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DAILY DOSE OF DELIGHT #4 (FROM TOP HAT)

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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, a moment that stuck out as a battle of the sexes is after Ginger gets up and has shown she can hold her own, they pair is walking away from the camera, and she does a quick little tap diddy, making Fred turn around to hear the challenge, then they get more intense in their steps.  It isn't much of a one-upping battle, but she is definitely keeping par, which is a new concept, since most female roles are portrayed as damsels in distress that need help. 
  2. How does this film distinguish itself from other Depression era musicals we have watched or discussed this week?
    • Although I ahve seen this movie a million times and have worn out my fathers VHS, I have not watched it yet this week to brush up on the on goings of the movie, specifically in this type of analytical view.  One thing I can see is the progressiveness of this clip.  In Born to Dance, we are still looking back at time as we knew it, with girls in dresses, waiting for men to return from war, with a young girl trying to make it on the stage.  Here, Ginger is her own bread winner, the musical numbers are becoming more spur-of-the-moment, rather than production numbers on the stage, and she's also dressed in pants.      At the same time, however, there are still similarities to other movies we've seen/discussed in it's distraction from the Depression.  They are flying to new locations, going to lavish dinners and night shows, and dancing in grand ball rooms. 
  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?
    • These screwball comedy musicals show the growth of the women and her standing in society.  As I said before, the damsel in distress mentality is starting to slip away as women in society gain more respect and power as they were able to do more than be home-makers.  That can also be seen in how long it takes for Ginger to succumb to Fred's persistence.  In Born to Dance, Stewart and Powell meet, and fall in love all within one scene and song.  In Top Hat, you see Ginger being quite annoyed with Fred's persistence, and even if she might get caught up on occasion and dance, she stands firm and takes longer to be wooed.  Women before couldn't make money as easily as men, so they needed to marry,etc., but since the Depression, women had to get out and work, help earn a living, and started realizing their value in society and as a person. 

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1. I think her general resistance shows a kind of a battle. It's one of the hallmarks of the screwball comedies, where the female lead is unimpressed by typical manly showmanship, and ultimately strong on her own, to the shock of the male lead who's generally trying to woo her. I love Fred Astaire's reaction of surprise and respect after he starts dancing and she's suddenly joined him and is matching him. Except for the embracing dance parts, this could easily be two men dancing together.

2. This movie, and particularly this number, seem very stripped down compared to the gigantic Busby Berkeley numbers of musicals from just a few years prior. Top Hat certainly has some large numbers, like The Piccolino, but it also feels more intimate. That's a common theme with Astaire and Roger's movies, that they can be so entertaining with just the two of them. This film also strays away from the Broadway feel, into a more realistic, everyday setting.

3. At this point, women might have started to come into their own, be their own person, wanting to rely less on a man compared to a generation before. If that's the case, then films would naturally want to follow their lead. While there tends to be a complete lack of realism in movie musicals, they might try to express a current attitude and outlook of the changing times. The depression also plays a part, in that women had to step up and work harder, maybe more than they were used to. While this is far from a time of equal rights for women, it's a step in the right direction. 

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Ginger is her own woman when she meets Fred.  Throughout she shows her self independence and her goals.  There is a change in who is or can be in control.  The women in this movie are more self assured and opinionated.

The beautiful dresses and the attire in general does lend itself to realistic dress for the era.  The  romance of one couple vs  Broadway stage movies is more personal to the audience.

I think with the depression women had to start work, take care of families and in some cases be the bread winner.

 

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This disussion topic brought to mind the old saying that Ginger Rogers did everything Astaire did, 
but backwards and in high heels. The clip illustrates that here is one female who intends to be
regarded as an equal. Very different from some female characters in other films this week. One reason that
the depiction of the roles of men and women changed from earlier musicals of the 30s is because in society
roles were in fact changing. As a result of the Great Depression, women began entering the work force. While that was not looked upon as a positive, it was nevertheless a major change in the cultural norms of the day.

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I didn’t see this as a battle of the sexes so much as a woman making it clear that it takes more than honeyed word to make an impression. When Rogers starts to dance there is a moment where Astaire is surprised she can hold her own, but it seemed more of a collaboration with a few moments of them challenging each other rather than a battle. That said, this clip is the only portion of the movie I’ve seen as of yet so there may be more to it. I definitely want to watch it.

