Dr. Vanessa Theme Ament

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

657 posts in this topic

On 6/3/2018 at 8:08 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 agree that the clip shows a brighter perspective of live with William Powell give a 5 pound tip with a joke, the expensive dress of the characters and the opulent furnishings of the dressing room.

 

On 6/3/2018 at 8:08 PM, Dr. Vanessa Theme Ament said:

2.    What themes or approaches might you anticipate from this clip in other Depression era musicals? The themes I anticipate would be light comedy and an escape from the hardships of the 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. Defiantly if the film was made in the pre-code era, the dress and some scandalous scenes and maybe a bit of truth of the characters.

 

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I do believe that this musical shows life much brighter than it is realistically. However, this was the middle of the Great Depression. For many people, the movies were an escape from reality, not a reflection of reality.

This movie deals with many common themes of the times: love, fame, money, and success. At a time when many people felt disconnected and discouraged in their own lives, movies that took those themes common to every person and portrayed them with levity was a welcomed change of pace.

If this movie were precode, we might see a brawl between the Ziegfeld and Billings, or we might see Anna in various states of undress.

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1. The song lyrics sung by Ms Held speak directly to the light-hearted tone the film was trying to convey: 'Come play with me, play with me....'  There wasn't a lot of time (or money) for playfulness in the reality of 1929, so entertainments like this offered a much-needed escapism to a world-weary audience. 

2. I might reasonably expect to see more of these 'escapist' type themes, such as playfulness, romance, light-hearted competition, 'starry-eyed' optimism, and general frivolity. 

3.A pre-code version of this film would likely have featured a more-than-implied flirtatiousness between Ms Held and the two gentlemen wooing her, and a more '****-up' (and less innocent) version of the 'play with me' song. Costuming would have been different as well, with a lot more skin showing on the female lead. 

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1. Yes , I think those  viewing the movie at time of it's 1936 release may have remembered Held and  Ziegfeld, who  met some  40 years prior . The nostalgia may have create a  relief from the dire days of  the depression.  For others the costumes and extravagance ( as in the orchids sent  to Held) afforded a fantasy of grandness.

2. New, unknown kid on the block  makes good. Especially , always the female role.

3. I think we would have seen  an expose' of  her legs, which was one of her trademarks, and  a more flirty persona.

 

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I just returned from a vacation in Mexico and am now just beginning to discuss some of the topics from last week. Please for give the belated answers  

I Loved the way the early musicals tried to distract the movie goer from the problems of the depression. Lavish sets and scenes, wonderful choreography and terrific music entertained the audience and allowed them escape a dreadful time I’m America’s history. Typically these musicals were screwball comedies that always saw the young lovers find one another and solve their problems. These musicals provided audiences the entertainment and hope they needed.

Pre code musicals are really interesting. I had no idea how racy they were compared to the musicals of just a few years later when the industry code was enacted. Suggestive language and scenes, scantily clothed women were the norm. I have not seen “The Broadway Melody” (1929) or “Love Parade”,but from clips I have viewed, they treat sexuality, the body and love affairs in a much more believable and honest way. 

Once, the Industry Code was applied to musicals, lovers only kiss briefly, women are always protecting their virginity and men would rather be shot than accused of taking advantage of a women.  I love the musicals of the 30’s and 40’s. Whether Fred kissed Ginger or not, it was their dancing, their wonderful songs and great supporting cast that continues to entertain me. For me there is something pure and admirable about the the way the leading men in the coded musicals treated the women. They were respectful, courteous and honorable while courting their love interests. 

Love this period of movie making history. Thanks for allowing the TCM faithful to participate in this course.

 

 

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I agree that the clip exhibits a brighter perspective of life because everything is so clean,  and the cast is good looking. William Powell just happens to be opposite in the theater from Frank Morgan? The actress being flighty follows the personality of the real life actress she was portraying. 

 

2.    Grand approaches are anticipate from this clip in other Depression era musicals to appear larger than life. The  films were like looking at a Christmas pageant in a slum. While you are there you could see a glimmer of hope for the future and that life doesn't have to be all that bad. To be able to live vicariously through the film eased the burden.

 

3.    Pre-code  specific examples: The description by the door man would be more graphic, suggestive. William Powell's questioning might be more provocative to the door man. Ms Held's performances: the costume might have be more brief and translucent, and the song more suggestive. The note from William Powell might have had suggestive innuendo and the suggestion of a sensual  rendezvous.

