Dr. Vanessa Theme Ament

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

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When looking at the early musicals, I can't get over the set designs used.  How grand they were.  What talent in those days.  Sound stages had to be vast in size.  Living in Los Angeles, I fortunate to be able to drive by all the studios like MGM (Sony Pictures), Warner Brothers, 20th Century, etc.  It was amazing how all elements in making a picture all came together creating an exciting and very entertaining film.  Lots of challenges to consider like sound, and all technical as well. 

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Oh to have lived in the early days of film making.  Where all newly discovered talent was coming together to create movie making like no other.  Imagine how all new it was to all involved.  Taking an image and putting it on a thing called film.  What was acting for them?  Who came up with the idea of acting and putting a story together and filming it. 

Yes, Vaudeville on stage where people went to see live performances, when one day someone came up with the idea to capture it all on film.  

To be there at the conception of it all.  WOW!!!!!

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I think the whole idea of the early musicals, as well as many of those up to the present day, is to present the world as we'd like to see it, rather than as it actually is. During the Great Depression, presenting the world as a happy, wealthy place was what people wanted to see. They could see all the poverty, sickness, and hunger they wanted by looking out their windows, so that's not what they wanted to see in the movies. There's a reason why The Grapes of Wrath wasn't made into a movie until after the Great Depression was almost over.

Movies are the embodiment of our society, so we must always consider what historically was happening in society while watching a movie. Movies must be watched in context.

If this movie had been produced pre-code, I think they would have shown a more accurate account of Flo Zigfield's womanizing. If the movie had been an accurate biography, it never would have passed code! Also, I think the costumes used in the Follies shots would have been more revealing--more like the real costumers used in the Follies.

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1. I do think that a brighter perspective of life is being shown because in reality the Great Depression was going on. In the clip it shows Ziegfeld giving away money like it wasn't a problem.

2. The movie tried to make the audience feel happier and cheerful despite what was happening in real life.

3. Pre-code would probably have not shown the women naked and in bras, the characters probably would have been more serious, and it wouldn't have shown the characters getting undressed.

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The clip does have a light air to it from the song that is performed to the response of the flowers sent afterwards.  Movie musicals are loved for their brighter perspective of life.  A song and dance to bring back a time of love and romance.

The clip showed a sort of courting of the leading lady rather than a bursting into her dressing room unannounced and uninvited.  In a pre code scene, Ziegfield may have just waited in the dressing room and made assumptions about a woman's character and availability.  

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This is one of my favorite musicals, and I think it’s because I like the actors & the previous parts they played. Frank Morgan is the wizard of oz, Billie Burke is Glenda then William Powell. Because to me this is a biography Zigfield was a Broadway producer so it would have music. It shows the characters with the various plays as the backdrop & what they needed to get financing & backers. When these movies were made did they want to make a statement either abt politics mores or did they just want to make a film & it’s only in hindsight & with a collection of films & today’s sensitivities that we see something that wasn’t there. Was a bitter rivalry impt to be seen or do you get the same thought that they were rivals & tried to one up each other. 

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1. Is this clip brighter than reality? Yes, for sure. In the Depression Era this wouldn't be day-to-day life. As many worried about jobs, housing, and food, the idea of a starlet who has the opportunity to work with two big names would be fantasy. The whole thing is escapism in a time when it was so important for those facing hardship to have something to dream about or escape to. 

2. I'm struggling with the wording of this question - what does this clip make me think I'll see in other Depression Era Musicals? I'd say I'd expect to see men competing over women (as opposed to women for men) in both business and love, but in lighthearted ways where there's an obvious winner right from the first meet-cute. I'd expect to see people living more lavish lifestyles than actually were lived during the Depression Era, with the stars being less everyday people and more larger than life, celebrity, royalty, gangsters and the like.

