Tortuga53

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  1. As you look back to the masculine performances in musicals of past decades, what changes in male representation, and performance would you say are most noticeable? Older films feature situations “Where men are men, and the women love them” It’s a bit of an exaggeration, but a good guy was a good guy and villains were easily recognizable. The situations set the conflict - obstacles to overcome, goals to meet. Later, the lines between good and bad blur - heroes are flawed and often have to overcome their own demons or ghosts. Performances required more depth. What other specific qualities do you notice about Robert Preston in either or both of these clips? Every syllable is enunciated perfectly. Writers must have loved him - every word is fully spoken. To match the perfect diction, his face was extremely expressive and sensitive. It gave him great emotional range. Have you seen any Robert Preston films that are not musicals? If so, what do you notice about his characters and his approach to acting, now that you are more aware of his dedication to working his craft outside of his stage or film work? I was hard pressed to think of a non-musical Preston flick, so I went out on the web to research his career and look at some clips. Much of his work was in television. In the musicals, Preston is bigger than life. He constantly moves through the musical numbers and plays to a big audience. In dramatic sequences (Sundowners and some of the TV films) He is much more intimate - he is in the scene and appropriate. In fact, looking at those clips on their own, it’s hard to imagine him strutting all over River City. Yet you pay attention to him. There is always a lot going on in that face. Versatility…
  2. In what ways does this scene look backwards to classical musicals and how does it look ahead to new disruptions that we now know will happen in the movie musical? It’s the old backstage story -at first. Immediately however, the road to success is paved not only with indifference, but with politics and corruption. We see the seedy side of the business right up front. Talent and luck and spunk will not be enough. It will take a force of nature to succeed - these kids are lost until Momma comes in. This is the introduction of Mama Rose in the film. Comment on Rosalind Russell’s entrance and performance especially as a traditionally trained stage and film actress. BIG entrance - all attention shifts from the stage to the cyclone walking down the aisle. The patter perfected in all of those screwball comedies of the 30’s and 40’s is brought to the front, loaded and discharged squarely at anyone that gets in her way. She mows down all comers with a tsunami of dialogue and sheer maternal energy. She uses the dog to make points and direct the performance and as a distraction to keep the men off guard. She is constantly moving, throwing her purse around, even dancing a few encouraging steps next to the girls. And the big hat pin aimed at the balloon girl is the last menacing straw. A riveting tour-de-force. We know who this woman is right from the first 5 minutes. Pay attention to the song “Let Me Entertain You” in this scene. Is there anything you notice in Sondheim’s lyrics that are sly, subversive, or edgy? You can also discuss the song’s performance and staging as disruptive (or not). The meaning of the song is in the performance and the ear of the audience. It is played by kids that grow up before your eyes. It is innocent enough at first, but it becomes silly and maybe a bit twisted by today’s standards for adolescents and finally something completely different for adults. The song is a shape shifter and it’s delivery at different periods in the movie underscores the story perfectly.
  3. Does a movie that has as stylized a scene as An American in Paris’ ending ballet need to use a less-than-realistic, stylized approach throughout the film? I always thought that the sets in the movie reflect Jerry’s impression of the city. The sets match the paintings that he produces. We are seeing Paris through his eyes. Minelli’s Paris streets are muted with wonderful pops of color that focuses our attention where it needs to be. Flowers along his block, the gaudy car, the cafe. What keeps Jerry Mulligan from being completely unlikeable in a scene in which he acts pretty darn unlikeable? He is a smart aleck, but he is also self-deprecating. He never expected success (the sale of any painting). He goes through the motions of being a serious painter. He is an “in the moment” kind of guy. No past, no future, just now. And he puts everything into now. He seems a little world weary and selfish. I didn’t like his character at the beginning of the movie - but when he gets back to his home and the people he interacts with everyday, he becomes likable. They are great and real people and they like him. They validate him as someone we should care about. Some of the previous posts reflect on Jerry’s treatment of Milo. Now there’s a character I don’t like. She collects people and uses them. She wants total control and tries to achieve it by making people feel obligated. Ugh. She needs a reformation - maybe she should spend some time with the folks in High Society to straighten her out.
  4. How do the pre-dance movements of O’Connor and Kelly compare to their actual dance movements? The scene puts 2 grown men in a classroom session and they immediately revert to class clown behavior. Eye contact between them is devilish and fun - that feeling sets the mood for the dance. Watch the Professor all the way through and consider the role of the straight man. I have never done this before - I am always in awe of the tap routine and the main characters, so here we go. The professor is the “adult” in the room and he has to contend with the rowdy “boys”. He is confused, perturbed, uncomfortable yet somewhat compliant as he is captured and pushed around. Finally, when the serious dancing starts - he can’t help to be impressed. This is new to him. He looks up and down at the dancers from toes to face and back again just trying to process what he is seeing. How do the representations of masculinity in all three men compare and contrast with each other? The ”boys” are all vitality and strength and agility. The professor as the older man is staid and bookish. The old norms of theater and acting are stepping aside for rhythm and music.
