Film at the BFI: Hollywood musicals

Course Dates: 22/10/19 - 03/12/19
Time: 18:30 - 20:30
Location: OS - Off Site
John Wischmeyer

Enjoy one of the most popular film genres and be part of the BFI’s song and dance season playing across cinema screens UK-wide. Learn about the history of movie musicals and study iconic examples of the form.


What is the course about?

This is a course for those who like musicals. And those who don’t.
The development of musicals from music hall, light opera and vaudeville.
The great and iconic musicals - their characteristics - and what makes them distinctive
How this quintessential American genre influenced the French new wave
Musicals were a mainstay of ¿lm production throughout the studio era. What are the key musicals of each Hollywood studio?

Tutor biography
John Wischmeyer (MA in Film Theory) set up, ran and programmed his own cinema in West London and has since taught film studies at the former Gainsborough studio, the BFI and City Lit since 1999, Hitchcock’s centenary year. John has covered a wide range film topics under the banner ‘Cinema Investigates America’ and has a particular interest in and considerable knowledge of Hitchcock, Hollywood studios, American independent cinema and film noir, film technique and style.

What will we cover?

Exploration of the development of the genre (history and influences).
Diversity: which musicals made a social connection and achieved a cultural currency through their diversity and representation of sexual difference and ethnicity within entertainment traditions (e.g. Show Boat, Cabin in the Sky, Carmen Jones, West Side Story).
The components of a great musical. Is it the stars and the songs? (i.e. Fred and Ginger, Gene and Judy, Bradley and Gaga)? Or is it a zeitgeist social connection (A Hard Days Night, Grease, Rocky Horror) or a film using the popular music of the time (Saturday Night Fever and the Bee Gees)?
Great iconic musicals; The first-ever sound films were musical: (The Jazz Singer, Broadway Melody of 1929). Musicals got people through the Depression:(Gold Diggers of 1933, Swing Time (1936). MGM Musicals revived under the Arthur Freed unit in the Forties:(On the Town, Singing in the Rain) Four musicals won the Best Picture Oscar in the sixties and four musicals were very popular or on the Oscars list this year: A Star is Born, Bohemian Rhapsody, The Magnificent Showman, and Mary Poppins.

What will I achieve?
By the end of this course you should be able to...

Be able to list the great musicals, recognising factors influencing their development
Appreciate why certain topics, movies and stars have become central to studies of the genre.
Dissect key musicals and analyse the components of what makes a great ones.
List the characteristics of the most popular musicals.

What level is the course and do I need any particular skills?

No prior knowledge necessary.

How will I be taught, and will there be any work outside the class?

Lecture, screenings, and discussion along with weekly handouts for further reading/research.

Are there any other costs? Is there anything I need to bring?

Pen and paper for notetaking.

When I've finished, what course can I do next?

Look for film studies classes under History, Culture and Writing at

General information and advice on courses at City Lit is available from the Student Centre and Library on Monday to Friday from 12:00 – 19:00.
See the course guide for term dates and further details

Tutor Biographies
We’re sorry. We don’t have a bio ready for the tutor of this class at the moment, but we’re working on it! Watch this space.

Book your place

Course Code: HF303

Tue, eve, 22 Oct - 03 Dec '19

Duration: 6 sessions (over 7 weeks)

Full fee: £119.00
Senior fee: £119.00
Concession: £52.00

Or call to enrol: 020 7831 7831

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Any questions?
or call 020 7492 2652

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