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

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My response is strictly in the context of this clip. Although I have seen the movie several times, I will address the questions as if I don't know what a dog Joe is and how mainly Petuna is.  I am sticking to this clip: 

To state the obvious.  Holy cr*p! Ethel Waters is magnificent in every way.  While this clip has Waters play the "strong black woman" trope, I find her expression of love for a man regardless of flaws entirely believable. Regardless of a lover's shortcomings, one can have love this deeply even if she cannot endure the treatment. The love can remain forever, and Ethel conveys it convincingly at the bedside of Joe or at the laundry line. This love is uncomplicated in its depiction. It simply is. It's as basic as hanging up or taking down the laundry, a basic task for most Americans of the day (one I still do when the weather permits although the HOA frowns on it -- go figure). She is doing the tasks that keep their life moving forward, but she is playful about it. She makes his shirt's sleeves embrace her, and she tosses laundry either into the basket or onto Joe...we don't see which. This is not the hyper-sexualized stereotype of typical "black pictures," but a stable, enduring love. I know she is depicting the "strong black woman" character, but Waters' performance transcends the caricature and communicates that the even day tasks disrupted by the War are the ways we demonstrate love for one another. This message of continuity matters.

While the scene would likely shift slightly with Waters' song being about a child, the unity theme as well as the essential nature of the love would remain. If the movie is trying to connect with women worried about husbands, boyfriends, children, etc., then this number carries over, and the same can be said for children at war or with a parent at war.  Said child would see enduring love that remains with them no matter what happens to them or what they do, right or wrong. Again, reassurance for the audience. Although the stereotype I've referred to means Waters doesn't get to play a richly layered character, we don't see white mothers or wives play terribly layered characters in musicals of this time period. The mother role is sainted in movies we've seen so far as is the wife by and large. Ms. Waters brings nuance to a pretty stock character. Who wouldn't feel comforted by this performance?

This picture humanizes a minority population at a time when said population was eager to serve its country and grab hold of the opportunities afforded those who served in the services (home loans, college tuition, etc.). By placing American values within the lives of black Americans, the film tells the white viewer that black Americans are Americans.  It doesn't say they should have equal rights. We are a long way from that, but it is humanizing people who were systemically "othered" in art, daily life, and political rights. I unequivocally believe that the door that opened for black Americans to serve in WWII, and the side-by-side service on the home front as well as on the fronts most certainly propelled the United States inevitably toward desegregation and the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s.

Lastly, I'd like to say that my grandfather was a drummer considered second only to Krupa and Rich in the 40s and 50s whose charts were particlulary coveted by other musicians.  He eventually made his way out of Chicago to Las Vegas having chosen not to take the route required of him to make it big (he tried to choose family over demands of Hollywood). Like many musicians, he always preferred to go listen to black musicals and singers. He always made our family stay only in places that did not discriminate -- refusing to stay at hotels, eat in restaurants, or go to gas stations that would not serve all Americans. This wasn't done in a martyr-like way but one of human decency. I bring this up because the performers in this movie were well known at the time to white audiences, but the performances are crafted for a white audience for specific purposes noted by our instructors. Had it been made for black audiences, it would likely have been quite a different movie as my grandfather (and my mother) were very fortunate to get to go hear performances of comedians, musicians, and singers that would only be performed for black audiences or fellow musicians/show biz people who were down with the scene. There is the difference between what we see and what would be a more accurate depiction of life and the full artistry of black Americans during WWII.  That being said, we aren't exactly diving into gritty realism in any of these musicals to date. Real life for white Americans wasn't Fred and Ginger or Jeanette and Nelson or Judy and Micky or Gene and Leslie. 

Musicals tend to have to strike the balance between the fantastic and the believable.  Doing so for audiences of color is just that much more challenging then and now. Cabin in the Sky has some of the greats at the top of their game, and I am thankful it is preserved for legacy and historical purposes. 

 

 

 

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1. Petunia is truly in love with her husband as seen in the scene. Not only is this shown through the song but by her actions. She is not only thrilled that he is alive but shows her love through her gentleness lying on the pillow next to him. When the scene moves to her taking down the laundry, Petunia wraps his shirt around her as if he is hugging her. 

2. I envision the scene with a child would be similar to that of Little Joe. With the exception of maybe putting her head next to his and some of the words of the song. The similarity a child and Petuni’s love of Little Joe is that is unconditional. A mother typically loves her child unconditionally. 

