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TCM Presents: MAD ABOUT MUSICALS! is a Course


Ended Jun 30, 2018

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Full course description

Course Description

Coming this Summer, sign up for the newest online film course from TCM and Ball State!

TCM is excited to announce our new online class in partnership with Ball State University: TCM Presents: MAD ABOUT MUSICALS! A free online course dedicated to the history of the Hollywood Musical. Running from June 3-30, this FREE interactive experience will give you an entertaining deep-dive into the Hollywood musical, from the 1930s to the 1970s, with addictive multimedia course materials, digital games, ongoing interactions with your fellow film fans on the TCM message boards, and more!

We invite movie lovers and online learners from around the world to join us for this fun, flexible online learning opportunity, TCM Presents: MAD ABOUT MUSICALS (#TCMusicals). This is the fourth free online course to be offered by TCM and Ball State, following Film Noir (2015), Slapstick Comedy (2016) and 50 Years of Hitchcock (2017).

Contribute to the conversation using #TCMusicals

Course Syllabus (Course Dates: Jun 3 - Jun 30, 2018)

Week 1

WEEK 1: Introduction / Musicals of the 1920s & 1930s

  • The beginnings of sound technology and the first film musicals in the 1920s and 1930s: The Great Ziegfeld, Top Hat, Broadway Melody, and other films
  • Important musicals that set the standard for the decade: The Great Depression
  • The transition from Broadway to Hollywood
  • New stars in musicals, directors, editors, and other creatives that influenced the decade: Ernst Lubitsch, Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers, and others
  • Key song numbers that typify the movie musical in the 1930s
Week 2

WEEK 2: Musicals of the 1940s

  • The changing terrain of the 1940s movie musical surrounding WWII: Yankee Doodle Dandy, On the Town, Meet Me in St. Louis, and other films
  • Performers who developed during the 1940s, choreographers who direct and musicians who produce: Busby Berkeley, Ester Williams, Red Skelton, Judy Garland and others
  • Studios, stars, and stories for wartime America: the transition to nationalism
  • Pre-recording, post-sound, and location scenes
  • The emerging films of diversity: Cabin in the Sky, Showboat, and other films
Week 3

WEEK 3: Musicals of the 1950s

  • The high times of the 1950s and the Blacklist: The Bandwagon, An American in Paris, High Society, and other films
  • The development of camera, sound, and exhibition
  • Glamour and the expanded role of design
  • The broadening of the composer, producer, and editor
  • Key figures who expand their scope: Gene Kelly, Vincente Minnelli, Elvis Presley, and others
Week 4

WEEK 4: Conclusion / Musicals of the 1960s and 1970s

  • The disruption of the studios: independent film influences
  • Turbulence in the country and cultural challenges: Tommy, Cabaret and other films
  • Changing musical tastes, youth, and historical films: Funny Girl, 1776, My Fair Lady, and other films
  • The British Invasion: The Beatles and A Hard Day’s Night
  • Directors, stars, and producers who transitioned into the 1960s

Course Format

Each week will feature weekly lecture videos, content pages, quizzes, discussion forums, digital games, live tweeting events, optional readings, and the Daily Doses of Musicals. The Daily Doses are brief, five minute learning modules involving a short video clip that will unlock inside of your Canvas course on Mondays through Thursdays during the length of the course.

Frequently Asked Questions

Do I need access to TCM to participate in this course?

No. For non-TCM subscribers, we will have free links to online public domain films and/or provide access to brief film clips, so anyone can participate fully in this course. But it is advisable, if you do not have access to TCM, to try to rent certain key films – a short list of essential films that students should rent on their own will be provided in the course.

How long is the course and TCM's Mad About Musicals?

The online course is 4 weeks long, and the TCM on-air spotlight airs Tuesdays and Thursdays in June, featuring over 90 musicals including 42nd Street (1933); Swing Time (1936); Wizard of Oz (1939); Meet Me in St. Louis (1944); Singin’ in the Rain (1952); Jailhouse Rock (1957); A Hard Day’s Night (1964); and Cabaret (1972).

What kind of time commitment may I expect?

For students who seek to complete the course, it will take between two to four hours each week, and that does not include the additional time to watch the musicals on your own or on TCM. For students who would like to audit the class or can only participate occasionally, you are encouraged to participate as much as possible, especially on social media (#TCMusicals) and on the TCM message boards.

Can I earn a Certificate of Completion?

Yes, students who successfully complete all of the course requirements will receive a certificate of completion. If you only want to audit the course, you will not be eligible to receive the certificate, but you are still welcome to take part in the course activities.

Are there any synchronous or live events in the course?

