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Everything posted by rtoast

  1. 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? I’ve never thought this song belonged in the movie. It feels out of place (yes, I know it was in the Broadway musical). It’s a lovely song, though, and I can’t imagine it being performed any other way that how Streisand did it. 2. Note the emotional transition moments in this scene: how do the two characters relate to each other as the lyrics are sung? The song begins as an extension of their conversation. The characters are facing each other as Streisand begins to sing. I always wondered about the distance placed between them. Perhaps it was meant to demonstrate the tentativeness of their budding relationship? She walks further away from Sharif as the song progresses until he is out of the frame completely, which seems an odd choice since the song is all about people needing other people. Also interesting to me is how often she averts her eyes, or closes them completely, as she continues the song instead of looking at Sharif. As the camera pans back to him, it’s clear he’s been staring/smiling at her the entire time. Now that I think about it, this question helped me understand why the song never felt right in the context of the story. 3. How does the direction and editing of this scene support Streisand’s performance? Be specific about blocking, reaction shots, etc. This is clearly all about Streisand (and I don’t mean “as Fanny”). There isn’t much interaction between her and Sharif here, which contradicts the song lyrics as I mentioned (along with my observations about the blocking and reaction shots) in my answer above. Her performance is elegant and lovely, but the camera is mostly focused on her instead of on her and Sharif as a couple.
  2. 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). Cukor’s attention to set detail is on full display in both movies. As stated in Mr. Rydstrom’s article, the set is filled to capacity with period-appropriate items in “My Fair Lady” which is overwhelming and meant to “reflect the oppression being felt by Eliza”. He does the very same thing in “Gaslight” to reflect the oppression felt by Ingrid Bergman. An article I read about Cukor stated that he “treated the past as if were the present.” What a brilliant summation. No wonder his sets felt so alive with character. Cukor also allows the camera to settle on his actors’ faces, especially the female leads, in an almost loving manor. His female leads always look exceptionally stunning. 2. Note the emotional transition moments in this scene, how the actors portray them, and how Cukor supports them. The actors both show their skills as they navigate the scene: Rex Harrison with bemused dismissiveness and a touch of arrogance and Audrey Hepburn with emotional devastation while working to maintain her elegant poise, though she slips in and out of her character’s “old ways”. Both are complicated and nuanced performances that ring very true to the characters. Cukor doesn’t use any extreme close-ups here. Instead, he chooses to show the interaction as a whole between the two characters. Though I had noticed the shadows and lighting in the clip, this escaped me in earlier viewings. Cukor plays with light and shadows as the emotions hit peaks and valleys, which is fascinating. He uses this technique to enhance the drama, which is genius! 3. What do you notice about the relationship between Eliza and Higgins that seems enhanced by Cukor’s direction? I think Cukor captures the emotional intimacy of the characters. In addition, the arrogance and puzzlement of Professor Higgins feels real and the anguish of Eliza feels exceptionally raw. That has to be because of George Cukor.
  3. 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? There have always been beta males (Fred Astaire, Jules Munshin, Gene Nelson, Donald O’Connor) and alpha males (Gene Kelly, Howard Keel, George Chakiris) in movie musicals. In general, perhaps they were given more sympathetic roles over time? 2. What other specific qualities do you notice about Robert Preston in either or both of these clips? Robert Preston always seemed like an “in the background” performer, meaning his performances never stood out to me. This changed with “The Music Man” where he is perfectly cast. He truly inhabits the role. The same can be said about his role in “Victor/Victoria”. I don’t think I noticed his versatility before now. 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? As I mentioned in question 2, his dramatic performances in movie roles from the ‘40s and ‘50s never stood out to me. He struck me as being a solid supporting actor, but not much more. I think he came into his own with “The Music Man” and his strength as an actor became even clearer in his subsequent roles.
