Dr. Vanessa Theme Ament

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

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I watched Cabin in the Sky (1943) the other day and am so glad I did.  What a beauty Ethel Waters is!  She just radiates personality in general and sings with such love to Joe that I can only assume she is a terrific actress. In comparison, Lean Horne, with whom I was previously familiar, lacked connection with the camera, in my opinion. Of course, that could have been the self-centeredness of her character, I'll admit. 

What immediately struck me about this film is that African Americans are performing for themselves. In so many films, African Americans are performing "on demand" and for a white gaze.  Here, they are not trying to please a white audience and not submitting to racist expectations (i.e., the slow-talking stupid guy, or the eye-bulging coward.) Character speech styles range the gamut from heavy dialect to tough guy slang to standard English which adds to a realistic depiction of African American community- individuals who are not all cut from the same cloth and thus defy stereotyping. 

World War II made it important to have national unity. It was sort of unspoken that race issues were kept to side for the duration as ALL Americans came together to serve. However, if movies are going to work both for escape and for subtle propaganda, a person needs to feel part of that national group, and how can that be possible if they never  see a familiar and realistic depiction of themselves on the big screen?  Enough with the butlers, the waiters, the Pullman porters, who were the black community as seen through the white lens.  Cabin in the Sky shows a beautiful wife and respected member of the community who is very powerful in her own way and with her own special skills (her faith and love.)  Kudos to Minnelli or whoever put this quote at the beginning which aims for an inclusivity of common "American values" :  “The folklore of America has origins in all lands, all races, all colors.  This story of faith and devotion springs from that source and seeks to capture those values.”

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just watch Cabin in the Sky clip and l could tell how much she loved Joe and if she had sang that song to a child she would have given an entirely different showing of feeling on the screen  than she shown.  l thought the movie was pretty good l have not watch to many all black movies. But he ones l have seen l have really enjoyed.

 

 

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Posted (edited)

Daily Dose #8

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 think the cut reflected the passage of time, especially when the scene includes Joe sitting in the wheelchair.  The scene starts with relief, moves to things getting back to normal.  She is happy that Joe is getting better and better.  I also like how Gabriel is shown at the foot of the bed and fading away. Joe is back on earth and away from the angels and devils...for now.

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

I may in the minority, but the only thing I would change if it was being sung to a child would be the direction at the end of the song - I would have little Joe out of the wheelchair and walking towards his mother, with the music swelling at the end as they hugged. In that light, I don't believe the cultural meaning would change all that much.  

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?

Also, the fact that a major studio was willing to produce a film with an all-black cast was a bold move on MGM's part. 

 

 

Edited by Walter3rd
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How would the song change if it was a woman singing about her child? Does the cultural meaning change? How?

I had not considered this as a potential interpretation of the song until seeing this question, but especially after looking at the lyrics, it is completely possibly to interpret the song this way. Context is everything. Even the scene that appears in the film could easily have been transferred from a husband to a child, given the characterization of Petunia as a matronly caregiver vs. a sensual lover. A child could easily have been in the bed and later staring adoringly at Petunia taking down the laundry.

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Ethel Waters!  Big talent, wonderful talent-she fills the entire screen! Mesmerizing!

Why sing it to her man instead of a child?  Made in 1943, peak of WW2- keeping in mind how Professor Ament has pointed out the themes of the WW2 muscials, it communicates strength, comfort and that women at home have "got the back" of our soldiers.

Petunia is a strong woman holding it together on the home front with courage and strength. She can take care of it! That's how I see it.

 

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1.  Minnelli films this scene with the utmost intimacy and devotion.  He uses closeups with the camera  between Petunia at Joe's bedside and Joe's fluttering eyelids when he hears the sound of her voice.  We also see the Angel nodding in agreement of Petunia's thankfulness to God and to singing of her undying love.  She is filled with joy at his recovery and is excited and exuberant  in taking care of Joe and the household chores.  She feels she has been given a second chance to make him happy and comfortable.

2.  I think if she was singing to her child instead of her husband the scene would be shot very similarly.  Maybe she would be hugging the child more with tears streaming down her face and picking the child up while she sang and rejoiced in God's name.

