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DAILY DOSE OF DELIGHT #4 (FROM TOP HAT)

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This is definitely a  competitive dance sequence, as Rogers shows Astaire that she can indeed keep up with his fancy footwork, and even throw in some of her own, which causes some side-eye from Astaire's character, who clearly expected to her sit passively and watch him dance for her. The entire film is about Rogers not accepting the role of prey, but rather trying to determine whether or not her love for Astaire's character is ill advised or not. She is constantly rebelling against male characters who try to make up her mind for her when it comes to who she should be with. She repeatedly proves that she will not succumb to any male's desires, even Astaire's, if it means compromising her personality or personal beliefs. In the "Isn't It A Lovely Day?" clip, she is clearly dressed in very androgynous attire, rather than the extremely feminine, almost flouncy, and decorative, ballgowns and evening dresses she wears for the rest of the film. And instead of being clearly led by Astaire, as she is for the rest of the film, she matches him in every way in this scene. 

Top Hat is a far more lavish and dreamlike musical than Born To Dance, even though that film can be very dreamlike in parts, it's still set in a very recognisable, real setting, while Top Hat is set in hotels that don't seem to be in real cities, and the closing sequence is in a place that seems to be like Venice, but clearly isn't. Also, Astaire and Rogers match each other in dancing, rather than singing, they are clearly dance partners rather than just love interests that individually sing or dance. Also, Top Hat is an extremely sophisticated, stylised affair, unlike Born To Dance, Broadway Melody of 1929 and 1936, Rose Marie, which all have elements of sophistication, but are more grounded in the everyday or the backstage musical. Top Hat only really has one number which clearly takes place on a stage for an audience in the film. 

Women were becoming more independent in the 1920s and 1930s. The First World War had seen them enter the workplace more often and take up more skilled positions. Women were being seen more as equals rather than just objects of marital exchange, and therefore they, too, could be witty and decide who they wanted to fall in love with and marry. The Depression necessitated that men and women contribute to a family's income, and although the depression era musicals do not deal with that issue directly, they do show women as trying to carve a place for themselves in the world. 

    

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1. Unsure if there are any "battle of the sexes" conflicts/moments in the competitive mating dance scene from "Top Hat" (1935).  All I can see is that it looks like that Ginger is not impressed by Fred's singing and/or dancing until the middle of the scene, bringing them closer together.

2. The setting for this scene in RKO's "Top Hat" (1935) is different from what was shown in MGM's "The Broadway Melody" (1929) and Warners' "42nd Street" (1933); the earlier musicals were mostly set in a "music hall"/"performance hall" setting, while Fred and Ginger in "Top Hat" are dancing under a large gazebo-style setting to shield themselves from the rain, thus giving the audience the illusion that they are dancing outside instead of dancing on a "stage"-style setting.

3. Not sure about this one.  Compared to the earlier pre-code musicals, I feel that Ginger's character has a much stronger presence than what was depicted in preceding musicals.  

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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?

From the onset, we see Dale (Ginger Rogers) sort of distancing herself from this man, or attempting to, even though Jerry (Fred Astaire) is desperately trying to woo her from the moment he woke her on their first meeting. In this clip, we see them on more equal footing then we have the whole film even with their clothing sort of "matching" where she is in jodhpurs instead of the normal pretty outfit she has worn at each of their previous meetings.  The scene goes on to show how she isn't succumbing to his sweet song, but getting up and challenging him as she mimics his steps, even going so far as to initiate moves on her own which he then follows.  She doesn't let him gather her in his arms throughout the whole dance really, with the man leading the woman. Instead touching is minimal, with no embrace at the end of the scene, merely they shake hands with mutual respect.  She proves she is a match for him literally with every step he is taking, not to be led around but walk shoulder to shoulder with him.  Throughout the movie 'Top Hat', the women aren't simpering damsels in distress or caricatures of emotional women, as we have seen in previous musicals where the woman needs the man to help her in some way.  In the beginning of this scene Dale turns him down as he attempts to rescue her from the storm.  No Sir, this lady is definitely no damsel in distress!

 

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

This movie from the get go takes place in very opulent settings with sumptuous clothing, with the women and men normally dressed to the nines.  It's not just the occasional throwing about money with a big tip, but the from the sets and the costumes everything reeks of being very well off, with not a care in the world other than romancing the woman Jerry finally decides to try and win (after saying he didn't wish to be married).  Each scene is a fantasy and escape from the very real struggle that is going on outside the theater.  It's all light hearted escapism, from the sets, the clothing, and the romance.

