ElaineK

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About ElaineK

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  1. During Robert Preston's long career American culture changed greatly. His roles, as with any actor who made many films over 30 or more years, will reflect these changes. Preston was often the second lead rather than the star of A productions and the star of modest budget films during the thirties and forties. In higher budget films, his roles alternated between affable and villainous. His two films for deMille, Northwest Mounted Police (1940) and Reap the Wild Wind (1942) may be typical of his early villainous characters, likable, but weak, young men who stray outside the law and come to poor ends. After the war, his characters remained likable, but darker, more villainous con men and outlaws. His character in Blood on the Moon (1948) is typical; a cheat and liar, friend of hero Robert Mitchum with whom he is has a terrific fistfight and is finally killed. After The Music Man, the older Preston is still playing the con man, but a softer character. By the 80's, the culture had changed sufficiently that the open portrayal of a gay man was acceptable. Westerners were out of fashion.
  2. This scene demonstrates the differences between a musical written for a film and a musical written for the stage. On stage, especially with Ethel Merman, the scene is meant to be loud, emphatic, and funny. On screen, the presentation is too forceful, too stagey, and not amusing. Rosalind Russell turns on her stage manner rather than her film approach, she is working much too hard to enact the ultimate "stage mother." The film audience had not gotten so dense that the actors had to overwhelm them with the obvious.
  3. Gene Kelly has a fantasy ballet sequence in other films besides American in Paris, for instance The Pirate and Singing in the Rain. Apparently, he wanted these types of dance sequence, and he got them. Why change around the entire film for a dance that is peripheral to the plot and does not affect the story?
  4. The poor old prof is fussy and prim. Too self satisfied, his priggish and strait-laced manner allows him to be easily mocked. Don and Cosmo, who speak in perfectly rounded tones, do not need voice coaching. Their manner is also self-satisfied, but casual and vigorous. The costuming accentuates the differences between the characters. The trope of the prissy intellectual, especially as represented by a professor, has a long history in the movies.
  5. Doris Day is perfect as Calamity Jane. The character spends the film attempting to determine her place in the community. Initially, she chooses the wrong man who falls in love with the more "feminine" actress. Bill helps her to find her place as they discover their love. Bill is the man for her because he can reconcile the "wildcat" aspect of her character with the "sweet" woman, and she can express herself with him. This plot, carried out against the background of gold rush Deadwood, requires an expressive actor who remains sunny and positive throughout, even as she suffers rejection and jealousy. After this film, Day made three films that demonstrate her acting ability, Love Me or Leave Me, The Man Who Knew Too Much and Julie. In Love Me or Leave Me, she has the challenge of matching the masterful acting of James Cagney as the controlling husband and manager of her character, Ruth Etting. Day holds her own and makes her character the centerpiece of the plot, as she should be. The Man Who Knew Too Much, co-starring James Stewart, was directed by Alfred Hitchcock. A blond, but not a cool blond Hitchcockian personality, Day has the acting challenge of a distraught mother whose child has been kidnapped. While Day sings in both Love Me or Leave Me and The Man Who Knew Too Much, in Julie she only sings (uncredited) over the title. In a purely dramatic role as the wife of psychotic stalker, Louis Jourdan, she effectively portrays a frightened woman who is determined to carry on with her life.
  6. re: Betty Hutton I disagree with your analysis of Betty Hutton in Annie Get Your Gun. Hutton was a newcomer in 1943, and by 1950 she had made many musical films. The discussion of Annie states that Hutton "is made to look ridiculous and cannot truly compete", but her performance in this number is typical Hutton and not a result of directorial choices. See 1940's Hutton performances on YouTube for examples. She holds her own with Keel throughout. Finally, the film clip ends in a draw; its unclear who wins. In marksmanship, Annie is the better marksman. This song number is a poor example of the "woman does not compete successfully with a man" trope.
  7. Musicals of the thirties, and to a lesser extent, the forties, usually had a lead singer and/or dancer in each number, this musical, and this song in particular, features four singers and dancers (except Levant). They are wearing the casual attire of the time, although Astaire is more formal in his suit . They look as if they came from the street and got involved in a song and dance. None of them is clothed in any special outfit. Nobody stands out and each has a portion of the song. Mutual appreciation of "show business" is the topic that is shared and agreed upon by all.
  8. Petunia is Joe's wife, she is a housewife and as Joe recovers from his illness, that brought him to the brink of death, she carries on with her work. Petunia has a strong relationship with Joe who does not speak but responds positively to Petunia's song. The third individual by Joe's bed is an angel unseen to Petunia. He looks on kindly and disappears. Obviously Petunia has a strong relationship with God who has sent her heavenly assistance. The song could as easily be addressed to a child as to a husband. Her delivery is loving but not in such a manner that would be inappropriate for a child. WWII is the event that brings racial discrimination to national attention. Black soldiers served, and, if need be, died for their country, but discriminatory practices continued after the war, as they had after the Civil War and WWI. The movies depicted African Americans as real people in Cabin in the Sky and in Stormy Weather and could not easily revert to pre-war subservient buffoon portrayals (i.e Mantan Moreland or Eddie Anderson in Topper Returns), even as the necessity of national unity and effort declined with the end of the war.
  9. The course is short and your coverage of 40's musicals is necessarily limited, however, the absence of some of the most important musical performers of the decade is inexcusable. Where is at least a mention of these important people: Betty Grable, Alice Faye, Rita Hayworth, Bing Crosby?
  10. The direction emphasizes the difference in physical size and behavior between the characters. The result is not pleasant. Garrett's posture and aggressive movements overwhelm the smaller, milder Sinatra, who cannot shake her off. Sinatra takes up the song with his answer to Garrett's demands, but the nature of their interaction does not change. There are six or seven sections to this musical number, and each follows directly on the previous with a quick cut between them. The music and the action are continuous, with the performers seen in full figure, half figure or close up. The editing maintains the continuity of their interaction until he slides, unwillingly, into her arms.
  11. I saw The Wizard of Oz as a child. I had read most of the Oz books and was excited by the film. I really liked the film, but Garland's "Dorothy" differed from "Dorothy" in the book, and I was disappointed. I have seen the film many times and have lost the disappointment. Judy Garland was (probably) even better than Ginger Rogers as a partner for Fred Astaire. Astaire did not require any assistance from Garland to hold his own on screen. The clip demonstrates the difference in their dancing styles; Astaire, even as a tramp, is the most elegant figure in the movies. I have always like The Pirate. Judy has a fun song, "Mack the Black Macoco", on which she cuts loose with her admiration of the joys of being carried away by the fearsome pirate.
  12. ElaineK