I think this is the first clip we’ve seen where the woman is already (or seems to be) successful. The others portray women as struggling to find success or love. From this clip it seem like Rogers is content in her life as it is. Also it is very simple scene that relies solely on the talent of the performers rather then combining it with glamorous sets, costumes, or over the top comedic gags.

The roles of women especially were changing in society. The depression meant that both men and women had to find ways to support a family or themselves. Rather than a whirlwind romance and finding true love in one scene, we start to see films reflecting the truer to life love story - it takes time, and more than a smile and few compliments to win the heart of a woman.

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I really enjoy the Ginger Rogers/Fred Astaire musicals, and Top Hat is one of my favorites. I particularly enjoy the supporting actors that are in the movies--Edward Everette Horton, Eric Blore, and Helen Broderick. They crack me up!

Besides the obvious battle between Ginger and Fred, there is the other "battle"--not that it's much of a battle--between Horace and Madge. I absolutely love how she handles the supposed infidelity of her husband. Such a hoot! There's not much of a battle here, really, as everyone can tell that Madge has the battle well won!! Horace never had a chance. Madge's advice and explanations of marriage to Dale are some of the best parts of the movie. They show that women's role in marriage is changing. No longer are women merely chattel for their husbands; women are partners and just as strong (if not stronger) than their men.

This attitude differs greatly from the Jeanette McDonald/Eddy Nelson movies that require Jeanette to be rescued by Nelson. Neither Dale nor Madge need rescuing. If anything, Jerry and Horace could use some help!

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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?  Although most of the dance is equal moves when they come around and face each other their hands are up as though they are going to join together in a ballroom dance - only they don't.  Later in the dance they do dance together and Fred has always seem to me rather violent as the pace increases.  This dance is more of a friendship dance - getting to know each other.
  2. How does this film distinguish itself from other Depression era musicals we have watched or discussed this week?  They are not going to perform for others as in "42nd Street".  They are dancing to develop the relationship.  Also Fred incorporates the hotel room furnishings as almost a partner when he dances above her room.  The sand dance was very thoughtful and his way of talking to her as she returns to her room.
  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?  By giving women more power over their situation it makes the movie less grim.  Instead of a dancer in the chorus line that has to have a job (42nd Street), Ginger wears designer clothes and advertises for the designer in public which allows her to move around at hotels and outdoors rather than being stuck in the stage scene.

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I believe that this film is different than other films we have talked about because it is a screwball comedy in addition to being a musical.

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1. Other aspects of the 'battle of the sexes' in this clip include the initial back and forth during Astaire's attempt to woo Rogers - his objective is to win her affection, and hers is to make him leave, or at least resist giving him any affection. And within the dance itself not only are the repeated steps a 'battle,' but also just the way they dance together. There are only a few instances of them touching while dancing, but almost all of them have Rogers as a lead for some of that time, adding to the 'tug of war' between the two characters

2. This movie (scene) is definitely far less 'typical' or idealized as far as the relationship between man and woman. We did see the woman in Rose Marie as a bit of an individual, but there was still that standard of men wooing and women being wooed. Here, however, Rogers isn't even dressed like a woman from her time, and she has almost no initial romantic interest, seeing him as an equal and possible friend. It is a big shift in that respect, as well as her non-responsiveness to his singing, which typically captured women's' hearts. The setting is also a bit more realistic, in that they are not dancing in some lavish apartment anymore, but what looks like a gazebo or picnic area.

3. The reason for these changes might be that people, having just exited the worst of the Great Depression, wanted a change of pace, and something more realistic that they could empathize with. The times were changing, and film must change with it. The time period was also approaching World War II, in which many women played an active role, and the passive wooed woman or flashy performance girl were quickly fading into the background, and no longer as big of an ideal. Ideals were changing, and people might have wanted something easier to relate to.

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This battle engages Fred and Ginger in a sort of dance off. Seems to be a dance challenge. I believe Top Hat is one of the ultimate dance musicaks of all time. 

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1.      The first aspect is the dance, the back and forth, as well as the partner dancing in spots.  It shows the playful movement of the relationship/dance.  Ginger is not dressed in an elaborate gown and is wearing pants. The dancing isn’t as ethereal, it is more grounded and continues the story, it is not in inserted staged performance in a ballroom or club. The lyrics and music, as well as the dance further develop the plot and the battle to reach everlasting love.