 

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?

The movies made after the Code came into effect had to have some vehicle for flirtation without being overt sexually - in not only words and deeds, but costumes as well.  The thing that replaced overt sexual innuendo was the comedy between the male and female stars.  The comedy was the way to move the story along and also show the chemistry between the two main characters while not being over the top sexual.  Plus showing women as equals was probably fitting in with what was going on in the real world, where women were forced to actually do more than just be home and watch the children/husband.  They might have actually been called on to go and help support the household by joining the workforce.  This probably will gain steam as the years go by and America enters the war effort (WW2).

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I did not see a battle of the sexes.  Everyone appeared as if they were working as a partnership since they were dancing together.  What I did notice is that women had to start speaking up; that would be a sign of the times as war was in the near future. 

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

As we progressed through the ’30s and neared WWII—when women entered the workforce en masse while men served in the military—it seems that female leads in movies were given increased opportunities to match wits with their male counterparts.  Depicting female characters as equal to males reflects the changes that were going on in society.  That is not to say, however, that equality was a universal experience for all women in film and real life, but simply that the pendulum was swinging in that direction.  Furthermore, putting female characters in nontraditional roles or male-dominated fields [e.g. newspaperwoman Hildy (Rosalind Russell) in His Girl Friday], simply created more opportunities for conflict and comedy.  The kookiness of a woman thinking she can do what a man can!  Who’d have dreamt it!

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I’ve not seen this one yet, and I’m looking forward to it!

I do agree with the idea of a battle of the sexes: I see it in her wardrobe, her gestures, her manner. She is playing along, but demonstrating that she can do anything he can do. She is not easily won over, which is the fun of a romantic comedy.

I think this also reflects the changing role of women: they needed to assert themselves more to help their families get through the depression. 

The rain and the gazebo setting remind me of The Sound of Music. In The Sound of Music a young girl was attempting to demonstrate that she was mature enough for her love-interest. I’m sure there are other later musicals that were influenced by this classic of the genre.

 

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1. Ginger Rogers character is a strong woman.  It felt to me like a dancing version of "Anything you can do I can do better"...  

2. This one differs in that again, these two really are equals.  To me, depending on the scene, they role of antagonist went back and forth.  Each one had the upper hand on the other.  The energy between the two is terrific.

3. Again, women are starting to take an equal role in these films.  Not just the object of affection or conquest.  

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In the scene, Ginger is dressed similar to Fred and when he begins to dance she can completely not only keep up but do whatever he can and the scene ends with a more masculine, at the time, handshake. In this scene, they are equals in every way. But if the lesson didn't state it, I would not be aware that this was meant to be a battle of the sexes. I wouldn't think of that until post-WWII when women were expected to give up the jobs they did for the men while they were at war. But reading that, it did make me think that these films followed the Suffragette Movement and the fight to get the vote in the late teen and early twenties years so maybe women were still thinking of their equality.

This film is different from the other Depression-era musicals this week as it seems to focus more on the team dancing than a musical production. Instead of theater performance dancing and singing, the love story develops through the dancing. Their relationship grows through the beautiful dancing as a couple.

The roles between men and women depicted in these screwball comedy musicals that distinguish them from earlier musicals are that the screwball comedy by definition is a female who dominates the relationship while challenging the male's masculinity. There are fast-paced interactions, farcical situations with storylines focusing on marriage and escapism along with depicting the difference in social classes. The plot lines involve courtship and marriage. This was not true of other musicals that were more like actually being in a theater watching the performance with a sideline that finds romance. The focus has switched along with the way from the way we are viewing a musical. One we actually view the musical as a stage production, the latter the musical becomes the story, the romance develops through the dancing and singing.

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To me, this one was less Battle of the Sexes and more H-O-R-S-E.  Fred does a move, Ginger mimics him, then they both wind up doing the mirror-image gimmick.  Nice routine and a lot of fun.  I don't need to tell anyone how well these two complimented each other in their dance sequences, but I do love how in this case in comparison to other musicals of this era (including some of their own), this isn't a huge grand spectacle.  It's just two people dancing in a gazebo during a thunderstorm.  Simple and effective and totally engaging.

Now I'll open up a potential can of worms:  To me, Ginger Rogers was a much better actor than Fred Astaire ever was.  Not necessarily a better dancer and not necessarily a better performer, I'm just talking about acting itself.  She showed great range in many of her films far beyond song-and-dance.  Even here, the faces she's making while Fred courts her before the dance tell us she's bored and she's heard these lines already from other men.  It doesn't look forced or hokey at all either, her expressions are spot-on.

