Miriam A

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  1. Maria, your heartfelt words truly demonstrate how much can be gained from participating in a class such as the one we have just completed. I, too, have similar issues and have found movie musicals to be an effective way of combatting my demons. They take me into a world of fantasy that could almost be believed. I have taken other on-line classes and have also benefited from the group experience while at the same time keeping my privacy. May you experience many hours, days, months and years of wholeness, completeness and happiness.
  2. Love Story the Great Race Trapeze Goodbye Girl
  3. And I would love to devote a month long class to each of the movie musical eras. The 1920’s-30’s; the 1940’s; the 1950’s; the 1960’s; the 1970’s and beyond. I have enjoyed this class so much.
  4. I respectfully disagree with Dr. Ament’s description of the acting in this scene. The beautiful and delightful Audrey Hepburn is too over the top as she wallows in self pity. Cukor’s use of light and dark is theatrical. The cranky clueless scientist Rex Harrison is much too detached from his guinea pig for us to believe that he is actually in love with her. He relates to her as an animal or bug and appears physically repulsed when he defends himself from her attack to his face. The audience is never shown physical attraction between these protagonists. Theirs is a union of convenience and coolness. He gets to remain with his accustomed companion and she lives in warmth and comfort supposedly for the remainder of her life.
  5. 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? How would the song change if it was a woman singing about her child? Does the cultural meaning change? How? What other thoughts do you have about this film, the issues of black Americans during WWII, and this film’s importance in this era? Petunia moves from pillow to clothesline while her ecstasy at Joe’s slow recovery from a gunshot wound remains unchanged. The scene begins in the matrimonial bedroom at what could have been his deathbed. The amazing miracle that Joe has regained consciousness and will live causes Petunia to express her feeling that the most important thing in her life is having him with her. Her song of joy in her marriage and love for him does not diminish as time goes by. We learn this as the scene changes to the prosaic backyard task of gathering the clothes from the clothesline. Petunia caresses Joe’s shirt as he sits nearby in a wheelchair. His frailty is evident but Petunia’s song of love and devotion is faithfully constant. Petunia is someone I could easily know and love as a friend or coworker. Her beautiful smile, expressive eyes and capable arms reveal a motherly sympathetic personality who would share in my joys and troubles. Ethel Waters’ acting ability is timeless and appealing to all races, cultures and periods of history.
  6. This scene flip-flops the typical seduction scene where the man has the power and persues the lovely reluctant lady. Instead we are delighted to watch romantic crooner Frank Sinatra being cajoled by athletic humorous Betty Garrett. Frank’s character would have been much more comfortable had the lady in question been “dressed to kill” and had caught him in a softy lit upholstered living room. Instead, we are in the bleachers of a prosaic ball park and Betty’s modestly dressed character is straightforwardly propositioning him with her bold lyrics and forthright dance moves. This is most apparent when she picks him up and places him on her shoulders before releasing him. I love how the movie makers of the 1940’s are able to poke fun at the stereotypes they normally uphold. I also must give credit to Frank Sinatra for being a good sport about playing against type.
  7. 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. 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. 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. First scene location is the White House 9:00 in the evening. Cohan is being escorted by a knowledgeable valet up the imposing staircase lined with presidential portraits through the double doors into President Roosevelt’s office. Roosevelt has characteristically decorated the Oval Office with nautical paintings and memorabilia symbolizing the oceans surrounding the countries of the world at war. The audience views Cohan from the same point of view as the president. Roosevelt’s back is to us and he is seated at a desk crowded with paperwork. It is a solemn location mostly in shadow illuminating by a desk lamp. We know that it is here that the weight of war resides and the fate of people throughout the world is being determined. From this intimate scene we travel back in time to a Main Street in Providence on a beautiful bright July 4th afternoon where townspeople are happily gathered flying the patriotic Stars and Stripes to celebrate America’s independence from tyranny. Inside the vaudeville theatre Papa Cohan is performing his plucky Irish jig. From backstage we learn that George M. Cohan is getting ready to be born.
  8. I am totally in love with Fred Astaire and this is one of my favorites of the dances he and Ginger Rogers perform. The words of the song and the intimacy of the setting further the plot as we watch the growing attraction between this couple who are destined to be together. Their compatibility is symbolized by their dance moves as they mirror each other’s steps. The fact that the costumes are so similar gives us a rare view of two pairs of legs moving in unison during much of the number. The movie plot follows two people who are perfectly matched despite the running joke of mistaken identity that confounds Ginger and prevents her from finding true love until the error of her supposition is revealed.
  9. 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. In the first scene the couple is in an intimate romantic setting only the two of them are present seated closely in a boat on the water. He is strong and protective, rhythmically paddling the canoe clearly smitten by her charms. She is pleased by his attentiveness and responds by singing and bantering with him. The camera shows both of their faces causing the actors to avoid eye contact. In the second scene she is uncomfortable awkwardly singing in a crowded saloon to an uninterested audience. He enters totally relaxed and sits down with two flirtatious women who are very at home in this atmosphere. He reacts to her anguish that she cannot please the rough fun-loving customers by rescuing her from the situation and escorting her out of the saloon. This time they do make eye contact although at first they are several feet from each other. Their communication is non verbal. 2. They had always seemed like ridiculous singing caricatures in early musicals when I watched clips of their performances. He is much to stiff an actor in my opinion. 3. He is a stereotypical strong stolid uniformed law enforcement officer, an upright moral manly man who will provide for and protect all who are under his care. She is the soft virginal good girl who will only allow some kisses before marriage. They perfectly uphold the code by their proper dress, their high moral ethics, and their behavior towards each other.
  10. 1. The sophisticated characters on screen with their fluid speech and spiffy clothes act as if they have no history, no struggles, no past suffering. They have excellent manners and are polite and civil to each other. Class distinction is minimized. The doorman and the maid have classy accents and are literate, perfectly groomed and are treated with respect. 2. Love and romance is in the air while the movie audience is educated in the art of the idealized creation of a Show Biz product both in front of and behind the curtain. 3. The code of decency does not prevent the female lead from revealing her sexual nature. Her figure is well defined. Her manner is flirtatious. She is checking out all the men in the audience to find a willing participant in her games. I loved the mirror she is using as a prop. It dangles and swings back and forth against the lower portion of her clothed body when she is not holding it to spotlight the members of the audience. I understand that the movie makers tried all sorts of tricks to defy the decency censors.

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