CynthiaV

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  1. CynthiaV

    1776

    As a history geek especially concerning the American Revolution and our Founding Father’s I absolutely love this musical though I do always cringe at the discrepancies. Most notably that gigantic page a day wall calendar and the big July 4 when it was July 2 that Congress decided to declare independence and it wasn’t actually till August 2 that the vast majority of members signed the Declaration. July 4 was the date the final wording was approved and officially adopted by Congress but who can complain much the musical is fantastic in so many other ways. As pointed out, I love how the musical advances from a rowdy free-for-all to the profound historic event it was. The last shot morphing into the unfinished painting by Robert Edge Pine, “Congress Voting Independence,” and the Liberty Bell ringing is very stirring to me. Fun Fact: The fountain Franklin, Adams and Richard Henry Lee cavort around in, “The Lees of Old Virginia” number is the same fountain seen in the opening credits of the 90s TV show, “Friends.”
  2. When I open the Badges page as I outlined above I do see the "buttons" to post on FB, Twitter, etc. I'd take a ss and post it here but I need an, "Idiot button" to accomplish it...sorry
  3. I don't know exact numbers but would also like to know them. Drs. Ament and Edwards did mention on the last podcast that this MOOC far exceeded all previous MOOC classes ever in number and retention. It's an historic number! Also, it was mentioned that 4,600 ppl (77% of the overall vote) did cast a vote for the winning Final Certificate design. Though that is only a part of the the students involved, 4600+ is an astounding number.
  4. I am a History fanatic and at any time can be caught reading various books on WWII, The American Revolution, Alexander Hamilton (a favorite BEFORE the musical), etc. as well as historical biographies and autobiographies. I found I had to give up reading for the month to have the time to watch many of the musicals either live or on DVR. As Leslie Howard is a particular favorite I did not give up watching his many films as he was June's Star of the Month. So I have some catching up to do with my musicals watching. Funny though, as space is limited on my DVR I find myself keeping more of the older musicals from the 20s-40s and ofc some classic 50s musicals but fewer musicals from the 60s and beyond (1776 ofc excepted). Going into the course I thought it would be the opposite. I imagine I am more a traditionalist who prefers, "feel good" entertainment than previously I thought. So I learned much regarding musicals and myself in this course.
  5. I think it's some sort of glitch. I had to keep refreshing the link. I eventually clicked on the, BADGES choice in the list where the Modules are (not the link in the text of the Module), where options such as, TCM forum, Quizzes, etc are listed. That brought me to a different page that listed the same options but looked different but eventually (it took some persistence) I was able to click on the Week 4 badge listed last after Weeks 1, 2, 3 and bring it up on its own page to post or print. But honestly, it took a lot of effort. I'm just one of those types who despise letting the computer win. It might be better to wait till they work it out. It should be reported bc I never recall any problems with badges before.Hope that helps.
  6. Yee Haw redux! I love Westerns!
  7. Thanks for this great topic. I would offer that the best thing I learned is that films including musicals despite the era of their storyline are a product of their cultural and technological times. That they address and foresee to varying degrees cultural issues and the collective zeitgeist of the people and of that moment in history in which they are presented. I do not mean the term, zeitgeist as a form of fashion or modern trend but rather as an overarching spirit or mood of the period, and thereby film as a form of intangible force that acts as a change agent to the times. So I will never forget now to watch all films with an eye to the culture and the challenges and "mood" of the country around the time of production. A huge, thank you to Dr. Ament, Dr. Edwards, Dr. Gehring, Gary Rydstrom, TCM, Ball State and all those behind the scenes who made this course possible. And to my fellow students who taught me so much about musicals and challenged me to think in new directions, thank you all.
  8. I quite agree. But if a choice is made to make a musical film from a Broadway musical hit (and thete have been many successes) then do as Dr. Ament discused in today's lecture on the brilliant musical, 1776 cast as many original stage actors as possible and stay true to the original play. And yes, Kiley and Diener were amazing. They became the characters. No longer did one see Kiley or Diener but rather Cervantes/Don Quixote and Alfonzo/Dulcinea.
