Warne's Brat

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  1. 1) In Gaslight, the rooms in Bergman's and Boyer's home are equally busy with fussy, ornate wallpaper, chandeliers... and portraits and mirrors and sconces and lamps and all manner of foofaraw on the walls. In that film and in My Fair Lady, the overall effect of this is cloistering, claustrophobic, and constricting. Both women in the two films are slowly and methodically transformed from what they originally were by a controlling man for personal gain. Naturally, in Gaslight, Boyer was a true villain, and Harrison is more of an antagonist turned potential romantic hero in MFL, but they both have a very smooth, suave, and calm outward persona that makes their controlling personalities all the more malevolent (in Boyer's case) and cruelly self-serving. 2 and 3) I think in this film and in many key moments of Gaslight, we see that Eliza (and Bergman's Paula) have our sympathy through the director's camera. They are the emotional centers of the film and of the shots they are in. We see them more often in the foreground, with the man a bit more in the background and yet physically dominant over the woman: they are standing, the woman is sitting or in some instances bowed down or cowering. The director wants us to sympathize with the woman, and the positioning of his actors relative to his camera seems to suggest that the man is a sort of a menacing presence, despite their debonair appearance and outward manners. I am loath to bring politics into all of this, but remember how the positioning of certain presidential candidates during various moments of their debates were perceived by some to suggest menace...? ?
  2. I have a lot to say about this particular daily dose, partly because the curator's comments were particularly interesting and insightful, and partly because An American in Paris is the film that sealed the deal for me in terms of becoming a lifelong fan of Gene Kelly. 1) I think the ballet, as a more or less self-contained island within the film, is about as stylized as the film ever gets. Just prior to it, we have the highly stylized and visually arresting Beaux Arts ball, where nearly everything is black and white. That said, the Minnelli touch is everywhere, and as we've already learned, every detail means something. So while the bulk of the film, taking place in the streets, or in Jerry or Adam's apartments, or alongside the Seine (or what have you), may be more naturalistic and less outwardly stylized, every scene was put together with the greatest of care, intention, and attention to detail. Personally, I think if the whole film had been decked out as the ballet or the ball are decked out it would be too much. We don't need another Les Demoiselles de Rochefort, or even The Pirate (though it works in the context of that intentionally over the top film). 2) Another commenter (I think it was Joshua Goodstein) mentioned that Jerry Mulligan is more or less eminently unlikable throughout the film. Despite being a champion of Kelly, I am inclined to agree that in many scenes, Jerry is boorish, pushy bordering on 'stalkerish,' and overly insouciant. I know that we are supposed to think Milo is a sort of predator, and maybe she is, but Nina Foch played her with a gentle vulnerability that makes me pity her. Despite the film's attempt to get me excited about a match between Jerry and Lise, I am left thinking that Jerry doesn't really deserve either of the women in his love triangle - and that he isn't man enough to handle a real woman. Leslie Caron is adorable as Lise, and they actually do have a bit of chemistry in SOME scenes (but not all of them - ugh), but she is depicted as a shy and quiet gamine little thing. A girl. Nina Foch may have been only 26, but she very convincingly gives off sophistication and experience. All of that aside, he still has tremendous personal charm. Kelly's smile alone could charm the soda from a biscuit. I really think it is his persona that saves the character from being an absolute heel. And, as others have pointed out, by the time we get to this scene we know Jerry's story. We know he's our protagonist; we know he served as a GI; we know he's broke; we know kids and little grannies love him. So we give him the benefit of the doubt. The other thing that saves him is the fact that the third year girl is pretty annoying. "Relax, sister... I'm from Perth Amboy, New Jersey." In this scene, his insouciance is appealing, and Kelly does a good job capturing the lackadaisical approach Jerry has to making a living and dealing with potential customers. As Gary Rydstrom has pointed out, he moves like a dancer no matter what he is doing, and he is always using his body to convey emotion. Here, his entire physical person seems to be shrugging at just about every moment. I love that the crummy nature of Jerry's paintings was pointed out. I've always felt that they were the kind of thing a person could pick up as a cheap print from a 'bouquiniste,' and the idea that Milo, as a wealthy patron and promoter of art, takes them seriously, is ludicrous. Knowing that Minnelli would have known they were rubbish, and hearing someone else point this out, leads me to the conclusion that they are intentionally lousy, and that Milo is promoting his work only to get close to him - obviously, yes - but like from the very beginning and to an extreme degree. Such is the power of Kelly's charm... ?
