mavfan4life

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About mavfan4life

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  • Birthday 01/22/1956

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  1. 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? First, my observation the speech teacher in "Singing in the Rain" was being held up for ridicule as a stereotypical gay man contrasts dramatically with the Preston characterization in "Victor Victoria". Here, Preston is not a buffoon to be acted upon but the instigator of trouble. Although he plays it much straighter than the earlier depictions we often saw in Hollywood, he does have certain effeminate flourishes - the scarf in the pocket; the eye make-up; the ****y Queen behavior; the hand movements. But, victim he is not. The net effect of this is to present a gay man in a much more realistic light. Yes, gays have been victims of outrageous behavior for centuries, but they are also more fully-realized people than earlier Hollywood (and society, in general) have portrayed them as. What other specific qualities do you notice about Robert Preston in either or both of these clips? In "The Music Man" his movements are much more exacting in that they have no swish! to them. A hand thrust forward is thrown out with control and stops firmly in place. Compared to "Victor Victoria", we now see him doing controlled movements but those movements end with a swing of the hand or a feminine stuffing of a scarf into his pocket. Still exacting movements but here designed to give off a wholly different impression. But, each is filled with little movements or make-up details to drive home the message. 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? I remember him primarily in Westerns as a character actor. I would have to go back and look at some of those roles to make anything approaching an educated remark about this. But, unlike in these two films, he's not working as the center of attention in any of them. The characterization that comes to mind most is his role in "How the West Was Won" as the wagon train leader. Of course, that is a film that specializes in cameos of a sort. He's not a Debbie Reynolds or a Karl Malden but he plays his role just as effectively. Entirely believable.
  2. In what ways does this scene look backwards to classical musicals and how does it look ahead to new disruptions that we now know will happen in the movie musical? Well, we're puttin' on a show! Vibrant colors. As to disruption, I'm having a hard time with this concept. I guess the one thing about it are the lyrics, which we all know where "Let me entertain you" goes in Gypsy Rose Lee's life. That pushed the envelope a tad. 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. From the moment Rosalind Russell enters, everything else become secondary. She's loud, crude, seriously lacking in sincerity. No class. Epitome of stage mother. She's wonderful. She belts her lines out like a ham actor, which she's not.
  3. 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? There probably has to be a balance. If the entire film is highly stylized there's nothing to contrast it with. If too realistic the leap to a spectacular finale would probably be too much of a stretch; more jarring than it should be. Maybe. What keeps Jerry Mulligan from being completely unlikeable in a scene in which he acts pretty darn unlikeable? I don't think he's unlikeable at all. But, I like cynical, wary people. So, perspective would be one answer. Perhaps it's his own pretensions reflected in others that he reacts so negatively to. In the end, he's a mixed bag and that's what could make him likable. Aren't we all, really?
  4. How do the pre-dance movements of O’Connor and Kelly compare to their actual dance movements? Both are clearly choreographed with O'Connor moving around the professor while Kelly provides an anchor and the professor a pivot point. As the scene moves toward the dance, O'Connor pushes further with Kelly eventually getting in to the act. Everything builds towards the pure dance (as opposed to dancing/singing which is just a stage to the finale). Watch the Professor all the way through and consider the role of the straight man. The straight man provides a base from which the scene evolves. In this case, the professor is really portrayed as a silly, insignificant (i.e. gay) man cloaked in pretension. Thus, he always provides a point around which the action (and dialogue) revolves. O'Connor's pokes at his florid movements rely on the allusion to this for their punch. From there, the abuse builds as the sequence builds, literally with lamp shades, pictures and other objects from their surroundings being piled on top of him. How do the representations of masculinity in all three men compare and contrast with each other? On a spectrum from effeminate gay man (professor) to straight non-dominant male to Mr. Perfect, each is designed to play off the others, with Kelly doing the least of this. The professor obviously serves as the subject of abuse because he's...well...we all know he's gay *wink*, so let's have fun at his expense! O'Connor, not being the dominant male in the room is allowed to 1) act in a spontaneous, silly way, and 2) poke fun at the professor without coming across as mean-spirited as it might otherwise seem. Finally, Kelly moves smoothly into the jesting only after O'Connor has led the way and made it safe, but his dance moves are the most masculine, though O'Connor is a really great dancer. But, he doesn't have Kelly's power.