  9. Though Peter O’Toole and Sophia Loren do a yeoman’s job in the 1972 film their casting being non-singers leaves me scratching my head. I understand there were various production issues not the least of them being plans to eliminate most of the stage songs and worse, to make it a non-musical. This too is perplexing as the year the film was produced (1972) coincided with Kiley’s second time playing Cervantes/Don Quixote and Diener as Alfonzo/Dulcinea as both had originated the roles on Broadway in 1965. He and Denier had a smash on their hands in 1972 just as they had in 1965. So why break what isn’t broken? As I’ve read, both Kiley and Diener were set to reprise their roles but Albert Marre (the Stage Director of both the 1965 and 1972 productions as well as the upcoming 1977 revival and btw Diener’s husband) was fired from the film so they all left the project. What a pity. So soon O’Toole was cast along with Loren. At the time the plans were to re-do the play into a dramatic non-musical so the choice to cast him makes some sense. More non-singing actors were soon cast. But then once more the director changed to Arthur Hiller and the musical was on again. O’Toole was horrified that he would soon be involved in a musical but he remained, helping choose his own voice double. I can understand Loren’s casting if one values overt sexuality over singing virtuosity as I believe she was cast after Hiller decided to film a musical. A well intentioned casting considering her popularity but imo she fails to embody the role and unfortunately, the film suffers immensely. I must admit I am prejudiced to Kiley and Denier and Emily Yancy being fortunate to have seen them perform their roles in 1972 and 1977. The sparse stage settings, the costuming and foremost the excellent acting and music and lyrics so masterfully performed by the gifted cast were an experience I have never forgotten though I was a teenager and young adult at the time. Suffice to say the curtain calls were numerous. I have seen many Broadway musicals but feel the 1972 and 1977 productions of The Man of La Mancha to have been the best Broadway musical I have ever witnessed. The original cast album from 1965 is worth tracking down A telling incident from the 1977 production...Richard Kiley had been ill and unable to open on the original date. All ticket holders were contacted via mail to inquire if they would prefer to attend on their original ticket date and see Kiley’s understudy or to wait an indefinite amount of time to attend when Kiley was well enough to star in the role. I am not privy to the numbers but I as well a suffienct number of fans chose to delay attendance until Kiley returned. He recovered from his illness and did indeed star in the 1977 reprisal much to everyone’s delight. In a way I pity O’Toole. How impossible to come after Kiley. To attempt to fill his very large boots in this role would be asking too much of an experienced singer let alone a Shakespearean actor. But as talented as O’Toole was this was Kiley’s part and no one then or since can match him. Just my thoughts...
  10. 1. How might Streisand’s performance of the song “People” have felt different in the film, had she been more theatrical and expressive, perhaps even belting her song more? The song as sung is very intimate and personal. Every note Streisand sings, every mannerism she makes brings us deeper and deeper inside her heart and mind. I cannot imagine it sung any other way. Absolutely, Streisand has the pipes to belt it out and I do recall times when she performed this beautiful song when she did. But to do so in this scene where she is opening up to Nick and to us the audience her deepest most intimate feelings and longings about life, about her relationship with him would do the character of Fanny Brice and therefore the musical an injustice. Streisand hits the perfect blending of pathos and vulnerability in this scene. Drawing us in closer and closer as the scene progresses. We and Nick can't take our eyes off of her. 2. Note the emotional transition moments in this scene: how do the two characters relate to each other as the lyrics are sung? In the beginning of the scene when they are acting out their parts hidden behind their day-to-day, “grown-up pride” they are friendly and flirty standing face to face. However, as the scene continues and she prepares to begin her song Streisand turns her back on Sharif, walking away though she turns back towards him from time to time while he pursues her. There is still connection but Streisand is beginning to pull away out of self-consciousness or apprehension or both emotions. They stop and Streisand begins singing but she finds it difficult to look at Sharif. She looks down or closes her eyes but not at him. She runs her hand on the railing as the song grows more introspective as if she is caressing him. The emotion Streisand is feeling in this moment of the scene is too intimate, too close so she slowly breaks away and begins to climb the stairs yet still facing him. He is wise enough to recognize her distress so stays at a distance while still watching her and smiling. As the song enters the lyrics regarding lovers she is restless and can no longer even face him. She pulls away further to the farthest side of the staircase, closes her eyes and sings. She is totally absorbed in her own world. Sharif is still physically present and she is aware of this but nothing now exists but the words and the feelings the words evoke in her. Eyes shut, head thrown back in reserved abandonment she is sharing with this man and the audience her deepest feelings. The ones she's always hidden behind her mask of humor and boldness. We see that it has all been a ruse. That she is vulnerable and afraid and in this moment, unguarded and unsure. 3. How does the direction and editing of this scene support Streisand’s performance? Be specific about blocking, reaction shots, etc. With the editing we get only the bare bones of the scene. There are no extraneous props or shots. The director has boiled down the scene to the sparse mise en scene of a darkened city alley, two people and a staircase. And that is how it is edited. There is nothing to distract us or to cause emotions within us other than the profound feelings being evoked by the actors’ actions and that of the song. Sharif's reactions are consistent yet he extends no encouragement to have us react in any way inauthentic to what we are personally experiencing. Streisand is the heartbeat of the scene. She holds us spellbound by her performance. The lighting, the limited setting, the camera angles especially the close-ups of her singing hold us in the palm of her hand as she takes us along with her on this very intimate journey inside her true self. Her singing is perfection. She restrains her marvelous voice yet is still able to inflect such strong emotion in her words. She shouts without shouting, punches certain words and phrases with an uncommon ability to keep her voice strong yet restrained thus evoking empathy and compassion from us. She embodies the opposite sensitivity to what her character has shown us till now. Her performance is masterful.