  4. 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? It looks backward to classical musicals by doing “a show within a show” like the backstage musicals from the 1930s. I’m not sure how it looks ahead where musicals are concerned, although it’s definitely not as colorful as musicals from the ‘40s and ‘50s. 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. With rare exception, Ms. Russell notably played very strong women with big personalities in her movies. Many of her characters were loud and opinionated, though not in an obnoxious way. Her charm always showed through. It takes a talented actress to pull off roles like this, and Ms. Russell had the acting chops to do it. Her skills are clearly on display in her entrance here. You know exactly who she is in 30 seconds flat – loud, head-strong, fast-talking but also charming and real. 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). I hear innocent lyrics sung by a little girl. I understand that Sondheim had sanitized the lyrics, but I wouldn’t have known that just from watching the clip. Baby June went on to become an actress (June Havoc). We know Gyspy Rose Lee went into burlesque. To me, June is just performing as a child performer who is trying to get a part.
  5. 1. Does a movie that has as stylized a scene as An American in Paris’ ending ballet need to use a less-than-realistic, stylized approach throughout the film? I don’t think so. I’ve always thought of the ballet sequence as a dream sequence and therefore it makes sense that’s it’s less than realistic and more stylized than the rest of the movie. 2. What keeps Jerry Mulligan from being completely unlikeable in a scene in which he acts pretty darn unlikeable? I think it’s because Gene Kelley had such a natural charm and charisma, so it’s nearly impossible for him to be unlikeable on film. Doris Day had the same effect/appeal.
  6. I'm enjoying this course, but I must say I'm confused by Dr. Ament's ongoing comments about actors/actresses whose voices were dubbed. She made comments about how Eleanor Powell must have had a terrible voice since she had to be dubbed for "Born to Dance." This is not true. Eleanor actually recorded with Tommy Dorsey and those recordings are on YouTube and her singing voice is perfectly fine. Likewise, this week she stated that Ava Gardner had to be "revoiced" for "Show Boat" which infers she could not sing. Again, not true. In many cases, directors (or perhaps studio execs) made the decision to dub actresses who had perfectly fine voices. Here is Ava Garner's original vocal for Show Boat. You be the judge.
  7. 1. As you reflect upon female representation in the 1950s, where do you think this film character falls in the continuum? Why? This character falls in the category of “historical figures who were cleaned up and romanticized for movie-going audiences” by Hollywood. Dr. Ament's descriptions of Calamity Jane seem to align with this Hollywood version. By most accounts, Calamity Jane was a hard-drinking, hard-living, rough-and-tumble, fairly masculine woman of the West. While I do like Doris Day in this movie, I don’t think she resembles the historical figure at all. Perhaps that was the point. To reach the idyllic definition of the 1950s female (and of course to win her man) she had to become feminine and demure. 2. How do you think Doris Day grows as an actress in her various roles in the 1950s, before and after this musical? Miss Day had done a couple of dramatic roles (“Young Man with a Horn” comes to mind) prior to making this movie, but most of her other movies before 1953 were what I consider “fluffy” musicals. After 1953, she did more dramatic roles like “The Man Who Knew Too Much”, “Love Me of Leave Me” and “Midnight Lace” which made me wonder if she felt she had to prove her dramatic skills. I’ve always thought she was a wonderful dramatic actress who also possessed a distinct flair for comedy. She is enormously gifted who could do it all. 3. Does Doris Day’s bright and sunny persona add or detract from the role of Calamity Jane in your opinion? Please defend your answer. See my answer to question #1. Doris Day gives it her best shot, but she comes off as a caricature of the historical figure. Her vast gifts as an actress and singer make her eminently fun to watch, but I never could buy her performance as Calamity Jane.
