PKayC

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About PKayC

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  1. Jules Styne and Bob Merrill’s song “People” is a touching musical piece which goes to the core of humanity’s deep need of connection. Barbara Streisand’s rendition of the song “People” in the film Funny Girl is like a lullaby, smooth and stylized with select phrases stretched out for emphasis. The orchestration of the violins supports Streisand’s phrasing. Fanny (Streisand) is singing these lyrics to Nicky Arnstein (Omar Sharif)—it is a private audience of one, an intimate, romantic expression of affection and connection. If Fanny belted out the words and performed more theatrically with broad gestures, then she would lose the tenderness and intimacy of the song; she would be performing to a crowd and seeking to reach the persons in the balcony. This scene is a backstage view of Fanny’s life where she is an individual with a life beyond the footlights, so she does not need to reach the masses with tremendous vocal intensity. She can be soft and delicate in her enunciation of words, and her facial expressions can be subtle and subdued because Nicky is in close proximity to her, and he can detect these nuances of her emotions. The emotional transitions in this scene are synced fluidly to express the romantic connection between Fanny and Nicky. They begin in conversation, and then move into the song. Fannie starts to walk down the alley and turns back to face Nicky and again turns to walk again. It is interesting that she leads this lyrical discussion and Nicky follows like a child. Fanny stops at the railing just before the stairs as she begins the song’s main refrain. Her stroking the railing is an indication of her desire to touch his face, to be intimate, but they remain about four feet apart—conforming to the social conventions of distance while in public places. They are the “people” who the song is about; they are “Lovers..very special people…the luckiest people in the world” because they have found each other. Then Fanny mounts the stairs of the brownstone to a little “stage” where Nicky can admire her beauty and talent. He is the sole observer of her emotional performance. Fanny closes her eyes at moments when she is singing as though she is speaking to herself alone. She phrases “one person/One very special person” in a pause and a slower pace to emphasis that Nicky, he is that one very special person for Fanny. The blocking of Fanny and Nicky’s closeness in the conversation and their distance when she sings on the steps show the dance and tension of emotions they share—verbal rapport, delight with each other through laughing and smiling, doubt as to whether each one is responding to the other. This song represents a testing of their relationship. Will they go deeper and closer in their mutual affections? Do they indeed have a mutual affection for one another? The long shot demonstrates their two separate identities while also displaying the potential for their union. Fanny is well-lighted given that she is the principal focus as the singer of the tune, but Nicky is also clearly distinguished but in a more muted tone. Fanny is the center of admiration on her pedestal, but given the city landscape, she is not presented as an unreachable individual for Nicky. It is a very romantic scene without succumbing to saccharine sentimentality.
  2. The overarching theme of Gaslight and My Fair Lady is the dominance of men over women and within this dominance a desire to create an idealized representation of the beautiful and submissive female. Both films are set in the turn-of-the-century, early 1900s to which critical responses to the literature of this period identifies as the cult of domesticity where the vision of the female as "the angel of the household" is projected. Women are manipulated and coerced into being these malleable figures that can be fashioned into the vision that men desire. The corset, a staple garment of the period, constrains the female body physically to produce that alluring hourglass figure while socially the male authority as head of the household reinforces the psychological imprisonment of the feminine spirit. Both of the films are reflections of Charlotte Perkins Gilman's "The Yellow Wallpaper" where the female protagonist, an unnamed woman (hence no real individual identity beyond being a wife), descends into madness after the birth of her baby when she is commanded to take a "rest cure" at the advice of her husband John. Although John is a doctor, he does not understand a female's biological cycles, and in particular, the period of post-partum. Instead of isolation to her bedroom, the protagonist needs the community and support of other mothers as well as the support of a loving spouse: she needs time outside of the house to recover her pre-pregnancy connections. The period of pregnancy was labeled by the term "confinement" where women sequestered away from the flow of daily life much like Rapunzel in her tower. Likewise, Gregory Anton in Gaslight and Henry Higgins in My Fair Lady do not understand women beyond these women's trusting natures when they are in love. Both men see the opportunity to transform these women into the vehicles or vessels that will give them a personal dividend--money or acclaim. In fact, the term "gaslighting" defined as "an extremely effective form of emotional abuse that causes a victim to question their own feelings, instincts, and sanity, which gives the abusive partner a lot of power" (according to the Hotline of The National Domestic Violence website), is derived from the play that the film Gaslight was based on, confirming that this practice was and still is not a rare phenomenon. Both Paula, played by Ingrid Bergman, and Eliza, played by Audrey Hepburn, question their own feeling and instincts--are they crazy to feel the way that they do? Both women are in turmoil as to how they should handle the treatment that they have received at the hands of the principal male influence in their lives. They are challenged by the early 20th-century societal values which expect women to be demure and deferential to the guidance of men. Both Paula's and Eliza's reactions to male manipulation are surprising but appropriate to the destruction of the trust that they had extended to their male partners. Cukor masterfully utilizes light and shadows to literally and symbolically show Eliza emerging from the imprisonment in the persona created by Higgins for her into the confrontation of dealing with her inner turmoil. In this Daily Dose clip, Eliza is standing in the shadows of a corner of Higgins' study like a naughty child who has misbehaved and has been punished by her "father." She walks dejectedly over to the piano and turns off a lamp, further plunging herself into darkness: she has turned off her own conscience and denied herself access to any self-enlightenment. Then she collapses into an upholstered chair. When Eliza cries, her face is brightly lit, showing her true mental state, and she releases the floodgate of pent-up emotions which allows her to confront her inner turmoil in order to deal with the frustration of her current situation. Eliza pounds the seat of the chair to show her confrontation with her feelings of betrayal and broken trust with Henry: her face is clearly illuminated to reveal her demeanor. She hears Henry mumbling about his slippers, and she lifts her head up with light fully on her face, recognizing the source of her distress. All of this time, Eliza is still dressed in her "costume" of the white, lace ballgown with the crimson, velvet coats, the sparkling diamond necklace, and the hair ornament--dressing to perfection in order to demonstrate Higgins' completion of his creation--the