  5. As you reflect upon female representation in the 1950s, where do you think this film character falls in the continuum? Why? The character of Jane falls a little outside of the 1950’s box. She is very strong, skillful, popular and the town’s kid sister. She likes to be in the thick of the action, not viewing quietly from the sidelines. She identifies the men in town as friends. She is all tomboy in the first scene. Yet, she is very sympathetic because the men do not treat her as a 50’s woman is treated - no polite respect or deference. This must be remedied in the movie. How do you think Doris Day grows as an actress in her various roles in the 1950s, before and after this musical? In those Jack Carson films, she is often the naive ingenue trying to make in movies or radio. She relies on a male agent or friend to advise her. Or in the MacRae films she is the sweetheart next door. The roles are fairly one dimensional. I kind of think some of the late 50’s and early 60’s roles are the same, in a way. In those she knows what is going on in the world and does her best to maintain her integrity and meet challenges on her own terms while people scheme or “mess up” around her. Always upbeat. Her darkest mood seems to be disappointment. That is “classic” Doris and I love that person. However, I like 3 of her films of the mid 50’s the best - “Calamity Jane”, “Love Me or Leave Me” and “The Man Who Knew Too Much”. I suppose the public loved her as the girlfriend, wife and mother, but I think she should have done a few more challenging pieces like these. She has some depth. Does Doris Day’s bright and sunny persona add or detract from the role of Calamity Jane in your opinion? Please defend your answer. She is spot-on for me. The first time I watched this movie, I was not expecting the energy from this woman. She never stops moving - all action. A sunny disposition was probably an asset in the old west. A dark, angst ridden portrayal would do nothing for the story. Ms. Day’s personality gets you rooting for her from the get-go. This movie should be in the dictionary as the definition for spunk.
  6. 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? In the first bars of the song, Buchanan is trying to convince Fred to join the show by talking about the link between theater and life. Levant and Fabray are listening and focusing on the director to see where he is going with this and join in with their examples. The first stanza plays as a discussion and Fred finally starts contributing as he gets the point and buys in. I like how eye contact in this portion of the song stays within the group, moving from speaker to speaker and to Fred to gauge his reaction to their arguments. There is no audience at this point, just the characters. What do you notice about the costuming of the characters that indicate cohesiveness of the ensemble, as opposed to setting anyone apart? Be specific. Everyone is dressed in street clothes, with a nod to their respective characters. Jack Buchanan jacket is relaxed and casual with the contrasting shoulder and the ascot. A working theater outfit. Fred is the successful entertainer and film star, so his suit is impeccable. It is also the darkest outfit - he is just joining this group. Oscar Levant is tweedy and bookish - a writer and Fabray is light - she is the optimist in the group. Yet everyone is in either Gray or Blue to retain the cohesive nature. What do you notice about the staging and interplay between the characters that helps define the relationships between the characters in the song? Fred Astaire is seated almost captive in a chair as they plug the show. The others circle around him as they convince him to sign on. When he starts adding ideas at the end of the first stanza, he is allowed to step with the others. The number turns to the “audience” as the 4 characters perform the scenarios posed in the song and move as one group. The focus is passed to all of the characters - Humor for Levant, the lady in peril for Fabray, Fred and Jack knocking each others hat off. Finally - they join as four for the finale, arm in arm. They are of one mind.
  7. What do you notice about the way the scene is directed as Petunia goes to Joe’s bedside and as we cut to her outside hanging laundry? What does this tell us about her relationship, and the connection to the song? We move from the bed where they are hoping for a turn in Joe’s condition, to a happy domestic scene bathed in sunlight. Joe is getting better and everything is looking up. She feels passionate about him both in the throes of crisis and in the rhythm of daily life. Their life revolves around her devotion to him - she is the sun in his life. How would the song change if it was a woman singing about her child? Does the cultural meaning change? How? It works as a lullaby. I would have never thought of it that way. I could easily see a mother rocking a child, comforting him and singing this song. The type of love would be different, but no less poignant. I think this song reaches across cultural divides. Love for partner or family is universal. Other than a little of the gospel idioms in the lyrics, and maybe because of them, this song is intimate and warming. What other thoughts do you have about this film, the issues of black Americans during WWII, and this film’s importance in this era? I am curious as to how this film was received across the country. It is a movie filled with outstanding performances that were probably new and fresh to white audiences outside of major metropolitan areas. Blues and jazz were incorporated in mainstream culture. The story is universal. the emotions were relatable. Yet segregation was rampant across the US. How many white people would never consider seeing a film with a black cast? Even in the movies the "separate but equal" paradigm was considered the high standard for race relations though the differences in acceptable culture were beginning to blur.