2.      This is the first film I’ve noticed that isn’t as lavish.  It still has the undertones of a specific class, but the clothing is a bit more subtle. It still has the silly romantic story of the pursuit of love and happiness, maintaining still a version of escapism and fun.

3.      Some of the reasons might be due to the climate at the time. Due to the Depression, both men and women needed to work to bring in wages.  Many women having to take on non-traditional roles. The need was so strong, both sexes needed to buckle down and help out. The earlier musicals had women as the romantic prize, the beautiful creature as your partner. These changes, and the battle of the dance demonstrate this lovely. I think also the actresses in these films started to help change the climate, they too were just as big of stars as their male counterparts. I also feel the screwball comedy lends itself better to the back-and-forth nature of the roles.  It was a perfect way to showcase this battle of the sexes in a Post Code way.   

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The Battle of the Sexes played out as Ginger held her own as Fred's dancing partner; that she was dressed in what could be called "masculine" attire with her riding clothes instead of a dress; that she could match him step-for-step in the dance, and even the handshake at the end instead of falling into his arms in a swoon. (And hasn't the battle always been just for women to be equal partners with men and not to get a "win" over them?)

How does this film distinguish itself from other Depression era musicals we have watched or discussed this week?  This movie isn't about the struggle of the Depression.  

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?

WWI and the Depression got women out of the kitchen and into jobs that made them less dependent on men for their safety and welfare.  WWII was about to erupt in Europe and women were primed to stand alongside men by this time.  America didn't want to see weak women anymore.  

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Why are we talking about the battle of the sexes in this obscure way when there was a BROAD palette presented to us in "The Love Parade"?  OR is THAT the point - that it is SO apparent in Parade but supposedly less so in Top Hat.  Really not sure but the obvious comparison to The Love Parade and the last U.S. election "possibilities" is enormous.  And might STILL be one of the reasons it didn't happen.  Even Bill could not convince his supporters that he was really behind being "First Gentleman".

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1. This scene at least began with an “anything you can do I can do better” feel to it, so that portrayed the battle of the sexes.  However, it wasn’t long before Fred and Ginger were just dancing together, albeit wonderfully well.  The battle of the sexes theme is there, but mildly.

2. It was interesting to look specifically at Ginger Roger’s character.  She’s clearly rich, as is Fred, talented, as is Fred, and independent, as is Fred.  She has her own career and is not waiting around for a man to make her life complete.  The equality of the woman in this scene makes it different from others of the era.

3. While the characters in these musicals are wealthy and therefore do not reflect their audience in that way, they DO offer strong and independent female characters which reflect the large number of women taking jobs for the first time, and perhaps even becoming primary breadwinners for their families.  

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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 Isn't It a Lovely Day? I also see the theme of resistance by Ginger Rogers (Dale Tremont) to give in out of vulnerability to Fred Astaire (Jerry Travers) just because the storm is making her nervous. This conflict comes up again with the Italian designer, Bernini, when he tries to manipulate and control her out of jealousy over Travers. These battles aren't really traditional power struggles, because the objective isn't clearly spelled out, but staged confrontations where both sexes can see how far they can push the other without crossing the line of morality. 

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

"Top Hat" is more sumptuous and glamorous and the other films are grittier with a focus on a dramatic storyline over escapism. 

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

Women had become more equal because of the economic circumstances caused by the Depression.

 

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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?

 

The AStaire- Rogers Musicals are not SCREWBALL COMEDIES, but they are akin to ROMANTIC COMEDIES OF THAT ERA. You must distinguish a SCREWBALL COMEDY FROM A ROMANTIC COMEDY.

A SCrewball Comedy Is BRINGING UP BABY, THE AWFUL TRUTH, MY MAN GODFREY, THE 20TH CENTURY, HIS GIRL FRIDAY, THE LADY EVE, OR ANYTHING DIRECTED BY PRESTON STURGES.  HINT, CAROLE LOMBARD WAS THE QUEEN OF SCREWBALL COMEDY.