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I also do believe that this clips exhibits a brighter perspective of life.   Mostly that is how movies were back then.  A way to escape the every day humdrum duties or especially in the 30's the economic problems.

As far as the upcoming theme goes I feel that Anna is struggling with the question of seeing Ziegfeld or staying loyal to Billings so it's the age old woman's dilemna which will play a big part in the rest of the movie.

Ok, the third question -  I already learned so many things just from watching my first lecture, video and daily dose about the Pre-Code and Code of the film industry.  I always wondered why in the early films the women didn't wear bras or underwear.  Clearly one of the first things I noticed was the less skimpy/slinky evening gowns.  Thanks for that.

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1.  In movies, characters and other details may be changed for several reasons, such as to meet code restrictions, for brevity, to relate to the main storyline, to heighten drama or comedy, to provide a clear contrast.

2.  Possible themes:  competition, success

3. I agree with those who said probably Anna Held would have had a more revealing costume.  Precode, they might have chosen another actor to play Billings, to make competition more fierce.  They might have shown arguments between Held and Ziegfeld. 

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Ziegfeld's sole focus seems to be on beating his competition. Money seems to be no object. Ziegfeld gives the doorman a large tip after tricking him into revealing the rival's destination, and somehow is able to have an enormous amount of expensive orchids delivered to Anna Held's dressing room within an hour or two.

When Anna flashes her mirror into the faces of the audience members, Ziegfeld is the only one who maintains intent eye contact. He is not swayed by Anna. Jack Billings laughs until he sees this.

It was stated that this was a pre-code movie, but I would not have guessed that myself. The dress covers a lot of ground, but it shows cleavage and is form fitting. Also, when Anna lets go of the mirror, it hangs right over the...and that reminds me - where the heck is Myrna Loy?!

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I thought I was the only person who didn't care much for L. Rainer's (sp?) performance in The Great Zeigfeld. Her eye movements are distracting and she rather talk-sings through her cutesy performance too. I would love to see footage, if it exists, of the real Anna Held and compare the two. 

 

A HA...the New York Times agrees with me at least somewhat:

 

 https://archive.nytimes.com/www.nytimes.com/packages/html/movies/bestpictures/ziegfeld-re.html

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1. Considering the time frame of the movie, the concern of money is not a factor. He tips the doorman a 5 note and spends a great deal of money on the flowers he sends Miss Held. The two men keep looking at each with curiousity but not real anger.

2. There is no real sense of conflict between the characters. I imagine the tone is kept light in subsequent films also to provide an escape for viewers.

3. The costume for Miss Held probably would have been more revealing, instead she is covered from head to toe.

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1.  I began looking at the films aesthetically in relation to history. This film was Depression Era so there seems to be an emphasis on freshness. The viewer gets the idea of climate control that is part of the escape into the theater (e.g., air conditioning lured people to the theaters in the summer). The flowers present this idea of controlled comfort. So, it wasn't only the material escapes -- nice clothes, big spending, elegant spaces, etc. -- it is the pure idea of comfort away from the reality that was ragged, dirty, and exposed to the discomforts of nature.

2. I agree with many of the other participants there is an emphasis on light-heartedness or hopefulness...perhaps frivolity (a luxury for many during The Great Depression).  There is a strong theme of escapism. But, strikingly, there is not the reversion, necessarily, to more conservative behavior.  There remains a strong (for her day), female central character successfully making her own way in the world. Now, she's French, which is telling considering the intellectual parlors of France at the time which hosted thought leaders such as Simone de Beauvoir (who graduated with her thesis in 1928 - a rare accomplishment for a woman - and was deep in an affair with Satre in 1933, eventually writing The Second Sex in 1949). So, there was a feeling in 1933 that women's progress would continue, a theme perhaps directly influenced by the women who took up the reigns of familial leadership when men could not or would not.

3. I don't know. Showing skin in the dressing room? Perhaps more suggestive allusions to Miss Held's figure or body rather than limiting the description to her eyes?  Perhaps the woman taking a more aggressive rather than innocently flirtatious sexual role with 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? 

Yes, life is beautiful in this movie... the men are jaunty, the costumes are beautiful, the music is perfect, people have time and money to go to the theatre, no one is barely scraping by...

