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DAILY DOSE OF DELIGHT #4 (FROM TOP HAT)

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This Forum is for The Daily Dose of Delight regarding Top Hat, for Thursday. Recall that the dance between the characters has a different purpose than the ballroom dancing we normally think of between Astaire and Rogers. As you watch the clip, and read the curated analysis, please respond to the questions. Post your responses in this forum.

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

  1. What other aspects of battle of the sexes do you see indicated in this clip or in the film Top Hat?
  2. How does this film distinguish itself from other Depression era musicals we have watched or discussed this week?
  3. What possible reasons might there be for the changes in roles between men and women depicted in these screwball comedy musicals that distinguish themselves from earlier musicals in the 1930s?
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What other aspects of battle of the sexes do you see indicated in this clip or in the film Top Hat?

Sorry, I don't see the clip as involving the battle of the sexes at all.  Ginger Rogers serves as a sidekick or a prop in this clip, albeit a very talented sidekick/prop.  Fred Astaire controls the scene - he sings to her, he decides when they will dance, etc.  She follows his lead.  That may have been considered "equal" eighty years ago, but no more. 

How does this film distinguish itself from other Depression era musicals we have watched or discussed this week?

Ginger Rogers is not portrayed in the same fashion as other female roles that we have seen (e.g., Jeanette MacDonald), which I suppose is progress. 

What possible reasons might there be for the changes in roles between men and women depicted in these screwball comedy musicals that distinguish themselves from earlier musicals in the 1930s?

Women were becoming more self-sufficientin the workplace during the depression.  The age of petticoats is over.  That said, this clip is hardly Norma Rae.  But that is not really the purpose of screwball comedy.  I think looking for social significance in films of this type may be like mining for fools gold - it is bright and shiny, but a deeper value is illusory.

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!) i really did not see much of a battle of the sexes here because Fred led the way and Ginger followed though it did show that Ginger could be just as good as Fred.

2) Everyone is really comfortable in this movie they are well dressed and they are dancing together whereas most of the clips I have seen this week there is singing but little dance.

3) Times were changing with the depression and war looming so sometimes women had to stand up where they had not before 

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  1. What other aspects of battle of the sexes do you see indicated in this clip or in the film Top Hat? 
  2.  
  3. We see a woman taking charge in choosing a potential partner. Ginger’s character is very clear, Fred has to play by her rules or not at all. During this time period, I don’t think that the audience was used to seeing portrayals of strong women, esp. in a sexual sense.  We also see a confident male character in Fred Astaire who plays alone because he wants this woman.
  4.  
  5. How does this film distinguish itself from other Depression era musicals we have watched or discussed this week?  This is a perfect combination!  The songs, lyrics, music and the dancing all mesh! Fred Astaire could really put a song over and it just works beautifully. This movie distinguishes itself from earlier musicals because the dance numbers are no longer dreamy fantasies that veers off from the action of the film. The dance numbers plays a part in advancing the movie.  When this dance number is complete, Fred and Ginger have taken their relationship to another level of understanding. 
  6.  
  7. What possible reasons might there be for the changes in roles between men and women depicted in these screwball comedy musicals that distinguish themselves from earlier musicals in the 1930s? It’s seems that the screwball comedy musical is all about the unexpected, so what’s better than to reverse the usual role of the sexes? Also these musicals usually present some ridiculously funny dilemmas for the characters to work through as they find love. They heightened the entertainment level of the musical for  the depression era audience and gave them something to sing, dance and laugh about.
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Hmmm what can I say? Well for starters watching these two dance dressed in any attire, on any type of staged atmosphere is a pure delight. His sing song singing voice is unique to me in that he is one of the few (even today) that you clearly hear his speaking voice as well. Jimmy Stewart's attempt at singing also comes across that way and it is endearing to me.

Battle of the sexes either I slept through something or it is so slight in message that I missed it. What I saw was a wonderful display of dancing talent, he went for it and she was swept right along. She did however to me show him that she could keep up with him and yet still stay the Lady in the dance, yes she met his steps but neither one outshone the other. I saw a dance routine in which they were equals in the stepping and yet staying true to ones self.

WHY would you change a thing in these screwball musicals?! I would want them to remain as they are, a lot of dialogue dancing singing and straight fun in trying to keep it all straight.

