Dr. Vanessa Theme Ament

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

657 posts in this topic

I think the posts covered the questions well. The post from Rowdy was most reflective of my views. I do believe that pre-code, the costume and the performance would have been much more playful and suggestive. 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

After reviewing the clip, my responses tend to agree with the rest of the group.

1. Do you agree that the clip exhibits a brighter perspective of life than might be realistic? Why or why not?  Definitely agree the clip is extremely light and jaunty. Examples start with the doorman scene, through the use of the hand mirror on stage, the extravagant expense on the orchids, and finally the vacillating between which man to see.

2. What themes or approaches might you anticipate from this clip in other Depression era musicals? The whimsical mood of the musicals of this era are (TOP HAT included) are relief from the Depression era.

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. Perhaps the doorman scene would have been more baudy, and Ziegfeld would have delivered the flowers himself.

Until next time. 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

The clip shows a lot of people in the theatre to hear her.  Most people like to go to a show to escape problems in life for a few hours, however they are too dressed up for the depression era.  The actress is aware she has to make the correct choice for her future and like all of us wants to make the right one.  If this movie was made before the code was in place her outfit wouldn't have been so covering.  I think she may have been put in a more flowing gown that emphasized her shape and the song may have been a little more risqué.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I agree that the clip exhibits a brighter perspective of life which was not realistic during the Depression Era. Themes of Depression Era films present a rich beau to brighten the lives of performing women.  The film pre-code may have had Miss Held undressing as she spoke with her assistant. But she stopped with the removal of her bonnet. 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

The Depression Era musical was responsible for taking folks out of a bleak existence for the length of the movie. Using light-hearted storyline and often comedic dialogue, the moviegoer was able to escape life for awhile. Was the movie historically accurate or significant? No one cared! 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

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

I'd say it does.  Primarily because the exchanges of dialogue are of humorous nature and are meant to entertain.   It is unlikely in the real world somebody would make the joke of trying to lose weight when asked, "Do you realize you gave me five pounds, sir?"  Similarly the dialogue between Anna and her maid would give audiences of the day a chuckle (Junior...Is he a little boy?). 

 Then there is Ziegfeld's world where money is of no concern.  Ziggy was obviously a showman in more ways than one; he put on a good show of being the wealthy impresario when in truth he was nearly always flat broke.

Anna's back stage dressing room creates a rather "romanticized" image of show business; instilling unrealistic dreams in the hopeful hearts of young girls everywhere.  It's doubtful a theater dressing room would have been so elegant looking.  (I'm thinking of Fred and Judy's dressing rooms in "Easter Parade"; and they were Dillingham show headliners! LOL.)

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

The overall extravagance; sumptuous costumes and set decor served to help the Depression era audience to escape.  It's interesting to me that it was a way to escape rather than an "in your face" reminder of all they didn't have.  

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?

Most likely Anna would have been rather scantily clad; she might  actually have been undressing in her dressing room.  Her song might have been played more overtly sexual and suggestive than coy coquette.   And the good-natured rivalry between Ziegfeld and Billings might have been more cutthroat .

  • Thanks 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

This film gave the impression that life was much brighter than what is known about the Great Depression. There is a silliness to Held's character as well as a lavishness of dress, going to the theater & theater bosses throwing money around. I can understand why this was done. Most folks went to the movies to forget the hard times of the Depression. They could lose themselves in the story on the screen for several hours each time they went to the movies. As far as pre-code, I believe Ms Held's character would have been in a lesser "state of dress" (i.e. a scantily draped sexy robe, low cut & not leaving much to the imagination.

  • Thanks 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

1. I do agree. Anna Held, while on stage shines the light from the mirror on the audience, which spotlights a highly fashionable and well-dressed audience, all the while she sings the chorus line, “to play with me, to play with me”, as if everything and everyone in the world is carefree, willing to “play” with her and forget the harsh reality.

-That Ziegfeld sent her a large bouquet of orchids (quite expensive, I assume), also speaks to the disregard for the real-life troubles of the people.

-Many people have also pointed out Ziegfeld’s lack of care about money, to which I agree.   