  8. 1. As you watch the interaction between the four characters in this scene, what do you notice about the way they include each other or relate to one another? How is it different from early musicals we have discussed? The characters play off each other as each performer adds his/her idea about how to plan a production. It’s a creative work session put to music and dance, but in a simple way as opposed to the giant production numbers of the 30s. 2. What do you notice about the costuming of the characters that indicate cohesiveness of the ensemble, as opposed to setting anyone apart? Be specific. There are no flashy costumes here. All of the characters are performing in street clothes. This is in sharp contrast to musicals in the 30s where costuming for the dance numbers are elaborate and exquisite. 3. What do you notice about the staging and interplay between the characters that helps define the relationships between the characters in the song? They are working collaboratively as opposed to individually. This is especially clear when they build the pyramid. No single performer has the spotlight. They support each other as they go through the routine and the song lyrics build on that as well (each performer adds new ideas that build on what the previous performer has added).
  9. 1. What do you notice about the way the scene is directed as Petunia goes to Joe’s bedside and as we cut to her outside hanging laundry? What does this tell us about her relationship, and the connection to the song? The shift to her doing chores tells us that Joe has survived and that even her mundane tasks seem okay as long as Joe is in her life. 2. How would the song change if it was a woman singing about her child? Does the cultural meaning change? How? Not sure I understand the question. A mother’s love for her child is just different than a woman’s love for her husband. This song is romantic in nature and wouldn’t be sung to a child. 3. What other thoughts do you have about this film, the issues of black Americans during WWII, and this film’s importance in this era? I think this shows that the war was difficult on everyone regardless of race. The issues of black Americans hadn’t changed much during this time. They fought for our country as they had done in previous wars but were still marginalized as a race.
  10. 1. Thinking like a director and editor, describe how each shot spotlights key actions. The tracking shot is interesting. Not sure how to think like a director or editor but here is my observation: The camera seems to be chasing Garret and Sinatra as she is chasing him. Every time she catches him, the camera zooms in for a close-up. 2. It’s interesting to examine how musicals segue into musical numbers. How does this sequence prepare us for the singing? It’s clear that Garrett’s character was waiting for Sinatra’s character outside the locker room and the music/corresponding “dance” indicates she’s got him cornered and is in hot pursuit. The escalation of the music indicates a song is about to be sung.
  11. 1. What was the first Judy Garland film you recall watching? What was your first impression of her? Wizard of Oz. I was just a kid and we watched it on a black and white TV every year. I remember being blown away by the shift from black and white to color when I saw it at the theater when I was 10 or 11. I was always fascinated by her voice and sincerity. When I got older and started seeing the movies she did before Wizard of Oz, I was even more impressed with her talent. I think the first thing I saw was the “Dear Mr. Gable” clip and then saw her in “Babes in Arms” and “Andy Hardy.” Over the years, I’ve watched and re-watched everything she’s done with growing admiration. I always felt she was a good actress, but I changed that to “exceptional actress” when I saw her in “A Star is Born”, “A Child is Waiting”, “Judgment at Nuremberg” and “I Could Go on Singing.” There is nothing she couldn’t do. 2. How do you view her differently after viewing these clips than you might have viewed her previously? I'm very familiar with all of her work and didn’t think I’d notice anything new. However, Dr. Ament states: “Garland is particularly impressive in this clip for her ability to fake piano mastery although she was not a player, nor did she read a note of music. Notice how she glances back and forth at the music as an accomplished player must, and how her hands match the type of accompaniment in the playback. Also notice how she actually watches the musical score, yet manages to keep her co-star Kelly in her view and focus on the growing flirtation while singing.” This is such a spot-on observation. While I caught most of that when I watched the movie, I was struck by Judy’s impeccable timing, ease with all of the actions during the scene and her sincere facial expressions when I watched the clip. She really seems to be enjoying herself here and it’s such a joy to watch. This is in sharp contrast to her frenetic performance in “The Pirate” which was filmed during a particularly difficult time in her life. 3. What films in her later career come to mind as examples of her increasing ability to capture an audience’s imagination as a storyteller when she sings a lyric? Her ability to interpret a lyric is certainly evident in “Meet Me in St. Louis”, “A Star is Born” and “I Could Go On Singing” (among others). I was going to mention the specific songs where she is especially good at it, then realized she does it in every single song. It was one of her many gifts. She put her soul into each performance. I don’t think she ever sang without a deep connection to the song. Her performances always came right out of her soul.