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Astaire and Rogers.  Nothing better.  They are my favorite couple and it does not get old to watch them.  This scene is unusual in the fact that they have Ginger Rogers wearing masculine clothing.  It is a tell that she is going to demand that she been seen as an equal.  She follows through by showing Fred Astaire that she can match him step for step.  And she does, quite easily.  This film is distinguishable because the female role is becoming more progressive and the love matches are more equal.  As we move closer to WWII, women's roles outside of the home are expanding and so is their demand to be treated equal.  Movies are a reflection of current events and it shows in Top Hat. 

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1. I don't think there was a battle of the sexes in the movie.  Astaire and Rodgers were both excellent dancers and complimented each other.

2. The dance numbers are more natural looking to the movie instead of being elaborately choreographed and primarily done in a theater setting.

3. There was an increase in the number of women, primarily married women, finding employment during the Great Depression.  More women had to work in order to be self-sufficient or to provide for their families due to the lack of available jobs for men.

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"He gave her class, and she gave him sex appeal." Katherine Hepburn on Astaire and Rogers

1.What other aspects of battle of the sexes do you see indicated in this clip or in the film Top Hat?

Based on the clip, Astaire is trying to interest Rogers in him romantically-speaking. Rogers is clearly not interested until Astaire begins serenading her, and luring her to dance with him. The dance, however, is not a ballroom dance in which Astaire can hold Rogers in his arms. Instead it is a challenge dance in which Astaire dares Rogers to equal his steps. It turns out she likes it! Since Rogers is interested in meeting Astaire's challenge to equal or best him at dancing, he and the audience can conclude that Rogers wants to be seen as Astaire's equal in the film. So, the aspect of the battle of the sexes in this scene is the woman's striving for equality with the man in terms of ability such that he can see her as an equal based on her merit. 

Rogers costume amplifies her desire to contest gender roles in our clip. She is not wearing a beautiful gown, but is wearing riding breeches, or pants just as Astaire is. Rogers, however, is willing to accept the fact that she can come together with a male partner, because Astaire does take her in his arms to dance some sequences with her. Rogers does not object. (What girl would?) In other words, the audience is assured that if things continue on this path, boy will win girl in the end. 

2.How does this film distinguish itself from other Depression era musicals we have watched or discussed this week?

The "Top Hat" clip can be juxtaposed with the "Rose Marie" clip in which Eddy tries to spark MacDonald's interest in him in the canoe. The difference is that MacDonald does not give the audience the sense that her reluctance to succumb to Eddy's charm is based on a desire to be accepted as Eddy's equal, or to dominate him. Further, in the clip where MacDonald sings in the saloon, although she tries to step out of her comfort zone, she flees abruptly when she can't. It then appears that Eddy is leaving to comfort her because she is upset. That is not a battle of the sexes moment or a screwball comedy moment, it is a moment in which traditional gender roles apply.

The "Top Hat" clip also does not find a comparison in the "Love Parade" scene. In "Love Parade," Lubitsch is busy celebrating traditional gender roles, and mocking the idle rich who can spend lots of time engaging in adultery. That is not remotely comparable to the lovely artistry celebrating sexual attraction in Astaire's choreography and Sandrich's direction. Also the leading man is presented in a traditional manner in which he dominates the situation shown in the "Love Parade" clip.

Finally, "The Great Ziegfeld" sequence focuses on Ziegfeld's seduction of Held with a traditional approach of sending Held flowers, and her being charmed even though she is supposed to be making an important business decision. The Ziegfeld scene is also not depicting a battle of the sexes. It shows men and women in traditional gender roles of the chased and the chaser.

3.What possible reasons might there be for the changes in roles between men and women depicted in these screwball comedy musicals that distinguish themselves from earlier musicals in the 1930s?

Screwball comedy features a leading lady who dominates the relationship with the leading man, thus challenging his masculinity while the two engage in a humorous battle of the sexes. 

One reason for this progression from traditional gender roles could be the studio/producer/writer/director's desire to create more sophisticated tension between the leading man and lady. Another could be to find a more novel approach to relationships between men and women. The Astaire and Rogers films, however, followed a formula of boy meets girl, boy must woo a girl who is not predisposed to like him, and boy gets girl in the end while they sing and dance beautifully together. While this formula can encompass screwball comedy, it doesn't have to. 