  8. Thinking like a director and editor, describe how each shot spotlights key actions. The build is outlined below. The body of the song is a setting for a constant contest of Garrett trapping Sinatra as he tries to wiggle away. His dash to the top of the bleachers signals he has had enough and he is finally allowed to get a note in to defend himself with his back to her as she still maneuvers around him. It is a very intricate game of back and forth that is very playful, not aggressive. Garrett has the upper hand and is always the pursuer with Sinatra exhibiting only annoyance. Moving the action from the hallway to the outdoor setting gives it an innocent playground feel. It’s interesting to examine how musicals segue into musical numbers. How does this sequence prepare us for the singing? It starts in a hallway, where Garrett waits for Sinatra to appear - she blocks his path out of the building in perfect time to the music - sparring and dancing at the same time. As the music builds, a chase ensues and off they go to the larger “stage” of the bleachers. Garrett stops the chase to deliver song’s introduction and gets his attention by alluding to a game of catch, which Sinatra sees quickly is not what she had in mind. She moves in, corners him and starts the number, actually touching him for the first time at the start of the song proper. Each component of the song is perfectly matched to the screen action.
  9. What was the first Judy Garland film you recall watching? What was your first impression of her? I was a kid - The Wizard of Oz. She was spunky and brave and stood up to witches. I wanted to go on her journey with her. She was totally sympathetic. I was drawn into the story and it was very real to me. I understood all of her emotions. I cried and laughed with her. When she ran away from home I felt her conflicted feelings. I don’t think that Shirley Temple would have had that effect - too pretentious. Judy was the person that took that movie from cute to real. How do you view her differently after viewing these clips than you might have viewed her previously? She is in adult/romantic situations. Her ability to convey real emotions has matured. She understands the importance of the facial expression. And those eyes - you always watch them. She reacts to the lyrics, the room , the dialogue, her partner in a way that is very relatable. There is a lot of communication there. What films in her later career come to mind as examples of her increasing ability to capture an audience’s imagination as a storyteller when she sings a lyric? Meet Me In St Louis (In the middle here between these pics) - Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas - that’s a no brainer. We all choke up on that number. Get Happy - Summer Stock. This song is joyous. Here is a woman dealing with all of her demons, and yet she transports us with this pseudo-gospel number. The Man That Got Away - A Star Is Born - powerful. Great dynamic trip.
  10. 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. A walk up the stairs passing Presidential portraits into an office that celebrates the history of the US Navy with all of the ship models and maritime artifacts on the mantles and tables and walls emphasizes American History and American Military history. We build on a long tradition. 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. FDR - haven’t outgrown the habit of Flag-waving. Irish-Americans carry love of country out in the open and encourage others to do the same. The butler Shares that the song “It’s A Grand Old Flag” Is as good a song as ever. Patriotism carries across race and ethnicity and history… 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. The conversation in the office focuses the picture on the American promise. FDR remembers the Cohan’s family act as he discusses a George’s successful career. Work hard and we can win in America. He also identifies with Cohen - we understand each other - We share common experiences, humor and values as Americans. We display and salute the flag and we encourage other to do the same. The theme is set for the picture and you are directed from the beginning to focus on the patriotism. The parade would be a nice start, but you might draw other conclusions about the emphasis of the movie - just another vaudeville to Broadway story. The movie has to start celebrating on the Fourth of July birthday (If it wasn’t a parade it would have fireworks) - Mr. Cohen’s claim to fame (Wikipedia says July 3).
  11. Some thoughts. Just watched this musical for the umpteenth time and with a nod to Charles Dickens, it was the best of musicals and the worst of musicals. Best - incredible musical numbers and stars with the music of Rodgers and Hart. Worst - why bother with any story? It was a maudlin narrative that was so far from the truth. I love that Perry Como (my personal favorite ever) was a character in the film named Eddie Anders and at the end he is introduced at the memorial service by Gene Kelly as Perry Como. So much for continuity. (My Pittsburgh heart swells with pride at that scene, though) Perry Como's stint in Hollywood was short lived and almost sent him back to the barbershop. He looks very uncomfortable in his few outings in this and other films. His best clip in any film is "Mountain Greenery" and for me it is a major highlight in the movie.
