Dr. Vanessa Theme Ament

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

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Watching the clip from Take Me Out to the Ballgame makes me think of how much fun filming a dancing team like Sinatra and Garrett would've been.  Lots of work and timing precision but fun.  What talent on both sides singing and dancing and acting - superb.  I watch this movie over and over - can't get enough.  My favorite duet of theirs though is in High Society.  

You can anticipate Betty Garrett trying to "catch" Sinatra throughout the sequence.  So much fun.  Sinatra also always a good sport and would do just about anything, even if others thought it corney.  Love them.

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1. The camera pulls in tight to the actors, like when Garrett corners Sinatra at the beginning of the scene, to highlight how she traps Sinatra. When it pulls away, it gives the feeling of a chase as she races up the bleachers after him. That wide shot also gives a comedic effect because it's amusing to watch Garrett keep up with Sinatra in that long dress and heels.

2. The music builds up to a crescendo with Garrett's "hey!" which then immediately transitions into the musical number. 

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1. Betty Garrett chases Frank Sinatra around the bleachers, cornering him at every chance. The actions go with the words of the song, "it's too late", like Frank has no chance to escape. He seems to give in a little to her toward the end, but she definitely has the upper hand. 

2. Sometimes it's just a line, it doesn't need to be much, but you just know a song is coming! 

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1. The choreography here is mostly focused on Betty Garrett's pursuit of Frank Sinatra through the bleachers; they (and the camera) occasionally pause for gags, like Garrett sitting Sinatra down and trying to lie on his lap, or Sinatra throwing a baseball in response to Garrett's "Play ball with me." The bleachers sort of entrap Sinatra, aiding Garrett in her attempts, and allow for some nice up and down motion to create interest in the cinematography.  

2. I thought the musical segway was actually pretty clever. Sinatra is coming from another room and is accompanied by a jaunty kind of background music, not anything you'd think too much about. When he runs into Garrett, however, the music comes to a pause: she interrupts him musically as well as physically. The music then transitions into the notes of Garrett's song, rather seamlessly. 

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

The scene starts out with Dennis (Sinatra) relaxed tossing a ball as he enters the hallway where Shirley (Garrett) is laying in wait to pounce on him.  The narrow hallway helps illustrate that the "prey" here has no where to run from the "hunter".  Rather than push past her, he runs backward into the stadium/bleachers/ball field.  Shirley begins to sing her logical ultimatum letting Dennis know he shouldn't run or fight it anymore that fate has deemed them a couple. Even the setting shows the viewer that it's time for Dennis to "play ball" with Shirley, and no matter where he runs she is there waiting to get him.

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

When Dennis (Sinatra) enters the hallway, he is whistling and a little tune is playing in the background along with him.  He is also bouncing a ball in rhythm it seems to the tune.  Shirley (Garrett) has a playful look on her face as she spies him, with the music picking up tempo and matching their steps as they both begin to run.  It seems to reach a crescendo as she stops and yells "hey!", creating the intro to the song. 

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Betty Garett is trying to catch and woo Frank Sinatra.  Sinatra isn't sure of his feelings and is trying to avoid her.  He does everything he can but she is determined.  Moving up the stairs and into the bleachers shows the feelings of the charecters.  The background music at the beginning of the scene acts as the intro to the song.

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Blanche Sewell's expertise as a film editor is evidenced by the seamless flow of the characters, as they move throughout the scene, using the sets to enhance the choreography. At first, Betty blocks Frank in the narrow doorway, showing us at once that she is after him and he has nowhere to hide. She moves around him, backing him into a perfectly placed wall. When he ducks under, she pulls him back, and the chase begins, up the wide stairs, to a sign that reads" from mansion to cottage." Effortlessly, they dash across, finding another wall, where Frank tries unsuccessfully to escape. In one smooth move, he turns his head away and sits on the bench, where she lands on his lap, keeping him there. The control is all hers, as she lifts him up and twirls him around. At the stairs, he makes one more attempt, sliding down the rail, into her waiting arms, and he's trapped. All so smoothly and easily transitioned throughout the scene and inter-cut with the song and lyrics. 

After the chase scene, he is getting away, and Betty has to call him back to her, directly leading into "It's Fate Baby, It's Fate." One of my personal favorite songs in musical films. 

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Thinking like a director - this topic just highlights again how much I don't know!  There is so much in directing a musical that I have just taken for granted.  Take something small like the wind blowing the flags and her dress.  Did it add to the scene - yes.  Would I have thought about it? No!  I need to go back and watch again to see what I missed.  

