Cover image for The American musical film song encyclopedia
The American musical film song encyclopedia
Hischak, Thomas S.
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
Westport, Conn. : Greenwood Press, 1999.
Physical Description:
xv, 521 pages ; 24 cm
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
ML102.M68 H57 1999 Adult Non-Fiction Grosvenor Room-Reference-Music

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Following the successful, The American Musical Theatre Song Encyclopedia (Greenwood, 1995), this new encyclopedia reviews in-depth individual songs written for the American musical film over the past seventy years. Over 1,800 songs from over 500 musical films are identified and described. In addition to detailing the songs' authors, original singers, and initial film appearances, the encyclopedia also explains how the songs were used in the film, lists subsequent film and stage appearances of the songs, and notes memorable recordings. From Jolson to Elvis, operetta to rock musicals, and Irving Berlin to the Beatles, the comprehensive scope of this work gathers a wealth of information about film musical songs not readily available elsewhere.

The combination of accurate, thoroughly researched information, commentary, and anecdotal background will appeal to both film scholars and fans. Numerous indexes for easy reference include a list of alternate song titles, famous movie songs from other sources, best song Oscars, Oscar-winning film musicals, and a list of film musicals from 1927 through 1998. A bibliography completes this important reference tool and provides helpful sources for further research.

Author Notes

THOMAS S. HISCHAK is Professor of Theatre History and Criticism at the State University of New York College at Cortland and a playwright who is a member of the Dramatists Guild, Inc. His previous publications include The Theatregoer's Almanac , (Greenwood, 1997), The American Musical Theatre Song Encyclopedia (Greenwood, 1995), which received the 1995 Choice Outstanding Academic Book award, Stage It With Music (Greenwood, 1993), and Word Crazy (Praeger, 1991). He is also the author of eighteen published plays.

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

In this companion to his earlier American Musical Theatre Song Encyclopedia (Greenwood, 1995), Hischak first explains the ways that film musicals in general, and specifically the use of songs in a movie, differ from stage musicals. Films need fewer songs, and they do not use songs as readily to explicate plot and character. That said, he had no problem selecting 1,760 songs from 500 film musicals, ranging from 1927's The Jazz Singer to Disney's 1996 animated Hunchback of Notre Dame and 1997's Evita. For the purposes of this book, a film musical is defined as having at least three songs sung by the story's characters. Songs from films based on stage musicals are not found here, unless they appeared only in the film version. For instance, "Something Good," unique to The Sound of Music film, is listed, but not "My Favorite Things." An appendix of famous movie songs from other sources lists song titles (e.g., "Fascinatin' Rhythm," "Ain't She Sweet") and their origin^-either the name of the stage musical or the year if the song was simply a Tin Pan Alley hit. Entries are arranged alphabetically by song title and provide the names of the lyricist, composer, singer and/or actor, character name(s), and film title and year. The author gives the context of the song (why, where, to whom it was sung) and any notable aspects of it (words, mood, rhythm, delivery). Performers who later had a hit with the number are listed. Hischak has a knack for immediately conveying the flavor of a song with just a few words: "optimistic little ditty," "chipper announcement of romance," and "pathetically cheery song of advice" are examples of his introductory statements for each entry. Browsers will find interesting facts about both the familiar and the obscure. Appendixes note alternate song titles, best-song Oscars, Oscar-nominated film musicals, and the film musicals covered in this volume. A glossary (defining such terms as interpolation, ballad, release), bibliography, and detailed index to composers, lyricists, singers, actors, and song and film titles are also included. Although there are other reference works on the musical film, this one has the most comprehensive, annotated coverage of individual songs from film. Facts On File's Hollywood Song: The Complete Film & Musical Companion [RBB Jl 95] covers more films (7,000, including some nonmusicals) but does not devote a paragraph to each song it lists. Encyclopedia of the Musical Film (Oxford, 1981) describes some outstanding song titles but has a greater emphasis upon the films as a whole and biobibliographies of composers and lyricists. If all one needs are the unadorned facts, most of the songs in Hischak are listed in Lissauer's Encyclopedia of Popular Music in America (Paragon House, 1991). The American Musical Film Song Encyclopedia is recommended for comprehensive music and film collections.

Library Journal Review

Hischak (SUNY at Cortland) continues his series on musical theater (e.g., Stage It with Music: An Encyclopedic Guide to the American Musical Theatre, LJ 6/15/93) with this comprehensive review of songs written for musical films. Coverage is restricted to songs actually written for film, so one finds "Hopelessly Devoted to You" from Grease but not other songs from the stage version. A useful section on "Songs from Other Sources" includes titles from well-known musical films (e.g., "Some Enchanted Evening" from South Pacific) for readers who don't know whether a song was composed specifically for the film version. Entries, arranged by song title, include vocalist, composer, lyricist, and information on the place of the song in the film, as well as recordings by artists other than those in the film. The concise entries combine a wealth of information not found in other sources. This new reference work will certainly find a place in film and music reference collections.‘James E. Ross, WLN, Seattle (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Choice Review

Hischak's sequel to his own The American Musical Theatre Song Encyclopedia (CH, Oct'95) focuses on the songs of film musicals, i.e., musicals written directly for the screen. The preface clearly states the author's objectives, although a more substantial introduction to film musicals and their relation to musical plays would have been appreciated. A brief glossary prepares readers for the heart of the work, "Songs," where concise alphabetical entries trace the histories of 1,760 songs from 500 film musicals. A particularly interesting feature of this section is its inclusion of songs written expressly for screen adaptations of musical plays. Five appendixes present such information as common alternate song titles, film songs from Broadway and Tin Pan Alley, Academy Award data for songs and musicals, and a list of songs arranged by film title. Scholars and librarians will find the bibliography of titles about film musicals, film songs and their creators, and American popular music extremely useful. This encyclopedia, for which nothing comparable currently exists, will be essential for academic and public libraries supporting curricula in film studies and/or musical theater. Highly recommended for all levels. M. C. Duhig; Library Center of Point Park College and Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh

Table of Contents

Glossary of Film Song
Terms Songs
Alternate Song Titles
Famous Movie Songs from Other Sources
Best Song Oscars
Oscar-Nominated Musicals
Film Musicals