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I understand the concept of Battle of the Sexes could be found in this clip, but in all honesty in my opinion I don't see it. They are not competing with one another, more like showing that they are alike and just as well can keep up with one another. Astaire was smitten with Rogers character at the beginning and tried to get a moment alone with her to her neglect. When he does sneak the carriage and they find themselves alone in a gazebo during the storm, a plan is in motion. He sings about what luck they have by being caught in the rain, to her unimpressed. but soon catches her attention when she follows suit and they both begin dancing together. They even start to par with one another, not showing off whose better, but that they are alike and like I mention before can keep up with one another as well.

The chemistry matches the other clips, but the style of dancing and romance varies. There is more engaging and reacting with the two leads then the other, a sort of four play. When the dancing starts, Astaire leads and Ginger follows, but then later adds a beat/ a quick step to Astaire's amaze and the dance takes a new turn when the two engaged in a little friendly par that finishes with a new outlook between the two. 

The era was on the verge of a change. Women taking more of a lead and didn't sit quietly and let others speak or act over them. There weren't afraid to react and stand their ground.

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  1. What other aspects of battle of the sexes do you see indicated in this clip or in the film Top Hat?

I see a woman who is making a choice to engage with this guy.  He is making the initial invitation by singing to her and picking her, but she is choosing to engage with him.  At first she seems to ignore him, but then becomes interested enough to turn it into a case of anything you can do I can do and maybe do it a little better.  Then they both appear to start to really have fun and enjoy the sort of one upsmanship.  She is dress similarly to him.  For a woman in the 30's to be dressed similar to a man that is unusual.  True she is dressed for riding, but her riding clothes mimic his suit.

  1. How does this film distinguish itself from other Depression era musicals we have watched or discussed this week?

 This one seems to have a more natural flow to it than the other.  There seem to be less awkwardness in going into a song and dance.  

  1. What possible reasons might there be for the changes in roles between men and women depicted in these screwball comedy musicals that distinguish themselves from earlier musicals in the 1930s?

I think the change comes for the changing times.  The world is changing and roles of men and women in the real world are beginning to change, film begin to reflect that change.  Women are gaining more control over their lives and more in charge of their worlds.  Men are coming home from war or finding themselves without jobs for what ever reason and finding their women more self reliant.  They don't need to be taken care of.

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What other aspects of battle of the sexes do you see indicated in this clip or in the film Top Hat?

I think the "battle of the sexes" can be seen in the back and forth nature of the dance.  Rogers both initiates challenges in the "duel", but also counters Astaire's "attacks" showing her dance skills equal his.

How does this film distinguish itself from other Depression era musicals we have watched or discussed this week?

This film distinguishes itself from others of this era by giving Rogers' character a stronger role in the story.  She isn't the demure woman waiting for the man to save her.  She is strong, with her own idea about who she lets into her life, and on what terms.

What possible reasons might there be for the changes in roles between men and women depicted in these screwball comedy musicals that distinguish themselves from earlier musicals in the 1930s?

I think the changes in roles during this time reflect the changing role of women in society in general.  Many more women were leaving the home to work in order to support the family.  While these jobs were typically low paying service jobs, they provided a sense of power and equality that is reflected in the stronger female characters.

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DAILY DOSE #4 (Top Hat):

When you hear it thunder, don't run under a tree; 

They'll be pennies in the Depression in the movies.

 

Ginger sits upstage with an earful of Fred's applesauce;

Turns one cold shoulder to 23 skidoo him and brush him off;

She mocks Fred's angles then mimes his ankles in real (swing) time;

They Oliver Twist and she hits on all six in pant suit pantomime.

 

She's given equal footing, because many women had to put in, 

till they were all in--working for their dough.

They weren't floozies, and times were doozies,

so cuties wooed the movies--because men's work was slow.

 

This scene advances the quirky love story plot,

And it's not part of an enchanted Berkeley staged play;

And shows when times are bad, there's still times to be got...

...dancing...and singing...in the rain.

 

 

 

 

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1. What other aspects of battle of the sexes do you see indicated in this clip or in the film Top Hat?

