Movie Buff 56

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  1. I think I'm having a mild case of "Mad About Musicals" withdrawals, so I decided to revisit the message board. I know it's weeks later but I thought I'd add "Gladdaseeya" Phil Silvers to the list since he actually was a "top banana", having won a Tony Award for the musical Top Banana and later recreated the role in a film version. He was Gene Kelly's buddy in Cover Girl and Summer Stock and added his own personal touch of humor (I enjoyed all but the yodeling hillbilly number "Heavenly Music" in SS). As to Oscar Levant, I am a big Gershwin fan and was aware Oscar was a friend of George so I read a book by Oscar entitled, "Memoirs of an Amnesiac" A collection of anecdotal vignettes, Levant offers the reader a roller-coaster ride through the ups and downs of an often troubled, often brilliant artist and critic of the human condition, let loose on the uneasy ground where art and commerce overlap (Barnes and Noble). This was decades ago but I recall this was the cover and that it was a very entertaining read. I looked it up on Amazon and this is a more recent paperback publication. I also noted he wrote a couple more books: "A Smattering of Ignorance" and "The Unimportance of Being Oscar", I think I'll have to check these out.
  2. Funny no one mentioned Lost Horizons, or maybe it was so awful it's become forgotten? "Lost Horizon was such a poor performer at the box office that the film subsequently gained the nickname "Lost Investments." Bette Midler alluded to it as "Lost Her-Reason" and famously quipped, "I never miss a Liv Ullmann musical." (Wikipedia) Burt Bacharach even said Lost Horizon came close to ending his musical career. I had never seen Tommy before seeing it on TCM the other night. And having seen it I can safely say I'll probably never see it again, there was just too much that I didn't like about it. I have to agree with Speedracer5 I couldn't stand the "Heavenly Music" number from Summer Stock, those yodeling-gap-toothed bumpkins were painful to watch...Eddie Bracken and blustering father, nope didn't like them either. And sorry Dr. A but I didn't really care for a bucolic Judy in overalls singing and rumbling down the road on a tractor. While I end up watching it when it shows up on the telly, I have to say I really don't like Summer Stock except for Judy's "Friendly Star" and "Get Happy" number (even though I'm not crazy about the choreography). And I think Gene inventing a "spur-of-the moment dance " utilizing a newspaper and the barns creaky boards as partners is brilliant. As far as the "Triplets" number, I'm sort of ambivalent, but I can remember hearing Danny Kaye sing it on an album of children's songs, and I think it can be found on YouTube.
  3. One of my treasured albums, yes a licorice pizza, is the High Anxiety - Original Soundtrack / Mel Brooks' Greatest Hits Featuring The Fabulous Film Scores Of John Morris. Side one (or A side) is dedicated to High Anxiety, featuring Mel's devilish parody of Frank Sinatra, and other songs and music cues. The second side has songs and cues from The Producers, (the Zero and Gene version, not Nathan and Matthew) The Twelve Chairs (Hope for the Best Expect the Worst..."You could be Tolstoy or Fannie Hurst"), Blazing Saddles (memorable for the cracking whip launching the Rawhide-esque title song sung by Frankie Laine), Young Frankenstein (with the charming and chilling: "Puttin' on the Riiiiitz") and Silent Movie (the Silent Movie March is such a happy, lighthearted tune). I wouldn't exactly classify them as musical because I suppose the films can stand alone without the musical numbers but in going back to Thursday's lecture notes: One can be a purist about trying to define a musical. Is it an integrated story where the songs progress the action or story only because they exist within the narrative? Is a musical any film that includes music as part of the story world? Is a musical a film that uses music to help tell the story? I guess I'll take the easy way out and say, all of the above! LOL...