Yes. The course will use Facebook Live or Twitter's Periscope to have a few live events. But in case you are not available when an event is occurring, an archived video copy will be available for later viewing.

Will the instructor be involved in the course?

Yes. This is not a self-paced course. The instructor will be involved each week of the course, and new modules will be released every Monday during the course.

Dr. Vanessa Theme Ament

Vanessa Theme Ament, Ph.D.

Course Instructor
Endowed Chair of Telecommunications,
Ball State University

Vanessa Theme Ament has worked as a Foley artist and voice actor for such films as Platoon, Predator, Die Hard, Beauty and the Beast, A Goofy Movie, Edward Scissorhands, Batman Returns, and Cats Don’t Dance. She has performed her own compositions, jazz standards, and musical theatre. Her Foley skills led to her stint at The York Theatre in the musical, Wicked City Blues, starring Jenn Colella. After writing The Foley Grail, she earned her Ph.D. at Georgia State University, contributed chapters to several books on film sound, and in 2017, published her co-authored book, Hollywood Sound Design and Moviesound Newsletter, along with David E. Stone. Dr. Ament is the Edmund F. and Virginia B. Ball Endowed Chair in Telecommunications at Ball State University. Most recently, Dr. Ament produced a documentary short entitled Amplified: A Conversation with Women in American Film Sound, through a grant from the Virginia Ball Center for Creative Inquiry.

Gary Rydstrom

Gary Rydstrom

Guest Speaker
Seven-time Academy Award-winning Sound Designer

At Lucasfilm’s Skywalker Sound, Gary Rydstrom has sound designed and mixed many films, including Terminator 2, Jurassic Park, A River Runs Through It, Toy Story, Quiz Show, Titanic, Saving Private Ryan, Star Wars: Episode 1, Punch-Drunk Love, Finding Nemo, and Bridge of Spies. He has been nominated 18 times, and has won seven Academy Awards for Sound and Sound Editing. He has received Career Achievement Awards from both the Cinema Audio Society and Motion Picture Sound Editors. For Pixar Animation Studios, he directed two short films, the Oscar-nominated “Lifted,” and “Toy Story Toons: Hawaiian Vacation.” For Studio Ghibli, he directed the English-language versions of The Secret Life of Arietty, From Up on Poppy Hill, and The Wind Rises. In 2015, Gary directed the Disney/Lucasfilm animated musical Strange Music. Gary is a native of Chicago, and a graduate of the University of Southern California’s School of Cinema.

Dr. Richard Edwards

Richard L. Edwards, Ph.D.

Guest Speaker
Executive Director for Strategic Learning,
Ball State University

Dr. Richard L. Edwards received his Ph.D. in Critical Studies from USC's School of Cinematic Arts. He is the co-author, with Shannon Clute of TCM, of The Maltese Touch of Evil: Film Noir and Potential Criticism (University Press of New England, 2011), as well as numerous articles on film topics. He is the co-host of the long running podcast series, Out of the Past: Investigating Film Noir. Dr. Edwards previously taught 2015's TCM Presents Into the Darkness: Investigating Film Noir; 2016's TCM Presents Painfully Funny: Exploring Slapstick in the Movies; and 2017's TCM Presents The Master of Suspense: 50 Years of Hitchcock. This is his fourth course collaboration with TCM and Canvas Network. As Executive Director for Strategic Learning at Ball State University, Edwards specializes in teaching and learning innovations for online and blended education.

Wes Gehring

Wes Gehring, Ph.D.

Guest Speaker
Distinguished Professor of Film, Ball State University

Wes D. Gehring is a Distinguished Professor of Film at Ball State University and associate media editor for USA TODAY Magazine, for which he also writes the column "Reel World." He is the author of 37 film-related books, including award-winning biographies of James Dean, Carole Lombard, Steve McQueen, Robert Wise, Red Skelton, and Charlie Chaplin. Choice has said: "Gehring remains supreme in film comedy research." Two of his most recent books are: Chaplin’s War Trilogy: An Evolving Lens in Three Dark Comedies, 1918-1947 (Huffington Post picked it as one of the best film books of 2014, resulting in an invitation to speak at New York's Museum of Modern Art), and Genre-Busting Dark Comedies of the 1970s: Twelve American Films. His latest book, a revisionist look at Buster Keaton's silent features, Buster Keaton in His Own Time (2018) is out now from McFarland Press, which also published the aforementioned texts.


Many of the social media items, graphic design elements, and video assets used in this course were created in collaboration with the Ball State University Immersive Learning Program’s Let’s Movie Design Studio. Learn More.

Let's Movie Design Studio