  11. 1. Explore any common themes and filmmaking techniques in a very different movie also directed by George Cukor, Gaslight. (If you are not familiar with Gaslight, compare and contrast Cukor's theme in this scene and his techniques with another musical you have seen during this course) The lighting in both projects expresses a feeling of loss and desperation. Ingrid Bergmann in Gaslight as does Audrey Hepburn in My Fair Lady pass through light and dark as they both gradually discard their false faces. Bergmann is exhausted by her attempts to look sane when she is being convinced she is going mad. Hepburn must bear the weight of a false persona, one of elegance and class when she is a simple flower girl selling her blooms on the street. Neither is who she appears to be and the persistence to maintain their falsehoods is inevitably impossible to sustain. So Cukor provides them with the comfort of the cool darkness, as they are both sometimes shrouded in darkness and other times in shadow. In this scene as in scenes in Gaslight both women are not seen in direct light. They both have emotional breakdowns when in shadow because perhaps Cukor knows it is easier to cast off our masks in the dark. We feel protected, cosseted from the bright light of day when we wear out masks to the fullest. The shadow hides us from the judging eyes of the world enabling us to show our real selves not feeling totally naked and vulnerable. Also, both stories are set in the Victorian era so the mis en scene is overcrowded with the trappings of an upper class existence. Lush fabrics, countless paintings, decorative lamps, ferns, furniture of every kind, etc populate the scene promoting a feeling of being trapped, surrounded on all sides, the possessions mirroring the overbearing suffocation of the men in their lives. 2. Note the emotional transition moments in this scene, how the actors portray them, and how Cukor supports them. He provides each actor plenty of space in which to move through the transitions. The comfort of shadow but also the alienation of it. 3. What do you notice about the relationship between Eliza and Higgins that seems enhanced by Cukor’s direction? Higgins continues to ignore Eliza's needs. He is as in the dark as the darkest corner of the room regarding her fears and anxieties. He is so self centered and apparently perfect (look at his beautiful home and how perfectly and neatly he is attired) that he is dumfounded by her reaction to him. He calls her an insect and a detestable cat showing her claws when her anger causes her to strike out at him. Despite the sincerity of her admissions he fails to recognize the real Eliza. She is in shadow, yet unknown, he is in the light known too well. Cukor keeps the space between them as a way of elevating the alienation that now separates the couple once the experiment is over.
  12. Totally agree speedracer5 (BTW love your name). The whole point of the performance is that these women are utterly talentless other than having nice bodies and the ability and nerve to take their clothes off in front of appreciative men. If they sang well or could really dance why would they be strippers? And even as strippers they need to stand apart from their peers hence the need for a gimmick. You can’t look at this scene as a polished song and dance number bc it isn’t intended to be. It moves along the story by introducing Gypsy to the backstage realities of stripping. I find the scene hilarious and very well done. I would bet that these women are in reality most likely decent singers and dancers bc if not they couldn’t possibly be worse singers or dancers than they appear in this scene. Most ppl can be taught to have a pleasant enough singing voice if they practice. Few ppl truly have a tin-ear. Have you ever tried to be a worse singer than you are? If you have you probably found yourself sounding much like the extremes of bad singing as these ladies. I say Brava to these performers!
