Dr. Vanessa Theme Ament

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

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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? 

This movie is like a box of chocolates and should be viewed from the chaise lounge. Glamorous performers, beautiful costumes, wonderful musical numbers. gorgeous sets. There is not a bad center in the box. How far can you get from reality, especially the reality of the ’30s?

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

It’s hard to just react to the clip when I have seen the movie several times. Mr. Z’s relationship with money is “easy come, easy go” throughout the film. Also, the “spare no expense” attitude to get the right girl, put on the most lavish production or live the glitziest life carries through the movie. Would there have been a voyeuristic tendency in Depression audiences to see how the well-off spend their days? When Mr. Z is down to his last dollar did the audience secretly say “take that, buddy”? Did they love his scrappy, brash approach to his work? These are themes in many of the movies of that time.

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.

All through “Come Play With Me”   I was thinking of Mary Martin singing “My Heart Belongs To Daddy”. You could really do a lot of suggestive things with Ms. Ranier’s number. She took off her hat in the dressing room and nothing else. Another missed opportunity to spice things up. Mr. Z’s love life would be in question and explored. I think there would be a lot of business undercutting and portrayal of people Mr. Z stepped on to get to the top.

I would watch William Powell read the phone book….

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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? 

Yes because who could afford that many flowers in that time and who could give 5 pounds to anyone unless you were very rich. People of that era were not rich and they were not realistic at all. 

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

These people are way too happy and carefree for the depression era, they just make you want to forget your worries. 

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 think the two men would have shown far more passion to her like maybe throwing her kisses and trying to outdo the other with throwing a flower or something to that nature on to the stage when she was done. They would have shown a lot more aggressiveness to each other

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The movies were a chance to escape from the daily hardships of the Depression, so I think the films were brighter than daily life would have been.

If the film were made pre-code I think the costumes would be more scanty and the dialog a bit more suggestive.

The true story of Ziegfeld and Anna was probably too much to portray after code enforcement.

 

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Musicals have given me a great gift in escaping the everyday life.  From watching them to working as a stage manager, I never tire from seeing what classic and contemporary musicals bring to life.  They help convey important messages for the time they were developed and mostly bring pleasure.   I am so excited that you are offering this course, and am looking forward to learning the wonders of where musicals began and how they have evolved.

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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? 

I do agree this brings about a bright perspective of life.  Since this was set in the depression era, I find it interesting to see a completely filled audience going to see a show.  Plus the song itself presented to the audience was on that seemed to keep them laughing and smiling during such a  difficult time in American history.  

 

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

I would expect to see more upbeat and happy themes.  It seems the mood in Hollywood at this time was to keep everyone happy in a time where there struggles.  I would expect to see many different rags to riches stories and any type of love story that would warm the heart.  

 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 feel that it may have been filmed very differently. 

One example: I feel as if the five pound note scene would have been handled very differently before the code.  This was a hard time, the doorman would have been lucky to even receive a 5 pound note from anyone.  I could see the man getting stiffed by Ziegfried if this were pre-code.  I believe it was included to show the kindness of people during such a rough time.

Another example: I could see the scene between the two men when they are staring each other down being a little bit more lewd towards each other rather than just playful nods of acknowledgement 

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I believe that it depicts a brighter view of the times. The beautiful costumes, the Broadway set where Ms Rainer performed, the orchids and the feeling of riches. My Mom and Uncle spoke often of  the hard reality of  growing up in the Depression yet going to the movies every week. My uncle particularly loved the musicals passing on that love to me. The Great Ziegfield clip shares that feeling that there are chances of seeing the beautiful things in life through the stories of others. And going to the movies took you there .

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I agree that these musicals were much lighter and less realistic. After all, this was an era where people were worried where their next meal might be.  They could go to the movies and see all the glamorous costumes (according to Wikipedia, the costumes has 50 pounds of sequins!!). At this time, the movies were the escape that people needed.  The fairy tale romances, the costumes, the music..all very extravagant.

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1. I think that with this clip it shows the lighter side of life and I mostly say that due to the lighting on Miss Held for the song. The lighting is simple and there are really no shadows at all making her look bright and happy on the stage and in the dressing room. I would also say the lyrics are come and play with me in her song that she sings. Generally overall with musicals there is almost this expectation that they are supposed to show the lighter side of life even if that means showing it more than reality. 

