Dr. Vanessa Theme Ament

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

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Definite brighter perspective of life.  Everything seemed fun and whimsical from Zeigfield's banter with the doorman, the money being exchanged, the gifts being given.  Her

response being almost careless of the flowers given to her and the need to ignore such gifts given.

Depression era musicals seem to always have people in struggle but happy, looking to the brighter side of all things.

I imagine the relationships of the characters would show more of seedy side.  More skin, more drinking.

J Garcia

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I think the clip does bring an upbeat note to depression era darkness.  For example she is wearing a beautiful costume,  has a maid,  and  receives orchids from an admirer.

Were this clip shot pre-code, her costume would be much more scanty,  her dance more suggestive, and zigfield would be in her dressing room before she arived.

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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, totally!  The realism of this time period was quite dreary.  Everything about it is bright including the her beautiful light dress and those gorgeous flowers.  Of course the attitudes are very light as well, all characters display a lighthearted way of thinking.  Her response to the flowers and his throwing $$ around both speak to a lighthearted way of thinking and acting.  

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

I would assume that other depression era musicals are similar and do include a lot of glamour injected scenes as well.  Themes are generally on romance and though I see nothing outright in this clip times were hard so there tends to be con artists at work often during this 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.

Oh dear, it was such a "playful" song and there is soooo much they could have done with this pre-code.  She likely would not have been wearing a full length dress, and the lyric could have been a bit even more suggestive, I think the mirror prop was awful cute; but they may have chosen something more provacative, even the theater may have been different or more burlesque.....I don't know the actual story of Zeigfeld, so I can't speak to what would have been more realistic.  If she was indeed not even officially married to him she certainly would have been a bit more risqué ;) than this clip portrayed.  

This is so much fun!!!

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WHERE or HOW was I watching this clip???  I read the syllabus - read the instructions - don't find where I am supposed to go to engage in this exercise (not on a mobile device!).  

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1. Yes, I think the film does give off the larger than life perspective. I think this is shown in the sets, costumes, and even the dialogue. Everything is extravagant and a little unrealistic. 

2. I felt there would be discussions of money or some sort of sufferings from the characters. Although, everyone is rich and successful in the clip so they rely on a love triangle trope. So I can assume there is a lighthearted romance in other depression era films. 

3. She would not have shined the mirror since it would become a hazard to everyone filming the scene. Then, she would not be shown undressing but she would go into another room to change. 

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

Absolutely.  Things are sleek, clean.  We have a beautiful woman in a beautiful dressing room surrounded by beautiful flowers.  We don't understand the tawdry side, the side that may be sexual in exchange for a contract.  Nor do we understand that she will soon become a woman who lives with Ziegfeld out of wedlock.  The Production Code kept things clean and tidy so that we think the highest ideals are being enacted and upheld.

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

Putting on a show is glamorous, and a worthy endeavor.  The glamour and fame translates into a beautiful life.  Good guys win.

  • 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.

We may have seen the advances of Ziegfeld directly, and understood that things may not be "above-board".  There may have been more direct conflict between Ziegfeld and Billings.  Perhaps we would also see some struggle on the part of Anna Held.  The well lit, dressing room may have been seedier and suspect, indicating dark things that may happen.

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Daily Dose #1 Great Ziegfeld

TCM Moderator 1 sent me an email saying I had put my previous comment/s  into a private message so Dr. Ament or others can not see it & so now I'm having to re-write this ? I did do some wiki research on this movie in between the previous comment & now my re-do comment

 

William Powell (Ziegfeld) starts off w/ humor & then we know he is on his way to meet a woman with big eyes

We then see & hear her on stage  Louise Rainer (Anna Held)...she looks like a big bird in all those feathers, lace & ruffles & that horrible hat...maybe the musical should have been titled: Lace & Ruffles...she is singing a song about men & asking if they will 'play with me' while shining a hand held mirror in their eyes & on their faces...  she zeroes in on two she likes... Frank Morgan (Billings) & Powell/Ziegfeld ....they are the ones she has chosen ...they are in her spotlight...instant rivalry 

