Kate White

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  1. Characterizations of men in the movies are starting to bring attention to the inner doubts, a more heightened awareness of emotions, the inability to use brute strength to overcome an enemy and win the girl. We see characters who win the girl through intelligence and sensitivity, but we also see how the sexual revolution has placed men in unaccustomed roles that they struggle through. I have seen The Music Man countless times, but taking a moment to focus on this scene really brought his brilliance in focus for me. It occurred to me that the opening of this song was very similar to rap, using the lyrics as spoken rather than sung. His physical movements are strong and precise, offering us a clear vision of the masculine side of the character. He uses his quick thinking to come up with his plan, but his execution of the plan is very physical: the townspeople are influenced by this more than his words. His performance in Victor/Victoria was perfect! He brought a sensitivity, a real ness to the character that is such a wonderful portrayal. His musical number at the end of the film was so hilarious! This film could so easily have glossed over and become campy fluff. Instead, we have such wonderfully relatable characters, that we can't help but love them! In reviewing the list of his films, I was surprised at the number of non-musical films he was in, and many I had seen on TCM! (Thank you, TCM!) The most memorable were How the West Was Won, SOB, The Last Starfighter, and Finnegan Begin Again.
  2. Minnelli's use of famous paintings as a jumping off point for the ballet is brilliant. Since the ballet is something going on in Jerry's imagination, I don't feel that it's out of place, particularly since a similar look was used for the introduction of Leslie Caron's character. I also believe it would not have had the same impact if they had filmed it in a realistic way. Jerry is an intelligent character and has spent considerable effort to learn to be an artist, and has spent enough time in Paris to be able to spot the wealthy pseudo-intellectual students. He was rude to the girl, but I don't think he was unlikeable. I would be offended if she had walked up to MY paintings and started critiquing them too. My acting teacher and dear friend, Gary Austin (founder of the Groundlings), who passed away last year, told a story in class about Nina. While she was teaching acting, she wanted to learn more about improvisation. She attended his class for MONTHS, watching other students, asking questions, worked hard, learning all she could. One day, as a scene was happening, Gary gave a simple direction. She stopped, looked at Gary, and said, "that's it??? That's improv?" He looked at her and said triumphantly, "yes!" She said, "well, that's easy!" And that was the last improv class she took.
  3. O'Connor, ever the clown-sidekick, mocks the professor from the very beginning of the scene. Kelly half-heartedly participates, the pressures of fame and fortune weighing heavily on him. The song starts as Kelly finally gives in to the playful O'Connor. The professor represents the studios, the establishment, the trap of Kelly's life. The rebellion of O'Connor and Kelly's characters are indicative of a larger shift in the entertainment industry. No longer are we seeing actors whose lives are being micromanaged by the studios, and very soon a new hero emerges: one that breaks the rules, questions authority, and is fiercely independent. The younger two poke fun at the older, stuffy professor, preferring to demonstrate their athletic abilities than sit trapped in a studio, practicing aging pronunciations. They want to live! They cannot contain their exuberance and participate in such a boring activity! They are young, energetic, and can't wait to express themselves. If I didn't know the film so well, had I only watched this scene, I would say the two, O'Connor and Kelly, were very evenly matched in this scene. Their lines and footwork were so precise in the dance sequence that it would be difficult to tell who would be the romantic lead here.
  4. This film character is very much a product of the 50s in that her greatest wish is to win Hickok's love. The concept of marrying and settling down is very much at play here. It is she who must change herself in order to get him. Doris Day's performance in this film is very staccato and hard, bordering on pantomime. As her career progressed, however, she found a balance between her athletic physical abilities and performing in front of a camera. The characters she portrayed had similar traits: strong women who struggled with society's expectations (Pillow Talk, Don't Eat the Daisies, Touch of Mink, With Six You Get Eggroll, to name a few). Her characters changed as she aged to include situations that were appropriate for her age range (including characters with children, for example). She had a balance of sex appeal mixed with the girl next door that appealed to a broad range of audience members. It is interesting to hear that Calamity Jane was one of her favorite roles because, while it is clear she's enjoying the role, it is not one of my favorites of hers. It feels almost like she is trying too hard to play against her type. That is not to say I don't enjoy her performance, but I feel that she didn't truly find her stride until the comedies she did later with leading men like Rock Hudson, James Garner, Cary Grant and Rod Taylor. In those roles you feel like those characters were written for her and her characters experience situations that she might have been in off-camera.