2. I would see themes that everything is fine and we're all happy here in the musicals. Others might be that there's always seems to be a happy ending with musicals in terms of romantically or even career wise. I also see other musicals using what they did for lighting in the film in other musicals that involve being filmed on a stage or dressing room. And with the camera exposing so much I think it gives the viewer more to look at making the problems of the depression almost go away. 

3. Example one when Miss Held uses the mirror during her song she says I would like you to play with me. While she points her mirror at mostly the male audience in the crowd. And seeing some of the men and their reactions to it. Like the guy in the box is laughing and thinking hey that's a good idea. While others shy away from it. This right here I can see the code preventing something like this. Because although it is only suggesting something it could be interpreted differently depending on the person. Had it been filmed during the pre code era they may have used tighter shots on the other men rather than keeping them in more of a wide shot. 

And like many others have noticed is the undressing of Miss Held. Pre-code would have allowed the camera to get much closer on the undressing part when the maid helps her take off the dress. But with this being filmed after the code was enforced all the filmmakers could show was the hint that the maid was helping her take off the dress but we never fully see it taken off or get any closer than watching the maid do here simple action of zipping it down.

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On ‎6‎/‎3‎/‎2018 at 11:08 PM, Dr. Vanessa Theme Ament said:

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

I think this clip does exhibit a brighter perspective. We know that when this was presented it was 1936 and was in the mist (towards the middle/end) of the Great Depression. Many viewed reality as cold, dark, and with despair so, it would make sense that any film whether a musical biopic or any movie would be viewed in a more positive light.

I want to also mentioned something that has come to me as I watched this clip, but also read this particular question. I have noticed that many criticize such movies as these for their lack showing the flaws of person(s). Today I see more and more films focused so much on the flaws that I honestly get to the point of wondering could there be any brightness in characters/films. I look at films of days gone by and I see what both are doing.

Honestly, if anyone asked me what I would want in say The Great Ziegfield would be a balance of the brighter perspective but also give true light of the flaws of the characters. Could it be I am looking more at it through the modern lens? Possibly, but it dawn of me and I wanted to give my reflection to the table (or to the message board). 

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1. I agree that this shows a brighter perspective of life at that time. The music and lyrics are happy and light. It must have provided audiences a welcome escape from the harsh realities of the depression.

2. The themes of wealth/money and status are evident in this clip. I expect them to be recurring themes in other Depression era musicals as well.

3. If this had been pre-code, the singer would have finished undressing (rather than just taking her hat off).  Other than that, I don't think it would have been much different.

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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? 

As the world plunged deeper into the Great Depression, movie audiences needed a place to go to  see worlds and experiences other than their own.  The fancy dress, tuxedos and ball gowns, give the poor audiences something to cling to other than the world economy.  Also, the backstage "organization" of the play seems delightfully non-chaotic (if that makes sense) making the on stage performances seem casually carefree.  One would wonder if modern stage musicals would look so easy-going.

2.    What themes or approaches might you anticipate from this clip in other Depression era musicals?  I can imagine that future themes involving far away places (all shot on the backlot) or dreamy sequences to make audiences forget their woes.

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.

Since the Hays code strictly forbade even the hint toward nudity and sexuality, I imagine that the scene in Ziegfeld's dressing rooms could have been a lot more racy.  The show of more skin, more suggestive language, longer embraces/kisses, would have pre-dated the rules of the Hays Code of Production

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1. This movie definitely shows things in a brighter light than really existed.  Did audiences want something light and fun and easy or something dark and depressing and realistic?  This point was made in the movie "Sullivan's Travels" with the conclusion that people knew how bad things were and didn't necessarily want to be reminded. Going back to the discussion video about movies were mostly either light and easy musicals or gangster movies, gangster movies were escapism in their own way - most people weren't involved in that kind of life but read and heard about it so it brought in a realistic element that wasn't actual life for most of the audience. 

2. I would expect to see the themes of behind the scenes and love at this time.  Also, an emphasis on a woman making it big but as pointed out in the discussion she has to make the choice of career or family.  

3. Pre-code I would expect the song to be a bit more risque and her costume to be more scanty - less ruffles and innocence.  The backstage scene would probably have her undressing probably with one or both of the men competing for her to be in her dressing room.  Anna would be able to read the English herself and would play the men off each other - less the ingenue and coquettish and more adult and businesslike, probably using her feminine wiles to help her get what she wants.

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1.  During the depression there was a wide divide between the rich and the poor.  This clip is probably pretty accurate in its depiction of the rich, who may not have been the largest part of the audience. 

