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DAILY DOSE OF DELIGHT #8 (From CABIN IN THE SKY)

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Today's Daily Dose of Delight is from CABIN IN THE SKY. As you reflect upon the clip of Ethel Waters singing to Little Joe, her presence and performance, and the importance of this song in the narrative, please respond in this forum.

 

  1. What do you notice about the way the scene is directed as Petunia goes to Joe’s bedside and as we cut to her outside hanging laundry? What does this tell us about her relationship, and the connection to the song?
  2. How would the song change if it was a woman singing about her child? Does the cultural meaning change? How?
  3. What other thoughts do you have about this film, the issues of black Americans during WWII, and this film’s importance in this era?

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1) It shows she is the dutiful wife and that she is hoping that he loves her and that she wants to comfort and take care of him.

2) I don't think it would change at all because we are dealing with devotion and love and as with a child we protect the ones we love.

 

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In his review of the "Hallelujah" DVD, Bob Mondello explains: "The DVDs all (including "Cabin In the Sky") begin with a legend you cannot fast-forward through. It says: 'The films you are about to see are a product of their time. They may reflect some of the prejudices that were commonplace in American society, especially when it came to racial and ethnic minorities. Those depictions were wrong then, and are wrong today. These films are being presented as they were originally created because to do otherwise would be the same as claiming those prejudices never existed.'" I suppose the prejudices referred to in this clip would be Waters' complete acceptance of her husband, despite his tawdry behavior in gambling away hard earned money needed by the couple, which apparently led in part to his being shot. Also, Waters' unquestioning faith in God could be what the DVD warning refers to, in addition to depicting Anderson as shiftless with a wandering eye, and lack of self-control. 

1.What do you notice about the way the scene is directed as Petunia goes to Joe’s bedside and as we cut to her outside hanging laundry? What does this tell us about her relationship, and the connection to the song?

Having not seen the film, I can only suppose that the man standing at the end of the bed dressed in white as a kind of drum major is an angel, as he vanishes, or fades out in the middle of the scene. In other '40s films, directors used angels in the plot, but they were usually dressed in old-fashioned clothes (Its a Wonderful Life") or in formal, yet then-contemporary garb ("Here Comes Mr Jordan"). The fact that the black angel is dressed as a band leader in white is odd, but may be part of the "prejudice" at play.

Waters is sitting dejected until she hears Anderson call her name. Once she enters his sickroom and finds him conscious, she declares that he is alright! Although I thought it was presumptuous of her, I imagine her complete faith in God answering her prayers is demonstrated here. Minnelli's use of Butterfly McQueen ("Miss Scarlett, I don't know nothin' about birthin' babies") is definitely an outdated stereotype meant to be comic relief, hence the DVD warning.

Waters begins her song at Anderson's bedside and then continues to finish the song whilst collecting her wash from the line. Her faith in God was justified because Anderson is sitting up, obviously recovering from his wounds. Waters voice grows more lilting and joyful, and her mood is more girlish, flirtatious, and carefree once outside as she believes her husband will survive, and that he loves her. Despite all of his faults that is all she says she wants. Although some housewives might think washing and drying laundry the old-fashioned way was drudgery, Waters is happy with her lot in life because her husband loves her. The song expresses all of these thoughts and the manner in which she sings it sells it to the audience.

2.How would the song change if it a woman was singing about her child? Does the cultural meaning change? How?

It would be strange if Waters was singing about her child as the lyrics talk about "his kiss," and Waters drapes her husband's freshly washed and dried shirt around her as if in an embrace. Those sentiments would have to change.

Although as a mother I can imagine being as joyful and grateful as Waters if a child was saved from a gunshot wound, I would not be singing and dancing in a flirtatious and girlish manner. The mood would be more motherly, caring, and nurturing. The cultural meaning would not change (whatever that means), but the feeling would be different.

3.What other thoughts do you have about this film, the issues of black Americans during WWII, and this film’s importance in this era?