    Buddy Ebsen

    Yankee Doodle Dandy is one of those film that I like and dislike simultaneously. I like it: for the rare opportunity to see James Cagney singing and dancing his heart out for Walter Huston who was great all the time in all kinds of roles, for Cohan's fun songs. I dislike it for the sappy and just-too-cute dialogue, i.e. "My wife never missed a curtain in her life." The fawning over Cohan is excessive, and Cagney plays him as too nice all the time.
  13. Ruby Keeler seems less graceful than Eleanor Powell, Keeler is rather clunky and heavy-footed compared to Powell. Every movement of Keeler, arms, body, legs, feet is rather lumbering in comparison to Powell who is smooth and elegant. Powell is also more balletic, moving smoothly across the floor gracefully swinging her arms and legs. On the other hand, Keeler is cute and smiles in a friendly, happy manner; whereas Powell fixes a smile and does not change expression throughout her dance, she could be an elegant robot for all the personality she projects. The story and production of Top Hat are a more intimate, less stagey than the plot and production of earlier musicals. The presence of Astaire automatically produces a more elegant, breezy and fun loving atmosphere. Rogers is more assertive and self assured and she expects to be treated as an equal.
  14. That Alfred is a womanizer is clear from the moment he opens the door and declares that his current lover is jealous. Everything about the scene reinforces this conclusion. She is holding a garter, not hers, as she proves by lifting her skirts. This exchange also reinforces the deduction that Alfred and the woman have just finished making love, for which she would have removed her stockings and the garters. Her small gun is another familiar object to Alfred, the jealous (and with good reason) women frequently threaten him or themselves; he has a collection of these guns that he has confiscated. The second door important in this scene is rattled by the arriving husband, whose angry voice is heard outside. He is handled by her pretend suicide, and the couple leave with the cuckolded husband being severely chastised, as if he did something untoward. Before they leave, Alfred has to hook up her dress, again reinforcing the idea of his playboy ways. Few musicals after the code would have featured a character as libertine as Alfred. Playboys of the more chaste sort would presumably be acceptable.
  15. In these clips, Jeanette is out of her element in the wilds of rural Canada, but Eddy, playing a Mountie, is quite comfortable in this setting. Obviously, he enjoys pursuing women, but doing so with relatively innocent song and talk, and not much else. Eddy is the bolder character, he expresses his admiration for Jeanette freely and openly. She is reticent to respond to him, except to admire his voice. Their screen characters seem to reflect their actual personalities. Sex as expressed by mingling of the big voices is definitely a safe method of stimulating an audience. The ending of Rose Marie must have been impressive in the theater, an enormous close-up of a kiss. Eddy's feet are on the floor.

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