ultimate female representation of beauty and grace. Readers will recall that My Fair Lady is based on George Bernard Shaw's play Pygmalion which is derived from Ovid's narrative poem "Metamorphosis" and the Greek myth of the sculptor Pygmalion who created an idealized woman from a piece of ivory and subsequently fell in love with his creation. Henry, once confronted with Eliza's accusations, will address her as a "creature," a noun which traces to the root word creation. Higgins, like Pygmalion, has created his form of femininity, but he is appalled when his creation is not grateful for his efforts. As a creator, Higgins places himself in the position of being a god who desires adoration for his subject. Cukor highlights the tension of Eliza and Henry's relationship through their actions--Eliza lunging at Henry like a wild animal and Henry restraining Eliza by grabbing her wrists, Eliza's stinging accusations and Henry's rationalizations, Eliza's reversal to her native enunciations and Henry's corrections of her linguistic tendencies. It is a dance of wills, defenses, and restrained deferences. Each person expresses her and his viewpoints while both never quite get to the core of their dalliance which is they that both have an attraction to the other whether it is as a student and teacher, as a child and parent, as a woman and man, or all three in various forms and degrees. Henry cross-examines Eliza by asking her questions about her interactions with various persons including himself, then provides an explanation that she is tired from the long day, and finally prescribes a treatment--have a good cry, get a good night's sleep, and all will be well in the morning. Sensible advice, but not one which acknowledges the deeper concerns Eliza's mind. Women do not essentially want men to fix their problems; they want men to listen emphatically while women work through their own solutions. Cukor shows how well he understands the differences of perspectives of a man and woman through his direction of their close and distant postures. This scene strikes at the core of all male and female relationships--the man not comprehending why the woman is so emotional, and the woman not fathoming how a man could not relate to her distress. I think any person who has had a lover's quarrel would agree that this scene rings true to the "tango" that men and women dance when trying to understand each other.
  3. Male roles have changed from the 1930s to the 1960s. They have evolved because society: women desire more freedom, and men do not have to be the authority figures that manage their lives. Robert Preston shows in both The Music Man and Victor/Victoria that a man's position can be one of an equal balance of strength (physical or intellectual) and vulnerability. A man can show his character by being assured of himself and allowing a woman to be herself. As Harold Hill, Preston does not attempt to control or change Marian (Shirley Jones), but instead, he gives her space to discover her own feelings for him. Preston is shrewd as Hill in creating a panic in the River City Iowans, and he dances artfully around the four-part harmony city councilman and mayor when they seek his credentials, but as viewers, we see his moment of hopeful desperation when he prays that the Think System will win the day as the boys play their band instruments. In Victor/Victoria, we see the brashness of his bravado in singing about Gay Paris, but we see restraint when he corrects the pianist's musical flourish, "Not that gay!" Preston plays the range of confidence and caution in a way that shows his full humanity. His characters know full well that they are not perfect, but these characters like themselves enough to be relatable to the audience. I have seen Robert Preston in other films which are not musical such as his brief encounter with Debbie Reynolds in How the West Was Won when he fits her up and declares that she would be a wonderful wife who could give him many children. His estimation did not impress Debbie's character, but Preston could certainly express a manly admiration for the feminine physique. I also loved Preston in the HBO movie Finnegan, Begin Again (1985) with Mary Tyler Moore. HIs optimism and vulnerability as a journalist who is writing a lovelorn column are heartwarming. He tries to counsel Moore to end her affair with Sam Watterson by admitting to his egotism in his affair from years ago. Preston is a wonderful actor who can show how life can be complicated but also compassionate.
  4. The film Gypsy does look backward to classical musicals from its title and this scene of an audition in a theatre. Performers from vaudeville onward are "gypsies" by nature, transient folk who travel across the country doing their acts for various audiences within the theatre circuit. The inside look of the stage audition is classic movie musical form, showing the film viewers the pre-performance trials of getting a part in a show. This glimpse into the struggles of performers will be heightened in A Chorus Line where dancers will sing about their challenges in pursuing their big break in the theatre. We see children being paraded in front of a group of theatre backers. Given their innocence and desire to please these men, it can be a bit disturbing that children are being used for the pleasures of an adult audience and for the fulfillment of their parents' egos. Here enters the prime example of a parent seeking that satisfaction from her "babies" that she did not achieve for herself--Mama Rose. Rosalind Russell as Mama Rose enters the theatre and the beginning of her two girls' performance as if she is the director, producer, and financial backer of the show. Mama Rose is all brusqueness, bravado, and business. She gives direction: "Sing out Louise!" She commandeers the pace of the audition: "Hold it, hold it!!" She soft soaps Uncle Jocko while also challenging his identity:"Aren't you anything?" And she bolsters the orchestra conductor's talent: "Professor, I just marvel at how you can make a performer an artist." With all of these actions, Mama Rose has taken center stage where she knows she always belongs. It may seem that she is doing this Houdini act of control for the benefit of her talented daughter June, but we can sense that the big and bolder she is as the stage Mom, the more she is personally connected to the grasp of fame. The lyrics of the song "Let Me Entertain You" are subversive. Here, the audition involves children, but the entertainment is for adults, and exactly how the adults react to the children's display of their entertainment is not wholly known. Baby June's short dress is too revealing of her budding adolescent body, and even the balloon girl is suggestive of a stripper who will reveal more of her body as the balloons are popped. A scene like this one is a foreshadowing of the film Pretty Baby. Given that Mama Rose call her children "babies," demonstrating that she does not want her meal ticket to grow up and lose their cuteness, in a loose sense she is giving away their innocence to be ogled at my men. This number is not "On the Good Ship Lollypop" and little Shirley was almost a baby when she sang this song to the men in the plane. June's voice is more jarring, and her movements are stiffer as though she is doing her song and dance under protest--again, another indication that the audition and June's song is artificial and subversive of adult manipulation. This is not George M. Cohen performing with his family. This is the family head, Mama Rose, making her children support her in a fashion that feeds her ego like the chow mein she loves so much. It is not a surprise that Herbie and the other boys in Mama Rose's company while leaves when they have the opportunity to be their own free agents.
