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Classic HollywoodLifestyles and Film Styles of American Cinema, 1930-1960$
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Veronica Pravadelli

Print publication date: 2014

Print ISBN-13: 9780252038778

Published to Illinois Scholarship Online: April 2017

DOI: 10.5406/illinois/9780252038778.001.0001

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Performative Bodies and Non-Referential Images

Performative Bodies and Non-Referential Images

Excesses of the Musical

(p.153) 6 Performative Bodies and Non-Referential Images
Classic Hollywood

Veronica Pravadelli

University of Illinois Press

This chapter focuses on the 1950s musical. In contrast to melodrama, the musical combines spectacle with reflexive strategies and is able to comment in a sophisticated fashion on the fiction/reality dichotomy and on the relation between cinema and the other media, especially theater and television. While noir and woman's film used expressive techniques to emphasize the split nature of the human psyche—the opposition between conscious and unconscious realities—1950s musical goes one step further. Many films show that gendered identities are the product of a series of performances, rather than the expression of an intrinsic nature, and that the same character may well embody opposite tendencies and behaviors. In a similar fashion, other films suggest that the opposition between fiction and reality is no longer tenable, and that the performative register has started to invade both the realm of artistic production and of subjective experience.

Keywords:   1950s musical, reflexive strategies, fiction, reality, gendered identities, subjective experience

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