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

I would think that beauty and diversion would be common themes during the Depression era, as people probably wanted to escape from their dreary, difficult days with something fluffy and frivolous like this.

  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.

Precode, it might have been much more risqué – a more suggestive song, a more revealing costume for the singer, and even showing a costume change in the dressing room.

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I'm watching The Great Ziegfeld on my DVR right now and am just totally blown away by the staging on some of the musical numbers!  I did some Googling and found out that shooting "A Pretty Girl is Like a Melody" alone took weeks of rehearsals and filming, 180 performers, 4300 yards of rayon silk, and cost over $200k to put together.  I realized one of the reasons I love watching these old films is that they predate things like CGI and all the fancy animation and special effects that are used today.  I know what I'm seeing is "real," that the actors were really walking around these sets that were built by hand.  With new movies,  so much of what we see is created on a computer or in post-production, and actors are walking around in front of green screens while filming.  I can't get that out of my head when I'm watching them, and it takes away a little of the magic that these old movies have in spades!  

 

 

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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? 
  2. What themes or approaches might you anticipate from this clip in other Depression era musicals?
  3. Since this is a musical that was made after the motion picture code was enforced, how might you imagine it might have been filmed or scripted differently if it had been pre-code? Give specific examples.

1. I do believe that the clip displays a brighter perspective than what might be realistic; I think that it portrays the competition in a lighthearted manner, not necessarily realistic to the personalities of two producers.

2. Going forward, I anticipate that real conflicts will either be made light of, or acknowledged as serious, but resolved in a fairly light manner.

3. I imagine that if this had been filmed pre-Code, her costume would have been much more revealing, and the scene in the dressing room would have involved her changing or bathing. Perhaps the competition between the two producers would have been more aggressive. I envision a tense involving all three of them, probably occurring in her dressing room.

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I do agree that the clip does exhibit a brighter perspective of life that might be realistic for this time period.  The joke that Mr. Billings makes when he hands the money to the doorman is a great explain of this.  Money in the depression was obviously something that was not taken lightly and when the doorman asked if Mr. Billings realizes he gave him 5 pounds he jokingly says yes I am trying to lose weight.  This is a much much lighter take on a time period where not many film goers would have that kind of money to just throw around.  

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1. The tone of the clip is light-hearted and hopeful in a way that definitely seems to transcend the hardships of reality during the time period. In particular, there's a sense of opulence and casual attitude toward money that seems out of line with the context of the Depression. Ziegfield gives money to the doorman rather offhandedly and simply makes a joke out of it when the doorman asks him if he realizes the amount; Anna's costume is lovely and elaborate, and her maid emphasizes how the bouquet of flowers must have cost thousands of francs. I imagine that seeing a world where money wasn't an issue would have been a nice form of escapism during the period. And more generally, little seems to be taken seriously in this clip. Anna makes the decision to see Ziegfield very casually and flip-flops a bit about it, and the competition between Ziegfield and Billings is somewhat light-hearted, rather than cut-throat (as we might imagine the theatre scene to be). 

2. I'd expect to see a lot of old-fashioned romance (complete with wooing practices like buying flowers), an emphasis on song and dance, and perhaps a focus on the upper class, or at least people without money troubles.

3. During the pre-code era, Anna probably would have been presented more seductively. The backstage scene might have more clearly shown her (or other characters) getting undressed, and her song and dance routine might have had a more revealing costume and more innuendo. The relationship between Anna and Billings and Ziegfield might have also been less innocently presented.

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Watching this film, and indeed many others made during this era, the main character, when doing something that might be considered "bending the rules" he (or to a lesser extent, she) is portrayed as a "lovable rascal" or a "charmer". That may be true, but often times the portrayals are sugar-coated so the main character would NEVER be considered anything but a hero. You KNEW who the good guys were - and the bad guys, too. 

Audiences attended movie theatres as an event, similar to attending a stage production of a Broadway play: they dressed up, they regarded the experience as a special occasion, where their fondest dreams could be shown. The costumes and sets were lavish and gave the impression that no expense was spared. Everything glittered! When people dreamed, they wanted to see the easy, comfortable life, not the daily struggle with putting food on the table. 

