Dr. Vanessa Theme Ament

DAILY DOSE OF DELIGHT #1 (From The Great Ziegfeld)

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Hi Everyone!

As we start the course, I will be posting a forum for you to post your responses to the Daily Dose of Delight, which will be available every Monday through Thursday. Here is the first one for Monday.

Recall that you watched a clip from The Great Ziegfeld. As you watched it, we were discussing the early beginnings of the movie musical in the historical context. With that in mind, look at the three questions below, as I listed them below the clip on Canvas, and post your thoughts. 

I look forward to reading your responses/

 

Here are a few discussion starters (though feel free to come up with your own):

1.    Do you agree that the clip exhibits a brighter perspective of life than might be realistic? Why or why not? 

2.    What themes or approaches might you anticipate from this clip in other Depression era musicals?

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.

 

Vanessa Theme Ament, Ph.D.
Endowed Chair, Telecommunications

Ball State University

 

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Yes I would agree that the clip makes the weight of the time period disappear.  Most people went to movies to escape and this would have been in that same vein.  I believe that it made light of the world around them and that even money was not to be taken too seriously.  The reply "yes I am tryng to lose weight" when the doorman told him he gave him a 5 pound note emphasized the frivolity of the film.  The fact that Miss Held flitted back and forth in her decision to meet or not meet Florence Ziegfeld and her decision being influenced by the beauty of the orchids and not even knowing who he was brings more of the lighthearted feel to this musical.  

 

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I do agree that this certainly takes away the seriousness of the time period. Miss Held didn't really have any idea who had sent her the flowers. She was just overwhelmed with the idea that someone would send them to her. I believe if this film had been pre-code, she would have been dressed in a more scanty costume for her performance. Instead, she was covered from head to toe in a long dress, bonnet, and a parasol.

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1. Well, straight of the bat I guess we see where the Foghorn Leghorn looney toon got some inspiration with the " I-I-I say..." There's a lot more rat-a-tat-tat to the dialogue vs. listening and responding. It's not really listening and reacting with a line type acting, but more waiting for your line and focusing on the dialogue while also keeping the mood for the scene visually. There's also some jokey puns, e.g. "do you realize you gave me 5 lbs. sir?" from the relatively larger gentleman for that period anyway surprised at how heavily he was tipped, and response "oh, yes, I'm trying to lose weight!" Or, "why is it junior? is he a little boy?" There's also the gags of how Anna Held's mirror messes with the vision of individual audience members as she puts the spotlight back onto them, but these two competing producers embrace the spotlight. I do think this is brighter than life existed at the time because it's not played realistically, but at the same time I don't think the thematic content is too downplayed. For instance, the competition part of the story is obvious as are other things, even if they're portrayed in a light kind of way.

2. I think I'm expecting more jokes. The acting also seems broader, Held in particular seems a bit looney tune with her performance and voice--'I can say and sing the english words, but please read these to me!' (Not that that's a bad thing necessarily.) I'm also expecting since this is a genre that naturally lends itself towards performers acting as performers, and showbiz doing showbiz, that we'll get a number of behind the scenes type stories or elements to stories than I originally thought. I'd seen SINGIN' IN THE RAIN awhile back, but this clip makes me realize how much making the industry the text, bringing out the backstage politics, and being a bit meta was already out there for musicals stretching into the 30s.

3. I'm going to guess that pre-code rather than sending a note backstage to Held, and given the heavy eye contact from Florence Ziegfeld, he'd have been backstage himself with those orchids. And he'd have expressed those thoughts to her rather than them being read, which perhaps we'd have gotten a peppy le pew type scene backstage as he went to woo Held. Perhaps Held's "come and play with me" courting of everything would've been even more explicit, but I don't know...that's pretty straightforward in what she says, and doesn't seem dialed down really.  Who would miss that subtext? But, on the other hand, I guess she might've been dressed down more for that number, or acted less surprised backstage (the 2nd though is less clear since I haven't seen this movie and maybe her seeming a tad ditzy is supposed to be a character trait.) It's also possible that pre-code the other (I'm guessing) competing manager, would've noticed Ziegfeld earlier in the performance as opposed to near the curtain call ending, and the competitive jealousy/sexual rivalry between them would've been played more up. 

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37 minutes ago, Elizabeth Milne said:

I must be missing something. Where do I find the clip to watch?

Were you able to find it? I'm not seeing it either. Feeling a little lost at the moment.

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1 minute ago, BlueMoods said:

Were you able to find it? I'm not seeing it either. Feeling a little lost at the moment.

On Canvas, I clicked over to the Daily Dose #1 tab and it was embedded under there.

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1 Yes I do believe it does provide a brighter side than what was going on at the time with the depression and the way money was being handed out in the movie did not show this

2 They tried to make you forget the reality of what was going on at that time to help you feel cheery at least for a little bit.

