MSecaur

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  1. 1. It would have pulled the viewer out of the moment, for one thing. The pace and tone of the scene, set by the rhythm of dialogue and even how slowly Barbra Streisand and Omar Sharif are walking as they give their lines, is very mellow and contemplative. To suddenly start belting out a song in an over-the-top Broadway style would have felt very out of place and have likely ruined the mood the song is meant to evoke. I always prefer Barbra when she sings softer and more legato, so I like how she decided to reinterpret "People" to better suit a movie screen versus a Broadway stage. I also think it makes the song more powerful when she switches from singing softly to belting in the final refrain, rather than belting almost all the way through. 2. Sharif starts out as her conversational partner, but as the dialogue segues into the song and Barbra sings on her own, he becomes a listener and observer. They don't always make eye contact, but it is clear through the subtext that they are uppermost in each other's minds throughout the scene, even though Sharif doesn't say a word and the lyrics of Streisand's song don't directly address him. 3. The scene starts with Fanny (Streisand) and Nicky (Sharif) walking together. As she sings, she moves so she is on her own, with Nicky watching at a distance. This visually represents the emotional distance and uncertainty between them, and gives Fanny more freedom to express her feelings for Nicky than if she were standing right beside him.
  2. You're welcome! I grew up listening to the OLC highlights recording, so I am definitely a "Phantom" fan--it's unquestionably my favorite musical--not to mention a fervent Michael Crawford admirer. I only wish that the movie version had starred the original cast; then it could be my favorite movie musical as well!
  3. Gene Kelly had a bit of a reputation as a tough taskmaster and total perfectionist in both his dancing and his directing, but he was brilliant at recognizing talent and encouraging it if he could. In the late 60s he took a chance and hired a young and relatively unknown British actor for a starring role in a big-budget movie musical he was directing. The studio wanted to dub the singing of the young actor, but Kelly had been so moved by the actor's performance, even to the point of tears, that he insisted that the actor use his own voice. The actor was Michael Crawford, better known to musical audiences as the original Phantom of the Opera.
  4. Yes. He had been a choir boy as a child, but didn't take singing lessons until 1974, when he got his first musical theatre role in "Billy" in London. His singing teacher, Ian Adam, became Sarah Brightman's teacher in the 80s, and it was while picking her up from class that Andrew Lloyd Webber heard Crawford singing and decided to hire him as the Phantom.
  5. That's another great point. So many people in showbusiness are workaholics, perfectionists, and egotists, but that doesn't mean they can't also help out those coming up the ladder beneath them. I'm going to do a separate post in more detail, but to give a quick example, Gene Kelly, another equally-demanding Hollywood performer, was superb at recognizing talent and was willing to give them a leg-up if he could. Michael Crawford's singing was almost dubbed over in "Hello, Dolly!" but Kelly believed in Crawford's voice and overruled the top brass at Fox, and just look how Crawford's career flourished in the years afterward.
  6. I agree with your observations about Streisand 100%. "Hello, Dolly!" is quite possibly my favorite movie musical, and I acknowledge her tremendous talent as a singer and actress, but along with her perfectionism is a lot of selfishness that most of the earlier generations of successful performers didn't have, and that probably would have stopped her career cold in a different era. I just finished reading Andrew Lloyd Webber's autobiography, and he recalled how on the opening night of "Cats," Barbra, who was a guest of honor, sent the backstage staff scrambling to get a glass of milk (she wouldn't drink the champagne they had bought), and once they found it, she had a claustrophobia attack and had to leave the theatre. I love an anecdote that Michael Crawford, her "Dolly!" co-star recalled, of how she refused to be filmed on one side because she didn't like the way her profile looked. This caused problems for Michael, who was following the choreography of a dance number and needed her to be turned the other way. After listening to her argue with director Gene Kelly for a while, Michael finally told her, jokingly, that it didn't matter what side they shot as she was just as ugly on the other side, which finally got her to let Kelly have his way. I know showbusiness takes a lot of grit and determination, but like any business, it's about collaboration, and you need other people to help you get to the top. You can be a perfectionist and still be a great team player, and I just don't see that in Streisand.
