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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 clip starts off with Fred initiating each challenge. Ginger either imitates exactly or improves on it. Then she dances with him side by side in perfect synchronization. 

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

This film was just a better production all the way around. This includes the dialogue, the costume and set design, the talent of the performers, and the storyline. The musical numbers also were integrated into plot that made them more plausible. Of course, the other films didn’t have Rogers and Astaire...singers/dancers/actors extraordinaire!

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 believe it was due to the changes in the time. I think during the depression men and women had to work together to make it through these hard times. Also studios were recognizing and nurturing the talents of the actresses as they saw how popular these talented and strong women were. I think of women of that time like Eleanor Roosevelt, Mary McLeod Bethune, Amelia Earhart.

I love this course. Each daily dose has taken me off into different directions. Now I want to study more about the depression.

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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 "dueling" nature of the dance makes me think of "Anything You Can Do, I Can Do Better." This is no woman swooning over a man and being led around the dance floor. She is giving as good as she gets.

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

Just as the dance suggests, Rogers' character isn't waiting to be saved or chosen by a man. She has a voice and a say in whom she will let into her life. I think this is a change from the typical film in which the woman's fate rests largely on the men around her. There is much more romance in the wooing and less emphasis on sex. I can't help but contrast this to Broadway Melody,  where Queenie is being pursued by Jacques Warriner. He was positively predatorial and left no question of what he wanted from her.

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

I think the changing culture had much to do with it. Granted, women had achieved suffrage in 1920, but I imagine it took a while for it to affect how women saw themselves in terms of personal power. With the Depression, folks were finding it necessary to blur the lines between some of the traditional roles of men and women, and women were finding they were made of stronger stuff than they were previously led to believe.

 

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1. In this clip, Rogers’ character is reluctant to play the game Astaire’s character is playing. When the dancing starts, she immediately starts to mimic Astaire’s mannerisms in a mocking way. As the dance progresses, the mocking turns to a partnership where she shakes his hand at the end.

2/3. This film portrays the female lead as someone who can hold her own with or without a partner. The other films discussed thus far contained female characters who would do better with a romantic partner. This suggested dependence on men was the norm, but definitely not the reality for some. In the Depression, it is likely that both men and women needed to work in order to survive. This necessity probably made women feel some of the independence and freedom they felt during the free-wheeling 20s. Rogers’ strong female character is an example of this freedom. 

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I don't know that I have too much to say about questions 1 and 3 (at least not more than what other posters have written), but I did want to take time and use question 2 to discuss one element of Top Hat that endlessly fascinated me: the art deco mise-en-scene.  

The sets were wondrously elaborate and fantastical in nature.  Many of them reminded me of German expressionist cinema.  While not gloomy or ominous, they seemed dreamlike. I suppose that this might be the most extreme version of bright-siding the depression that I have encountered in 1930s musicals.

The the direction in this film was terrific in how it balanced the the overwhelming sets and decor without drowning out the main players letting them properly shine as the stars they are.  But there were definitely moments in which the mise-en-scene was the focal point of the camera.

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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 don't really see a battle of the sexes; I see more of a display of equality between Fred and Ginger.

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

I haven't seen the film in full, but based on the clip it looks like it has a more personal feel than the other musicals.

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

I think society was starting to recognize strong-willed and successful women who are in control of their lives and screwball comedy musicals were starting to reflect this part of society.

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I agree with the previous comments that this clip is reflective of the time during the depression when some woman had to step into mens' traditional roles to make ends meet. Astaire's character shows the skills he (the man) can do and then the Roger's character shows that she (woman) can do them too. I agree with the previous posts that it isn't so much a competition as the Roger's character matching the Astaire character, not besting him. A few of the stereotypical gender roles displayed in the other Daily Dose clips are absent here (the woman doesn't appear quite as weak-- she can dance and wears somewhat masculine clothes, and the man is not shown here as a womanizer); however you still see the man is  displayed as the person of power in the relationship.

