Dr. Vanessa Theme Ament

DAILY DOSE OF DELIGHT #7 (From TAKE ME OUT TO THE BALLGAME)

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One could parse this sequence ad infinitum. In short, it turns usual courtship behavior on its ear. The female, Garrett, is the aggressor (a role she also plays in On the Town) and the male, Sinatra, as evader/escapee. She acts; he reacts. There is incongruity with the juxtaposed lyrics that serves as point-counterpoint, punch-counterpunch as he continually tries to get away. She sings while he mimes giving further irony since the scene deprives Sinatra, one of the most popular singers of the time, of singing. In fact, on location, the company had problems filming in NYC because fans recognized him. Coinciding movement with the musical phrases, taken phrase by phrase, would take a lot of time. So I will use one example to answer both questions.

 When Garrett sings, “start playing ball with me” he tosses a baseball to her, she catches it, then throws it away. Her gesture clarifies that she is not interested in the kind of sport (literal) that he is but in the “play” between man and woman. Then, she charges him as he runs away, unfortunately, to a wall where she has him boxed in. Now, she begins the main melody with wording, “It’s fate, baby, it’s fate.” Of course, he doesn’t believe so since he is interested in Esther Williams at this point in the story (largely ignoring the fact that Gene Kelly has already horned in on Esther who is, by the way, evading Kelly). So, Sinatra ducks under her arm to momentarily escape once again. The song continues with this type of parry and escape throughout. Every shot is carefully choreographed and perfectly synchronized to the rhythm of the song yet the visuals serve as counterpoint in this inverted, comical chase scene.

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  • Thinking like a director and editor, describe how each shot spotlights key actions.

The beginning of the scene with the narrow hallway sets up Garrett's cornering Sinatra and beginning the chase, leading out into the stadium seats. We have wide shots to show the expanse and highlight the chase, zooming in as she backs him into the wall. It's a very physical number, with the running up the bleachers and sliding down the banister. The blocking for that last bit was probably intended to hide the fact that they used a double for Sinatra sliding down the rail; shot from the back and with his hat pulled down.

  • It’s interesting to examine how musicals segue into musical numbers. How does this sequence prepare us for the singing?

The musical intro seems to let us know something is coming. We get quite a buildup and then the abrupt "Hey!" from Garrett, leading right into the lyrical portion of the song. The song and the "dance" (much less of a dance than just choreographed movements) work together seamlessly. As she asks him to "play ball with me," it's obvious she isn't talking baseball. 

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1.    Thinking like a director and editor, describe how each shot spotlights key actions.

    1. Here are the shots:
      1. The scene opens with a pan from right to left as Frank Sinatra exits the locker room, only to be trapped by Betty Garrett. In a continual shot, it pans back right and then left again as she chases him toward the dressing room and up the bleacher stairs.
      2. At :13, we cut to a long shot of the two running out on the baseball field, panning left to catch them running away from the camera.
      3. At :20, we cut to a medium two-shot so she can start singing (“Hey!”). In the same shot it pans left as she marches up to him, then continues to pan left as she chases him away from the camera.
      4. At :49, we cut to a close two-shot as she begins singing the chorus (“It’s fate, baby, it’s fate”).
      5. In an impressive single shot (starting at 1:00), the camera pans from right to center as she chases him into a medium two-shot for several lyrics. It then pans left and up as she athletically chases him up the bleacher seats (in a Victorian yellow dress!), its low angle emphasizing the height and distance of the chase.
      6. At 1:46 we jump to a perspective just below the top bleachers, which is where the characters end up.
      7. At 1:53, we cut again to a medium two-shot for more lyrics, this time with him also singing.
      8. At 2:15, we jump back to the previous long shot to catch her pushing him down onto the bleachers.
      9. At 2:30, we return to the medium two-shot for more lyrics and dancing and we travel right with them.
      10. At 2:42, we jump back to a longer shot and travel down right as she follows him down the bleachers.
      11. At 3:09, we cut to a longer shot to catch him sliding down the rail and her running to the bottom, then zooming in for the end of her catching him

2.    It’s interesting to examine how musicals segue into musical numbers. How does this sequence prepare us for the singing? Bouncy music accompanies Frank Sinatra exiting the locker room, tossing a baseball. Soon, though, we see Betty Garrett eye her prey and the music underscores her stepping right and left to prevent his passing. It takes on a horror movie “stepping into danger” sound, transitioning into “chase music” as she backs him up and out onto the field. The music increases as the distance from the camera increases. Only when he stops running at her “Hey!” does the song start – she’s caught her prey and proceeds to order him (in song and dance) to love her.

betty-garrett-take-me-out.jpg

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I enjoyed the insights or previous commenters who discussed the score and the blocking in the locker room and hall way.  All that worked quite well.  I counted 11 shots in this sequence, so each shot has a fair amount of time. And many of the shots center on Sinatra and Sewall, from the waist up.  They are not really dancing (well, not Top Hat dancing).  

