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Roadshow!: The Fall of Film Musicals in the 1960s Hardcover – 23 Jan 2014


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"Everyone who loves the films of Fred Astaire, Judy Garland, and Gene Kelly wonders what happened to movie musicals after the 1960s. Roadshow! is an extensively researched and engagingly written account of the demise of musical film during those decades of tumultuous cultural upheaval." --Philip Furia, co-author of The Songs of Hollywood"High of budget and misplaced of ambition, roadshow musicals define an arresting--and quite troubling--moment in the history of film. With meticulous research and a suitably critical eye, Matthew Kennedy details the plunge from feast to famine, from bounty to bankruptcy, from The Sound of Music to Song of Norway." -Richard Barrios, author of A Song in the Dark: The Birth of Musical Film"Matthew Kennedy has written a colorful, entertaining and well-researched history of the Hollywood musical's greatest moment of crisis. This book helps to fill an important gap in our understanding of the postwar American film industry." --Sheldon Hall, Senior Lecturer in Stage and Screen, Sheffield Hallam University"Hugely entertaining...the author's research is impeccable, his story fascinating and his writing lively." - Booklist "In Matthew Kennedy's zesty, detailed investigation...we see one of America's most vital art forms implode so badly that it all but dies out...Yet the book does not read as a funeral. Mr. Kennedy writes with a sense of humor, opening up the bizarre backstage of these events." - Ethan Mordden, The Wall Street Journal "'What were they thinking' is the subtext of virtually every page in Matthew Kennedy's informative history of the Hollywood roadshow...Kennedy's wincingly detailed chronicle of out-of control spending and egos makes it clear that many of the musicals he focuses on deserved to die, but he doesn't think the roadshow itself deserved to go with them." - Wendy Smith, The Washington Post "Film historian Kennedy, in an erudite yet fetchingly entertaining style, t

About the Author

Matthew Kennedy is a writer, film historian, and anthropologist. His books include three biographies of classic Hollywood figures: Marie Dressler, Edmund Goulding's Dark Victory, and Joan Blondell. He lives in San Francisco.

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Amazon.com: 31 reviews
21 of 23 people found the following review helpful
A Little Discussed Trend of Hollywood History Makes a Fascinating New Read 24 Dec. 2013
By James Robert Parish - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
The phenomenon of gargantuan roadshow film musicals (with their high-priced reserved seat tickets, intermissions, souvenir booklets) engulfed Hollywood in the mid-1960s to the early 1970s. The huge commercial success of Twentieth Century-Fox’s 'The Sound of Music' (1964) seemed—at the time—to provide a heaven-sent salvation for Hollywood studios then buckling under the strain of diminished filmgoer attendance, changing tastes of moviegoers, and the downfall of the studio system. Using the philosophy that much bigger is always much better, Tinseltown studio honchos recklessly rushed to make mammoth song-and-dance screen projects such as 'Doctor Dolittle' (1967), 'Camelot' (1967), 'Star!' (1968), 'Hello, Dolly!' (1969), 'Paint Your Wagon' (1969), and 'Man of La Mancha' (1972). How these already gigantic financial investments skyrocketed into astounding fiscal irresponsibility and sank at the box office from lack of sufficient creative control is the meat of Matthew Kennedy’s fine new book 'Roadshow!: The Fall of Film Musicals in the 1960s'.
Kennedy weaves an engrossing tapestry from an impressive array of facts as he relates how these overblown productions were born in haste, went awry in the craziest ways, and then floundered disastrously at the box office. What makes this excellent book so absorbing is the author’s colorful, highly readable chronicle. It smartly juggles the antics of dictatorial studio executives, often misguided creative talents, and desperate marketing gurus as they jumped blindly over the cliff of reason and entertainment value. What resulted from this chaos were colossal movie musicals misfires.
Kennedy’s study of this little-explored area of Hollywood film history is an extremely satisfactory mix of detailed research, astute observations, and flavorful narrative. His chronicle is well-paced and grabs the reader’s attention from beginning to end as we relive the many wacky events that created these massive celluloid train wrecks.
This is an excellent read!
15 of 16 people found the following review helpful
The Age of Exclamation Point Musicals 25 Dec. 2013
By takingadayoff - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
Oliver! Star! Hello, Dolly!

A roadshow was a movie released by a major studio, in just a few theaters at first and with great fanfare, then weeks or months later, released slowly to other theaters throughout the country. Tickets were issued at higher than normal prices and with assigned seating. The idea seemed to be to make the movie experience more like a Broadway theater experience.

I did not know about this phenomenon until I visited Graumann's Theater in Hollywood and saw a display of fancy tickets and programs from movies in the 1920s and 1930s. I didn't realize the practice continued into the early 1970s until I read this book.

