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DAILY DOSE OF DELIGHT #4 (FROM TOP HAT)

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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?

The most basic aspect is the guy pursuing the girl, rather than the girl pursuing the guy — which is the traditional way relationships are handled. He does everything he can to impress her; she is annoyed and is “playing” hard to get. He thinks that getting together with her is light and frivolous (at first), but for her it’s a more serious situation. He has to prove himself to her before she’ll consider him a viable suitor. He must be a gentleman for this lady to accept him.

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

The sets in this film are much grander in size and very decadent. There are also multiple locations for the scenes of the story, both interior and exterior. And there’s a more comfortable experience of wealth on display. The characters have an ease about them that isn’t boisterous or overly proud. They are “normal” people (girl/guy next door) who happen to be in an extravagant setting.

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 at this time are exhibiting more confident personalities, taking on stronger roles in the workforce and at home, as families are divided by the strife of the day. Life has begun returning to “normal” for American families after the Great Depression… hence the more comfortable feeling about wealth being less of a fantasy and more of a reality again for certain people.

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1.  Another example of the battle of the sexes is early in the film when Fred Astaire is dancing in his room and consequently disturbing Ginger Rogers below.  Ginger goes upstairs and personally complains.  Fred does not stop dancing, but dances on sand, and is flirting.  So he has not yielded ground, but has changed his tactic.

2.  The sexes seem to be more equal in power.

3.  I am not certain if there was a desire for a new, more independent-minded leading lady from the public or if it was because more women were entering the workforce and this simply reflected social change.  

 

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1. This whole routine reminds of the whole Anything You Can Do, I Can Do Better from Annie Get Your Gun just with dancing. It also suggests to me that Ginger's character uses dancing as a technique to let Fred's character know she isn't interested. She isn't going to swept off her feet like most women. Her character won't just settle for anyone. 

2. To me it's Ginger character that sticks out, and part of the reason I love these films. Compared to other female characters during the time period Ginger plays a feisty character who can take care of herself. She's independent and seems to somewhat enjoy it. 

3. I think it's because more and more women were entering the workforce due to the changing times and were starting to seek more independence and choice. 

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Anything You Can Do, I Can Do Better....

My first thought when watching this clip from Top Hat. It reminded be so much of this song from Annie Get Your Gun. The clothes, the repetition of dance moves. It's really wonderful.

I think this scene is different because it doesn't showcase Ginger in elaborate clothing or on stage. It's about a song in the "everyday life". No elaborate setting, just under a gazebo in the rain. I think it made the movie. And it set a parallel life to the person watching it, during the depression and now.

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I took a look at another screwball comedy, His Girl Friday, before watching Top Hat, just for comparison purposes. I’ve watched tons of musicals but not Top Hat, at least by my recollection. I was surprised that it was described as a screwball comedy/musical and, after viewing it, I’d agree it definitely qualifies. These comedies all seem to embrace the male vs female scenario. Top Hat seemed to have the requisite humorous banter between the stars and it was funny.  Rogers slapping Astaire after ‘learning’ incorrectly that he’s her friend’s husband/Astaire responding when asked what kind of plane to take to Italy by stating, ‘with wings!’/and many, many others. A little amazing that film makers were able to combine the two seemingly disparate genres (musicals & screwball comedies) so effectively. And I agree that the presentation going from action to songs was smoothly done, predating what comes later in the big 50s musicals by Rogers & Hammerstein and others like Cabaret. Top Hat had amazingly spectacular sets. Evidently, they spared no expense to bring this very successful yet quirky film to theaters. Berlin’s songs were great, the dancing & singing superb, and it’s topped off by the brilliant comedy elements. Very entertaining indeed. 

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The biggest difference I see in this movie and the earlier musicals is that postcode the musical now relies on character and not just scantily clad females.  Rogers and Astaire are equals in this scene.  She is not relying on her femininity to win the man. In fact, until after the dance, winning the man is not something she is trying to accomplish.  It reminds me of the Eddy/McDonald canoe scene.  Alone the couples can spare verbally or through dance.  With this scene, I also see the musical evolving from music in an "artificial" showbiz setting to one of music within the everyday setting of the story.  

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HERE IS A DEFINITION OF screwball comedy

What Is a Screwball Comedy?