3.  I am glad to know about this movie and the wonderfully talented African American actors and performers of the era shown in an uplifting, devotional and patriotic film.  This film brings unity and respect to these people who were also sacrificing their lives for their country during post war America.

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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 Petunia sings her song at Joe's bedside, she is focused solely on him. It is lit lovingly and filmed in such a way that the viewer knows her devotion to Joe is front of mind for Petunia. As the scene moves outside while she is doing laundry, the focus becomes more general. It becomes clear that Petunia's devotion to Joe is somehow her mission in life. She is almost singing the song to herself at this point, like a hymn of love and devotion.

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

I imagine that if she were singing to her child, it would be solely directed towards that child and not the devotional hymn of love that we see during the second half of the 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?

As an African-American, it is always gratifying to see performers who look and sound like me up there on the big screen. Everyone wants to occasionally see themselves reflected on the screen (TV and/or movies), in books, etc. I can imagine that for African-American audiences in the early 1940's, this must have been a rare and almost astounding treat - especially since there were no whites on screen at all in this film. And the talent exhibited here! Besides the luminous, wonderfully talented Ethel Waters, we also get Louis Armstrong, Lena Horne, Bill Bailey, Rex Ingram, Eddie "Rochester" Anderson, Butterfly McQueen, Oscar Polk - the list goes on and on. At this time in our history, when African-Americans fought in the war but faced pervasive discrimination at home, seeing ourselves onscreen must have felt so affirming. For me, the stereotypes in the film are difficult to watch at times. I imagine even African-Americans in the 1940's cringed somewhat while watching the film. But the film isn't mean-spirited or demeaning, and the picture respectfully highlights these amazing talents thanks to Vincent Minnelli's loving care - he is generous with these performers, he basically gets out of the way and lets them do their thing. He seems to love their talent and skill. He presents them in the best possible way despite the story line, stereotypes, etc. 

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For Ethel Waters' song to Eddie "Rochester" Anderson in "Cabin in the Sky" (1943),  I noticed that Ethel's characterization of Petunia to Eddie's characterization of Joe ("Little Joe") in the number was that she was relieved that Joe would make it through.  The same would apply in the fade-in to the outdoor sequence of the musical number; almost in a carefree manner.  I'm not sure if the song would be different if Ethel's character of Petunia were singing to a child.  Some of the lyrics might have been changed if there was a child in place of Eddie's character of Joe.

 

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I think it reflects the fact that as long as she has the love of her life that she is satisfied and happy with life. Even when doing something as tedious as laundry that there is a sense of love for having someone to take care of and specifically when you almost lost them.

I don't think there would be much difference if it had been a child. Only maybe she would not have left the child's side. But not knowing the scene before this one, who knows what pulled her away.  

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1. What do you notice about the way the scene is directed while Petunia goes to Joe's bed and when we cut her off outside the laundry? What does this tell us about your relationship and the connection to music?

It seems to me that this happiness that Joe has in her life brings into her life even when she is doing household chores or when she is away from him. As if that love and devotion made her a fulfilled person.

2. How would music change if it were a woman singing about her son? Does the cultural meaning change? As?

I think love and devotion would continue however differently. A mother's love for a child involves the will to protect and the worry when the child is away. The relationship with the husband should be of mutual support and mutual devotion, one supporting the other and growing together.

3. What other thoughts do you have about this movie, about the problems of black Americans during World War II, and about the importance of this movie at that time?

American blacks at this time suffered segregation, but the country needed them to fight in the war. The way this movie tries to win over these people and convince them that the country needs their love and devotion is visible. A great advertisement exercise.

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You can definitely see the love and the intimacy between Petunia and Little Joe when she sings this number. The focus is entirely on them. I love how her hand is gently resting right below Little Joe's chin throughout the first part of the number and how eventually his hand comes up to meet hers. There is a change in how Ethel Waters handles the number. In the first part her love and devotion to Little Joe is on full display along with her gratitude that he is okay. Then when the shot switches to her folding laundry it seems more lighthearted and carefree. She seems more relaxed and happy. But, her love for Joe is evident throughout. To me, that's the most important part of the number.

