Dr. Vanessa Theme Ament

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

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I agree that Luise is not so innocent. That light-footed dance, those double-entrende lyrics, that turning the tables with the hand-held compact mirror ("I play at being vain, but I see who you are") are plenty suggestive enough. That costume may cover her skin, but it exposes a lot of shoulder -- and there is no doubt there is a shapely woman under that dress. The times and The Code led to more subtle writing and film-making -- and flirting - perhaps on and off the screen. The few pre-Code films I've seen were indeed more overt in their conflict and sexuality. I could imagine a scene being played in the dressing room between Luise and Flo Z with a reprise of her song with a little more body "English" which I'm sure she would "pronounce" very well. Restrictions in technology (insert Ben Mankovitz's frequently seen TCM comments about Classic Hollywood not being able to blow things up - so we had to tell great stories with great characters, etc.)  or in acceptable language (as The Code) often call out more art from the writers, directors, and actors. Shakespeare wrote under ethical and political censorship. Many agree it made his writing better. One wonders if Willy were a screen-writer in the 1930s, would he have created better under Pre-Code or Post-Code rules?

I find amusing the long-time theme in movie criticism how much the product should reflect the circumstance of the audience.  For the love of Busby Berkley, how many of us are as witty in real life as Cary Grant - or William Powell (to stay within the discussion) are in the movies?  How many of us as pretty as Billie Burke or Garbo? How many as physically imposing as Gary Cooper or John Wayne or Robert Mitchum? The stage and the screen are a strange "enhanced versilimatude". Today, I saw "Ocean's 8". Had this movie had been released 7 years ago in the midst of "The Great Recession", I wonder if this question of whether it accurately reflected the world around it would be asked?

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Yes she is being woo,Ed by two prospects for their show and she is making light of her decision which one will I choose.

As to question # 3 she would have been dressed more scantily and the tone would would have taken a more somber feel 

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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 that the clip exhibits a brighter perspective of life compared to reality. This was one of the key characteristics of the entertainment industry during this very dark time in the United States. The music of the time also reflects this idea, so that people can "forget" the hardships for just a little while. 

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

From what I know of the historical happenings and teaching about music from this time period, I would anticipate the "light hearted" approach in film. The theme that I used to communicate to my students was "forget your troubles for a little while." I would also anticipate the film makers to use a contrast between light and dark through lighting and  costuming as a subtle (or not so subtle) hint to that idea.

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'm now learning about the motion picture code and do not have comment on this question at this time.

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I think the film does show a bright perspective of life.  In the scene we see Ziegfeld's wealth when he gives the doorman a 5 pound tip for information and with the bouquet of "all the orchids in the world" for Ms. Held, but this film is about Ziegfeld's life, a time prior to the Depression.   However, the film was made and viewed during the Depression.   Also, watching how people had the time and resources to enjoy the frivolities of life would have possibly provided hope that America would survive the Depression.  At the time of screening, Americans would not have known how much longer the Depression would last. This film would have been great escapism for the time.

I think some of the themes that will continue to be seen are ones about women choosing between men and between work and man, that a man can make a woman a star, talent isn't always necessary for success, and it'll all be better tomorrow.

If this movie had been made pre-code Ms. Held's costume would have been a fraction of what it was.  She certainly wouldn't have been covered from head to toe.  No big bonnet hat or parasol. We would have seen skin and probably sequins and/or spangles.  While it's easy for us to understand the double entendre in the song, the words would have been naughtier pre-code.  As it is, she repeats the same phrase many times.

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Held’s performance is very similar to stage performances prior to this. Her dress is 1890’s style. Her performance is directed at males and her approach is teasing and provocative. 

In addition, the orchestra is visible. 

In later musicals performers sang to each other, not to an audience. 

As you mentioned in your lecture, these musicals were directly influenced by the musicals on Broadway, but in this case, also by vaudeville  

 

 

 

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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 agree that life is presented as very cheerful and simple in this movie.  Conflict is lighthearted.  It is truly an escape from reality.

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

Wealth, larger than life sets, beautiful women, lighthearted conflict, not a care in the world.

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.

Anna would have been more scantily dressed, maybe would have changed more in the dressing room.  The two rivals, Billings and Ziegfeld would have been more harsh than playful.

 

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1.     

1.      Yes, it does. Everything in the movie is lavish and decorated beautifully. The clothing is amazing with fur coats and lots of jewelry. Everyone is dressed to the “nines” at all times. Even the backstage shots, and other secondary locations are just as decorated. I feel it is brighter than the audience’s reality. Although money is discussed, it is fairly easily acquired and just thrown around based on your whims. This film is an example of escapism, you are transported to world of extravagance, exotic locales, and a very frivolous lifestyle.   

2.      I think this clip depicts life as a performer as very glamourous. That the star performer is almost worshipped. I think this film would have made folks want to get jobs on the stage. That hard work and talent was your key to success.  It also demonstrates that a strong work ethic, and good mind helps you get what you want. That your ability to be innovative and bold brings you riches. And definitely the escapism, each number is almost dream-like and very extravagant. Beautiful to watch and see, so over the top, to take the audience out of their day to day existence.