I agree with Motomom's comment about the bleacher shot.  That was the most distinctive shot of the sequence.  IT was the only shot that actually reminded me of how baseball would have been filmed in that era.  A single stationary camera would have been forced to follow the action, even if the ball rolled all the way to the wall.  Sinatra appears to be tracking a fly ball in the outfield.  

I also liked how the scene used the bleachers as the place of action.  Bleachers are where spectators watch the action, but here the direction inverts that space.

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1. Thinking like a director and editor, describe how each shot spotlights key actions.

When Sinatra heads toward the turn of the corridor, Garrett is right there waiting for him in that narrow hallway. There is nowhere for him to hide. The music matches the actor's actions perfectly. When they start running, the music speeds up. Then the music stops as soon as she calls out, 'hey!'. When she sings the line, 'start playing ball with me' he tosses her the ball and once again, it adds up to the music. For some reason Ann-Margret's scene in Viva Las Vegas comes to mind - 'My Rival Is A Baby Blue Racing Car'. Garrett is obviously the more aggressive one while Sinatra tries to dodge her by at first running away and then playing along. It's similar to their roles in On The Town.

2. It’s interesting to examine how musicals segue into musical numbers. How does this sequence prepare us for the singing?

The music building says it all, the way it's cut off by Garrett's 'hey!' throws a lot of anticipation into the picture. She sure has something to say whether he wants to listen or not and she's not going to let him get away.

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And after I posted I was glad to see another poster confirm my shot count. MrDougLong did even better by time stamping each one.  Thank you.  

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Garrett is the person who is trying to attract Frank Sinatra. When he is trying to get away from her, you know the female is going to follow him until he pays attention to her. When she is near him and he backs away, the audience knows she is going to start to sing sooner or later. Also Frank Sinatra slides down the banister in one scene of the clip and Garrett catches him. The song she sings is saying that "love is fate" and he can't escape it.

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1 hour ago, Cakane said:

I’m definitely seeing a switch here with the Man Sinatra being the innocent while the Women Garrett intensely Persues the man, the wolf shall we say; all in great comedic fun. All the dance moments seem simple enough and play right through with ease. The movements are quick but are quite tightly choreographed and one shot follows another in perfect sequence.  

Enthusiasum bounds from Garrett which makes the whole number work the singing just seems to follow along with the routine.  It’s all done to perfection. 

To bad about the blacklisting of Betty Garrett as her style reminded me of character actress Mary Wicks (see two images) and I think we missed out on some great moments.  

E5BFF984-3FED-4E47-8DC5-BFB270A6AFA3.jpeg

458EB840-4FC5-4EB3-9192-BCA0867266CC.jpeg

I have to add Marjorie Main, Marie Dressler, Una O'Connor, Beulah Bondi, and the divine Margaret Dumont. There are many, many more, but these ladies all play to a type under discussion here. Margaret Hamilton has to get a mention as well as the greatest individual character performance by a character actor in "The Wizard of Oz" -- although I would l love to hear what others think might bet the best character performance of all time. 

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saw the clip and you could tell they were going to sing and dance they were alone in a big room, they both sing and then they went out to the stadium and they then finished the song and dance which was very good and enjoyed it .

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1. This scene is not overly visually demanding, so every shot has an action (Frank throwing the ball to Betty, Betty picking him up, etc.) that you really focus on. Thinking like a director or editor, I think this simplistic style really helps to make sure that the song and the interaction between the characters is the main focus of the scene, rather than an intricate dance sequence that distracts from their interactions.

2. This sequence does not really prepare us for singing, it pretty much just starts. The only real indication that the viewer has that there is about to be a song is Betty Garrett walking in perfect time with the music in the background. 

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Take Me Out to the Ball Game

In this Daily Dose scene we see Betty Garrett "go in for the kill"  in her persuit of Frank Sinatra (well their characters at least).  Each scene is choreographed to highlight her determination to win her man and also to reflect the physical attributes of the two characters.  I noticed that they were equal in size and height, Sinatra was no match for her. As they moved up and down the bleachers, the forward movement periodically stopped to highlight the physical comedic action between the two principles.  No way would these scenes have  worked with John Wayne, for example, (imagine her trying to pick him up).  

At the out set the light music, change in facial expression and movement of the characters is an obvious lead in to the next musical number.