In addition to my previous comments about the racial aspects of this all black musical, I would add that director Minnelli was a consummate professional. All of his films are meticulous in detail in terms of the sets, costumes, lighting and shot composition. I believe this is the result of his starting out his professional life as a store window dresser, and moving to the position of set designer on Broadway. As this was his directorial debut, it was cagey of him to choose a genre no other MGM director focused on, namely the all black musical.

Any film showing blacks in a positive light necessarily led to a kind of unification with their white fellow citizens, as well as a new found appreciation of blacks who were serving their country in the military.

 

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I liked this number from Cabin in the Sky.The song was sung beautifully by Ethel Waters. One of the analysis questions was how this scene would be different if it had been done with a child, instead of a husband. Petunia sings her song to Joe lovingly, as someone in love, rather then with love. She is not young here, yet she exhibits a young love's angst when she is worried, and one of innocence as if it were a new love, rather than love reborn, as her husband recuperates.

In the first scene, she sings softly. She nurses Joe like a sick child with tender, loving care. She holds his head to make him rest, and continues her song - a lullaby that he appreciates. She rests her head on the pillow beside him. It is not a sensual, passionate gesture, but a simple one that embodies past years of a steady type of love (agape) which most couples settle into. ThIs aura of love - the domestic love is stronger than passionate love. It is the forever kind. She wants Joe to get well, so that they can live their lives together..

The second scene shows that Joe is recovering and Petunia is joyful. As she takes down the laundry from the line (a domestic chore), she cradles Joe's shirt in her arms (metaphorically embracing him). There is an almost teenage giddiness about her, as she bursts with happiness. She and Joe will be together soon again as a couple.  

Ethel Waters's voice is exceptional, and ranges from a lilting soprano to an more earthy lower register. It reflects the classic singers of the musical genres of the 30's, combined with the lower, jazzy tone of the 40's  

Most of all, I really like this clip because it demonstrates the wedding vows - in sickness and in health, which is a pure American value of hearth and home, so understood by audiences of the day through religious and cultural traditions.

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Ethel Waters' character is relieved that her prayers were answered & her husband is alive. It's obvious that her happiness revolves around her love for her husband. Even as life goes on, with him in it even the most mundane of tasks is pleasant because of her love for her husband. All I can say is that when I viewed this movie this week, I was smiling throughout this entire song. Ethel Waters was an amazing actress & singer & like Judy Garland you couldn't help yourself but feel good when she sang this song. The song wouldn't change much if she were singing to a child because she pretty much allowed him to be the "bad" boy gambler who was always running around while she worked hard, taking in laundry to make ends meet. Again, her happiness revolves around her love for her husband as long as he's nearby. I loved this movie. It was a veritable who's who of so many really talented Black American actors of the time. During WWII, Blacks were being accepted & serving in the armed forces. They proudly served as all Americans did. 

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I think the cut to her hanging laundry symbolizes her dedication to her household duties and family. It also serves to show the passage of time since Little Joe is now well enough to join her outside.

If Petunia was singing to a child, I think the theme of devotion would not be as powerful because in the case of romantic relationship, a woman must actively choose to stay with a man who cheats and gambles away his money. I can't think of what a child would do in the film to test Petunia's love that would be as grave as Joe's offenses.The fact that Petunia sings that (in spite of all his wrongdoing), all she needs is the love of Little Joe shows a sense of unconditional love that underscores the theme of the film

One theme we explored this week is that filmmakers were trying to promote a sense of unity in the country, no matter what a person's background was. The issues in this film are universal (love, death, etc.) so I believe the filmmakers were trying to highlight issues with which both black and white citizens struggled.

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  1. What do you notice about the way the scene is directed as Petunia goes to Joe’s bedside and as we cut to her outside hanging laundry? What does this tell us about her relationship, and the connection to the song?

