ESei

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  1. I went to see LLL with high hopes. I love musicals and I have cried my way through the The Umbrellas of Cherbourg many times. By the end of LLL I was crying once again, but I have reservations. The leads are good actors and charming people but they just can't dance up to the level of the drama. This is just the opposite of Fred and Ginger musicals where the plot is thin but the dance is powerful. As I watched LLL, I kept thinking of all the wonderful dancers out there, beautifully trained and never getting a chance to enchant us. I hope that the true musical and dance artists get their chance in years to come.
  2. Thanks to Dr. Ament and Dr. Edwards. I love musicals and it was great to share this conversation with so many people who love them,too. Dr. Ament's combination of artistic and academic experience provided really interesting insights, and, as someone who has worked with online course components, I truly admire the course design that Dr. Edwards has created. The guest lecturers both brought fresh angles of vision. So, thanks to the faculty, Ball State, and TCM. And a special shout out to everyone who posted--it is great to know that all across the map, there are people who care about movies and express themselves so well!
  3. No horror for me. We have enough in real life. Sci-Fi-fi might be interesting and so would westerns.
  4. The song "People" starts out with a puzzling generality: "people who need people are the luckiest people in the world." Isn't needing people kind of a mainstream way of feeling rather than lucky? As the song switches from generalities, we see that its real subject is people who are afraid to show their feelings. Finally the song conjures up a hopeful vision of lovers who find the person who makes them whole. These lyrics and their music in no way suggests a number that should be belted or boffo. We are not in "Hello, Dolly" territory here. (Dolly, of course, has her own wistful song about the parade passing by.) Instead we go deeper and deeper into the emotional world of Fanny/Barbra. The scene comes after Fanny and Nick have left the party and are alone together. Nick stays on the fringes, intently looking at Fanny, but she is not looking at him. As she climbs the stairs, we get a closeup that shows her deeply within herself. If these people are ever going to be real lovers, they have a great distance to bridge. Or maybe the issue is that Streisand is more in love with the idea of love than she is with the real person Nick.Though this scene is in a film, the lighting and blocking seems more to suggest a stage star under a spotlight than a woman finally alone with the man she is falling in love with. But it's a beautiful song and Streisand's voice is wonderful and she spins out golden threads of sound. I am finally not sure whether the structure of this scene is intended as a comment on the relationship between the two characters or the glorification of a performer who is becoming an icon before our eyes.
  5. You've got it! Lerner and Loewe used the film ending as opposed to the play's. But it's complicated. Even during the original run of the play, some of the performers played with the ending to imply that Liza and Higgins might have a relationship. Shaw actually worked on the screenplay, but the more romantic ending was inserted without his knowledge.
  6. In Pygmalion, Liza does marry Freddy. I should say that Shaw wrote an epilogue to the printed text that puts Freddy in the picture rather than portraying this marriage in the play itself. Shaw had a lot of talk back from audiences about that! I love Jeremy Brett, so I sometimes feel that Liza might have been happier with someone who looks so great and who adores her. Marrying Higgins has some of the risk factor of marrying Sheldon Cooper on Big Bang.
  7. Gaslight is a melodrama that has become a metaphor for a kind of victim-blaming that sets out to make oppression reasonable and rebellion a sign of mental impairment. Shaw's Pygmalion ultimately gives My Fair Lady a deeper and more challenging tale to tell but it is harder to interpret. In Gaslight a husband plots to convince his wife that she is crazy by setting up a series of events that cause her to doubt her own perception of reality, including the existence of a flickering gaslight in their home. His motives are criminal though the jeweled object of his desire seems a little silly--what Hitchcock would call a MacGuffan. In My Fair Lady, Higgins is giving Eliza what she wants--the voice, diction, and manner that would allow her to be a lady in a florist's shop. But Eliza also comes to want recognition and respect--a desire that Higgins does not recognize because he is so emotionally stunted. Higgins does not do deliberate harm to Eliza--it's his own damaged personality combined with the English class system that hurts her. For all these differences, Cukor does make some similar moves in the big comeuppance scenes where Bergman and Hepburn fight back. Both scenes are shadowy and both women command the screen as they break out of their emotional imprisonment. Bergman plays more of a cat and mouse game with her husband, while Hepburn is more openly emotional and confrontational. Cukor starts off the confrontation in My Fair Lady by showing Eliza in deep shadow and almost expressionless as she moves about the room. She escalates to sobbing and screaming and flying at Higgins with her nails outstretched. After he enters she is often crouched and below him. He is puzzled by her emotion and nervously moves a few steps behind her. He has never been sure how she feels. Remember that before the ball, she seems calm and cool and he is the one who needs a quick drink. Lacking empathy, he has no idea that she might be nervous. Too some extent, you can blame the class system lens through which the upper class sees working class people as creatures rather than people. But Higgins is a special case even for his social class. He is somewhere on a spectrum that would get intervention if he were growing up today. Eliza is not only interested in upward mobility, she is also proud--she comes to him with the idea of paying her own way. In this scene she is fighting for her sense of self. We see how much she has subjugated her own emotions during the process of her education. Cukor was a wise and observant man--he is brilliant at creating scenes that show people breaking free not only of conventions but also of their self-imposed constraints. We have to wait a bit for Higgins to have his own moment of awareness, but it does come. I think Hepburn's acting is fine in this scene. I feel like Cukor encouraged her to really let loose and she could do it.