Had this movie been made pre-code, we might have seen a more "stage-y" presentation - filmed from the front as though the camera were an audience member. We might have seen broader performances that were more appropriate for stage, and we might have seen some of the darker aspects of the story. The intent, however, would be the same: dazzle the audience! The directors and crew learned quickly how to create a breath-taking display: in this clip we saw edits/cuts to different camera points of view. For example, during her performance, we get close-ups of her face alternating with shots of the audience as she shines her mirror on them. We experience movement instead of the flat, stationary filming we might have seen pre-code. Technology had improved with cameras and sound, lighting was better, and we were shown intimate settings in addition to the grand, show-stopping finale numbers, whose scale was impossible to provide on a traditional theatre stage.

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1. Yes, I do think that the clip gives a brighter perspective on life, although I wouldn’t say that everything about it is exaggerated. Business practices definitely seem to be more lighthearted, though the idea of Ziegfeld sending flowers, for example, could have been something that was entirely possible as an early way of persuading Feld to sign with him, even if it probably wasn’t as dramatic as the movie version made it out to be in Feld’s eyes.

2. Sort of similar to number 1, the idea of making events more lighthearted would probably be a common theme in musicals during this era, possibly as a way of relieving tension from Depression-era audiences.

3. Clothing options probably would have been more risqué during the pre-Code era. Also, dialogue would have probably been more suggestive; nothing explicit, though it would probably be heavily reliant on double entendres, for example.

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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? 

Anna Held's costume is a frilly and over the top with all that lace, feathers, and the parasol--seems rather dainty yet fitting for such a fragile character. Her stage performance, "I wish you come and play with me," is coquettish and a bit unrealistic--she can't think of anything better than to have an admirer "play with [her] all the day long." 

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

From viewing this clip, one recurring theme would be a lack of strong female characters; making women seem like fragile beings who have no conflict.

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 would imagine Anna Held's stage outfit would be more scandalous and she would still be flirtatious but perhaps in a sexier way rather than playful. And maybe instead of using the handheld mirror as a prop, Anna would do a modest strip tease and throw something she took off into the audience. Just a thought...

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Most early musicals seemed to be morale boosters.  A large swath of the audience went to the cinema to escape the stress and poverty of their lives, so seeing realism would be a turnoff.  Oh, sure, there were plenty of adventures and tragedies and gangster films available, but the musical's aim was to cheer you up.  The women were beautiful, the men handsome, the costumes lavish and elegant, the songs full of hope and flirtation.  Everything was idealized and stylized.  Everybody was funny, and the guy got the girl by the last reel.

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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? 

Life in The Great Ziegfeld is definitely not realistic as this is 1929 and Depression era when there were bread lines and most people were out of work. This clip shows: people employed and happy, people having the money to go to the theater, everyone wearing elegant clothing, beautiful and extravagant flowers, Anna Held with a French maid, Ziegfeld giving a big tip.

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

Depression era musicals afforded people a chance to escape the hard life they were living at this time. Most musicals by nature are light and happy. Based on this clip, we can expect to see extravagant sets and costumes, an ease in spending, Champaign flowing. "Forget you troubles, come on get happy."

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 Anna Held's song, which was slightly provocative, probably would have been more so with some risqué dancing and insinuations. Her costume would have been scanty, and the dressing room scene would have showed her undressing down to her silk underwear. 

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I do agree the clip exhibits a brighter perspective of life than might have been realistic for the time. A five pound tip-quite large indicating the money flows freely. ( I don't know if a pun was intended but it struck me as funny. Was he trying to be truthful in saying I'm trying to lose a little...wait...as in wait time...OR...being humorous in tying together pounds for pounds as in...weight...as in physical weight loss? Again, struck me as funny.

Additionally, the settings and costumes were lavish; even the audience was in all it's finery. ( The use of the mirror allowed us to see the audiences reaction to Held's performance. There was enjoyment in the idea of "playtime" and letting themselves be carefree.. The mirror also gave insight (even though understated) to the rivalry taking place between Ziegfield and Billings. Also, the orchids in the dressing room represent opulence, and a huge expense, yet reaping a huge reward by influencing Held to meet with Ziegfield.

I think we might expect similar approaches to other depression era musicals as what we have seen here. I would expect underlying tones of ideals which build hope, restore faith, and cause one to feel carefree and leave worries behind. I would expect story lines in which dreams come true or, perhaps, true love is realized.