  5. As you reflect upon female representation in the 1950s, where do you think this film character falls in the continuum? Why? I don't think it's easy to make an apples-to-apples comparison of this because there are different strengths and weaknesses when compared to female leads in other eras. In some ways, her character has a more brash, cruder persona than the leads of the 40's. But, in many ways, those more self-reliant women of the 40's weren't necessarily feeling the need to prove their worth as Ms. Day's character in this film does. That seems to imply more doubt about her own position. Those early 30's films showed women who were tough because of the extraordinary economic woes afflicting the country. They didn't have her need to prove their value on a gender basis but more on a basis that men seemed to call the shots. The 40's women were not only self-reliant but also confident of their abilities because they had to be. I know from my own life that when things were easiest for me I tended to skate but buckled down when things have gotten tougher. Projecting that on to these women, I see more fluff in the late 40's. I guess the answer is Ms. Day, in terms of her own perceived power, is between on that spectrum, but closer to the fluff. Bravado seems to indicate weakness, kind of like a certain national political figure today. How do you think Doris Day grows as an actress in her various roles in the 1950s, before and after this musical? I don't really have enough information on that point yet. Though I do remember her playing a role as a former singer mixed up with a questionable guy. Maybe her name was Ruth Etting or something like that. Compare this one to that role or her later Hitchcock appearances, she definitely brings more nuance later in her career. But, she was always cotton candy with a voice. Does Doris Day’s bright and sunny persona add or detract from the role of Calamity Jane in your opinion? Please defend your answer. It's perfect for the role. This is a Hollywood treatment of a mythical Western figure and as that implies whimsy in a musical. She fits perfectly with her over-the-top tomboyish performance. It's not believable, but it is funny and interesting.
  6. As you watch the interaction between the four characters in this scene, what do you notice about the way they include each other or relate to one another? How is it different from early musicals we have discussed? Just reviewing all of the Daily Doses we've worked through to date, the most obvious difference is each of those involved a singer singing to someone - Petunia to Joe (or God?); Gene Kelly to Judy Garland, etc. This is a group singing to one person, all singing the same notes, words, etc in sync. As to how they relate to each other, I feel like they're using the same backstage formula that was introduced to us for the 40's Mickey and Judy shows. It's really "Let's Put on a Show!" What do you notice about the costuming of the characters that indicate cohesiveness of the ensemble, as opposed to setting anyone apart? Be specific. They're all wearing muted colors - shades of blue and gray, with the exception of Nanette Fabray who's wearing a cream and black-and-white checked block pattern. It's still muted obviously, but different because women are different, right? I do notice the men all are dominated by the darker colors whereas Ms. Fabray is dominated by the cream of her outfit. From here, it's easy to see the cohesiveness as the men almost form a horseshoe of appropriate attire around her also appropriate clothing. What do you notice about the staging and interplay between the characters that helps define the relationships between the characters in the song? Mr. Buchanan is leading those trying to convince Mr. Astaire to join the show. He tends to be positioned in the center of Ms. Fabray and Mr. Levant as they all urge Mr. Astaire to join them. Until he buys in, Mr. Astaire is the center of the other actors' attention. Then, he rises from the chair and joins them in lock step (with the few exceptions of Mr. Levant heading off screen.
  7. 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? Most obviously Petunia is devoted to Joe despite his shortcomings and that devotion brings her great joy and fulfillment. The clear tie to the song is that it's all about her love for Joe and the happiness her love for him brings to her. She sacrifices herself for the cause of her marriage to Joe, but she doesn't see it as a sacrifice but a blessing. How would the song change if it was a woman singing about her child? Does the cultural meaning change? How? If we accept the premise that we love our children, no matter what, the song makes more sense strictly from the perspective of a parent who is devoted to her child. But, as Joe is her husband, the song is more about the bliss the love itself and the man brings her. It's a devotion that goes beyond the biological ties she would have with a child. Joe stirs her and her devotion follows. What other thoughts do you have about this film, the issues of black Americans during WWII, and this film’s importance in this era? As a film, it's historical for no other reason than MGM gave it the "A" treatment knowing full well it would be rejected by theater owners in the South. But, it also sends a message to black audiences that, even though their treatment at the hands of white America had been nothing positive, at this time their reward would be in the service of the country. Put aside all the issues and devote yourself to the principles the country was fighting for and that would, in and of itself, a reward. Of course, it wasn't beyond the fact that fighting for the country in WWII did empower many blacks for the upcoming civil rights battles. Decades later, we know that the men who served this country despite their treatment in general do look back with great pride at their service, as do their families. They should. They gave so much for this country and deserve the nation's love and respect.