  13. 1. As you look back to the masculine performances in musicals of past decades, what changes in male representation, and performance would you say are most noticeable? In the earliest musicals of the late 20s to the early 40s masculinity is defined by suave, witty sophisticates such as Fred Astaire, Maurice Chevalier and Nelson Eddy (Top Hat, The Love Parade, Rosemarie). As we moved into the war years and beyond to the 50s masculinity became more a show of power and strength. Initially, to project America as a strong nation capable through persistence and power to win the war. After the war this trend continued as a sign of the victory America had won. Male musical stars such as Gene Kelly, Howard Keel, and Frank Sinatra (On the Town, Seven Brides for Seven Brothers, High Society) along with the, “buddy” films of Hope and Crosby became the norm, the strong, more abrasive, “guy who got the girl” hero trope was born. As we moved into the 60s the trend again changes. We still have the Alpha males who are strong willed and still get the girl (think Elvis in Viva Las Vegas) but even his character is more humanized, more reflective in nature as we continue to see in the 60s portrayals of a Robert Preston in, The Music Man, of Bobby Rydell in, Bye-Bye Birdie and the transformation of a Rex Harrison in, My Fair Lady. Though men maintain their alpha masculinity they are more emotive in these latter movie musicals giving more nuanced portrayals of masculinity. Picture the utterly adorable and charismatic Beatles in, A Hard Days Night where the roles are reversed and the girls chase the boys. 2. What other specific qualities do you notice about Robert Preston in either or both of these clips? His mannerisms and facial expressions in, The Music Man very much enhance his performance. There is not a moment his hands, arms, face, his entire body are not invested in the Professor and his attempt to cajole the townspeople to close down the pool hall and enroll their children into his imaginary band. He is in constant motion, his words moving along as rapidly as his face and body. I also like how he speaks the lyrics. His singing is clean not breathy, and smooth at times, staccato at times and always authoritative but he does not go legato thus maintaining his commonality with the folk and the energy and seeming objectivity of his shtick. 3. Have you seen any Robert Preston films that are not musicals? If so, what do you notice about his characters and his approach to acting, now that you are more aware of his dedication to working his craft outside of his stage or film work? I've seen him in quite a few of his non-musical roles including, Union Pacific, How the West Was Won, Whispering Smith and The Dark at the Top of the Stairs. Robert Preston was always a fine actor giving to the part whatever it demanded of him whether in a western as the heavy or in an Inge inspired dramatic film role. As I am now aware of his work with 17 other actors and think upon his growth as an actor I can sense his more nuanced portrayals as time went by. It's a far cry playing the, honest man gone wrong role of Murray Sinclair or the flim-flam artist Prof. Harold Hill to playing Rubin Flood a lost and angry man. But in each portrayal whether comedy, musical or dramatic Preston comes across as an insightful and skilled actor willing to do what he must to be true to the role. I sense something similar to what I witness in Bette Davis. The transparency of an actor intent upon an honest portrayal of the flawed character, both the good and the not so good .
  14. 1. In what ways does this scene look backwards to classical musicals and how does it look ahead to new disruptions that we now know will happen in the movie musical? The scene though disruptive is solid to the plot as in the musical comedies of the 30s and 40s. Though appearing out of control and disjointed if you watch it closely it is tightly scripted and acted with everyone perfectly hitting their cues similar to the, “ketchup” kitchen scene in, “Meet Me in St. Louis” from 1944. Yet it as well gives us a glimpse of the coming changes in film and musicals of the 60s and beyond because unlike the kitchen scene from 1944 it is not calm and genteel presenting the family as a likable whole but rather it is loud, boisterous and purposely disruptive. It presents the family of a divorced single mother married multiple times and two daughters, one favored, one not. The underlying dynamic is not family stability and cooperation as in 1944 but rather a disintegration of family and the portrayals of much more complicated and nuanced relationships. 2. This is the introduction of Mama Rose in the film. Comment on Rosalind Russell’s entrance and performance especially as a traditionally trained stage and film actress. Russell takes over the stage as she takes over the scene. I love how she informs Herbie that she’s an, “honorable” Elk instead of an, “honorary” Elk. She speaks directly to those who can assist her, “babies” appear best, complimenting the orchestra leader and members and cajoling the electrician to hit her favored daughter with a spot. She loudly threatens to expose that the audition is fixed, bullies the “balloon” girl (whose mother is not present though I doubt it would matter). Then calmly thanks all involved for helping her daughters as they perform in the background . Her voice is booming and large enough to reach the back row even though the theater is empty of an audience other than the performers, stage manager and the orchestra. Her voice and demeanor are commanding and she barely takes a breath (similar to her character in Our Gal Friday). No shy violet here. She is portraying the quintessential overbearing, “Stage Mother” whom she most likely encountered in reality more than once and playing it for all it’s worth. She knows how to block herself perfectly in the shot and uses that poor dog as a prop extraordinaire. She nails her character in this perfect performance. 3. Pay attention to the song “Let Me Entertain You” in this scene. Is there anything you notice in Sondheim’s lyrics that are sly, subversive, or edgy? You can also discuss the song’s performance and staging as disruptive (or not). Not in the song. I guess one could say the lyrics with words such as, “entertain you” and “kicks/tricks” could be slightly suggestive but I really don’t sense it in this scene. It’s later, when Gypsy sings a slightly altered, “Let Me Entertain You” to a striptease where the song gets more than suggestive. But in this scene I just don’t feel it. The one disruption is the entrance of Mama Rose who manages to get everyone that threatens her daughters’ success in the audition off the stage.

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