All Singing! All Talking! All Dancing!: A pictorial history of the movie musical by John Springer was first published in 1966.
Before the book even begins, it contains one of the most clever dedications I’ve ever seen in a classic film book. It reads:
“This Book Is Dedicated To –
The second chorus cutie from the right who just happens to know all the steps when the star twists her ankle at the last minute before curtain…
The drab little secretary who takes off her glasses – and, presto, she’s a pin-up girl…
The heiress (or princess or world-famed type) who is mistaken for her own maid by that nice young man…
The girl-shy student who tutors the college football hero to a passing mark in chemistry…
The kids who put on a variety show to raise money for the sweet old lady who is going to be evicted (or the little girl who will go into an orphanage… or the old professor whose dream is a new school library, etc.)
The old music master (or father of the musician) who conducts weakly from his hospital bed as the radio brings his protege’s concert debut…
The lovesick sailor (soldier, airman) who sings about his sweetheart on the empty deck (barracks, hangar) which instantly becomes crowded with dancing girls – all looking like his sweetheart…
The cowboy who sings to his horse on the lonely prairie – all alone except for the 200-piece orchestra which is suddenly heard in accompaniment…
The small-time vaudeville team who split up when one is wanted by Ziegfeld but get back together after the rising one gets the big head and flops…
The personality-plus girl who always says ‘Listen, kids – I have an idea!”…
Without their help – and the help of all like them – these movies could not have been made, and this book could not have been written.”
Playing on commonalities of the genre, Springer’s dedication is a great way to open the book. It reminds me of so many films, moments and characters that I love. He acknowledges the genre’s conventions in a way that will give fans of musicals the warm ‘n’ fuzzies and make them want to read the rest of the book, if for no other reason than to revisit these lovable tropes he’s dedicated the book to.
The copy that I own, a sixth edition from 1973, features an introduction by none other than one of the kings of the movie musical, Gene Kelly. Kelly’s fondness for the genre shows as he recalls the names of his own favorite musical stars and their talents. (In the opening paragraph he name-drops Busby Berkeley, Ginger Rogers, Ruby Keeler, Fred Astaire, Eleanor Powell, Al Jolson and, of course, Judy Garland among others.) Most of the introduction’s purpose is for Gene Kelly to lend credibility to Springer, who he calls an “aficionado” with a clearly evident adoration of Hollywood films, but there are a couple of prize quotes revealing Kelly’s own affection for the musical genre. My favorite is this:
“Every so often, they tell us that the musical movies are dead. And always there comes a Forty-Second Street or a Crosby or Astaire, a West Side Story, a Julie Andrews to prove them dead wrong.”
Kelly wasn’t wrong when he said that Springer’s love for films is clear. Though it’s only around 250 pages long, the book is massive in terms of the number of stars it pays tribute to and the number of films that are explored in it. The chapters are all themed — some chronologically (example: a chapter dedicated to the Golden Era of musicals) and some topically (example: a chapter dedicated to screen couples famous for their duets). Top that off with so many beautiful black and white images from the films themselves, and you’ve got a winner of a book for any fan of this splendid genre.
I don’t want to spoil Springer’s insights and factoids for any of you who may wish to seek out a copy of this book, but I will share some of my favorite pictures from it!
Someone found this at a bootsale and bought it for me ‘because you like old movies and stuff’. It’s turned out to be one of my favourite books in my (admittedly small) collection!
There is a dealer at my favorite antique mall that sells books and always has a good selection of classic film stuff, so my collection is kind of small but steadily growing thanks to that dealer haha. This book is a favorite of mine, too! Which edition do you have?
It’s a great book and one of the first I read on musicals.Thanks for reviewing it.
Glad to hear I’m not the only person who has read and enjoyed it! :)
Reblogged this on Lindsey's Adventures in Librarianship and commented:
From my film blog, here’s a review of the lovely, classic-musical-centric book ‘All Singing! All Talking! All Dancing!’ by John Springer.