DAVIDLONG

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About DAVIDLONG

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    Chicago, Illinois
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    film, theatre, dance, working out, yoga

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  1. The technical problems took up about half the time of the telecast. I think that--if there isn't a significant improvement in the tech capabilities for another class--it would work better to to just have the students submit the questions and to have the moderators answer them on the air. I appreciate the work of Dr. Ament and Dr. Edwards in putting the activity together and doing the best they could to keep on topic while dealing with all the technical challenges.
  2. 1. How might Streisand’s performance of the song “People” have felt different in the film, had she been more theatrical and expressive, perhaps even belting her song more? Fanny is hesitant at first, implying the "a great guy like you is talking to a nothing girl like me" dichotomy that affects her relationship with Nicky for a long time. She's quietly explaining her feelings to him and beginning to realize them herself. In the arc of the show, one wants to build to the loud self-expression of "Don't Rain on My Parade" and the emotional journey of "My Man". 2. Note the emotional transition moments in this scene: how do the two characters relate to each other as the lyrics are sung? Fanny gets braver singing/telling her feelings to Nicky, and he becomes more entranced by this funny and eloquent young woman. Her "I guess we're both happy...but maybe we ain't" is a kind of dare to him to rethink his statement about preferring to be single and free. 3. How does the direction and editing of this scene support Streisand’s performance? Be specific about blocking, reaction shots, etc. The camera moves with Fanny as she "moves along" with her thoughts about "people" in general and the two of them in particular. The moody night street lighting outside the party reflects the quiet reflections and realizations Fanny sings about.
  3. Explore any common themes and film making techniques in a very different movie also directed by George Cukor, Gaslight. (If you are not familiar with Gaslight, compare and contrast Cukor's theme in this scene and his techniques with another musical you have seen during this course). Both turn-of-the-century, London-based films center around a woman living in a large, fascinating house serving as both a home and a cage (run by a controlling man). Note the emotional transition moments in this scene, how the actors portray them, and how Cukor supports them. What we don't see in this clip is what preceded it--Eliza charming everyone at the ball only to be humiliated back at home by being ignored while everyone else in the house congratulated only Professor Higgins. Her outburst (which seeing only the clip might seem like needless histrionics) had been building up for a long time. While Higgins maintained his professional, in-control calm, it was the first time he was jolted into realizing that Eliza actually had some feelings about being a part of this "experiment". What do you notice about the relationship between Eliza and Higgins that seems enhanced by Cukor’s direction? Often a relationship needs to "come clean" to move forward. While both Eliza and Higgins are so angry that they yell at each other, Cukor shows that they also have never been so honest with each other nor so physically interactive.
  4. 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? In general, the masculine performances changed with the styles of music--relaxed jazz (Bing Crosby in Going Hollywood), stalwart operetta (Nelson Eddy in Naughty Marietta), charming standards (Fred Astaire in Easter Parade), rebellious rock and roll (Elvis Presley in Jailhouse Rock), and rough-edged rock (Kris Kristofferson in A Star is Born). I'd put Robert Preston's performance in The Music Man in a category of consummate professionals from musical theatre, which could include Yul Brynner The King and I, Rex Harrison My Fair Lady, and Joel Grey Cabaret. What other specific qualities do you notice about Robert Preston in either or both of these clips? Preston is in complete command during "Ya Got Trouble", verbally, visually, and physically. By speaking loudly and confidently to one man first, he has confidence others will listen and gather around (they do). He knows his effect on the citizens of River City, and he plays them like an orchestra conductor. Preston's Toddy in Victor/Victoria works his audience there much the same way. There's a tradition among some gay cabaret performers to comically "insult" the patrons, and when he calls out the pretentious patrons (probably his friends) at that table he knows he's giving the rest of the room exactly what they want. 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? Preston was very good in Beau Geste, Reap the Wild Wind, How the West Was Won, Semi-Tough, and S.O.B. However, none of those seem to present everything he has to give as much as Victor/Victoria and (especially) The Music Man do. His warm, textured baritone singing voice shows him at his best in fully capturing a character's essence. Listening to the original cast recordings of I Do! I Do! and Mack and Mabel further demonstrate Preston's charm as an actor/singer.
  5. In what ways does this scene look backward to classical musicals and how does it look ahead to new disruptions that we now know will happen in the movie musical? The film has the lush cinematography, sets, and costumes of the classic era. To me the grittier elements (edgy lyrics, disruptive characters) not only look forward but hearken back to a pre-code era of musicals like Applause (1929) and 42nd St. (1933). 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. Mama Rose's entrance from the back of the theatre is surprising and effective both on film and on stage; I think it works even better on stage, when at first all we experience is the tone and nervy words of that prototypical stage mother. Rosalind Russell's entrance is effective in terms of self-confidence and "taking over" the situation, although she comes off as a bit too polished for this uneducated (but mightily single-minded) woman. 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). As mentioned, the "and if you're real good, I'll make you feel good" is pretty easy to take from innocent to provocative. The number as staged certainly establishes that June is the polished performer and the center of their mother's dream of stardom (even if vicariously through her daughter) and that Louise is there because she's an available person around to help with this.
  6. 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 others have noted, the many flags, the portraits, the naval/military imagery and being in the White House itself all establish the glorification of the U.S.A. and the importance of the military and leadership. 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. When Cohan (Cagney) suggests that 30 years earlier "You're a Grand Old Flag" was a "good old song in its day", the butler replies, "Yes sir it was, and it's just as good today as it ever was". This suggests that patriotism isn't just some sentimental relic from the WWI era; it was still vitally needed in the new WWII era. 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. Opening in the "present-day" White House helped establish who the main character was, helped us focus on the importance of Jerry Cohan getting off-stage to witness the birth this main character, and helped us understand the significance of George Cohan being literally "born on the 4th of July" (perhaps making him the patriotic entertainer we saw in Roosevelt's office)!
  7. 1. What other aspects of battle of the sexes do you see indicated in this clip or in the film Top Hat? Ginger/Dale being in clothing resembling more-traditional male clothing seems to set up a "challenge of equals" situation. In the sexist world of the 1930s (and even in the 2010s), women dressed in traditional men's clothing is considered chic and empowering, while men dressed in traditional women's clothing is considered humorous and emasculating. 2. How does this film distinguish itself from other Depression era musicals we have watched or discussed this week? As others have mentioned, most of the numbers in "Top Hat" evolve from the the story and the relationship between the characters (instead of as musical numbers in a theatrical setting). Perhaps it helps that the world they're in is a dazzling Art Deco dreamworld! 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? Many of the women in those films (wonderful as they were) were trying to win the love and/or approval of the more-powerful men, whether they be casting directors, radio singers, or evangelists. In these and other screwball comedies, there was usually a prolonged comedic romance of two charismatic leads who don't get along during much of the film but who happily/predictably come together by the end.
  8. 1. Humor, class, and sexuality abound in the typically-Lubitsch scene. One of the funniest elements is that I thought at first the woman was Chevalier's jealous wife, but--while she WAS jealous of whoever had owned that garter--we learn that it's the woman's husband banging on the door (implying that she too was cheating with Chevalier)! 2. The 2 gunshots make us realize that's it's a real gun really firing (bringing drama to the comedic, sexy scene). We learn later, of course, that it wasn't loaded! 3. I think Chevalier's attitude of "I can calmly get through this seemingly-disastrous situation" would have been very appealing to Depression-era audiences (and was used by artists from Fred Astaire to Shirley Temple).
  9. DAVIDLONG