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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? Rather than a battle of the sexes, I see this film more as a recognition of a change in the relative standing of the sexes. Women by this time are becoming more independent, in some part as a result of the effects of the depression where women were forced to join the workforce in greater numbers. Rogers' character has her career and is not the previously seen "woman in need of a man" prevailing in earlier musicals. This dance number, to me, starts out as Astaire wooing Rogers and develops into lovemaking without the sex, appropriate to the post-Code depression era. The competitive dancing and energetic movement might easily have taken place under the covers. The handshake at the end of the number equates to smoking cigarettes after sex.How does this film distinguish itself from other Depression era musicals we have watched or discussed this week?
  2. How does this film distinguish itself from other Depression era musicals we have watched or discussed this week? To a great extent, this film gets away from the weak damsel in distress plots used predominantly in early musicals. Where in Love Parade the women are rushing into the arms of Chevalier like cats to catnip, here the male lead is compelled to earn the love of his enamorata. Women are being empowered more as production of depression era musicals progresses.
  3. What possible reasons might there be for the changes in roles between men and women depicted in these screwball comedy musicals that distinguish themselves from earlier musicals in the 1930s? As noted above, the idea of a woman's place being only in the home and as an adornment to a man is falling by the wayside and is being replaced by empowered women who know what they want and are willing to work to get it. As such, they are beginning to see themselves more as equals to men and behave accordingly. It is the men who are forced to adapt to this changing world. The loss of males in WWI and the eventual onset of the depression had a great impact on the male/female relationship in American society. This begins to be reflected in depression era musicals.

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What struck me in the clip was that from the moment she took to her feet, she was sending the clear message whatever you can do, I can do too - and just as well.  It became obvious when she matched his "walk" across the gazebo that this was going to be something different, something not seen before.  I can keep up with you.  I am your equal.

This was not the traditional male/female role as in other depression era musicals where the boys chased and the girls fell at their feet.

Prior to the depression, I think women were accepted as the weaker sex who needed to be taken care of and sheltered from the harsh realities of life.  But, the often cruel conditions of the depression showed men that women where much tougher and more determined than they (men) ever thought they could be.  In essence, women, like steel, were forged in the fire of struggle and they emerged with remarkable strength and the respect of husbands, beaus, brothers, sons, etc.  

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During the beginning song, I loved the way she rolled her eyes at him -- she was on to his tactics! And I noticed in the dancing there was no touching. A couple of times they got really close to it but she backed away. In the lyrics Astaire compared thunder to a kiss. When there was thunder near the end of the dance routine, the dancing got faster and they danced WITH each other instead of next to each other. The sex has been much more overt in the earlier films we've watched. Now it's getting classier and subdued (but ready to burst free at any moment).

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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?

Astaire first does a few steps. Then Rogers retaliates and does a few steps of her own. It's almost like a dance battle of "who can do it better?". It is as if she is saying, "Oh, really, you can do that? Well, I can too." 

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

"Top Hat" is a cheery, upbeat, funny film. It is one of my top three favorite films of ALL time (not just in the musical category). The dancing is an extension of the characters and the story. It is also more relatable. The characters could be us; stranded under a gazebo during a rainstorm. They are very down-to-earth. 

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?

In this dance in particular, the viewer sees that Ginger's character is not a "damsel in distress." She is independent, headstrong, and self-assured. She can match Fred tap for tap. She is not a typical "screwball comedy" lady because she is not ditzy. This movie shows progression into stronger and stronger female characters.  

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1 - The battle of the sexes does play out in this clip.  Astaire attempts to woo Rogers (even before this scene - here’s just another attempt) and she’s having none of it.  He adds the dancing as part of the courting routine.  She quickly shows she is just as adept as he.  What I see playing out here is the concept that a woman can do things as well as men and that Rogers doesn’t necessarily need a man to feel accomplished and complete.  