 

2. A continuing theme in subsequent Depression-era musicals seen here could be the disregard for the Great Depression, and perhaps characters who seem to be unaware that most people are living in poverty.

 

3. Some fellow colleagues have pointed out that in the dressing room scene, Anna Held seems naïve, more naïve than female characters in pre-code films might have been. I also hadn’t thought about the courting by Ziegfeld and perhaps that being more explicit had it been produced prior to the code. I also suspect she might have been shown undressing after the show, instead, however, she takes her time and admires the orchids, with her maid (?) unbuttoning her dress just as the scene cuts.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

our perception of life in this period takes thought.  The availability of this type of entertainment is so new, showing how life is pursued by the really rich

Edited by Love Musicals
spelling

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

This clip does show how the producers make films that take the viewers minds off the troubling times of the depression. They want to show a better and fun life to admire. But these films can be frustrating at times. Sometimes one needs to see realism to help cope with the times. The clip shows how it is looks and singing ability that attracts folks, not there minds or personalities. It is like watching elementary students.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I think so many of my thoughts have been expressed in the great posts that have others have written. What I found  fascinating was the the doorman acknowledging that Ziegfeld had given him too much and Ziegfeld’s joke. If I had watched this during the Depression era I think I would find it encouraging that there are still people willing to give more. I would see it as a glimmer of hope. I did find the joke about “losing pounds” comical which makes light of the money given. That moment of laughter is why I personally watch older movies for those few one liners that make you laugh and feel lighthearted. 

Between Broadway Melody and this musical it gives people an insight of the musicals that they could see in the theater and not having to travel to Broadway for the actual show. I think the Depression era brought some of the finer things in life closer to home for those who could not afford to travel to see a show. I also wonder if Helds joke about being able to sing in English but not read in English would have connected with the audience during the Depression era because many children had stopped going to school to help work. It struck me as a lighthearted view of not being able to read that viewers could relate to as well.

Lastly, like so many have expressed I have learned more about Pre-code this week than I ever knew. Compared to Broadway Melody, Helds had definitely more clothing on for a dressing room scene. She also had another female in the dressing room instead of Ziegfeld or Billings meeting her back there. 

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

We are seeing a "brighter side", but that is because we are doing a historical, biographical film. This is the turn of the century we see in this clip. We have extravagance all around  The audience doesn't need to consider the Crash or the Depression - at least not until the last reel! For the moment, there is plenty of cash to tip, buy orchids, and woo the lady professionally and personally. 

We have the elements that will make up many depression-era musicals in The Great Ziegfeld; glamorous costumes, beautiful girls, opulent settings, romance, infectious songs. But in this film, we have more than that. We have drama. We have issues that don't get worked out by the final scene. Even though it's the "Hollywood" version, this is a true story. Anna Held does not get her man back. Everyone doesn't live happily ever after. 

In a pre-code version, we would probably have stripped Anna Held out of her costume right away for the dressing room scene. The film might have dealt a bit more frankly with the more lurid side of show business. We might have had some racier costumes while we glorified the American girl. As far as the portrayal of Ziegfeld in the script, I suspect that the watchful eye of Billie Burke had as much influence as the code.

"A Pretty Girl is Like a Melody" is so overwhelming that I almost always get choked up when I watch it. 

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

This movie make everything seem so “light and  fluffy”.  How the characters dresses and talked,

 are so beautiful.  It probably made the audience forget about the depression.

If this was made before the “code”,  I think we would have seen the details of Zigfield life that were skimmed over.  He had a dark side that is glossed over.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

(Note: I was sick earlier this week, so I’m just catching up on this now.)

Since I became interested (and later somewhat obsessed with!) early Hollywood and pre-code films, I’ve been wanting to see “The Great Ziegfeld”.  I became aware of Luise Rainer’s great acting ability after watching a clip from her film “Dramatic School” a few years ago, in which she first seems unable to act and somewhat bored while in an acting class, but then when challenged, acts up a storm at the drop of a hat, surprising both her class and the us, the audience!  I then looked Rainer up online and read about how she disagreed with some of the people in power in the Hollywood studios, and therefore only made a handful of films (winning several Oscars, despite her trouble fitting in in Hollywood) before returning to her native Austria.