3. As with the film Hallelujah this is a major film for the black community. Even though the blacks had been making films and in the military for years this film WWII brought them to the forefront. They played and important role during the war as did every other ethnic group in the country. In films this got them beyond just being a servant or the help in the field. 

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Petunia's life revolved not just around her husband as a person,  but around whether she was certain of his love for her. As long as Joe's alive, he can constantly reassure her of that.  The laundry line scene is an example of how easier even menial tasks can become when your life is calm & in order.

As for comparing singing that same song to Joe & to a child. I think the lyrics would have to be significantly changed for it to make sense. 

When you compare the number of all-black films to 'white' films, it's pretty obvious this film wasn't exactly an example of a more inclusive trend. My thinking is that studios, being the money-oriented business they were & are,  saw a sizable [African-American] market out there and decided to cash in on it.  But not produce too many films like this for fear of invoking the racist sentimentalities of many white audiences.  

I don't really believe this film or any other early all-black films did much to advance inclusion.  It certainly did nothing to advance inclusion in the armed forces or in the job markets or living situations.  

Businesses were (and would continue to be for another decade+) segregated; blacks were routinely refused employment (they were even refused work at munitions & armaments factories just prior to WWII until FDR signed The Fair Employment Act in '41 to prevent discrimination there) and as far as inclusion and desegregation during the war in the armed forces, that didn't happen till well after the war in 1948 under Truman. 

I actually found it kind of insulting & patronizing to toss a handful of all-black cast movies at a significant portion of our society as if to say: 

"See, we recognize you. You're may not be good enough to eat with, ride with, work with or die next to your white brother & sister on the battlefield defending your country, but maybe these few movies will pacify you and make the rest of the world see how magnanimous and fair we are here in the movie industry."

 

 

 

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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?
  • How would the song change if it was a woman singing about her child? Does the cultural meaning change? How?
  • What other thoughts do you have about this film, the issues of black Americans during WWII, and this film’s importance in this era?

When the scene opens it appears as though Petunia is just expressing her happiness at her husband being home and being alive. She is overjoyed that he is alright and home by her side for her to care for and nurse back to health. When the scene moves outside she appears to be even happier because Joe is doing better. He is out of bed and she is pleased with life, but the sudden appearance of the two men at the end of the scene and the sudden, jolting stop to the beautiful love song tells us that happiness may not last. This song wouldn't have had a very different meaning if she had been singing to a child rather than her husband because it is expressing her unconditional love and happiness for her partner just as one would feel for their child. The use of this song towards a partner rather than a child shows us that she would do anything for this man, she can't picture her life without him, and her life is complete and happy with him by her side. I have not seen this picture yet, but it is definitely one that I want to see now that I know it exists and have heard nothing by remarkable things about it. This film and the representation of African Americans during WWII is an important piece of history that needs to be preserved and shared.

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  1. Petunia is clearly devoted to Joe. Earlier in the film, it is recounted that Joe had been involved in an affair but Petunia never waivered and stayed with him. Her being at his bedside after his fall back into gambling and subsequently being shot, shows that she will never really leave him. While she launders his clothes, Joe sits near by and listens to her singing. Though he can get around alright, Petunia is still intent on serving his needs without a thought to her own. The best line in the song to articulate her love and devotion is as follows:
    Quote

    Sometime the cabin gloomy and the table bare
    Soon he kiss me and it's Christmas everywhere
    Trouble fly away and life is easy go.

     

  2. Devotion to children is a much more pure thing. Children are completely capable of letting their parents down, but married couple choose each other- one does not normally choose their children. There is not as much of a risk in living children as there is with loving an adult. Society tends to present love of a child as natural, while also suggesting that love for other adults is often impermenant. 
  3. What I found most interesting about this film is that nobody seemed to be impoverished while also not being affluent. This was likely helpful in helping those marginalized communities feel a sense of comfort and hope at a time when representation was not common. 
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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 loves her husband and is showing him that his love is all she needs to have a happy life. Doing the household chores and showing that time has elapsed and Joe is healthy enough to come outside shows us that she is happy just being Joe's wife.

2. 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 meaning changes culturally I think the way it's sung changes. The scene would have been shot differently but as we can see Ethel's version sung to her husband and Judy Garland's version sung to her son are the same song but sung in different tones and accentuations.

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?

