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Genre Theory and the Hollywood Musical

            The term 'genre' has been historically referred to as the classification of literary texts and forms. In modernity and postmodernity it has been extended beyond literary boundaries to encapsulate (among other 'art forms') the classification of film/cinema. Feuer (The Self-Reflexive Musical and the Myth of Entertainment 1992) characterizes the musical genre as 'spontaneous self-expression through song and dance' - The Barkleys of Broadway (Walters, Charles 1949), Singin' in the Rain (Donen, Stanley; Kelly, Gene 1952) and The Band Wagon (Minnelli, Vincente 1953); express these characteristics and thus are of the musical genre.
             The notion of entertainment has its own legacy going back to the eighteenth century. In contradiction to an older form of thinking which saw the purpose of art (including popular art) as moral tract, entertainment was a more secular notion that emphasised an art devoid of serious moral or didactic purpose, and given over instead to allowing the audience a pleasurable, even escapist, engagement with the opera, play or novel. Entertainment has extended its range of meanings so that as it has become synonymous with such centres of show business as Tin Pan Alley, Broadway and Hollywood. "It implies a notion of spectacle, diversion, escape; giving the people what they want; the mysterious processes and distribution of star quality and so on" (Dyer 1978; Dietrich Fischer 1979).
             In establishing notions of genre in terms of the classification of film, one must highlight the historical processes of film production in order to assess how these processes have contributed to the emergence of genre(s) itself.
             Particularly prolific during the late 1920's to late 1950's was the musical. The advent of sound in the late 1920's stimulated the production of screen musicals (allowing for sound - voice and music- to be synchronized with on-screen physical action), so much so that the first film 'talkie', The Jazz Singer (Crosland 1927), was a musical.

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