Hallelujah Is the First Important Black Musical (Great Events from History II: Arts and Culture Series)
Article abstract: King Vidor sacrificed salary to direct the first serious all-black musical, successfully blending music and drama to depict Southern farm life and its tragedies.
Summary of Event
Warner Bros.’ 1927 release of The Jazz Singer brought silent films to an end, but some studio heads believed sound to be a fad. Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM) did not release a sound film until 1928; its first musical was Broadway Melody of 1929, a backstage musical full of young women in abbreviated costumes. The studio intended to follow this musical with similar money-winners, and it turned down King Vidor’s proposal of an all-black musical tragedy set among impoverished farmers.
By then, however, Vidor had achieved a considerable reputation. A Galveston, Texas, native who as a boy had taught himself film techniques by watching silents, Vidor had come to California in 1915 and had taken every studio job he could get in order to learn his profession. He made his reputation with The Turn in the Road (1919); it was characteristic of Vidor that he convinced a group of physicians to back the film, which had a Christian Science theme. The film showed a man’s search for his personal truths, a theme that was to dominate Vidor’s films.
D. W. Griffith’s films taught Vidor the relationship of films to musical forms, and from Roberty Flaherty’s Nanook of the North...
(The entire section is 2175 words.)
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