In the clip, we see the “battle of the sexes” played out as a competition, with Rogers’ character matching Astaire step-for-step, proving her independence and that she is second to no man. This reminded me a lot of the old “Anything you can do, I can do better,” Nike commercials from the early 2000s, where male and female athletes would try to one-up each other in various athletic feats. Unfortunately, the clip also fails to push the envelope very far, and we still see Rogers resigned to the role of following in Astaire’s footsteps, rather than cutting her own path. They may be similarly-attired and matching each other’s steps, but this still feels like Astaire’s show; he chooses the step, and Rogers follows along, as much as she’s appearing to resist his advances. Fred does not have her in his arms, directing her where to go (which is a step forward for the equality the clip tries to show), but it would’ve been a bit more satisfying to see Ginger one-up Astaire’s moves with some flashy steps of her own. Nevertheless, the clip manages to be romantic by playing itself off as decidedly platonic, which is a fun reversal of the usual ballroom routines. The ending of the clip with a sportsmanlike “good game” handshake rather than a romantic kiss is a final, perfect punctuation on this competitive dance sequence.

2. How does this film distinguish itself from other Depression era musicals we have watched or discussed this week?

The film distinguishes itself from other Depression-era musicals by blending genres to incorporate more romantic/screwball comedy elements that strengthens the story and moves away from the backstage musical. The film is much more cinematic than many early musicals, which retained a staged feel, but the choreography is not geometric or elaborately complex, like some of Berkeley’s more famous numbers. Most importantly, perhaps, having two equally-matched, engaging dancers in Ginger and Fred creates a competitive balance where no one lead is carrying the plot or dance sequences. This is unlike today’s lecture on Born to Dance, where we see Eleanor Powell dance circles around James Stewart.

3. What possible reasons might there be for the changes in roles between men and women depicted in these screwball comedy musicals that distinguish themselves from earlier musicals in the 1930s?

As gender dynamics were changing in society, the movies had to follow suit. The increase in poverty and unemployment during the Depression created an environment where everyone had to be more self-sufficient and independent, and this resulted in independent, self-confident women being depicted on stage and screen.

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I do see this as a competition, a battle of the sexes.  At the beginning of the scene, Roger's character snubs Astaire's character; he trying to woo her in the traditional way which at that time would win out but Roger's character depicts a strong, independent attitude of "you really think I'm buying into this."  Her reaction to dance is "I'll show you!"  While Astaire's character leads the first steps to which Roger's copies, there are 2 brief moments I caught her inserting her own steps but Astaire does not copy HER as she did him.  Still, it gets to a point where they  are equal to their keeping up with each other and one gets a sense of who's leading whom.

I missed this movie and its been awhile since I've seen it but at least from the clip, I see Roger's character as strong-willed, NO damsel-in-distress woman as the women in the other Depression era musicals seemed to need saving from a "knight in shining armor" and if not that, then as women who easily succumbed to the men's wiles.

Changing roles between men and women could also be seen as sign of the times. With the Depression, many men committed suicide, left their families...women were thrown into being a single parent and having to find a way to feed their families. Also, the women (especially assertive women) the screwball comedies posed no threat to the average American male as he would see these dominant female characters as pure entertainment and not reality.

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What other aspects of battle of the sexes do you see indicated in this clip or in the film Top Hat?        I do not see anything to do with the battle of the sexes in this clip from Top Hat. just 2 people enjoying them selves dancing in the rain.

How does this film distinguish itself from other Depression era musicals we have watched or discussed this week? I have not yet watched this film. So I can not yet say.

What possible reasons might there be for the changes in roles between men and women depicted in these screwball comedy musicals that distinguish themselves from earlier musicals in the 1930s?  I think in the screwball comedies between men and women both of them get into the mood for comedy. Almost like "Anything you can do, I can do better." And depending who is staring in the film both can play off each other rather well.

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1.       What other aspects of battle of the sexes do you see indicated in this clip or in the film Top Hat? Often when Ginger Rogers executes a step that equals or tops Fred Astaire’s, her body and expression suggest, “Top that.” Thunder is used creatively in the number, always pushing the relationship forward. Ginger only consents to the traditional physical connection dancing (3:58) after the final thunder (3:36) bumps up the music’s tempo as well as (presumably) the characters’ hearts.