Though earlier films with screwball comedy elements can be pinpointed, such as the 1931 film adaptation of "The Front Page," the movie that put the genre on the map was 1934’s "It Happened One Night." Directed by industry great Frank Capra, "It Happened One Night" stars Claudette Colbert as Ellie, a runaway socialite who crosses paths with Peter (Clark Gable), a reporter who threatens to expose her whereabouts to her disapproving father. The pair go through a series of misadventures that brings them closer together, and the once-feuding pair soon fall in love.

The result was a box office hit and a critical favorite. "It Happened One Night" was one of the top-grossing films of the year and won five Academy Awards, including Best Picture.

In 2000, the American Film Institute named "It Happened One Night" as the eighth greatest American comedy film. After success like that, similar movies were quick to follow.

Notable Screwball Comedies

"Twentieth Century" (1934)

After a Broadway writer (John Barrymore) worked for several years to turn a lingerie model (Carole Lombard) into a stage star, the pair have a falling out and the writer faces financial ruin. He attempts to sneak away from debtors by taking a Chicago train named the "20th Century Limited" to New York City. Naturally, his former protege is on the same train with her boyfriend. Acclaimed director Howard Hawks' film, which was based on a Broadway play produced in 1932, uses the train journey as a perfect setting for a zany comedy between two people who can't stand each other but can't escape each other in the tight spaces of the train cars.

Decades later, the film was adapted into a successful stage musical, "On the Twentieth Century."

"The Gay Divorcee" (1934)

The musical film "The Gay Divorcee" is the first lead role pairing of dancing partners Fred Astaire and Ginger Rodgers (the duo previously appeared together in supporting roles in the previous year's "Flying Down to Rio"). Though mainly remembered for its songs (particularly Cole Porter's "Night and Day"), the storyline involves Rogers as the titular divorcee who falls in love with the charming Guy (Astaire) in a case of mistaken identity. The duo's next film, the screwball comedy musical "Top Hat," is often considered their best and is known for the song "Cheek to Cheek."

"The Thin Man" (1934)

This mystery film based on a Dashiell Hammett novel, but it mixes the mystery elements with domestic comedy. William Powell and Myrna Loy star as Nick and Nora Charles, a married couple who investigate the disappearance of one of Nick's former acquaintances. The humorous interplay between the husband and wife proved to be so popular that "The Thin Man" was followed by five sequels.

"My Man Godfrey" (1936)

Be careful when hiring a butler because you might just fall in love with him. That's what happens in My Man Godfrey, which features Carole Lombard as a New York City socialite who hires a kindhearted but assertive homeless man, Godfrey (William Powell), to serve as her family's butler. Much of the humor of the movie derives from the class differences and the love-hate relationship between the two leads.

"The Awful Truth" (1937)

In "The Awful Truth," a divorcing couple (played by Irene Dunne and Cary Grant) not only want to separate, but attempt to ruin each other's rebound relationships before realizing that they're still in love with one another. The movie established Grant's standard affable character that he would best be known for. Director Leo McCarey won the Best Director Oscar for this movie.

"Bringing Up Baby" (1938)

Screwball comedy standouts Cary Grant and Howard Hawks united on this film, with Grant starring opposite fellow Hollywood legend Katharine Hepburn. Grant stars as David, a paleontologist, and Hepburn as a free-spirited woman named Susan. They meet the day before Grant's character's wedding to another woman and end up babysitting a leopard (the titular Baby) together before unleashing total chaos at a frenetic pace, which includes both of them landing in prison at one point!

"His Girl Friday" (1940)

Director Howard Hawks' "His Girl Friday" is a remake of 1931's "The Front Page" starring Cary Grant and Rosalind Russell as news reporters and ex-spouses whose romance rekindles when they work together on a major story. The film is famous for its rapid-fire dialogue and over-the-top plot twists.

Decline and Later Influence

By 1943, the screwball comedy had fallen out of fashion. With the United States now fully engaged in World War II, many Hollywood films at that point instead focused on themes and stories related to the war.

Nonetheless, the genre has remained incredibly influential and classic elements of screwball comedies can be seen in virtually any relationship comedy movie released since, including the "romantic comedy" genre that peaked in popularity in the 1980s and 1990s (particularly movies that include elements like "meet cute" scenes) and domestic sitcoms on television.

Some notable later films that include elements of the screwball comedy are "The Seven Year Itch" (1955), "Some Like It Hot" (1959), "A Fish Called Wanda" (1988), "Flirting with Disaster" (1996), and "Intolerable Cruelty" (2003).