It tells me that she loves this man very much and his well being is important to her happiness.  That the usual daily chores or the lack of things in every day life are bearable for her because she has him in her life.  She goes from being totally heartbroken and dejected to contented with life again simply because he is going to recover from his injuries.

  1. How would the song change if it was a woman singing about her child? Does the cultural meaning change? How?

I don't think the over joy and love would change in the song.  This woman is one that loves deeply and I can see her as an extremely loving mother.  But the over all tone would be a little different because she would be singing of a completely different kind of love.  That being the difference between the love a woman has for her child compared to the kind of love she has for her man.  Other than that the depth of that love and the devotion to the person would still be the same.

  1. What other thoughts do you have about this film, the issues of black Americans during WWII, and this film’s importance in this era?

I can see that they are trying to show us that Black American's are not all that different from white americans.  They have love in their lives, are devoted to their families and friends and they have struggles.  This film is important to the era because it was a step forward for black performers.  Giving them the lead in a growing part of the entertainment world.  For a change these black characters are the stars of the show, not regulated to playing maids and butlers or background characters.

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1. What do you notice about the way the scene is directed as Petunia goes to Joe’s bedside and as we cut to her outside hanging laundry? What does this tell us about her relationship, and the connection to the song?

Petunia is so attentive to Joe. The camera stays on her as she sings to him. You focus only on her emotions how she explains how her husband makes her feel, even after all the stress he puts her thru. She has his back whether he is physically there or not. This shows true love

2. How would the song change if it was a woman singing about her child? Does the cultural meaning change? How?

When there is a child involved, the emotions would still be there. The love is everlasting, young or old. Society has always had the bond between a parent and child to be unbreakable. Man and wife, you see the relationships crumble and the parties separate. But depending on the emotional state of the marriage a similar bond like the parent/child can have the same effect.

3. What other thoughts do you have about this film, the issues of black Americans during WWII, and this film’s importance in this era?

During this era, the effects of the war hit everyone. In the African American community, unity has always been there. The film shows a positive light towards, love and faith in God.  Regardless of race, struggles are the same. Everyone having to do there part to survive. When you needed an escape, you congregate at the local club.

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Daily Dose #8

  • What do you notice about the way the scene is directed as Petunia goes to Joe’s bedside and as we cut to her outside hanging laundry? What does this tell us about her relationship, and the connection to the song? This scene shows the love of an ideal wife to her husband who is hurt. She tends him and looks after him just like her own child. The song is about “Petunia’s love for Little Joe”. Her love for him is everlasting no matter what troubles come to their lives.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                           
  • How would the song change if it was a woman singing about her child? Does the cultural meaning change? How? The emotions of the song would be the same even if she sings to her husband or her child. Well, this song’s lyrics may change for her child.                                                                                                                                               

 

  • What other thoughts do you have about this film, the issues of black Americans during WWII, and this film’s importance in this era? At the time of WWII, we could see that The Black Americans are portrayed as peace loving people and they attend the Church service every Sunday. This reflects that they are just like the Americans who love their families and loved ones. Most of all, they believe in the Almighty.                                                                                                                                 

 

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Daily Dose #8  Petunia & Little Joe

 

My goodness she (Ethel Waters) Petunia is devoted to him isn't she?  Gambling...but he (Eddie Anderson) Joe wins & she being a church going woman doesn't want money from gambling so she prays for him  to lose.   Joe tells Petunia he will buy her a new washing machine...though they have no electricity...he does this & the wringer style machine is on the porch in a scene.He was true to his word about that & he does try to be a good church going man. I like the scene where Petunia sings while gathering in the laundry. This leads to another scene at their countryside home place...the dice playing scene:

What I like is the scene w/ Jim Henry & his buddy who owns & operates the music hall tavern Jim Henry's Paradise club (w/loaded dice) again w/ the loaded dice like "Hallelujah" & Chick  (Nina Mae McKinney) w/the lucky 7 dice design on her dress...the scene where Petunia gambles...yes now she gambles but not for money but to even things out & she wins...she beats Jim Henry w/ his own trick dice taken away...she fights for what is hers...Little Joe is her man & she intends to keep him even in the afterlife...though it is just a dream b/c they are still alive in real life at the closing of the movie "Happiness is a Thing Called Joe"

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1. What do you notice about the way the scene is directed as Petunia goes to Joe’s bedside and as we cut to her outside hanging laundry? What does this tell us about her relationship, and the connection to the song?

