By the mid-1930's, the studios were old veterans at the game, and just as they had predicted in the beginning, the rules became more and more formal with each passing year. No other genre of film relied so heavily on the influence of the past, with musicals first deriving from Broadway, and eventually borrowing from earlier Hollywood musicals. Differences in studio structure and stars were certainly enough to create great variety within a singular genre, but additionally several different catergories of film musicals surfaced. Regardless the plot or the structure, the secret to studio success was always making the difficult look simple. The wonder of the film musical was its ability to make fantasy plausible, and that feat depended upon the perception of spontaneity. When a person walked into the movies, they knew that anything could happen, and whatever the reality of one's own situation, for a brief two hours, you became part of a community of hope.
Too many scholars and formal critics dismiss this blithe spirit as frivolity. Often, today's historians dismiss the simplicity and improbability that define the Hollywood musical as being irreconcilable with formal studies of aesthetic and genre. Most of today's audience members would agree; what makes musicals so enjoyable is their inherent lack of intellectualization and to analyze them is to take the fun out of them. Nothing could be further from the truth. The fact that musicals seem above-or below-the realm of scrutinization is a further testament to their accomplishment. Still, for any individual approaching studies in genre from an American Studies perspective, the Hollywood musical is perhaps the most accessible of all cinematic classes to critical inquiry. Stylistically raw, these films were stucturally rigid and, culturally, very conservative. The truth is that behind every moment of on-screen abandon rested hours of painstaking preparation, and every happy accident was really a variable in a tested equation. The links below explore the three most common and most successful subsets of the Hollywood musical, briefly discussion convention and structure and how they related to their audiences:
| I Believe in Miracles: The Fairy Tale |
| The Making of the Musical |
Last Updated February 10, 2000