Beautiful Mornin': The Broadway Musical in the 1940s

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"Music and girls are the soul of musical comedy," one critic wrote, early in the 1940s. But this was the age that wanted more than melody and kickline form its musical shows. The form had been running on empty for too long, as a formula for the assembly of spare parts--star comics, generic love songs, rumba dancers, Ethel Merman. If Rodgers and Hammerstein hadn't existed, Broadway would have had to invent them; and Oklahoma! and Carousel came along just in time to announce the New Formula for Writing Musicals: Don't have a formula.
Instead, start with strong characters and atmosphere: Oklahoma!'s murderous romantic triangle set against a frontier society that has to learn what democracy is in order to deserve it; or Carousel's dysfunctional family seen in the context of class and gender war.
With the vitality and occasionally outrageous humor that Ethan Mordden's readers take for granted, the author ranges through the decade's classics--Pal Joey, Lady in the Dark, On the Town, Annie Get Your Gun, Phinian's Rainbow, Brigadoon, Kiss Me, Kate, South Pacific. He also covers illuminating trivia--the spy thriller The Lady Comes Across, whose star got so into her role that she suffered paranoid hallucinations and had to be hospitalized; the smutty Follow the Girls, damned as "burlesque with a playbill" yet closing as the longest-run musical in Broadway history; Lute Song, in which Mary Martin and Nancy Reagan were Chinese; and the first "concept" musicals, Allegro and Love Life. Amid the fun, something revolutionary occurs. The 1920s created the musical and the 1930s gave it politics. In the 1940s, it found its soul.

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About the Author:


Ethan Mordden is one of America's foremost authorities on the American musical and the author of Make Believe: The Broadway Musical in the 1920s and Coming Up Roses: The Broadway Musical in the 1950s, both from OUP. He lives in New York City.

From Publishers Weekly:

Once again establishing that he is as impressive a nonfiction writer as he is a novelist (How Long Has This Been Going On?; Buddies), Mordden analyzes the many notable hits (and egregious flops) of the 1940s, and describes how they figured intoAand indeed establishedAthat period's importance to the Broadway musical theater. It was a decade of many milestones, chief among which was the emergence of Rodgers and Hammerstein with 1943's unlikely groundbreaker, Oklahoma ("all Broadway gaped as these two partnered up"), followed in 1945 by Carousel ("the piece that truly tells us what a Rodgers and Hammerstein show was"). Mordden's references are up-to-the-minute (he cites the late 1990s Encores! series of revivals at New York's City Center) and his research is meticulousAin his chapter on a particularly significant '40s development, "The Cast Album," he trounces the widely held notion that Oklahoma was the first show to be recorded (it was 1900's Floradora). His gift for the piquant phrase is delightfully evident (Harold Arlen's music for a Bloomer Girl duet is "a slithery wisteria jazz"), as is his fondness for the direct approach (Irving Berlin's Miss Liberty "was a total disaster... a bomb with two wonderful elementsAthe score and the dancing"). And though he delivers the expected encomiums to such stars of the decade as Agnes de Mille and Ethel Merman, he frequently airs provocative, somewhat unusual opinions, as when he says of the composer of Lady in the Dark and Lost in the Stars, "the Broadway musical would not have been what it was without Kurt Weill." Nor would it be nearly as enjoyable without this perceptive, witty and informative guided tour. (Oct.) America, following 1997's Make Believe (the 1920s) and 1998's Coming Up Roses (the '50s).
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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Book Description Oxford University Press Inc, United States, 2000. Hardback. Condition: New. Language: English. Brand new Book. 'Music and girls are the soul of musical comedy,' one critic wrote, early in the 1940s. But this was the age that wanted more than melody and kickline form its musical shows. The form had been running on empty for too long, as a formula for the assembly of spare parts-star comics, generic loves songs, rumba dancers, Ethel Merman. If Rodgers and Hammerstein hadn't existed, Broadway would have had to invent them; and Oklahoma! and Carousel came alongjust in time to announce the New Formula for Writing Musicals: Don't have a formula. Instead, start with strong characters and atmosphere: Oklahoma!'s murderous romantic triangle set against a frontier society that has to learn what democracy is in order to deserve it; or Carousel's dysfunctional family seen in the context of class and gender war. With the vitality and occasionally outrageous humour that Ethan Mordden's readers take for granted, the author ranges through the decade's classics-Pal Joey, Lady in the Dark, On the Town, Annie Get Your Gun, Finian's Rainbow, Brigadoon, Kiss Me, Kate, South Pacific. He also covers illuminating trivia-the spy thriller The Lady Comes Across, whose star got so into her role that she suffered paranoid hallucinations and had to be hospitalized; the smutty Follow theGirls, damned as 'burlesque with a playbill' yet closing as the longest-run musical in Broadway history; Lute Song, in which Mary Martin and Nancy Reagan were Chinese; and the first 'concept' musicals, Allegro and Love Life. Amid the fun, something revolutionary occurs. The 1920s created the musical and the 1930s gave itpolitics. In the 1940s, it found its soul. Seller Inventory # LHB9780195128512

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