If this number were sung to a child I think it would have a completely different feel to it. It would be very gentle and the focus would always be on the child, everything would be on the child's level. I don't think the first part of the number would have had that serious quality to it, as the child would have been shielded from that.

This film was astoundingly important to this era, as it was one of the very few depicting an all African-American cast that was shown in those days. It give many African-Americans a chance to see themselves reflected onscreen, something that was a rarity unless it was a stereotyped role or a bit part. Unfortunately, especially in those days, stereotypes were still thrown around which are in this film. 

As an aside, Ethel Waters is absolutely beautiful in this clip and her voice is just so authentic. 

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18 hours ago, Dr. Vanessa Theme Ament 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?

1. Petunia is a woman whose primary priority is her husband and taking care of her home-tending to the laundry. She sings the same love song about Joe by the bedside as she does outside. Her home is her domain and she she keeps it up for Joe by washing his clothes (I like the part where she wraps his shirt around her neck and imagines he is embracing her). She doesn't really seem submissive or subservient. She seems to genuinely care about her husband and tending to him and their home. Its picture perfect  domesticity and she is the core of that household. Her love for  Joe's keeps their marriage together while her housework and completion of domestic chores keeps their home stable.

2. The only real change would be in the lyrics. Lyrics about motherhood. It wouldn't really be appropriate to say "he kiss me and its Christmas everywhere" for example. That speaks to adult romance and spousal love and devotion, not a mother loving her children. That said, the message of devotion and love of her children and the  celebration of being a mother/parent would still fall squarely into the gender roles of the era that this song reinforces. The cultural message of loyalty and love to ones husband,reinforced by the woman doing housework, was just as much of a strong 1940s message as loyalty to children and home and family was. There is the obvious connection between husband-wife/father-mother and their children and their home. 

3. I've often called Cabin in the Sky "the MGMiest MGM movie". The studio was known as the most conservative and those values were clearly emphasized in MGM movies moreso (it seems to me)than the other studios. This is due to Louis B Mayer's strong beliefs in traditional values and imagery. Its  natural, those values would be particularly clear cut in their films during wartime. In CITS these messages are ramped up. Religion,faith and good vs evil morality tales have been a factor in MGM movies in the past like San Francisco. Religion is very strong here and the plot is very strongly about the good vs evil conflict in a human being.

So when thinking about race its interesting that MGM would use an allblack cast to portray this story. It seems to be normalizing black Americans and culture to a larger, most likely unfamiliar white audience. The deep religiosity of Petunia and the presence of supernatural characters can feel a little thick but the idea seems to be that black people can be and are faithful, good church going Christians like anyone else. They may have flaws and faults but they work to become better people and despite their flaws, they are sincerely good people underneath just like anyone else. It presents a more complete (not totally perfect image in terms of retrospective criticism)picture of the types of black people that exist in life. Some are religious (Petunia), some are sexual (Lena Horne's Georgia Brown),some get into trouble (Joe), some go to church (Butterfly McQueen's character), and some like having fun and celebrate life (the dancers in the cafe). Some say the religious nature of some of the characters is stereotypical,but religion and the Christian faith has historically been important to African American culture and of course to individual believers. 

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It opens that it is evening as she walks to his bedside.  As she sings about Joe, we view a tight shot of just the two of them.  She sings lovingly, almost prayer like  because she is relieved that  her Joe is going to be alright.  Cutting to outside as she takes the laundry down there is a pep in her voice and step as she sings to Joe.  Her love and caring shows as she moves him out of the sun, then she sings dreamily.

The song would change if a woman were singing about her child.  As for as the lyrics, a woman would not be wondering if her child “loves her good that all I needs to know.”  A mother loves her child unconditionally and the child loves back unconditionally.