It's a beautiful film and beautifully directed by Vincente Minnelli. It hopefully helped to boast racial integration for WWII and limit the the unfortunate stereotypes. 

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To me, the transition from Petunia being at Joe's bedside to her at the clothesline shows her happiness in domesticity. All she longs for is a happy home with a trustworthy and respectable husband. To her, this is of the utmost importance to her self-worth. Happiness is not only Joe, but what a life with a faithful husband represents to Petunia. 

If this number were to have been about a child I believe it would've been more relatable or perhaps would have held up a little better with today's sensibilities. Instead, it seems a bit dated in its portrayal of a woman needing a man in order to be happy. Petunia's life is entirely focused around a husband unworthy of her devotion. Even when Petunia turns away from Joe and seems to be through with his wanton ways, it is simply a ploy to draw Joe back to her. I would imagine the reviews for this film if it were to be released in today's world would have a few things to say about this. 

 

I enjoyed this film and wish we had more documents of African American performances from this time. Unfortunately, I don't think I can add anything more on the subject beyond what has already been written/said during the lectures. Incredibly poignant and important film for its time.

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By starting the song at Joe's bedside, it shows her loving care and concern for her injured husband. When they move outside, you know he is recovering and there is joy and happiness in her voice and face.

I think if she were singing to her child, there would be more nurturing and maternal love in the song.

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12 minutes ago, Ashley Lynn said:
  • 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?
  • How would the song change if it was a woman singing about her child? Does the cultural meaning change? How?
  • What other thoughts do you have about this film, the issues of black Americans during WWII, and this film’s importance in this era?

When the scene opens it appears as though Petunia is just expressing her happiness at her husband being home and being alive. She is overjoyed that he is alright and home by her side for her to care for and nurse back to health. When the scene moves outside she appears to be even happier because Joe is doing better. He is out of bed and she is pleased with life, but the sudden appearance of the two men at the end of the scene and the sudden, jolting stop to the beautiful love song tells us that happiness may not last. This song wouldn't have had a very different meaning if she had been singing to a child rather than her husband because it is expressing her unconditional love and happiness for her partner just as one would feel for their child. The use of this song towards a partner rather than a child shows us that she would do anything for this man, she can't picture her life without him, and her life is complete and happy with him by her side. I have not seen this picture yet, but it is definitely one that I want to see now that I know it exists and have heard nothing by remarkable things about it. This film and the representation of African Americans during WWII is an important piece of history that needs to be preserved and shared.

I agree with the frustration you voice, but I want to dig deeper. Do you find it offensive to provide a platform for the artists to reach new audiences? I ask this because I addressed this in my response. This certainly isn't the performance/presentation that Ethel Waters would have given to fellow black Americans, but these performers are being given a broader audience. The segregation in films, representation on screen, and who could even sit in a theater is categorically unacceptable. Steps being taken when and where they could be taken should not be refused, I feel. As I noted in my response and as with people like Bing Crosby, Sinatra, Ava Gardner (I can't name them all) and so many more, many performers and directors would have made tremendously different films and many more of them had studios and producers been willing to make them, theaters been willing to show them, municipalities been willing to let all audiences see them together. That wasn't where it was it then. You and I are addressing the classic dilemma of whether to change the system from within or from without. My answer is change from both. 

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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?

We move from the bed where they are hoping for a turn in Joe’s condition, to a happy domestic scene bathed in sunlight. Joe is getting better and everything is looking up. She feels passionate about him both in the throes of crisis and in the rhythm of daily life. Their life revolves around her devotion to him - she is the sun in his life.

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

It works as a lullaby. I would have never thought of it that way. I could easily see a mother rocking a child, comforting him and singing this song. The type of love would be different, but no less poignant. I think this song reaches across cultural divides. Love for partner or family is universal. Other than a little of the gospel idioms in the lyrics, and maybe because of them, this song is intimate and warming.

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 curious as to how this film was received across the country. It is a movie filled with outstanding performances that were probably new and fresh to white audiences outside of major metropolitan areas. Blues and jazz were incorporated in mainstream culture. The story is universal. the emotions were relatable. Yet segregation was rampant across the US. How many white people would never consider seeing a film with a black cast?

Even in the movies the "separate but equal" paradigm was considered the high standard for race relations though the differences in acceptable culture were beginning to blur. 