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1.     This number is very, clean, precise and has a staccato feel. The editor would have to have a keen sense of the music, choreography and background sound to really punctuate each piece of the number. It would not be easy. The dance has so many “stop” moments, that if not mixing correct, could fall flat.  This was beautifully done knowing what all was involved in the finished product. It is amazing the tracks sync so well on these films, I never knew what was happening behind the scenes.

2.     I have found that aspect the most interesting in the early musicals, the ones I grew up the musical numbers advanced a character or story plot, these earlier musicals have more staged numbers, either in a club, or the actors are stage performers doing their job. This number does the transition well, Betty Garrett is perfectly perched, watching and waiting for Frank Sinatra to come by.  The way they move and look at it each other, you know a number is about to happen.  The song then further the relationship between the 2 actors, clearly stating Betty’s intentions and desires.

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1.       The key actions highlighted were the running up the stairs, the the knocking on the wall, and the running up the bleachers, in that dress, in addition to Betty lifting and swinging Frank on the bleachers no less! This scene really made Betty look like an aggressive woman and made Frank look like a little boy.

2.       This sequence prepares us for the singing as each key action pauses and the music also follows a swell and then calms so the actors can start their singing.

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I was surprised at how physical she is with Sinatra in this song; I was kind of creeped out by it. Usually it's the man who's pursuing the woman in musicals, so it is nice to see the gender roles reversed. But the fact she's so physical - grabbing his lapels, picking him up and putting him over her shoulders, catching him semi-bridal style - that is seems very "out-there" for the time period, not only in the movie itself, but also when it was made. I don't think society actively advocated young girls and women to physically pursue the man they were interested in. I haven't seen the movie, so I'm wondering what the outcome of their relationship is. 

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1. First of all, that was a riot to watch; Betty Garrett and Frank Sinatra are wonderful together. I love how the director kept the idea of Betty Garrett pursuing Sinatra by keeping his back to the audience for much of the actions. The close-ups were of Grable as she held control of the situation much to Sinatra’s character’s chagrin. 

2. The race up the stairs and into the park itself lends itself to this idea of Sinatra being pursued by Garrett, fully preparing the viewer for the song that immediately follows.

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

The number is perfectly choreographed with the song.  The two complement each other, such as the set up in the initial scene in the hallway, Betty Garrett is waiting and ready to peruse Frank Sinatra’s character.  Frank Sinatra backs into wall, while Garrett starts singing “it’s fate baby, it’s fate” “knocking at your door” while she has the top of the wall to knock on. 

2.  It’s interesting to examine how musicals segue into musical numbers. How does this sequence prepare us for the singing?  The hall scene as she following him out from underneath the bleachers. Wonderful!

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1. Betty Garrett is definitely the hunter in this cat and mouse game. It is well choreographed in movement as she is waiting in the hallway as he leaves the locker room. Then blocking him and chasing him up the bleachers to corner him. She is the lead and begins the song. Very playful scene to show how she is going to trap him. It is very well directed and edited. 

2.  The game that is the hunter and the hunted sets the scene for the song. She is cornering him and he will listen to her even if she has to catch him, every time he escapes.  He will not escape, like the slide down the bannister and she catches him and has the last say. 

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Since this song is primarily hers, the camera is angled to best capture her face in semi-close ups while she's singing, and wide shots during the instrumental sections of the song in order to highlight the choreography as they move up and down the bleachers. During each exchange/verse, he is tempted by her, but refuses and moves away. 

A professor in college once said to me, "musical numbers usually happen when the character can't hold the song back anymore. They MUST sing!"  In this case, Frank's character is getting away and the only way she can stop him is by starting to sing. She tries to stop him in the hallway, physically blocking him, and when he turns and runs up into the bleacher sections, she is losing ground so the only way she can stop him is by singing. It worked!

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1. Every shot in the scene utilizes the location and framing to have Sinatra constantly cornered by Garrett - against the walls, bleachers, railings, etc. It's a credit to the directing and editing that such a wide open space is made to seem so confining. By setting up each shot so that Garrett can use the setting to gain the upper hand, a fluid connection between the actress and the location is creatively used to conveying a kind of courtship "dance" with no actual dancing.

2. Even though the musical portion of this scene doesn't actually contain any dancing, there is still a fair amount of choreographed movement (the moment they meet face to face outside of the locker room and they step back and forth together) that preludes the singing and alerts us that a musical number is coming.

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1. Well you can definitely see the role reversal in this film with Ms. Garrett doing the pursuing of the reluctation 

O'l Blue eyes. It emphasises the fact that they are fated to be together no matter how hard Sinatra tries to get away.