2.  This film's focus on the wealthy class is a typical theme of many musicals of the 30's.  I think of the Astaire and Rogers movies where people fly down to Rio at the drop of a top hat.  And many musicals of the 30's have themes centered on money and the acquisition of it.  The conflict in many of the backstage musicals involves raising enough money to put on a show.  As I remember, The Great Ziegfeld shows Ziegfeld at various ends of the wealth spectrum -- losing everything one minute, then getting enough money for his next venture.  Acquiring money is part of the happy ending.  This message that a person could rise from rags to riches is part of the optimism that we see in the 30's musicals.

3.  I have to believe that if the film had been pre-code, the song about "play with me" would have been staged much more suggestively, with more suggestive close-ups pointing out the double entendres in the lyrics.  And the lyrics might have referred to playing all night rather than all day.

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So, in watching the movie The Great Zeigfield, it seems they dubbed Dennis Morgan's voice, which I know they often did, but he has a perfectly fine voice on his own, so just curious about it. Quite a lavish production, but then Zeigfield was no slouch in the over the top factor! 

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This clip indeed presents a lighter side of things, especially in the 5 pound tip given to the doorman. That amount would be worth nearly 500 dollars in today's money.

As far as what I might anticipate in other musicals, it appears the filming of musicals changed from the perspective of the audience to one that included close-ups of the singers, as well as the singer's perspective into the audience.

Because the film is post-code, the only thing the actress takes off in her dressing room is her hat.

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I'n not sure where to post this about the musical that's airing now on TCM...these are a few notes (it's a Loooog movie) my comments are for people who have already watched the movie...this is not a summary

Anna Held (Louise Rainer) is torn but she does chose Ziegfeld over ALL her other choices...she has her orchids & jewelry from Ziegfeld who always needs money & never pays his bills unless late or not at all...(we all know at least one person like that in real life) right?

I'll note a few scenes I noticed that stand out other than the obv...Ray Bolger the tap dancing 'rug roller'...does a great little tap while rolling his rug & holding a broom...he was in the Wizard of Oz...the Scarecrow & he is stage hand moving props while waiting to get his own dance number & Zeigfeld tells him to not move anymore props b/c now he is going on stage...that was a big promotion for the 'rug rolling' stage hand

In between putting the show together he dodges creditors Ziegfeld  always requires money

The elaborate 'wedding cake' set...well what can one say about it!!! It was elaborate & the lead male singer has a great voice...not sure his name...I used  wiki but could not find who he was

Ziegfeld pulled another fast one w/ the new expensive costumes & the poor guy who supplied them had to wait until (next month) when he may or may not get paid 

Ziegfeld has plenty of women & never enough money

The Fanny Brice scene w/ the mink coat is funny...she is funny...Miz (Funny) Brice ...yet her song 'mama' is poignant & reminds me of "Cats" musical...& this is followed by "Look For The Silver Lining" & more talk about money...Ziegfeld does have a good heart...not sure about his business sense...everyone should know :  Never gamble or invest w/borrowed money

"Please don't turn the elephant Audrey" Ziegfeld asks Virginia Bruce (Audrey Dane)...she has a bit of a jealous fit & breaks the elephant full of flowers ...sad scene

NOTE: I noticed many of the cast members from Wizard of Oz in this movie: Ray Bolger & Frank Morgan (Billings)  here who played the Wizard

William Powell/Ziegfeld & Myrna Loy/ Billie Burke are great here & later did the "Thin Man" Series to great success due to the chemistry & film presence they both held

Married...not married... Ziegfeld married Burke & only one marriage can be legal  at one time so the little French gal w/big eyes was not legal...she reads of Ziegfeld's marriage in the paper & falls into a fit of tears...it is over for her & she leaves the story

Ziegfeld & Bruce produce a beautiful child & her circus toys inspire a 'dog & pony' type show & then the bittersweet happens & a winding down starts...Ziegfeld overhears three men talking about his failures instead of his successes & he is motivated & determined to have four money-makers at the same time...he achieves this...he loves his work & I believe he is NOT motivated by greed & does have his heart in the right place...his weakness is living on borrowed money & not learning from his failures & mistakes...once again he borrows money to invest & the stock market collapses & he loses it all

The scene near the end of movie where he uses the police to round up the three men who rake him over the coals in the barber shop is poignant b/c is says that he does care about what the fickle public thinks of his work...this is where he determines to have four hits at one time & he does this before he to exits

 

 

 

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Then, as now, movies were escapist entertainment. Still, when a movie sets itself up as biography, I'd like it to be closer to the whole truth than just a glimpse of it.