Production codes & reality...um...I'm sure she will not have any trouble getting any one or more of these  audience 'watchers' to 'play with me' after one show ends & another begins.. it does sound like an invitation

Powell/Ziegfeld is one of them

He sends her a big bouquet of expensive orchids & a letter..will this get her attention ...of course..the pricey orchid flowers not only grabs her attention & holds it

 NOTE:  I adored Powell in the Thin Man series...his sense of humor shines through as it does in this movie

NOTE:  I'm stopping here to make sure this is posted in the correct place...I may insert other comment/s later...looks like this is posted in the right place now...& I have forgotten what I said in the previous post...Grrr...wonderful Monday

 

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I absolutely agree that the clip exhibits a much brighter perspective of life. Money is a topic that comes up twice in a passive manner as though as not to highlight its significance or importance but to be viewed as more of a passing thought. “Oh, five pounds? Yeah no big deal”, “Those flowers must be expensive, but gee, aren’t they beautiful?”. During the era in which the film was released, I would say the lightness with which money is brought up definitely does not reflect the actual struggles of real life at the time. 

The lightheartedness of the conflict between the men, the rather aloof way Miss Held “weighed” her options about meeting Ziegfeld and the shot of a seemingly full theatre are all examples of what I would expect to see from a depression era musical. Overall, the audience would want to feel at ease while watching a musical, any tension would want to be avoided so that the audience could step away from troubles and worries and enjoy a fictional world of easy lifestyles. 

Specifically, had this been a pre-code film, I would imagine that the dance routine to the song sung by Miss Held herself would have held more sexual undertones as well as the costume she wore. 

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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. The obvious is shown by money not being an issue for some during this time. Perhaps the reflected light from the mirror that was shown on the audience members could have been a way to make life seem brighter.  (One man did not like it in his eyes, that's for sure.)  Also, the reliance on the personal assistant backstage could be a reflection on how others are always willing and around to help us, which of course, is not the case for some.

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

Let's forget our troubles and go to the movies or a show.  That's what Depression era art was about, right? That's what I always enjoy whenever seeing a production to this day.   I rarely want to feel sad or emotional in the theater.   I like to feel uplifted and laugh, not feel scared (have never seen a horror film in my life) or hopeless.

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.

Costume on stage may not have been a whimsical or have had full coverage.   Dressing room scene would have had an underwear scene most likely.

 

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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 would say so. The overall tone is incredibly cheerful and optimistic. Anna is singing a happy, playful song and using her compact to interact mischievously but innocently with an enchanted audience. Ziegfeld's tone when bantering with the doorman is light and carefree. Even in the scene where Anna is presented with a serious decision to mull over, the tone of the scene doesn't become more pensive or serious the way it almost certainly would in real life. 

I can definitely see where a movie like The Great Ziegfeld, especially one filled with singing and dancing, would serve as a welcome distraction from the worries of the day. You get to enter a happy world where even big problems are no big deal and everything works out in the end. For an hour or two, it seems possible that your own dilemmas might reach similar resolutions. I imagine the details that touch on finance would be especially powerful. You get to see a happy, pretty girl receive lush flowers that must have cost a small fortune, a showman gives a doorman what I assume is a pretty substantial tip like it's no big deal, you get a seat at the theater when maybe you can't actually afford to go see a lavish stage show in real life, and so forth.

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

This is the first time I've found myself actively thinking about it, but now that I have, I realize this is something I see a lot in other films from this era, especially musicals (e.g. The Wizard of Oz). Themes like hope, optimism, and potential escape to a life/world that's better and easier come up a lot. I would expect negative emotions and bleak situations to either be eliminated or liberally glossed over, especially any to do with being poor or destitute.

In examples where we're watching a story play out that's based on real people and events (like The Great Ziegfeld), I wouldn't expect to see the inevitable ups and downs being presented very realistically. It's almost as if the audience is being shown "real life", but an alternative version of it that's much better, brighter, and more positive. I can see where that aspect of things would make the "escape" aspect of going to the movies even more powerful -- like you're getting a chance to see reality as it should have played out. 

