Skip to main content
Intended for healthcare professionals
Restricted access
Research article
First published online September 3, 2009

A cinemusicaliterary analysis of the American dream as represented by biographical jazz comedepictions in the golden age of Hollywood biopics: Blow, Horatio, Blow; O, Jakie, O; Go,Tommy, Go; No, Artie, No


This essay argues that our grasp of marketing theory benefits from an awareness of the rags-to-riches ethos that characterizes the paradigmatic American Dream. In this connection, the essay presents a cinemusicaliterary analysis of how this success-story ideal has shaped some artistic manifestations of the consumer culture in ways that have appeared conspicuously in various literary, cinematic, and musical creations. Thus, beginning with the literary works of Horatio Alger and their reification of the rags-to-riches prototype, the essay traces the evolution of this success-story paradigm through its cinematic embodiment in The Jazz Singer (1927) to its appearance in the underlying musical structures that characterize five comedepictions of jazz heroes during the golden age of Hollywood biopics: The Fabulous Dorseys (1947); The Glenn Miller Story (1954); The Benny Goodman Story (1955); The Five Pennies (1959); and The Gene Krupa Story (1959). The essay ends by considering an instructive counterexample based on the life and writings of a different kind of hero, Artie Shaw, who abandoned $ucce$$ as an enormously popular musician to pursue different artistic goals as an author.

Get full access to this article

View all access and purchase options for this article.