  5. 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 four have very close relationships with one another. You feel like they are at a level of intimacy that one gets after spending a lot of time with someone and going through a stressful event. Their level of familiarity allows for a lot of ribbing and joking around. The relationships feel more realistic. In earlier musicals someone was either the lead or the side-kick, but here some of the elements of an ensemble are at play: their roles in this scene are to support one of the others as they have their moment then they take a moment of spotlight themselves as the rest support them. What do you notice about the costuming of the characters that indicate cohesiveness of the ensemble, as opposed to setting anyone apart? Be specific. One of the ways see characters feel cohesive, or part of a unit, is that they are dressed in shades of blue. They are dressed individually to reflect their different personalities, but everyone is in shades of blue. The challenge, of course, is what to do with the woman. They solve that problem by putting her in a very full-skirted, primarily white dress, that has blue squares on them, so it is coordinating, but brings attention to her at the same time. The set is red, which then contrasts with the blue, which makes them stand out even further. What do you notice about the staging and interplay between the characters that helps define the relationships between the characters in the song? This number is incredibly fluid. It moves from one area to another quickly. They all share the spotlight and all share supporting the others. They each have different abilities and roles, and this song highlights them. The set has many different levels and areas of interest and they are not performing in front of a stationary camera: the camera goes with them, even helping them with the gags!
  6. The scene begins inside the house, where there are strong shadows and low lighting - except her face. She starts to sing, and the strong lighting gives her an angelic, innocent quality. Her love is pure and deep. She cannot contain the smile on her face as she gazes on Little Joe. What I think makes this such a wonderful moment is even with his past, she loves him in spite of it. She has a transcendent hopefulness that hints at our country's desire for the future. She is the personification of the concept of having patience through the toughest trials and being given your fondest wish when you make it to the other side. Black Americans during WWII were still treated as second class citizens but were optimistic that they would see equality. As the song continues in the yard, the lighting is much brighter and she has a dream like quality about her. Her joy at his recovery is evident. Her life is simple and her devotion to him allows her to find joy in simple tasks. Had she been singing about her child, we might have seen more direct interaction with the child in the scene. She is by nature a nurturer however, so I'm not sure much would change in the sense of her joy. The lyrics might have to be changed slightly to reflect the difference in relationship, but since she was the stable, enduring partner, much of the intent would remain intact.
  7. Since this song is primarily hers, the camera is angled to best capture her face in semi-close ups while she's singing, and wide shots during the instrumental sections of the song in order to highlight the choreography as they move up and down the bleachers. During each exchange/verse, he is tempted by her, but refuses and moves away. A professor in college once said to me, "musical numbers usually happen when the character can't hold the song back anymore. They MUST sing!" In this case, Frank's character is getting away and the only way she can stop him is by starting to sing. She tries to stop him in the hallway, physically blocking him, and when he turns and runs up into the bleacher sections, she is losing ground so the only way she can stop him is by singing. It worked!
  8. The first Judy Garland film I remember was The Wizard of Oz. I believe it was shown annually during the holidays when I was growing up, so I would always make sure to watch. I remember thinking how much I loved her singing Somewhere Over the Rainbow, and being an animal lover, how much I could relate to her heartbreak of losing Toto to Miss Elmira Gulch. Later on, Meet Me In St. Louis became another film that I would watch any time it was on. While viewing these two clips and after reading the notes, I paid close attention to her movements, especially her face and eyes. Her performance of the choreography was wonderful, and her eyes and facial expressions told us that she was absolutely experiencing honest emotions and "being in the moment". She never stepped over the line into campiness; her passion and emotions were deep and true. I think if anything else, my respect of her abilities increased when viewing her performances with a more critical eye. Her performance in A Star Is Born is riveting, but I will admit that my personal preference is, when given a choice between a dramatic or a comedic film, I will usually choose the comedy. Summer Stock is one of my favorite Garland musicals from her later musical career. I think it should be noted also, that she was absolutely brilliant in the film, A Child Is Waiting with Burt Lancaster. It's not a musical, but her performance left me in tears. (Of course, it probably helps that I'm a mom to a child with special needs and seeing how kids were treated then and watching the performance they put on at the end wrecked me!)