  3. These come to mind! From Singin' in the Rain: "Hey Joe, bring me a tarantula!" From Top Hat: "We are Bates." "If I ever forgot myself with that girl, I'd remember it." From Swing Time (more of a conversation): Helen Broderick: Beautiful, isn't it? Victor Moore: What is? HB: The music. VM: What music? HB: The music they're playing. VM: Oh, yeah... what made you think of it? HB: Think of what? VM: The music. HB (most drily and sarcastically): Oh, I don't know; my mind was wandering, I guess. From Brigadoon: "If there's anything I hate, it's you!" (or pretty much anything Van Johnson says - the much needed acerbic balm to this film's cloistering schmaltziness) From both For Me and My Gal and Easter Parade: "Why didn't you tell me I was in love with you?"
  4. 1) The pre-dance movements of the two dancers are much slower and more deliberate, as the rhythm of the words they are repeating builds into the moment where the music from the orchestra kicks in. As the 'bigness' of the music increases, so do their movements - both in size and in comedic broadness. For example, Kelly has the moment where he jumps on the chair and drapes the curtains around himself in an attempt to imitate the Moses of the Bible. It's one of the smoothest transitions into a musical number that I can think of, though others in this particular film are handled with equal aplomb. Kelly prided himself on being the dancer of the proletariat (as opposed to Astaire's more elegant overall mien, representing a more aristocratic social status), and he often worked his way into a dance by using whatever materials fall to the character's hand (cf. the "Squeaky Board and Newspaper" number in Summer Stock. 2) The straight man literally gets jerked around in this number, as the two dancers pull him from one part of the room to another, sit him atop a desk, stick a wastebasket on his head, etc. He's sort of the butt of their joke, and so all he can really do is express dismay and disgruntled surprise in both his facial mannerisms and in the way he carries himself. I imagine it's much more difficult to play straight well than one would immediately think, and I almost feel sorry for how little credit I've given him in the dozens of times I've watched this scene. It's really hard for me to look at him, to be honest; I just want to watch Don and Cosmo! 3) The alpha and beta roles are much less clearly defined in this particular scene than they are throughout the movie. At the very beginning of the film, when the crowd at the premiere of The Royal Rascal are so excited to see big stars and there is a collective sigh of disappointment when Cosmo emerges from his jalopy, we know that he has spent his entire career playing second banana to Don Lockwood. This is hit home again and again throughout the film - Lina calls Cosmo a 'nobody,' and a mere 'piano player,' and yet he is often the one who comes up with the best ideas (e.g., using Kathy's voice for Lina's, coming up with the idea for combining the Broadway hoofer bit with the French costume stuff in order to save The Duelling Cavalier, etc.). In this dance number, they strike me more as equals, although it's obvious that O'Connor is more of a natural physical comedian than Kelly, and in that sense Cosmo Brown is the beta to Don Lockwood's alpha. As much as I adore him, his dancing, and his musicals, Kelly was funny only when he was playing a ham or a cocky S.O.B. And I don't think he was ever goofy. In fact, I believe in later years O'Connor shared that he once asked Kelly about how he approaches comedy, and Kelly said that he never 'studied' it - as though being funny is like learning to drive a car or to speak a bit of French the next time you go to Paris. Just have to add that the little solo bit Gene Kelly does in this number is one of my favorite moments of all of his dancing numbers. It's just so... BAM. He's so physically strong: he's got complete control of his muscles and yet he's moving explosively at the same time. You don't need to point, Cosmo - I'm watching.
  5. Hi - Interesting final point. Could you please clarify what you mean by the comment about Gene Kelly? Are you intentionally separating the actor from the character he is playing? In what way is GK a beta male?