As the song begins with Petunia at Little Joe’s bedside, the meaning of the song comes across as an urgent prayer for his recovery and the care she shows her husband in his time of need. Here, it is particularly appropriate that the character is “Little” Joe, as Petunia’s treatment of her husband is very nurturing, much in the way a mother would care for a sick child. Later, as the scene shifts outside to the line of laundry, we see that Petunia’s devotion to her husband carries over into her domestic duties; Petunia’s happiness, as the song suggests, comes from her love of Joe. As a result, she is willing... more than that, she finds joy in the daily chores that help support and bring comfort to her husband’s life. This is seen later in the film as well, when Little Joe’s gift to Petunia is an electric washing machine. She is brought to tears over the gift, a tool that will help her better care for herself and her husband, which will only increase her joy. The song is beautifully sung by Waters, despite the statements the scene makes about a married woman finding happiness in her blind devotion to her husband and the problematic racism of the stereotypical dialect/slang used in the lyrics.

2. How would the song change if it was a woman singing about her child? Does the cultural meaning change? How?

In many respects, Petunia’s behavior towards Little Joe is similar to the way one might expect a mother to treat her child. However, even if the performance might not have appeared much different, the cultural context and meaning of the scene would change quite a bit if Joe were a child. Rather than being a song about a woman’s devotion to her husband (or nation, as the subtext suggests) in spite of his troubles, a song directed toward a child would suggest the themes of selflessness and sacrifice. Petunia finding happiness in a child called Joe would set up the idea that she is setting aside her own ambitions in order to build a better future for her son. 

3. What other thoughts do you have about this film, the issues of black Americans during WWII, and this film’s importance in this era?

The film is a problematic mix of its technical quality and the racial stereotypes it portrays when viewed through a 21st century lens. Waters is magnificent here, and the musical and dance talent that is assembled in the cast is a “who’s who” of top African American performers of the day. For me, the most problematic scene of the film that illustrates the film’s assets and it’s critical flaw is the “Shine” sequence. The song is an expertly-choreographed and executed dance number, worthy of praise on the part of the filmmakers and the performer. Minnelli’s mise-en-scene is flawless, and “Bubbles” (John William Sublett) gives a stellar dance performance. However, the lyrics and the stereotypical, affected delivery are so overtly racist by modern standards that the scene is difficult to watch. Is is amazing? Is it appalling? Yes to both.

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One of the concepts I think we all need to remember as we go through these movies is that we are looking at history through our modern eyes. Cabin in the Sky is at once lyrical and stereotypical.  We have to try to view this film as a product of its time.

That being said, the beauty of the songs and the choreography is smashing.

 

 

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1. Petunia has always had unwavering faith and a deep down belief in Little Joe. From bedside to laundry...it's all a metaphor for dedication to their marriage, their home and all that it entails. This is unconditional love scene at its best. She sings about what makes her happy even if the chores behind it entail toiling and hard work. She wants to "give" and in return all she wants is for Joe to simply "accept"...without complications and distractions. Everything that has taken place in their lives is stripped away so that we see her view of the essence of their relationship.