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WHILE ETHEL WATERS SINGING THE SONG TO JOE SHOW EVEN KNOWING HIS FAULTS SHE LOVES HIM FOR BEING WITH HIM MAKES HER HAPPY. THIS IS LOYAL WHICH IS THE LOYAL AND PATRIOTIC OF OUR COUNTRY SHOULD BE. IF IT WAS A CHILD BELIEVE IT WOULD NOT BE ANY DIFFERENCE FOR LOVE OF A CHILD IS THE SAME. BEING THE FIRST ALL BLACK FILM FOR THE BLACK CITIZENS WANTED MORE MOVIES AFTER HALL SHOWS THE UNITY OF ALL MINORITIES THAT SERVE IN OUR SERVICE AT THE TIME.

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19 hours ago, Dr. Vanessa Theme Ament 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?

Even in times of joy or sadness, the work has to continue. Petunia is happy the love of her life is alive but she can't be beside him all day. 

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Just finished watching this and I'm not getting at all any reference to patriotism and WWII. African Americans served in mostly segregated units in non-combat support roles. To pretend otherwise is odd. And this film was not shown in most of the South due to Jim Crow laws. It is not clear to me whether white audiences embraced this film or the talent involved. It took many years for white Americans to acknowledge black culture. This film was not available until 2006. I wonder why.

I loved the energy of the dance numbers and the naturalistic behavior of the cast, and that Ethel and Eddie were ordinary-looking people, not unrealistically glamorous.

Note also the non-ironic portrayal of religion as part of peoples' lives.

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In the beginning you she Ethel Waters rushing into the bedroom to find Joe is alive and she starts to sing about how it makes her feel that he is alive.Then the scene changes and goes outside to her still singing but taking the laundry off the clothes line.  Then her goes over to Joe and pushes him out of the way but is still happen that he is well.

I think that it would change the way the song was presented because it would be showing the love of a mother for her child, rather than the love of a husband and wife.

This movie shows that the black community in films could be addressed and that they had a rightful place in the film industry.

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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’s focus is solely on Joe and the scene allows us to observe as she prays for Joe, cares for Joe and does house work for Joe. Petunia’s devotion is so strong that we see the angelic force disappear because he realizes that with Petunia watchful eyes, Joe will be fine. The song is Petunia’s declaration of her undying love for Joe, which she demonstrates in the film.  When I look back from a historical perspective, I have to assume that Petunia was in her own little world, because her everyday life was probably hard. This devotion to Joe is a bit too much for  my personal taste.

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

If this song was about Petunia’s unconditional love for her child, it would be more palatable to me. Culturally, it is almost universally acceptable and understandable for a mother to fiercely love and support a child.  Also, if this song were about a child, the lyrics about  " as long as he loves me" would be inappropriate. In the 1940’s women were called on to support their husbands and the troops. It was seen as noble if women had to sacrifice for her husband / family. However, today it is not culturally acceptable for a woman to allow a philandering / “bad husband” to be the center of her life. Today' culture encourages women to take time for themselves, in the 40's  a "good" woman  was selfless, she put her husband and family before her own needs. 

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 WWII, the military was still segregated. Black soldiers faced hardships, and in rural America (esp., the south) life was hard for black Americans due to Jim Crow and racism. Many African Americans dreamed and hoped that postwar America would be nicer and kinder and would allow the same freedom that they fought for in Europe.  After all, they were also sacrificing, leaving home to fight and die for America.   It must have been nice to see a character like Petunia whose only problem seems to be keeping her wayward husband in line or how wonderful to see a glamorous, beautifully dressed black woman like Lena Horne. This movie serves up a fantasy, hope and perhaps an escape to black audiences of the day, because in real life, things were a lot more difficult.   Sadly, America would not release its grip of oppression on African Americans for another two decades.

 

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19 hours ago, Dr. Vanessa Theme Ament 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?

 The beginning is sheer joy because Joe is alive.  I've never seen Petunia being long suffering.  She is full of love of God, love of her man.  At the clothesline she embraces the sheets, her apron, possibly Joe's shirt.  Her household is an extension of her love of family.  She sweetly moves her husband in the wheelchair almost the same as she lowers the the fresh laundry to the basket.  Joe is her happiness in this world. She also does not put up with his bleep either.

