Read more on the academic blog : https://musicalmc2.hypotheses.org.
This website is the product of a collaborative research project on the Hollywood film musical launched in 2015 and involving an international team of scholars in film studies, musicology, and dance studies. This project approaches the film musical genre at the scale of the musical number, rather than the film narrative. Our shared goal is to investigate the cultural and ideological stakes of the musical by focusing in a systematic fashion on the genre’s essential elements: music, dance, and spectacle as combined in the musical number as a vehicle of cinematic meaning.
The project includes this digital humanities research tool: a database defining and categorizing the numbers in film musicals made between 1927 and 1972 along general categories (outlines & cast, themes, music & dance, intertextuality) and multiple subcategories (number of shots, performance types, topics, musical styles, dancing styles, as well as archive-based information describing notably self-censorship and reception issues). The categories are all defined in our thesaurus. Our long term goal is to include as many films as possible in the database, creating a resource for project members, and eventually other scholars and students, to study the film musical from a variety of corpus studies approaches.
The main page mentions the data entered to date :
- the whole list of films comes out of Clive Hirshhorn (The Hollywood Musical, London: Octopus Books, 1981) with ongoing additions.
- the number of films for which we have entered data. This started with a sample that we constituted to have the first statistics (we picked about 10% of the annual production). And there are also ongoing additions. The films’s pages indicate whether they belong or not to the initial sample and this feature can also be selected in the search engine.
- the amount of numbers in those films for which we input data (musical numbers are the central item in the database).
- the number of listed songs included in the numbers.
- the number of listed persons (directors, performers, choreographers, etc.).
- the number of thesaurus attributes among all categories.
All items can be accessed throught the search engine in the top banner.
Indexation: main conventions
- As the musical number is the epicenter of the project, most of the categories describe the numbers and the disparity is intentional. Issues on adaptation are dealt with at two scales, both for the film and the number.
- Time codes refer to versions of the films shared by the participants.
- The outlines are defined following these principles. In a mostly narrative genre like the musical, the beginning of a number also depends on context. In a context where the viewer is anticipating performed numbers within the diegesis or storyworld, numbers begin when the musical introduction to said number begins (even if it’s heard in the distance). In a so-called integrated musical, numbers begin when someone acts in a way that signals a definitive tilt towards the musical genre (when someone starts to sing or dance). The music for the start of this sort of number might have been playing already for a while in the background score, but only when someone in the film starts to make decidedly musical moves does the number actually begin.
- Ending time codes correspond to the end of the music. Do not include the final applause which is to be heard once a diegetic number is over.
- The number of shots includes all shots between two time codes. Usually (with some possible exceptions), a shot with a superimposition or with a split screen, counts for one shot. When there’s a cut inside of the frame, no change because the shot is composite.
- When it is impossible to count, the indication is “0”. (E.g. “Cover Girl” [Cover Girl], “Polka Dot…” [The Gang’s All Here]). This of course generates a calculation error for the average shot length.
- Numbers generally bear the title of the main song. Some production numbers have specific titles. We had to make up some titles, for example for medleys.
- Spoken but non-musical skits (like Ziegfeld Follies) are not to be classified, though typical of the musical genre.
- The category “performers” is a non-exhaustive list of names of the main performers. Inactive personalities are not listed unless they are major stars (e.g. James Mason in the position of a spectator in A Star Is Born). in that case, they are “stars who don’t participate”.
- NA means “non applicable,” otherwise, blank cells in the database are described with “no data”.
|Film release date (1st American release)||Internet Movie Database|
|Stage shows||Internet Broadway Database|
|Song dates||Catalog of copyright entries, Library of Congress. Also available on archive.org|
|Censorship (Production Code Administration)||Motion Picture Association of America. Production Code Administration records, Margaret Herrick Library, Los Angeles (physical and digital library)|
|Legion of Decency||Motion Pictures Classified by National Legion of Decency, Feb 1936-Oct. 1959, (New York: National Legion of Decency, 1959).|
Some data were established during the project by the team members, such as the identification of an uncredited dance director or arranger, the link between a film or a number and a Broadway source.
Pages featuring data on persons (e.g. Fred Astaire) have been thought for performers rather than other occupations. We present at the bottom of the page data visualizations for performers only. These pages can be found through the search engine.
The film posters come mostly from the imdb and are not the product of a research aiming at historical accuracy.
We are still making ongoing additions in the database.
The scientific committee is still working on data verification and harmonisation.
Data on the following items are still partial: lyricists, composers, arrangers, song dates and types.