Although I missed “The Great Ziegfeld” on TCM this week (I’m going to try to rent it next week), it is evident from the clip we watched that glossing over hardships and distracting from the Great Depression was a common quality of many depression-era musicals.  When people were going through so much every day, they didn’t want to spend their hard-earned pay on depressing shows; they’d much rather forget about their troubles for a while and watch talented actors and actresses sing and dance!  This idea of audiences going to see films to find a temporary respite from the pains of economic troubles is also touched upon in one of my favorite 1940s films, “Sullivan’s Travels”.

- Caitlin Rose Blaney

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

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

Yes,  I think it shows a prosperous time.  The concert hall is full. There are no empty seats.  Typically, when I think of the Great Depression, I think of rationing food and people did not have the money to attend concerts or shows.  In this clip, the people are dressed in their fine clothes as if they have not a care in the world.  I think in reality times were hard for many people.  

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

I think prosperity and the women's movement.  Prosperity because people are out and about spending their money on a show instead of at home worried about money.  I think this was intentional to show that yes, times may be tough, but it will get better.  Come to the show and get rid of all of your worries for a couple of hours.  It gives people a stress reliever. 

The woman's movement theme is more subtle.  When she shines the mirror through the crowd, she is in control of what the crowd sees or doesn't see.  Some of the people have to turn their head because the light is so bright.  You could say she is "shining a light" on an important subject.  She is also in control of who she sees after the show.  

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 if this was made pre-code there would have been a more sultry sounding song, with different costumes.  She was dressed from head to toe with a parasol.  This was appropriate costume for the time.  If it was made pre-code, I feel like it would be more of a burlesque type show.  

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
  1. I agree that this clip displays a bright perspective of life because during the Great Depression audiences were looking for an escape.
  2. I anticipate the theme of the backstage rivalry for a girl’s love.
  3. If “The Great Ziegfeld” was shot as a pre-code film, Florenz Ziegfeld’s philandering would have been on display.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I'm not sure I think that the movie makes light of the times. I'm not sure when Ziegfeld began his career, but judging from the clothes, this was before the Depression. The fact that there are 2 proprietors who want to sign Anna Held indicates good times, too. Now, this film was being shown during the Depression and shows good times, so from that point of view, it portrays a mood much lighter than reality.

The themes or approaches that might also be portrayed in other Depression era films seem to me to be romance, pretty girls, and a positive view of theater life.

Changes that might have been in place pre-code would be more skin showing with skimpier costumes, and perhaps, a more suggestive song on stage. There might have been bare shoulders and corsets or more showing in the dressing room.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I found the clip and the movie to be very whimsical and lighthearted. I can totally understand why people wanted to go to musicals for escapism. Life was tough and everyone needed something to smile about. Some of us watch movies today for the same reason.

This movie made it seem so easy to get discovered and perform on stage. Depression-era musicals always sent a message that anything is possible.

Since this musical was made after the motion picture code was enforced, I would think if there wasn't such a code when this film was produced, we would see women in very skimpy costumes (For example, the movie Tarzan, Jane didn't wear very much.) and the movie probably would have included some of the real-life problems of Ziegfield.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
On 6/4/2018 at 2:51 AM, John McKinnon said:

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. 

I'm so glad to see learning. As it informs movie enjoyment, it is a real delight. The code, the more I've been watching these musicals, also seems to me to have taken power away from women in how they were able to be par more able to participate in business (musicals, show business, etc.) than to find love. Love becomes the primary drive in code movies whereas pre code seems to allow women more space outside of marriage. 

I've also been thinking of musicals and how they reflected the "girls in the big city" pals genre that I love so much.  Girl buddy films have been evident in the pre and post musicals we've reviewed.  I really enjoy this genre, and it is fascinating that thus far, the friendships have remained strong despite the code.  I will look to see if that changes in the selections next week.

 Your point about violence can't be overstated.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

The clip shows a brighter side to movie goers. It was a time of great despair and hardships for many. Anna Helds sultry inviting look with her eyes dancing so brightly. I know I wanted to be her, and I can imagine how many movie goers wanted to be her, and Mr. Powell. The beautiful dressing room. The wealth of Mr Powell emanates from the opera box. 

