As one of the most beloved and beguiling genres of entertainment, the film musical wears its style ostentatiously. The genre allows for hyperbolic expression, extravagant sonic and visual decor, and extremely stylized forms of movement and performance. By staging a glittering spectacle, by releasing a current of lush sentiment, by unveiling a world of elegance and romance, the film musical woos us with patterns, textures, finesse and sensory display.
In this book, author Chip Whitesell asks what, exactly, makes film musicals so glamorous. As he argues, glamour projects an aura of ethereality or sophistication by way of suave deportment, sensuous textures, elevated styles, and aesthetically refined effects. Glamour, in other words, is what unites "Cheek to Cheek" from Top Hat and the title song from Beauty and the Beast, each a sonic evocation of luxury, sparkle, grace, and finesse. But Whitesell argues that more than in visual cues like rhinestones and sequins, glamour resides in the sonic. Discussing dozens of musical numbers, analyzing ingenious orchestration, and appraising the distinctive styles of favorite musical stars, Whitesell illuminates fundamental traits of the genre, its aesthetic strategies, and cultural ambitions.
Lloyd Whitesell teaches music history in the Schulich School of Music, McGill University. He is the author of The Music of Joni Mitchell, and co-editor of Queer Episodes in Music and Modern Identity. His published research explores film music, queer biography and aesthetics, whiteness, and modernist culture.