2 - Dancing in this film is more dreamy and romantic than in other films we’ve “discussed” this week.   The ballroom scenes especially portray men and women as compliments to each other.  They touch more often when dancing together.  For instance, in the first dance between Jimmy Stewart and Eleanor Powell in “Born To Dance” they two barely touch each other.  Like in this scene from “Top Hat” the primary characters are getting to know each other.  In the park scene of Born To Dance, Steward holds Powell in his arms but that’s broken up by their walk through the park and the bit with the policeman.  When Astair and Rogers dance in ballroom style, it’s just them.  They and the dance are the focal point.

3 - Women are beginning to emerge as stronger forces in their families.  In some cases, they are working to help support the family.  They are becoming more self-sufficient.   The screwball comedies show the central female character more in this light.

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In the film Top Hat, the battle of the sexes as indicated in the clip show Fred Astaire starting to dance first. Ginger Rogers is at first reluctant to join in, but follows his steps after his. This film is distinguished from other Depression era musical discussed because the places are familiar and so are the characters, but the sound is different from other films we have discussed because in this film, Rogers is following Astaire's steps, and the music is synchronized with their dancing. In Top Hat, Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers are in an intimate relationship, and after the dancing, their relationship goes further and they later go on to get married in the film. The difference is that their relationship is more based on love than sexuality.

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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? 

Ginger/Dale being in clothing resembling more-traditional male clothing seems to set up a "challenge of equals" situation.  In the sexist world of the 1930s (and even in the 2010s), women dressed in traditional men's clothing is considered chic and empowering, while men dressed in traditional women's clothing is considered humorous and emasculating.  

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

As others have mentioned, most of the numbers in "Top Hat" evolve from the the story and the relationship between the characters (instead of as musical numbers in a theatrical setting).  Perhaps it helps that the world they're in is a dazzling Art Deco dreamworld!

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?

Many of the women in those films (wonderful as they were) were trying to win the love and/or approval of the more-powerful men, whether they be casting directors, radio singers, or evangelists.  In these and other screwball comedies, there was usually a prolonged comedic romance of two charismatic leads who don't get along during much of the film but who happily/predictably come together by the end.  

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l watch this part of Top Hat and l think that l enjoyed it much more than the other music we have watched this week it was more entering and l think just because they were dress alike goes  with the story l enjoyed very much l am final enjoying the musicals . The Studios final got it right  Donna

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Response to #1: I'm not so sure I would call this a "battle of the sexes" so much as a "yes, you have fancy footwork; and I can keep up with you." Towards the end, when they dance as a couple, I see two people start working as a team who earlier were learning what teamwork could look like as they learned about each other from Ginger following Fred's lead (keep in mind the period of time before you call me a sexist). The handshake at the end seemed to indicate that they were "burying the hatchet," if you will allow the phrase and moving beyond their bumpy past to a potentially rosy future. 

Response to #2: Astaire/Rogers musicals have always distinguished themselves because they are a cut above everything else being produced. They star Astaire and Rogers, for starters; the supporting cast is usually very strong; the songs and dances support the storyline by furthering the plot in some way, instead of being buried in the plot, ex. Footlight Parade, where the musical #s were the plot and the drama happened in the scripted moments. Astaire/Rogers musicals have a more thoughtful storytelling style, if that makes sense.

Response to #3: The world was changing. We were on the cusp of a second world war (it was coming, even if it felt far off). The Great Depression had changed the economic and domestic landscape of the U.S. Top Hat features two independent women - Madge and Dale. Madge is incredibly comfortable with her identity as a married woman to a husband who appears to wander a bit, and Dale is fiercely independent and seems to want to stay that way until a certain someone changes her mind. The men do not seem to be incredibly threatened by either woman; and the women are given a lot of screen time without the men around. FDR became President of the U.S. in 1933 and brought with him to the White House a singular woman by the name of Eleanor, his wife. Madge's look reminds me very much of Eleanor Roosevelt's look. And both Madge and Dale have an independent sensibility that may have been introduced from the top down by Eleanor Roosevelt. 