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1. Ginger is seemingly unimpressed by the wooing attempt of Fred. She does seem to be impressed with his dancing and wants to show that he's not the only one who can dance, and attempts to show that in some ways she is better than he is.

2. It's not showing as much of the high class society flair, it seems to more of a middle class more modern affair.

3. To show that women could help find a way out the depression too.

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       I see it as a battle of the sexes in the more traditional sense of the nature of courtship rituals that have endured through time. It is a personal and individual struggle between the principals, not a social and political one played out in the collective. Jerry (Fred Astaire) pursued Dale (Ginger Rogers), and she resisted. He redoubled his efforts and she decided whether to allow the relationship to move to the next stage. She was the one in charge from the start. It is a case of the guy chasing the girl until she catches him.  Furthermore, her resistance to his overtures was more a function of the bad impressions of him she had formed as a result of their previous encounters, rather than out of some sense of independence or a desire for equality. I don’t see this as some sort of proto-feminism and consider it a mistake to impose our modern sensibilities and politics on the past. Furthermore, the Depression was not an era of expanding opportunities for women in the workforce; It was a time of job scarcity and hardship for all. While more women took jobs, they did so because it was necessary to do so to survive.  Unlike in World War 2, they were not filling traditionally male jobs (which were hard to find) - they were working in service sector fields that were traditionally considered “women’s work.” It was more about avoiding starvation, than it was about pursuing liberation and equality.

 

       In fact, the dynamics of this type of relationship in the movies of the thirties was more the result of the restrictions imposed by the Production Code than it was the result of a desire to advocate for social revolution. Quite often in the pre-Code era, the morals were lax and the sex was easy, but the moral constraints imposed on the storylines by the Code required that sexual relationships, including courtship, had to be handled with subtlety and tact. It also required that the woman protect her moral virtue by resisting male overtures for a respectable period of time - she had to be wooed and won, not wowed and conquered.  And through it all, she was the one in charge of the progress of the relationship. Further indication that this was nothing revolutionary was found in Jerry’s reaction to it all - he was neither upset, nor confused by her reactions - it was par for the romantic course. As he observed, “In dealing with a girl or horse, one just lets nature take its course!”

 

       This approach to depicting relationships resulted in the “screwball” approach to comedies and musicals. The formula involved the woman manipulating the man in a humorous and moral way, rather than the man exploiting the woman in a lecherous and immoral way. While this approach is obviously an exaggeration for humorous effect, at its core, this dynamic rings true. Romance is often a cat and mouse game, but with screwball, which is the cat and which is the mouse? In “Top Hat,” Jerry was the cat who became a mouse, while Dale was the mouse who became a cat (a stronger example of this type of relationship was provided by Katherine Hepburn and Cary Grant in “Bringing Up Baby,” from 1938).

 

        An interesting contrast can be drawn between the presentations of the battle of the sexes in “Top Hat” (1935)  and “The Love Parade” (1929). In “The Love Parade,” the battle was not just individual, it was social and political. The sex roles were reversed, and it was not due to the circumstances of their meeting.  Louise (Jeanette McDonald) was the queen; Alfred (Maurice Chevalier) became her Prince Consort. She had the power and the authority in all aspects of their life. Their marriage ceremony made the point: instead of declaring them “man and wife,” they were declared “wife and man,” and she placed the ring on his finger. He had to promise to obey her every command and be a docile husband.  Unlike the relationship in “Top Hat,” this was a revolutionary assault on traditional roles and it created a strong, negative reaction from Alfred. The result was not just a battle of the sexes, it became a reciprocal battle of wills. This felt more like a battle between two cats than it did a battle between a cat and a mouse.

 

    

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It was a great week and introduction and cannot wait for next week.

  1. Other aspects of battle of the sexes seen in the clip or in the film Top Hat are:  comedic battle of the sexes and battle of wit.  Which one is going to win or if there will be a compromise. 
  2. This film distinguishes itself from other Depression era musicals watched or discussed this week as there is actually a plot.  It does not look like a Broadway stage play and the lines are sung instead of spoken resulting in a better flow or song when they could be talking.  It's more tied in.
  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.  To be more entertaining.