1 The author gratefully acknowledges the support of the Columbia Business School’s Faculty Research Fund.


Aaker, D.A. ( 1991) Managing Brand Equity: Capitalizing on the Value of a Brand Name. New York: Free Press .
Adorno, T.W. ( 1984) Aesthetic Theory, trans. C. Lenhardt. London: Routledge & Kegan Paul.
Altman, R. ( 1987) The American Film Musical. Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press.
Atkins, I.K. ( 1983) Source Music in Motion Pictures. East Brunswick, NJ: Associated University Press.
Balliett, W. ( 1976) New York Notes: A Journal of Jazz, 1972-1975. Boston, MA: Houghton Mifflin Company.
Balliett, W. ( 1989) Barney, Bradley, and Max: 16 Portraits in Jazz. New York: Oxford University Press.
Baudrillard, J. ( 1988) Selected Writings, ed. M. Poster. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press.
Berry, L.L., Carbone, L.P., and Haeckel, S.H. ( 2002) ‘Managing the Total Customer Experience’, Sloan Management Review 43(3): 85-9.
Biancorosso, G. ( 2001) ‘Beginning Credits and Beyond Music and the Cinematic Imagination’, ECHO 3(Spring), URL (consulted April 2008)
Bradshaw, A. and Holbrook, M.B. ( 2007) ‘Remembering Chet: Theorising the Mythology of the Self-destructive Bohemian Artist as Self-producer and Self-consumer in the Market for Romanticism’, Marketing Theory 7(2): 115-36.
Brown, S. ( 2001) Marketing - the Retro Revolution. London: SAGE Publications.
Campbell, C. ( 1987) The Romantic Ethic and the Spirit of Modern Capitalism . Oxford: Basil Blackwell.
Carringer, R.L. ( 1979) ‘Introduction: History of a Popular Culture Classic’, in The Jazz Singer. Madison, WI: University of Wisconsin Press.
Chion, M. ( 1994) Audio-Vision: Sound on Screen, ed. and trans. C. Gorbman. New York: Columbia University Press.
Crow, B. ( 1990) Jazz Anecdotes. New York: Oxford University Press.
Crow, B. ( 1992) From Birdland to Broadway: Scenes from a Jazz Life. New York: Oxford University Press.
Duesenberry, J.S. ( 1949) Income, Saving and the Theory of Consumer Behavior. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.
Ewen, S. ( 2001) Captains of Consciousness: Advertising and the Social Roots of the Consumer Culture. New York: Basic Books.
Feather, L. ( 1955) The Encyclopedia of Jazz. New York : Horizon Press.
Frank, R.H. ( 1999) Luxury Fever: Why Money Fails to Satisfy in an Era of Excess. New York: Free Press.
Gabbard, K. ( 1996) Jammin’ at the Margins: Jazz and the American Cinema . Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press.
Galbraith, J.K. ( 1958) The Affluent Society. New York: Houghton Mifflin.
Gardner, A. ( 1990) Ava: My Story. New York: Bantam Books.
Goffman, E. ( 1959) The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life. New York: Anchor Books.
Gorbman, C. ( 1987) Unheard Melodies: Narrative Film Music. Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press.
Greenberg, C. ( 1946 [1957]) ‘Avant-Garde and Kitsch’, in B. Rosenberg and D. M. White (eds) Mass Culture: The Popular Arts in America, pp. 98-107. Glencoe, IL: The Free Press.
Hagen, E. ( 1971) Scoring for Films. Emeryville, CA: MixBooks.
Hirschman, E.C. and Holbrook, M.B. ( 1982) ‘Hedonic Consumption: Emerging Concepts, Methods and Propositions’, Journal of Marketing 46(Summer): 92-101.
Holbrook, M.B. ( 1991) ‘Romanticism and Sentimentality in Consumer Behavior: A Literary Approach to the Joys and Sorrows of Consumption’, Research in Consumer Behavior 5: 105-80.
Holbrook, M.B. ( 1994) ‘The Nature of Customer Value: An Axiology of Services in the Consumption Experience’, in R. T. Rust and R. L. Oliver (eds) Service Quality: New Directions in Theory and Practice, pp. 21-71. Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE Publications.
Holbrook, M.B. ( 1995) Consumer Research: Introspective Essays on the Study of Consumption. Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE Publications.
Holbrook, M.B. ( 1997) ‘Romanticism, Introspection, and the Roots of Experiential Consumption: Morris the Epicurean’, Consumption, Markets and Culture 1(2): 97- 163.
Holbrook, M.B. ( 1999) ‘Introduction to Consumer Value’, in M. B. Holbrook (ed.) Consumer Value: A Framework for Analysis and Research, pp. 1-28. London : Routledge.
Holbrook, M.B. ( 2000) ‘The Millennial Consumer in the Texts of Our Times: Experience and Entertainment’, Journal of Macromarketing 20(Dec.): 178-92.
Holbrook, M.B. ( 2001a) ‘The Millennial Consumer in the Texts of Our Times: Exhibitionism’, Journal of Macromarketing 21(June): 81-95.
Holbrook, M.B. ( 2001b) ‘The Millennial Consumer in the Texts of Our Times: Evangelizing’, Journal of Macromarketing 21(Dec.): 181-98.
Holbrook, M.B. ( 2002) ‘Book Review: Marketing - The Retro Revolution by Stephen Brown’, Journal of the Academy of Marketing Science 30(3): 262-7.
Holbrook, M.B. ( 2003) ‘A Book-review Essay on the Role of Ambi-diegetic Film Music in the Product Design of Hollywood Movies: Macromarketing in La-La-Land’, Consumption, Markets and Culture 6(Sep.): 207-30.
Holbrook, M.B. ( 2004) ‘Ambi-diegetic Music in Films as a Product-design and -placement Strategy: The Sweet Smell of Success’, Marketing Theory 4(3): 171-85.
Holbrook, M.B. ( 2005a) ‘Ambi-diegetic Music in the Movies: The Crosby Duets in High Society’, Consumption, Markets and Culture 8(2): 153-82.
Holbrook, M.B. ( 2005b) ‘Art versus Commerce as a Macromarketing Theme in Three Films from the Young-Man-with-a-Horn Genre’, Journal of Macromarketing 25(1): 22-31.
Holbrook, M.B. ( 2005c) ‘Living It up in Twitchell’s Branded Nation: Which Way to the Egress?’ Journal of Macromarketing 25(2): 233-41.
Holbrook, M.B. ( 2005d) ‘The Ambi-diegesis of "My Funny Valentine"’, in S. Lannin and M. Caley (eds) Pop Fiction - The Song in Cinema, pp. 48-62. Portland, OR: Intellect.
Holbrook, M.B. ( 2006a) ‘Reply to Bradshaw, McDonagh, and Marshall: Turn off the Bubble Machine’, Journal of Macromarketing 26(1): 84-7.
Holbrook, M.B. ( 2006b) ‘The Consumption Experience - Something New, Something Old, Something Borrowed, Something Sold: Part 1’, Journal of Macromarketing 26(2): 259-66.