  5. "For a painter, the mecca of the world for study, for inspiration, and for living is here on this star called Paris. Just look at it--no wonder so many are have come here and called it home! Brother, if you can't paint in Paris, you better give up and marry the boss' daughter." This is Jerry Mulligan"s (Gene Kelly) vocalization at the opening of An American in Paris which explains and justifies his presence in post-WWII France. Just as actors go to New York for the theatre or Hollywood for movies, painters go to Paris to test their skill and success in their craft. The Daily Dose clip shows that smooth transition from the real film montage of architectural jewels of the Paris landscape to Vincente Minnelli's recreation of Montmartre with the central tower of the Sacre Coeur in the background. Minnelli captures the essence and the "feel" of the Parisian artist culture with Jerry's jaunty travels through the side streets. The mise-en-scene is stylized, but it is not over-the-top artificial to the point of being tres gauche and gaudy. Jerry's pause and double take at a Winston Churchill look-alike (or is it really Winston?) is a delightful nod to and confirmation of Jerry's opening lines--even Churchill needs to come to Paris to prove his artistic worth! Jerry is in good company to test his skills. It is readily apparent that Jerry is accepted into the Parisian art scene by him stopping to admire a fellow artiste's work and by the French bearded, beret-wearing painter and classically clothed gendarme as they affectionately hug him. Yes, Jerry is in his comfort zone given that he has his own spot where he regularly sets up his paintings. It is a bit of a schtick gag to have a fellow artist turn his painting around--showing the notion that modern art is still a bit misunderstood by the general public, but it adds some humor to a light-hearted scene supporting by the jolly strolling background music. I always laugh at Noell Neill's depiction of the third-year girl who stops to examine Jerry's paintings. I started my undergraduate studies at a liberal arts college, Kalamazoo College, in Kalamazoo, Michigan where students went on foreign study during their junior year of the K' Plan, or as Jerry explains: "American college kids. They come here to take their third year and lap up a little culture." Neill's nasal, Midwestern accent while speaking French and her desire to analysis the artistic elements of Jerry's painting are so spot-on with the American student desiring to extract the most out of his or her foreign study experience. Jerry is ruff and abrupt with the third-year girl because he knows that she does not have the money to buy one of his creations; he is quick and shrewd is his assessment of her status. His attitude is parallel to the American businessman's philosophy of "time means money." In this postwar period, businesses and industries are eager to get on with making a profit, and Jerry is no different than the average Joe who is concerned with the bottom line--make money and dispenses with the formal necessities of conversation. This street is Jerry's office, and it represents his work day. When the camera pans to Milo watching the interaction of Jerry and the third-year girl, the viewer catches a glimpse of a Degas painting of ballet dancers in their tutus. Perhaps, this is a hint of the dream sequence ballet that will happen at the end of the film as well as Lise's balletic introduction through the conversation Henri Baurel (George Guetary) and Adam Cook (Oscar Levant). Again, these small details help build in the viewer's mind that Paris is a place of artistic beauty and romantic endeavor--Paris as the city of love. Jerry observes that Milo is more sophisticated and therefore, wealthy by her clothes and how she carries a mink stole on her arm; I think he estimates that she has some money, but is surprised by how much money she is willing to pay for his paintings. When she says that she does not have the cash, Jerry is disillusioned by his estimation of her status, but he is reaffirmed when he sees her car with a chauffeur. Jerry has hit the jackpot! Overall, Jerry Mulligan is a likable character who has a sense of his own charm and a confidence in his economic and social pursuits. He is very American in his attitude that he is capable of getting what he wants whether it is a business transaction of his paintings or the romantic fulfillment of love. He goes at each task with a no-fuss, a what-you-see-is-what-you-get perceptive. Perhaps it is not intended, but Jerry dressing in all white is indicative of a house painter, a more vocational job but less artistic profession. His clothing ensemble may connect with the working-class audience who can see Jerry as a regular Joe. Jerry is not pretentious; he does not try to be more sophisticated to appeal to any person. He is genuine and authentic in his personality. Perhaps, this lack of a facade is what attracts children to crowd around him when he returns to his apartment from painting, that and a supply of bubble gum! He is playful and childlike is his musical instruction. Jerry is a gentleman in stepping aside when Lise decides to go to America with Henri, but he is openly overjoyed when she returns. He does wear his emotional heart on his sleeve; no French aloofness has invaded his persona. The audience cheers for the American hero who wins the French girl by being himself. One of my favorite parts of this film is at the beginning when Jerry is waking up in his tiny Paris apartment and getting his breakfast ready. This simple scene is a dance of intricate movements with Kelly's feet, but it tells the viewer so much about his life through movement and background music. College students, as well as struggling artists, can relate to living in small spaces with limited resources.
