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Saying It With SongsPopular Music and the Coming of Sound to Hollywood Cinema$
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Katherine Spring

Print publication date: 2013

Print ISBN-13: 9780199842216

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: January 2014

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199842216.001.0001

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Integrating a Song

Integrating a Song

The Threat to Narrative Plausibility

(p.95) 4 Integrating a Song
Saying It With Songs

Katherine Spring

Oxford University Press

Chapter 4 delineates theme songs and incidental songs, and explains how each type of song functioned in dramatically conventional ways: for example, to unify disparate narrative events and characters, to establish geographic and temporal settings, and to convey through lyrics the emotions absent in character dialogue. Whereas films belonging to the musical genre could justify the intrusive appearance of song performances by recourse to audience expectations about Broadway stage musicals, non-musical films motivated star-song performances in narratively cumbersome ways. Analyses of the “strained integration” of songs in two films —Check and Double Check (RKO, 1930) and Possessed (MGM, 1931)—shows how star-song performances were sometimes justified by comparatively weaker means, and thus resulted in narrative disruption rather than coherence. In these cases, the careful motivation of songs called attention to precisely what the classical film sought to efface: the construction of narrative.

Keywords:   narrative, film, popular songs, theme song, lyrics, classical Hollywood cinema, Check and Double Check, Possessed

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