3. If this movie had been pre-code, I could agree with most everyone else in the idea that she would have showed more skin for her "Play with me" song, and perhaps maybe the way the song would have been done might have been even more to the point. I could see her getting undressed in her dressing room, being in her underthings or a robe of some kind when she receives the flowers to decide where she's going to go. I would think they wouldn't have shied away from the true story of Ziegfeld and Held if it had been pre-code, showing his philandering and her divorcing him as opposed to a happy-go-lucky love story.

If it were made now-a-days I'm sure it'd go further than that to show every nitty-gritty detail.

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We have pre-Code musicals that treat the harsher realities of life, though of course not all that realistically—42nd Street, Gold Diggers of 1933, Footlight Parade, and Dames don't pretend the Depression isn't happening ("The Depression, dearie," as Ginger says in one). The Great Ziegfeld not only is post-Code, which affects everything from costume design to dialogue and characterization and story, to what the camera is permitted to show us, but it has tha additional distancing effect of being a period piece, and that nostalgic haze is a good fit for the euphemism of the Code era. One of the revelatory things about discovering pre-Code movies (if like me you grew up on post-Code fare) is that they drive home how suffocating and restrictive the Code was. We didn't see a toilet in a Hollywood movie for decades, and all those couples sleeping in twin beds.... The clip from this biopic (a natural genre hybrid with the backstage musical) does rely on a theme of not just musicals but Hollywood movies of the era, that of striving, of reaching for stardom as the ultimate validation of human worthiness. Ziegfeld is the starmaker, of course, analogous to Mayer and the other studio moguls rather than their property (the stars), but Americans are always interested in businessmen as well as stars, and the way the two intersect in show business is a perennial subject and theme in melodramas, comedies, and musicals. 

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I definitely think it shows a much lighter world than what reality was at the time. Just giving away five pounds and having not a care in the world, and spending a fortune on flowers for someone Ziegfeld didn't even really know at the time shows that, for sure. 

I also think that if this was Pre-Code, as some have mentioned above, Miss Held's costuming would have been very different. She wouldn't have been so fully covered and I think she would have been more flirtatious in her performance. I also think there would have been more to Ziegfeld's gift besides the flowers. Perfume perhaps, or some sort of article of clothing, I'm not sure but definitely something more. 

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1.  The light, "tra laa laa" of the music, the use of light colors, both in the set and the costumes, the casual approach to anything financial, I believe would transport the movie goer during that time to a brighter place.

2.  I would expect movies of that time period to continue in the same use of opulent sets, costumes, and plots without the mention of debt or financial burden.  Audiences needed transport away from the grim realities of the time and probably would not spend hard to come by cash just to be further depressed.

3.  I would imagine that a French entertainer would not have been dressed like Judy Garland in "Meet Me in St. Louis".  I was a little surprised at the lyrics, "come play with me" (repeated over and over).  I imagine there might have been an argument between the screen writers and the censors over that.  Pre-code might have played on that line with some hip-bumps, winks, etc.  


 

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On 6/3/2018 at 10:08 PM, Dr. Vanessa Theme Ament said:

Watching the clip from The Great Ziegfield, I would agree that the tone is light and stylized in its presentation.  William Powell as Ziegfield talks to the doorman in a stiff, formal manner with an "aw shucks" type of attitude when he learns he misses Billings.  Louisa Ranier as Anna is flirtatious with the audience but with the innocence of a child playing a prank--"I didn't mean to shine the light in your eyes!"  Her wide eyes as she considers the flowers from Ziegfield shows her inexperience with men.  Being a performer in the theatre, Anna must have received flowers before, but she talks as if it is the first time.  She does not even known what Jr. means.  As for the themes and approaches, I surmise that the plot will be the classic love triangle between Ziegfield, Billings, and Anna.  Perhaps Ziegfield gets Anna, but Billings will take her away, and Anna will deliberate who she truly cares about.  In the end, Ziegfield will win back Anna, because he is debonair, and after all, a man who gives flowers is interested in more than a business deal.  If the film was made pre-code, then Anna's stage costume would have been lower cut at the top to show more cleavage and with a thinner fabric.  She would not be wearing a hat or carrying a parasol which both indicate a proper lady.  Her hair may have been partially down since loose and long hair indicates a suggestion of sexuality.  Backstage in the dressing room, Anna may have been confronted by both Billings and Ziegfield, and she may have ducked behind a partitioned to change out of her costume while showing some bare legs at the side.