  9. 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. As George is walking up the stairs, we see large portraits of past Presidents on the walls. The lighting indicates it was late in the evening and it is quiet other than the conversation between George and the butler. The office is filled with nautical paintings, model ships, and even the desk clock is in the shape of a ship's wheel. We see George's reminiscence of the parade, which, from the first frame of the scene, overwhelms us with the number of flags waving while the soldiers march by. 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. There were two lines that explicitly indicated patriotism. Both were spoken by FDR: "That's the one thing I've always loved about you Irish-Americans: you carry your love for your country like a flag, right out in the open. It's a great quality." This tells us that if we are to be a patriot, we must show it! We must always indicate our love for our country, no matter where we are, where we came from. Who we are should always include "patriot". The second line of dialogue spoken by FDR regarding Cohan's patriotism was, "So you spent your life telling the other 47 states what a great country it is." This makes it sound as though the driving force for Cohan's travels around the country were to spread patriotism, as though his career which took him on the road was secondary to his love for the United States. 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. Had the film opened with the flashback of the parade, we would not have seen the older Cohan interact with the President of the United States in such a friendly, casual manner. In a way, we are told how it all works out in those first few moments: Cohan is a successful actor with a long career, performing his patriotic duty by portraying the President in a hit show. Having Cohan narrate the beginning of the flashback as he begins to tell the President his origins, shows us very economically how far he has come, from his humble beginnings in the theater to casual, late night, post-performance chats at the White House.
  10. In this clip from Top Hat, we see her begin to soften her resistance toward him. His prior attempts were met with cold refusals. An important thing to note is that she is making many of the decisions in the progression of the relationship here. There were a few interesting thoughts I had while viewing this clip, and later the film: it was fascinating to watch her legs because usually you don't see them as she's frequently wearing a gown! Wearing pants was a strong statement in and of itself, and I think it further demonstrated her independent nature. Another realization was that they don't physically touch until the storm becomes frenzied toward the end of the number. The choreography is ballroom dancing but they do it without touching, which is difficult to do because without physical contact you aren't getting cues so you must really observe closely! The fact they do it so effortlessly tells us they belong together! The hot-tempered Italian dress designer states several times the different ways he treats women versus men: he kisses women as opposed to attacking men with a sword. He is the cliche macho, chest-thumping male, loudly proclaiming his ownership of her. Madge was the understanding, down-to-earth friend who told the unvarnished truth. She says to Rogers' character, "In spite of all men being ... male ..." and that pause speaks volumes about how she sees herself and how she views her husband. The conversation the two women have about the incident in the park was fascinating because they were unknowingly discussing two different people but the dialog was so brilliant that it didn't seem to deliver any obvious clues to either character, so as an audience member, I found myself wondering how and when they would find out! Again, we see characters straining against the rules of society. Astaire' character is introduced by a wonderfully comic but with the newspaper. He's bored and unable to contain his frustration with that. Rogers' character is shown to be unafraid to speak her mind and display her more rebellious side. What made this film different from other depression era musicals discussed was that innocent accidental events coincided, making it appear to be more sinister than it was, such as when from a distance, the hotel clerk points out the man with the briefcase on the upper floor and by the time she arrives on the stairs to meet him, the briefcase has been switched and makes her believe that she has begun falling in love with a married man. Women are still being portrayed in these films as desiring no more than finding the right man to marry, but we start seeing them as stronger characters and you believe that even if they never married, they would survive and still be successful. There were so many inventive ways that were used to keep those women technically wholesome (the butler portraying a minister so that technically they aren't married meaning she is still free to marry the right man for her). It's important to remember at this time, that women were now able to vote. Divorce was not as devastating to their reputations and many had to hold down jobs in order to survive, regardless of their marital status. We see female characters less likely to sacrifice themselves or their love.
  11. Ruby Keeler's dancing felt jazzy, earthy, raw. It tended to syncopate, whereas Eleanor's style felt more polished and elegant, emphasizing the rhythm of the song. Eleanor was poised and almost ballet-like while Ruby's dancing was grounded and solid. Eleanor's upper body was held still to emphasize her intricate footwork while Ruby's movement involved larger, flowing movement that used the whole body.