  4. As I think I might have mentioned in the Opening Salvo (gosh that seems so long ago and at the same time it went by way too fast) I feel like I was born in the wrong era, a sentiment that others likewise expressed. We have such a fondness for classic musicals and the songs that came from them. Through this course we have developed an even greater appreciation for the songs of the “Great American Songbook” the composers, and all the great performers and studio and cinema artists who captured it on film for the viewing pleasure of the audiences of the day. Wonder if they knew all these decades later we would be deriving the same pleasure, not to mention studying them. I posted this in response to Mariaki’s topic “LaLa Land, Anyone?” in which some denigrate the singing and dancing of Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone. True, Ryan and Emma were no Eleanor and Fred. But it's like Frank Sinatra said in That's Entertainment (referring to their Begin the Beguine number? "You can sit around and hope but you'll never see the likes of this again." However we can appreciate the efforts of all who keep the musical genre alive. Broadway Melody of 1940 With that said I’d like to express my sincere thanks to TCM and a big round of applause to Dr. Vanessa Theme Ament, Dr. Wes Gehring, Dr. Richard Edwards, and Gary Rydstrom; to Ball University and the staff who put all their time and expertise in developing and presenting the course!
  5. Unfortunately I didn't get to watch as much as I'd like because I'm currently in rehearsal for our community theatre production of Thornton Wilder's "Our Town" If you're in the neighborhood (Big Bear Lake, CA) come up and see us. If I wasn't in rehearsal I would've given up watching the Dodger's. I don't watch much network television so I've usually got TCM on when there's no games. Love, love, love classic movies!
  6. True, Ryan and Emma were no Eleanor and Fred. But it's like Frank Sinatra said in That's Entertainment: "You can sit around and hope but you'll never see the likes of this again." However we can appreciate the efforts of all who keep the musical genre alive. Broadway Melody of 1940 Y
  7. 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? Note the emotional transition moments in this scene: how do the two characters relate to each other as the lyrics are sung? How does the direction and editing of this scene support Streisand’s performance? Be specific about blocking, reaction shots, etc. I have lumped my responses together as follows: While she is home on Henry Street this is not a stage where the “Ugly Duckling” can mask her insecurities with funny costume and makeup; she is self-conscious and uncomfortable in this new and intimate situation. Barbra/Fanny’s mannerisms and gestures are minimal and convey this; hands clasped, shyly running her fingers along the railing to take the focus off herself, her head is mostly angled downward and she is avoiding direct eye contact. And when she sings “We’re children…” she takes a few tentative steps as if walking a tightrope, or a child trying to keep her balance walking along a fence (like Dorothy teetering on the pig pen railing) then she grasps the stairs newel post and swings around it emphasizing the childlike/teenage first date awkwardness. The scene is blocked so there is considerable distance between Fanny and Nick, and as she moves down the street, he follows her but he never moves in close; the sophisticated intuitive ladies’ man knows to take his time and not frighten her off. Also his back is to the camera so as to maintain the focus on her, this moment is about her expressing her feelings and he is attentive. Even when the camera angle shifts to take them both into the frame there is still the distance and he is watching. There does not appear to be very much actual interaction or of her relating to him as she even at times seems to be singing to herself. And maybe this is a moment of perspicacity; wherein she realizes as a performer she’s capable of interacting with and engaging hundreds of people and needs them to be who she is, yet also needs “just one very special person” to fill the emptiness and loneliness that exists when she is not onstage. As the music swells and she becomes more expansive with arms outstretched to make a point the gesture is still kept to a minimum. All of the intimacy, cautiousness and timidity would have been lost if Streisand had been confidently “belting” the song with broad theatrical gestures.