  8. I think the bad singing was deliberate. It is hard for trained performers to act awkward or amateurish so give these ladies a hand! I do know that Maria Karnilova who played the original Tessie Tura on Broadway also received a Tony for Fiddler on the Roof. I saw her in Jerome Robbins Ballets USA and she was great. So I suspect that the film performers were also talented women so good that they could convince some viewers that they were third-rate.
  9. In his autobiography James Garner says that he wanted his first kiss with Julie Andrews to happen before he was sure she is a woman. Garner says that Blake Edwards decided not to take this risk.
  10. In the course of the history of musicals, we see a wide variety of portrayals of masculinity. Within this context we have talked about Alpha and Beta males, but it seems to me that the very act of dancing and singing in musicals goes against the grain of a lot of mainstream thinking about acceptable masculinity. When one of my daughters was in The Nutcracker, we were so proud of her, but some of the boys in the production tried to hide the fact that they were in the show even though they loved what they were doing. Two of them were viciously beaten up in the playground of their parochial school when the word got out that they were in the show. Even in our simpatico online community, I see Astaire labeled as a beta because he was graceful and a gentleman. (And I wish everyone who sees him as one dimensional would take a look at his work in the Girl Hunt Ballet in The Band Wagon for another aspect of his persona.) So when I look at the Preston clips, it strikes me that a lot of his body language stays the same as a straight and a gay man. Toddy moves more slowly and he is in a confined space rather than moving through an outdoor town center as does Harold Hill. Yet, the use of his hands and upper body stays remarkably similar (allowing for the silk scarf as Toddy) and his voice stays deep along with his amazing articulation. His gayness or straightness is constructed as much from the reaction shots of his audience as from anything he does. He is a skilled illusionist in both films--turning the children into musicians in The Music Man and Julie Andrews into a man pretending to be a woman in Victor/Victoria. Both performances are wonderful and Victor/Victoria is one of my favorite movies. I haven't seen Preston in any non-musicals that I remember the names of, but I am pretty sure he did some very standard cowboy movies that I remember from the days when we were allowed to have cap guns and spent a lot of time shooting imaginary bad guys. I thought that today's modules were excellent!
  11. It was really interesting to read the reactions to this scene. I don't usually read other posts before doing my own, but I did today because I have a problematic relationship with Rosalind Russell. When I was younger, she scared me (not just in this film), And so many decades later, she still does. Of course, this role is kind of perfect because Mama Rose is truly scary as she fiercely promotes Baby June and later pushes Louise into life as a stripper. In this scene, after reading my fellow classmates' comments, I realize that from the very start, we see her as someone too big for her world. She looms, she stalks, she talks over the music. She wears leopard skin, faux but still predatory. She has vast energy but never really gets to use it in a worthy or satisfying way, as the final scene of the film recognizes. When she charges the stage, it is like a horror film where a creature is getting ready to devour a city. This scene is set up to recall the world of so many shows-within-shows and so many previous audition scenes. But the lighting and color emphasize the dinginess of the theatre, and it is sad to see innocent children stuck in world of pushy and vulgar adults. We see June's brave and ardent desire to deliver what is wanted and Louise's awareness that she can't do what her sister does. I want to rescue these kids, not see them triumph on opening night like Ruby Keeler or Debbie Reynolds. It's worth noting that the adult men look pretty silly, too, especially Karl Malden in his plaid suit. "Let Me Entertain You" is used brilliantly as it shape shifts throughout the musical. The emerging double entendre has been very well covered by my fellow students. I also see a kind of pathos, too. These children and later the women performers are offering themselves to the audience, even if their talents are limited. There is a kind of bravery and gallantry that I think is deliberate on Sondheim's part.