It all seems rather quaint now that the blockbuster movies are released on as many screens as possible all at once and if a new release doesn't impress on the first day, it disappears quickly. In the 60s even the worst flop would take months to fail.

Matthew Kennedy begins with the most successful roadshow, The Sound of Music. This was the peak of the roadshow phenomenon and for movie musicals as well. For the next ten years, movie musicals got more expensive and overproduced and never achieved the success of Sound of Music. Movie studios went broke trying.

Kennedy gets into the nuts and bolts of putting together a 60s musical and even into the finances. And then there's the gossip. The story of the making of Doctor Dolittle is my favorite of this bunch, with Rex Harrison insulting everyone, and his wife (who wasn't in the movie) creating a scene wherever she went. Of course the movies that were flops are the most fun to read about. Paint Your Wagon was doomed from the start, and Finian's Rainbow could have been halfway good, but boneheaded moves like filming Fred Astaire's dance scenes so that his feet weren't visible on screen kept it from having a chance.

Roadshow! is a fun look at a slice of movie history.
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
Well done 15 Jan. 2014
By Irving Parke-Rhode - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I really enjoyed this book. Well researched and chock full of interesting tidbits about the series of big budget musicals from the mid to late 1960s that rolled off the Hollywood assembly line only to be greeted with apathy, indifference & sometimes hostility by the moviegoing public. I've long been fascinated by this period of Hollywood history and often wondered why no one had written a book about it, considering the huge sums of money lost. This book is the answer. Who knew that "Song of Norway" actually turned a profit? The end notes are worth looking at too for the occasional extra bit, for example, Fox abandoned the "Doctor Dolittle" Great Pink Sea Snail on the beach in St. Lucia. Whereabouts today unknown. The soundtrack of "Paint Your Wagon" was certified Gold, etc. Only complaint is a lack of pictures but university press books are often light in the photo department. If you're interested in this subject you need to buy this book.
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
A Delightful and Revelatory Depiction of Hollywood's Era of Roadshow Musicals 9 Feb. 2014
By Allan Taylor - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
well as a Matthew Kennedy’s valuable and revelatory book on Hollywood’s era of Roadshow Musicals is as fine a delineation of this type of Hollywood film product as ever has been written. The book’s subtitle, The Fall of Film Musicals in the 1960’s, describes the scope of Kennedy’s concerns. His chronology covers films from The Sound of Music, Camelot, and Funny Girl to Paint Your Wagon, Oliver!, and Hello, Dolly! The author describes his book as an elegy for this now-extinct “event” type of movie going, the grand old theaters in which they played, and its place in the movie habits of American culture. He describes this era lovingly, but also critically. His research is extensive and he details thoroughly the various movies, their stars, the movie makers (such Jack Warner and Darryl F. Zanuck) and their studios caught up in the excitement of developing these movies and the showcasing of them to the American public, as well as the tremendous financial cost in promoting these large shows. Kennedy’s excellent depiction of this little-discussed era in Hollywood’s history is captivating and a must read for all fans of both Musicals and Hollywood films, as well a a valuable resource for film historians.
23 of 31 people found the following review helpful
Fair 20 Jan. 2014
By Washington Reader - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
While this tome is certainly well researched, I have difficulty accepting Kennedy's point-of-view per roadshow musicals. Kennedy states he never did buy a reserved-seat ticket to see any one of the roadshow movie musicals because he was raised in California's Central Valley, far from large urban areas. How can he honestly asses them? Seeing "Star!" or "Hello, Dolly!" in 70mm TODD-AO is NOT the same as watching it on DVD or via other home video medium. Both films play better in 70mm than they do on home video. While 70mm screenings are relatively rare, they do happen. As an author, I think Mr. Kennedy's POV would have benefited, perhaps, from taking of such screenings in Los Angeles, New York, Seattle, etc.

Much of Mr. Kennedy's work has been lifted, albeit correctly cited and documented, from "The Studio," "The Fox That Got Away," and other books. Even his "Star!" review was lifted from his earlier DVD review. To his credit, he did sift through university archives for "Camelot," and that research is most welcome.

Mr. Kennedy's disdain of much movie musical roadshows seems to be formed by the ghost of Pauline Kael and other film critics. It was difficult for me to know if I was reading a review from The New Yorker or if this was truly Mr. Kennedy's opinion.

Finally, Mr. Kennedy incorrectly cites 1968 when "Star!" had its general release; it was 1969. He also gave a song from "Half A Sixpence" the wrong title. There were other errors, too, incorrect names, etc. He used the term "reserve seat" and not "reserved seat," the term used in most film roadshow advertising.
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