Greasepaint Puritan: Boston to 42nd Street in the Queer Backstage Novels of Bradford Ropes

Univ. of Michigan. Jan. 2024. 330p. ISBN 9780472056576. pap. $29.95. BIOG
Cantu (drama, Bennington Coll.; American Cinderellas on the Broadway Musical Stage) utilizes 42nd Street to detail ways that its themes and tropes have become embedded in American musical theater. It’s fitting then that the original 1932 novel by author/screenwriter Bradford Ropes (1905–66) likewise deals with timeless themes, including most incisively the tension between the romantic allure of the stage and its industrial mechanization into cultural product. Ropes’s novel, Cantu argues, was itself transformed in its adaptation to screen and stage; it featured overtly queer themes and critiques of show-business exploitation elided along the way. This book is part biography of a little-known screenwriter and novelist, part analysis of how biography and art inform one another, and part critique of how art as a commercial product has a way of burying its origins.
VERDICT A well-researched and thorough illumination of a writer who deserves to be better known. For fans, performers, and creators of musical theater.
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