  6. First, let me say that when I see this dancing scene, like mijiyoon38, I want to see the entire movie again. "Moses Supposes" is such darn good fun to watch as Cosmos (O'Connor) and Don (Kelly) act like college freshmen who try to get the professor off topic with their antics at mimicking the straight man/professor and making goofy faces. "Let's see if we can break his concentration and make this boring lesson fun!" O'Connor has such a rubbery face which he can transform at will, and he goads the professor on to recite more linguistically complex phrases by applauding and encouraging "Wonderful! Do another!" Kelly as his close childhood buddy follows Cosmos' lead by rolling his R's with gusto. I agree with MotherofZeus that the act of diminishing the intelligent character is demeaning and cringing to watch. I am a college instructor, and I have to "perform" for my students in class for 80 minutes each session and thirty times in a 15 week semester. While I do not break into a song and dance (although I wish that I could), I know that luring my students' attention away from their digital devices can seem as daunting as delivering a soft-shoe routine. Maybe Dr. Ament, Dr. Gehring, and Dr. Edwards can attest to this dilemma with shared empathy. Bobby Watson as the Straight man/dilettante professor plays his role to perfection. He is insulted by the mocking faces of Cosmos, and shoves the book of linguistic limericks into Don's hands--"Here, you try to teach elocution to yourself!" He remains confounded by the coup that the students carry out through their song and dance. He does become a "dummy" of sorts who is stunned and stiffened by the display of effervescent energy. Poor professor! If he only knew the time step or shuffle, step, ball change, he may be able to keep up with and join into the pitter, pattering party. Instead, all he can do is be amazed or dazed by his loss of control in the situation. Overall, this song and dance sequence is a sheer delight. I agree with MotherofZeus that O'Connor can steal the limelight from Kelly with his comic expressions. Both are supremely divine in their dancing virtuosity and their use of props such as the striped curtains becoming their Old Testament gowns. As pseudo-college students, they dance on the desk and the chairs--wouldn't all students like to do this! [I wonder if Robin Williams as John Keating in Dead Poet's Society used this scene as his idea of having his students challenge the stuffy atmosphere of the prep school by standing on their desks.] As each dancer does his short bit of hoofing, the other one points out his technique to the professor: "looky, what he can do!" Now the student is teaching the teacher, and as Mr. Turkentine in Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory says "for a student to teach his teacher is presumptuous and rude," but all kids know that Mr. Turkentine is a dodo who can't figure out his teaching schedule for the quiz he will give! O'Connor and Kelly do all of their moves with such ease, and they look at each other admiringly as if to say "Hey, we are pretty great at this!" Their steps seem so effortless that I think "certainly, I can do that," but that is the magic of their talent: it looks easy but it takes so much coordination and practice. The only other dance sequences that come close but do not top "Moses Supposes" is "Fit as a Fiddle (And Ready for Love)" and "Good Morning" where they are joined by Debbie Reynolds. The dancing styles of O'Connor and Kelly are distinct. Kelly is more athletic is his delivery, and hence, he is the Alpha male, while O'Connor is somewhat balletic, and thus, he is the Beta male, but together, they both run the dancing alphabet gamut from A to Z in their musical lesson of tapping with great vigor and conviction, imitating trains, performing Russian kicks, and doing barrel rolls that their talent in this clip shows their collective bravado. I always want to stand up and cheer when they sing that last A! "Bravo! Do another!" On another note, I watched again the clip of Danny Kaye singing "Ugly Duckling" from the lecture notes, and I always smile when Kaye gets to the point in the song/tale where he exclaims, "I'm a swan. Whee!" Danny Kaye is a delightful storyteller, and the viewer can immediately sense that he genuinely loves children. This song is an encouragement to any child or teen who feels he or she does not fit in with his or her peers. It takes a kind heart to know exactly how to raises a young person's spirits. The other endearing song with a child is "Five Pennies" from the movie The Five Pennies where Kaye as Red Nichols sings to his daughter. Kaye is a master at vocal sounds and tricky, fast-paced rhythms and lyrics as well as engaging a crowd of people whether young or old such as "The Gypsy Drinking Song" from The Inspector General or The Professor of Music from The Secret Life of Walter Mitty. He is a Beta male, but one that any woman would want to mother and provide tender loving care. Kaye is such a treasure, and he was so generous to share his talent and humanity as a UNICEF's first ambassador.