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  1. What other aspects of battle of the sexes do you see indicated in this clip or in the film Top Hat?
  2. Dale shows that she is a woman with a mind of her own in this film.  Throughout the film she shows that she will make up her own mind about what she does and she does not want anyone telling her what to do, especially a man.  In this scene with Jerry, Dale shows she can dance just as well as he can and she will not be out done.  Jerry does finally succeed in impressing Dale.  In previous scenes, Jerry tries to impress Dale but does not succeed in his endeavors.  Dale also holds Jerry in contempt because she thinks he is married to her best friend, when in fact Jerry is single.  
  3.  
  4. How does this film distinguish itself from other Depression era musicals we have watched or discussed this week?
  5. Top Hat is still the same formula of boy sees girl, boy falls in love with girl, girl wants nothing to do with boy, boy woos girl, girl falls in love with boy, boy and girl finally get together.  There are less what I would deem production numbers where the whole cast is in the scene.  The movie actually showcased Fred and Ginger dancing one on one than most films of the era.  Also, Dale is more sarcastic then women have been in other leading roles, usually the sarcasm falls to a secondary character in the film.
  6.  
  7. What possible reasons might there be for the changes in roles between men and women depicted in these screwball comedy musicals that distinguish themselves from earlier musicals in the 1930s?
  8. Women are just starting to come into their own in this time period.  They had just received the right to vote 15 years earlier, the world is coming out of the flapper era where women had started smoking, drinking and fooling around in public.  The Depression was still in full force and women were more in likely to be in the workplace rather than home with the kids.  The character of Dale shows that women can be on their own.

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I just see a balance of both sexes something we really haven’t seen much of before. 

This is much more lighthearted an fun. It’s focus is not what’s happening around society as much. Just more gaiety  people needed a happier place to go and the music and dancing would give them this. “Let the rain Pitter patter but it really doesn’t matter ... It’s a lovely day.” 

Women were taking on more responsibilities at this time. Dress styles were changing and less restrictive clothing was in fashion, even pants, less importance now but then quite the headway. Women were paid much less than men and so many industries including the film industry opened up jobs to Women. It seemed many of the films not just musicals made sure they tried to keep pushing that a woman’s place was in the home. With Top Hat we do see more strength in a Woman’s role and character. As now we are seeing women in higher working roles especially with Roosevelt in office and Eleanor’s push for woman. Of course so many more that I won’t mention here. But I definitely see a change.  

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Battle of the Sexes....I see that some comments look at this  through a today lens.  I found it interesting that in the dance sequence there was not any touching between the two for most of the dance. Rodgers matched his steps and did some of her own.  She was showing him without totally outshining him that she was up to the task.  I saw that they came together in the dance after and indication from Rodgers that it was alright to touch me.

So not so much as a battle of the sexes, as a dance of the sexes.

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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 didn't really see all that many aspects of the battle of the sexes. I mean Fred did the singing and leading in all aspects. While Ginger did meet him move for move I guess the handshake and the outfit were all that made her stand out as a supposed "equal". It's progress but still the man makes the calls.

2. How does this film distinguish itself from other Depression era musicals we have watched or discussed this week?Ginger Rodgers is shown here as a stronger more independent kind of woman not just a pretty face. Different kind of wooing is needed as she is not a damsel in distress, down on her luck.

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?

Women were becoming more active in the workforce and at home especially with WWII around the corner. Mens roles were pretty consistent: soldier, playboy, performer, etc. However, you had some amazingly strong portrayals of women coming out in the movies thanks to actresses like Bette Davis, Claudette Colbert, Joan Crawford, Kathrine Hepburn, and Viven Leigh. No more women as conquests, these women were strong, charismatic, charming, and independent. 

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Other aspects from this dance sequence in Top Hat that showcase the battle of the sexes is when Astaire and Rodgers are dancing as one. Astaire would spin Rodgers around and a few steps later Rodgers would spin Astaire around. Proving that a woman can be exactly like a man. Most of the other Depression Era films show the woman as very feminine and demure. Whereas in Top Hat Rodgers is dressed like a man and it showcase how a woman can be independent from a man. As the Depression Era comes to a close women are starting to enter the workforce in order to support their families. Therefore, a woman has property and values to think of when a man is trying to woo a woman. 