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  1. Both the camera angles, distance and movement complement the the orchestration building toward the meaning of this song. At the beginning of this scene, Waters' back is to the camera but once she rushes to Joe's side, she is, from that point onward, in the center of each frame. She is kneeling beside the bed as a worshiper before its idol on an altar while he lays there, unmoving but not unmoved, inert.  From a medium shot, the camera closes in to focus on Waters' face as she sings while the strings builds to more sentimental mood. Just before she begins, a single note is given to set the key and cue her. When she sings, there is a solo violin accompaniment of her phrase, then an orchestral flourish of descending notes until she sings the next phrase. She uses tiny gestures to show her happiness, such as the genuine, full smile (lips up and full teeth exposure, eye muscles creased, cheeks raised) as well as the fond flick of her fingers on his face. The image of the General/Rev.Green fades in, then out as he approves this scene of romantic love and domestic tranquility. With a musical up-swell, the scene cuts to Petunia at the clothesline. From here, she is dreamily, admiringly, looking at something or someone off-camera as she picks the clothes without looking at them while the camera moves with her. Now, instead of words, she is singing nonsense syllable (not scat which would disrupt the scene) with an occasional "Joe." At one point, just as she puts the clothes in the basket, her wedding ring shows, reinforcing the theme of restored domestic tranquility. She walks forward toward the object of her focus, displayed finally for the audience, a recovering Joe in a wheelchair. When she joins him, the words idyllically include "Christmas" and "Troubles fly away." She gently moves him back, out of the way, returns to the clothes where she places a shirt on her chest, wraps the arms caressingly around her neck (as a loving Joe would) and sings "Does he love me good? That's all I need to know." It ends with a return to reality and the main conflict of the story, the duality of man whose nature is influenced by good versus evil, as she pulls back the sheet to reveal the two men who play both Satan's emissaries.
  2. The song would be completely different if it were a woman singing about her child. The sentiment of male-female relationship here has some of the pathos of a Pieta but instead loving admiration of her idol. There is soft, sexual innuendo, especially in contrast to the usual siren shown in most films with Black characters, and complete, almost-too-sentimental empathy rather than the sacrificial, unconditional love of mother and child. Male-female relationships cannot be as unconditional as mother-child. This is just a moment in time in a male-female relationship that has included conflict. It is a respite of peace with hope for a future if Joe can remain free of gambling and the temptations of the devil.  In context of WWII, in both propaganda films and posters, both sides demonized the other to inure patriotism and allow men to be able to kill the others. To effectively wage war, it is not enough to fight ideology or a way of life. Despite evidence to the contrary, humans are hard-wired to be empathetic. Survival depends on social cooperation, based on empathy, taking care of each other. Evidence of this is proven in studies with infants and young children as well as in animal social groups.
  3. This film follows the story line of Gershwin's incredible opera Porgy and Bess with some significant variations. In 1935, Gershwin's audience accepted the stereotype of the Black woman as temptress and tempted. By 1943, The audience was more ready for a different relationship. Since Black soldiers still often fought in segregated units or in more menial jobs, their contribution was harder to dismiss. Both Porgy and Bess and Cabin in the Sky still rely on the acceptable conventions of Black storytelling, namely, folk tale origin, self-deprecating humor, use of dialect, belief in the supernatural, dualistic conflicts within humans, allusions to anthropomorphism. As opposed to Porgy and Bess, in Cabin, the tempted/tortured person is the man whom religion and the love of a good woman rescue. So, it shows progress in the way Blacks can be shown to make a profitable film but also how far the art and American society has yet to go.
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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?

This scene makes one thing absolutely clear: Petunia's whole existence and source of sustenance is her love for Joe. The camera closes in to a tight head shot of Petunia and Joe and his hand being lovingly held in hers. He has returned from the edge of eternity and is now back in her life, and she is glowing with joy that her Joe is back with her. Caring for him and loving him with no limits. The cut to the exterior laundry emphasizes how happy she is to be doing what for many would be an act of drudgery but for Petunia is an act of love for her Joe. Showing Joe outside and sitting up in the wheelchair evidences he is on the road to recovery, a huge step up from the weak bed-ridden Joe seen at the beginning of the scene. He also displays a cane, indicating he has progressed to walking. Petunia gently moves him back with a smile as big as all outdoors. Through good and bad, Joe will always be the center of her universe.