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I'm "watching" the movie also.  I'm on the computer with my headphones on, so I turn my head to watch during certain scenes.  The scene that caught me by surprise and with delight was Miss Fannie Brice.  What a talent! 

I have this movie in my film library, so I'm not missing anything, since I've seen it before (a while ago), and will certainly see it again.  

 

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14 minutes ago, Kathie2 said:

I'm "watching" the movie also.  I'm on the computer with my headphones on, so I turn my head to watch during certain scenes.  The scene that caught me by surprise and with delight was Miss Fannie Brice.  What a talent! 

I have this movie in my film library, so I'm not missing anything, since I've seen it before (a while ago), and will certainly see it again.  

 

I was watching "Dames" and between the movie not capturing my attention and not having enough sleep the night before, I dozed off. I woke up in time to see Fanny Brice (I googled The Great Ziegfeld and saw to me delight that it actually was her!). I'm not sitting in front of the TV watching it now, for several reasons, but am listening to it in the background. One reason being I want to see it from the beginning. I did set it to record but I don't know if it recorded from the beginning or from Fanny Brice's performance.

Question about the Fanny Brice number where girls came out one at a time to introduce themselves and say hi. One looked and sounded just like Ethel Merman, but she was not listed in the cast on IMDB.

But wow, some of the uncredited actors in that cast...Pat Nixon!! I never knew she was an actress, aspiring or otherwise. And this movie is virtually a who's who of current and future stars. I always get a kick out of seeing minor uncredited actors who went on to become major stars in their own right. 

If my DVR only captured some of the film, my only hope is that TCM will air it again some day in the future. 

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Hi Mijiyoon38--I too happened to catch The Great Ziegfeld on TCM today and wondered if a thread had been started on this film.  Thanks for starting one and for highlighting a lot of points of interest in this film.

I believe Dennis Morgan is the actor singing A Pretty Girl in the spectacular Busby Berkeley scene.  I remember him best from his films of the 1940's, especially Christmas in Connecticut.  Morgan was so young when he did this film that I had to look twice before I realized he was singing the number.  IMDB lists The Great Ziegfeld as his second film in a long career--and quite a memorable appearance amidst the extravagance of that scene.    

 

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I agree with most of the former comments in that this musical does seem to make a bit of a joke about money, presents an escape from the real world, and presents a modest backstage scene in view of the Code.  What I don't get about the clip is what Anna Held is doing with that mirror in her number.  What is the point of that?  It seems to annoy her audience rather than dazzle them ... on the other hand, I seem to remember something like that in a Cabaret number. though whether that's in the movie or in one of the stage productions I've seen I'm not sure.

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I feel if it was precod le she definitely would have had more revealing clothing. Also, that may have seen William Powell actually be in her dressing room when she's done performing instead of waiting outside. 

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18 minutes ago, BlueMoods said:

I was watching "Dames" and between the movie not capturing my attention and not having enough sleep the night before, I dozed off. I woke up in time to see Fanny Brice (I googled The Great Ziegfeld and saw to me delight that it actually was her!). I'm not sitting in front of the TV watching it now, for several reasons, but am listening to it in the background. One reason being I want to see it from the beginning. I did set it to record but I don't know if it recorded from the beginning or from Fanny Brice's performance.

Question about the Fanny Brice number where girls came out one at a time to introduce themselves and say hi. One looked and sounded just like Ethel Merman, but she was not listed in the cast on IMDB.

But wow, some of the uncredited actors in that cast...Pat Nixon!! I never knew she was an actress, aspiring or otherwise. And this movie is virtually a who's who of current and future stars. I always get a kick out of seeing minor uncredited actors who went on to become major stars in their own right. 

If my DVR only captured some of the film, my only hope is that TCM will air it again some day in the future. 

Hi, BlueMoods, here is a link where you can rent "The Great Ziegfeld" from Amazon Prime.  That is, if you missed the first part of the movie.  

https://www.amazon.com/Great-Ziegfeld-William-Powell/dp/B00A63UIO4/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1528223035&sr=8-1&keywords=great+ziegfeld

 

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I would loved to have seen this pre-code.  In the scene, Anna seems a bit of a puppet, but this movie has never sat 'right' with me due to the glorification of Ziegfeld...and the subsequent degeneration of women with whom he had been involved.  I love William Powell, but not in this movie at all!

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