  7. Miss Doris Day as an actress has not been given her due respect although very few, if any, denies her singing talent. I think that Ms. Day loved this role because the viewer can tell that she is having so much darn fun playing this rip-roarin', gun-totin' Western gal! YEH-HAH! One can tell she has a great athletic ability and to sing while doing acrobatic moves takes great concentration. I estimate that Doris did for the musicals what Katherine Hepburn did for dramatic roles--made it sexy and confident for a woman to wear slacks and still be attractive. Day portrays Calamity Jane as a tomboy, but one can still detect that she has soft, feminine feelings underneath that dusty exterior. I love this film, and I enjoy the songs such as "Deadwood Stage," and "The Windy City," but I have never been a fan of "Secret Love," just as much as I do not find "Que Sera, Sera" from Alfred Hitchcock's The Man Who Knew Too Much as the best of Ms. Day's singing virtuosity although both songs are the ones that she is most well-known for. I think that for this film a more romantic song is "The Black Hills of Dakota." The character of Calamity is mostly in the middle spectrum of feminine representations--she is definitely a woman, but she adapts to masculine traits to be accepted by her male peers until she discovers her own strength in her version of femininity. Ms. Day has spectacular talent and such great verve as a woman who does not let a man get the upper hand too much, such as in her first film Romance on the High Seas where she sings "Put Em in a Box." Through this song, her character Georgia Garrett "sings" off and dismisses Jack Carson as Peter Virgil by lyrically saying that he can just go jump in the ocean because she won't put up with his rejection. Even before the song, Georgia calls him "Choo!" to show her disgust of his abrupt way of responding to her. Doris also plays a gal with a mind of her own in her second film, My Dream is Yours when she risks her job at a music service to show her talent, and wow, can she sing complicated words with fast rhythms in the song "Cuttin' Capers." She carries this spunky energy into her dialogue. In this role as Martha Gibbons, she tries to be true to her own personality, but she does conform to the image that her agent, Doug Blake (Jack Carson) forces upon her, only for Doug to later discover that Martha is great the way she is! Martha tries to pursue Gary Mitchell, the heartthrob/drunken performer not realizing her real love for affable Doug until the end of the film. In this sense, Martha and Calamity are much the same--misguided in the affections, but smart enough to find it out before they make a big mistake. My favorite feminine role of Doris Day is her portrayal as Laurie Tuttle in Young at Heart opposite her surprising love interest Barney Sloane played by Frank Sinatra. Once again, Laurie thinks she loves Alex Burke, the obviously attractive and charismatic musician, but once Barney professes his love, Laurie quickly finds her true passion. Ms. Day as Laurie is the dutiful daughter to her father, Gregory Tuttle, a college music professor. She rehearses with her two sisters for the pleasure of their father, and she adores her Aunt Jessie. She is a female on a mission to humanize Barney and make him part of the family like a 1950s woman would rescue a lost soul and bring him into the joys of domestic, suburban life. Still, it is Laurie's devotion to loving Barney that jeopardizes her relationships with her family, but she remains steadfast in her marriage to Barney. It is a wonderful display of singing talent and dramatic intensity that both Sinatra and Day brings to the finished masterpiece of "You, My Love." I love the family-centered story of this film as well as the acting of every single actress and actor from Ethel Barrymore to Dorothy Malone to Gig Young to Elizabeth Fraser to Alan Hale (before++ his role as Skipper on TV's Gilligan's Island). Of course, for me personally, it is a story about three sisters, and since I am one of three sisters, it is a fantasy version of my life--wishing I had the talent of Day and wanting the cozy, big front porch home filled with music. I have attached video clips of Doris singing in these other films for any person to enjoy.
  8. The featured scene and the song "That's Entertainment" show a backstage view of performers collaborating and musically brainstorming for the sake of a successful production. This idea of unity is confirmed and supported by the lyrics: "The world is a stage; the stage is a world of entertainment." The concept of life being material for theatre and theatre being the platform for life is an old notion from Shakespeare's Winter's Tale where the characters discuss how art imitates nature and nature is reflected in art--the two parts blend together without a clear distinction of where one ends and the other begins. This overarching idea of blending and cohesiveness is mirrored in the movements of the four actors. One performer begins a line of a lyrical story and another picks up the next part which is followed by the third person with a third piece and concluded by the fourth person: The clerk who is thrown out of work By the boss who is thrown for a loss By the skirt who is doing him dirt The world is a stage; the stage is a world of entertainment! The lyrics even give credit to Shakespeare: Some great Shakespearean scene Where a ghost and a prince meet, and everyone ends in mincemeat. The theme of unity is additionally projected through the performers' clothes. All four are dressed in neutral or dark tones: Buchanan and Astaire in navy blue, Fabray and Levant in grey with Levant also in black pants. This choice of color palette lends a feeling of equality. All of their clothing is fairly standard for everyday wear. Buchanan does seem a bit more theatrical with a cravat and silk smoking jacket, and Astaire does look a bit more elegant in his suit, but no person stands out as the main focus. Fabray does wear a splash of color with the red flower in her belt, but it adds to her femininity, not as a sign of her greater importance. Along with their appearance, the four performers actions are choreographed to blend and balance each other. They step in sync with the same arm and leg movement such like a chorus line or a marching band. Sometimes they work in pairs or threes, but never is one person doing any movement in solo. Many of the movement scenes are pure vaudeville shtick--Astaire and Buchanan knocking each other's bowler hats off, Levant carrying the long ladder on both ends, Fabray giving a hip bump which throws the bowler hats off Astaire and Buchanan's heads. These strings of mini-skits are an homage to the beginning of American entertainment to which the lyrics support: The guy who was waving the flag That began with the mystical hand Hip hooray! The American way. The ensemble professes that American entertainment is at its roots a cooperative effort--we are all in it together. When Buchanan's egotistical effort at the first musical of Faustus fails, it is the encouragement of Fabray and Levant along with the chorus of young dancers who move Astaire to give it one more try. Buchanan even concedes his role as the director to join in the collaborative effort. They will all work together as equals to make the musical better. This portrayal of grassroots effort for the success of a show is also displayed in the movie Summer Stock. The idea of unity and the ensemble effort is shown again in the Triplets song with Astaire, Fabray, and Buchanan all clothed in the same white dress and bonnet. It is the sense of the homogeneousness of family life that is reflected in the growing neighborhoods of ranch-style houses in the suburbs. The audience is reminded through this song of "That's Entertainment" that cooperation and collaboration is a hallmark of American life. The US and its citizens had just recently won WWII through shared efforts of soldiers and citizens, and now that lesson of unity can be applied to all parts of everyday life. The song and the performers exude a energy, vitality, and optimism that is characteristic of the 1950s. The song is reprised at the conclusion of the film with Cyd Charisse joining in the rendition. It reminds the audience one last time that "Life is good, and the United States is a great nation to be living and working." The only visual we do not see is the American flag waving, but the swelling crescendo of the music emotionally makes us mentally envision the glorious Stars and Stripes.