2.      How does this film distinguish itself from other Depression era musicals we have watched or discussed this week? The art itself – dance in this case – is the playing field for the dramatic action. In Broadway Melody, 42nd Street, Going Hollywood, etc., the musical numbers are generally part of the show their musical performers are creating. “Isn’t It a Lovely Day” from Top Hat (1935) is a private musical number, created not for a diagetic audience, but for each other as Fred courts and Ginger competes.

3.       What possible reasons might there be for the changes in roles between men and women depicted in these screwball comedy musicals that distinguish themselves from earlier musicals in the 1930s? I feel a dichotomy of responses to this question. As others have noted, the Depression provoked a need for women to work outside the home and play other roles than wife and mother, so the sense of achieving equal respect in this number reflects that. But Top Hat is also fantasy for Depression audiences, in which the realities of unemployment don’t overwhelm the characters, as they do the chorus girls and techies in the Warner Bros. musicals of the early ‘30s.

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One of the differences between the Astaire/Rogers dance scene and other dance scenes from the early Depression era movies is the objectification of women in films like 42nd Street and Gold Diggers of 1933.  Through various dance scenes in early film, dancers are elaborate set pieces and kaleidoscopic spectacles that are visually appealing in their presentation.  In Gold Diggers, women are clad in strategically placed coins that metaphorically connect sex and money.  Compare Ginger Rogers costume in Gold Diggers when singing "We're in the Money" with her outfit she wears while dancing with Fred Astaire.  It's modest and sophisticated.  In this film, Rogers can compete and succeed with a male like Astaire using her talents without being overtly sexual.

The other difference I see in the Astaire/Rogers clip is the sanitized opulence of the sets. As mentioned in one of the video, the settings are unbelievable in their size, glamour, and extravagance.  Compare this with the gritty realism of the streets of New York and cramped and shabby apartments where theater performers live during the early Depression era films.  The early Depression era musical seemed to focus on struggle...struggle of the dancers to succeed on Broadway...a director struggling to overcome hard times.  Contrast this with the Astaire/Rogers clip, and struggle seems to be a million miles away.

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This is one of my favorite Fred and Ginger numbers.

1. Although more than a decade apart, this number foreshadows the coming of the song "Anything  You Can Do I Can Do Better" from Annie Get Your Gun. The competition/battle of the sexes plays out ****-for-tat in dance steps what what they don't realize is that their doing it on common ground...they're both dancers. That lets the battle take place on a level playing field. I think the fact that he extends his hand first at the very end when they shake hands is a sign that he acknowledges her equality. 

2. Ginger is her own woman...successful and making her own way. She has a career when she meets Fred. She's not like Eleanor Powell (Born to Dance) or Ruby Keeler (42nd Street) looking for someone to give them a break so that they can build a career.  That makes her a very modern woman. I think that many women in the depression era sought ways to earn money but were in competition with men who were out of work. They options were limited and Ginger presented hope and possibility.

3. The whole concept of a screwball comedy involves gender role changes, a redefinition of masculinity, changes in courtship and marriage, witty repartee and playful and funny battles of the sexes.  This added a gentle reflective lens to view the reality that the depression was really creating a different world for men and women.  Couples both taking employment outside of the home, single parent households, communal living (a la "The Grapes of Wrath") are taking root as the new normal. 

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1.  Yes it can't be denied that the battle of sexes is being presented, but I see a scene showing more equality of the sexes, instead of which gender presented is better than the other.  In fact, the female character is quite attracted to the confidence of the male character.  It evident by the look in her eyes towards Astare.  

2.  This film is different from the rest of the male/female duo dance movies because its the two genders showing there isn't anything major different between them socially.

3.  Women would riff off the sillyness of men at times in these movies, or dress more masculine.  While men might riff off the sillyness of women, or dress in a feminine way to impersonate a female singer or dancer.  The movies of the 30s, would be the decade of where both genders make fun of each other.  

