Dr. Vanessa Theme Ament

DAILY DOSE OF DELIGHT #4 (FROM TOP HAT)

347 posts in this topic

1. I saw what many have expressed with this scene. The battle has some equality based on what Rogers is wearing. It is not a feminine dress to show her legs and quick movement. I enjoyed her hands in her pockets as she mimicked Astaire’s movements perfectly. The lack of touch at the beginning of the routine is noticeable as well but they begin to become familiar with each other and the lightening strikes. 

2. This film portrays more of a story of two people falling in love rather than the woman being a damsel in distress. The screwball comedy plays into the Depression era of being lighthearted but the differences I experience is more of the songwriter’s creating songs that flow. For example before Fred sings, “No Strings” he talking and mid sentence begins to sing and then dance. It was not like he was on stage being introduced but it fit more into the storyline. 

3. These films had the screwball comedy aspect while others were pre-code. Screwball comedies were trying to create humor and innuendoes that would go under the radar from the Code. I thought about the difference of dress of Rogers to the ladies in Broadway Melody. What a drastic difference as well as the famous tap scene of Astaire and Rogers as she puts on her robe and heads to his room to confront him. Both of which are fully clothed which in some of the pre-code could have been a more risqué scene.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

  1. What other aspects of battle of the sexes do you see indicated in this clip or in the film Top Hat?
  2. This is one of my favorite movies, thanks to my Grandmother.  I never thought of this number as a battle of the sexes.  I just though of it as a “game” set to music.  They both look like they are having fun while tapping.  I still love it!
  3. How does this film distinguish itself from other Depression era musicals we have watched or discussed this week?
  4. To me, this move is what dreams are made of, everything and everybody is beautiful.  The setting is so glamorous, with all the Art Deco touches... and let’s not forget bout Ginger’s dresses. This movie thanks on a new level of sophistication.  Even now it can make me happy to watch.
  5. 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?
  6. The screwball comedies gave women a bigger roll in the movie.  They went from being a pretty face,   to a pretty face with a voice and story to tell.  They became an equal with the males in the movies.  

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
  1. You can see battle of the sexes in the clothing.  Normally on screen women would be wearing dresses or skirts but in this scene the women is wearing pants.
  2. This film transitions the music into the storyline instead of just inserting a song into the movie.
  3. Women's rights were developing, such as the right to vote.  The topic of women as equals is seen.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

What is striking to me about the dancing in this clip is the narrative function it serves. I contrast it with Broadway Melody of 1929, which I finally caught up on last night. Both films feature singing and dancing "as part of the narrative." But BM is your typical backstage musical; they're singing and dancing because it's part of the literal show they are putting on as part of the movie. Every song is motivated as a performance within the narrative as well as without. In contrast, most of the musical bits - particularly the dancing - in Top Hat are not framed as performances, but as expressions of personal feelings or character development. In addition to being just a beautiful display of dancing, what a perfect and wonderfully visual way to exemplify the turn in Dale and Jerry's relationship!

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

It's not so much that I see a battle of the sexes, but what I did see was Ginger taking charge in the scene. For us nowadays it really doesn't seem like it, but she chooses to get up and dance, she chooses to let him dance with her and she leads him in some of the 'follow me' sequences. That isn't something that we've seen in some of the other examples of Depression Era musicals. I think some of the changes are because the movie is supposed to be a comedy. As such, it isn't as important that the woman follows the typical socially correct role. She can be a bit more spunky and goofy and make some of her own rule because it adds to the comedy and spontaneity of the movie. 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
  1. What other aspects of battle of the sexes do you see indicated in this clip or in the film Top Hat

There's always a profound level of intimacy.  Even though Fred and Ginger do not even touch each other throughout this number (until almost the very end), there is clearly a very intimate relationship. Fights of all kinds demand and depict intimacy.  Whenever the couple engage in ways except physically (such as arguing, flirting, and of course, singing), there is always a level of intimacy.  Ginger may not be in love with him, but she's willing to engage with him.  That's intimacy and it's soooo fun to watch.