2. Wife...mother...the role of women has always been one of care giving. I can easily see how this song can be sung to a child (oddly her husband is called "Little Joe"). Children are helpless and all of their needs must be taken care of and provided by a caring adult. Joe lies there dependent on Petunia who "gives" unconditionally.  I  could easily envision a child who says nothing, just looks into the face of the mother and whose mother looks back at the child and absorbs the connection with joy and unwavering and unconditional love. Little Joe is silent in this scene but we see everything in Petunia's face. I think she can envision a Little Joe Jr.

3. As a child of the 1960's and looking back through a 21st century lens, I sometimes feel ashamed at all of the stereotypes that films portrayed about black Americans, Asians, etc.  I try to imagine what it must have felt like to live in a country at war where much of life surrounded war efforts and sacrifices. Add to that the compounding factors of overt racism. What a weight to carry.  It is no accident that the film is laden with top black American performers many of whom had "crossover" appeal.  Were they assembled in one film to show off how talented black Americans were/are?

This film focuses in on the same values that wartime American focused on...the importance of home, the issues of luck and second chances, the fragile nature of relationships and family, faith in God and strength to resist temptations that can cloud our view of what is important. 

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1.       What do you notice about the way the scene is directed as Petunia goes to Joe’s bedside and as we cut to her outside hanging laundry? What does this tell us about her relationship, and the connection to the song? The lighting by Joe's bed is arranged so a key light catches Ethel Waters’ face when she looks up to talk to God, which we see as the strongest relationship throughout the film. The blocking is arranged so the relationship between Petunia and Joe (Eddie “Rochester” Anderson) at first seems to be more mother-child than wife-husband, especially the way Ethel Waters grins and pokes at him in his sick bed. The camera swivels to the left to catch them in a close-up two-shot with heads on the pillow, seeming more wife-husband. The cut to the outdoor clothesline is shown as evidence that Petunia is glad to work hard as long as Joe loves her. Waters keeps smiling and singing as she takes the sheets down. She giggles as she pushes the invalid Joe back in his wheelchair (for no apparent reason) and then hugs his clean shirt at the end of the song.

2.      How would the song change if it was a woman singing about her child? Does the cultural meaning change? How? A wife’s love for a husband is different than a mother’s love for a child. We tend to think of mothers, particularly in this era and under the Production Code’s focus on family values, as being sacrificial for their children. The song works well in that context, evidenced by Judy Garland singing it to her son Joey in concert (audio clip below).

3.       What other thoughts do you have about this film, the issues of black Americans during WWII, and this film’s importance in this era? Blackface, a carryover from the minstrel days of the 1800s, was still an acceptable form of entertainment in mainstream American movie musicals in the 1940s. These include Babes on Broadway (1941, Mickey Rooney & Judy Garland in a full minstrel number), Holiday Inn (1942, Bing Crosby in the “Abraham” number), Dixie (1943, Crosby again, as a minstrel performer), and The Jolson Story (1946, Larry Parks as Al Jolson in blackface) and its 1949 sequel. African-American actors in 1940s studio films were generally relegated to various forms of the obedient servant. Therefore, it was significant to see a film in which all the roles, including the protagonists, were black. As with Hallelujah (1929), Cabin in the Sky (1943) was created primarily by white men and there were undeniably racial stereotypes, but it still constituted representation and featured the musical talents of great stars rarely seen on the screen. For African-American audiences, it would have been unique to see cultural representation in an MGM musical.

 

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1. What do you notice about the way the scene is directed as Petunia goes to Joe’s bedside and as we cut to her outside hanging laundry? What does this tell us about her relationship, and the connection to the song?

The bedroom is cut in planes of light and dark and is heavily shadowed. This lighting and the camera angle make extraneous props unnecessary as the two share gentle touches. This style of mise-en-scène combined with the medium close ups of Petunia and Joe together project a feeling of intimacy the lyrics and Ethel Water's intonation help to advance.  

Then the scene switches to the outdoors. Petunia continues her song as she takes down laundry from the line while Joe sits at a distance in a wheelchair watching her as he recuperates. Petunia breaks away from her laundry to move Joe in his wheelchair out of the sun. She then returns to her laundry. 