  12. High Society does not hold a candle to The Philadelphia Story. Just to clear the air, I agree with the comments that the sanctimonious blame-shifting to Tracy/Samantha for her father's affair is disgusting. Also, I think there is no chemistry at all between Samantha and Bing Crosby. None!! (And it's not the age difference and it doesn't matter how they related off screen). I watch High Society strictly to see Louis Armstrong and Grace Kelly, though she can't match Katharine Hepburn's acting. The Philadelphia Story is wonderful on account of Hepburn and the chemistry between her and BOTH Cary Grant and James Stewart. All three actors are capable of making Philip Barry's language sing. And the lighting makes Hepburn look incandescent.
  13. I turned to today's lesson after watching most of Pal Joey on TCM. I bailed because the central character is so cruel and despicable. Sinatra plays Joey in the movie, but this was Gene Kelly's Broadway debut and he was able to fit the character like a glove. I bring this up in response to the question about Jerry's personality in An American in Paris. I notice that many of my fellow students defend him. I have a mixed response. I love Gene' Kelly's movies because I love his dancing. However, I have often struggled with the egotism and aggression of many of his characters. He is handsome and high energy and not a snob--look at his wonderful I Got Rhythm in the opening of the film. However, bring an woman on the scene and things get more problematic. The scene in the cafe where he is rude and dismissive of Nina Foch and won't take no for an answer from Leslie Caron makes me want to fast forward. If I do fast forward to one of his romantic dances, I find this wonderful, lyrical, attractive guy. But the shadow is always there. As to the contrast between the final ballet and the rest of the film, I don't think there is such a gulf and the film works fine. The earlier parts of the film have elements of fantasy (like the introduction of Leslie Caron) and, after all, it's a musical. Of course, there is a mise-en-scene in the early part of the film that represents reality, but is not truly realistic. We're not talking about Rossellini's Open City, after all. We're going from one level of stylization to another. The dancing street scene, the pas de deux by the Seine, the art students' ball blend seamlessly into the dream of love and loss that is the dream ballet. It is just wonderful.
  14. COLORING OUTSIDE THE LINES (and hoping for feedback) I was excited when I saw this week's attention to male and female gender roles in 50's musicals. Especially on account of the current cultural concern with gender fluidity, I expected more discussion (and maybe it is scheduled for future discussions) of coded behavior and of questioning of stereotypical roles. I think we were getting there with the discussion of Calamity Jane, but I don't see the Road pictures as good vehicle for examining masculine roles. Moses Supposes in Singin' in the Rain clearly does allow for examinations of the buddy trope with its competitive companionship, but it skirts as many gender issues as it raises. The film that does take this critique seriously is It's Always Fair Weather, not always a successful film but a brave attempt at looking at the public and inner lives of WWII veterans that often defies alpha and beta categories. I was glad to see the stills of the famous garbage lid dance, but I think the whole film deserves extended consideration in any discussion of gender roles. Two other issues: Why is Marilyn Monroe so often teamed with men who would fit this course's category of Beta Males? She is opposite Donald O'Connor in There's No Business Like Show Business and Tommy Noonan in Gentlemen Prefer Blondes. Any ideas on the dynamic here? Finally, Elvis and the emergence of black performers like Little Richard in rock and roll films that appeal to teens: This has got to be a challenge to the whole Alpha and Beta categorization of men. Right? I look forward to the discussion.
  15. How I hate that pratfall at the end of the arrival of the stagecoach scene. It undercuts the energy, competence, and community feeling that the rest of the scene suggests. Doris Day seems believable (at least in musical comedy terms) as a strong woman who is bringing much-appreciated goods to the western town. I think the pratfall is much more a Hollywood desire to keep women in their place than any real development of Jane's character. Some scenes seem fake--like the competition song, "I Can Do Without You." Here Day seems not to be playing the competent woman of the opening scene but a caricature of a backwoods tomboy against the suave and competent Keel. I feel like I am watching a woman play a boy as in an English Christmas pantomime. Every since I was a kid in the 1950's. I liked the final scene--mostly because she is allowed to be romantic but still keep her individuality as evidenced by her suede pants. She doesn't end in ruffles as so many films of the era would have her do. I always liked her. Light comedy is hard to do well and she had the touch. It's important to recognize that she often played an attractive and successful woman with a job and her own apartment in an era when women couldn't buy homes or get credit cards on their own. I realize that it is natural to compare her with Betty Hutton, especially in view of the parallels with Annie Get Your Gun. They were so different. Hutton had such anarchic energy. No matter what conventions were imposed on her roles, she always seemed like she could bust out of them. Side Note: It was poignant to see Day with the cutout of Allyn Ann McLerie, a wonderful dancer and actress who died recently.

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