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I love this movie and Fred and Ginger as a team.  This dance specifically is a true delight.  I love that they meet on equal terms in this dance, but I don't see it as a battle of the sexes as much his attempt to gain her interest.  It's a long, teasing flirt.  They dance so close to each other throughout, but it's well past half way through the number that they finally touch.  And even then it's only to turn the other around.  Finally they go into each other's arms and dance enthusiastically!  Oh yes!  They've made the audience wait for that!  Their shaking hands at the end is their acknowledgement that the dance has affected them and has changed their relationship.  

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While the dance routine between Astaire and Rogers may be seen in the prism of 1935 as a battle of the sexes, it was not an equal battle.  Obviously (perhaps) the dance routine itself is fairly basic so as to maintain the continuity of their evolving relationship.  It certainly was not a dueling banjo type of equality.  At the same time, as did most of the dance numbers during the period, the audience is swept into the mood of the moment and that is the principal aim of any director or choreographer.  

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Unlike other films, the woman is not a “damsel in distress”. She wears pants, can keep up with the dancing of the male counterpart and isn’t falling for his romance cliches (caught in the rain, he will keep her dry, etc). When he is “wooing” her, her facial expressions imply that she is bored with his act. 

 

During the Great Dpression, women needed to find ways to support themselves and their families- they were becoming more independent than before. Ginger Rogers’ character demonstrates this societal shift. 

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I think that the battle of the sexes theme came in the way Ginger met Fred's challenge and held her own against him. When I was watching this clip, I could not help but think of the "anything you can do I can do better" scene from Annie Get Your Gun because this scene with Fred and Ginger was like the dance version of that number.

I don't know about the whole movie, but this scene is different than the other depression-era scenes because it does not involve being on stage and performing for an audience. It is more of an intimate scene between the two characters and, for me, it is easier to appreciate the beauty because of the simplicity. This is one of the reasons why I love Fred and Ginger movies. The fact that you have moments that are not full of grandiosity and you are able to observe them from a 3rd person perspective is what makes them enjoyable.

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1.  The song begins similar to the Rose Marie number with Fred singing to Ginger's back.  In typical fashion, boy is wooing reluctant girl.  But here the girl is dressed in a rather masculine outfit.  The clothes they wear are different, he in slacks and a tweed coat, she in a riding outfit, and yet their silhouettes are so similar they appear to be wearing the matching clothes.  As Fred sings to her, Ginger visibly becomes more welcome to his advances.  But only to us -- she still has her back to him.  And it isn't until they dance that she lets him see that she is interested too.  For most of the dance, they trade challenges and responses without touching each other, reflecting that they are getting to know each other in a coy, hesitant courtship.  And when the time is right, they hold each other and become partners.  But this is a first date, and it ends with a handshake instead of a kiss and the understanding that there will be a second date.

2.  Unlike the other clips we have seen, this film takes place in the present day in a familiar place and presents characters that are more like us and that we can more easily relate to.  It is not a costume drama as The Love Parade or Rose Marie.  Though the characters are well off, they are not member of the wealthy class.  And it does not take place in the past as The Great Ziegfeld.  Though there is a backstage musical in the plot, it is not prominent as it was in the Busby Berkeley musicals.  We are not dealing with royalty, Canadian Mounties, or producers of spectaculars.  When I think of Fred Astaire, I think of top hat, white tie and tails, but I also think of tweed coats and a fedora.  These characters dress like us; they work like us; they even get stuck in the rain like us.  They just sing and dance better than most of us.

3.  When I think of screwball comedies, the first ones that come to mind are My Man Godfrey, where a ditzy Carole Lombard has her eyes opened by her butler, and His Girl Friday, where Rosalind Russell works in what was traditionally a man's job and becomes the equal of her boss.  Male/female roles in these films were defined much as they were in Bringing Up Baby, where Katharine Hepburn was the uncontrollable life force and Cary Grant was the voice of reason and propriety.  In the course of their films, Carole Lombard and Rosalind Russell become a little less of the untamed life force and take on some of masculine qualities.

Perhaps when the depression hit, families were still trying to make do with the male/female roles that they were used to.  But as time went by, they found that those roles weren't working so well any more, and women became more necessary to the family's income.  At the same time, I suspect that female actors became more powerful in their studios, and scripts reflected this.  So while the female characters in earlier musicals had supported their men, now the male and female characters were more like partners, reflecting a change in the family dynamics.