  9. The film Cabin in the Sky is a wonderful representation of the theme of second chances. Joe has an opportunity to see through a dream sequence what life would be like if he continued his gambling habit and how he would lose Petunia if he does not reform his addictive habits. It's a version of the Rip Van Winkle folktale with the addition of the angel and devil characters; it is the age-old struggle of good and evil personified by the General (Angel) and Lucifer, Jr. With redemption, Joe can begin a new lease on life with a "saved" soul. In this clip for the Daily Dose of Delight, Ethel Waters as Petunia lyrically professes her devotion to her husband, Joe, as played by Eddie "Rochester" Anderson. The viewer witnesses Petunia's faith when she thanks God for Joe's recovery, and her song "Happiness Is a Thing Called Joe" exemplifies her commitment to her marriage that God has sanctified. We can confirm Petunia's faith through the lyrics: "Sometimes the cabin gloomy and the table bare/Soon he kiss me and it's Christmas everywhere." It is a Christian holiday that is linked to Petunia's joy in being with her husband. She tenderly sings her love lullaby to Joe as he drifts off to sleep much like a mother would comfort a child who has had a bad dream. Often, in this WWII period, husbands would call their wives "Mother" since the wife continues to provide the care and duties that a mother had performed for a boy. The song transitions to the clothesline outside where Petunia as wife/mother is completing her duties of keeping their married life "clean" literally and figuratively. She sings about "little" Joe as though her husband is a child, and seeing Joe sitting in a wheelchair nearby the clothesline is parallel to a baby lying in a carriage/buggy while Mother tends to the washing. Instead of diapers, the viewer sees shirts. It is noteworthy that the laundry is all white, again indicating that Petunia has washed the "dirt" of Joe's gambling habits from their life. Everything is fresh and clean, and it hints at the biblical verse about Christ making a person's soul clean and as white as snow. This film is allegorical in its use of the angel and devil, and hence, it does allude to Christian symbolism and scripture. The mixture of singing while doing menial chores such as laundry and finding joy in those duties reminds me so much of Snow White cleaning the Seven Dwarfs' house. It is reminiscent of the adage from the song "Whistle While You Work." The Disney movie and song championed the hard, honest work needed during the Depression, and the allusion to Snow White may be a suggestion to all people in WWII to continue to work with a joyful heart to help win the war. Additionally, Petunia singing through her work and struggles is also reminiscent of the Negro spirituals of slaves working in the fields. Perhaps, Vincent Minnelli wishes to highlight the struggles of African Americans through Ethel Waters' rendition of the song. Petunia's gestures and voice inflections while singing are more romantic in nature, and her hugging Joe's shirt does suggest a sexual intent. Still, if "little" Joe were a child, Petunia could have used a blanket to drape across her shoulders as though she were cuddling her baby. Given that Petunia and Joe do not have any children, she could look upon Joe and his naughty ways much like a disobedient child who she needs to gently move back onto the path of right living. Also, Petunia's embrace with Joe's shirt and her use of "little" Joe could suggest her hopefulness of a baby through their renewed intimacy now that Joe is recovered physically and mentally from his gambling habit. Culturally, if Joe were a child, Petunia could be seen as a single woman trying to raise her child alone. Perhaps she is widowed or her man abandoned her, and she needs to be certain that her child will live a better and more mortally right life. As a single mother, Petunia could be a model for women who have lost their husbands or whose husbands are absent due to the war or unscrupulous lifestyles. She could be an inspriation to keep doing a thorough job as a mother and wife. The film does utilize some stereotypes of African Americans--the faithful, hard-working wife, the gambling husband, the tempting seductress--along with the highlights to jazz through the appearance of Louis Armstrong and Duke Ellington. Still, the film is groundbreaking in its effort to highlight the tremendous talents of Waters, Horne, Armstrong, and Ellington. The film brings their talents to a wider audience beyond the clubs of Harlem and hence does give the performers an opportunity to be presented to a white audience outside of New York City. They are not the secondary, background characters in a film; they are the primary personalities. Cabin in the Sky is a film which sets the opportunity for another Waters' film Pinky, a 1949 American race drama. Waters was nominated as Best Supporting Actress for her role as Dicey, the grandmother who raises Pinky. The title role of Pinky is played by a white actress, Jeanne Crain, but Waters as Dicey gives a wonderful dramatic performance teaching her granddaughter to be true and proud of her identity as well as her profession as a nurse. Dicey challenges Pinky to overcome her own prejudices while also dealing with prejudice placed upon her. Without Cabin in the Sky, audiences may have been denied the pleasure of seeing Ethel Waters sing, dance or act with great intensity and integrity in other films like The Member of the Wedding. What a loss it would have been of inspiration and sheer elation in a truly wonderful talent.