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

To some extent, love of child and love of a spouse can be similar. Devotion to each unconditionally would come across in a song like this for either relationship. Culturally, the man/woman dynamic is different than the mother/child relationship in that spousal interactions usually have a dominant/subservient factor to consider. The age old struggle over "who wears the pants" in a marriage is not the same as a mother's devotion to her child. A parent will always expect to be the dominant figure in the latter relationship. Nonetheless, selfless devotion and love to either a spouse or a child would have enough similarities to work with this song.

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?

Almost without exception in films during the 40's, Black- or Asian-Americans were bit characters and often were portrayed as caricatures of their races. Usually playing servants and often there solely to provide comic relief. I have always been a huge fan of Charlie Chan movies, having grown up watching the films on TV in the 1950's. Now, while I am still entertained by them, I can't help but observe the fact that the lead Asian character was never played by an Asian actor! The black performers are chauffeurs, maids or butlers, and always portrayed as shuffling, ghost-fearing targets of derision. I cringe now when those scenes come on screen. It is clear they did not move the plot along at all and served only one purpose: to provide comic relief to the audience while reinforcing a racial stereotype.

WWII presented a problem for America. The war was being fought on two fronts, in Europe and Asia, and black Americans were bleeding and dying in both theaters of operation. How do you encourage heretofore abused blacks to fight for their country when they were being treated like second class citizens. Remember, a good portion of the country--primarily in the South--still segregated their societies with separate schools, water fountains and movie theaters. Hollywood had the capability of depicting blacks as human beings with the same hopes, desires and family relationships as white Americans. "Cabin in the Sky" was a vehicle that served two purposes. First, it provided an opportunity for black performers to appear on screen and in movie theaters all over the country--the South being excluded to a great extent--to portray themselves in a non-stereotypical story and environment. Secondly, and more importantly, it sent a signal to black Americans that they too had a stake in preserving and protecting American democracy. Performers like Ethel Waters and Lena Horne had appeal for general audiences, not just the black community. This film was another step forward in helping lay the groundwork for what would later lead to the enactment of civil rights legislation.

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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?

You can tell that Petunia loves Joe very much. With the song being cut into a two different scenes, I believe this shows the passage of time. Joe is still getting better. 

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

I feel that if Petunia was singing was singing to a child, she would have cried. It also would have had a less romantic feel to it. Tender, yes. But not "I love you" romantically. More of "I love you" in a protecting, mothering sort of way. 

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 is very important for its time. It's a strong African American cast that is shown in a good light. The viewer really feels for the characters and roots for them. They aren't just servants or random people. They have feelings and depth. It's lovely to watch. 

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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 loves Joe and without him she would just die, She honors him with her song.

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

The song would change to a caring song about a child and how she loves him/her not that they love her. No I don't think the cultural meaning would change. 

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

This showed people what it meant to be a black American during the war, and why things needed to change for them.

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I forgot something very important about the conventions of the Black culture as shown in the film. Cabin endures not just for the entertainment value of its stereotypical scenes of vaudevillian performances but because of its technical advances in the structure of the musical, the advancement of techniques but most importantly, its emphasize on the significance of religion and salvation, the importance of community, and the closeness of family. These aspects have not been shown before on film and marks progress in the recognition of deep humanistic ethos of Black culture. In the context of other films of the era, themes of home life, camaraderie and celebration of American values are highlighted beautifully in this film.

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Petunia is married to Joe and it's in their wedding vows that they must love each in sickness and in health, until death do them part. She thanks the Lord that he is alive and when she goes to the bedside and sings to him and also when she sings outside, this lets the audience know that she has devoted his life to her. If Petunia had been singing to her child, it would have not been that much different than singing to her husband, because her purpose is to love and protect the people with all her heart. The blacks aren't much different from other races because the blacks have struggles too. This film is important to the World War II era because of the discrimination against the blacks and their struggle to end it and the hatred of other races against them, especially the whites.

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The focus on this scene is home and family. As we shift to the outside scene the value of a wife taking care of her man and doing the wash then shifts a bit to romance when she takes the shirt off the line and wraps arms around herself like a hug

i think if this scene was about a child it might be more playful.

i believe that this movie incorporated both positive images and negative images about blacks.

 

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I stayed up the other night to watch this movie and was so glad that I did.  I am a great fan of Lena Horne but have been completely won over by Ethel Waters.  