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

Unlike many of the other women, many of whom were strong and independent, Ginger's character makes it clear from the outset that marriage is not her ultimate goal.  This way of thinking is often the male character's purview.

  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?

Women had to take an active role in earning money and thus became more independent in this era.  While not yet to the level of "Rosie the Riveter" that she would assume in the war years, a woman of this time could not be as dependent upon the man to be the sole provider.  Jobs were scarce and women had to contribute.  This tough, independent role is reflected in many of the female characters of the screwball comedies.  It still was (is?) a man's world economically and politically, but women were beginning to assume a more equitable role with men in the social sphere.

 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I don't see a "battle of the sexes" in this clip - just a healthy conversation between two equals.  In a battle, Fred and Ginger would try to outdo each other with new, fancy steps.  But here, they're just dancing together, as a couple would interact and travel through life together.

Women's roles in film could have changed in the 1930s to reflect a change in American culture.  Many men, who had been the primary earners prior to the Depression, had lost good jobs that paid enough to provide for their families.  These men were forced to take whatever job they could find, no matter how low the pay, in the struggle to survive.  Women also had to fill in the gaps by joining the men in the fields, or by sewing, cooking, cleaning ... anything that would bring in a little money.  During the Depression, families were dependent on both men and women for their survival. 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

It's more of a tug-of-war than battle of the sexes, when Fred engages Ginger. She takes the challenge and equals his every move without hesitation. And all of that in pants, to boot! When the thunder roars, she doesn't jump into his arms, she holds steady and meets his gaze, ready to take him on. By portraying Ginger as a playful though strong female lead, this scene differs from others of the time. The setting is minimal with no effects, just focusing on the art of the dance. I believe the changing roles of the sexes reflects the changes occurring in society. Facing  the Great Depression, the working woman becomes much more prevalent, revealing a strength of character not seen before. In this clip, Fred and Ginger are more of a team, displaying equal skills and showing mutual respect, while keeping it light and playfully flirtatious. 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

1. I do kind of see a battle of the sexes type approach here, though it seems to be more in tricking the other rather than trying to beat the other, sort of like how Groucho tries to trick Harpo during the famous “mirror scene” from Duck Soup. The thing that always impressed me about Astaire and Rogers was how perfectly in sync their moves were with each other, especially in this clip considering that most of it seems to have been done in the same take. That, to me, is a major part of their appeal.

2. I suppose Ginger’s dress style could be one thing that differentiates it from other musicals; at least based off of this clip, she does seem to be more of an equal to Fred, as opposed to, say, Nelson Eddy and Jeanette MacDonald, who were clearly much different personalities and who seemed somewhat uncomfortable around each other in the Daily Doses.

3. The Code probably had something to do with it, given that sex appeal had to be toned down. Also, the Great Depression called for as much work as possible from both men and women, so movies may have been trying to reflect the fact that each of them just as important as the other, rather than making it a competition.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Perhaps this is out of context but I don;t see it as a battle but a show that Ginger can keep up with whatever Fred can do and do it just as well.  This is not, however, the flowing dress, dreamy dance sequence of earlier years.  This is a dance with a purpose.  The relationship is advanced at the end of the sequence.  The steps are more intricate than they have been in earlier films and when they dance together it is magical.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I'm not so great with the discussion questions, just want to say I watched Top Hat for the first time and really enjoyed it. I'm not usually into Fred/Ginger films (waiting for popcorn to be thrown at her) but after this I could be. 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

1. To begin, Astaire's character tries to gain control by playing on Rogers' character's fear of the storm, and she knows she must contain her fear when she realizes he is going to use it against her. Then, while he's pleading his case, she is being very shrewd about her decision to consider his advances. And, I love how she puts up her hands at the moment he would typically take her in his arms to indicate that she isn't playing his game. Of course, Astaire takes the cue, saying through his dance moves, "Okay, that's the way you want it, if this is what it takes, let's go!"

