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Cinematic trends such as dramatic realism, documentary style, melodrama, and the star-is-born motif influenced film noir and musicals after the war, contributing to darker postwar noir musicals. In the absence of wartime production constraints , economical musical film noir gave way to grander big-budget postwar color musical films with downbeat narratives and noir-styled production design. For example, Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger’s (known collectively as The Archers) The Red Shoes was a musical melodrama that featured a female protagonist’s struggle in brooding Technicolor. George Cukor’s definitive noir musical A Star Is Born was a comeback film for former-MGM star Judy Garland that took advantage of new technology. Meanwhile, black-and-white film noir was also changing, adopting a new look and style in response to postwar industrial and cultural challenges, shifting gender roles and themes, and adapting to changing filmmaking conditions and new emergent technologies. As men returned from war, black-and-white film noir evolved in the late 1940s and early 1950s to incorporate a lighter, grayer documentary-style visual aesthetic (like television anthology dramas and police procedurals) increasingly targeting a masculine audience. While black-and-white noir crime films became more masculine and shifted away from hard-boiled “Rosie the Riveter” femme fatales, dark “color noir” musical melodramas resonated with postwar women. The evolution of noir musicals provides a fascinating microcosm of the changes simultaneously taking place in Hollywood over the postwar era. The industry faced antitrust regulation, and the studio system was breaking up. There was chapter five Le Rouge et le Noir From The Red Shoes to A Star Is Born l e rou ge e t l e noi r 77 declining film viewership and stiff competition from television. There was a changing American cultural and economic climate and innovative European art cinema to reckon with. The Red Scare blacklisted creative talent and content. Looking back at this paranoid time, musical director Stanley Donen pondered, “How do you tell a story which has a human feeling? Because you don’t dare have too many human feelings, they’ll be thought of as ‘Communistic.’”1 As the industry moved from standard-screen black-and-white films, noir creative talent moved to other genres including musicals, where they brought their darker, realistic dramatic tendencies to color and stereophonic sound films. Many darker musicals presented a distinctive “color noir” aesthetic, emulating shadowy noir style with color film, as Hollywood’s response to television. Studios also employed this color noir aesthetic in ads and promotions even for black-and-white noir pictures. The Red Shoes, Young Man with a Horn, The Strip, Glory Alley, Affair in Trinidad, The Barefoot Contessa, and A Star Is Born explored a brooding noir musical world. Jumping on the bandwagon, even film noir veteran John Huston (director of The Maltese Falcon) made a color noir musical—Moulin Rouge. Talented émigrés, women, and jazz musicians had influenced film noir during the wartime labor shortage. Just as blackouts and rationing of film stock (including color film) and lighting contributed to the development of a shadowy black-and-white film noir aesthetic in wartime, the postwar competition with television helped move motion pictures in the direction of colorful spectacle. By 1950, industry executives discouraged production of hard-hitting noir pictures tackling social problems. By the late 1940s and 1950s, popular escapist color musicals, comedies, melodramas, historical period epics, science fiction, Westerns, fantasy, and presold Broadway adaptations were preferred. Just as early sound films (even gangster pictures) included musical numbers, in the postwar move to color widescreen spectacles with stereophonic sound, noir aesthetic adapted to new technology. The impact of television from 1946 to 1962 was tremendous on Hollywood business practices, technology, censorial structures, genres, styles, and stars. After peaking in 1946, American filmgoing declined. Television (especially color television after 1953) provided a free and convenient alternative form of leisure entertainment that could be consumed by viewers in the privacy of their own homes. The U.S. population shifted away from urban centers—where many had flocked for work during the war and where firstrun theaters were located—to outlying suburban communities. Television and the Broadway stage experienced a postwar golden age that threatened the film industry. Moreover, the Supreme Court’s antitrust Paramount Decision of May 3, 1948, 78 m us ic i n t h e s h a d ow s was a day of reckoning for Hollywood and ultimately brought about the...


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