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The JW Marriott Hotel in Palm Desert, California reminded me so much of the Italian hotel set in Top Hat, which I watched on TCM last night.  It's of course an updated, modernized version, but it has the canals and boats going through the ground floor, around the bars and restaurants and out onto the patio.  If I recall correctly, there are Ginger Rogers and Fred Astaire Streets very nearby the hotel.  

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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?

Echoing the sentiments of others above, I do not really see many aspects of a battle of the sexes here. Fred and Ginger are pretty evenly matched.

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

Bright, glitzy, and glamorous. Ginger distinguishes herself from Jeanette MacDonald by being a take-charge, no-nonsense woman. She makes it very clear that she won't be swayed by Fred Astaire until she's ready to be, not before.

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?

The 1930s was a time of great upheaval from the Great Depression, and women found themselves entering the workforce in greater numbers than ever before. Women were enjoying greater freedom, to a point. Gender stereotypes were still the expected norm.

 

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1. The entire scene acts as a courtship played out in lyric and footwork, in this case on rollerskates. The, "beginning to know you" stage at the start with he talking and she of the witty quip. This progresses to their ****-for-tat dance moves where she is "feeling him out" for his "skills" and his response to her matching and at times surpassing his. The courtship proceeds as they begin to realize they each share similar likes and skills and the team grows more comfortable together. He responds to her equality not with disdain but rather with delight at her ability to equal his moves. She realizes he's a nice guy. The end of the dance finds them embracing, dancing closely in each other's arms. The dance ends and they have become friends. But bc she has proven herself his equal a mere kiss or clutch would ruin the scene. Plus, it's a Code film so they shake hands and the courtship continues to play out in the coming scenes. Delightful!


2. The film is very stylized. The premise is similar to earlier musicals (boy chases girl, girl resists, witty dialogue and screwball situations with confusion ensue, boy gets girl) but the musical numbers are more fully integrated into the scenes. This is not a backstage musical but one that unabashedly offers the audience song and dance that is masterfully woven into the story. The segues are not awkward but seamless in their presentation. This is a first


3. Culturally, more and more women were joining the workforce. This was due to the continued economic struggles of families due to the continuing Depression. Many men had left their families and lived the life of a hobo far away so women had to step forward and take their place as the family breadwinner. So it is understandable that equality among the sexes would be a topic examined in film. 

As well, Eleanor Roosevelt was an ambassador for her husband President Franklin D. Roosevelt. As he suffered from polio and was unable to walk without braces and the aid of his son supporting him  making her the first First Lady to take a prominent role in Whitehouse politics. She was an intelligent, opinionated woman with great charm well known by all Americans. So again, women are stepping into roles formerly held solely by men prior to this time. 

Equality of gender  becomes a viable topic of men and women bc of what is happening culturally in the country at the time.


 

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Ginger Rogers' character is not going to let a man woo her the old fashioned way.  She want to see what he can offer and she demonstrates she is just as proficient as he.  It's a friendly battle where dance is the ultimate winner.  Almost a mating dance of sorts, but the handshake at the end tells us it was all fun, no harm and their friendship/relationship will go on.

The female lead is more confident in that she "dares" copy her dance partner.  The fact of the simplicity of costuming shows they are one of us enjoying life.  Nothing, not even the weather is going to stop them.

The earlier film depicted the men and women as cave men and their mates...the sillier the situation the better.  As the technology of film production continued to evolve, the producers, directors and all involved wanted their leading characters to mature into something graceful and awe-inspiring to the movie going public.

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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?

Other aspects apart from who's better or who's best, are battle for control and maybe power over situations. 

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

This film showcases the female character in a different light giving her more or equal parts and say throughout the movie.

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?

Again, reasons could possibly have been due to actresses being given more because of their star power and atributes. This making the distinquished difference between earlier movies where most parts were seen as props.

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

I didn't really see a "battle of the sexes" in this clip or in the rest of the film. I saw it as two people, mutually attracted to each other, who through confusion of identity, went through a "like" then "don't like" then "like" series of encounters, until each finally discovered "who was who." Loved the Gazebo/Rain sequence because he finally managed to "woo/win" her by engaging her in something that mutually interested both of them -- dancing, and she, being a strong woman, proved that she could hold her own, although he never seemed to try to hold her back from being who she was. Love Irving Berlin and this Lovely Day song is one of my favorite numbers to tap to because of its natural syncopation.

