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

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I love Ethel Waters. I wished Hollywood didn't restrict hiring African American actors because it would have been wonderful to see Ethel--and other talented actors featured in more movies during that period. Ethel lights up the screen everytime she's on. The way she sings this song shows how much she loves her husband. The scene was shot with a nice touch of simplicity and innocence to it to highlight this simply delightful moment of a woman who is deeply in love. 

I think this song would be effective if she was singing about a child. The whole scene has an innocence and simplicity about it. They would have to change the scene when she puts Joe's shirt sleeves on her shoulders though.

Such a shame that African Americans fought in WWII, risking their lives and they came back home to the same stereotypes, racism, and bad treatment. I'm sure there were many more black actors and actresses just as talented as Ethel Waters and Lena Horne who were never given their chance to shine in the spotlight because of racism. 

 

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The course is short and your coverage of 40's musicals is necessarily limited, however, the absence of some of the most important musical performers of the decade is inexcusable.  

Where is at least a mention of these important people: Betty Grable, Alice Faye, Rita Hayworth, Bing Crosby? 

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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?

I think the scene is meant to emphasize Petunia's love, dedication and the simple country life she leads. At the bedside the shots are close up to her face that shows the smile whenever she looks at Joe. She is just so happy to have him home and safe after the gun shot wound. The laundry scene is there to show the poor simple life they lead and the hard work and good values she holds to. 

 

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

The lyrics would probably change focus from the heart and feeling of the soulmate connection to one of protection. More of a mothering feel to it. Culturally I believe Petunia would remain true and consistent. The sacrifice in scraping by with little and toiling to keep a good house and her loved ones taken care of the same. The strength of Petunia is her genuine love and purity. Her dedication is her power. 

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

Culturally black and white Americans couldn't be further apart at the start of WWII. The split is everywhere in the United States. Its in Restaurants, theaters, nite clubs, trains, buses, public restrooms just to name a few things. In the film industry its in separate black films mostly. There is need for all able bodied men to enlist and do their part in the war effort. 

'Cabin In the Sky' although still an all black cast comes from a major studio with a noted Director Vincent Minnelli and a cast of very well know talent. Its a significant step forward in race relations. It goes hand and hand with black Americans in the military. Its not an instant end to race issues as even blacks in the military weren't immediately given significant duties. It is part of a movement forward. Blacks in mainstream films (primarily white cast) would be still have to work for years in roles that depicted characters as a lower part of society. All of that talent black talent in a film released by a major studio was incredible. It is still amazing to watch all these performers in this time capsule film 

 

 

 

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1. I love the switch in emotion from fear that she might lose Joe to thankfulness and delight that he will live.  Her sparkle returns but only to the point of relief that he is alive.  But when the scene fades and opens to the backyard clothes line lots of things are being told.  Her dress show the scene is a different time.  She is delighted to be doing his laundry and taking care of her man.  When she walks over to Joe sitting in the wheelchair we are reassured that her happy life is moving forward as he recovers so he joy just beams on the whole yard.  Then with one quick release of a clothes pin and the collecting of a sheet the scene changes from joy to threat.  That was very clever!

2.  I think the song would change dramatically if it was being sung about a child.  I think there would be just as much passion, but I believe there would be more sadness at the injury with concern that the child was headed down a bad moral path.  There would be Mother's pride as she did the laundry, but much more Mama Bear protection going on when she saw the two gambler's at the gate.  You have to accept what you get when you really begin to know your husband and hope for the best.  But with a son that you spent time teaching certain ethically behavior there is more sadness and concern when they are suffering for their mistakes and the inward desire to bop them on the back of the head and demand that they wake up and change their ways right now!

3.  I love the bigger than life reality of black American films.  They are real, sometimes raw, but always full of enjoying or bemoaning what ever circumstance they are in.  In spite of all odds they are hopeful.  Cabin really displays the importance of religion in their every day routine and how strong the faith of the women folk was.  Determination and reality meet and hard work always pays off.  This film really revealed the talent of so many black people.  They were very gifted.  I am so glad they were able to share their abilities.  We have not seen enough of their abilities nor do we give them credit for their hard work in a time when they were considered not as classy.  THIS is a classy Musical production.  It matches the enthusiasm of of every other film in the 40's in my humble opinion.

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1) This scene depicts the movie's ideology of good wins over evil. Ethel Waters prays for the recovery of her gambling, flirtatious husband because she is devoted, dutiful and forgiving in a religious way. When she realizes that her Joe will survive, the entire scene changes. She becomes elated and even accepts her daily house chores because after all, she has love. Her happiness is Joe and that is a direct connection to the song.

