Posted: Wed., May. 11, 2011, 12:45pm PT
Gerald Bordman dies at 79
Scholar wrote 'American Musical Theatre'
By Variety Staff
Gerald Bordman, a scholar of the American theater and the author of a
standard reference work "American Musical Theatre," died of cancer in
Overbrook, Pa. on May 9. He was 79.
"American Musical Theatre" has never been out of print in the past 33
years. His other books include "The Oxford Companion to American
Theatre," "American Musical Comedy: From Adonis to Dreamgirls,"
"American Musical Revue: From The Passing Show to Sugar Babies,"
"American Operetta: From H.M.S. Pinafore to Sweeney Todd" and "Jerome
Kern: His Life and Music."
Born in Philadelphia and raised in Wynnefield, Bordman earned a degree
in English at Lafayette College. He had a master's and doctorate from
the U. of Pennsylvania. His doctorate was in pre-Chaucerian medieval
Earlier in his life he was a manufacturer of moth balls and
preventatives. He was president of the family business, Morris A.
Bordman, in Philadelphia until 1974, when he began to crank out his 10
Graveside services will be held Friday at 11 a.m. at Montefiore
Cemetery, 600 Church Road, Jenkintown, Pa.
There are no immediate survivors.
Contact Variety Staff at ne...@variety.com
© Copyright 2011 Reed Business Information , a division of Reed
This is quite a paragraph.
Posted on Thu, May. 12, 2011
Gerald Bordman, theater scholar, author
By Sally A. Downey
Inquirer Staff Writer
Gerald Bordman, 79, of Bala Cynwyd, a former businessman and scholar
who wrote more than a dozen books about American theater, died of
cancer Monday, May 9, at Saunders House in Wynnewood.
In 1978, four years after selling his family's mothball business, Mr.
Bordman published The American Musical Theater. The work, which
covered 200 years of stage history, was written with "enthusiasm and
affection," according to an Inquirer review. It included a season-by-
season rundown of almost every Broadway musical, related the plot, and
gave a sense of production that enabled readers to imagine what it
must have been like to be there, the reviewer said.
Mr. Bordman's other books included the encyclopedic The Oxford
Companion to the American Theater, American Musical Comedy, American
Musical Revue, and biographies of Jerome Kern and Vincent Youmans, a
songwriter who wrote such hits as "Tea for Two," "The Carioca," and
"Rise 'n' Shine."
Mr. Bordman, who was charming and persuasive enough to secure
interviews with Fred Astaire and Irene Dunne for the Kern biography,
was a curmudgeon on the subject of the modern-day musical.
He told an Inquirer theater critic in 1978, "I was a tired businessman
myself for 20 years. I want to see pretty girls dancing and listen to
someone singing a Jerome Kern song."
"I've stopped going to the theater. I don't like profanity, which is
used gratuitously in the theater now, or the working-class slum
settings and radical sentiments," he told the Philadelphia Daily News
in 1982. "Where are the zany, delightful musicals, the airy farces,
the lovely operettas?"
Mr. Bordman also complained that productions were amplified. "I would
rather buy an original cast album," he said. "In Vienna, in Budapest,
in Paris, nothing is miked. I still travel around the world and see
In 1989, Mr. Bordman was one of the backers of a New York production
of Sitting Pretty, a 1924 musical Kern wrote with Guy Bolton and P.G.
An Inquirer theater critic said that the show had charm and a hit
number, "Till the Clouds Roll By," but that its "arbitrarily
complicated plot" was not for contemporary taste.
Growing up in Wynnefield, Mr. Bordman accompanied his mother, Anna, to
the theater in Center City every week. The first Broadway show he saw
was Banjo Eyes with Eddie Cantor in 1941.
He graduated from Central High School and earned a bachelor's degree
from Lafayette College. Later, he earned a master's and doctorate in
medieval literature from the University of Pennsylvania.
Though Mr. Bordman trained to be an academic, he was a dutiful son and
went to work for his father, Morris, said longtime friend Jacques
Kelly. The family firms in Manayunk - Excell Chemical Products Co. and
Marbex Co. - manufactured mothballs, air fresheners, and household
For 25 years, Mr. Bordman lived in a home he renovated in Kirks Mills,
Lancaster County. He moved to Bala in 1999.
He was an accomplished cook, relished fine dining, and once was a
partner in a Center City restaurant.
He could be persuaded to see productions of Shakespeare or the
classics in local theaters without amplification and enjoyed listening
to his extensive collection of recorded plays, Kelly said.
Mr. Bordman had no immediate survivors.
A graveside service will be at 11 a.m. Friday, May 13, at Montefiore
Cemetery, 600 Church Rd., Jenkintown.
> Though Mr. Bordman trained to be an academic, he was a dutiful son and
> went to work for his father, Morris, said longtime friend Jacques
> Kelly. The family firms in Manayunk - Excell Chemical Products Co. and
> Marbex Co. - manufactured mothballs, air fresheners, and household
That's much better.
Most local publications will mention Society Hill or Bella Vista or
Germantown or Fishtown or Chestnut Hill or Kensington or Bridesburg or
Torresdale or Frankford or Brewerytown or Swampoodle or wherever and
most people who know Philly will know where those neighborhoods are
Although you make a legitimate point in emphasizing that those
locations may be unfamiliar to someone with little or no knowledge of
the area, to call those references "errors" is, in itself, erroneous.
lived in the area for a while, goes back often, and rarely gets lost