  1. How would the song change if it was a woman singing about her child? Does the cultural meaning change? How?
  2. No, because Joe is in a way her child.  They are a childless couple.  Any emotional energy that she would put into a child she has settled on Joe.  I'm not sure about cultural meaning.  I've seen Judy Garland sing this to and about her  son and emotionally it seems to be charged the same.
  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?
  4. I love Ernie Anderson.  I think Lena Horne is smooth and deadly.  There is very little dead air.  I know it's an all black cast but I get so lost in the story and songs I don't see the black or white of it. 
  5. We idealized WW2 but it wasn't all flag waving. It also was a time that minorities were struggling for equal footing in this country.  At the beginning of the war the service was not integrated...very little of the opportunities that whites were offered were open to blacks, Hispanics.  There were internment camps for the Japanese.  It must have been an encouraging film for many people.  It was sent overseas for our services.  My father, who was a very bigoted man, did not look at Lena Horne as being a black woman..he thought she was hot.  Among both white and black troops her photo was one of the most displayed.  I think she contributed a great deal to blending and blurring the color line of that era.  

 

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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. The focus is totally on Waters and the emotional and genuine feeling she is infusing into the lyrics of the song. This man means everything to her and her life is content as long as he loves her. I think the cut to her hanging clothes while Joe watches her from his wheelchair shows time has passed in his recuperation and also that simple ordinary acts like taking down the laundry is a joy to this woman if it is for her man and her home. The cut to the General (good force) shows that the almighty totally blesses this woman's feelings about her man and home. Likewise, at the end, the evil tem enters like storm clouds threatening her wash and her joy. It's a touching sequence.
  3. How would the song change if it was a woman singing about her child? Does the cultural meaning change? How?
  4. Could be very similar except some modifications to the song's lyrics. Mother love is as strong - maybe stronger - than love between a man and woman.
  5. What other thoughts do you have about this film, the issues of black Americans during WWII, and this film’s importance in this era?
  6. I enjoyed the film even though it is packed with stereotypes  people believed about black Americans at that time (right until the present sad to say). It's good some in Hollywood were trying to be more inclusive but I don't think it changed much for black Americans. Still - it is a very enjoyable film and I totally appreciated the talents of Ethel Waters.

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I just had the opportunity to watch this film last night and truly enjoyed it! The love and tenderness Petunia shows for Joe is a credit to Miss Waters and Mr. Vidor. She smiles through the daily tasks when he is up and around simply because he is there with her. Little Joe loves her deeply, despite his flaws. She never shows any disdain or judgement about his ways and simply points him toward God.

If the song had been a mother singing to her child, I think it still would have held the same amount of tenderness, but a different take on the love. It's apparent that Petunia is attracted to Little Joe and shows it in her glances and smiles. The direction toward a child would have been less of a "chemical" attraction and more maternal in nature.

As far as the thoughts on Black America post war? It seems as if the film is catering to the stereotypes more so than truly telling the good vs evil story. I would have like to have seen a more fleshed out sense of the characters, rather than thin portrayals. 

That being said? I did truly enjoy the file\m! I teared up several times, laughed out loud once or twice and was rooting for Little Joe in the end!

 

 

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This movie could have been the inspiration for Waylon Jennings' "Good-Hearted Woman." (Good-hearted woman in love with a good-timing man.) It's obvious Petunia loves Joe unconditionally, but in what manner? I think it's a combination of man-woman love and the indulgent love one might have for a mischievous but lovable child. She's his partner in life but she's also his caretaker. These days some would call it enabling, but to her it's just total devotion to the man she loves. You can see her "romantic" love in the way she is laying by his side singing sweetly to him. The other aspect of her love, the love that motivates her to "work her fingers to the bone" as Joe says, the role of caretaker. She watches after him and cleans and cooks for him while he does little to show his appreciation, at least in the beginning. She is not glamorous by any means, and this makes it easy for him to forget this wonderful at home and turn to the charming and seductive Georgia Brown. And all the while Petunia is waiting patiently for her man to come home to her, as he always will eventually.

If Joe were a child instead of a "man-child", the story would be just as emotional following the death or near-death of someone she loves dearly, but may not be as endearing. For one thing, mothers are seen as indulgent caregivers and nuturers of their children, but the end goal is to raise them to eventually grow up and go out on their own. This is not the case with her relationship with Joe, obviously. The aim with Joe is to have him in her life until they are separated by death.

