Packed with fascinating information, this is an impressive labor of love that should appeal to all Broadway fans.

What happens when Broadway’s musicals try to go Hollywood?

Mordden (On Sondheim: An Opinionated Guide, 2015, etc.) is probably the authority on the American musical and the perfect person to write about the important role of American songwriters and composers who looked west to ply their trade in Hollywood. As the author makes clear, these plans didn’t always work out. Hollywood had its mogul, control-freak producers who didn’t necessarily appreciate musicals, forced too many writers to work on a film, frequently cast the wrong people, and were fond of eliminating way too many songs in order to make a “better” movie. When silent films became talking films, they were able to add music and songs, little by little. The Jazz Singer showed it could be done. Irving Berlin’s great songs in films made audiences happy, but they still remained “Berlin-catalogue films” rather than true musicals. Realizing they needed the quality and prestige of the Broadway songwriters, Hollywood started hiring. The Gershwin brothers, George and Ira, brought consummate artistry to these new films. Top Hat, Shall We Dance, and Porgy and Bess showed what could be achieved, almost—Berlin was rarely involved in “planning or executing a project.” Then came Rodgers and Hart, whose Love Me Tonight is one of the great Hollywood musicals, perhaps the “greatest of all.” Here the songwriters’ art merged beautifully with “cinema’s ability to mash time and space together.” Jerome Kern’s Show Boat has both “epic” story and music. In 1962, Hollywood filmed with “respect” to Broadway by keeping Robert Preston for The Music Man. The pace picks up as Mordden describes a series of good film musicals, from Gypsy to The King and I to The Sound of Music. He’s not, however, much impressed by the many bio-musicals made about these songwriters. De-Lovely, about Cole Porter, is an “excrescence.”

Packed with fascinating information, this is an impressive labor of love that should appeal to all Broadway fans.

Pub Date: Dec. 1, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-19-939540-8

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Oxford Univ.

Review Posted Online: Sept. 6, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2016



This is not the Nutcracker sweet, as passed on by Tchaikovsky and Marius Petipa. No, this is the original Hoffmann tale of 1816, in which the froth of Christmas revelry occasionally parts to let the dark underside of childhood fantasies and fears peek through. The boundaries between dream and reality fade, just as Godfather Drosselmeier, the Nutcracker's creator, is seen as alternately sinister and jolly. And Italian artist Roberto Innocenti gives an errily realistic air to Marie's dreams, in richly detailed illustrations touched by a mysterious light. A beautiful version of this classic tale, which will captivate adults and children alike. (Nutcracker; $35.00; Oct. 28, 1996; 136 pp.; 0-15-100227-4)

Pub Date: Oct. 28, 1996

ISBN: 0-15-100227-4

Page Count: 136

Publisher: Harcourt

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 1996




An extravaganza in Bemelmans' inimitable vein, but written almost dead pan, with sly, amusing, sometimes biting undertones, breaking through. For Bemelmans was "the man who came to cocktails". And his hostess was Lady Mendl (Elsie de Wolfe), arbiter of American decorating taste over a generation. Lady Mendl was an incredible person,- self-made in proper American tradition on the one hand, for she had been haunted by the poverty of her childhood, and the years of struggle up from its ugliness,- until she became synonymous with the exotic, exquisite, worshipper at beauty's whrine. Bemelmans draws a portrait in extremes, through apt descriptions, through hilarious anecdote, through surprisingly sympathetic and understanding bits of appreciation. The scene shifts from Hollywood to the home she loved the best in Versailles. One meets in passing a vast roster of famous figures of the international and artistic set. And always one feels Bemelmans, slightly offstage, observing, recording, commenting, illustrated.

Pub Date: Feb. 23, 1955

ISBN: 0670717797

Page Count: -

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: Oct. 25, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 1955

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