3.I honestly do not see how this would have differed

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14 minutes ago, BrianBlake said:

On Canvas, I clicked over to the Daily Dose #1 tab and it was embedded under there.

Within the TCM course? I don't see anything that says Daily Dose.

 

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2 minutes ago, BlueMoods said:

Within the TCM course? I don't see anything that says Daily Dose.

 

I'm on my laptop so perhaps the formating might be different. For me, it's in Week 1: Monday (which I got to by the course modules and scrolling down to 6/4). And if you click over to Daily Dose #1 it'll come up. The page automatically loads onto 'learning objectives' and the lecture notes and lecture video are earlier tabs.

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The brighter perspective and the element of escapism is definitely captured in not only the light heartedness of the dialogue and song but also in the opulence and lavishness of the stage costume and the back drop of the dressing room. I expect that orchids would not only have been extremely exotic and outside the realm of the average rural movie goer during the Depression but the sumptuousness of all the crystal and bouquets in the dressing room would have been a visual treat and a glimpse in to a world were flowers cost 1000s of francs and dreams do come true.

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1. The clip starts with Ziegfeld essentially giving money away, showing that he has enough money to not have to care that he is giving it away, and then continues to show what I assume was a relatively wealthy audience. It is safe to assume that during the Depression that was not the norm for most people, so by displaying a lifestyle not available to many it paints a brighter view of life.

2. Other Depression era musicals most likely follow the lives and problems of people who are well off or who are not worrying about work of money, similar to how some of the most popular shows of the 80's surrounded the lives of the wealthy.

3. Had the film been made precode, the relationship between Ziegfeld and Florence would have been more blatantly displayed, rather than being more of an implication. They also might have felt free to display some of the more risque parts of the real story, such as the fact that they had a common law marriage. It may also have impacted the sort of language generally used throughout the film.

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1. I believe that it does. In the clip Ziegfeld throws money around like its nothing. He buys terribly expensive flowers and hands the doorman 5 pounds and then jokes about it. The doorman also appears to have the money to go to the theater, as he talks of seeing the French actress, which I assume means he's seen the show. The actress also speaks of having a choice between the two men, meaning she isn't at all worried about money or position, she's free to see what all of her options are, instead of stuck doing what she knows with make her money and make ends meet.

 

2. One of the themes I saw was people having choices and the freedom to make the choices without much consideration beyond how they’re feeling. They aren't seemingly worried about the future. They don’t seem terribly concerned about money as well, it’s thrown around several times in the short clip.

 

3. Since the motion picture code was a moral guideline, you don’t see any skin from the woman in this clip. In The Broadway Musical a lot of the clips are women in bras, naked in the bathtub, etc. In this film, she gets off stage and the only piece of clothing that is removed is her hat. Pre-code era she’d probably have stripped down more. Also, she'd probably have been dressed differently on stage, at least less than the fancy, full length, totally covering dress she was wearing in the clip.

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The clip does exhibit a brighter perspective of life, from the cheerful and naive doorman to Ziegfeld's extravanagance, first at giving a very large tip to the costly bouquet of flowers he sends to Held. Then there is Held's whimsical attitude and playful performance. Even how she considers the beauty of the flowers more important than a potential business offer is almost wreckless during a time of strict frugality. These would all contribute to an escape from the harshness of the audience's lives.

The costume choice for Held in this scene is very striking with her large comical bonnet, the frills on the dress and the foot long train. A precode film would have had a more revealing costume and perhaps even a musical number with more romantic appeal.

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26 minutes ago, BrianBlake said:

I'm on my laptop so perhaps the formating might be different. For me, it's in Week 1: Monday (which I got to by the course modules and scrolling down to 6/4). And if you click over to Daily Dose #1 it'll come up. The page automatically loads onto 'learning objectives' and the lecture notes and lecture video are earlier tabs.

I'm seeing the modules, broken down by day, but nothing broken down by week and still not seeing daily dose. Maybe someone could post a screen shot?

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6 minutes ago, BlueMoods said:

 I'm seeing the modules, broken down by day, but nothing broken down by week and still not seeing daily dose. Maybe someone could post a screen shot?

 

 

Screenshot (2).png

Screenshot (1).png

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6 minutes ago, BrianBlake said:

 

 

Screenshot (2).png

Screenshot (1).png

Found it! Thank you SO much! I'll look at it tomorrow (later today actually). It's 2:30 am here and I'm headed for bed. Thank again, you're a lifesaver.

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On your last Screen shot, there are 4 tabs at the top of the screen.

Learning Objectives

Lecture Notes

Lecture Video

The far right is DAILY DOSE #1. 