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I had understood that MGM was grooming Betty Garrett to be an Ethel Merman-type.  She started on Broadway belting out songs like "South America, Take It Away", and even understudying Merman.  This might explain her lack of femininity and her boisterous singing in this number.

1.  I notice that there is a lot of audio attention paid to their feet.  We hear their feet hit the floor as Garrett blocks Sinatra in the hallway.  And we hear the sound of their feet as they run up the stairs, and as they move around the bleachers, often punctuating the beat of the music or the stressed notes.

The cut from Sinatra to double is cleverly done as he begins to slide down the bannister.  But the hat covering his face at the end seems a bit awkward to me.  I can't help but think that the director could have thought of a better way of ending the sequence that made the switch back from double to Sinatra more convincing.  And there is something unsatisfactory about not seeing his face at the song's conclusion.

2.  The energy continuously increases until it turns into song.  The scene begins with Sinatra entering the hallway with some jaunty background music underlining his tossing a baseball, but the background music quickly turns into dance accompaniment as Garrett blocks his passage in choreographed moves.  The music crescendos as they run into the stadium, getting increasingly louder until the music stops as she shouts "Hey!", and for the first time in this sequence we hear a voice.  After a moment of silence, she sings.  So we progressively move from a light scene with background music, to choreographed movement suggestive of a dance, to music that gets louder and louder, to a voice, to a song.

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As someone else confessed, I didn't take this movie too seriously when it was on Tuesday -- kinda half watched it, wasn't that attracted to the plot (I hate baseball), and actually had already deleted it from the TIVO to make room for Thursday before even getting to the material for today. Now I'm going to see if I can retrieve it from the Trash to watch it again more seriously. What I'm learning from this course is that it takes a lot of skill to make a musical, and even the ones that aren't flat-out-4-stars operate at a very high level.  I guess that's what makes this the golden age of the musical, and why MGM is so appreciated as the maker of consistently quality product.

Watching this sequence as a quasi-dance number is enlightening. Of course it was tightly blocked, orchestrated, what have you. Contrary to what some others have said, I like this kind of scene in a musical. For some reason it feels more natural to me and the segue into the "dance" makes sense. We see Frank coming out of the doorway accompanied by some seemingly random, jaunty walking music that could be the kind of background that you hardly pay attention to, but as Betty pounces, the music punctuates each move she makes, and then you realize that the sound is perfectly synchronized to each movement. I recognize that this is "low-level dancing," but it is high-level movement, and makes the chase scene more lively and more interesting.

Watching these two court each other (as also in On the Town), I hardly know how to contextualize this storyline where Frank is so shy and Betty so aggressive. I'm not sure how it relates to various war-time messages to women, because women were always taught to pursue a man, although usually passively-aggressively. But the motif of a man-chaser is pretty common throughout stage history, so I don't know if this is exactly new or not, even if women are taking more charge. But the messages in these films is that there are two types of women: the beautiful ones are chased, and the less attractive ones must do the chasing. Interesting that in the end, both types get their man. I guess there are two types of men, those who chase and those who must be pushed a little. I certainly know what category I fit into!

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1 hour ago, Soprano12 said:

When Garrett sings, “start playing ball with me” he tosses a baseball to her, she catches it, then throws it away.

Notice too how we hear the baseball hit the ground.  It breaks the temporary silence and fills in the beat while the music is silent.

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  1. The wide shots show more of the traditions between the closer shots. These wide shots also serve to show just how large the set is and how important this chase is to the plot. The closer shots do a wonderful job of highlighting the comedic moments of the scene. For example, the moment when she is pointing between herself and Sinatra, and when she messes up his gat and puts it back on him. 
  2. When Sinatra is leaving the locker room and Garrett is waiting for him, choreographed movement between the two goes in time with the orchestral arrangement. As they are running out to the bleachers, the only natural transition would be into song. 

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1.  I adore Betty Garrett and was happily surprised to find her in this film.  As many others have commented, Betty's character is literally lying in wait for Frank's.  From the small hallway to the large stadium, the two are the kept in the shot and makes it clear that he really can't escape  - It's Fate that they be together.  I have to hand it to her, this number had some really physical moments in it  - such as running up the bleachers (I wonder how many times she had to repeat that feat) to picking Frank Sinatra up.  I like how the shots are mostly contained to them waist up, only a couple of times do we see their entire bodies, it helps create a more intimate feel.  In this role reversal, Frank's character, like most of the women who are wooed by the leading man, doesn't really need to much convincing.  I do find it interesting that whereas the hero usually just has to kiss the woman of his desires to win her over, in this scene Betty truly chases him but there's no kissing. 

