BOOK REVIEW: We Can Be Who We Are: Movie Musicals from the '70s
Posted on Oct 07 2015 by Greg
This is a large book
but it's remarkably swift and "digestible" to read. I chose to read
about the movies I liked best, but could not resist reading about the
ones that were so-so. But author Lee Gambin writes with such enthusiasm
and conviction, every chapter is fascinating and entertaining, whether
the film is familiar of not. Some of the reviews are combined in a
single section and others are given more lengthy examinations.
The obvious '70s films are here, like Grease, Saturday Night Fever,
Fiddler on the Roof, Jesus Christ Superstar, Godspell, even Willy Wonka
and the Chocolate Factory. What is truly marvelous is that a lot of
films that are usually tossed aside or barely acknowledged in most film
books are included--like Pufnstuf, Bedknobs and Broomsticks, Journey
Back to Oz, Raggedy Ann & Andy and Sherman Brothers musicals like
Charlotte's Web, The Magic of Lassie, Snoopy Come Home, Tom Sawyer and
Huckleberry Finn--and are discussed with a respect and sense of
importance rarely if ever afforded to them.
Gambin also considers TV specials as valid musicals of the '70s and why
not? He reviews several Rankin/Bass classics like Santa Claus is Comin'
to Town and The Easter Bunny is Comin' To Town, plus TV versions of
Broadway shows like Applause and It's a Bird! It's a Plane! It's
Superman!. You'll even find the infamous Star Wars Holiday Special, The
Paul Lynde Halloween Special and Hanna-Barbera's KISS Meets the Phantom
of the Park!
Gambin often puts the subtexts and messages of the films under a
microscope, much as a college professor would in a film class. It's his
book and his valid opinion, but some might be taken aback by some of the
things he interprets. The book covers material from A to Z and from
G-rated to X-rated, so the reader will be exposed to very mature subject
matter and politically incorrect verbiage inherent in films that are of
The book does, however, have misspellings, errors and grammatical issues
here and there. The interviews are presented unedited, which means that
repetitions and extraneous phrases are intact. That's great from an
historic point of view, but it makes the reading somewhat tedious and is
not a favor to the interview subjects (from my experience, they don't
mind a little gentle editing). It would have also been helpful if the
table of contents included the titles of the films covered. However, the
interviews are pure gold and the overall book is so thorough on so many
points that it is still recommended.