2) Like other viewers, I couldn't understand this question. The song describes a strong love that seems fit for adults and that's its purpose in this scene. Not sure what the cultural meaning is. The song could possibly be sung to a child. A mother's love is strong and unconditional as well. I really think that in any culture love is love is love....

3) I watch this film whenever it is shown on TCM because of the story, actors and music. It was innovative and honorable for Minnelli to select this project for his directorial debut. Perhaps he wanted to attract all audiences by including top African American stars of that time. He showcased similarities between the races and offered starring roles to blacks headlining instead of secondary subservient roles. In addition, African Americans were figting in the war like all other Americans.

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The first thing we notice is how the women run to Joe's side and the angel (it's been a while since I've seen this movie so I don't remember exactly who he was) is completely ignored, the camera just goes right past him and straight to Petunia and Joe. At his bedside and then later when she is doing laundry we see that she is completely devoted to him, even when she stops taking down the laundry to tend to him and then returns to it. He is everything to her. We also see this in the way she looks at him and also her expression when she sings about him.

I could see this also being a song about the relationship between a mother and child, although some wording would need to be changed. While there is a difference in relationships between spouses and the ones parents have with their children, no one can deny the devotion that connects them. I don't think the cultural meaning would change considering this is a film that reflects family devotion and commitment. 

I think the film was meant to show that the lives of black Americans was perhaps not so different from others. Showing this in a time of war and a time when patriotism was at a high point along with a sense of unity, it showed that peoples lives were more connected than they would have thought. I wonder if this film was meant to be made and released during this time to bring more acceptance to African Americans who were fighting yet facing racism at the same time? The importance of this being a film with a black cast cannot be denied. The talent is amazing. 

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1. I actually got a chance to see this movie the other day! Prior to this scene, Petunia is inconsolable; praying desperately for her husband to get well. When Joe awakens, her spirits are immediately lifted, and the scene appropriately shifts from the dark bedroom to the bright and sunny yard. The mid-song set change reflects Petunia's mood, being brought out of her dismal slump and into a happier state of mind. The song is happy, the environment is happy, everything looks just a bit brighter when things go right.

2. I'm not sure that much would change if the subject of the song was a kid. While this makes the previous altercation with a gun-wielding gambler more disturbing, she is nonetheless still singing about how happy she is to see a loved-one recover.

3. It's nice to see that black performers were given such a great opportunity, especially in a time when finding decent work in Hollywood was a miracle. It's a wonder that the likes of this film and Porgy and Bess didn't open people's minds to the idea of giving talented African Americans equal billing to their white colleagues. But alas.

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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 shows us their real life, how it was before and how it will continue to be.  Petunia loves Joe and almost lost him and now is living on the happiness of his presence.  Petunia is an indefatigable optimist.  She is willing Joe to be good.
  2. How would the song change if it was a woman singing about her child? Does the cultural meaning change? How?  Frankly, her care for Joe (moving him out of the sun) and her looming stature compared to Joe makes one feel as though she is a mother type in this scene especially since Joe doesn't have any lines.  He is very passive in this scene.
  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? Just seeing Ethel Waters smile (and then to hear her sing!) is possibly more uplifting and important to the national feeling than was Shirley Temple during the Depression.

 

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1 - She thanks to god for save Little Joe, when she's so happy, she sings to him a song whose represents all her love for him.

2 - It'll be same thing as a love for a man or child, in my point of view, there's a devotion in both way.

3 - In that era, it was no common have black actors as leading man or lady in the movies, so I think this film was advance, and about WWII, they're voluntered in the services.

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Weighty historical forces touch on the many discursive aspects of producing and displaying for public consumption Cabin In the Sky (1943). Settings, costumes, and fashion of action and speech are heterogeneous and bring the film into a modernized, urbanized space. Characters in Cabin are not the one-dimensional, highly dismissible individuals with which film audiences heretofore had been presented. Some of this elevation can be attributed to the individuals who took part in the making of this film.