2. I feel the storyline is much more intricate. In Top Hat, the dance and song is part of, and advances, the plot of the story. The film has much less of a clunky, sectioned, vaudeville feel. There is certainly still profound escapism with over-the-top sets hat depict reality nowhere. However, the story is sweet, the dancing much more smooth. And, the smoothness of the dancing, I feel, is part of the escapism. It puts an audience at ease. They can also float above the floor as they are watching. How powerful is that sensory gift when compared to what awaits outside the theater doors? 

3. We see many more women taking stronger roles because of the Depression. Women did what women prove to do in history, they dig in and take up what needs to be done to keep going. I understand that is a broad generalization; yet, specifically, WWII history proves the tremendous role women played. Women fought through the Depression and continued forward progress in war. I think the screwball comedy musicals were quick to magnify and profit from this, whereas romantic dramas were much more likely to reenforce typical gendered roles.


((P.S.  I do not know why I am seeing different font sizes on my comment screen. It's very strange. I do not know if others see the different font sizes, as well. I tried to fix it.))

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

1. I do think there is some battle of the sexes going on in this clip. Ginger is wearing men's style clothing and adopting Fred's carriage and movements, and the overall sense is one of "anything you can do, I can do" (though I don't get the sense of "anything you can do, I can do better" because she isn't initiating the steps so much as emulating them). Ginger seems to be showing herself to be on the same level as Fred, even if it's not really a competitive number. I do like how they don't dance hand in hand until the end of the number, once each has shown the other what he/she can do and they've accepted that they're on an even playing field: only then can they truly dance as partners. Elsewhere in the film, I think we see battle of the sexes when Ginger's character tries to trick Fred (thinking he's Madge's husband) that they met in Paris, and Fred catches onto the gag and pretends to remember her. This feels like a more traditional battle of the sexes because they're both trying to outwit each other.

2. This feels different from other depression era musicals we've seen because the relationship is based on a more equal footing, and there seems to be more character building to ground the romance between the two main figures. Ginger's character isn't having any of Fred's antics-- or if she is, she doesn't let on, instead keeping higher ground. The two seem really well matched in wit as well as in stubbornness, and we feel as if we know them better as people as the plot progresses. The romantic plots in earlier movies seem less well-formulated, even though the main plot is less screwball; the romance between Ruby Keeler and Dick Powell in 42nd Street, for example, is somewhat random and only based on a few encounters. As other commentators have observed too, earlier movies often place the girl in a more dependent role, often as a singer or dancer who relies on the male lead to get her that big role. Ginger could have fallen into this with her relationship with Berdini, but she clearly shows him that she's in charge of where she goes and what she does, and he comes across as the idiot. In terms of music, this movie wove song and dance more seamlessly into the plot. There's no reason for it to be here, as there is in backstage musicals like many we've seen, but there's no awkward set-up to explain the singing or dancing either; it's just there, and we go along with it. It reminds me more of a Broadway style.

3. I'm not really sure about why there is that change. I'm guessing women were becoming more independent during the period and gaining more rights. As others have suggested, maybe more women were working outside the home to provide for their families during the depression.

 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
  1. What other aspects of battle of the sexes do you see indicated in this clip or in the film Top Hat?
  2. I am not sure that it is so much a battle of the sexes or the demonstration of a strong woman in a time when not many existed.  When he challenges her, she meets him and then raises the bar.  An example of this was when he performed one of the first steps and she adds multiple sounds when she executes it.  I feel like this was more of a showing off demonstration than a "battle" persay.
  3. How does this film distinguish itself from other Depression era musicals we have watched or discussed this week?
  4. This film is the epitome of class and elegance, but maintains the level of humor throughout.  "Gold diggers" has a similar misunderstanding, but ends on a more serious note.  This film never loses it's comedic effect.
  5. 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?
  6. During the early 1930s, women grew stronger and more secure as a whole.  The Depression left them to fend for themselves in many ways.  Women are often considered not funny.  These screwball comedies were an example of the exact opposite.  

