Musicals in Film

A Guide to the Genre

by Thomas S. Hischak


From Hair to Hairspray, Yentl to Dreamgirls, movie musicals have captured cultures and won hearts for almost 90 years.

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November 2016


Pages 449
Volumes 1
Size 7x10
Topics Popular Culture/Music and Performing Arts
  Popular Culture/Film
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This wide-ranging guide introduces (or reintroduces) readers to movie musicals past and present, enabling them to experience the development of this uniquely American art form—and discover films they'll love.

This comprehensive guide covers movie musicals from their introduction with the 1927 film The Jazz Singer through 2015 releases. In all, it describes 125 movies, opening up the world of this popular form of entertainment to preteens, teens, and adults alike.

An introduction explains the advent of movie musicals; then, in keeping with the book's historical approach, films are presented by decade and year with overviews of advances during particular periods. In this way, the reader not only learns about individual films but can see the big picture of how movie musicals developed and changed over time. For each film covered, the guide offers basic facts—studio, director, songwriters, actors, etc.—as well as a brief plot synopsis. Each entry also offers an explanation of why the movie is noteworthy, how popular it was or wasn't, and the influence the film might have had on later musicals. Sidebars offering brief biographies of important artists appear throughout the book.


  • Shows how the genre developed over time, from the 1920s to the present
  • Shares fascinating insights about musicals with which the reader is already familiar
  • Offers information on many lesser-known musicals
  • Helps readers find film musicals that are similar to those they know and like
  • Introduces important performers, directors, and songwriters
  • Includes photographic stills from famous movie musicals
Author Info

Thomas S. Hischak is an internationally recognized author and teacher in the performing arts and one of the foremost authorities on the American musical. He is the author of 24 nonfiction books about theatre, film, and popular music, including The Oxford Companion to the American Musical, The Rodgers and Hammerstein Encyclopedia, Broadway Plays and Musicals, The Tin Pan Alley Encyclopedia, The Disney Song Encyclopedia, and many others. He is also the author of 38 published plays performed in the United States, Canada, Great Britain, and Australia. Hischak is a Fulbright scholar who has taught and directed in Greece, Lithuania, and Turkey. Since 1983, he has been professor of theatre at the State University of New York at Cortland, where he has received such honors as the 2004 SUNY Chancellor's Award for Excellence in Scholarship and Creative Activity and the 2010 SUNY Outstanding Achievement in Research Award.



"This is an excellent choice for the performing-arts sections of most libraries."Booklist

"Organizing the history by decade makes this reference easy to use and a solid resource on this topic. . . . [It provides] ideas for student research projects and is a great option for readers'/viewers' advisory. Musical theater aficionados will enjoy the backstories of their favorites and find more to explore."Library Journal


Best Reference Titles of 2016, ARTS & LITERATURE — Library Journal

2018 Outstanding Reference Source — Reference and User Services Association [RUSA]

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