  8. Thinking like a director and editor, describe how each shot spotlights key actions. The first shot of Frank entering the hall puts him and Ms. Garrett in a confined space where she jumps up from a recline against the wall and starts the song, trapping him by matching his moves. Quickly, he backs out and into the stadium seating area. The camera pulls back to give us a wider shot as he runs away. Here the idea is freedom as amplified by the more expansive view. She stops him with the yell "Hey!" and we're back into a closer space, the camera moving to the right to narrow the space between them, again tightening as he leans him backwards, then backs him up against the wall and traps him with her arms. Again, as he slips away, the next shot moves to a mid-range shot and highlights their dual "dance", her chasing him with in sync steps. He's like a fish being reeled in with less and less room to maneuver in each subsequent shot. Reeled in...line let out for play...reeled in more...a little less line let out to wear him down. Finally, we have the shot expanding as he makes his final run. When he reaches the end of the stands, now trapped with no exit, the remainder of the shots are medium range, finishing with his slide down the rail and being "caught" at the bottom. Fish in the net. It’s interesting to examine how musicals segue into musical numbers. How does this sequence prepare us for the singing? Upbeat, bouncy tune with Frank tossing the ball up in time to the music when he's stopped by her. The music stops. He moves, she moves, the music moves forward. He stops, she stops, the music stops. Then, again. As her starts to run the music matches their pacing (or the other way around), growing faster as he runs faster, then finally stops with her cry of "Wait!"
  9. What was the first Judy Garland film you recall watching? What was your first impression of her? Well, since I was born until the 50's that would mean The Wizard of Oz. I have no recollections of my first impression but I certainly remember that she was always there. She was always Dorothy (my mom's name, too). Any memories of anything nuanced would have come much later and was gradual. But, I do remember the first time I really really appreciated her. It was at the very first TCM Classic Film Festival when the Opening Night feature was "A Star Is Born". It was a magic night for all. Stars, her family, and fans mingling together in the audience. Robert Osborne and Alec Baldwin on stage introducing the film. And the songs with that glorious voice filling the theater. As close to a Judy Garland concert as one could possibly be anymore. How do you view her differently after viewing these clips than you might have viewed her previously? I've seen both of these films before. In fact, I've seen most of her movies at this point in my life, so watching here didn't really change my perspective at all. But, she was always a fascinating person, with such a sad aspect to her life. When I see films like this and the Andy Hardy films, she seems to burst with joy and life. Contrast that with the sad look in her eyes when signing "Over the Rainbow" or "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas" in their respective films and I feel her pain. She reminds me, for some reason, of my sister who shared that same sad inner life. It makes me sad, too. What films in her later career come to mind as examples of her increasing ability to capture an audience’s imagination as a storyteller when she sings a lyric? I don't know if I can answer this question. For me, of all her performances later, the one that stands out is really "Judgement at Nuremberg" which is, of course, not a musical. In that film, though, her performance is heart breaking. But, if I had to pick one song that always sticks with me because of her performance, it would have to "Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas". Everything stops when she sings that song to little Tootie. Her lips quiver, her eyes become misty, and she enamors the young Tootie. One of the greatest moments in film, period.
  10. 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. The first scene showcases the Presidents (and our historic tradition) as the two men climb the stairs lined with their portraits towards the Oval Office. The second scene in the Oval Office is full of displays of historic sailing ships - pictures on the walls, miniatures under glass - and American flags. My guess is this is meant to emphasize the glory of the American Navy in light of the recent destruction of the Pacific Fleet at Pearl Harbor. The flashback sequence of a 4th of July parade theoretically in Providence, R.I. (if you choose to ignore the California mountains looming over a town that is actually flat) highlight a street lined with American flags - a traditional American town with classic 19th century wood frame commercial buildings. 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. The theme of all the dialogue seems to me to building a sense of unity and commonality shared by all Americans - blacks, Irish, women and men, Presidents and working folk (again, if you consider George M. Cohan to be working folk (which I do)). The conversation between the black servant and Cohan recalls a long history of service to Presidents Roosevelt and the country by the servant who agrees with Cohan that the song "Grand Old Flag" is just as relevant in the 40's as in the early part of the 20th century. In the Oval Office, there is strong agreement between Cohan and Roosevelt over their shared apprehension and understanding of the dire circumstances facing the country. "Don't worry about it. We understand each other perfectly." Roosevelt goes on and expresses his admiration for Irish Americans and their role in fighting for their shared values as Americans. Roosevelt discusses the flag and Cohan's own reverence for it (more specifically, the ideals the flag represents). Again, as noted in my response to #1, the dialogue works to reinforce the unity, but now within the context of a melting pot of people from different backgrounds sharing the ideals of liberty and freedom represented by the flag. It's probably a stretch to suggest that the backstage scene with the senior Cohan also builds on this unity by the statement "My wife never held up a show in her life." But, I guess I'll go there and accept this as proof of the overall premise - one for all and all for one. Maybe. 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. The use of flashback to tell a biography seems to be a oft-used tool to frame history. I would argue though that beginning with the 4th of July parade would create a slower introduction into the story of Cohan because you're basically making a decision to let the story evolve. By creating the flashback structure, the director quickly immerses you into the patriotic nature of Mr. Cohan's life work by immediately establishing a context to build the story. As a total aside, this is one of my favorite films and I'm not much given to flag-waving nationalism. But, for me, the movie works so well that I just had to add it to my personal DVD collection some time back.
