Author: Stanley Green
Third Edition Revised and Updated by: Barry Monush
If there’s one thing you can take from ‘Hollywood Musicals…’ it’s that there are a lot of musicals out there – an awful lot. This comprehensive encyclopaedia published by Applause is now in its third edition, and even so it still ends at 2009, so no doubt there’ll be another edition along fairly soon. True to its title, it does pretty much exactly what it says on the tin and, year by year, goes through all the musical movies produced since The Jazz Singer in 1927 and as well as providing the vital statistics for each one (studio, cast, songs, etc.) provides a brief blurb about the film’s storyline and impact on musical cinema.
This edition comes complete with a new introduction by its revisionist and updating writer, Barry Monush but also the two prefaces which accompanied the previous editions, but an introduction by the late Stanley Green who compiled them. For ease of reference there is a hugely expansive index (which takes up about a quarter of the book) which is grouped into handy categories, including ‘Composer/Lyricist’, ‘Screenwriter’ and ‘Cast’.
The more significant releases, the likes of which include 42nd Street, The Wizard of Oz and Aladdin, are dedicated a whole page at least, and at least one if not several black and white stills from the film. The photographs are certainly a helpful reference point, but the fact that they are in black and white is quite deceptive come the later films. The photographs throughout are little better than photocopy quality so by the time the book starts to cover colour and particularly animated films they are something of a disappointment. I’m sure that readers who are dedicated enough to musicals to buy this book in the first place would happily have paid an extra fiver to have better quality, colour pictures included!
Speaking of the photographs, there are few caption glitches worth a mention. These are incredibly few and far between but when a photograph showing Maria and the von Trapps singing ‘My Favourite Things’ is tagged as ‘The Lonely Goatherd’… well, there just may be a few Sound of Music fanatics with something to say on the subject.
Nonetheless it is helpful as a reference journal when you just have to know who ‘that guy’ who sung ‘that song’ in ‘that film’ was. And even for those who are new to Musical cinema and want to do some light-hearted research into this most established of genres, this book contains just the right level of information to suit the newbies and prop-collecting enthusiasts alike.