Show Business: That Was Entertainment

In a chauvinistic moment Gene Kelly once asked, "What movie musical even worth noting has been produced under any auspices except Hollywood's?" There was no answer. There never has been. American movies learned to sing at the same moment they learned to talk: the first sound movie, The Jazz Singer, in 1927 starring Al Jolson, was a musical and a smash.

Thereafter, crime dramas, shipboard romances, even westerns were adopted by the new art form. The results were often ludicrous but invariably profitable. To survive, almost every studio learned to experiment with musicals,...

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