  If the film had been scripted pre-code it may have focused more on:

-the difficulties involved in world travel

-Ziegfield's behavior regarding Held; ie: common law marriage and his unfaithfulness to the relationship

-behind the scenes activities regarding the business and contract relationships (ie: tricking the costume designer in to leaving the costumes without payment...again) What other crooked dealings were there?

-what is was that caused Held in the relationship as long as she did?

Also if filmed pre-code:

-We might have seen the men in Held's dressing room

-Held's costumes may have been more revealing ( or any of the costumes for that matter)

-We may have seen heated arguments or meanness and vindictiveness 

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1.    I feel that movies of the Depression era (and specifically musicals) were escapist, trying to lift the moods and energy of the viewers even if only for a few minutes.  They also presented a bright goal, some representation of a better / more glamorous / carefree way of life that was a possibility with just a little luck.... 

2.    Work hard, develop your talents, and maybe, just maybe, you'll catch the eye of someone absurdly wealthy to rescue you.  Be a good person, and that goodness will be rewarded somehow.

3.    Not being very versed in the code or pre-code, I can only imagine that the product created had a certain modesty that it might not have had otherwise.  She's fully dressed in her dressing room, and nobody sharing the dressing room with her is in their skivvies.  

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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 partly disagree, because of the word 'might', and from a resistance to the idea that those on screen must represent what is socially common.  The setting is an elegant show performed for the rich, who certainly still existed during the depression.  The clip, if not the whole picture, takes place in this encapsulated environment, where elegance and pleasantness are the standard of the moment, much as they were in the house of the Bullocks, if very much not as they were when Godfrey left the Bullocks' place for his former home on the streets with his fellow vagrants.  There certainly had to be such streets outside the theater, but these clips don't happen to go there.  I think it's possible, if not likely, that in such a contained environment, people might wear suits and smile at a performance, and the performer might be enjoying her night, and might enjoy the company of her backstage helper.  It might be a brighter perspective of the average of every life, but it isn't portraying every life.  Luise Rainer is not playing any depression era woman, but, specifically, a well regarded stage performer of a particular stage culture (notably 'high').  The look and behavior might be very realistic in such an encased place and moment.  I do doubt that everyone would be this chipper all of the time, even just the time the film covers, but in this clip, I can believe that Powell, out on the town and in public, would be on best behavior, as would the doorman, an audience, an opponent and a performer.  I also believe that he, not everyone, might have 5 pounds to offer.  That might be even more likely in Britain, as their depression was less 'great' than America's

Any unrealisms also come from the specifics.  My main one would be that lovely, backstage changing room of hers.  I suppose it could be realistic, but I find back stages and changing rooms to be more believable when they just look like tossed together spots, with no attention payed to decor.  A room like hers is certainly not impossible, but it may not be credible.  I'm less inclined to disbelieve her behavior there.  She might just be a normally kind person.   Post-code, it could be difficult to portray a true, offstage crassness, though it was done with a punch at least once.  I think of the way Eve Carrington behaves in the final scene of All About Eve, as a person fully entitled to be unpleasant and cold, after having forced an obsequious countenance for most of the film.  It's shocking, maybe more so than would be a flurry of profanities in the same performance shift attempted in a similar film made after the ratings system would allow them.  That changes could have been done here too, but I would not suggest that it should, and imply that all actors and actresses are the opposite of all that is pleasant once they leave the stage.

What stands against my read is the fact that these were real people, and their histories are known, as the introduction to the clip conveys.  Changes were made.  Are they responses to the depression itself?  I think they have more to do with being post-code, and of the Hollywood style.  Even if not so shackled, grit would not necessarily be required for realism.  Rules of the Game is all about the mix-and-match dalliances of its ensemble of characters, while they remain pleasant and likable throughout.

 

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

From just this clip, the obvious would be an avoidance of the aesthetically ugly (such as a backstage changing room), and presentation of the high life as a believable way to live.

 

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.

Talking about the whole film now, not just the portion in the clip, I think the premaritals would have been part of the plot.  Look at the overt wooing, open, rather than buried, double entendres, and obvious bed sharing in The Maltese Falcon from 1931 vs. the 1941, where I'm pretty sure we get a kiss, a fade out, and edits suggesting that the next time Sam and Brigid meet, one of them has to travel to the other, rather than just waking up next to each other.

 

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