  7. Since we've been discussing the dancing artistry of Gene Kelly during the 40s and 50s so heavily in the last two modules, I think it's about time to mention what a fabulously talented director he was as well. Even though Stanley Donen was frequently credited as his co-director, we all know Kelly did most of the direction himself, not to mention the choregraphy. I watched "It's Always Fair Weather" (1955) all the way through for the first time, right on the heels of "On The Town" (1949) and "Singin' In The Rain (1952), and I found it hard to ignore the unique Kelly style apparent in them all, which is quite similar in my opinion to his style of dancing. I know Kelly was known as a tough taskmaster and absolute perfectionist, but all his films have a definite rhythm, with a kind of energy and ebullience, even in the non-musical scenes, a lot like his own screen persona: smooth and elegant, but touched by his signature Irish braggadoccio and pluck. He was a real innovator, not just with choreography, but also film techniques: the "Blue Danube Trio" and "Up In Smoke" routines from "It's Alway Fair Weather" must have been amazing to see for the first time in 1955! The transitions into the musical sequences are also some of the most seamless I've seen anywhere. Such a talented man! I'd also like to bring up my favorite movie musical of all time, "Hello, Dolly!" (1969), also directed by Gene Kelly, as it doesn't seem to be in TCM's lineup this week. I know it isn't thought of as being as much of a classic as the other 60s big-budget musicals, but to me, it exemplifies the phrase 'movie musical': a witty and upbeat script, great songs, breathtaking costumes, gorgeous production design, a stellar cast, and strong direction by a master of his craft. Kelly has his stamp all over the film, even though he doesn't appear in front of the camera at all; the opening scene of 1890s New York showing nothing but the pedestrian's feet is a brilliant touch, and so fitting for a dancer-turned-director!
  8. 1. "Gaslight" (1944) and "My Fair Lady" (1964) are two of my favorite movies, and I think George Cukor did a great job directing both. While the former is a Gothic thriller and the latter an Edwardian-era musical, both take place in London around the turn-of-the-century, both deal with gender politics of the time between men and women, and the idea of personal identity. Cukor uses the production and set design for both in films in similar ways, emphasizing the dark, heavy, cluttered, and heavily-patterned style of the Edwardian era to create a sense of oppressiveness and wealth, though in "Gaslight's"' case the result is much more foreboding than in "My Fair Lady"! 2. There are a lot of emotions going on in this scene, and George Cukor does a great job of letting them flow naturally through his specific use of shots and lack of cuts. While there are a few close-ups of Eliza, the majority of the scene is covered in long tracking shots, almost like a stageplay rather than a movie, that show both characters at once and catch the breaks between lines, which also serve as the emotional transitions. The continuity seems to aid the actors in their performances; there is a cohesiveness and natural flow of the move from one emotion to another, which I don't think would have been as easy to achieve if Cukor had used a more fragmented approach with more cuts and shorter shots. 3. While it is a natural setup given the action going on in the scene, it's interesting to note the way Cukor has Henry Higgins (Rex Harrison) continually standing above Eliza (Audrey Hepburn) as she crouches on the sofa, emphasizing the superiority that Higgins is either purposely asserting over her, or that Eliza is merely imagining that she feels. It is also interesting how Eliza has her back to Higgins for most of the scene, which not only allows the audience to see her conflicting emotions, but externalizes her struggle to hide her unspoken feelings for him.
  9. 1. Regarding male representation in musicals, Robert Preston's two performances are indicative of a shift away from the perfect Alpha male hero to a more imperfect, nuanced, and perhaps a trifle more sensitive portrayal. Harold Hill is a great example of this. While he's got the swagger and assertiveness of the typical Alpha male from previous decades, he's not your typical impossibly perfect guy: His profession is concerned with fleecing an unsuspecting public. And later on, after he has fallen for Marian, we get to see his softer, more gentle side. 2. The fact that Preston was an actor before he became a singer is evident in all of his performances. He so completely inhabits every character he plays that no matter how unlikeable or unsympathetic they are, you can't help but root for them. Preston also has a ton of personal charm and charisma as well, whuch certainly doesn't hurt, either! 3. I have not seen any non-musical Robert Preston films, but I want to! I don't think he considered his musical roles to be any less worthwhile than his straight dramatic roles, so I imagine he brought to them the same depth and enthusiasm as shown in "The Music Man" (1962) or "Victor/Victoria" (1981). It always amazes me how he supposedly had never sung before acting in "The Music Man" on Broadway, as he had a really fine (if non-traditional) Baritone, as shown in "The Music Man" (1962), "Mame" 1974), and as Mack Sennett in "Mack and Mabel" on Broadway. He never forgot (as even some more famous 'singers' do) that a vocal performance is also an acting performance, and made every note ring emotionally true to his character, which only makes him more engaging as a singer and an actor.