  10. Right from the first moment Dennis (Sinatra) exits the locker room, the viewer can sense by the lilting music matching his jaunty stride that the film is segueing into a musical number. Then Dennis and Shirley do a side-to-side sequence of steps to which the music emphasizes their "dance" with quick, bright strokes and advances to menacing, staccato notes as Dennis begins to run away from Shirley. The music speeds up as the pair runs up steps in the stadium and then across the bleachers. Here, the music syncs with the actions of the characters to indicate the pursuit of the woman and the flight of the man. When Shirley yells "Hey!" the music emphasizes and punctuates her exclamation. Shirley launches into her lyrical explanation of her pursuit--that fate is bringing them together. The lyrics are clever in using rhyme and words of context to the story to indicate Shirley's intentions: "It's time to make up your mind not to stall with me/Start playing ball with me." Then Dennis throws the baseball with the music looping in its accompaniment his gesture. Of course, Shirley is speaking metaphorically so she tosses the ball down in disgust. When she sings "a force would pull you back to me/ it's written in the stars," the viewer sees Dennis backing away and Shirley moving toward him as if they are two magnets being drawn together demonstrating the scientific principles that she has just sung about. Then she sings "It's fate, baby, it's fate/And it's knocking at our door" and when she hits on the ballfield railing, the notes of music beats to her knocks. All of these musical punctuations and rhymes of the song fit seamlessly with the purpose of the song--to show Shirley's attraction to Dennis. Remember in these early films, Sinatra is cast as the skinny, innocent guy who is awkward around women and easily influenced by strong personalities. He is matched with Garret who is his same height and built to show both as being equals in stature but opposite in personality. Garrett as Shirley is confirming that opposites attract. I find it delightfully intriguing that Garrett picks Sinatra up and carries him on her shoulders--a real feminist action--reversing the typical caveman, as she is the cavewoman carrying away her catch. The cave persona in male/female relationships would be repeated in On the Town in the musical number "Prehistoric Man" with Jules Munchin playing the caveman who Anne Miller adores and who drags Anne by the hair across the floor. Given that in Miller's biography that her boyfriend, Reese Milner, throws Miller down a flight of stairs where she miscarries, I would find this scene more offensive than Garrett's cavewoman carry of Sinatra. Historically, during this period of 1949, post-WWII, Garrett's action in lifting up Sinatra mimics the strength and conviction of Rosie the Riveter and reminds women in the audience that they carried the effort of the homefront production of wartime machinery. They should continue to be strong in their voicing their desires to construct lives that are satisfying to their own requirements instead of playing the coy little ladies that their men expect them to be. Even Esther Williams in this musical is the owner of the baseball team and shows the players how to bat and reverses the male/female positions in her embrace of Kelly. Garrett's gesture may not fit the turn of the century femininity of the musical's plot, but it does speak to the beginning of opportunities for women in the post-WWII era when this musical debuted.
  11. My first impression of Judy Garland was as the doe-eyed Dorothy in The Wizard of OZ. I would watch the film every year it was broadcast on TV. Days after I saw it, I would relive the songs and scenes in my head. I watched it on TCM when the channel debuted and broadcast its jewels. I even saw the film on the big screen during an anniversary celebration. My family knows I am a Wizard of OZ fan, especially when I went to McDonald's to order Happy Meals for my kids so that I could get all of the mini Madame Alexander Wizard of Oz dolls. My husband bought me a collection of porcelain Madame Alexander dolls on the occasions of birthdays, anniversaries, and Christmas. My granddaughter now looks at them in a curio cabinet, and I am waiting a few years to share a viewing of the film with her. After her role as Dorothy, I saw Judy in Meet Me in St. Louis. My sisters and I always played that we had long hair like we were Esther and Rose by wearing towels on our heads so that we would have long hair. I remember watching this movie at my grandparents' house, and I have wonderful memories of my family watching another loving, close family. Growing up in the midwest, I remember making snowmen with my sisters, and the scene where Tootie is laughing at how one of the snowgirls looks like Lucille Ballard, Lon's girlfriend, sounds so much like of our childhood teasing. This film is one of my favorite Christmas films although the story spans the entire year of a family's life. When my family took a vacation to St. Louis, I wanted to see some of the buildings from the 1903 St. Louis Exposition, but there is only a grassy park there now. The closest I can get to this time period's architecture is the Palace of Fine Arts in San Francisco where my son and I went just last week. Judy Garland films are intricately interwoven into my life's memories. I have seen many other Garland films like The Harvey Girls, In the Good Ole Summertime, and Summer Stock, and I love them all for different reasons. As for telling a story with song lyrics, I love "Mack, the Black" in The Pirate with Gene Kelly. When Serafin hypnotizes Manuela, and she dances and sings, her auburn hair falls loosely during her song, and the viewer can see her passion for the legend of Mack and her heart longing for a true love even if it is not suitable for her social status. In addition, Esther Blodgett/Vicky Lester singing "The Man That Got Away," "Born in a Trunk," and "Lose That Long Face," highlight Judy's wide range in storytelling through song. Still, I love the film The Clock (1945) with Robert Walker which is one film that Judy does not sing a song. She is so tender, endearing, and heartwarming. Judy does reveal her talent in developing a character that is believable and relatable without song or dance. She would give more dramatic portrayals in Judgment at Nuremberg and A Child is Waiting. I have loved watching Judy Garland from The Wizard of Oz to Andy Hardy pictures to MGM musicals to A Star is Born. I often wanted to have a talent like hers, but I know that she generously used her life's energy without regard to her own self. A quote from Lao Tzu describes Judy Garland: “The flame that burns Twice as bright burns half as long.”