  11. What other aspects of battle of the sexes do you see indicated in this clip or in the film Top Hat? Honestly, although I do get the parity of the "Battle of the Sexes" premise, I see the relationship as a fairly stereotypical Hollywood treatment of courtship - the man is trying to woo her with his charm and wit (and dancing skills in this film) and she is playing hard-to-get. It perfectly conforms to the fantasy of courtship. How does this film distinguish itself from other Depression era musicals we have watched or discussed this week? I must be lacking my analytical skills this a.m. as the things I see that distinguish it are pretty basic - great dancers/actors, great tunes, great sets, wonderful dialogue. Of course, it's not the folk musical that "Hallelujah" is, nor the backstage musicals we've also watched. The story is much more focused on the courtship. As spoken of earlier in the week's lectures, this one also has elements of screwball comedies. Oh, and I don't see any of the characters in danger of starving or feeling the need to steal their neighbor's milk to survive. 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? I have no idea. I'm not sure if women were taking a greater role in society beyond the foundational mother role perhaps brought on by more men being out of work and women having to step in a financially supportive role? But, I'm reaching here.
  12. What do you notice about the Lubitsch touch? How do the props, the dialogue, and the staging help you understand the character of Alfred (Maurice Chevalier)? Light. Lubitsch's films were always sophisticated and funny and this scene is no different. The set sparkles and is well-lit. Flashy. Chevalier is mischief and witty and confident in his own place. The drawer full of small handguns tells us this is a scene that he has seen play out many times. Perhaps not all in the same way (i.e. blanks), but with similar results. Based on this scene, what are some of the things you notice about the scene’s use of sound? Describe a specific sound or line of dialogue you hear and what you think it adds to the scene’s effectiveness. The thing I noticed most was the switch between French and English almost as though this is a silent film that replaces the silence with unintrepreted French but uses Chevalier's narration as title cards. She argues with her husband in French and most of us don't understand what is being said, but we understand the gestures and the tone of voice. Exasperated with her husband's inability to zip up the dress, she stomps across the room, turns and presents the zipper to Chevalier. Up the zipper goes and up goes Chevalier's shoulders in a shrug and grin, now firmly placed above the husband in the pecking order of desirability. What themes or approaches might you anticipate from this clip in other Depression-era musicals? Certainly the light and airy feeling of the sets and lighting. In an earlier lecture the comments were made about the inferior-positioned male being smarter than his so-called superior. I'm not sure how inferior Chevalier is financially to the husband prior to this scene, but he elevates through the action of the scene as I mentioned in #2.
  13. What do you notice about the interaction between the characters in these two scenes? Please give specific examples. The two scenes represent different stages in their relationship, with MacDonald having the upper hand in the first and that power shifting to Eddy in the second. Although Eddy remains the suitor with hat-in-hand in both, MacDonald's awareness of the slight insincerity of Eddy's overtures and the resultant power she feels over him completely dissipates in the second scene as she is personally overwhelmed by her woman-out-of-place situation. Eddy's lack of sincerity also dissipates as he watches MacDonald's difficulties and he begins to feel the role as her "protector", if you will. Spurred by his need to provide a shoulder to cry on, he abruptly decides to leave the saloon and comfort her. Interestingly, he is seen as the protector in both scenes and both are a result of his being in his own environment. MacDonald is clearly moving further from her own comfort zone, and of course would need a man to ease her into her new reality. If you have seen either or both of these actors in other films or television shows, please share your perceptions about them. I've seen both in their other films, though this one i've seen a couple of times. I do believe I saw her in a film without him, but can't remember what film. She definitely had the chops to act without him but they do stand out together because their mutual artificiality (coloratura?) in singing styles blends well. Her acting though sets up well against his lack of same because it gives her the upper hand which is used to the benefit of their films together by placing him in that role as suitor. 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? The most obvious is as I mentioned above. He's always seen as the guardian, she the self-assured though ultimately weaker partner. Me Tarzan.