Edmund “Rochester” Anderson began work with Jack Benny’s radio program and continued with the show into its television years. He was the first Black performer to be a regular on a national program. His character, Rochester, became much beloved and sometimes even overshadowed Benny. Though the character was a valet, he often had the wittiest lines and did not always appear foolish, particularly after the war years when racial stereotyping diminished. Eventually, Benny often entreated audiences to reject all forms of racism. Though Rochester’s flaws (i.e. drinking, gambling, laziness) remained, they were part of his individual character traits rather than a racial stereotype. Anderson and Benny were great friends, a relationship Benny protected. When hotels or restaurants would not admit Anderson, Benny would also leave the establishment in solidarity with his friend. At times, the entire show’s cast and crew would check out of a hotel and look for accommodations where the group could stay together. Anderson was one of the most highly paid performers of the day, and his business acumen made him quite wealthy. He owned a variety of businesses, was particularly involved with training and racing horses, and his philanthropic deeds were for the betterment of a colorless society. He willed his large home to be used as a rehab facility for area homeless, and The Rochester Mansion functions still.

Ethel Waters came from a very poor and troubled home, but she achieved great fame in her long career. In 1939 she became the first Black performer to star in her own television program. She also was the first Black woman to integrate the Great White Way. As a recording artist her songs frequently appeared on the top-ten charts. 

Lena Horne came from an upper-middle class, well-educated family. She made her debut at MGM in 1942’s Panama Hattie in which she sang “Stormy Weather”, the tune with which she’d be most identified for the entirety of her career. She was the first Black performer to serve on the SAG board. In the 1950’s, Horne left Hollywood, disenchanted, and focused on her nightclub career. It was during this time that Hollywood black-listed her for her communist asociations, and she subsequently disavowed Communism. Her recording career soared even into the 2000’s. She was long involved with civil rights activism. She refused to perform for servicemen if they were gathered in segregated fashion. In fact, she once was to perform for Black American servicemen and German POW’s, and when she saw that the Americans were seated to the rear of the German prisoners, she moved down among the men and sang with her back to the Germans. She was very involved with the NAACP and was among a delegation who met with President Kennedy two days before his assassination. 

Thelma McQueen did not like her name and later changed it legally to Butterfly. So, yes, that is her real name; and yes, that is her real voice; and no, she “don’t know nothin’ ‘bout birthin’ no babies”. She tired very quickly of playing only maids, and she really hated to be made to play foolish. She didn’t mind if her character was cute and funny, but she found it humiliating to play dumb. Because of her strong feelings about this, she ended her film career in the late 1940’s. She never married or had children. Late in her life she was honored by the Freedom From Religion Foundation. As an atheist, she viewed Christianity as a religion based on tenets of irresponsible behaviors and bigotry and believed it’s followers to be prisoners. 

My purpose in relating so much personal information about these actors who appeared in Cabin In the Sky is to impress upon anyone who might care to read this that these were fine, upstanding, hard-working, talented, intelligent, thoughtful, caring, generous, unique individuals who did a great deal to further the cultural, political, educational standing of their people. They did so as a matter of course simply by being themselves. They really were heroes. 

 

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The way the scene is shot, it looks like time has passed by. She shows undying love for her spouse. It could be addressed for both husband and child.  Its mixed, misunderstood and complicated. It shows some positive steps about that time period.

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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? She's very thankful that Joe has survived and hopes that he loves her as much as she loves him. 
  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 it would change anything. She loves Joe, would do anything for him and to protect him. So she would show the same love and affection toward her 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? Black Americans were facing the same turmoil of sending family off to war, just like everyone else. It's important because it shows that they love their family exactly the same way and would go above and beyond for them. Things were tougher for black American families though since they weren't seen as equals to white Americans. They didn't get to earn as much money, they didn't always get the same luxuries. 
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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?

When the scene starts, the lighting in the cabin is dark. Petunia is dressed in dark, matronly clothing. Then she is outside in the sunshine and she’s happily going about her daily chores. Her clothing is lighter. She also looks thinner and younger. You realize that this part of the seem takes place later, because Joe is sitting up in a wheelchair and he is outside.

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

If I filmed this scene with a mother singing about her child, I would not have it sung directly to the child. I could see it being sung over a montage of the mom remembering scenes of the child’s life. I’m not sure the cultural meaning would change that much.

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 loved the fact that so many talented African-Americans were able to display their talents. There were still too many stereotypes to make it a favorite of mine. I felt that it was filmed as a “B” movie, but Vincent Minnelli made it better than another director may have done.  

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Petunia obviously dotes on Little Joe. Showing her in the bedroom and then in the back yard doing laundry shows that her love for Joe is as much a part of her life as breathing. Even if she tried, she couldn't stop loving him. Fortunately in Hollywood, the love of a good woman can fix anything--even a gambling problem. Joe gets a second chance thanks to his good woman.