  8. Note the emotional transition moments in this scene, how the actors portray them, and how Cukor supports them. What do you notice about the relationship between Eliza and Higgins that seems enhanced by Cukor’s direction? The whole scene starts with their return from the ball, Eliza’s success has Professor Higgins and Colonel Pickering patting themselves on the back and heaving sighs of relief that it’s all over, without giving Eliza the least consideration. After they retire she moves mechanically to turn out the light, the camera follows her as she moves like a somnambulist across the room where she drops to a chair. You see her emotions bubble to the surface, a sob tears from her throat and she falls to her knees against a chaise lounge pounding her fist in frustration. Higgins returns to the room in search of his slippers, which Eliza hurls at him. Higgins a bachelor only knows how to treat a woman as a servant or an experimental lab rat so to speak. He’s master and commander of his domicile and only is comfortable with male relationships therefore he has no idea how to acknowledge or validate Eliza’s feelings and concerns. He’s so clueless he attributes her emotional outburst to the strain of the day (today a clueless male might say it was PMS LOL) and then tries to appease her with chocolates and blithely suggests she go to bed have a good cry, say her prayers and sleep it all off. As Higgins lamely asks if she considers herself to have been mistreated, you can hear Eliza’s frustration and weary resignation in her barely audible “No”. In this moment when she’s come to the realization she can’t simply move on nor can she go back to her old lifestyle, she gives a forlorn barely perceptible shake of her head; it’s no use trying to explain as he’ll never understand because he’s too self-absorbed. Rex Harrison makes some excellent choices, note his facial expressions and tone of voice he is bemused and flustered, smoothing and adjusting his jacket indignantly, then mollifying, offering the dish of chocolates, but never apologetic. Cukor places Higgins in a posture of domineering superiority by first having Eliza on her knees sobbing against the chaise lounge and then again when Eliza flies at him in high dungeon she is forced down on the couch and again sobs into a pillow. Throughout the scene both are mainly kept in medium shot, with an occasional close up in moments of emotional transition. Explore any common themes and filmmaking techniques in a very different movie also directed by George Cukor, Gaslight. Both films feature story lines in which the male characters are condescending chauvinists who manipulate or control a woman: Higgins to win a bet and prove a point to a colleague, and Gregory to eliminate his wife so he can get his hands on hidden jewels. In the end the women are able to turn the tables and assert themselves. Both films are also set in similar time periods with lush sets with extravagant furnishings and characters beautifully costumed. Cukor obviously had a particular fondness for beautiful costuming as evident by the glamorous six minute fashion show from 1939's "The Women", which featured Adrian's most outré designs.
  9. I think the good Doctor is having a bit of alliterative fun and is referring to Shirley MacLaine's New Age beliefs, and interest in spirituality and reincarnation. This is from Wikipedia: In Postcards from the Edge (1990), MacLaine sings a version of "I'm Still Here", with customized lyrics created for her by composer Stephen Sondheim. One of the lyrics was changed to "I'm feeling transcendental – am I here?"
  10. I'd like to know what are your thoughts on James Caan's "musical" turns? To me he was "serviceable" but out of place. "Funny Lady" 1974 "Kiss Me Goodbye" 1982 "For the Boys" 1991
  11. 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? What other specific qualities do you notice about Robert Preston in either or both of these clips? 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? Some males in musicals were leading man types who would not and did not look out of place in any other genre. Then there were the others that were only suited to musical comedy (I can’t imagine Fred Astaire in buckskin tramping through the woods or Maurice Chevalier slogging through army trenches). In their careers Gene Kelly and Frank Sinatra were able to transition well to straight non-musical roles. Then in reviewing the list of late fifties and early sixties movies what occurred to me was the male characters often had an occupation as opposed to having a career as an onstage performer. Robert Preston started at Paramount usually in the role of friend to the stalwart leading man; Gary Cooper, Joel McCrea and John Wayne, in Adventure flicks like Beau Geste, Northwest Mounted Police and Reap the Wild Wind; or in pot-boilers featuring women leads like Joan Bennett, Susan Hayward and Barbara Stanwyck. And prior to his starring as the affable, charmer Harold Hill he was frequently cast as the heavy. Ironically while best remembered for Music Man and Victor/Victoria Pres, as he was known to his friends, had never been in a musical until M.M. or even sung a note professionally. Pres was such a success in the stage version of Music Man that Meredith Wilson insisted he be cast as Harold Hill in his screen adaptation, although Jack L. Warner had wanted Frank Sinatra or Cary Grant. (I can sort of picture Sinatra singing “Trouble” but I can’t envision Cary at all, can you?) I have seen quite a few of the movies Preston was featured in, he was seldom the lead but always gave a good solid believable performance. I found these two quotes telling of his approach and dedication to his craft: (On DeMille directing him in "Union Pacific") He was no director. For over two weeks of shooting, Stanwyck and I were alone in a boxcar, and because there were no crowd scenes, no special effects, just two people acting, you'd never have known the old man was on the set. He didn't know what to do with it, except just roll and print. He didn't know what to tell us. “Just two people acting…” Just two people who were superb artists! Everytime I turned down something, or wasn't offered something I really wanted, the very next thing that I did was the thing I should have done all along. It's been a lucky career that way. Nothing that I've ever made really hurt me. I've survived some bad ones just the way I've survived some plays that ran four performances. He called it luck, I’d say it was talent!