 

 

On 6/3/2018 at 10:08 PM, Dr. Vanessa Theme Ament said:

 

 

 

 

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

Yes, I agree. The clip clearly shows life in a lighter tone, while not running away from real life.

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

I can anticipate a possible love triangle as well as the possiblity of who gets the girl in the end.

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.

The scene would've been much freer, in way of speech, body language and possibly wardrobe. 

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Just  a small comment on form- I thought the iris transition added whimsy to the scene and confirmed that Held's world was pleasant and light-hearted. 

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1. One wanted "a brighter perspective of life" in 1936 and this film is a perfect example of the escapism that movie goers craved.

2. The lack of care about money and, more prevent, the lack of anything explicitly negative. Even the conflicts are kept light because that is what audiences needed at the time. 

3. Because I have read some bios on Ziegfeld, I believe the pre-code movie would have been able to be darker and show a more realistic version of the characters. We would have seen the philandering side of Ziegfeld and the impact that it had on Held, the men would be a little more cutthroat in their competition, and there would have been a little less clothing in the dressing room.

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!. It does make life seem more light and carefree then it really was at the time. The reason for this answer is that most people were struggling to make ends meet and were not out on the town. The movie itself was an escape from reality for most people.

2. What I see as a theme that was constant in depression era films such as Broadway Melody is that the studios and actors/actresses were trying to entertain the masses by giving them an escape from reality. Even if just for a few hours, most folks going to the movies were trying to lose themselves in fantasy for a little while.

3. The scripting and the filming, especially of the female form, would have been more showy and not so covered up and closed. The other thing about the code is that men and women who were not married would never have been allowed to be seen in a woman's apartment and she would never be alone with any man not her husband. Finally the film would not have been allowed to show a woman who valued her career over marriage and home.

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1. I agree that the clip exhibits a brighter side of life than might be realistic.  At the time the film was made, the world was in the middle of the Great Depression, and most Americans were struggling financially.  In contrast, Florenz Ziegfeld does not seem to be worried about money at all, as he gives the doorman a 5-pound note without any hesitation.  Anna Held is also not portrayed as the "starving artist" archetype in need of a job that is seen in many films about show business.  The clip also does not depict much strife or conflict, and the characters crack jokes and do not seem to take anything too seriously.  Like many Depression era musicals, this clip gives its audience an escape from the harshness of reality.

2. Depression era musicals were typically lighthearted in order to provide their audience an escape from the harsh reality of economic crisis.  These films typically contain grandiose sets with larger-than life song-and-dance numbers.  Storylines are typically humorous, fluffy, and depict no serious conflict. 

3. If this movie musical had been a pre-code film, I would expect Anna Held's musical number to be more risqué and contain more double entendres. In this clip, Luise Rainer is wearing a Victorian-style costume that appears very modest.  Pre-code films, in contrast, typically had female performers who were often scantily-clad.  If this was a pre-code film, she would most likely be wearing something more sparkly and revealing, and the number likely would have been more of a burlesque/strip-tease number.

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I 100% agree that the clip is a brighter perspective of life than what was really going on the world when this film was made. I'm sure that if it was pre-code it would be darker and maybe the woman would have a harder time deciding what to do. Everything seems lighter and carefree in this scene which I don't think would be realistic at all. 

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1) This clip makes me feel light and fluffy. Ms. Held hasn’t a care in the world and she pulls you into her wide eyed world.  

2) I would think that the movie musicals were a great escape from the reality of the Depression. 

