Music in the Shadows: Noir Musical Films

Music in the Shadows: Noir Musical Films

by Sheri Chinen Biesen

Hardcover

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Overview

Some musical films use film noir style and jazz to reveal the dark side of fame and the American Dream.

Smoke. Shadows. Moody strains of jazz. Welcome to the world of "noir musical" films, where tormented antiheroes and hard-boiled musicians battle obsession and struggle with their music and ill-fated love triangles. Sultry divas dance and sing the blues in shrouded nightclubs. Romantic intrigue clashes with backstage careers.

In her pioneering study, Music in the Shadows, film noir expert Sheri Chinen Biesen explores musical films that use film noir style and bluesy strains of jazz to inhabit a disturbing underworld and reveal the dark side of fame and the American Dream. While noir musical films like A Star Is Born include musical performances, their bleak tone and expressionistic aesthetic more closely resemble the visual style of film noir. Their narratives unfold behind a stark noir lens: distorted, erratic angles and imbalanced hand-held shots allow the audience to experience a tortured, disillusioned perspective.

While many musicals glamorize the quest for the spotlight in Hollywood's star factory, brooding noir musical films such as Blues in the Night, Gilda, The Red Shoes, West Side Story, and Round Midnight stretch the boundaries of film noir and the musical as film genres collide. Deep shadows, dim lighting, and visual composition evoke moodiness, cynicism, pessimism, and subjective psychological points of view.

As in her earlier study of film noir, Blackout: World War II and the Origins of Film Noir, Biesen draws on extensive primary research in studio archives to situate her examination within a historical, industrial, and cultural context.



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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781421408378
Publisher: Johns Hopkins University Press
Publication date: 05/01/2014
Pages: 224
Product dimensions: 5.80(w) x 9.10(h) x 0.80(d)
Age Range: 18 Years

About the Author

Sheri Chinen Biesen is an associate professor of radio, television, and film studies at Rowan University and author of Blackout: World War II and the Origins of Film Noir, also published by Johns Hopkins.

Table of Contents

List of Illustrations
Acknowledgments
1. The Noir Musical
2. Preludes to the Noir Musical
3. Blues in the Night: The Noir Musical on the Brink of World War II
4. Smoky Melodies: Jazz Noir Musical Drama
5. Le Rouge et le Noir: From The Red Shoes to A Star Is Born
6. Dark Musical Melodrama: From Young at Heart to West Side Story
7. The Legacy of the Noir Musical
Notes
Index

What People are Saying About This

"Continuing the groundbreaking work on film noir in her first book, Blackout, which uncovered the origins of noir in World War II, Sheri Chinen Biesen’s Music in the Shadows traces another unlikely, understudied connection—between film noir and the Hollywood musical. Blending archival research, textual analysis, industrial and cultural history, Biesen builds a fascinating and quite convincing case for a genre hybrid, the noir musical, that took root in the 1940s but has continued to evolve ever since—from post-classical masterworks like The Red Shoes and West Side Story to New Hollywood gems like All That Jazz and Moulin Rouge. In the process, she challenges and fundamentally changes our understanding of both film noir and the film musical."

Thomas Schatz

"Continuing the groundbreaking work on film noir in her first book, Blackout, which uncovered the origins of noir in World War II, Sheri Chinen Biesen’s Music in the Shadows traces another unlikely, understudied connection—between film noir and the Hollywood musical. Blending archival research, textual analysis, industrial and cultural history, Biesen builds a fascinating and quite convincing case for a genre hybrid, the noir musical, that took root in the 1940s but has continued to evolve ever since—from post-classical masterworks like The Red Shoes and West Side Story to New Hollywood gems like All That Jazz and Moulin Rouge. In the process, she challenges and fundamentally changes our understanding of both film noir and the film musical."

Brian Taves

"With Music in the Shadows, Biesen continues her trailblazing scholarship in film noir. Having delineated noir's World War II origins in Blackout, Biesen focuses on noir's impact on a specific genre, the musical. Biesen offers an arresting and innovative exploration of studio documents, publicity, and the films themselves, spanning wartime through the 1950s, demonstrating the cycle's continuing resonances. A book for every noir and musical enthusiast who wants to expand their understanding of these forms—and for all who want to know more of the American musical tradition and its cultural evolution."

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