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Here Here, Ginger Rogers was a fine DRAMATIC ACTRESS.  In my opinion her best screen  partner was JOEL MCCREA IN THE PRIMROSE PATH.  She plays the character with such  deep, heart breaking feeling. I love STAGE DOOR, BACHELOR MOTHER, TOM DICK AND HARRY BUT in PRIMROSE SHE IS SO FANTASTIC. I recommend people to view the film to see what a wonderful actress she really was. Whenever, she was given the opportunity, she shined.  Ginger was an underrated actress whether in comedy or drama.

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1. I didn’t find as much battle of the sexes but more a complimentary dance scene. Rogers definitely showed more equality with Astaire in this dance.

2. Rogers is a woman on her own when she meets Astaire, and is seen more independent than the other films. She is seen in a strong female role here, and the presentation of the dances & songs feel more part of the story, freer flowing through the film than the others this week.

3. Women were taking on more roles usually for men in the culture at this period of time, and Hollywood began to portray those situations more than in the earlier films of the era. As women became more independent and self sufficient the roles reversed possibly more in screwball comedies, as a way to sway opinion and make it more acceptable, but maybe also for a bit humor and tongue in cheek.

 

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1. I never really saw a battle of the sexes ideal in any of the Astaire/Rogers musicals, she always seemed to equal him, whether it's dance steps or witty put-downs.

 

2.  The screwball comedy storylines really take front and center, from the mistaken identity to the more physical comedy, as well as the bigger roles for character actors and facial expressions.  Plus, the production design and the clothes are pushed to the nth degree in terms of escapism; every dress is beautiful and all the men wear classy suits.   And don't get me started on the rooms.

3.  The women in these types of films had more choices of professions, they weren't just shopgirls or dancers, they were teachers, had more say decisions

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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? 

It shows that a confident woman can always match the man. The similar outfits keep equalize them as well as the matching steps, swaggers, jumps, and twirls. It is the beginning of the courtship and they don't touch until well into the number; they've gotten to know each, assessed the situation and like what they see. Only then do they touch n dance as a couple with the music and thunder emphasizing the strength of the attraction. The dancing speeds up and slows just as a relationship has its highs and lows. Great routine.

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

There is a lovely flow to the scene and Fred and Ginger move into the song and dance more naturally. The song and dance are telling a story about the people. I'm seeing this approach as a departure from the music and dance being part of a show (42nd Street/Golddiggers) and more public. This is more intimate.

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?

More women were working outside of the home and developing more confidence in themselves and their place in society. WW2 would open it up even further. In screwball comedies, a majority of the characters are as daffy as can be but the caricatures were making a point about society and leading lives that had more of a purpose than spending money and drinking martinis all day. Often the women in the comedies were smart chicks who were manipulating situations to meet their purposes rather than just looking lovely and waiting for the man to make the move.

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1.  This clip shows Rogers is NOT to Follow the Lead as lots of Ballroom Dances they do together.  Rogers and Astaire dance together more as Synchronised Dance.  So, one may consider THIS as the Battle of Sexes, or Battle of Gender.

2.  It's A "Fred Astaire & Ginger Rogers" Musical Film!  I mean the "Iconic" status.

3.  Screwball Comedies went for something More Different from the era they were made, especially, in Gender Roles.  Males were NOT always in Lead or NOT always got their way with Females.

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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? When these two dance in most of their films, they are very evenly matched and a pleasure to watch. I guess I never saw it as a battle between the sexes - more a delightful competition between two very talented people. They must have had a lot of fun together.

2. How does this film distinguish itself from other Depression era musicals we have watched or discussed this week? The film is more sophisticated as sound and technique are improving. I remember watching this as a child and then as a  teen on TV. I loved it. My grandmother had saved all of my mother's and aunt's party clothes from the 1940's. We used to dress up in them and pretend to be actors from this era of movies.

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 agree with some of the other comments about the role of women changing during this time. My grandmothers were very much partners with their husbands. One of my grandmothers helped her husband run a business. My grandfather would build a home. They would move in and my grandmother would help him finish the home and they would sell it. She also kept the books for the lumber and cabinet company they owned. My other grandmother helped to run the farm while she raised four children. My grandfather was the county agent and she participated in some of the programs he initiated with farm families. She also helped to start a women's choral group of community women that was part of Purdue University for many years.