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

op Hat is one of my favorite films and I'm delighted to be enrolled in Mad About Musicals.  Can't live without them!  In Top Hat, one of the funniest and ongoing story lines are the comments made by the wife whose husband is presumed to be having an affair with Ginger Rogers character.  She's completely jaded by a man's character [or at least her husbands'], jokes about it, and presumes he'll find himself in trouble but still come back to her.  Perhaps her indifference is an indication of their affluence, as the movie is completely devoid of any real-life concerns save for battle of the sexes.  (Although there is little matter of the butler's arrest for his hilarious responses to the presumed-monolingual Italian policia...)  

This film is vastly different from other Depression era musicals because it is completely frivolous, light-hearted, humorous, and even the [beautiful] sets are a complete removal from reality.  I recall Robert Osborne introducing this movie years ago, stating that when it was released, the Italian President (?) was insulted and dissed the movie as not at all representative of the real thing.  Anyone who's seen photos of/been to Venice will agree.  There's even made-up verbiage in the final song: "...play the piccolino"...apparently "piccolino" means a female, not a musical instrument!  "Scallopino" instead of "scallopini"...  But oh, what a delightful romp!

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I'm from the Detroit, MI area, so some of my observations relate to Detroit history.

1.  I agree with those who said the Fred/Ginger dance in the clip is like "Anything You Can Do I Can Do Better".  I also liked the snappy verbal sparring between the two.

2.  The mistaken identity theme makes the plot more interesting.  Both Jerry and Dale are established in their careers.  (Even her name Dale suggests some degree of "just as good as a man".  Also, mocking social norms is funny.  Dale's friend Marge wasn't surprised that her "husband" (actually Jerry) flirted with Dale.

3.  Here's the Detroit perspective.  Around 1915 Henry Ford started hiring and pay what was then big money.  Due to this sudden prosperity, people had money had money for entertainment and more movie theaters were built.  Then in the 1920s there were well over 100 speakeasies in Detroit and smuggling booze from Canada (just across the river) was a booming business.  The legalization of alcoholic beverages in the 1930s brought an end to that.  Those who could afford it saw first-run movies; others saw movies that were a few years old at discounted prices.  In the 1940s the auto factories started making jeeps, other military vehicles, and parts for them.  There were LOTS of REAL "Rosie the Riveters".  Most of the real "Rosies" didn't wear jumpsuits like in the famous poster.  Those who could get them wore pants (often their father's or brother's old ones) which seldom fit well.  But anyway, it was started to become more common for women to wear pants.  Many women became more self-reliant and they started to earn more money.

Probably some of those women remembered the fun and frivilous days of the 1920s and some could probably recall days of wealth.  Some read society columns in the newspapers and could only dream of having the lavish parties of the very wealthy.  For them the movies would perhaps, just for a short time, let them escape to such a lifestyle. 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

This battle of the sexes reminds me of "anything you can do, I can do better." I feel like Rogers doesn't dance the choreography like Astaire, she adds her own flair to it, which is a departure from the typical dance number. It definitely establishes both characters on equal footing, in equal costumes.

The interesting thing is that at the end of the dance number, he reaches for her hand and she gives it. After all that equality, the behavior goes right back to traditional roles and actions. God forgive me for quoting a Paula Abdul song, but "two steps forward...two steps back."

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I'm not sure I see a "battle" going on, but there is a reluctance on Ginger's part to just comply with whatever Fred suggests (shrugs and eye rolls when he states it's a lovely day). She makes sure he knows that her agreement is an individual thing and things won't progress unless he takes note of that. For its time, this is a refreshingly "modern" take on male-female roles. Compared to the earlier musicals (primarily the Keeler-Powell flicks) the leading lady is no fragile ingenue, she's a woman with opinions, suspicions, perhaps a past -- and yet she's still a desirable and intelligent woman. I suppose I'm comparing this role to Ginger's earlier hard-edged tart roles.