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

Dale and Madge are both portrayed as strong, independent women, who appreciate/dismiss a man for "what he is, shortcomings and all" and yet both exhibit the ability to be able to get along on their own with or without a man. In some of the earlier Depression Era films, women appeared to be portrayed as "helpless" and needing a man to guide them and make decisions for them.

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?

Possibly, women in "real life" were setting examples that strong, independent women had something to say and important things to do equal to the speeches and accomplishments of men, and women of this calibre needed to be showcased and represented in films to reflect that not all women should be considered "helpless." To wit: Amelia Earhart.


 

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Can't you find better description of people's relationships than "battle of the sexs". Isn't there enough "battle" on other subjects to satisfy you. Lovely Day dancer is just a courtship for god's sake. Ginger makes her statement early(fast trap Fred doesn't do but expresses admiration and acceptance)

and then they get on with the courtship which is the majority of the number.

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I see quite a few responses who did not see a battle of the sexes.  I will say I didn't see much "battle" either, but I did notice around 2-3 times when Ginger moved first and Fred followed or Ginger added some flourish that Fred noticed but was too late to copy. I sensed a slight one upsmanship on her part when it could be fit in. However, and this is a big however, I thought the way he grabbed her in his arms for the close dancing segment was brutal. It was manhandling! I can't believe I am saying this about Astaire, but when I view this through the lens of battle of the sexes, that is what I see. 

I would also like to add that the later musicals show just how different the rich really are from the rest of "us." Of course, there is the wonderful escapism of the sets and wardrobe, but also I believe that class can really dictate gender behavior. Upper class women of the kind who jet set around Europe certainly had (in the movies and in reality) a different "license" to behave than lower and middle class women in Akron or Bakersfield in the 1930s. (Though not a musical, "My Man Godfrey" really makes that point!) 

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1. Perhaps not so much a battle of the sexes so much as the holding tight to a stereotype is Roger’s fear of the storm while Astaire smiles and offers the chivalrous attitude of “I’ll protect you” as the piece opens. From there the battle begins as he attempts to show her how wonderful he is with a few moves only to see her then match him step for step. What I kept noticing, and I’m not sure it was intentional or not, was that during the entire dance I kept seeing Astaire smiling but Rogers seemed to be concentrating on her moves. Was this a subtle display of weakness in the script showing that while she could keep up for her it was with difficulty or was it just coincidence? In any event her being able to match him through it all showed that she was as capable as he was and he wasn’t put off by that. This presents a battle of the sexes that doesn’t show dominance of one over the other but a mutual respect for both.

 

2. The most obvious difference to me was the setting. By this time things had progressed from an “on stage” presence to singing and dancing “on location”. Yes it was a set but no it wasn’t Broadway. It also move the story line from focusing on the ills of the depression to ignoring it and setting things in the world of the well to do. These people aren’t concerned with soup lines, they have enough in their pocket to take care of anything that comes their way.

 

3. When placed alongside what was occurring in history at the time the comedies had to change for several reasons. Women gained the right to vote in 1920 and while they may have had that right then it decisions like this take a while to change the culture of the time. A woman’s role in the world was evolving from what it was to what it would become. Another reason would be the staleness of using the same thematic contrivances over and over again. People tire of the same plot device used repeatedly. By allowing women to alter their roles in these screwball comedies of the time it opened the door to new storylines that could be used. Those might use the old concepts but in changing gender it also presents a different version rather than the same old same old.

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The biggest thing I noticed in this scene is Rogers is not dancing backwards to Astair. She is equal and she keeps it that way.

The set is less grandiose and they are not wearing tuxes or big flowing dresses. This is more to the common man look

The world was changing, everyone knew what was happening in Europe, women were asking for more in the world and getting it. We can almost see the start of where women are being seen as equals. Even though we are still not totally there, it was in these movies that we start to see it.

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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 that there really isn't any 'battle of the sexes', there is more of an equality. Ginger doesn't try to one-up Fred, she's on his level, but on her own terms. She matches him in style, effort, and physicality. She's neither above, or below him. And I love that bit at the end where they both shake hands. That was a sign that he sees a formidable partner, one that he can mesh quite well with.

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

I believe for the first time, you were able to see a strong woman doing things on her own. She didn't need to rescued by a man, or anyone else, like other female characters in other musicals. Also, the dance musicals are performed more intimately, where they is only two people in the scene. This is great because the audience is able to invest more into both people without the interruptions of other characters. It also helps that the sets are more comfortable and realistic, which helps the environment that both Ginger and Fred are in. This allows them to dance more freely and flow easily. 