I think it's significant that there are no white actors in the movie, even in roles like landlords or law enforcement. You also notice the duality of the nature of the characters as God-fearing Christians and fun-loving party animals with a strong sex drive. Some have more of one than the other, but not even Petunia is completely immune from having a more "seamy" side as evidenced in her singing "Taking a Chance on Love" and near the end getting carried away and going into a swing style and gravely voice, to the point where Joe seems shocked and says "Petunia!" as if to say "Remember yourself!", which brings her back down to earth with a slight show of embarrassment. 

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The scene shows the intensity of the relationship between the couple as she goes from frantic at the beginning to more tenderness, forgiveness, and thankfulness toward the end.  She goes about her daily chores, but her mind is always on her man.

If this were a parent/child relationship she would probably not leave the bedside and would exhibit more protectiveness, worry.

This movie captures more of real life people of color rather than racial stereotypes.  As the war went on, and more black Americans were sent "over there", films had to do a little catch-up culturally.  For the first time, people of diverse backgrounds could identify with each other.

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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?

The first shot with Ethel Waters and Butterfly McQueen is shot with almost a noir quality to illustrate Petunia’s fear that she may lose her husband; these deep shadows mimic the scene when the devil, or evil, is present. Even her dress is comprised of dark patterns. Inside the bedroom, there are still shadows, but not as severe, most likely from the presence of the angel. Just before she starts singing, you can see a bright light reflected on her arm, coming from the direction of the angel. As she sings, her face is lit and gets brighter as the song progresses. The entire section by Joe’s bedside is a tight two-shot and she leans in to simulate that they are in bed together in a loving relationship.

Outside, the scene is shot in a more natural, bright lighting to show that her happiness not only comes from within but also within her world as she goes about her normal activities (something that she probably couldn’t have done while Joe was in danger). She still wears a patterned dress, but it is lighter than in the previous scene with stark white collar and cuffs which heighten the brightness of the scene. The scene ends with her taking his shirt off the line and wrapping it around her as she would his arms. At this point in the film, we know that Petunia is “good” and enjoys even these little activities and taking care of her husband. Joe, on the other hand, is an observer in the scene – sitting in a wheelchair on the sidelines. This illustrates how, with his six-month reprieve, needs to really look at his relationship with his wife.

 

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

An interesting idea. Petunia, as a mother, would be just as self-sacrificing for her child as for a husband she loves and prays for and she would receive the same joy for a child smiling on her. But, simultaneously, a religious woman might also expect a child to obey her and might not be as forgiving for the transgressions of a child as she would for her husband.

 

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

Despite the fact that the armed forces in WW2 remained segregated, this film provide an opportunity for African-American actors to portray leading fully developed, three-dimensional characters as opposed to playing stereotypical roles as secondary (or even tertiary) characters that were often inserted purely for comic relief. There are still some stereotypical things about this film (e.g., the characters’ dialect), but it is definitely a large step forward.

Before this film, there were African-American films created by and for African-American audiences. But this film was more mainstream, much of the production staff were Caucasian A-listers at MGM - director Vincente Minnelli, producer Arthur Freed, art director Cedric Gibbons, set decorator Edwin B. Willis, and costumer Irene – meaning that a great deal of money and effort was put into this film. I believe it was a huge step forward.

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The treatment of black Americans during WWII in the entertainment industry gives a unique and yet, real insight to the treatment of blacks in this nation. The movies had in some ways a dual goal: one, have the African American community do what ever it was necessary to fight the enemy because it was good versus evil and two, give the perception to the black community was not that different from the white community in their struggles and beliefs. In reality however, just as in the military, that was simply not the case. The black regiments were not only segregated but treated differently as their white counterparts as was the entertainment industry where  the black entertainers were not only treated differently in terms of respect and pay but were also segregated. The talented of the African American entertainers were also largely overlooked by the white community for the simple fact that they would go see movies with white actors but white actors would rarely see moves completely geared towards black actors.

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