1. The first part of the song is shot very close to her, so close he's almost not in the shot at all.  This is a woman who is greatly relieved to have her husband back.  In the second part, a little time has passed but he's still recuperating, and her feelings are still the same.  She loves this man heart and soul - the bit at the end where she has his shirt hug her re-enforces that.  This song is like her daily devotional. This song must have hit home for many women who whose husbands were off fighting in the war.

2.  If she were singing this song to a child, I think it would be more like a lullaby.  With the war going on, I could see this having meaning for a mother worried about her son (and in some cases, daughter) and hoping they come home safe.  

3. I felt this film had fewer racist overtones than did Hallelujah but it seems that the only way someone (not white) makes it to big money is through gambling and other sinful acts.  But the themes of love and devotion to one's man is similar to those in other movies of time.  Many men were off fighting the war and sometimes doing things they shouldn't but the emphasis is being the good woman he's going to want to come back to and being an understanding woman who's willing to forgive all.   This movie does rely on the old trope of a good woman is what a man needs and that it's almost her responsibility to keep him on the straight and narrow.  When Joe goes off with Georgia Brown and returns to his gambling life, it's because Petunia turns him out. It's almost as if he has no choice to be bad.  The themes and the lessons in the movie transcend race and are clearly pointed at women - be faithful, love your man no matter what, always forgive, keep your man on the straight and narrow.  A woman's job is her husband. 

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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?

Seems that most of the indoor parts of the song focus on Petunia and Joe as she sings to him. The lighting highlights the peace and love on her face as she feels God answered her prayers for Joe. The outside scene apparently takes place a little later, as Joe is now in a wheelchair and recuperating from his gunshot wound. That she can sing with such emotion and passion while taking in the laundry highlights that she does everything because of her love for Joe. His errant ways do nothing to change the depth of her love for him. 

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

The depth of emotion would still be there, but some of the lyrics would need to change. Unconditional love for a child is a little different from the love for a spouse, as the child is still growing and learning. I think the cultural meaning would be somewhat the same. Even when our country makes mistakes, it doesn't (shouldn't) change the love we have for it or us wanting the best for it.

  • 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 even though the film was made to showcase black talent (talent enjoyed by white America), it served a greater purpose of providing black Americans the opportunity to see folks of their race who have made a success of themselves. Movies were more affordable than stage productions; the average Joe (no pun intended) would have a better chance of seeing them on screen than on stage. Even today much is said about the importance of representation of sex and ethnicity in entertainment and society, so that children see the possibilities for their lives. 

This film was released shortly after the US entered WWII. Plenty of black Americans were conscripted into the army, leaving behind their women to hold down the fort. To see a woman with such devotion to her husband would be an encouraging thing, perhaps something that would inspire other women to strive to emulate Petunia in that regard. 


 

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I first saw Cabin in the Sky many years ago, and I instantly loved it.  The film is literally luminous, in that the lighting just gives everything this inner, glowing sort of radiance.  The cinematography and mise en scene are equally beautiful.  I also love that yes - this is obviously a film featuring African-Americans and is about the intertwined lives of African-Americans, but it isn't really a movie about race.  They are just people. 

This scene in particular is one that brings me to tears.  There is something so moving about her connection to the song and the warmth of her performance.  Her smile is so genuine and her spirit is just so authentic.  It doesn't hurt that the song itself is sublime in its simplicity.  When she sings "and it's Christmas everywhere..." On come the taps!  ?

1) The song transitioning from Joe's bedside to Petunia doing laundry underscores the steadfastness and loyalty in Petunia.  She is steadfast in her devotion to God, to prayer, and to Little Joe.  No matter how much time goes by, her feelings don't change.  It also shows that even in our mundane, daily tasks, we can find something to sing about (i.e., there is always something you can be thankful for). 

2) I'm not sure I fully understand the question.  The song as she performs it here doesn't strike me as being particularly romantic.  It's more of a song borne out of a deep, long-standing devotion and less about something like passion or desire.  In that sense, the performance wouldn't necessarily be all that different if she were singing to a child.  Some of the lyrics might not really be suitable.  I'm not sure what is meant by the question raising 'culture.'  Are we referring to African-American culture?  I'm not really in a position to speak, since I don't belong to that culture.