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We are getting into familiar (and very dear) territory now.  Fred Astaire's incredible charm and facility with putting over a song is unparalleled.  No wonder Irving Berlin and George Gershwin kept him close. 

1) I think the film tries to put the two of them on equal footing here by having Ginger in a riding costume.  The fancy lady with billowing feather dresses is wearing pants!  But as others have pointed out, Fred is still pursuing and for the most part he is in charge.  It is, after all, the 30s.  Because of her clothing, the choreography, and the fact that they spend relatively little time in each other's arms, this is really more of a buddy number (think "Moses Supposes") than anything else.  And for this reason it's one of my favorite of all their routines.  How can you be in love if you can't first be friends? 

2) I think this film is just wittier and more fun than any we've been exposed to thus far, at least of those we've been exposed to through the daily doses.  (The Lubitsch one, which I've not seen in its entirety, may vie at least in terms of more visual wit.) Yes, it helps that the songs are more integrated into the plot due to the fact that this film is not a show - uh, about a show, but we also see how much acting styles have evolved here.  Fred and Ginger are so much more natural than Bessie Love, Anita Page, and (excuse me while I google) Charles King.  They are the "straight man," if you will, to the comedic performers surrounding them (Horton, Blore, and Rhodes - Broderick is too sardonic to be zany).  The film manages to feel down to earth and relatable despite the absolute insanity of the supporting players and the over the top set design.

3) As others have pointed out, women's roles were beginning to change just a bit.  And we know that we can thank the Hays Code for many of the essential elements of screwball comedy.  As stuffy as the Code seems now, at least it made screenwriters find clever ways to imply physical intimacy.  Words are sexier than body parts most of the time, anyway. 

 

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In many, if not most dances whether on Broadway or on film,  there are elements of opposition. In most of the Fred Astaire/Ginger Rogers musicals there is Fred dancing forward, and like they say, Ginger doing it all backwards, and in heels. There is opposition in the male/female choreography due to gender roles - the man "leads," the woman "follows."  

In this film, however, I do not see the song and dance as a "battle of the sexes" so much. Ginger is dressed in an equestrian costume - therefore the pants - and holds a riding crop. Without a lovely dress to twirl around, it loses a bit of femininity to the viewer possibly; however, dance is athletic, and without the swirl of fabric to soften the moves, the athletisicm is seen head on. 

I also do not see a battle of the sexes here - a battle of wills. They seem to be enjoying the dance, and are in sync with one another choregoraphically, for the majority of the time. It is a spiritual/mental connection. In true battle dances - aka known as "challenge dances" there are elements of opposition built in - choreographically, as well as emotionally. Think of "Slaughter on Tenth Avenue" with Vera Ellen and Gene Kelly. There is a sensual feeling to that dance, but oppositional moves as well. In "Isn't It a Lovely Day?" we see mirror steps, not oppositional steps as much. Later, in Fred's solo career, we do see more oppositional dancing with Ctd Charisse, a hat rack, along with Fred's signature position stance-like moves.

A battle of the sexes can be soft, or more extreme, depending on storyline and character.  Most films have the usual "battle norm" of 'boy meets girl,' girl plays hard to get, girl relents a little, couple has a spat, couple reunites. This is a formulaic war.  There are stronger versions, as in "Slaughter" above, and in regular comedies, such as "His Girl Friday' with Rosalind Russell (not a musical) where social commentary might be part of the narrative. Here, however, in the 'Top Hat' scene, I think it is the former situation - boy meets girl, playing hard to get, etc. 

But, I would also add - to paraphrase Cole Porter - isn't it a lovely number?   ; )

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1.  Although several others have said that think Ginger Rogers plays a secondary role in this routine, I completely disagree.  He does dance first, but she chooses to join him.  During the routine, she doesn't copy his steps back to him, she anticipates them and does them at the same time he does.  On a side note, her part is actually harder as she switches from being on the same foot as him in some sections and then has to do what is called a fake and change to mirroring him in others.  She makes it all look seamless too. In ballroom dancing, the woman's part is often harder than the man's. So when they are in hold, he's not just throwing her around, she's doing the steps herself (and backwards I might add).  So I see this as her making the choice to join him, actually mocking him some in mimicking his posture and mannerisms, and then coming to enjoy the dance without sacrificing any of her self or independence to him.