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10 hours ago, Dr. Vanessa Theme Ament said:

 

  1. What other aspects of battle of the sexes do you see indicated in this clip or in the film Top Hat? Battle of the sexes is present in this clip. Although Fred initiates, it is Ginger's character who determines the outcome.  She is not following, she is matching -- in this scene.  Other dance routines, she definitely follows. If people want to infer he is just projected onto her and therefore she isn't "equal," I would argue her demeanor and execution with gestures, facial expressions, hands in pockets, etc., most certainly provides a unique, separate, equal persona in this routine. The shaking of hands is quite significant. It isn't delicate. It is toe-to-toe.  l love it.   In other portions of this movie, I think it is Ginger (within the traditional manners comedy or errors that causes misunderstandings, mistaken identity plot lines, and morality play issues to provide the battle of the sexes a platform) who holds the cards.  Within the Depression films, this would play well to women, and that is why we get the "women's pictures" coming out of the studios. To have the woman wooed and able to control is escapism at this time.   Within the time period, women had only been legally allowed to vote since 1920, so there's that huge change still having its real implications just starting to be felt in society. Women's choices in dress, hair, and makeup after the 20s really reflects freedom to be feminine if she chooses (although it becomes hyper-sexualized by Hollywood). Top Hat reflects women at ease in their skin.  There is no desperation compared to many other movies we've seen.  The effects of the Depression were such that many women were left as the head of the household as many men simply abandoned the family to find work or of total despair.  Many women were in the workplace and at the head fo the table at this time (not usually by choice but by necessity).  The ease of "Top Hat" and the luxury of the rich affords this sense of freedom which would have been yearned for by those really in the dumps. 
    In "Top Hat," it is the married woman who gets to be baudy, dismissive of her husband, and seemingly in charge of the marriage, so I think this is where the Depression plays out the roles of the sexes reflecting a power shift of sorts. If this is the "shrew wife" trope, it is sophisticatedly executed as the wife really could care less about her husband's opinion of her.  That is putting her in control whereas the harpy of traditional battle of the sexes does care.  The unmarried, although free to choose her partner, is still "proper" and "aghast" by misconceptions of behavior based on false identity. Additionally, the luxury of the rich as depicted here allows the female to be independent although she must still operate within the dictates of appropriate behavior of the time (unlike some previous female leads we've watched pre-code).  I also have to add that I see this movie through three sets of eyes: my great grand mother's (who would be Ginger's age at the time of this movie and who I had the pleasure of growing up with through my 17th year), my granny's (who would have been a few years old when this was released and I lived with until she died) and mine. As a result, I see it through the married woman's eyes as pure power in the woman's hands. Through the maiden's eyes, there is equality and glamor, and luxury, and romance -- everything my granny adored about classic Hollywood and what she escaped to the movies for in the Depression.  Through my eyes, I see roles of women at a time in history.  I see emerging independence. I see battle of the sexes that existed then, now and forever. I see Hollywood-imposed female mandates of beauty, but I see pure escapism also. It is utterly lovely. It is a delight. It is one of the genre's true gems. 
  2. How does this film distinguish itself from other Depression era musicals we have watched or discussed this week? This film distinguishes itself in the sound quality, acting by Ginger is really similar to that of Jimmy Stewart in "Born to Dance" in that we see acting that is as good as song and dance. The genre is elevating itself. None of the unpleasantries of life are involved with this movie's set, plot, or characters, so that is pure MGM. This film also distinguishes itself in that the romance is about "love" rather than "sex" and the innuendo and voyerism that exists in much of what we've seen (excluding Born to Dance) has been sexual.  Pre-code plays heavily with sexuality where this is required to elevate the battle to be about "love." The code restores the classic theatrical comedy's requirement that couples marry, re-unite, etc. There is no out of bounds permissible sex here, except for the married husband, and his wife is ruling the roost there with divorce being the ax she can punish him with at her discretion. Therefore, we are really seeing the code played out here.  Society is safe and good and happy -- which people would feel comforted by during the Depression -- even if it is totally unreal.
  3. What possible reasons might there be for the changes in roles between men and women depicted in these screwball comedy musicals that distinguish themselves from earlier musicals in the 1930s? I think I addressed that in my answer to your first question.

 

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