 

 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

1. Battle of the Sexes

I feel like the fact that she is also wearing a jacket and pants helped to show that she wanted to be approached as an equal.  They are both excellent dancers and they are both showing off their dancing abilities.  Though she is still sort of following his lead by doing steps he was doing.  But I feel like for the time period this was showing that a woman can do the steps just as well as a man. 

2. How is this different than other musicals from the 30s.

Ginger Rogers plays a more active role I think.  I feel like her characters are more than just a pretty face.  She's very talented and a great dancer, but she is not just a passive character that let's the men in her life make the decisions that affect her.  Nor is she a background character just being supportive of the male character. 

3. Screwball comedy changes

I think this reflects changing times and women taking more active roles in the workforce and in society.  

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

1. Throughout this whole scene, Finger is depicted as Fred’s equal. Not only does she match his dance steps, but she initiates some of the dance steps for Fred to follow. Many times, the man leads in the dancing with the woman following; however, based upon Ginger’s character in the movie, her playing second fiddle would have been out of character.

2. Prior to Top Hat, the musical numbers were set up for an audience to see. The setting could have been anything from a hotel lobby to a stage to a living room with friends over, people were still around to observe. Yet, this number had no audience. It was just Fred and Ginger dancing and competing with each other. This actually sets the stage for later musical numbers where no audience was needed for the dance.

3. The changes in style could be numerous. First, at the beginning of the Depression, there was a sense of escapism necessary for those dealing with the aftermath of the stock market crash and the bank closings; whereas here, the escapism takes more of a back seat to the battle of wits between the men and women. Second, it was more common to see women taking on a more prominent role in society. This could be due in part to the influence of Eleanor Roosevelt, movie stars in general, and women specialists such as Lillian Miller Gilbreth. Finally, while America may have been isolationist in its views, the impact of the encroaching ideologies of the Axis powers were beginning to take a toll on Europe itself; the major studio heads, especially Warner Bros., were among those who fought against those ideas through the films produced, including the musicals and screwball comedies of the1930s.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I don’t see this clip as exactly representing a “battle of the sexes”, but more as a progression point between the more traditional gender roles of earlier filmed musicals (Jeannette Macdonald is a good example of the classic “feminine passive” role) and the newer, more modern roles that women were beginning to play in society during the Great Depression.  Although the generally socially-accepted foundation of traditional gender roles is present, there are starting to be visible changes within that system.  She’s wearing a version of a man’s suit instead of a long, flowing dress of silk and lace.  She’s keeping up with his dance routine step for step instead of simply watching from the sidelines and waiting, expecting to be wooed and doted on.  

She seems able - that’s the big difference here.  It’s not that this scene is the most progressive thing ever, because it’s obviously not, but it’s a big change to see the woman willing and able to keep up with the man.  Although it can obviously be problematic to portray women as having to take on men’s clothing, more masculine identities, etc. in order to command respect or be seen as fully human, independent beings, at this point in our media’s history I would say that it’s at least a step in the right direction.  Dancing alongside Astaire, Rogers is a far cry from the fancy lady of the pre-Depression era who was always just waiting & looking pretty on a balcony for a man, any man, to forcefully come into her life and woo her.  Here, representing women in a society who are no longer satisfied to let the men do all the work (and have the fun, too), Rogers is able to match Astaire and decide for herself whether they’re a good match or not.  Unlike a lot of the previous romances in films, her opinion affects the outcome of their romance.  Suddenly, the male character is no longer in complete control of both of their destinies.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

 In the clip Ginger's character matches Fred's step for step definitely showing she is an equal an unafraid.  The other "Battle of the Sexes" is between the move's married friends Edward Everett Horton & Helen Broderick characters conversations between them and to Fred & Ginger. The movie distinguishes itself from others by not having the lead female actively looking for a husband.  Also the lead female has a business relationship with the designer played by Erik Rhodes.The movie had a different view of the female lead because the role of women were changing in the 30s & they were becoming more independent.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

What other aspects of battle of the sexes do you see indicated in this clip or in the film Top Hat? That Rodgers isn't following Astaire's lead she is matching him in costume and dance. Women had only recently won the right to vote and still hadn't achieved equality (or still to this day, thanks to Ronnie Raygun and killing it) but where making inroads in society.