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 can picture the songs and the banter being a lot cheekier and more risque, especially when you consider the fact that the film all about theater culture and show business. Maybe Anna would have received something less innocent than flowers -- something racier and more disturbingly personal like a negligee. I imagine we'd see more flashes of skin, or scenes with people undressing and bathing, etc -- kind of like we saw in the lecture clips from Broadway Melody. Those sorts of things would have been especially welcome distractions from the depressing realities of real life for sure. I haven't actually seen this movie in its entirety before, so I'm sure I'll be able to think of more once I have. 

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18 hours ago, Dr. Vanessa Theme Ament said:

 

Here are a few discussion starters (though feel free to come up with your own):

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.

 

2

1. Definitely, and I find this to be true of most of the movies I've seen from the '30s-40s. It is a lifestyle most people can't relate to but might wish for.

2. A complete detour from realism. Life is carefree, with no worries or troubles, especially where money is concerned. Lavish sets and costumes.

3. Miss Held's costume would probably have been more revealing (nothing like today's movies, though!). Instead of the flowers being left in her dressing room, perhaps Ziegfeld himself would have been in her dressing room, opening up the door to some dialogue that wouldn't have been allowed post-code.

Karen

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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 think this clip portrays a brighter perspective than would be considered realistic for someones life in the Depression era. During a time when most people were struggling for work and basic necessities Anna is being lavished with beautiful exotic flowers and it seems her most difficult struggle is which gentlemen caller to pursue

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

I would expect to continue to see people of higher society portrayed, not the working class, with story lines of romance and entertainment. I would expect the sets and scenes to be more lavish than everyday life. I would expect stories that are mostly daydreamy to help take the viewer (especially of the time) away from their current setting and into the life of people who's lives are seemingly more care free and exciting.  

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 that pre-code Anna's dress and performance and dress would have been much more flirtatious and alluring. I also think that Ziegfeld and Billings may have been portrayed more forcefully in their pursuit of Anna and would have been less cutesy about it. Perhaps Ziegfeld and Billings would have been casted differently as well.

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It does fit the 'Brighten up the Depression' theme. Women in watching this scene could dream about beautiful flowers from an admirer instead worrying if they could afford to buy milk the next day. The stage is opulent along with the gown. That must have factored in. Even in good times only a few could afford to go to a theater to see a Broadway show. Here it was transported and boxed up neatly on a large screen.

A Pre-code version perhaps a scene in the dressing room where the actress is changing but has thrown a robe on as Zeigfeld rushes in with an urgency to sign her for his shows. 

    

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Thanks to all of you who answered that this would probably be a much more underhanded and gritty film in pre-code days. I searched the web for all the elements of the code and was surprised that there are so many more prohibitions than nudity and sexual innuendo.

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Q1: I believe it was too mild/cheery. In real life, it was probably civil on the surface; but behind the scenes (backstage), there was a “whatever it takes” mechanism at work to get the star you want. 

However, when you consider the historical period, this would be the approach to take to appease the viewers. Give them something to watch that will exemplify congeniality not selfish ambition.

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1. I agree that the movie clip showed a brighter perspective of life than what most people were experiencing daily. I'm guessing they enjoyed going to the movies to see the lavishly dressed actors, flowers flowing, big spenders tipping and all the stuff you dream about.

2.  From that clip I would anticipate that other films during this time are going to be lavish too, use their songs for in the moment, and are going to attempt to bring their audiences out of their daily dreariness. The movies will be about escaping for them.

3. I'm assuming before code, Held would have been dressed differently, short and skimpy for the show and already in loose fitting robe in the dressing room. 

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I agree with most o the members on questions 1 nd 2...to escape the condition our country and how people had to live or not finding a job. The overall sadness (Depression) that existed was forgotton for that special time watching the musicals at the time. Sadly, I don't find much newer movies now that can break that feeling other than a musical from the era we are investigating.  #3 Yes more full body shots, sheer materials, and less implied sexual situations.

