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Jerome Kern

Jerome Kern

Stephen Banfield
with a Foreword by Geoffrey Block
Copyright Date: 2006
Published by: Yale University Press
Pages: 392
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  • Book Info
    Jerome Kern
    Book Description:

    A founding father of the modern American musical, Jerome Kern (1885-1945) was the composer of legions of popular songs, including such standards as "Smoke Gets in Your Eyes" and "Ol' Man River." His 1927Show Boatwith Oscar Hammerstein II helped to set a new standard for musical theater.This book is the first to provide a critical overview of Kern's musical accomplishments throughout his career. Stephen Banfield ranges from Broadway, to Hollywood, and to London's West End, drawing on unpublished manuscripts and scores to assess the composer's extraordinary oeuvre.Kern's life, personality, and working methods are given due attention, as is the development of his work from the early musical comedies through the collaborations with Hammerstein and P. G. Wodehouse up to the later film scores. Banfield focuses especially on the musical and lyrical structures of Kern's compositions, illuminating beloved works and shedding light on compositions often overlooked.

    eISBN: 978-0-300-13834-4
    Subjects: Music, History

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Foreword
    (pp. ix-x)

    In 1915, a thirteen-year-old Richard Rodgers heard in Jerome Kern tunes the “first truly American theatre music” and a standard in theatrical music that “pointed the way” Rodgers “wanted to be led.” George Gershwin informed his first biographer, Isaac Goldberg, that from the moment he heard an orchestra play “You’re Here and I’m Here” and “They Didn’t Believe Me” fromThe Girl from Utahat the wedding of his Aunt Kate in 1914—George was fifteen at the time—Kern became “the first composer who made me conscious that popular music was of inferior quality, and that musical comedy music...

  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xi-xii)
  5. Editorial Method
    (pp. xiii-xvi)
  6. CHAPTER 1 Introducing Kern
    (pp. 1-67)

    The name of jerome kern is well known; the composer is not. During his lifetime and for years after his death eulogists spoke of “no more gifted composer in the American scene . . . since the passing of the late Victor Herbert[;] . . . one of the truly great songwriters of all times’’; of “the composer ofShow Boatand many another great musical score” as one who enjoyed “a special place in the hearts of all music lovers everywhere” and wrote some of the “greatest classics of American songwriting.” Kern and Oscar Hammerstein were “America’s greatest team...

  7. CHAPTER 2 Kern and Musical Comedy
    (pp. 68-130)

    If people married whom their parents wanted them to, had no romantic past, remained faithful and happy when young and older, could wait to get betrothed until they were financially independent, and were not smitten with entertainers, there would be no musical comedy plots. As it is, the male leads in Kern’s earlier musicals prove themselves incapable of two or more of these desiderata and get into three hours’ worth of trouble on the stage as a result. We sympathize with them for it because they are young and attractive and have excellent prospects if they can sort themselves out...

  8. CHAPTER 3 Kern the Romantic: Three Shows
    (pp. 131-198)

    There is always a trade-off between wit and musicality in the singing theater and its film equivalent, a contract favoring music at the expense of wit in most opera after Rossini and wit at the expense of music, especially singing, in most musical comedy before Rodgers and Hammerstein. In Kern’s day, at first the leading men could not really sing but were dandy comics, while their female partners warbled away with impeccable voice production and, no doubt, posture but little sense of youthful spirit or warmth (Dot Temple sounds about fifty-five and a deadpan prude in the 1919Oh Joy!...

  9. CHAPTER 4 Mostly Hammerstein
    (pp. 199-252)

    Oscar hammerstein is of incalculable importance to the history of the American musical—even to the history of America, for a recent critique ofOklahoma!calls it “a major work of popular art, developing a collective identity for the USA . . . at an important point in its modern history.” But his contribution to the musical betweenShow BoatandOklahoma!is virtually a critical blank, reflecting the gap in the Broadway canon between these two shows, both his. His celebrated New Year greeting inVariety,after the success ofOklahoma!,dwelt on his failures during those intervening years,...

  10. CHAPTER 5 Kern and Hollywood
    (pp. 253-306)

    In 1928,blue eyeswas running nicely at the new piccadilly the atre in London when it had to make way for a film,The Jazz Singer.This, as is well known, was, if not the first talkie, the first film to combine visual with verbal and musical entertainment in a successfully alluring way; the first film musical, in effect. Its ousting of a stage musical play from a West End theater was highly symbolic.

    Significant, too, was the simultaneity ofShow Boatwith the coming of sound to film. Ferber’s novel appeared in installments inWoman’s Home Companionbetween...

  11. Works by Jerome Kern
    (pp. 307-308)
  12. Notes
    (pp. 309-326)
  13. Bibliography
    (pp. 327-332)
  14. Permissions
    (pp. 333-352)
  15. General Index
    (pp. 353-366)
  16. Index of Kern’s Works
    (pp. 367-375)