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1. The challenge of duplicating a potential mates every move may be nature at work making sure each is perfectly suited. = https://www.facebook.com/myheartisinAfrica/videos/2132334487050420/

2. Astaire and Rogers were well on their way, a tour de force of couplings of the genre. it  Certainly is a contrast with Hallelujah, by presenting  life in a fantastical escapism. The up-play of tensions between sexes that eventually leads to connection. Flirting, teasing, being standoffish, "ignoring"glances, Wise-cracking, fast paced dialogue taps your attention.(Yes, pun) 

"Forget  your  troubles, C'mon get happy" era  lasts beyond the  Great Depression, thankfully, for the preservation and presentations of TCM.

3. The role of male/ female are just beginning to morph. This due in part to women's roles portrayed in film, but not necessarily in reality, at that time. I think too, women change the most. As Rogers is equal in step to Astaire in leveling the playing field,metaphorically; it is also prophetical.  It's been a Long dance.

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Top Hat is one of my favorite Astaire and Rogers films. "Isn't It a Lovely Day?" is a interesting number on a lot of levels. Someone earlier in the thread mentioned that Rogers is more of a sidekick or prop rather than an equal in this scene, and I'm not sure I see it that way. The dance off here has a "Anything You Can Do" feel to it. She's dancing in his style, yes, but that's part of the point I think, that a woman can do what a man can. Also unlike other dance numbers where they are an embracing couple, he's not technically leading her even if he's the one instigating the step sequence.

It's a big deal for Rogers to be in fitted slacks for this dance member too. Women weren't really wearing pants as a day to day item of clothing; Dietrich and Hepburn are pushing the boundaries with their elegant slacks, but many women are still wearing skirts as their primary fashion statement. (There's an interesting discussion of women in pants here from The Huffington Post.) She's also wearing a riding costume which implies a kind of control. 

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I was rewatching Top Hat this morning and was wondering.  What was RKO's house style considered? From what I read they were kind of a mixed bag in what they were known for. They seemed marked by the eclectic 

I remember what was discussed in one of the lecture videos thst the studios had their own style but also were influenced by each others so there are elements of other studios in their own films.

Top Hat looks like an MGM movie that never was, with its achingly gorgeous Art Deco sets and the whole fantasyland quality it it has. I wonder what would be different about this movie were it made at MGM?

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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 noticed that in this clip, Rogers doesn’t say anything to Astaire. She initiates her contact with him by whistling. He’s doing all the work in the scene trying to court her. She’s wearing riding pants with a riding stick, hinting to a sign of authority and command. Many times within the dance number, it’s ambiguous as to who is leading and who is following. During the routine, she spins him around as he does to her which is usually a definitive choreographed move for the male lead. At the end, before they shake hands, they even sit the same way. The male and female lead both dance.

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

Rogers’ character is mostly in control and is not dependent on Astaire’s character, so the desperation between male and female has shifted.

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?

One possibility is that in the reality of the Depression era, females began to take on more roles in the home and in society, thus exhibiting the value and equality between the two sexes. They began to integrate themselves in areas of life that were usually just reserved for men. Another possible reason is that it portrayed the issue of control in favor of the female characters giving the movie going women in the audience the perspective of equality and authority.

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I can't believe I've never watched this movie all the way through! I guess I'll have to watch it again because I was swept away with the story. The dancing was sublime although I didn't see a battle of the sexes. I saw a battle of wills between two stubborn people. The transitions from dialog to dancing back to dialog were incredibly smooth. I find myself getting distracted by the questions we are asked to consider. Instead of watching for pleasure, I start to pick apart the meanings of the scene and then I miss something else. I'm working on that part!

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To me Ginger and Fred are flirting instead of battling with the sexes. Top Hat has more musical numbers between the two of them. Both men and females cold make fum of each other in the 1930s screwball comedies.

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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?

Honestly, although I do get the parity of the "Battle of the Sexes" premise, I see the relationship as a fairly stereotypical Hollywood treatment of courtship - the man is trying to woo her with his charm and wit (and dancing skills in this film) and she is playing hard-to-get. It perfectly conforms to the fantasy of courtship.

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

I must be lacking my analytical skills this a.m. as the things I see that distinguish it are pretty basic - great dancers/actors, great tunes, great sets, wonderful dialogue. Of course, it's not the folk musical that "Hallelujah" is, nor the backstage musicals we've also watched. The story is much more focused on the courtship. As spoken of earlier in the week's lectures, this one also has elements of screwball comedies. Oh, and I don't see any of the characters in danger of starving or feeling the need to steal their neighbor's milk to survive.