  12. What other aspects of battle of the sexes do you see indicated in this clip or in the film Top Hat? Often when they dance in other numbers they watch their steps, or where they will be leaping to but in this clip, at the beginning, Ginger really stares at this face trying to size him up. She is not going to let him get away with anything. There is a in-hold spin move towards the end where Fred lifts Ginger in the spin - then she does the same to him. I have always loved this move since first seeing the film. It’s playful and powerful at the same time. It kind of says it all to me. Equals in every way. How does this film distinguish itself from other Depression era musicals we have watched or discussed this week? In many of the other films, men are very much in power as producers or directors, impresarios. The women need the man to approve to be happy or to have their career advanced. Here the woman holds the cards and makes her own decisions. The man has to prove himself first. What possible reasons might there be for the changes in roles between men and women depicted in these screwball comedy musicals that distinguish themselves from earlier musicals in the 1930s? Women are often working and competing for the first time in a man’s world in bigger numbers than ever before, often out of necessity. Or they might be equally rich or influential. Or the woman may be the one with the upper hand - in short, the traditional roles are shifting.
  13. Eleanor Powell was first and foremost a dancer. She was highly skilled, light-footed, accurate. She was athletic with those kicks and splits. She covered the floor in an effortless, fluid manner. Those taps never stop. And they are much more than taps. They are the percussion section for the number - she is just that rhythmic and musical. Watching her dance is hypnotic. She is power. Ruby is a personality. Shes sings a little, dances a little and is as cute as a button. 42nd Street required a wide-eyed ingenue and she fit the bill. I always thought that everyone else on the floor danced better that her and I bet a lot of the chorus felt that too. I could name all of her steps, they were executed so slowly and deliberately. Shuffle-ball-change anyone? She was slower than the music. Eleanor Powell danced on a set with a bright shiny floor in an approachable setting. The audience was right there. That MGM bright shiny floor... The setting for the 42nd Street number foreshadows the look of film noir. One scene is supposed to be impromptu, the other is a lavish stage production. It's not really an equal comparison. Didn't you love the police horse performing dressage moves? Everyone was dancing on that street. MGM - light, bright and engaging - using the camera to enhance movement. Warner Brothers - big on production and staging for effect.
  14. What do you notice about the Lubitsch touch? How do the props, the dialogue, and the staging help you understand the character of Alfred (Maurice Chevalier)? The pearl handled pistol and then the segue to drawer full of them - this guy has been around. The husband cannot fix the zipper on the dress so she goes to the Count to get the job done - obviously he is the more competent male and surely in more ways than one. He is impeccably dressed - he even had sharp creases in the coat sleeve. Window fabrics are lush - we are in a world of opulence. Based on this scene, what are some of the things you notice about the scene’s use of sound? Describe a specific sound or line of dialogue you hear and what you think it adds to the scene’s effectiveness. The scene begins offstage behind a closed door with a muffled argument in French. Who doesn’t want to know what is going on behind that door? Maurice steps into the room and with that one comment (in English) the situation is apparent. The English emphasizes his aside to the audience and separates him emotionally from the disturbance. This is all in a day’s work for an international playboy. I love that the whole melodrama played out in French. It camps it up. What themes or approaches might you anticipate from this clip in other Depression-era musicals? In this scene we see the silly lifestyle of a rich, important man. This fellow requires reforming and fast or someday the gun will be loaded. He needs to become emotionally engaged.
  15. What do you notice about the interaction between the characters in these two scenes? Please give specific examples. In both scenes they are very kind to each other. The ribbing in the first clip is all in fun, both enjoying the banter. He expresses interest, but not in an uncomfortable and cloying way. Her face is so very expressive - a great close-up face. Her reactions are very understated, devoid of staginess. A little eye roll, a smile at the corner of her mouth. These are natural reactions and we are drawn into the relationship. If you have seen either or both of these actors in other films or television shows, please share your perceptions about them. I vaguely remember a clip from This Is Your life - Jeanette McDonald many years ago. (It’s on Tube from 1952) There are Murrow interviews, too. They seemed to genuinely like each other. Nelson sang at Jeanette’s wedding. When Nelson came on for This Is Your Life, Jeanette held his hand for a long time. They were both naturally charming. Nelson never seemed all that comfortable in the leading man role, but I get the feeling that Jeanette was the right co-worker to bring out his best. They seemed to have a great rapport and the same sense of play and humor. They respected and cherished their relationship. What do these clips tell you about the male/female relationships as they are depicted in the films during this era? What norms might you expect are supported under the Hollywood Film Code There was no touching at all. The flirting was all verbal and in fun. No innuendoes here. There is resistance and restraint, yet you feel the attraction. Under the code love is at all times respectful and non-carnal.

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