  12. The "Lubitsch Touch" was clearly evident in the drawer full of pistols. We learn from those few seconds that this is a popular activity for him. He seduces married women whose husbands come to confront him and rescue their wives. Why does he seduce married women? Perhaps they are unavailable and therefore safe in order for him to avoid emotional intimacy. He might regard this as some sort of pleasurable escape. He is a charming, loveable rogue! When he pleads to remain in Paris, he gestures with his hands, one of which holds the garter. He realizes too late he is still holding it and tries to deflect attention to it, saying, "I'm sure that the stories you've heard about me are horribly exaggerated..." The scene opens with them arguing behind closed doors, but because it might happen so often, the dog sleeps peacefully on the sofa, undisturbed by the argument. Alfred is saved from having to come up with an answer to her demand of who the extra garter belongs to when her husband arrives. It's not until the husband shoots Alfred that we understand it is just a sophisticated game. Alfred, however may have finally been caught as he is instructed to leave at once to return to Sylvania. This scene is interesting, from an audio perspective, because it sounds "incomplete". Our modern sound designs include so much sound, that it was noticeable that no sounds were made when the drawer opened, which perhaps accentuated the sounds of the gun shots and the door rattles because it was so sparse. His announcement of "voila" after zipping up her dress so quickly seemed to punctuate the silence and interrupt the awkward seething of the husband. If we were to contextualize this clip, based on other films' subject matter and what was a popular focus at this time, this clip might show us the beginning of his transformation from a playboy to a devoted, loving husband who no longer feels the need to stray because he has found the perfect wife. His life is going to be perfect, but he has a few trials to experience first!
  13. We see these situations again and again: a fiercely independent woman who fights against society's expectations within a rigid setting. Once she is removed from that setting, she is challenged with learning a new set of rules that will help her survive but that give her a chance to be more true to herself. The conflict is her initial unwillingness to give up the old system to be who she should be. Often, she is engaged to be married to a boring man who will provide her with stability and security but he does not understand why she wants the excitement of the unknown or why she feels the need to rail against the conventions of polite society. These two scenes show us two people working within those rigid societal conventions but often feeling frustrated by them. Their flirtatious banter during the first clip reveals a mutual attraction and the resistance she displays serves as a catalyst for his increasing infatuation. He sees her strength as beauty where others see it as obstinance. She is attracted to his wit and finds him irresistible when he sings. Part of the "dance" they are performing with each other is made all the more attractive by her initial hesitancy to participate. In the second clip, we see her at her most desperate. She is struggling to survive in an entirely new environment, one that in many ways is so much more harsh than anything she's ever known. Outside of her comfort zone, she knows she must do what she can to survive but is completely unprepared with how to do so. Unlike the others, he sees her desperation and it deepens his feelings for her to an intensity unlike anything else he's ever felt. He yearns for her and wants to protect her. He instinctively knows he can be a bridge between worlds for her so he goes searching for her when she sneaks out after feeling humiliated. The actors in the lead roles, Eddy and MacDonald, were frequent co-stars. Their onscreen relationships seemed to follow similar formats in each of the films. Their onscreen attraction to one another hinged on their ability to perform the banter that kept the sexual tension going. Even during arguments, the audience was aware of their attraction to one another, even if the characters themselves were unable to admit it. We just "knew" they were right for one another and the enjoyment and satisfaction when they finally came together made us come back again and again. Movies that adhered to the code overwhelmingly portrayed men as the protector, the knight in shining armor. The women were depicted as being complete or whole only when the right man saved them and provided them the opportunity to be fulfilled as a housewife and mother.
  14. Watching this film, and indeed many others made during this era, the main character, when doing something that might be considered "bending the rules" he (or to a lesser extent, she) is portrayed as a "lovable rascal" or a "charmer". That may be true, but often times the portrayals are sugar-coated so the main character would NEVER be considered anything but a hero. You KNEW who the good guys were - and the bad guys, too. Audiences attended movie theatres as an event, similar to attending a stage production of a Broadway play: they dressed up, they regarded the experience as a special occasion, where their fondest dreams could be shown. The costumes and sets were lavish and gave the impression that no expense was spared. Everything glittered! When people dreamed, they wanted to see the easy, comfortable life, not the daily struggle with putting food on the table. Had this movie been made pre-code, we might have seen a more "stage-y" presentation - filmed from the front as though the camera were an audience member. We might have seen broader performances that were more appropriate for stage, and we might have seen some of the darker aspects of the story. The intent, however, would be the same: dazzle the audience! The directors and crew learned quickly how to create a breath-taking display: in this clip we saw edits/cuts to different camera points of view. For example, during her performance, we get close-ups of her face alternating with shots of the audience as she shines her mirror on them. We experience movement instead of the flat, stationary filming we might have seen pre-code. Technology had improved with cameras and sound, lighting was better, and we were shown intimate settings in addition to the grand, show-stopping finale numbers, whose scale was impossible to provide on a traditional theatre stage.
  15. Whenever there's a musical on, I watch! Some of my favorites though, are Singin' in the Rain, Kismet, White Christmas, Annie Get Your Gun, and On the Town.

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