  6. I confess I've never been drawn to either of these musicals. I've never particularly cared for the whole western presence in a musical, nor for the big, broad, and brassy way the performances of both the men and women seem to come off. All of that said, Doris Day does have a completely winning presence, and it's hard not to like her no matter what she is saying or doing. You can understand why Wham chose her as a superlative about making the sun shine bright in their song. 1) Doris Day, at least in this performance (she isn't like this in a movie like Young at Heart), seems to be at the extreme 'yang' end of the continuum, if I may use the word our professor seems to like. Marilyn Monroe would be at the extreme 'yin' end, I guess. In the musical number we saw today, Monroe wields her femininity and sexuality as a precise tool, and with it she possesses a great deal of power. Day, as Calamity Jane, is her polar opposite - sitting with her legs wide open, wearing trousers, and moving with a more traditionally masculine sort of economy. She just wants to get from Point A to Point B and doesn't want to be messed with. 2) Day is always eminently likable. You can't help but smile. I haven't seen her in very many things, but it's hard to imagine her as a femme fatale or as the woman everyone loves to hate. She's no Joan Crawford! That said, there is a tremendous difference in her performance in these two musical numbers, as our 'curator' points out. She is so much softer in the second one, and Day brings out the nuances in a way that feels believable. She doesn't fully abandon the 'Calam' persona, but clearly something has changed. I find her performance in "Secret Love" much more enjoyable because it feels to me as though she is more comfortable in her own skin. She's no longer trying to prove something and can just be. 3) I can't form an intelligent opinion on this without seeing the whole movie. In general, I'm inclined to say no. It's a 1950s Hollywood musical, so one would hardly come to it thinking, "This is going to be really gloomy and a real downer." And it's difficult to separate the actor from the performance: actors with a strong persona, like Day, or a Jimmy Stewart (darker roles like those in Vertigo or Winchester '73 notwithstanding), tend to bleed certain inherent characteristics into the skins of the characters they play. The character is the actor is the character.
  7. That makes sense. Like Pal Joey. I can't remember where I read that about the Bernstein songs being more highbrow; for some reason, I'm associating it with a biography I read on Kelly, but I could be wrong. Perhaps it's my own conception of Bernstein's music relative to the types of compositions I'm used to hearing in film musicals. This is probably one of those instances of a person being more attached to what they hear first, or are more familiar with. I've seen On the Town many, many times; it would take a lot to dislodge the place the film's songs have in my heart. :-)
  8. I love Anchors Aweigh, too - but it's about 40 minutes too long and there is too much Jose Iturbi. I'm also not a fan of Kathryn Grayson's warbling, but I think Gene Kelly and Frank Sinatra are great in it together and little Dean Stockwell is one of the most adorable and natural child actors I've ever seen. To each their own, I guess. On the Town is perhaps a bit over exuberant, but I like it, anyway.
  9. Hi, all. I wanted to talk more generally about On the Town following the lecture discussion. As much as I respect some of the viewpoints on offer, I'm not sure I fully agree with the suggestion that the film is overly 'presentational.' If anything, the opening sequence in particular strikes me as being very dynamic and naturalistic. Or how about that wonderful scene on the subway? The film feels timeless to me in moments like these. I'm by no means a film scholar, but the fact that the camera takes us to so many actual places in NYC and we see the three fellas engaging with the sights and sounds of a vibrant, living city virtually negates any off-putting presentational quality. Are there specific instances of fourth wall breaking that I've missed? What would that sequence look like from more of a 'fly on the wall' point of view? I'm having a hard time imagining a difference. Maybe that's the problem. Help me out! I also feel like Gene Kelly got short shrift as co-director of this film. Yes, Stanley Donen likely did most of the actual directing, and he is very good at it indeed, but that's because GK was kind of busy in front of the camera, choreographing, dancing foley, etc. I believe both men said in later years that it was almost impossible to distinguish who really was responsible for what when it came to the films they made together, so I just want to make sure GK gets some credit for his role in the actual creation of this film. I'm not very familiar with the Bernstein songs from the original show, but my understanding is that they were deemed too highbrow for the masses. I still think the songs in the film deserve some mention. The musical talent on contract with MGM (Roger Edens, Conrad Salinger, etc.) and Betty Comden and Adolph Green (the lyricists and screenwriters)... they may not be Bernstein, but they're not hacks, either. "Main Street," the sweet little number in which Kelly woos Vera-Ellen and they dance more of a 'buddy number' is adorable and evokes the small town life that both characters come from. "You're Awful," my favorite number between Sinatra and Betty Garrett (despite all the ink that "Come Up to My Place" gets) is winsome and witty, albeit in a corny 40s musical kind of way. And "You Can Count On Me" may also be a bit corny (those deliciously awful puns!), but it very winningly underscores the film's general themes of optimism, camaraderie, and friendship. These fellows were willing to give up half of their day in order to help Gabey find Miss Turnstiles. It's a silly inconsequential little plot, but the camaraderie they share is touching. How about that scene leading up to the "Day in New York" ballet? Chip (Sinatra) tells Gabey (Kelly) that he knows how hard he's taking not having his girl by his side, and Kelly touchingly and unaffectedly says, "I know you do. That's why I love you." And we got no mention of the absolutely delightful Alice Pearce, as Lucy Shmeeler, or Florence Bates as Madame Dilyovska, ostensibly the film's villain - she's certainly an antagonist to Miss Turnstiles! I just wanted to draw out more of what makes the film so much fun - I realize they only had 15 minutes in the lecture.