3.      I think Pre-Code, Billings and Ziegfeld may not have been as friendly, but true rivals, maybe Billings would have been a gangster.  There would be more competition between the 2 men, and backstabbing. Post-Code it is much more playful and still a strong friendship, I don’t think it would’ve been that way. I feel the backstage shots would have the dancers and actors in various stages of disrobing.  The backstage area may have been more realistic looking and not as glamorous. I wonder if the relationship between Held and Ziegfeld might have been realistic, representative of a common law arrangement and not stated as a marriage.

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Yes not realistic but enjoyable for the audience. Shows some work to be done to achieve his goals but not realistic in his real life.

I would expect the movies to be filled with extravagance, romantic places and plots to entertain all audiences

Probably language would be more bawdy and the sexual aspect more unrefined.

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I do not believe this clip is reflective of the Depression era. The travel  the lavish accommodations  and even the clothing do not reflect the era. The comedy adds a nice air of lightness during a troubled time. Also makes the film more interesting. Other themes from the era might include some less fortunate people trying to sneak into the theater. It is difficult to imagine what this movie would be coded since watching it several times, I never thought of coding it. These movies are just accepted for the way they are. And they are still accepted by many as ok for any age to watch. 

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Based on the costuming in Broadway Melody, if this had been made precode her outfit for the song would not have been all ruffles and bonnets.  Given the lyrics "won't you come out and play with me"  she would either have been giving a sly come-on or perhaps a childish plea.  Either way it calls for a very different outfit.  

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Hi all, this is my first class using the forums here.  I posted my answer to the first Daily Dose a few days ago (as its own thread; I didn’t see this thread to post it under), and I can’t find it anywhere on the message boards now.  If someone sees my response to this, can they let me know?  I wanted to copy and paste it here.  Thanks!

- Caitlin Rose 

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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, I agree that it does seem to give a brighter perspective - the topic of her song is suggestive of what the Follies were about - scantily clad women on a burlesque stage, "come and have your way with me."  During the depression, times were hard and buying orchids in such great number was probably unrealistic.
  2. What themes or approaches might you anticipate from this clip in other Depression era musicals?  The lighting is bright and clean; the lush costuming and the white decor; it all gives the audience a great escape from the daily life.  The music is bright and cheery as well.
  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.  Again, the follies were a vaudeville and burlesque dance and the women would have been dressed in costumes that were scant and sexy - these were long and covered the girl from head to toe.  The speech is somewhat "high-brow" as well and perhaps not the type of speech one would find in this type of theater.

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I believe that if this film had been made before the enforcement of the production code, Rainer would have worn a more suggestive dress. 

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1.  Of course, this film was NOT realistic to the general public living in Reality at that time, i.e. 1936, during the Great Depression.  The story could only be only considered "Realistic or NOT" for the main characters since this film was actually A [Musical] Biography.  Those characters were the people having Jobs and earning money from their Jobs.  Thus, expen$ive costumes and sets were all reasonable to reflect those main characters' reality.

     However, Since this Musical Biographic Film actually cast a few of the performers of the [original] theatrical "Ziegfeld Follies" to act even just as Themselves.  Therefore, the talents and performances were definitely More Authentic!

2.  The singing and dancing, yes, I anticipate them in other musicals from the same era.  But, all others were Fictional, they could NOT completely share the Same Foundation to build the stories up respectively.  A Romance and A Happy Ending were mostly seen in others, for example.

3.  Unsure if the Motion Picture Code would make much difference in this film particularly, to tell the truth.  If it had been a [musical] biographic film on the founder of "Playboy" Hugh Hefner and all his Playmates at the Playboy Mansion.  Then, we might have gotten something to talk or worry about!

     The film we are talking about here had Enough materials to tell the story, especially, show business/performances on Stage/Theatre, business rivalry turned into business partnership.  Thus, at least, nudity or sexual content was NOT necessary to emphasise for box office.

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I would agree that the world portrayed in this clip is brighter and lighter than the reality of that time. It's easy to understand why people would want to immerse themselves in this place. The vivid white costume and sets only heighten the effect. I would expect continued focus on this carefree spirit in further Depression Era films. No doubt that a pre-code version of this film would have substantially different costuming for Ms. Held, and the choice if song would most likely have been much racier and suggestive. 

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The most striking part of the clip from The Great Ziegfeld was the wardrobe choice. Anna Held dress conservatively, “proper” lady. It’s an interesting contrast to pre-code musicals when women dressed provocatively, for example, The Broadway Melody (1929).  If this musical were produced pre-code days, I’d expect to see a more exposé Helda (Luise Rainer). By exposé, I mean more revealing attire, especially because she sings “Won't You Come and Play With Me” which makes me think of flirty attitude.