    Cagney in Footlight Parade

    Cagney's stylized dancing (so on view in "Yankee Doodle Dandy") seems like a natural extension of his aggressive, punchy screen persona. His rat-a-tat-tat tap dancing in the office scene takes us by surprise! His years of dancing in Vaudeville and Broadway no doubt helped him come off so naturally in his all-too-few screen dancing appearances. I think Cagney's marvelous in "Footlight Parade"!
  10. What do you notice about the interaction between the characters in these two scenes? Please give specific examples. If you have seen either or both of these actors in other films or television shows, please share your perceptions about them. 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? 1. As one of the quotes Dr. Ament included suggests, it's MacDonald's and Eddy's wonderful voices that touch each other, not their bodies! They both seem self-assured but curious in the canoe scene (I was shocked when the camera showed them actually in water, since most of the scene seems to be performed in front of a screen with water being projected onto it!). That they both are somewhat startled at the other's situation in the saloon (her trying unsuccessfully to adapt her singing to the setting and him sitting with the floozy women) indicates that they care what the other thinks of them. 2. I've seen a few of their films together. I think the charming Nelson Eddy's gotten a bum rap over the years; he's a fantastic singer, is handsome, and has a comfortable, manly screen presence. Jeanette MacDonald, of course, had been allowed to be more sexy and "free" in the Lubitsch/Chevalier films. It's easy to see why the 2 together were so popular. 3. I think the message given was that it's better to get to know each first and find things in common (like singing or dancing well together) than it is to jump right into overt sexuality (don't be a Gilda Gray!).
  11. 1. MGM was already the Tiffany's of movie studios ("More stars than there are in the heavens"), so they KNEW how to produce a first-class musical by 1936! The luscious costumes, the period sets, the clean photography, and those glamorous stars all looked their best. 2. While one might think Depression-era audiences might have appreciated seeing themselves represented realistically in films, it seems they preferred the escape of seeing a heightened reality (as in "Top Hat" or "The Gay Divorcee") or the glory of a past era (as in "The Great Ziegfeld" or "Naughty Marietta"). 3. Certainly with a scene taking place in a beautiful actress' dressing room more might have been taken off than a hat in the pre-code era! Some have compared the clothing in this scene to that which Depression-era audiences might have worn, but most of "The Great Ziegfeld" takes place decades earlier (Held apparently met Ziegfeld in 1896).

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