wrote, "He returned like the circus, bigger and brighter and newer than ever Last night's audience was flatteringly unwilling to go home, and when the show proper was over, Jolson reappeared before the curtain and sang more songs, old and new. To watch him is to marvel at his humorous vitality.

    He is the old-time minstrel man turned to modern account. With a song, a word, or even a suggestion he calls forth spontaneous laughter. And here you have the definition of a born comedian.

    Disintegrating the Musical: Black Performance and American Musical Film

    This simulation of a stage performance by Jolson was presented in a program of musical shorts, demonstrating the Vitaphone sound-film process. The soundtrack for A Plantation Act was considered lost in but was found in and restored by The Vitaphone Project. Warner Bros. He told Jessel that he would have to sing in the movie, and Jessel balked, allowing Warner to replace him with Jolson. Jessel never got over it and often said that Warner gave the role to Jolson because he agreed to help finance the film.

    Harry Warner 's daughter, Doris, remembered the opening night, and said that when the picture started she was still crying over the loss of her beloved uncle Sam. He was planning to be at the performance but died suddenly at the age of 40, the day before. But halfway through the minute movie she began to be overtaken by a sense that something remarkable was happening. Jolson's "Wait a minute" line provoked shouts of pleasure and applause from the audience, who were dumbfounded by seeing and hearing someone speak on a film for the first time.

    So much so that the double-entendre was missed at first.