How does this film distinguish itself from other Depression era musicals we have watched or discussed this week? Rather than large set pieces this piece focused on a smaller intimate setting rather than a large over the top piece.

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 I have stated in question number one. Women's roles i society and culture had change from their suffragette days. Also during this time, men were leaving their families to either find work or to escape from the burden's of having a family during the depression. As for the sexual aspect of the difference of the pre-Code era and post Code films. The sexuality wasn't as overt but it was still present. A woman in jodhpurs? Scandalous.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

In this clip from Top Hat, we see her begin to soften her resistance toward him. His prior attempts were met with cold refusals. An important thing to note is that she is making many of the decisions in the progression of the relationship here.

There were a few interesting thoughts I had while viewing this clip, and later the film: it was fascinating to watch her legs because usually you don't see them as she's frequently wearing a gown! Wearing pants was a strong statement in and of itself, and I think it further demonstrated her independent nature. Another realization was that they don't  physically touch until the storm becomes frenzied toward the end of the number. The choreography is ballroom dancing but they do it without touching, which is difficult to do because without physical contact you aren't getting cues so you must really observe closely! The fact they do it so effortlessly tells us they belong together!

The hot-tempered Italian dress designer states several times the different ways he treats women versus men: he kisses women as opposed to attacking men with a sword. He is the cliche macho, chest-thumping male, loudly proclaiming his ownership of her. 

Madge was the understanding, down-to-earth friend who told the unvarnished truth. She says to Rogers' character,  "In spite of all men being ... male ..." and that pause speaks volumes about how she sees herself and how she views her husband. The conversation the two women have about the incident in the park was fascinating because they were unknowingly discussing two different people but the dialog was so brilliant that it didn't seem to deliver any obvious clues to either character, so as an audience member, I found myself wondering how and when they would find out!

Again, we see characters straining against the rules of society. Astaire' character is introduced by a wonderfully comic but with the newspaper. He's bored and unable to contain his frustration with that. Rogers' character is shown to be unafraid to speak her mind and display her more rebellious side. 

What made this film different from other depression era musicals discussed was that innocent accidental events coincided, making it appear to be more sinister than it was, such as when from a distance, the hotel clerk points out the man with the briefcase on the upper floor and by the time she arrives on the stairs to meet him, the briefcase has been switched and makes her believe that she has begun falling in love with a married man. 

Women are still being portrayed in these films as desiring no more than finding the right man to marry, but we start seeing them as stronger characters and you believe that even if they never married, they would survive and still be successful. There were so many inventive ways that were used to keep those women technically wholesome (the butler portraying a minister so that technically they aren't married meaning she is still free to marry the right man for her). It's important to remember at this time, that women were now able to vote. Divorce was not as devastating to their reputations and many had to hold down jobs in order to survive, regardless of their marital status. We see female characters less likely to sacrifice themselves or their love.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

1.       Other aspects of battle of the sexes would be the flirtation by Astaire where he thinks he can swoon Rogers because she should be afraid of lightning and she would see him as her protector.

2.       I think, again, this film distinguishes itself from other Depression era musicals first by the scenery.  A lovely gazebo of some kind is presented which makes you think the residence is either a fancy hotel, ballroom, or even a rich person’s backyard.  Astaire’s and Rogers’ attire is of high quality and very nice looking which indicates that they must have had money to buy those outfits.

3.       I think the changes came because we were heading out of the Depression and there was no war going on yet.  As the economy was improving, people had money to go to the movies and movie producers had money to invest and actresses were beginning to add a lot more appeal to the musicals with their beautiful costumes and singing. As the demand to see these humorous musicals increased, actresses seemed to be more in a position to push individuality in their roles, which soon triggered a lot more interest in these movies.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now

New Members:

Register Here

Learn more about the new message boards:

FAQ

Having problems?

Contact Us