If if you click on the tabs in order (it defaults to number 1) you will be able to read and watch in order. But you can click in any order. 

I do hope this helps. 

John

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I was totally ignorant of the “Codeand a large number of bodies. After reading and hearing in the lecture notes and videos today, I looked up the code and it’s history. I noticed last night while watching another film from 1929 the unusual violence with guns going off all over the place. I was quite surprised but realise now just how big an impact this had on film production for so many years. It seemed to have a fairly immediate impact once it was enforced and now answers the question as to why all the couples in film slept in separate beds.  I’m learning so much. 

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1. Yes, the clip definitely exhibits a brighter perspective of life than was realistic during the Depression Era.  Obvious disregard for money and no expense spared was not the norm for practically anybody -- even many of the wealthy lost almost everything in those dark financial days.  But the escapism of this brighter perspective is what kept people saving up their dimes and coming to the movies in those days.

2. Themes anticipated from this clip in other Depression era musicals - more of much the same - not a care in the world, lighthearted treatment of conflict, lavish sets and costumes, no real world problems or worries.

3. Pre-code would probably have shown much more risque costuming for Held.  Probably the characters of both Ziegfeld and Billings would not been written so playfully -- they would have been more serious characters and adversaries.  They may have come to her dressing room to try to persuade her, rather than send flowers and ask her to meet somewhere.

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This definitely exhibits a brighter side of life. I assume that this takes place during the Edwardian era, but the clip shows none of the poverty and class disparities that would have existed at that time, especially in England. It reminds me a lot of "Born To Dance", which is a lovely film, but doesn't even look as if it's set during the height of the Great Depression, because everyone looks happy and is employed. That seems to have been the standard for Depression era musicals, the fact that there was little or no reflection of economic suffering or a lack of prosperity. Also another thing I must note, is that women seem to be portrayed as being very dependent on men for love and success, and as pointed out in the lecture video, if a women was not dependent on a man, she was the spunky best friend and not the leading lady. 

I think that if this was made during the pre-code era, Anna would have been wearing far less whilst in her dressing room, and her character would have been far more world-wise, rather than coming across as rather naïve and flippant. Also, I think Ziegfeld and his rival would have been portrayed as far more cutthroat and prepared to stoop to lower means to "persuade" Anna to work for them. And there probably would have been far more questionable interactions between Anna and the two male characters, as in they probably would have been more inclined to sort of foist themselves on her, like Charles King and Kenneth Thomson do in Broadway Melody of 1929 with Anita Page.  

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DAILY DOSE #1

VOULEZ VOUS ORCHIDS AVEC MOI CE SOIR

1.Everything is as big & bright as Anna Held’s blinking eyes who literally reflects the audience’s sensibilities and their desire to escape the Depression.

2. There’s a surreal larger-than-life fairy-tale feel that seems to characterize the era.

3.Though the song is no “Cherry Pie” by Warrant it is far more suggestive than it is performed considering Florenz Ziegfeld actually based his follies on the Folies Bergère and not “The Palace Music Hall.” 

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  1. I do agree that this shows a brighter perspective of life during this time.  The musical number shows happy people, wealthy people being entertained by a happy and playful song.  The depression was the exact opposite of this, and would most certainly have affected the audience present at this show.
  2. I believe that most musicals during the depression era time were created to help bring joy and a more positive emotion back to its audiences.  The movie musical becomes more about escapism of the trappings of the real world as we will see in musicals such as the Footlight Parade. 
  3. I believe that the song number would have been more like a vaudeville, Gypsy Rose Lee number had this been before the codes. I also think that the backstage dressing room scene would have been more realistic in showing the quick change of an artist after leaving the stage. 
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1.    Do you agree that the clip exhibits a brighter perspective of life than might be realistic? Why or why not?  

Its not just this clip its why we go to the movies! We want to see a brighter perspective of life, we want to sit and let our forget our troubles for a good 2 hours. As the song goes "Come on get happy"  Movies are also meant to make us feel good about our selves. We go to them during good times in our lives and bad times.

2.    What themes or approaches might you anticipate from this clip in other Depression era musicals?

I can tell that the 2 men in the box seats do not like each other. or they are jealous of each other because they both have the hots for the musical star.  One of the other themes would be "money" status. Because of what she said about the man who wrote the card with the name Junior. Thinking a little boy wanted to meet with her.

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.

I can only give 2 examples - The first example is during the musical number the singer shines the mirror onto everyones face. Think about the camera man who is filming it! That bright light gets into the camera lens and can harm everyones eyes!  The second example is while getting the card the maid starts to undress the main singer (you can see that she is trying to undo her dress from the back - nothing is seen but it is implied. If this movie was with a code she would go into another room to change or have some place in her dressing room to change. 

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