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Perspective:

1. This clip does reflect a brighter perspective on life. The dressing room is enormous and very extravagant (all that furniture!)- even for the leading lady, Broadway dressing rooms are not that big. All the men are dressed in very formal attire. Would all the men in the theatre be dressed that formally? The joke about losing weight as Ziegfeld tipped with the 5 lb note - very light-hearted and glibly received. It's probably a week's wage for that man.

Themes:

2. The beautiful woman depends on a powerful, wealthy man to fulfill her dreams of a career. After falling in love with him, she must sacrifice that career in order to be the kind of woman that other women should aspire to be - noble, humble, forgiving (because his eye will eventually wander) and prepared to do whatever it takes to make the man happy.  The conflict always lies with the woman because she cannot have both a career and a family. She is always forced to choose. 

The costumes will be extravagant and glamorous and people will live in beautiful homes and travel to exotic places.

Pre-Code

3. Anna Held would have had a much skimpier costume onstage and would have been in a state of undress in the dressing room. The audience members might have been rowdier perhaps with a drunken interruption. The man Ziegfeld tipped might have scoffed and asked for more in a very rude manner.

 

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1.  The scenery and clothes she wears onstage show such an innocence, a purity and hopefulness.  Her song is charming and invites both the audience in front of her and in our viewing audience to "play with her"...to let leave cares behind and join in her lighthearted life.  That she could be won over with the extravagance of flowers?  Even the Bobbie at the opening of scene is cheery amongst the darkness of the foggy night.

2.  Other depression era musicals would have this same lightheartedness. Who wants to pay money for what they have and can see in their own lives.  "Forget your troubles, cmon get happy!"  Themes would include fantasy sequences--good people winning, the "bad ones" losing (in love, in money, in happiness).  

3.  Pre-code, she wouldn't be a clothed, surely not in an "innocent shepherd girl" costume.  The dashing men would be in her dressing room, trying to win her attention not just with flowers. Her song would have possible been more bawdy, not as sweet.

 

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The clip shows a bright perspective by: the generosity of the tip in such a deprived economy, the playful song, the frilly dress, the jocular rivalry between the men, and the abundance of flowers.  If the play had been pre-code, no doubt we would see a more vampy version of the song "come play with me".  A look back at the Mae West films will fill you in on that!  As for future themes, I suppose the use of friendly rivalries, romantic flirtation?

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Since this clip is from a historical film and it takes place in the late 1890s, perhaps it does portray a realistic outlook for that time. But it certainly gives 1934 audiences a dose of 'Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous'!

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The musical was meant to lift up and entertain based on the culture at the time. I believe issues of women's place in society evolving, the economic changes about to come, and the impact on men in power could be additional themes proceeding from the clip. As to the rules, certainly costume changes and dressing were to become more modest after the codes were in place. 

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q 1-It does present the lighter side of what most were experiencing in their daily life, but wasn't that the whole point.  Who wants to see the life you are living (especially if it is rough, mundane, and with little reward) magnified on the big screen!  I think being able to escape the bleak existence that most had during this era, is probably what helped them see brighter days ahead.  I think, to an extent, this holds true today-most of us love an escape from our hectic tired lives.

 

q.2-The competition for love/relationship.  Wealth and power.  One character the comic to the others' straight, more serious character.  

q. 3-I think the undressing scene  would have been a little more forthcoming.  Her song and dance routine may have been a little more provocative and her costume may have been more revealing.  

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Yes I believe it shows a lightheartedness with William Powell joking about money as if it was a heavy weight. Anna Held seems to be childlike with not a care in the world. Interested in the beauty of the orchids and nothing else. The musicals theme is to show a pollyanna view of the world and not the gloominess of the depression. If the movie was filmed in the pre-code era it would have skimpier outfits and show Ziegfeld as a ladies man.

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The extravagance of the orchids is the hope of better days to come.  Musicals are “fairy tales” in which all is beautiful and fun. Pure escapism. 

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