2. The segway to music happens seamlessly as Ms. Garret and Frank exit out to the field and the chase is on.

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  1. Thinking like a director and editor, describe how each shot spotlights key actions.
    each shot shows a different type of flirtation from Garrett towards Sinatra. when in the stands she pretends to kiss him, teasing him. certain sounds go along with the body movements, Garret jumps into Sinatra's lap and you hear a loud sound from the band.

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Quick Side Note: Kudos to Garrett for running up the bleachers in a long skirt, petty coats, and, mostly likely, some sort of corset.

1.  The hallway is a great technique to create tension of determined pursuit. The director and editor then frame each scene to accentuate the pursuit. This is Betty's gag. Frank is vacillating, but playing hard to get -- which is a fun switch of gender roles. But, Betty is the center in this scene and the gag is her dogged pursuit of the man she loves. Her actions must be staged as bold and strong, the editing must highlight this strength.

2. We know there is going to an interaction the moment we see Betty Garrett try to corner Frank Sinatra in the hall.  There is a foot chase and the music escalates during the foot chase to provide an intro to Betty's song.

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1. I love how the camera leads the viewer right up to the ball park stands and shape of it to direct the song. There are also quite a few medium shots that are able to showcase their expressions. The moment also when the camera follows the two actors at 1:36 which is a great slow pan to showcase the moment where he wants to jump out of the ballpark. But she pulls him right back down and then goes back to the closer two shot that has been the staple throughout the song. This is a great sequence that uses the shape of the ballpark stands to lead the song and moment between the two actors.

2. There always seems to be a little bit of a set up before the singing starts usually indicated by the music introduction. Like for this particular scene it takes 20 seconds before the singing actually starts. She says Hey…then goes into the song after the camera switches to a closer two shot. Thus giving the singer time to take a breath before the singing actually starts.

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

When Frank stops running the two are high-lighted by the lighter exit box in the darker-shaded bleachers. The exit box acts like a frame for the action. Later their light colored clothes stand out against the darker shade of the bleachers. Then they get framed again against the baack wall at the top of the seats.

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

Betty is waiting, stalking really, frank in the hallway. The music is playful as Frank moves to the side to avoid Betty. She playfully jumps to the side to block him. He backs up, she runs after him and the music speeds up, faster and faster causing the audience to race to think what’s coming next. Then Betty suddenly speaks, stopping the music but starting the singing. This happens a lot in musical comedies.  The music will swell before the singing breaks out.

 

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

The first shot of Frank entering the hall puts him and Ms. Garrett in a confined space where she jumps up from a recline against the wall and starts the song, trapping him by matching his moves. 

Quickly, he backs out and into the stadium seating area. The camera pulls back to give us a wider shot as he runs away. Here the idea is freedom as amplified by the more expansive view.

She stops him with the yell "Hey!" and we're back into a closer space, the camera moving to the right to narrow the space between them, again tightening as he leans him backwards, then backs him up against the wall and traps him with her arms.

Again, as he slips away, the next shot moves to a mid-range shot and highlights their dual "dance", her chasing him with in sync steps. He's like a fish being reeled in with less and less room to maneuver in each subsequent shot. Reeled in...line let out for play...reeled in more...a little less line let out to wear him down.

Finally, we have the shot expanding as he makes his final run. When he reaches the end of the stands, now trapped with no exit, the remainder of the shots are medium range, finishing with his slide down the rail and being "caught" at the bottom. 

Fish in the net.

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

Upbeat, bouncy tune with Frank tossing the ball up in time to the music when he's stopped by her. The music stops. He moves, she moves, the music moves forward. He stops, she stops, the music stops. Then, again. As her starts to run the music matches their pacing (or the other way around), growing faster as he runs faster, then finally stops with her cry of "Wait!"

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1. The music is already started, as has the dancing which just lets you know they'll be singing involved.

2. It's a classic example of the most common way to announce an upcoming musical number.

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1) This song showcases the playfulness of the music by mirroring the sounds with actions, making it come alive. The director/editor needed to be the perfect team, communicating the message from the takes gathered to the way the film was cut together. Putting these two together with just enough space to spread out, but never too far, makes for the "chase scene" of the musical. In an atypical way, the woman is shown here as being strong and athletic (running, picking up Sinatra, etc) in a way to match the strength of her "target". The music and the action line up perfectly, from their running to their sliding down the railing, to handshakes and the catch/toss of the baseball. The foley artists had their work cut out for them!

2) The musical sequence was indicated to the audience when the background music (part of the score itself) moved from being generic, happy background filler to action-based, syncopated and rhythmic. It moves in time with Garrett as she corners Sinatra, and continues to speed up as they make their way out to the bleachers and continues to build until Garrett stops and says "Hey!" just as the music stops with her. This break between the action-propelling music and the beginning of the song notifies the audience that it was moving from score to song.

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