  14. 1. Do you agree that the clip exhibits a brighter perspective of life than might be realistic? Why or why not?  The most obvious example of this is the camera interplay between the two producers, Ziegfeld and Billings. Ziegfeld looks to be all business. He's intent on showing his interest through his intense stare, whereas Billings is clearly off balance seeing Ziegfeld in the audience. He's on the defensive almost immediately. But, the playfulness is the result of Anna Held's song and playfulness with the hand-held mirror, using it to reflect the stage lights into the eyes of the audience. I think the dressing room scene with the orchids further amplifies Ziegfeld's drive. Carefully selected to impress, the orchids are a substantial step above the typical flowers in the dressing room routine. But, the lightness comes from Miss Held's wavering between the pragmatic business Billings brings and the promise and mystery the orchids represent. Aah, who will win the hand of the lovely lady? That seems a little brighter/lighter than who is going to lose this deal and suffer some degree of a financial setback. 2. What themes or approaches might you anticipate from this clip in other Depression era musicals? I'm not sure what this question is really about, but I assume this is dealing with techniques used here that would become part of the musical genre throughout the 30's? I've heard so often that the movies provided an escape from a reality that was harsh and the elements of a glittering set with brilliant lighting and opulent designs certainly provide that. I can imagine that, in the same way I want to see spectacular effects of a blockbuster at my neighborhood theater that I use to escape the mundane suburban lifestyle which I've devolved into, people on limited budgets, one step away from the streets used to place themselves for 90 minutes into a romantic, sparkling fantasy where people sought you out to throw money and fame at you. The clever banter and whimsical choices the characters make provide an alt-reality to a Depression-era audience where decisions could have far greater negative consequences. The dialogue (and music) amplify that fantasy and served as the basis of the Hollywood musical for years. So, I guess you could say it anticipates what is to come in the genre, though I don't believe the studio had any interest beyond developing a hit that would lead to profitability. In fact, I do recall the late, great Robert Osborne saying on more than one occasion that no one in those days imagined their work would become a source of devotion for so many decades later. They were just trying to make a buck and others used what worked for them to build their own films (and, of course, expanded on those ideas).  3. Since this is a musical that was made after the motion picture code was enforced, how might you imagine it might have been filmed or scripted differently if it had been pre-code? Give specific examples. More revealing costumes. More sexual innuendo. Sex sells, right? But, as to the overall feel of the film, they would still provide a backdrop of glitz and glamor. The Depression was still going on and so was the need for escape.
  15. 1. Definitive Hitchcock. First, look at the camera work - close-ups, odd angles establishing the power structure between the actors, Bergman looking into and through the glass of bicarbonate, hair down in her face. Again, all you need to know about where this is headed. The dialogue fills in the details, but it's the camera work that establishes all context of the main idea of this film. Time and again, through the focus of these Daily Doses, I can't help but reflect on comments in earlier classes about Hitchcock never straying far from his silent film roots. There is, to me, nothing more Hitchcockian than this. By the way, here's that damn figure of a person laid out across a bed. Again. 2. In this scene, the initial shot of Bergman in bed, hand hanging from the bed, is brightly lit. All is dependent on her wonderful acting skills within the set design. Her eyes reflect her doubt and concern, hazily through the fog of her hangover (and the restorative bicarbonate) as they slowly focus on the shadowy figure of Cary Grant, backlit in the doorway. She's framed tightly, so it is required that her face express her underlying doubt and confusion. Grant, framed in the doorway, cloaked in shadow, walks toward the bed and his image is turned upside down as he speaks to her with a seemingly dispassionate voice. The set is de-emphasized through shallow depth-of-focus, with the exception of the bed. She's dressed in yesterday's clothes, he's dapper (as usual). One's life in shambles, one's life in seemingly total control. His voice controlling. Her voice rebellious. Is there any aspect to this scene that doesn't hit it on every single level? 3. First, Cary Grant, because his casting is so much easier to discuss for me. There is the basic structure of his persona - suave and cool. Yet, rather than the charm we've come to expect from him, he's cynical, manipulative, hard, dispassionate. Ms. Bergman, on the other hand, plays very much to her traits. Vulnerable. Confused. Seeking to understand her situation and how best to work through it, but with little confidence. She does what many of us would do in a similarly unbalanced relationship - become rebellious. Defiant. Dismissive. All to protect herself from her own vulnerability. This is my favorite scene of all the Daily Doses seen to date.

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