3) I guess I touched on this in my first couple of paragraphs.  It's a beautiful film, with true emotional depth and moments of lightness, too.  I would need to finish my 'rewatch' of it to speak in depth, but the church scene in the earlier stages of the film comes to mind as a wonderful moment showcasing the sense of community that I sometimes ache for in our more compartmentalized modern day.  It also strikes me as a paean to the strength of minority communities - the unity and belonging that they find when they come together is lovely.  I hope that even those outside of the African-American community saw and appreciated this film for what it was, and were able to correlate the spirit of this community coming together to the 'we're all in it together' spirit so prevalent during WWII.

 

 

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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?

I noticed how sensitively and lively the way Minnelli directed it, because you really get the passion that Petunia has for Joe. There is the matter of her looking up at the sky, which symbolizes the appreciation of God bringing Joe back to her. It also shows the passage of time, as Petunia is cheerfully tending to the laundry while still be able to take care of Joe as he recovers. The song, beautifully sung by the great Ethel Waters, shows the power of love between two people, and the relationship between Petunia and Joe. No matter what happens, or what life throws at them, they'll still be by each other's side. 

2) 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 tone or feeling would change, but obviously it would be centered on a different kind of love, that of paternal love, rather than romantic. Some of the lyrics would have to change, especially because of the meaning behind them. The love of a woman for her child should always be completely different than the love of her husband, otherwise it would be really creepy. 

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 do find it refreshing that for once black people weren't playing maids or butlers; they had much more importance than they had in films from the 30's. They portrayed central characters and the stories were about them, their lives (romantic and familial), and the struggles they faced in everyday surroundings. They weren't just be seen, they were also being heard. Their lives were finally being considered, which is very mainly similar to the lives of White Americans. 

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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 shift to her doing chores tells us that Joe has survived and that even her mundane tasks seem okay as long as Joe is in her life.

2.     How would the song change if it was a woman singing about her child? Does the cultural meaning change? How?  Not sure I understand the question.  A mother’s love for her child is just different than a woman’s love for her husband.  This song is romantic in nature and wouldn’t be sung to a child. 

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 shows that the war was difficult on everyone regardless of race.  The issues of black Americans hadn’t changed much during this time.  They fought for our country as they had done in previous wars but were still marginalized as a race. 

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1. It shows the typical women of that time and ongoing, who takes care of the home and her husband.  She stands by her man with all of his faults.

2. words of unconditional love of course, similar words and sentiment. 

3. it is amazing to see an all black film for that time. I never heard of it nor saw it. shows how it was still an issue  in later part of 20th century. should be shown today as a Fathum Event.

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I have never seen "Cabin in the Sky" in its entirety.  However, I did get to see the following scene when I watched most of it the other night.  Ethel Waters does a wonderful job as the long-suffering but patient wife.  Her husband, Joe, is a good hearted guy but has his focus on anything to do with gambling. 

This movie, to me, ties in to the marriage vows that we say when we marry the one we want to spend the rest of our lives with. Just as Petunia sticks by Joe's side through richer/poorer, sickness/heath, to love and to cherish until death do us part, that's what the movie is telling us as we are fighting WWII.  A country that is comprised of people who love their country, support their country, and defend it - that's what this country was like during WWII.  Everyone worked together deprived of many items that they had become accustomed to having.  Petunia does that with Joe.  No matter what happens her faith in him never waivers.  She knows he is possessed by the devil which causes him to do the things that he does and puts them in the financial straits they are in.  She cannot change him; she prays that the Lord will do that.  Petunia definitely has her work cut out for her.  

The song follows her out into the yard the next day while she is taking down the dry clothes and Joe is sitting there watching her.  He has survived a bullet wound, and she knows why and how.  Her man is still hers, and he has another chance to make things right with God.  It reflects her love and devotion to the man who lives in her heart.  It was a beautiful moment in a wonderful movie.  Evil will never totally triumph.  

As someone mentioned in an earlier post, you would make the song more like a lullaby to reflect the love you have for your child.  Love that never gives up, never lets go, and is always there is called Agape love.  Totally unconditional.  Hopefully we have it for our husbands, but we always have it for our children.  Taking care of Joe in every way was her mission.  

The movie tells us that African Americans were rooting for us to win that awful war and restore freedom to the countries that Hitler had occupied by terror and death.  Plus keep freedom in our own country.  They were conscripted into the service and did their part in keeping our country safe.  It would be awesome if that kind of love and respect for our country still existed today.  

 

 

 

 

 

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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?

Once she knows that her husband is OK, she is happy, even when doing her routine, daily chores. It appears that she lives her life with a sense of gratitude and love, which are part of her self-esteem.

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