This chapter introduces the central question in this book: what does it mean to entertain an audience? In order to set up this issue, it focuses on two influential Hollywood backstage musicals - Stanley Donen and Gene Kelly’s Singin’ in the Rain (1952) and Vincente Minnelli’s The Band Wagon (1953) - in order to understand how vaudeville performers arrived at sense of the legitimacy of their art, and the managers developed their vision of an all-encompassing form of entertainment that spoke to audiences everywhere. Drawing on a range of cultural theorists,including Robert Snyder, Rick Altman, and Jacques Ranciere, the chapter then goes on to explore the ways in which vaudeville transformed concepts of entertainment and redefined the possibilities open to performers in late nineteenth and early twentieth-century American culture.
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