GCSummerfield

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  1. Describe how the scenes in today’s Daily Dose were designed to promote American values for audiences during World War II. The overt Americana is evident from the parade scene - everyone has a flag, there is bunting everwhere, the Civil War veterans marching past the crowd - it looks like an Independence Day Parade at Disneyworld. Roosevelt's oval office has an obvious naval theme, likely to remind us of his prior position as Assistant Secretary of the Navy, and includes things that weren't in the actual office (e.g., the ship's wheel clock). The message is "display your patriotic fervor during this time of war." In what ways does the dialogue and/or the screenplay work to boost American morale? Roosevelt extolls the virtues of Irish -Americans - "You carry your love of country like a flag - right out in the open." Roosevelt's valet also tells Cohan that Teddy Roosevelt (himself a veteran of the Spansih American War) would sing "You're a Grand Old Flag" in the bathtub. The message is that, no matter where one's family came from, or what one's station is, Americans should openly display their patriotism. 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? Since this is a biographical musical, the subject of the biography should be the centerpiece. Showing Cohan being led up to the Oval Office, and then having Roosevelt be the audience for Cohan's life story lets the viewed know that Cohan is the movie's true subject. If the movie had commenced with the parade, it likely would have been no different than a musical revue.
  2. What other aspects of battle of the sexes do you see indicated in this clip or in the film Top Hat? Sorry, I don't see the clip as involving the battle of the sexes at all. Ginger Rogers serves as a sidekick or a prop in this clip, albeit a very talented sidekick/prop. Fred Astaire controls the scene - he sings to her, he decides when they will dance, etc. She follows his lead. That may have been considered "equal" eighty years ago, but no more. How does this film distinguish itself from other Depression era musicals we have watched or discussed this week? Ginger Rogers is not portrayed in the same fashion as other female roles that we have seen (e.g., Jeanette MacDonald), which I suppose is progress. 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 were becoming more self-sufficientin the workplace during the depression. The age of petticoats is over. That said, this clip is hardly Norma Rae. But that is not really the purpose of screwball comedy. I think looking for social significance in films of this type may be like mining for fools gold - it is bright and shiny, but a deeper value is illusory.
  3. What do you notice about the Lubitsch touch? The "sly visual wit" is evident in the frustration the woman feels when her husband can't zip up her dress, and she casually goes to the man with whom she has just been caught by her husband to have her dress zipped up. How do the props, the dialogue, and the staging help you understand the character of Alfred (Maurice Chevalier)? One of the more obvious is when he tells the Sylvanian Ambassador that the rumors about him are exaggerated as he is holding a garter in his hand. 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. Chevalier only translates a handful of words from French into English. We are left to observe the actors' mannerisms to discern the rest. This makes the audience integrate sound. dialog, and imagery to follow the plot. What themes or approaches might you anticipate from this clip in other Depression-era musicals? Well-dressed, well-to-do people enjoying excesses.
  4. What do you notice about the interaction between the characters in these two scenes? What do these clips tell you about the male/female relationships as they are depicted in the films during this era? For me the answers to these two questions are intertwined - Nelson Eddy's character is depicted as a Canadian Mountie - a symbol of male strength and virtue. Even when he hints at being a lothario ("Nothing worked with Maude") it rings hollow. Jeanette MacDonald's character, when she allows her facial expressions to give her away, evinces a desire to be cared for, and perhaps rescued. In the second scene, Eddy seems prepared to oblige, initially content to keep company with another women (with whom he seems singularly out of place - see "lothario" comment) until he sees MacDonald faltering in her performance. His facial expression shows care and concern for MacDonald, not coincidentally being depicted as the more demure of the two performers. Keeping with the depression-era overtone that all will work out for the best, these two scenes portend that MacDonald and Eddy will end up together, as they should, and in spite of their respective circumstances.
  5. Seems par for the course. Consider that the least “Victorian” part of Victorian England was Victorian England.
  6. Upon thinking about this further, one question I think that may be worth discussion is how movies benefitted from the Hays Code. In the book version of Breakfast At Tiffany’s, the Holly Golightly character was much more salacious. One wonders whether the movie (yes, released before the repeal of Hays) would have had the same appeal had that salaciousness been translated to the film version, especially with Audrey Hepburn in the lead role. The same question with Grapes of Wrath - would the movie had been the same had Rose died in childbirth as in the book. While I know this comment is not unique to musicals, I think it applies to them. One of the reasons that musicals from nine decades ago are entertaining today is precisely because they have an innocence that the “good old days” are romanticised as having - whether that is true or illusory. I’d like to hear others’ thoughts. Please understand however, I am not advocating censorship. I am glad Hays was repealed.
  7. As to the "pre-code" question, I imagine that Anna Held would have been portrayed like this: which is what she actually looked like.
  8. I like Cabaret, Fiddler on the Roof, and Sound of Music primarily because of the historical overtones that I only appreciated later in life. The notions of pogroms and the rise of national socialism were lost on me when I was a child seeing these musicals for the first time.

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