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 have no idea. I'm not sure if women were taking a greater role in society beyond the foundational mother role perhaps brought on by more men being out of work and women having to step in a financially supportive role? But, I'm reaching here.

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1. I feel like in this scene the Dale isn't letting Jerry lead the dance (although he does a couple times). She is mirroring his moves at some points during the dance. She doesn't try to one-up him in her moves, and he doesn't try to one-up him. They're having fun together.  For the 2nd couple (Horton & Broderick), you can tell that she's running the show- she is the brains!

2. I feel like in this movie, the couple is portrayed more as equals. The woman doesn't need help or saving. She isn't 'helpless', whereas in something like RoseMarie, even though she has a goal, but she needs a man to help her get there. 

3) This is mid-to-late 30's - even though they don't know it, there is an impending war. Woman have slowly become more independent. They don't need a man in the same way. There are more careers for women. Dale even tells the dressmaker if he doesn't like something she's doing she'll go back to the States (this also harkens to question 1 - he may be the designer, but he needs her to wear his clothes - she's in charge). 

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First off, this is one of my favorite movies and so glad it was part of the discussion. This is a fantastic battle of the sexes. Ginger's character seems to enjoy the wooing but is not about to let Fred's character know that. We see her smiling while he is singing to her, but this is to herself and the viewers. She decides the direction it's going in when she steps up and participates in the wooing, letting Fred know that this is what is going to get her and on her own terms. And not only is he winning her over but is also acknowledging her terms, which he seems to enjoy. There seems to be a mutual respect at the end of that scene.

I don't think Top Hat distinguishes itself much from other Depression Era musicals. We still have the elaborate scenes, screwball comedy, great songs and dancing, and fun storytelling. I wouldn't have expected it to be so different since these films were meant to help people during a difficult time.

Ginger represents women beginning to take control of their lives, or what control they were able to have. She's not letting Fred win her that easily, and she's the one setting the terms as we see in the clip. I can only imagine how audiences felt when they not only saw her in pants but also not letting Fred take control of wooing her or of the dancing for that matter. In it's own way it was setting a standard for women to not always having to be just the dance partner.

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1. In the start of the battle they get face to face close enough to kiss, but they don’t. Their hands are so close it looks like they are going to hold hands. When they notice they both fumble for a bit then cross their arms a way of saying they don’t like each other. As they continue they end up holding each other. And at one point Fred lifts Ginger and they switch and she lifts him.

2. What I think the difference in Top Hat and other depression musicals is the dancing. Fred and Ginger do ballroom dancing. They face each other and embrace one another. The other musicals the dancers are side by side, or sometimes one in front of the other. If the do face each other it’s briefly. Also not one of the character was a bad person it was a mistaken identity that started the whole problem. So everyone made mistakes and everyone looked silly, not just one person.

3. Of what I’ve seen of the earlier musicals is a theme of men cheating on women and the women either just accepting it or they divorce them and are miserable. But in Top Hat Dale and her friend are going to make the cheating man pay. Also that Dale was the other woman and her friend was the wife of the cheating man. And the two women teamed up against the cheating man.

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1. I think the fact that Ginger is dressed in pants and a jacket puts her at a more even advantage against Fred. Her dancing mimics his instead of him leading her around. She is showing him she can be his equal, not the kind of girl he is used to winning over. In the film, she befriends Edward Horton's wife and they almost gang up on the men for their childish acts.

2. This film doesn't have more sex appeal but it does show more of a connection between Fred and Ginger. They genuinely seem to like each other even if he does have to win over her affection. She isn't ashamed to show her feelings. She isn't meek or quiet; she has a strong personality.

3. I think womens' rights and the change in society starts to show up in later movies. 

 

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The dance sequence to me is more of a statement of equality on Ms Rogers part, it appears she is letting Mr Astaire know she is on his level if not a tad better. As she goes "toe for toe" with him it becomes quite clear she is taking charge. Love when she places her hand in her trouser pocket! 

Ginger Rogers character is a strong woman, who in these times is somewhat unheard of. The roles of woman were changing and the movies were portraying them as strong, smart, and independent. Unlike earlier in the century where they played more seductive roles. 

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