The couple is separated by more than twenty feet but the lyrics and Ethel Water's singing skills bridge the gap of the distance between the two. As well, they bridge every problem which might separate the couple. The close of the number when Petunia wraps Joe's shirt sleeves around her neck and then embraces the shirt as if Joe is inside of it is very touching. It reinforces her total love and need of her husband for her happiness.

Petunia is overwhelmingly joyous that Joe has survived being shot and everything encapsulated in these scenes and the song as written and sung shout this fact. 

2. How would the song change if it was a woman singing about her child? Does the cultural meaning change? How?

The lyrics would need to be different bc honestly sung as they are to Joe they would be slightly creepy to me if sung to a child.

Culturally, the meaning would change. A husband and wife are a cohesive unit on a more equitable footing. The pairing is meant to endure and remain static wherein a parent-child unit is meant to change and is dynamic in the sense the child matures and leaves the home. In addition, the loyalty of spouses is more akin to the loyalty of an individual to his or her country.These are important distinctions especially at this time when many young adults are leaving their homes and parents to work and fight in the war machine of WWII.

3. What other thoughts do you have about this film, the issues of black Americans during WWII, and this film’s importance in this era?

I think this movie was vital to black Americans of the time as well to other minorities and whites. All Americans were being asked to make and were making enormous sacrifices for their country. 

It was important that after years of being relegated to outsider status as maids, cooks, chauffeurs, bellhops, etc. Blacks were finally seen as fully fleshed out human beings not stereotypes. Individuals worthy of starring roles as average Americans though there are still stereotypes exhibited in this film.

Though the military was still segregated during WWII blacks were fighting and working in the armed forces. The Tuskegee Airmen are a perfect example as well as the roles filled by thousands of other black Americans in the military and war time factory work. They were as much a part of the victory as were white Americans.

The character of Petunia is such an engaging, loving characterization that at that time, despite your race, only a heartless person could resist sharing emotionally what this woman was feeling. It is impossible, at least for me not to be emotionally connected to her. And as we all know familiarity breeds recognition and acceptance. Vitally important at that time, as any.

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  1. What do you notice about the way the scene is directed as Petunia goes to Joe’s bedside and as we cut to her outside hanging laundry? What does this tell us about her relationship, and the connection to the song? When the song cuts to her outside hanging laundry, she is just still working away but in a happy manner because her husband is okay and alive. And so she sings about it while working.
  2. How would the song change if it was a woman singing about her child? Does the cultural meaning change? How? No it does not change at all. Love is love. Weather its about a child, a husband, a lady friend, a friend or a family member.

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1. The scene is directed to emphasize Petunia's devotion to her husband and her vow to love him "in sickness and in health."

2. If the song was about a woman singing to her child, the song would have a more maternal tone and a different instrumental background.  The cultural meaning would not change because both instances would be examples of Petunia's capacity to love selflessly.

3. I think this is one of the most incredibly well done musical films.  The fact that Ethel Waters did not get cast in Hallelujah is wonderful because she would not have gotten as much of a chance to show off her talent in that movie as opposed to Cabin in the Sky.  I also love Lena Horne's performance in this film and still think it is ridiculous that she was not cast in Showboat.  Cabin in the Sky was important during this time because it was a movie made for African Americans at the request of African Americans.  This was a very different situation from the movie Hallelujah, which was made just for the sake of African Americans having their own movie musical.  During the time Cabin in the Sky was made, one of the major issues of African Americans during World War II was the segregation of the military.  African Americans were expected to risk their lives fighting racism in Europe, while dealing with racism in America.  It would not be until 1948, when the armed forces were finally desegregated by Harry Truman.

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Both the bedside and the laundry scenes show the woman’s devotion to her husband and family- her husband is alive and everything is going to be okay. While she thinks she might not have been able to go on if her husband had died, her faith in God and her strong community (she sends Butterfly McQueen’s character to tell others Joe is alive), she would have made it.  