 

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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 can see very subtle hints. Most women in film at this time would have been easily wooed by Fred’s singing and romanticizing to her, but Ginger is having none of it. Early in his song, you can see her almost rolling her eyes and thinking about how she’s going to get out of this. Gradually, though, she puts herself on the same level as him, indicating an equal partnership instead of him leading the way. I can also see kind of the “will they or won’t they?” question in this dance. They start apart from each other, and gradually get closer and closer and you can tell they want to touch but don’t. Finally, Fred grabs her and they dance together, but then they both let go. I have seen this in other screwball comedies when the men and women are drawn together in an embrace or kiss but then pull away.

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

This film is much less theatrical in nature, and the songs and dances fit into and advance the plot rather than just being like a scene for the audience to watch. The dances also are more graceful and less clunky, and they really become beautiful pieces of art in their own right. 

  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?

The roles were changing during the Depression because women often had to do more then just cook and raise the children. These were hard scrabble times and women were often called upon to be more of an Equal to men and to do whatever it took to help the family survive. It’s interesting To me to consider how much films were changed by what was going on in the world at any given time, but also in how much society was changed by what was depicted on film. You can see through these musicals, and through other films of the time, how the role of women is progressing just in 4 or 5 short years. I’m anxious to see how this continues as this class goes on. 

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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 like how they are both trying to "lead" when they dance together - you can see the struggle in her as she tries to move him where she wants and he to her.  Their clothing, her not being swayed by his charm.
  2. How does this film distinguish itself from other Depression era musicals we have watched or discussed this week?  She is not the sweet and innocent girl that we have seen previously;  she is in pants and a hat and ready to battle in the dance number.  It is stormy and thunderous - it is not dreamy and elegant.
  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?  Part of the reasoning may be the "can do" attitude of the war era with women taking over the roles of men while they were away at war.  It reflected how women were able to do a man's part in the work force.  I LOVE it!

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I do not see a Battle of the Sexes but more of an equality an appreciation of each dancers ability to perform. The costumes equalize the playng field so your eyes are drawn to the dance moves not just the beautiful dresses most female dancers wear. It is almost like a call and response that you experience in music. The dancing is beautiful yet athletic and shows their affection for each other. What a great dance number.

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It may not be a battle of the sexes in today's terms, but Ginger is definitely challenging Fred in that she is not swept away by his talent and doesn't even try to pretend she's not just as good as he is. She shows off her own talent and does it while wearing pants. ? (Even though she's not dancing backwards in this scene, she still does everything he does but in high heels).

The Depression was tough times for everyone but especially for women who needed to work. Everyone assumed they were taking a job away from a man who needed it to support a family, even though the woman may also have been the one supporting the family. White lower to middle class women who may have worked in the '20s or '40s found it hard in the '30s. Some US states even made it illegal for married women to work in the 1930s. So it's somewhat paradoxical to see someone like Ginger Rogers in a battle of the sexes -- and yet, maybe it was the unfairness of the unequal treatment of women in the Depression that increased the appeal of this storyline.

 

 

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1. In this clip, Fred and Ginger are both wearing suits and seem to mimic each other's moves. Fred tries to use the typical methods to woo her, but she does not fall for his tricks or lines. Instead of looking at him with admiration, she glances at him skeptically, looking him up and down with an expression of mistrust/annoyance. During their dance-off, Ginger proves that she can do anything Fred can do.

2.  In the other Depression era musicals we have discussed this week, gender roles/portrayals have been fairly traditional.  Males were portrayed as the confident, dominant sex, while females are portrayed as more demure and submissive.  In Top Hat, on the other hand, Fred and Ginger are portrayed more as equals. Ginger is a lot tougher and feistier than many of the other heroines we have seen in Depression era films.  She is very no-nonsense and is not going to fall for Fred's tricks very easily.

3.  The roles of men and women in films likely changed in the late 1930s due to the change in women's role in society resulting from the Great Depression. In response to the financial hardship brought on by the Depression, women had to take a more prominent role and assume some of the responsibilities that were once considered to belong only to men. To reflect this "new" type of woman, women in film also began to take on a new role.

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"Top Hat" is a love affair and dandy musical rolled into one movie.  It has purpose (man pursues woman) and mistaken identity (woman thinks this man is married to her best friend).  They are definitely attracted to each other .. but the woman must show she has her "own moxie" and will not be overwhelmed by the male.  Love their dancing .. on and off the floor!

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