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Everything posted by secondsightcinema

  1. We have pre-Code musicals that treat the harsher realities of life, though of course not all that realistically‚ÄĒ42nd Street, Gold Diggers of 1933, Footlight Parade, and Dames don't pretend the Depression isn't happening ("The Depression, dearie," as Ginger says in one). The Great Ziegfeld not only is post-Code, which affects everything from costume design to dialogue and characterization and story, to what the camera is permitted to show us, but it has tha additional distancing effect of being a period piece, and that nostalgic haze is a good fit for the euphemism of the Code era. One of the revelatory things about discovering pre-Code movies (if like me you grew up on post-Code fare) is that they drive home how suffocating and restrictive the Code was. We didn't see a toilet in a Hollywood movie for decades, and all those couples sleeping in twin beds.... The clip from this biopic (a natural genre hybrid with the backstage musical) does rely on a theme of not just musicals but Hollywood movies of the era, that of striving, of reaching for stardom as the ultimate validation of human worthiness. Ziegfeld is the starmaker, of course, analogous to Mayer and the other studio moguls rather than their property (the stars), but Americans are always interested in businessmen as well as stars, and the way the two intersect in show business is a perennial subject and theme in melodramas, comedies, and musicals.

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