  10. I first saw Cabin in the Sky many years ago, and I instantly loved it. The film is literally luminous, in that the lighting just gives everything this inner, glowing sort of radiance. The cinematography and mise en scene are equally beautiful. I also love that yes - this is obviously a film featuring African-Americans and is about the intertwined lives of African-Americans, but it isn't really a movie about race. They are just people. This scene in particular is one that brings me to tears. There is something so moving about her connection to the song and the warmth of her performance. Her smile is so genuine and her spirit is just so authentic. It doesn't hurt that the song itself is sublime in its simplicity. When she sings "and it's Christmas everywhere..." On come the taps! ? 1) The song transitioning from Joe's bedside to Petunia doing laundry underscores the steadfastness and loyalty in Petunia. She is steadfast in her devotion to God, to prayer, and to Little Joe. No matter how much time goes by, her feelings don't change. It also shows that even in our mundane, daily tasks, we can find something to sing about (i.e., there is always something you can be thankful for). 2) I'm not sure I fully understand the question. The song as she performs it here doesn't strike me as being particularly romantic. It's more of a song borne out of a deep, long-standing devotion and less about something like passion or desire. In that sense, the performance wouldn't necessarily be all that different if she were singing to a child. Some of the lyrics might not really be suitable. I'm not sure what is meant by the question raising 'culture.' Are we referring to African-American culture? I'm not really in a position to speak, since I don't belong to that culture. 3) I guess I touched on this in my first couple of paragraphs. It's a beautiful film, with true emotional depth and moments of lightness, too. I would need to finish my 'rewatch' of it to speak in depth, but the church scene in the earlier stages of the film comes to mind as a wonderful moment showcasing the sense of community that I sometimes ache for in our more compartmentalized modern day. It also strikes me as a paean to the strength of minority communities - the unity and belonging that they find when they come together is lovely. I hope that even those outside of the African-American community saw and appreciated this film for what it was, and were able to correlate the spirit of this community coming together to the 'we're all in it together' spirit so prevalent during WWII.
  11. I don't have a lot to say about the questions our professor has posed that others haven't already covered. I will say that though I've watched this film many times, I noticed new things while watching this scene today as a result of the prompts given us. The segue was smooth, in that the movements of the two performers corresponded seamlessly with the music as they led into the choreographed routine. I say choreographed, even if there wasn't really dancing - it was just so carefully timed and crafted. It reminded me of that wonderful (albeit brief) opening segment to An American in Paris, where we see Gene Kelly arising in his tiny walk-up and going through the motions of getting ready for the day. There is no dancing, but it's timed like a dance would be. I have a deeper appreciation for the work and attention to detail required to put these sequences together.
  12. Yeah... I think the story there is that SITR directors Stanley Donen and Gene Kelly told Arthur Freed (the producer who happened to write most of the songs in SITR back in the 20s with Nacio Herb Brown) that they needed a song LIKE "Be a Clown" for Donald O'Connor's showstopper. When they got "Make 'Em Laugh," they realized that it was more or less the same song, but went with it, anyway. I'm a bit hazy on the details, but I imagine a citation could be found somewhere. Anyway, as I recall, Cole Porter did notice it, but was too much of a gentleman to make a big deal out of it. As far as the recorded number goes, I infinitely prefer "Make 'Em Laugh," but that's not to take anything away from Cole Porter.