  10. I was disappointed not to see "Hello, Dolly!"(1969) in the TCM lineup, but I guess they opted to license "My Fair Lady" (1964) from Fox instead. Even though it's not considered as much of a classic as "The Sound of Music" (1965), etc., I consider it to be a quintessential example of the movie musical, with its ebullient Jerry Herman score, athletic choreography by Michael Kidd, delightful direction by the great Gene Kelly, and fabulous cast including Barbra Streisand as Dolly and the future Phantom of the Opera Michael Crawford as Cornelius. It's impossible to be in a bad mood after watching it, and to me, that is the hallmark of a great musical.
  11. Disney takes the cake when it comes to animated musicals, and from their vast library, if I was forced to pick my top 5, would be "Snow White and the Seven Dwarves" (1937), "Pinocchio" (1940), "Sleeping Beauty" (1959), "The Jungle Book"'(1967) and "Beauty and the Beast" (1991). Yet my favorite as far as comparing live-action movie musicals to animated ones would be Don Bluth's phenomenal "Anastasia" (1997). The songs and spectacle are equal to any Broadway musical, and the animation is just gorgeous.
  12. 1. The scene's setting of a Vaudeville theatre is a throwback to a time before movie musicals or movies even existed; the backstage happenings are reminiscent of classic Pre-Code musicals like "Footlight Parade" (1933); and the fact that it is a film adaptation of a Broadway musical all gives "Gypsy" (1962) ties to the classical era of movie musicals. As to the "disruptions" of the 1960s, the subject matter and occupation of Gypsy Rose Lee as a Burlesque stripper is something that I don't think would have been as well accepted in earlier, post-Production-Code days, but was more permissible as the Code began to be eroded in light of the culture change and the desire by film producers to compete with the ever-encroaching medium of television. 2. Rosalind Russell's entrance as Mama Rose is perfectly fitting with the character's personality: Loud, brash, forceful, and in control of the room. Russell's training as a stage actress really helps her here, as all of Rose's words and movements are larger, louder, and broader than might be necessary, but work perfectly here, setting Rose up as someone who not only wants the spotlight, but is also a real force to be reckoned with. 3. Sondheim's lyrics work as double entendres. What can be innocent and fun when sung by a young Louise dancing and doing magic tricks on a Vaudeville stage becomes edgy and suggestive when sung by an older Louise/Gypsy Rose Lee during her striptease routine in a Burlesque house. While I won't say earlier musicals/movie musicals didn't try to push the envelope with edgy or risque songs ("Bewitched, Bothered, and Bewildered" from "Pal Joey" in 1940 leaps to mind), but by the 60s, such "disruption" was gradually becoming the norm, and it wasn't as big a deal as it had been in previous decades, where suggestive lyrics like Sondheim's would have been sanitized before being put on the big screen.
  13. MSecaur

    Cagney in Footlight Parade

    James Cagney is my favorite actor of any era, so I loved getting to enjoy his dancing in "Footlight Parade" and "Yankee Doodle Dandy" for class. He was so brilliant at whatever he did, be it drama or comedy, dancing or fighting, and for me, his dancing is as much of a joy to watch as Gene Kelly's or Fred Astaire's. He was so athletic and never limited himself to just one style, and always seemed to be having so much fun!
  14. 1. The visual look of "An American In Paris" has always reminded me of a Ludwig Bemelman's "Madeline" story come to life, with its bold colors and Impressionistic style, and even though the performances are fairly realistic, the overall feel of the film is to me quite stylized. I think it would be wrong for the final ballet not to match the tone of the rest of the film, as it would feel tacked-on and less of an integral part than it should. If the tone and look of the film had been more realistic, the stylized fantasy ballet would be out of place. 2. The fact that Gene Kelly is playing Jerry automatically gives him an advantage, as no matter what part he is playing, he always manages to imbue them with his signature Irish charm and magnetism so you can't help but like him. I don't see Jerry being that unlikeable in this scene; his reaction to the college girl's unwarranted criticism of his artwork is fairly natural, if a bit less tactful than the average person's. He doesn't come off as unlikeable to the other characters in the scene; and while I wouldn't disagree that throughout the rest of the film he's not the most congenial character, it fits with his role as the titular American in Paris, and in any case, it's Gene Kelly; what's not to like?

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