Holbrook, M.B. ( 2007a) ‘Cinemusical Meanings in Motion Pictures: Commerce, Art, and Brando Loyalty . . . Or . . . De Niro, My God, To Thee’, Journal of Consumer Behaviour 6(Nov.-Dec.): 398-418.
Holbrook, M.B. ( 2007b) ‘The Consumption Experience - Something New, Something Old, Something Borrowed, Something Sold - Part 2’, Journal of Macromarketing 27(1): 86-96.
Holbrook, M.B. ( 2007c) ‘The Consumption Experience - Something New, Something Old, Something Borrowed, Something Sold- Part 3’, Journal of Macromarketing 27(2): 173-83.
Holbrook, M.B. ( 2007d) ‘The Consumption Experience - Something New, Something Old, Something Borrowed, Something Sold - Part 4’, Journal of Macromarketing 27(3): 303-19.
Holbrook, M.B. ( 2007e) ‘When Bad Things Happen to Great Musicians: The Role of Ambi-diegetic Jazz in Three Tragedepictions of Artistic Genius on the Silver Screen’, Jazz Research Journal 1(1): 99-128.
Holbrook, M.B. and Day, E. ( 1994) ‘Reflections on Jazz and Teaching: Benny and Gene, Woody and We’, European Journal of Marketing 28(8/9): 133-44.
Holbrook, M.B. and Hirschman, E.C. ( 1982) ‘The Experiential Aspects of Consumption: Consumer Fantasies, Feelings, and Fun’, Journal of Consumer Research 9(Sep.): 132- 40.
Kalinak, K. ( 1992) Settling the Score: Music and the Classical Hollywood Film. Madison, WI: University of Wisconsin Press.
Kassabian, A. ( 2001) Hearing Film: Tracking Identifications in Contemporary Hollywood Film Music. New York: Routledge.
Keepnews, O. (2001) ‘Reissue Producer’s Note’, Self-Portrait. New York: BMG Entertainment.
Keyes, E. ( 1977) Scarlett O’Hara’s Younger Sister: My Lively Life in and out of Hollywood. Secaucus, NJ: Lyle Stuart.
Klauber, B.H. ( 1990) The World of Gene Krupa: That Legendary Drummin’ Man. Ventura, CA: Pathfinder Publishing of California.
Lebergott, S. ( 1993) Pursuing Happiness: American Consumers in the Twentieth Century. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.
Lees, G. ( 1988) Meet Me at Jim & Andy’s: Jazz Musicians and Their World. New York: Oxford University Press.
Lees, G. ( 1992) Jazz Lives. Buffalo, NY: Firefly Books.
Lees, G. ( 2004) ‘Exchanges’, Jazzletter 23(11): 1-8.
Lees, G. ( 2007a) ‘The Glenn Miller Years I’, Jazzletter 24(6): 1-8.
Lees, G. ( 2007b) ‘The Glenn Miller Years IV’, Jazzletter 24(9): 1-8.
Levine, L.W. ( 1988) Highbrow/Lowbrow: The Emergence of Cultural Hierarchy in America. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.
Macdonald, D. ( 1953 [1957]) ‘A Theory of Mass Culture’, in B. Rosenberg and D. White (eds) Mass Culture: The Popular Arts in America, pp. 59-73. Glencoe, IL: The Free Press.
Meeker, D. ( 1981) Jazz in the Movies. New York: Da Capo Press.
Metz, C. ( 1974) Film Language: A Semiotics of the Cinema. New York: Oxford University Press.
Milligan, A. and Smith, S. ( 2002) Uncommon Practice: People Who Deliver a Great Brand Experience . London: Pearson Education.
Monaco, J. ( 1981) How to Read a Film: The Art, Technology, Language, History, and Theory of Film and Media (rev. ed.). New York: Oxford University Press.
Ortega y Gasset, J. ( 1932 [1957]) The Revolt of the Masses. New York: W. W. Norton.
Pacheco, F. ( 2005) Who Is Artie Shaw . . . and Why Is He Following Me? Bloomington, IN: AuthorHouse.
Packard, V. ( 1959) The Status Seekers. New York: D. McKay.
Pine, B.J., II and Gilmore, J.H. ( 1998) Welcome to the Experience Economy’, Harvard Business Review 76(4): 97-105.
Pine, B.J., II and Gilmore, J.H. ( 1999) The Experience Economy: Work Is Theatre and Every Business a Stage. Boston, MA: Harvard Business School Press.
Rosar, W.H. ( 2002) ‘Film Music - What’s in a Name?’, Journal of Film Music 1(1): 1-18.
Rosenblatt, R. ( 1999) Consuming Desires: Consumption, Culture, and the Pursuit of Happiness. Washington, DC: Island Press.
Schmitt, B.H. ( 1999) Experiential Marketing: How to Get Customers to Sense, Feel, Think, Act, and Relate to Your Company and Brands. New York: The Free Press.
Scott, B. ( 2007) ‘Gene Remembered’, Jazzletter 24(4): 3-10.
Shaw, A. ( 1939) ‘Music Is a Business’, The Saturday Evening Post 214(2): 14-15, 66-8.
Shaw, A. ( 1952) The Trouble with Cinderella: An Outline of Identity. New York: Farrar, Straus and Young.
Shaw, A. ( 1965) I Love You, I Hate You, Drop Dead. New York: Fleet Publishing Corporation.
Shaw, A. ( 1989) The Best of Intentions. Santa Barbara, CA: John Daniel.
Shaw, A. with Sudhalter, R.M. ( 2001) ‘Good Enough Ain’t Good Enough: Artie Shaw Looks Back, Reflects and Sums up’, Self-Portrait. New York: BMG Entertainment.
Smith, J. ( 1998) The Sounds of Commerce: Marketing Popular Film Music. New York: Columbia University Press.
Smith, S. and Wheeler, J. ( 2002) Managing the Customer Experience: Turning Customers into Advocates. London: Prentice Hall .
Stowe, D.W. ( 1994) Swing Changes: Big-Band Jazz in New Deal America. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.
Sudhalter, R.M. ( 1999) Lost Chords: White Musicians and Their Contribution to Jazz, 1915-1945. New York: Oxford University Press.
Tan, E.S. ( 1996) Emotion and the Structure of Narrative Film: Film as an Emotion Machine, trans. B. Fasting. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum.
Tormé, M. ( 1988) It Wasn’t All Velvet. New York : Viking.
Turner, L. ( 1982) Lana: The Lady, the Legend, the Truth. New York: Pocket Books.
Twitchell, J.B. ( 1999) Lead Us into Temptation: The Triumph of American Materialism . New York: Columbia University Press.
Veblen, T. ( 1899 [1967]) The Theory of the Leisure Class. New York: Penguin.
Wadler, J. ( 2005) ‘Artie Shaw, Without Music’, New York Times, 5 January, URL (consulted April 2008)
Weber, M. ( 1930) The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism, trans. T. Parsons and A. Giddens. Boston, MA: Unwin Hyman.
White, J. ( 2004) Artie Shaw: His Life and Music. New York: Continuum.
Wilson, J.S. ( 2004) ‘Artie Shaw, Big Band Leader, Dies at 94’, New York Times, 30 December, URL (consulted April 2008)

