Gerry F

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  1. I found it odd that she was not more broken up when Joe was found not breathing in the scene before this. I chalked it up to her unwavering belief in God and that Joe would be saved in the end. I think that is an important lead into this scene as it references the strength of her faith….be it in God or in Joe. The direction of the scene emphasizes her commitment and devotion to Joe. It is this scene where she becomes the most remarkable character in the film. Upon finding Joe alive, she immediately thanks God. Again, her devotion is clear. She is singing about the fact that for her, Joe is happiness. Beyond all his shortcomings, she is able to see the good within him. It’s worth mentioning, it was a great reveal at the end of the scene when she pulls the sheet away and we see the two gamblers who’ve come to collect. I don’t think there would be any difference in the song if she were singing about her child. Joe for all intents and purposes, is a child. He acts like a child throughout the film exhibiting very little self-control. Perhaps it is his childlike innocence that she loves. The hope for the future that every parent sees in their child. The only difference would be for the viewer. We know she is singing about a husband and we are aware that the love of a mate is different than that for one’s child. I think the extent to which she has faith in Joe and her devotion to him despite his less than admirable tendencies, is a bit unnerving for the viewer. Most of us hope that we would succumb to our better angels in a situation like this, but I doubt many would. Minnelli said that he wanted to portray the characters with “affection, rather than condescension”. I guess time will tell if that was the case, but for me, I saw affection. Probably in large part due to Ethel Waters and her desire to emphasize the role of Petunia. She does in fact carry this movie that she feared was just about men. It is sad that this film will justifiably be held up as reinforcing black stereotypes, because the message contained is not one of race. The message is one of the struggles between good and evil, the love of god and family, and human frailty; all of which are human issues, not race based issues.
  2. Having not seen the entire movie, it is difficult to say if the “brightening” of the times carries on throughout, but this clip is certainly a bright time for Anna Held. She’s courted by two men, given a tremendous opportunity, and performs in lavish theaters for audiences dressed in their finest. If I were in the depression era audience, I would definitely see this as happier times In Real Life (IRL) she did become a millionaire so maybe a contemporary audience would know that going into the theater and this would just be background info on Ziegfeld's love life. And adjusting for inflation, that 5-pound note would get about $450 US today. How aspirational (if not outlandish) that must have been for someone in the mid 30’s. I was also struck by the use of the doorman to give the pivotal piece of information to Ziegfeld. A sort of finger in the eye of the bigwigs, letting them know that you don’t do this alone. The working man is important to you in these times of hardship. But fears allayed, the bigwig compensates the working man, and all is right with the world. Also, interesting that Anna uses the mirror trick to stir up the audience. I’ve seen something similar portrayed that was used in a dark theater to catch couples making out in the back. My understanding is that IRL her performances leaned a bit more toward burlesque with naughty songs and showing more skin. Perhaps with code constraints impinging on a more realistic depiction of her performances and the type of audience that might have been there, the mirror trick lost some meaning.
  3. There are so many musicals that could be the answer to this question. I think we become infatuated with movies and especially musicals as they each mark a time and place in our lives. The musical has that much more stickiness to it than the non-musical, with the combination of visuals, music, and dancing in some cases. My father, who hated musicals, took the family to see Paint Your Wagon when I was seven years old. He loved the gold rush era and was a fan of Lee Marvin, so I think he thought he could stomach it. Anyway, that movie became important to me because it tied me to my father with music and dancing and beautiful mountain scenery. A fun musical, but not great by any means. And yet, if it comes on, I’ll watch it again because it was an important link to my youth. That said, I’m doing the same thing with my family today and high on our list of favorites are Singin In the Rain and An American In Paris. Both are the equivalent of “comfort food” for the family and we include them in our diet regularly. They give you a warm feeling inside, their easy to digest, and give you the lift to go on with your day. I would also have a difficult time turning off Fiddler on the Roof and Godspell.

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