A Short History of the Big Band Musical

James Chapman

in Film's Musical Moments

Published by Edinburgh University Press

Published in print July 2006 | ISBN: 9780748623440
Published online March 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780748651115 | DOI:
A Short History of the Big Band Musical

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One development in the world of jazz was the emergence of the big band sound, which was largely consumed by white audiences. This chapter looks at the big band musical's brief success between the mid-1930s and late 1940s, a moment when bandleaders became household names. Unusually, British cinema pioneered a trend with a Henry Hall film called Music Hath Charms (1935). As this chapter shows, however, Britain and the United States had different versions of the big band film in terms of the strategies adopted for incorporating musical performance, with the British films relying on a revue-style format and the U.S. films drawing more extensively on the conventions of existing genres such as the backstage musical. But by the early 1950s, the big band musical was already seen as dated, with new styles of musical performance emerging such as rock ‘n’ roll and the pop ballad.

Keywords: Music Hath Charms; big band musical; Britain; United States; jazz; musical performance; pop ballad; backstage musical

Chapter.  6854 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Film

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