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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, there is a brighter perspective of life here.  It seems to use the song to show the struggle between the men (business) and between the three of them (romantic), but the viewer is left with a positive feeling rather than a more stressful feeling.

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The cavalier attitude toward spending money and receiving lavish gifts would be a brighter, more optimistic portrayal of life than the reality of Depression-era America, and I would expect these themes, as well as not taking business too seriously, to be common in other musicals of that era. If the Great Ziegfeld had been made pre-code I would expect Anna Held's costumes to be scanty and revealing, both in the dressing room scene and onstage. The song's lyrics might be more risque, as well. 

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The clip shows a brighter perspective.  People have fancy new clothes, vehicles and money to go to a show.  I would anticipate that other Depression era musicals would give people an escape from hard times.  A handsome man and a beautiful woman, fine clothing and wonderful music.  It's all good for an hour and a half. 

If it were a pre-code film, her dress would have been skimpier--sheerer fabric,, lower cut and more leg showing.  Perhaps he could have walked into her dressing room while she was changing and been more suggestive. 

 

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This movie definitely takes you "out of your daily life".  It's wonderful and has a fun and feel happy mode.  The pre-code aspect adds an extra spark to the film!

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I do agree that the clip does exhibit a brighter picture than might be realistic.  Life was difficult at this time and the picture portrays a high society life.  The bouquet of orchids certainly was an extravagant expense. 

I have to say that the themes or approaches would be one of life is good and the musicals were a way of having some fun despite the struggles of  everyday life at during this time.

There's no doubt that there would have been more double entendre.  Also the scene in Anna Held's dressing room would have had her in more of a state of undress as was in Broadway Melody.  

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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, this clip is certainly brighter than real life during the time the film was made. From the elaborate costuming to the five pound tip, the lavishness is everywhere, showing none of the financial pressures that even the wealthier people of the time were feeling.  The song in the clip itself was also certainly a far cry from "Brother Can You Spare  a Dime" and other songs of the era that expressed the emotions and concerns of the time as well.

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

We can anticipate continued lavish looks at the rich and famous, as well as enviable romantic choices, choices for love and financial benefit.  

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.

Pre-code might have shown more skin in Louise Ranier's costume, had her remove more of it backstage, and perhaps had a more risque song or choreography.  I agree with an earlier poster that it also may have meant that we saw more of her potential paramours in the dressing room themselves.

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1. I do agree that the clip presents a brighter perspective of life because it focuses attention on wealthier characters who wield power and influence like it's no big deal (both Ziegfeld and Billings have their own private seats in the theater, the theater itself is packed with patrons dressed to the nines) and quite literally give away large amounts of money without thought (Ziegfeld giving the doorman the 5 pound note and having the extravagant arrangement of flowers sent to Anna Held). It's hardly a realistic perspective given that most of the audience seeing this movie would be mostly likely suffering from economic hardship and have more pervasive (and uglier) problems than seeking out performers or deciding where to perform. 

2. The two themes I noticed in this clip that would most likely be found in other Depression-Era musicals are wealth and competition. Based on both The Great Ziegfeld and other films like, 42nd Street or Gold Diggers of 1933, wealth or the lack of is infused throughout these pictures, seen within the major conflicts, plot, and character motivations. It's an unavoidable issue in the Great Depression so it makes sense that films tackled it as well, whether they sought to reflect the day to day hardships in reality or brushed those aside for a fantastical escape. Competition was also a key feature, usually between two rivals (in love or business, male or female) and reflected how much friction existed between people, businesses, government, and other institutions (both old and emerging) in the real world. 

3. If this film was made pre-Code, I imagine the biggest scripted differences would be noticed in the characters; the rivalry between the Ziegfeld and Billings would be more hostile and the two more aggressive in their attempts to 'court' Anna Held and Held herself, while still retaining some bright-eyed naivete, would also most likely have a few sharper edges; have a little more agency or spunk. In terms of filming, I imagine there would be less distance between Held and the camera as well as allowing her costume to be more 'scandalous' (there seems to be little compunction in pre-Code films with not only filming women in states of undress but having the camera very close to them as the scenes play out). And, naturally, the dressing room scene would allow Held to be more undressed in front of the camera without any props to obscure her or cutting away to the next scene. 

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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? 

While considering this question, one clip in the movie comes to my mind.  Louise Rainer is contemplating seeing Ziegfeld or not and what clenches her decision for her is the quality of the flowers that Ziegfeld has sent her.  It takes her one minute tops to decide if she will meet him or not.  I also believe that the upbeat, playful nature of the song she sings in the movie is indicative of the "brighter perspective of life" that these Depression era musicals highlighted.

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

I would expect to see happy-go-lucky songs, easy resolutions to minor problems, and lighthearted banter between rivals.

  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 song Rainer sings is only slightly suggestive; I believe this number, pre-code, would have been even more suggestive.  If it had been done Vaudeville style, lewd banter, or more suggestive movements could have been applied.  In the dressing room scene, it was implied that Held was being undressed; pre-code this scene would have shown more skin.

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