Having her husband with her outside makes even doing a chore like the laundry ok- because he is still with her.

The song would have to change if she were singing to a child- the love a spouse has for her spouse is different than the love a parent has for a child. Spouses are partners that take on the world together- parents are protectors of their children. 

The film shows that families, that the relationship between husbands and wives, can be the same no matter the race. Petunia is devoted to her husband and her famiily, she is religious, she runs the house just like any other woman. Families of all races had men go and fight in WWII, come home and face same issues returning to society. Minnelli was trying to show there was no reason to think people were inferior (in talent, with the actors and with family issues, with the characters) just because they were not white. 

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The first time I heard this song was by Rosemary Clooney, but Ethel Waters does a beautiful job of singing and truly owns the song .  You see Petunia in disperse as she is sitting in the rocking chair, but runs to see Joe when he awakens briefly.  The emotion that is heard in Waters voice when she is singing to Joe.  Petunia is dedicated to Joe and to God.  When the scene cuts to the laundry, to me it indicates that Petunia would do anything for her man, making him comfortable and making sure he gets everything that he wants or needs.

This is not a song that would sung to a child unless the lyrics were changed.  For me this is more of an adult type of song.

In a way this is a stereotypical portrayal of blacks, showing the movie in a poor, rural large black area.  Blacks at the time of this movie were starting to come into their own.  They were serving in the military, even though they were basically segregated from the white soldiers. The movie does show that they can carry a movie without whites in it.  Hollywood may have been ahead of curve when it came to civil rights and portrayal of blacks.  One of the things that I noticed was the dancing.  The dancing seemed to be more looser and free flowing rather than a Fred and Ginger movie where everything is very well choreographed and absolutely perfect.      

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I could have watched an entire film featuring only Rex Ingram and his motley crew from the Hotel Hades.  They were not only comical but they were witty as well.  One aside that I loved came from Ingram as Lucifer, Jr (just that name alone is funny) when he said, “All the A-Idea boys are over in Europe,” a sly, sharp statement about Hitler and his minions indicating they were part of Satan’s crew, which, in context of the film makes perfect sense).  When Mantan Moreland (credited as “First Idea Man”) stated he created flies, it was priceless because flies are endlessly annoying and the script is implying that Lucifer doesn’t just traffic in evil, he handles annoyance as well. (Of course, this is Lucifer Junior  so perhaps he and his crew don’t get to play with evil so much, leaving that to Lucifer Senior, and only get a shot at things like annoying, pestering and irritating things.)  These guys could have used far more screen time! 

Black men and women both volunteered for World War II and their presence was welcomed.  The problem came upon returning home to the US.  After being granted what appeared equal status on the battlefield, once back home they were disheartened to discover virtually nothing had changed for them back in the US.  After offering up their lives in the war, they came home to the US where they were still denied equal rights as American citizens.  

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1.  Petunia is elated when Joe is alive; however, the work still needs to be done around the house, and the filming of her going about her business seems like a good way to advance that point and the ongoing plot.   The plot can continue now that the main characters are ok, Joe is alive, and Petunia is happy.   I think it also shows that she does love her life, her man, her work, and all of these have come together with the news that Joe is ok.

2.  The elation would still be there if a child was found to be ok, but it's a different love (but, in this case with Petunia, it would be unconditional whether Joe or a child).

3.  I have been fascinated with Cabin in the Sky since first seeing it, and I seem to see different things in it everytime I watch it.   Sure, it reflects a 1940's view of black Americans at the time, but the direction and acting of the film knock it up a notch or two from the blatantly stereotypical minstrels or Steppin Fetchit characters (and even the Bill Robinson character)--these characters are portrayed more like real people, and the emotions conveyed (sadness, fear, happiness) seems more universally displayed, without racial overtones or innuendo.  

