Bob Fosse Stanley Kauffmann - Essay

Stanley Kauffmann

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

[All That Jazz is] disguised and altered autobiography. It's about Bob Fosse….

The story of his life might be spectacular, but this is something else. Except for one brief flashback, it's a latter-day self-destructive agon…. (p. 24)

Even this material might have held better than it does, despite the theater's perennial belief that its smallest doings are of cosmic gravity, if several elements had been different…. [These include] the script. It may be substantially true, but it's trite, and about two-thirds of the way along, it slackens and sags…. The last third of the film, Scheider fantasizing in his hospital bed, is a drag, unrelieved by frenetic editing and splashiness….

Everything the hero touches ultimately comes out Wonderful, no matter how worried others may be, including the re-editing of his film that he does casually between dance rehearsals….

The first half hour or so, aside from the matters of private life, made me think that Fosse and friends were trying to preempt the film territory of A Chorus Line…. But the personal stuff soon overwhelms the professional stuff, and the personal stuff is bor-ring, as show biz puts it—even Fosse's hospital nightmares, which are done as big production numbers. I've rarely been so glad to see a protagonist die. My only fear was that there would be still another number in which he tip-tapped up to the pearly gates. (p. 25)

Stanley Kauffmann, "Autobiographies" (reprinted by permission of Brandt & Brandt Literary Agents, Inc.; copyright © 1980 by Stanley Kauffmann), in The New Republic, Vol. 182, No. 4, January 26, 1980, pp. 24-5.∗