2.  The music starting when he leaves the locker room and then becoming synchronized to their movements segues the scene into the song.

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First of all, I love the Garrett/Sinatra pairing. I saw them first in "On the Town" and then discovered "Take Me Out to the Ballgame." My favorite of the two movies is "On the Town."

1. Thinking as a director, having Betty Garrett laying "in wait" for Sinatra as he comes out of the locker room, shows her dominance in the beginnings of the relationship. As she confronts him, the dance begins. Towards the end of the dance, Garrett takes the bleacher "stairs" just like Sinatra showing her fierce intent to pursue Sinatra at all costs. In the end she catches her man, even though he thinks he is making a quick get-away sliding down the rail.

2. As Betty Garrett is pursuing Frank Sinatra, we come to a point where they are face to face and as the saying goes, "something has to give," and that something is either stare at each other or start singing. I'm glad they chose to start singing. Having Sirius XM radio in my car, I keep it on the Sinatra channel, I love the music from that era.

😍❤️

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8 minutes ago, jfanguy said:

Having Sirius XM radio in my car, I keep it on the Sinatra channel, I love the music from that era.

😍❤️

Me, too. It's great for getting the American Songbook. 

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I confess to ignorance, here, because although I noticed the different points of contact between Garrett and Sinatra, and the pounding with the rhythm of the song, and the walking in time, I don't know how the movie got me to do that. I've noticed it in other movies before. I am watching the main character walk through a crowd. How did I get led to watch that particular person? Is it the light? Is it the way the camera moves? I don't know. For me, it is movie magic.

I think the movie led up to the singing by the background music as Garrett chases after Sinatra, up the stairs and around the bleachers. It was the introduction, not background that gets ignored even as it heightens mood. The choreography in this clip was fun. I didn't need to see footwork to understand clearly that Sinatra was doomed! His fate was sealed!

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Betty Garrett chasing Frank Sinatra is meant to show build in the music for when Garrett finally starts singing. The specific small movements between Garrett and Sinatra reflect the music: Garrett spinning Sinatra and the descending of the music as Sinatra is trying to get away from Garrett. The meeting of Garrett and Sinatra inside the stadium and then the chase onto the bleachers let the audience know that a musical number is going to happen which will have some pertinence on the plot. 

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1. Thinking like a director and editor, describe how each shot spotlights key actions.

Practically in every shot Shirley is in control is of the situation and Dennis is looking for a way out.

2. It's interesting to examine how musicals segue into musical numbers. How does this sequence prepare us for the singing.

As Shirley starts running after Dennis, the music intensifies, which lets the viewer know that the singing is going to start.

 

 

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4 hours ago, Suzy-Q said:

Tried to watch this movie and fell asleep in the middle. Just not my cuppa. And I like baseball. Maybe it was Esther Williams, who is about as appealing as a bowl of oatmeal.

I'm currently watching Easter Parade with Peter Lawford, and having watched Esther yesterday, I'm terribly thankful that he never made a movie opposite Esther Williams (please don't prove me wrong) as he seems the male equivalent of Esther. Dullsville. Classically attractive but utterly lacking in charisma. 

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1 hour ago, MotherofZeus said:

I have to add Marjorie Main, Marie Dressler, Una O'Connor, Beulah Bondi, and the divine Margaret Dumont. There are many, many more, but these ladies all play to a type under discussion here. Margaret Hamilton has to get a mention as well as the greatest individual character performance by a character actor in "The Wizard of Oz" -- although I would l love to hear what others think might bet the best character performance of all time. 

Oh yes you definitely mentioned some great Character Actresses. Marjorie Main though really held her own with her own movies in Ma & Pa kettle. Now weren’t they fantastic. I have them all on DVD including the Egg and I with Fred MacMurry and Claudette Colbert where it all began. I even have a first edition book of The Egg and I. And Margaret Dumont in many Marx Brothers movies. My Dad was a big fan; not my cup of tea I never really enjoyed Slapstick deadpan style comedy, but I do appreciate it.  

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1 minute ago, Cakane said:

Oh yes you definitely mentioned some great Character Actresses. Marjorie Main though really held her own with her own movies in Ma & Pa kettle. Now weren’t they fantastic. I have them all on DVD including the Egg and I with Fred MacMurry and Claudette Colbert where it all began. I even have a first edition book of The Egg and I. And Margaret Dumont in many Marx Brothers movies. My Dad was a big fan; not my cup of tea I never really enjoyed Slapstick deadpan style comedy, but I do appreciate it.  

The Marx Brothers hit me where I live.  High and low brow. Nothing in the middle.  

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WOW! in a way the real Frank Sinatra probably never had to put up with? REALLY?

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