  12. The film Yankee Doodle Dandy is patriotic right from its title; viewers get a sense that it will be a reflection of American patriotism. George M. Cohan was known for its flag-waving lyrics and rhythms. The opening scene at the White House sets the context of duty, honor, and loyalty to country. For Cohan, it is an honor to meet FDR; it is an honor for the African American valet to meet Cohan; it is an honor for FDR to meet his "double," Cohan, who does as much in the theatre to promote American values as FDR does through his form of "theatre," his radio fireside chats. Overall, a sense of mutual respect and commitment to the country is imbued into the opening scene. This meeting at the White House provides a framework for the unfolding of Cohan's life story. The viewer sees a patriotic parade coming down the main street of town, and then the viewer hears about Mrs. Cohan's "smaller production," George's birth happening on the same day. The viewer will later witness how George's birth on July 4th is the basis for him being a Yankee Doodle Dandy. In short, Chan's life is immersed from the beginning in the nationalistic fervor of the United States. We witness the confirmation of American values through the dialogue between Cohan and FDR when the president enthusiastically commends immigrant families on their patriotism: "You Irish-Americans carry your love of country like a flag, right out in the open!" to which Cohan responds " I was a real cocky kid back in those days, a real cocky kid, a real Yankee Doodle Dandy. Always carrying a flag in a parade or following one." The viewer can see that Cohan is wearing an American flag pin on his coat lapel. In FDR's office, one can see paintings of battleships, and even the clock on his desk look like a ship's wheel. FDR served as Assistant Secretary of the Navy 1913-1920, during WWI, and his uncle and former president Theodore Roosevelt was also Assistant Secretary of the Navy from 1897-1898. Hence, FDR's family has a deep and long history of service to the United States, and therefore, a high level of nationalism. The mise-en-scene reflects Roosevelt's personal and family dedication to American values. If the film started with the July 4th parade instead of the visit to the White House, then the viewer may not readily understand the importance of Cohan's contribution to American nationalism. Beginning at the current time for the audience in the midst of WWII established the tone and purpose of the film from the first moment. The remainder of the film demonstrates, builds, and defends Cohan's legacy as a true patriot and as a first-generation American of Irish parents grateful to be in America. This appeal to the immigrant roots of our country would connect various film viewers can make them feel more invested in the current efforts of winning the battles of WWII. The opening scene shows the sense that all Americans, whether natural born or naturalized, are vital to the triumph of winning WWII; all persons (young/old, male/female, famous/ordinary) are needed for the success of the shared democratic values.
  13. Ginger Rogers often noted that she did everything Fred Astaire did but backward and in heels. Although in this scene, Rogers is not wearing heels or dancing backward much, the idea that she can match and challenge Fred in any step is the essence of this battle of the sexes. At this time when some women were seeking divorces from unsatisfying marriages, this dance sequence shows that Rogers will not settle to less than an equal to her partner Astaire. Their dancing is a tete-a-tete--sometimes Astaire leads and other times Rogers leads; no person has more authority than the other. They do briefly embrace, but the majority of the dance sequence is side by side. Each one is free to express her or his style of expression as they sync to the rhythm of the steps. The handshake at the end is an acknowledgment that they both have won in collaborating in these moments of fun. This same exchange of steps is repeated in The Barkleys of Broadway where Rogers once again is wearing pants and taking on the challenge of a competition with Astaire. This musical is different from others of the Depression Era in that Rogers does not give into the male charm. She is her own person who demands that Astaire must accept if the romance is to happen. The film presents women of the 1930s an opportunity to define their own character as an individual instead of a reflection of the men they are with.
  14. The Lubitsch touch is in the details of the garter, the woman's purse, the gun that is used along with the drawer full of other guns, and the close-ups of Alfred, the woman, and her husband. Yet, it is the short strokes of sound from the violin as the husband picks up the gun and approaches Alfred that brings a tension that is negated when Alfred is shot, but then he raises his shoulders and tilts his head from side to side and smiles that really show Lubitsch's use of irony. Then the camera pans to the wife lifted up on her elbows with her head tilted in boredom. The comedy of the situation extends to when the husband cannot do his manly job of zipping up his wife's dress that Alfred has to step in to finish the task. It is so suggestive of the reason why the woman took up with Alfred--he has the potential to fulfill her needs--dressing as well as the hint of undressing. The set shows a sense of Alfred's life is one of leisure--time to spare on rendezvous with lovely damsels. Maurice Chevalier's portrayal of playboy Alfred Renard looks like an early and younger version of his role in Gigi as Honore Lachaille, the older playboy who can still catch the eyes of young femmes. That smile of Chevalier says, "Ah, well, on to another romance!"
  15. I remember watching Rose Marie with my older sister. I loved Jeanette MacDonald wide, expressive eyes, Nelson Eddy's deep voice, and the banter of their looks and conversation. Their characters do show restraint in their attraction to each other, and that restraint holds the audience in anticipation as to whether they will end up together romantically. The operatic delivery of song may seem respectable, but one must remember that operas like Carmen are very passionate' the voice can express a great yearning for love. Nelson and MacDonald's rapport is charming and their facial expressions show more than the words they speak. I have seen Jeanette MacDonald in Three Darling Daughters with Jose Iturbi, Jane Powell, and Elinor Donohue. It was a charming romance and great singing by MacDonald and Powell. Of course, I loved the movie because I am one of three daughters in my family. As for Nelson Eddy, I have seen him on TV, but I do not recall what show. Male/female relationships are juxtaposed in extremes--the virtuous woman and the loose saloon girl--with the heroic Canadian Mountie watching as other men are busy talking or drinking or dancing with barmaids. The comparison and contrast are oblivious like an allegory of the goodness of nature versus the corruption of the city. Eddy is certainly more connected to nature as so he sees MacDonald as a frightened rabbit who is in danger of being hurt by the big bad she bear that is Gild Gray.

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