  12. 1. Describe how the scenes in today’s Daily Dose were designed to promote American values for audiences during World War II. Be specific. Refer to props, set design, settings, etc. in your answer. Scene begins with Cagney and the butler walking up the stairs at the White House. They walk past portraits of various presidents, the final one at the top of the stairs being of George Washington. “Seeing” and “hearing” FDR must have been inspiring to audiences given what a hero he was, especially at the height of the WW2 when this film was made. The American flag is prominently on display in the background. Flashback goes to the 4th of July with tons of flag-waving. Nothing more American than that. 2. Listen carefully to the dialogue in these scenes. In what ways does the dialogue and/or the screenplay work to boost American morale? Quote specific lines of dialogue in your response. Love of country, with a focus on immigrant patriotism and family members fighting for the country as early as the Civil War, was part of the discussion. 3. Since this is the opening of a biographical musical, how differently do you feel this film would be if it opened with the Fourth of July Parade scene in Providence, Rhode Island vs. the opening with FDR in the Oval Office? Defend your answer. FDR was such a pivotal figure in WW2. Starting in the present with him immediately invokes feelings of patriotism and what he had already done to unite the country against Germany and Japan. It sets the stage for patriotism. All of that would have been lost had this just been a movie about Cohan.
  13. 1. What other aspects of battle of the sexes do you see indicated in this clip or in the film Top Hat? I don’t see a battle of the sexes in this clip. In general, most if not all, of Fred and Ginger’s movies were about the battle of the sexes in that they featured strong females and the hapless men who fell in love with them. The same theme plays out in movies like “It Happened One Night”, “Bringing Up Baby”, “The Awful Truth”, “Front Page”, “Nothing Sacred”, “You Can’t Take It with You” among many others. 2. How does this film distinguish itself from other Depression era musicals we have watched or discussed this week? It feels more sophisticated than some of the earlier Depression-era films. The industry was making strides to more seamlessly incorporate songs to advance the plot as they quickly moved away from the backstage musical. The Astaire/Rogers movies were all very indicative of this advancement. 3. What possible reasons might there be for the changes in roles between men and women depicted in these screwball comedy musicals that distinguish themselves from earlier musicals in the 1930s? There is a huge difference between Pre-Code films and those that came after the Hays Code gained teeth. There had to be more innuendo and less overt sexuality. This forced better, more clever script writing and a more delicate balance between male and female roles.
  14. 1. What do you notice about the Lubitsch touch? Lubitsch uses several items to tell the story and to inject subtle wit. He does this most effectively with the gun. To show that it’s unloaded, a slow pantomime is acted out where Chevalier checks here and there for damage from a bullet. Then he and the husband discern together that there are no bullets in the gun. Finally, the camera pans to the “dead” wife who is clearly unharmed and very bored with the whole scenario. It’s a very clever way to quickly change what could have been a dire situation (suicide/murder) into a funny one. How do the props, the dialogue, and the staging help you understand the character of Alfred (Maurice Chevalier)? Lubitsch was a visual storyteller. The first thing I noticed is that very little English is spoken, yet the audience still knows what’s going on. Lubitsch shows that the characters are well-to-do with opulent surroundings and elegant dress; he shows that Chevalier is a seasoned playboy through his nonchalant attitude at being caught not only by his lover who found another woman’s garter but also by the husband who has caught both of them; through the zipper episode, Lubitsch shows Chevalier’s familiarity with his lover’s clothing as well as her husband’s ineptness; he shows the wife’s disdain for the whole situation through her bored look after they determine she really didn’t harm herself. With very little dialogue, much information about all of the characters is shared. 2. Based on this scene, what are some of the things you notice about the scene’s use of sound? Describe a specific sound or line of dialogue you hear and what you think it adds to the scene’s effectiveness. I’m actually struck by the lack of sound after the husband shoots Chevalier. It heightens the tension and ultimate comedic finish with Chevalier first checking for wounds, then checking for bullets and finally looking over to his lover to see that she is not only alive but supremely bored with the whole thing. Sound would have diluted the impact of this scene. 3. What themes or approaches might you anticipate from this clip in other Depression-era musicals? Opulent surroundings are a common theme in Depression-era musicals and this one is no different. In addition, the setting is exotic (France) which adds another element of escapism.