3) Pre-code, this movie might have been a little darker and more real. 

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It definitely shows a brighter side of life, and humorous as well. Just from this clip alone it's obvious the two men are in "friendly" competition over a woman. No harsh word but some very funny facial expressions. The scene where Ziegfeld gives the doorman the money and replies that he's trying to lose weight is very witty and funny. I would think in today's films there would be sarcasm in his tone. It's also obvious this is after the enforcing of the motion picture code. First off,  Held's costume covers a lot, and through the whole clip she stays in it, even when her maid is attempting to undo her dress. And although I don't know too much about Ziegfeld or Held, I do know they were a common law couple. How risque'! Obviously not appropriate to be part of the film.

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I agree that the clip exhibits a brighter perspective of life than might be realistic because it appears that the lady is happy and wearing nice clothing.   A theme I might have anticipated is that life will get better.  If it had been pre-code, I would expect that people would not have been talking. They may have pantomined their thoughts and feelings. 

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I haven't posted to a message board in like 10 years, anywhere.  However, this online course has sucked me in, and although I started a few days late, I am all in on this thing, so here I am back in Message Board Land!

This film, like many of the era whether musical or not, definitely was what to our modern eyes is over-the-top as far as the positivity and the smiling and the "Life is Good" attitude.  That's fine though.  This was what we wanted back then from our talkies.  Some haven't aged well, others a little better.  As a whole, I think this film has aged OK.  I don't think the "brighter perspective of life" hurts.  Obviously if this were made today in that style, it would be RazzieMania, but 82 years ago?  Totally fine.  People needed to forget about their problems as the Depression Era was surrounding them.

How great was Luise Rainer in this movie?  Total delight.

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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 in that it is so over the top and so drought with cheer that it cannot be real. There's a creepiness in how polished and polite everything is about some really disturbing aspects of it. The times were not that rosy and this is almost a balm for that feeling of cultural malaise.

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

Optimism, overcoming fear, the importance of family and friends and hard work. the pervading sense of 'everything is going to be 'ok'

  1. 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.

The language between the the doorman and Zigfeld would be courser. The women would not be as covered up and been presented as more glamourous and probably objectified. Held may have had more of an independent spirit.

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1.) I do agree and I believe it is easy to see just how much this clip takes away the feeling of what is occurring around this time. The over excitement and happiness that Anna Held is portraying after receiving flowers add to this brighter perspective. The joke about needing to lose weight after giving the man 5 pounds adds to the quirkiness that is present within the clip/film. 

2.) Themes I would have anticipated from this clip in other depression era musicals would be more comic relief, funny or feel good singing, and of course a romance to die for.

3.) If it had been pre-coded I feel that Anna Held would possibly be wearing a silky off shoulder dress while on stage and holding a feather while moving about in a sensual way around the stage to add to the french persona.   

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1. The clip does exhibit a brighter perspective of life than is realistic. Anna’s dressing room looks like a bedroom with lamps and pictures and furniture, which in reality probably just had a rack for costumes a mirror for makeup and table with chair. Anna’s attitude about Ziegfeld’s interest to employ her was flighty. Like money and responsibilities are not an issue for her.

2. I anticipate that the sets and clothes will be elegant. That money is not going to be a problem and if it is it won’t be for long.

3 What stands out to me is the song Anna sings. She sings that she wants someone to come play with her which is suggestive. As she slowly walks across the stage. She is fully dressed like she’s in the Easter parade. Had the scene been pre-code she would be wearing less and taking at least some of it off.

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The hope that all the characters in this film is the hope for that Big Break.  In each of the conversations you could hear the eagerness in their voice.  One more audition, one more notice by a the right director or studio owner could be the ticket to a life of fame and fortune.  And even after losing the first round to her sister, the feisty dancer teamed up with a former scoffer and told her they would be back in New York in 6months!  Spunk and optimism.

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