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?

The women were more independent and strong. They came in on their own, and went out the same way. They could actually carry dance numbers by themselves. Female characters became just vital in musicals and other films as the male characters. They didn't sit there and let the men have all the fun and credit. they came in and took over, being just as amazing as dancers and singers as the men. In a way, feminism really started here.

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I see some parallels in this and "What a Waste of a Lovely Night" from La La Land.

"Isn't It a Lovely Day?" is the more "romantic" sequence of the two; Jerry capitalizes on the bad weather to try to woo his crush. It does set up the troupe that rain is more romantic than a sunset, which La La Land makes fun of and dispels. "Lovely Night" is the antithesis of "Day," in that they make fun of a scenario similar to Rodgers and Astaire. Both have lyrics that are cleverly written and both work to achieve similar goals: to bring the characters closer together.

As for the dancing, Rodgers and Astaire do it better, no questions asked. While I love La La Land, I'm dis-satisfied with this song because it was made to be tapped to. I understand that Gosling and Stone had little dance experience prior to this movie, and so that obviously limited what they could do. But the dancing is lack luster; ideally, this could be a show-stopping number. But it's not. The dancing in the thirties is more technical and therefore more impressive. I could probably do the routine of "Lovely Night" in a few days, maybe a few hours. "Lovely Day" would take me longer to learn. 

Interestingly, the characters who tap better stay together at the end of the movie; Gosling and Stone's characters break up. While their routine is more of a spar and has a I-Can-Do-Better attitude, Rodgers and Astaire is more collaborative; they don't just copy the steps, they build off of them. It's interesting how the directors of both movies used the similar setup to achieve different goals.  

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Ginger keeps up and, at times, challenges Fred in a call-response kind of dance. There is a sense of equal footing and feeling each other out in this scene. 

Overall, I liked what Wes Gehring, Ph.D. said in the lecture video about the difficulty of genre classification. This movie is a carefully crafted comedy with music and dance and that would be the expectation because of the principle players of the film. By this time Fred Astaire is a full-blown star and enjoyed for both his dancing, singing and acting. Ginger Rogers is appearing in many other vehicles that show her as a triple-threat performer. Their relationship with viewers has been established since this is the fourth pairing. Add the music of Irving Berlin, and this movie fires on all cylinders. 

(As an aside, I ask, did people really see movies in terms of classification at this time? Did studios market them with a particular category?)

Today we over classify everything to the point of alienating certain audiences from films because they get labelled a "chick flick", or romcom, or an action movie. Back in the 1930s, movies were entertainment and escape, especially because of the economic times, and something that entertained you was the name of the game. Top Hat fits the bill.

If we must classify this film, I would say it is a screwball comedy as it fits with the sparring couple concept that belongs to that genre. The screwball comedy pitted the male and female against each other, tending to show them as equals in the game. That is what I think of when I watch Fred & Ginger movies. The music and dancing progress the plot and romance and allow us to see the pair develop into a couple.

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I think the reason people might struggle to see a battle of the sexes in this clip is due to its era and post-code methods. Rogers is dressed in a way that isn't as feminine as is often used, and while Astaire leads her into the dance, she chooses to be part of it and to match him step by step. He might be in control of which moves they do, but she's choosing to show she can do them just as well. I think by today's standards it's not much of a battle, but in the 30s, during an era where they could hardly show anything, it's rather explicit in Rogers being just as involved as Astaire.

As for the film itself, many times Rogers' character tries to turn the table on Astaire's (often confusing him or putting him in his place) when she thinks he's a married man. Yet, she still falls under his spell. It's a push-pull relationship all the way through.

 

 

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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?

Often when they dance in other numbers they watch their steps, or where they will be leaping to but in this clip, at the beginning, Ginger really stares at this face trying to size him up. She is not going to let him get away with anything.
There is a in-hold spin move towards the end where Fred lifts Ginger in the spin - then she does the same to him. I have always loved this move since first seeing the film. It’s playful and powerful at the same time.  It kind of says it all to me. Equals in every way.

How does this film distinguish itself from other Depression era musicals we have watched or discussed this week?
In many of the other films, men are very much in power as producers or directors, impresarios. The women need the man to approve to be happy or to have their career advanced. Here the woman holds the cards and makes her own decisions. The man has to prove himself first.

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 are often working and competing for the first time in a man’s world in bigger numbers than ever before, often out of necessity. Or they might be equally rich or influential. Or the woman may be the one with the upper hand - in short, the traditional roles are shifting.

 

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