  15. 1. What do you notice about the interaction between the characters in these two scenes? Please give specific examples. In the first scene, there is a very comfortable, almost playful banter between Eddy and MacDonald. They were romantically involved at one time and their chemistry is palpable here. In the second scene, they are definitely attracted to each other but they seem to want to resist getting involved. It’s a subtle dance. 2. If you have seen either or both of these actors in other films or television shows, please share your perceptions about them. They always seemed to bring at least part of their relationship to the screen whether or not they meant to do it. Their scenes are always relaxed and intimate, regardless of the scenario. It never feels like they are acting. 3. What do these clips tell you about the male/female relationships as they are depicted in the films during this era? What norms might you expect are supported under the Hollywood Film Code? Their relationships are depicted in a chaste way in all of their films. With the Production Code in full swing, one would think folks never had sex! The courtships are pure and non-physical beyond some kissing and hand-holding. It’s a very idealized and romantic view of relationships. In these musicals, real-world worries are rarely shown. Boy meets girl. Girl resists. Boy wins her over. They live happily ever after.
  16. 1. Do you agree that the clip exhibits a brighter perspective of life than might be realistic? Why or why not? Everything feels very lighthearted. Also, everyone seems to have a lot of money. Even the doorman seems well-off. Costuming is opulent. Ziegfeld clearly is well-to-do if he can tip $5 and give a performer a vase of orchids. This may have correctly reflected wealth during the Edwardian era when Ziegfeld met Held but it certainly did not reflect the dire circumstances of the Great Depression when the movie was made. 2. What themes or approaches might you anticipate from this clip in other Depression era musicals? I would say “escapism” for Depression-weary audiences. 3. Since this is a musical that was made after the motion picture code was enforced, how might you imagine it might have been filmed or scripted differently if it had been pre-code? Give specific examples. Pre-code films were more likely to show women backstage in various stages of undress and would have likely shown the leading lady changing in her dressing room after her performance. This film showed no other performers backstage and the only thing Louise Rainer took off was her hat.
  17. My question is this: Why do you think Alfred Hitchcock decided to add his own cameo to his movies and describe how they evolved over the decades. Thanks! Rose Anne Ost
  18. 1. How does the opening of Frenzy differ from the opening of The Lodger? Feel free to rewatch the clip from The Lodger (Daily Dose #2) for comparison. There are so many differences. There is an immediate sense of danger and urgency (frenzy, even) in the opening of “The Lodger”, beginning with the scream, the flashing neon sign, the horror on the crowd faces, news spreading like wildfire. The opening scene takes place at night, so there is an underworld feel about it. By contrast, the opening of “Frenzy” is almost serene. The orchestral soundtrack is soaring and majestic. It’s a daytime shot, the sky is blue and the view from above of London is lovely. There is a nice pan down the River Thames, then the scene of a political rally by the river and then a not-too-shocked yell of “look, there’s a woman in the river.” No screams, no shock, no news spreading like wildfire. A very interesting start for a movie called “Frenzy.” Quite the juxtaposition. 2. What are some of the common Hitchcock touches that you see in this opening scene? Be specific. The long tracking shot from a distance into the opening setting. Also, the public setting and the viewer being placed in the center of the action. 3. Using Frenzy as an example, what thoughts do you have about the various purposes Hitchcock had in mind when he created his opening scenes? In the Daily Doses, we have focused on opening scenes, so there should be patterns or strategies you have noticed over the course of opening scenes spanning Hitchcock's 50 year career. As a general statement, Hitchcock’s consistent goal is clearly to set the tone of the movie in in the opening minutes with the use of title sequences (as in “Vertigo”, “Psycho”, “North by Northwest”), the choice of music, tracking and POV shots, strong visuals (“The Lodger”, “The Pleasure Garden”), focus on particular items and putting the viewer in the middle of the action. The audience is shown right away that something is amiss (Marnie’s character change, dead body in “The Lodger” and in “Frenzy”, crazy birds…). In “Frenzy” specifically, Hitchcock again uses a long tracking shot to pull the audience into the scene. He uses the juxtaposition of a jarring title graphic with happy, almost regal orchestral music which puts the audience off-balance (the audience now knows something is amiss). Within a couple of minutes, crowd spots the body in the river, clearly a violent murder. The stage is set.
