Dr. Vanessa Theme Ament

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

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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?

  • For one, she is happy that he is alive. As she approaches the bed early on, the covers are pulled over Little Joe's face. She pulls them back and is surprised and delighted just as she begins to sing. By the time she gets to the clothes line, life is getting back to normal. Joe is out of bed and sitting in a wheelchair. And she continues to sing and become more confident that the life she had with Joe before the shooting will continue for the foreseeable future. As the song says, being with Joe makes her happy -- and allows her to overlook his flaws.

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

  • She would be nurturing and delighted under both circumstances. But with a man, there are added expectations of what "happiness" will mean than there would be with a child. I don't know that this is "cultural," but it is how life works -- for anyone regardless of their race or social status.

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

  • To me, this film is so important in showing 1) the talented black performers of the time and 2) a fantastical, but still closer normal portrayal of what life would have been like for black Americans during the 1940s. It has its stereotypes, but it also has its truths. 

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

This song is about how she is excited to have her husband back and how much she loves her husband. If she were singing about her child I don't believe that it would change. No, I don't believe that the cultural meaning would change either. How the song would be sung would be different but no matter if it was her daughter or her husband she still would have the same feelings and the same excitement that they are alive. 

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I thought I posted this. I can not find it.

1. She is definitely a person of her time period. Women waited on the me and prayed for them, never complained. She loves him no matter what and continues life as if everything will be great. Everything is a joy to do as long as she has her man. 

2. If Petunia was singing about a child, she would be very motherly and devoted in a different way to the child. She would not sing like they are her spouse and she would be the mother. 

3. This musical was very important to show that America needs all her people to work together. It still did not change stereo types and roles for their society. Blacks are still not accepted and paid the same wages. It is sad that they do not equalize them in this era, yet they were trying. 

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Petunia is shocked and yet amazed that Little Joe survived his brush of death and sings his praises. The style of the song, how I see it showcasing Petunia love for her husband restored as she thanks the heavens for returning her man, and in the next seen as she does the laundry, her tone and style slightly change showing Petunia now singing to her man with love, rather than singing about him.

I don't think the style of the song would be any different if Little Joe was in fact a Baby Joe. The way Waters sings to him with such devotion and admiration, no matter what is in place, she'd still sing with the same love.

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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?

  • She is relieved that he is alive.  Now that she sees that he will be ok, she can go about the business of the house.  Washing sheets is a daily task that could have been put off while waiting to see if he was ok. I think this tells us that he is her happiness, she doesn't need anything else.  

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

  • I could see this being sung to a baby.  The song is not really about romantic love, but love in general.  I could see her singing this about her baby.   

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 am not sure how to answer this question since I have not seen the movie all the way through yet.  In the clip, I think it shows that families no matter what color have the similar themes, life, health, love, and family.     

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  1. The scene shows Petunia in a sigh of relief that Joe is recovering from a shot wound and that her love to him is as strong as ever. The transition shows that she is feeling a little more happier and in good state on doing the housework with the mindset that Joe is still alive and well, and yet she has to do all the work for him in the meanitme. It shows that their promise and unity are passionate in living through their lives no matter what happens.
     
  2. It would have the lyrics change to have her child's name fit in and scenes shot with her child being sick, but the themes of love and support that everything's going to be fine would be the same (though in a mother-son love context than romantic).
     
  3. The film makes it unique from the previous black films that were leaning towards racial stereotypes and punchlines despite the crews' wishes. While it still has some element of stereotypes that might not fare well today, the rest that make the majority of it happen to focus on in-depth black characters moving the story and conflict with musical numbers. Though it was made by the white crew as what is was in the available pool at that time, they do have good intentions to treat the film as essential in a unity goal to deal with social themes and issues when segregation was still a thing as well as the army during WWII. These performers gave it their all and the demand for a good black musical film for the moviegoers of that time did pay off that also helped start up the Freed Unit series of films.

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Aside from some of th lyrics' i dont think there would be much of a difference if she was singing to a child. 

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While we know Judy Garland "acted" her songs long before MEET ME IN ST. LOUIS, you can see from this clip--wherein Ethel Waters multitasks while singing and uses facial expressions to convey the song's theme--that Minnelli likely helped Garland (and everyone in his films) improve/perfect (depending upon ability) that skill. At one point, Waters is full-on walking away from the camera to return to her laundry, and we're still engaged because she has already told a lot of story through the way she had performed the song to that point. We expect her to walk back to that laundry. That's Minnelli.

Final note about the laundry, though: It rings a little too much of, "Let's be sure we show a strong (black) female doing something very domestic."

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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 camera never leaves her, except for when we see the "approving" angel fade away.  The cut to the laundry conveys that everything she does, including everyday chores, is all geared toward building a life with Joe.  Throughout the song, we see that she is dedicated to him emotionally, spiritually (hence the aforementioned angel), and physically as when she drapes the arms of the shirt around herself, beaming all the while.

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

The love of a mother for her child is assumed, in all cultures, to be unconditional.  Therefore, I think the meaning would be changed significantly.  Because Joe has "wronged" her through his gambling and relations with another woman, one might assume that Petunia's feelings towards her husband would alter, unlike that of a mother towards an errant child.  Because she is so happy that he returns to her, we see a woman so needful and appreciative of love that she is willing to accept him, despite his behavior.

  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?

The ideas of loyalty, a life filled with toil and strife, and how there is an ever watchful spirit that guides our decisions are very elegant, even poetic, themes associated with this wartime era.  

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1.      Daily Dose 8......I noticed that her beautiful huge smile scene was directed to keep Ethel on a close up while she sang and showed her positiveness in Joe's outcome. She was hopeful but content.  Although the song is poignant because of her love for Joe, her smile is infectious. Cutting into the laundry scene shows another day has passed and we see Joe sitting up in his chair on the way to recovery.

2.      I don’t think the song would change even if Ethel was singing to a child.  Singing to Joe is like singing to a child. The lyrics talk about angels, Christmas, and love; lyrics that can relate to anyone.

3.      I can see in this scene that besides Joe’s gambling behavior, Ethel is a happy woman.  She seems appreciative of the things she has. They seem to have nice things; the items on the cloths line are plenty and are of a variety like shirts, sheets, undergarments. I think it is important to show this because it presents good standing amongst black Americans in a well to do community. The neighborhood looks nice with the picket fence and all showing that they, too, were keeping things up during the war.

 

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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 she goes to his bedside and sees that he is alive, she is so filled with joy that it's a natural segue into her song. It's hard to keep your eyes off Ethel Walters' face when she sings it because she is so expressive and her love for Joe just fills her body and face. I think the cut to the hanging laundry scene mainly shows the passing of time. Joe is better and Petunia is still filled with love and joy at knowing her man loves her. It also serves as a way to transition to the two men at the fence at the end.

2. How would the song change if it was a woman singing about her child? Does the cultural meaning change? How? I suppose this song could be song about a child, but certainly Walters' body language and facial expressions would have to change and some lyrics would be slightly changed. In some ways, it almost comes off better being song to a child rather than a husband. Children evoke more unconditional love, while it might be hard to sing with such joy if you had gone through what Petunia went through with Joe.

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 feel there are still plenty of Black American stereotypes in this film. Black Americans had been valiant and an important part in America's WWII victory, and perhaps, the film is meant to portray Black Americans in a better light than what they had been portrayed in previous movies. However, Black Americans still faced decades of prejudice and segregation, and this, too, was only one film. It would be decades before they would be portrayed as equal and possibly superior to whites—maybe all the way to 2018 and "Black Panther" (although it's not a musical). 

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