With the light hearted clip, I can see the trend moving forward to present more of these to get the moviegoer out of the reality of life at the time .. I can imagine people talking about the movie and more and more people would want to go. 

I would think that this movie would have been a bit more risqué before the code Enforcement... Anna Helds costumes would have showed more of her body curves, and not have her so penned up with the huge hat, and high dress. 

Thank you 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I love this film.  Have watched it so many times ... and as I watched this clip, I found myself just as irritated by the character of Anna Held as always.  I have never liked her childishness, her exaggerated lightness of speech and mannerisms.  She seems to expect to be treated as though she's made of glass.  Irritating.

 

Now, having listened to the lecture and read the notes on this clip before viewing it, and focusing on the questions, I can see how her lightheartedness fits into the stylings of the 1930s musical.  I love 1930s films, and I enjoy the light touch given to the cares of the world at that time - especially given the stress in our current world.  But I find other actresses from that time to be more my type - give me Ginger Rogers, lighthearted yet savvy, knowing who she is without depending on another person to determine that persona.  The character of Anna Held is so dependent on her playful childishness to attract men that, without it, she doesn't have much character left.

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

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

When William Powell and Frank Morgan jump up to go after the musical star you feel comedy.  Luise Rainer is left alone in a quiet dressing room with her maid.  Realistically one or both producers should have been beating down her door.  She is influenced by flowers not be career which belies the career work she probably did to get that part.  She seems unaware of the need to advance her own career.

2.    What themes or approaches might you anticipate from this clip in other Depression era musicals? The female star who we assumed came to success naturally and has good character even though she is a theatrical performer.  This is to win over that part of the population that don't see a correlation between good character and the stage.  

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.  The words of the song were much more suggestive than the overt actions or costume of the singer.  It reminds me of Marlene Dietrich's songs in "A Foreign Affair" 1948.  Luise's costume was 180 degrees from those in "42nd Street".

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
29 minutes ago, Mom of 4 Great Ones said:

I love this film.  Have watched it so many times ... and as I watched this clip, I found myself just as irritated by the character of Anna Held as always.  I have never liked her childishness, her exaggerated lightness of speech and mannerisms.  She seems to expect to be treated as though she's made of glass.  Irritating.

 

Now, having listened to the lecture and read the notes on this clip before viewing it, and focusing on the questions, I can see how her lightheartedness fits into the stylings of the 1930s musical.  I love 1930s films, and I enjoy the light touch given to the cares of the world at that time - especially given the stress in our current world.  But I find other actresses from that time to be more my type - give me Ginger Rogers, lighthearted yet savvy, knowing who she is without depending on another person to determine that persona.  The character of Anna Held is so dependent on her playful childishness to attract men that, without it, she doesn't have much character left.

Ginger is the only other adult musical star of the 1930s I could think of and she always seemed so worldly wise like she had a past.  Luise is innocent like Shirley Temple and Judy Garland in "The Wizard of Oz".

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
35 minutes ago, Linda Spirit said:

Luise is innocent like Shirley Temple and Judy Garland in "The Wizard of Oz".

Mmm ... on the surface only, maybe.  Luise's character in this scene was not so innocent - she seemed very calculating in her decision to meet Ziegfeld, like she was adding up what she might get out of the meeting.  (Yet in the latter portions of the film, (SPOILER ALERT) she just lies down as a doormat and lets Ziegfeld get away.  Hard to put these two sides of her character together and come up with one person.)  

The difference between her and the child stars is that she is an adult - a grown woman acting childISH.  Very different from Shirley and Judy being childLIKE.  And Shirley and Judy may have been children, but their characters, like those of Ginger Rogers, were strong-minded.  No question about their ability to take charge and push through difficult circumstances.  Just look at little Shirley's face when someone gets in her way - Yikes!  LOL

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

The sheer grandeur & clean/polished sets definitely display an unrealistic, dream-like version of life. Even the lighting is soft. The character of Held would have been wearing a skimpier outfit if the film were made a few years earlier. & I agree with the person who said she would have removed more than her hat! 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now

New Members:

Register Here

Learn more about the new message boards:

FAQ

Having problems?

Contact Us