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I think that when they show Petunia going to her clothesline it’s simply to show that she’s able to continue with the her daily life with joy knowing that Joy is going to okay. The way they showed her with Joes shirt and how it hugged around her neck just wrapped that up for me. And in the end it’s a triumph over good and evil  

I thing the words and how it was sung would have to be changed for a child. This was a song that was meaningful between a Husband and Wife. Of course that could be only because that is how I have first seen it. First impressions stay with us. 

It’s apparently a very important film for Black Americans Who had so many struggles during WWII. But at the time of its release it may of been received with mixed emotions as it seems to embrace a lot of southern folklore. Which I see as being shown as the fantasy that the movie is but that’s the enticement needed for the movie.  It definitely shows patriotism and that was of huge importance and a goal. 

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11 minutes ago, Cakane said:

I think that when they show Petunia going to her clothesline it’s simply to show that she’s able to continue with the her daily life with joy knowing that Joy is going to okay. The way they showed her with Joes shirt and how it hugged around her neck just wrapped that up for me. And in the end it’s a triumph over good and evil  

I thing the words and how it was sung would have to be changed for a child. This was a song that was meaningful between a Husband and Wife. Of course that could be only because that is how I have first seen it. First impressions stay with us. 

It’s apparently a very important film for Black Americans Who had so many struggles during WWII. But at the time of its release it may of been received with mixed emotions as it seems to embrace a lot of southern folklore. Which I see as being shown as the fantasy that the movie is but that’s the enticement needed for the movie.  It definitely shows patriotism and that was of huge importance and a goal. 

Maybe I'm nuts, but where does that thought come from - what if she were singing about a child instead of her husband.  Do we need to consult Dr. Freud here?  There is a certain "girlish" smile and twinkle in her eye that I hope would be different if it were a different situation but of course since we are watching what is there on film and not imagining another scenario, it could be due to that.   I find myself writing my responses and then looking just above to the comment above and often seeing the person has said much the same (which is why I don't like reading comments before I write my own or I would feel that I am being influenced by others' opinions) - but I will quote Cakane because I see she and I do have similar opinions and now I am tired of typing! 

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  1. What do you notice about the way the scene is directed as Petunia goes to Joe’s bedside and as we cut to her outside hanging laundry? What does this tell us about her relationship, and the connection to the song?
  2. How would the song change if it was a woman singing about her child? Does the cultural meaning change? How?
  3. What other thoughts do you have about this film, the issues of black Americans during WWII, and this film’s importance in this era?

1-The scene is directed in a way to show Petunia's undying and unwavering support and love for her spouse, and does, if I am being completely honest, really put women's rights back a few good steps as she is kneeling right down low at his bedside, and then GLEEFULLY taking down laundry, clearly thankful that she still has a husband for whom she can do menial chores...BUT I do understand the spirit for which it is meant, she is so grateful his life was spared that any chore is a blessing as long as he is home.

 

2-The sentiment can be similar from husband to child, as long as the person in question is safe and home, you too are happy and at peace, but of course the lyric supports a more romantic partner feel, as does the acting style.

 

3- I have read much about this and I think the issue is a mixed and complicated one, on the one hand, having an all African American musical was a boost to racial efforts and recognition, but stereotypes were also perpetuated in it thus setting the rights movement back a little too. Ultimately this is a positive step in the right direction, but one could argue that it still wasn't truly progressing race acceptance and relations as well as it could, and should have

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1. It looks like the shift from Petunia at Joe's bedside to her taking care of the laundry is showing a passage of time; Joe is slowly but surely recovering and Petunia can concentrate on the household chores while still being able to assist her husband. The scene shows us that while Petunia may not approve of Joe's gambling habit, she still loves him dearly and is not ready for him to leave her just yet.

2. If it were Petunia singing about her child, the lyrics would need to be changed to reflect that. The message would be the same (unconditional love for a loved one), but the song's execution would be different.

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