Cite article

Cite article

Cite article


Download to reference manager

If you have citation software installed, you can download article citation data to the citation manager of your choice

Share options


Share this article

Share with email

Share access to this article

Sharing links are not relevant where the article is open access and not available if you do not have a subscription.

For more information view the Sage Journals article sharing page.

Information, rights and permissions


Published In

Article first published online: September 3, 2009
Issue published: September 2009


  1. American Dream
  2. art versus commerce
  3. Cinderella myth
  4. jazz biopics

Rights and permissions

Request permissions for this article.


Issue published: September 2009
Published online: September 3, 2009



Morris B. Holbrook

Metrics and citations


Journals metrics

This article was published in Marketing Theory.


Article usage*

Total views and downloads: 209

*Article usage tracking started in December 2016

Articles citing this one

Web of Science: 6 view articles Opens in new tab

Crossref: 5

  1. The Myth Isn’t Mine but Its Fictionality Is: Alger’s Rag...
    Go to citation Crossref Google Scholar
  2. Morris B. Holbrook: an historical autoethnographic subjective personal...
    Go to citation Crossref Google Scholar
  3. Ubiquitous music: A summary and future research agenda
    Go to citation Crossref Google Scholar
  4. Homogeneity, “glocalism” or somewhere in between?
    Go to citation Crossref Google Scholar
  5. Morris Holbrook’s jazz and film series: an appreciation
    Go to citation Crossref Google Scholar

Figures and tables

Figures & Media


View Options

Get access

Access options

If you have access to journal content via a personal subscription, university, library, employer or society, select from the options below:

Alternatively, view purchase options below:

Purchase 24 hour online access to view and download content.

Access journal content via a DeepDyve subscription or find out more about this option.

View options


View PDF/ePub