Case

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  1. I am not sure what you call a traditional musical.  I always thought of the Hollywood Musical to be an original and not a Broadway adaption, as Gypsy is.   The introduction of Mama Rose sets up her character - bossy boots.  She is a scheming stage mom who will do anything to get what SHE wants.  You can also see that Luise is shy and not suited for the stage. Russell was a great actress but I wish Merman reprised her great stage performance in this film.  She would have done her own singing.  I feel cheated when the singing is dubbed.  I saw Merman in Gypsy when she took the show on a national tour at the Schubert in Chicago. When she made her entrance, the show stopped for the audience applause.  It was the first musical I had seen and that was in 1961-62.  I was only 9-10 and my mother’s friends and family were shocked that she took me.   Thank you Mom for giving me live theater at a young age.  I still enjoy it. 

     

    The lyrics are always sanitized for the big screen.  Compare the stage and film lyrics of  “I’m Always True In My Fashion” and “Brush Up Your Shakespeare from Kiss Me Kate.  The stage lyrics are almost naughty and R-rated compares to the vanilla lyrics in the film. 

  2. I am surprised there are only one or two 20th Century Fox Musicals in this course. Granted, they are not as well done as MGM musicals, but they were very popular and in many cases, were more reflective of the social and cultural times during WWII. Betty Grable was a big star and the pin up girl during the war. The Grable musical Pin-Up Girl (1944) has Betty working in the War Department as a secretary and singing in a club at night. The finale of the film has Betty and a hundred women in “Army” uniforms marching in formation in a Bugsby Berkley like extravaganza. This film highlights the participation of women in the war effort. In Down Argentina Way (1940) the Good Neighbor policy of FDR is prominently featured with South American locations, music and dancing. Carmen Miranda makes an appearance in this film. And what about Alice Faye. Her Musicals were pure American Patriotism (Tin Pan Alley 1940, Alexander’s Ragtime Band 1938) and also part of the Good Neighbor Policy (Weekend in Havana 1941). The Gang’s All Here (1943) boasts wartime effort (war bond drive and women missing their men at war) and the Good Neighbor Policy (Carmen Miranda and the opening musical number with a South American cargo ship unloading in New York. Finally, what about Four Jills and a Jeep. This is a musical based on the true experiences of Hollywood actresses entertaining troops overseas on the military bases and front lines. I think not including these films and stars misses a big part of the history of the 1940s musical.
  3. 1. The Wizard of Oz was my first Judy Garland movie I can recall. She was everything in that movie. Touching, funny, caring, dramatic, etc., and she was only 16-17 when she made that film. She showed a wide range of emotions with little acting experience or training. I think she was probably an actor who used her own personal ups and downs as resources for her acting. I don’t think Garland fans of the 1940s were aware of her personal struggles as fans of today are. In 2018, Judy Garland admirers are aware of her life struggles and can see where she gets that emotional intensity in her acting and song performances such as in A Star is Born in 1954.
  4. I have seen Cabin in the Sky many times. It is a joy to watch. Ethel Waters is wonderful. She is the heart and soul of the film. Her singing is joyful and hopeful when her relationship with Little Joe is good and mournful and tragic when it is bad. What a performance! Lena Horne is all sugar and spice and a temptress. She adds these qualities to her singing in the picture. But Ethel Waters is the star. She is the emotional heart of the film.
  5. The opening of Yankee Doodle Dandy (YDD) sets up the plot of th movie. Pres Roosevelt asks Cohan to tell his family’s story in show business and their patriotism. At the end of the movie, FDR enlists Cohan’s help to continue the patriotism for the war effort. So, the White House scenes open the story and wrap it up. I noticed that in the background in FDR’s office, it is decorated with paintings of ships and a model ship on the mantel. FDR was a huge supporter of the Navy was served in the in the Navy Dept during Woodrow Wilson’s presidency. That is a bit of realism. I need to do some research on FDR’s White House decor.
  6. Take Me Out to the Ball Game with Gene Kelly, Frank Sinatra, Esther Williams and Betty Garrett. The songs are silly. The plot is ridiculous. Esther Williams owning a baseball team? Waste of Technicolor.
  7. Ruby Keeler and Eleanor Powell are both great dancers and performers but very different styles. Keeper is more of a hoofer and a female Cagney when it comes to tapping, heavy footed and bent over. Powell is lighter on her feet and graceful. I know Powell is a more rounded dancer because she is more acrobatic and trained in ballet (Broadway Melody 1940). Keeler is adorable tapping and I can see why movie goers in the 1930s loved here. Powell is a fantastic dancer and her routines are well choreographed for her talent and abilities. I like watching her dance solo or with partners. I just wish she would keep her mouth closed more when dancing. It is distracting. Both dancers seem to enjoy performing and you can’t help enjoy watching them. Question - can anyone imagine Keeler and Powell dancing together?
  8. MacDonald seems more natural and free in her acting. Eddy is very stiff. I especially admire Jeanette’s facial and eye expressions as he sings to her. He is behind her in the canoe and can’t see them. She is an underrated actress. I have seen most of their pictures together and her pictures with other actors. She is great in everyone, especially San Francisco. The best MacDonald/Eddy film is Maytime and the finale, Sweatheart. Wow!
  9. The extravagance of the orchids is the hope of better days to come. Musicals are “fairy tales” in which all is beautiful and fun. Pure escapism.

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