  19. 1. Based on the opening sequence alone, what do you feel you already know about Marnie as a character? She may have a split personality (two pieces of luggage: one neatly organized and one that items are literally tossed into); that she is leaving her past behind (and it was probably a past that included nefarious actions including theft as illustrated by her disguise and all of the “loot”); she has taken on different personas in the past (as evidenced by the multiple Social Security cards). In what ways does Hitchcock visually reveal her character through her interaction with objects. She changes her hair color. She goes from someone who doesn’t care about her things to someone care a lot based on her meticulous packing. She also changes into a conservative outfit with an up-do. Very straight-laced and proper. 2. How does Hitchcock use Bernard Herrmann's score in this scene? The music seems suspenseful but not overly dramatic, so it makes the viewer wonder what’s going on. Is this a drama? A suspense movie? You can’t tell. 3. Did you see any variation in what Hitchcock is doing with his cameo in this film, and what do you think that variation means? It’s the first time he breaks the 4th wall by looking directly at the camera. He seems to clearly be “winking at the audience.” His look says “you may think you know what’s going to happen, but you don’t.”
  20. 1. We know Cary Grant well and expect him to be a suave, self-assured ladies' man. He delivers effortlessly. We know less about Eva Marie Saint, which actually works in her favor. She plays a sophisticated cosmopolitan young woman, very bold for the 1950s. I think it’s easier for her to strike this perfect note because we don’t have any pre-conceived notions about her. 2. It is confirmation of Roger Thornhill’s identity, but we don’t know at this point in the film that it will be an important prop later on. Frankly, I was distracted because this is an incorrect monogram. Roger O. Thornhill’s monogram would have been RTO, not ROT. Kind of a glaring and distracting error to me. 3. Though I’ve seen this movie many times, I had to replay the clip to pay more attention to the sound. Sound details were important to Hitchcock, which is very evident here. Upon re-reviewing, it’s interesting that it may seem like there is not much sound, but there is a ton of it: the sound of the menu, crystal clinking, very soft romantic music, the tearing of the meal order from the waiter’s pad, the striking match and of course the sounds of the train. What you don’t hear is the sound of other passengers which must have been purposeful as it makes the audience feel like not another soul is around. This strikes me as an interesting POV technique. Hitchcock creatively (and subliminally) shows how the rest of the world can “disappear” when two people meet, have chemistry and are solely focused on each other. Brilliant on Hitchcock’s part!
  21. My sis and I were talking about a movie made in the early 30s that had a plot similar to Singing in the Rain (i.e. Hollywood's transition from silents to talkies). She remembered that it starred John Barrymore. I seem to recall it, but we could not find any movie that fits this description in our research. Perhaps it didn't star John Barrymore. Does anyone have any knowledge of this movie?

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