2.  This particular scene is much pared down from in the clothing and the set from some of the other clips we've seen.  I know there are big scenes with fancy sets and clothing, but this is much more casual and intimate, in a way.  Also, there's a sense of companionship rather than romance or sex, at this at this point.

3. More women were working outside the home than ever before.  Many people simply could not afford to get married and those single women had to support themselves. Married women also had to take outside jobs to make ends meet.  Women were paid less and often were hired in place of men in certain positions.  These women had an increased sense of their own independence and didn't want to be portrayed as having to be taken care of by a man - they could do it themselves.  I think at this time many of the actresses wanted to portray more independent female characters as well.

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I love this routine as it visually represents the male-female relationships of the era and musical style of the time. The clothing is genius since they are both wearing suits and her hat makes him the same height as Astaire which gives them equality. His suit is darker and he is the better dancer with his more supple back and higher toe points but Roger's lighter color allows her to be featured on the black and white film. The dance begins with a nonchalant whistling and his individual short dance, which she then copies. The hand in the pocket accentuates tentativeness. Then, facing camera, he begins the competitive dancing which she matches as they dance side by side. The possibility for romance is beginning but they are unsure. When they finally turn toward each other, she is a bit off balance (which Rogers sometimes is) and they nearly fall into each other but stop themselves from contact. Her stiffness (especially in the back) accentuates hesitation. As they then dance facing each other, their arms begin to move more elegantly as they would with a partner. Again, no contact but imitation with space between. The lightning and thunder symbolize the change in their relationship as within just a few steps and as the music builds toward a high point, the theme returns da capo and they finally dance together in each other's arms. When they finish, they sit together facing the camera, dancing equals, and the deepening relationship begun.

  1. Top Hat still has ties to musical "let's put on a show" with certain production numbers but a higher percentage of songs that further the plot, manifest relationships or interior asides. Now that we are learning about the evolution of song into the musical story line, I can't wait to revisit the Wizard of Oz tonight as an example of how such integration of song into the plot has moved along by 1939 especially with numbers like "Somewhere Over the Rainbow". Harold Arlen was a magnificent song writer.
  2. In the U.S., Women's Suffrage had passed in 1920. The new freedom of the 20's Flapper era was sharply curtailed by the Great Depression. Suddenly, people were displaced (especially off the land) and both men and women floundered but returned to more paternalistic roles for that time. Still, photographers like Dorothea Lange memorized the strength of women and books like The Grapes of Wrath showed the strength of women who kept their families together. With these forces and examples, film had to change as well.

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

The beginning of this clip is a lot like the one from Rose Marie earlier in the week.  The woman is responding disdainfully, with eye rolls, while the man is making the moves.  He has to convince her that he's a good guy, but first, she has to prove herself an equal.  You can tell Rogers' character is kind of turned on (she' moving her umbrella to the beat), but she has to  hold herself together and not show emotion.  Finally, instead of joining him in the dance because she just wants to dance with him and have fun, she has to show him that she's as good as he is.  They don't touch for the longest time--there's a point where their arms are moving like they would in a ballroom dance, but without touching.  It's not until the thunder sound that she permits herself to release the energy she's been holding in--they latch onto each other (with decorum) and dance at a speedy pace.  But there's no kiss or anything at the end.  They shake hands as equals.

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

We still the opulence and lovely costumes and urbanity, and the witty repartee with the servants (I love Eric Blore!), but the women seem to have more agency in this one.  Both Ginger Rogers and Helen Broderick more than hold their own against Fred Astaire and Edward Everett Horton.

  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?

Probably both the effects of the 19th amendment and the Great Depression were involved.  With the right to vote, women had more say in society, so would have felt more empowered.  Women often had to take on a larger role in earning because of the rate of unemployment during the depression.  If men were unable to find work, they could hardly justify being the head of the household anymore. 

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