  12. Gypsy almost harkens back to pre-code as there is the subject matter of backstage burlesque life with the brassy, scantily clad strippers ala Broadway Melody of 1929 or Gold Diggers of 1933. I can’t imagine Louie B. Mayer producing the movie in an era of Eddy and MacDonald, Judy and Mickey wholesome, antiseptic family entertainment. However it follows the standard format and concepts of past musicals in the staging and way songs are interwoven into the story, and introduce and give you some insight to the characters. Also it evokes the nostalgic feel of the backstage musicals like For Me and My Gal and Easter Parade, yet it paints a less rose-colored or romanticized picture of show biz; cattle call auditions and the money man picking the talent. It also looks ahead to “disruptions” in bringing Natalie Wood to the teen audience members who were familiar with Natalie from youth-oriented movies like Rebel Without A Cause, Splendor in the Grass and West Side Story. While Rosalind Russell as Mama Rose, bursts into then dominates the scene as a forceful stage mother, she does not necessarily come off as obnoxious or overbearing due to her sense of humor: while trying to schmooze Uncle Jacko by referencing various fraternal organizations he states he’s not an Odd Fellow or a Knight of Pythias, she quips, “Aren’t you anything?” Then when he admits he’s an Elk she’s quick with a comeback to win him over, “I should have known it by your good manners.” Rather than brazenly demanding she charms her way into getting what she wants: (with a winning smile) “Professor, I just marvel at the way you can make a performer into an artist. She then proceeds to make her requests to the conductor and musicians. When performed by a child merely seeking to entertain with song and dance the lyrics of “Let Me Entertain You” as written are not particularly “edgy”, however the song can take on a different tone or coloring (read risque) when sung by a provocatively dressed young woman. It’s all a matter of interpretation.
  13. In the DDoD#6 ChicoDianeHeaven shared Judy Garland's "The Great Lady Has An Interview" from Ziegfeld Follies. The number was originally written by Kay Thompson for Greer Garson but she turned it down. Of course Judy is absolutely wonderful but I wonder what it might have been like with MGM's great lady. The quality of the clip is poor but it shows Greer could strut her stuff in this music hall number from the non-musical Random Harvest. I also found another great lady having an interview; Ann Miller on Perry Como's TV show 1958. It's fun to make comparisons as Judy's great lady appears to be an actress who wants to be a showgirl, while Annie already is (get a load of the costume and those gams!)
  14. I have to cry foul as one of the names in 6/20 quiz was "Tom Rall". I have never seen him referred to as Tom it's always Tommy. See below from Week 3 lecture notes. And yes I'm complaining because I got it wrong LOL ? (the only thing I've gotten wrong so far, darn it.) Bob Fosse, Tommy Rall, Bobby Van, and Ann Miller as Shakespearean characters in the musical within the musical in the number “Tom, Dick, or Harry” as Bianca is courted by three suitors in Kiss Me Kate (1958).
  15. 1. Does a movie that has as stylized a scene as An American in Paris’ ending ballet need to use a less-than-realistic, stylized approach throughout the film? The term suspension of disbelief or willing suspension of disbelief has been defined as a willingness to suspend one's critical faculties and believe something surreal; sacrifice of realism and logic for the sake of enjoyment. With that said...and to answer the question, of course not, that's the joy of musicals. The genre creates a less-than-real world that requires suspension of disbelief. Furthermore the whole ballet is a dream-like sequence inside Jerry's mind. 2. What keeps Jerry Mulligan from being completely unlikeable in a scene in which he acts pretty darn unlikeable? Jerry may be a brash American from Perth Amboy NJ, but I didn't find him unlikeable as evident by his warm smile and affable demeanor when he meets others on the street. It's apparent he's encountered others who are "officious and dull", who profess to know art, and he simply has no patience for them.

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