  13. I love The Pirate precisely because it's 'goofy.' I think it's hilarious! The over the top acting and the screenplay are the reasons I'm drawn to it, whereas the songs, despite being Cole Porter, are only a secondary attraction - and sometimes, dare I say, skippable... If anything told Judy it was time to move on from the MGM musical, in my opinion that would have to be Summer Stock. It's got some lovely moments, but that plot is really outdated for 1950 and it feels like a step backward for both Gene and Judy.
  14. I have to preface this by saying that a person couldn't have chosen two better clips to showcase Judy Garland in a musical - unless, perhaps, one draws from The Wizard of Oz, which everyone has already seen. These two numbers fill me with equal delight and joy. 1) I was a kid in the 80s and as many will recall, in those days The Wizard of Oz seemed to come on once per year, sort of like how The Ten Commandments could be counted on to be shown every Easter. (Not sure if that's still the case.) If you didn't have a VCR (we didn't!) it was your one chance each year to immerse yourself in this wonderful world that was familiar and foreign at the same time. I thought she was adorable. Who wouldn't? There is a tremendous innocence and vulnerability to so many of Judy's roles, and that is on full display when she plays Dorothy. 2) As a big fan of Astaire and Kelly, I have seen both of these clips innumerable times over the past 14-15 years, so it's hard for me to go back in my mind to what I remember of Judy before then. I don't think she seems all that different in these two clips from what she was as Dorothy, necessarily. In the scene with Gene Kelly, she is still somewhat of an ingenue, even if she is playing a seasoned small town circuit performer. If I get a bit more meta, though, and step outside the film into real life, it's clear that she's the real pro here when we compare her with Kelly's relative rawness. Her acting is more natural and unaffected. She helped him a great deal with how to perform for screen as opposed to stage, but we still see some elements of the stage in the relative broadness of much of Kelly's acting here. (Some would say he never fully abandoned this broader acting style...ahem.) Thankfully, they had a wonderfully warm and friendly chemistry that informed all the films they did together, and it's effervescent here. In the Easter Parade clip, we know that she is dancing with a much older man who has been trying to mold her into something he can work with. It's still hard for me to see her as a mature figure within the role, but her gift for comedy is brought to the forefront. It takes a mature performer to don male drag and black a tooth like this and still be impossibly darling. I love her mugging here, and how adorable she and Fred are together as they interpret this gem from Irving Berlin. Gene Kelly is reported to have said how much he regretted not being able to play the Hewes character in this film - and it was this number in particular that really hit home to him what he had lost when he broke his ankle playing volleyball. As much as I like him, I'm glad that Fred ultimately played this role - it's a wonderful film and it feels just right with him in it. 3) I confess I have never really sat down to watch any of Judy Garland's work post 1950 or so. I've seen clips. But I honestly don't think one has to go all the way to A Star is Born to find her emotionally connecting to a song and captivating her audience by telling a story with it. The number "Friendly Star" from Summer Stock comes to mind as one where she just about breaks your heart if you let her.
  15. I hate being a day late and having to repeat what I can only imagine everyone else has said, but here goes! This opening scene is in the White House. There are few (if any) settings that could be associated more strongly in the eye of the public as a symbol of the U.S. of A. There are flags everywhere you look, and as Cagney is ascending the stairs with the manservant, he passes portraits of great presidents virtually every American can recognize. The scene is designed to be stately and impressive, and to make Americans sit up a bit straighter in their theater seats. I thought it was interesting that FDR said "you Irish-Americans." Using 'you' in that type of context is sometimes viewed as offensive today, even when it's followed by something positive. FDR tells Cohan how much he appreciates the Irish-Americans' "love of country," and then says something like, "You tell the 48 states what a great country it is." Promoting patriotism/nationalism can't get much more obvious than that. If they'd started the film with the parade scene, we wouldn't necessarily care what's happening to a young George M. Cohan or his family. By introducing him as a big shot early on (why else would he be personally meeting the president?), we know to pay attention as soon as the flashbacks commence. This framing technique reminds me of the whole opening section of It's a Wonderful Life, with the people who love George Bailey praying for him, and then cutting to the scene with the twinkling supernovas assigning Clarence to help. The bulk of the movie then becomes flashback, and we care about George Bailey before we even see him. Here we have the voice of the president - a man Americans just about deified - heaping praise upon our protagonist. So we want to know more about this person!

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