Personally, I would think that Ethel Waters would find the southern Black vernacular language in the song a little offensive. It makes her sound like a poor black woman--about the lowest station in the U.S. at the time. However, since the rest of the movie is written in the same language, I suppose it makes sense.

As is well known, African Americans were segregated to all-black units during WW II. Therefore, it is not too surprising that there were not many African Americans portrayed in the movies coming out of Hollywood at the time. Other than musicians and band leaders and a few comedians here and there, there were few African American celebrities--and certainly no movie stars. Still, it is encouraging to see that a major Hollywood studio took the giant leap to make a mainstream all-black movie. It shows that some people in the U.S. were trying to fight the pervasive prejudice against African Americans.

On a side note: It's obvious that Ethel Waters didn't do her own laundry in real life. Otherwise, she wouldn't have wadded up the laundry she took off the line as she was singing. Wadding means more ironing!

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During the song Petunia goes from singing with pleasure because her man is improving, but takes on a more happy lighthearted tone outside even though she's still got to do the laundry to make ends meet.  Some aspects of her tone would probably be the same if singing to a child, but perhaps less of the tone when she's singing next to him.  The lives shown here could be of people of any race.  They are not shown in the usual roles of domestic servants, or some type of subservience.  Progress indeed.

 

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In the beginning of the song, as she kneels by Joe's bedside, her hands are clasped as if in prayer, and she appears to be singing her gratitude to her prayers being answered, and her husband's return to her, after thinking him dead.    When the scene cuts to the laundry line, she is singing more of the delight in her love for Joe, and her tenderness towards him (as she moves him into the shade of the porch), and uses the shirt to simulate an embrace of her husband.  

I suppose the song could be sung about a child, but I don't think that was the intent to the composer and the lyricist.   It would change the tone, and probably some of the words to make that work.   I don't think you should change another person's work of art.   And music and lyrics are art.  

A movie with just black actors, for an economic (Movie Studios searching for a new and expanded audience) and political (desired support for the war effort by all citizens) purposes, only underlined that we were still very much a segregated society.  The military all during WWII was still separated by color, until President Truman ordered the integration of the Armed Forces after WWII.  Despite this, these servicemen enlisted, fought for the ideals of this country, even if the realization of those ideals had not yet been enjoyed fully by these servicemen.   And, unfortunately, we are not there yet.    

I really enjoyed this movie.  I had not seen it before.   Ethel Waters just blew me away.   She was a wonderful actress and singer, and had an incredible presence on stage.    I have seen Lean Horne perform, but never Waters.  Wow!

 

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In this clip it was very rare to to show blacks portrayed as real down to earth people. Before they were portrayed in comedic roles or as butlers, servants here they are shown as real people with real life problems  we see them as people with the times being what they were, (racial inequality) this was a risky movie but it works on many levels.

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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?

Petunia starts the song at Joe's bedside as she is relieved to know he is alive and on the mend.  The angel disappears as if to say all will be well; we cut to the hanging laundry and we see Joe in a wheelchair enjoying life and his wife.  She repeats his name and thus we see how in love she is with her man.

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

If the song were about a woman singing to her child, the whole scene would have probably been filmed differently.  The cultural meaning would not change as much just that she would be demonstrating a mother's love as opposed to a wife's love.  

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 is a wonderful film- a time capsule of sorts of the era- and shows what life is going to be like on the homefront.  The women became a strong feature in the American family of all races and nationalities.  With the majority of the men at war it was imperative for the women to lead as much a normal life at home and keep the family, and the nation, going and moving forward.

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Personally, as a contemporary African-American woman, with a family who migrated to Los Angeles, California from Missouri and Oklahoma, I find Cabin in the Sky a wonderful showcase of talent from an ethnic group that was surviving, creating their own style, and fighting for inclusion during a highly racist and separatist time. Today, while there are the blatant stereotypes to put in perspective, from the musical, the historical significance of its existence can't be ignored and should be celebrated as a part of both African-American and Hollywood history.

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 it's directed in a nicely rendered and intimate way, at first, almost as if she's saying a prayer over Little Joe or reciting a soothing mantra. When she goes out to gather her laundry, while still singing the song, it becomes a pronouncement of devout love and jubilation about his existence in her life. Through this portrayal, we see how invested she is emotionally to both he and their marriage. Her deep feelings make the song bring alive sentiments for me, as a viewer, I wouldn't notice if it weren't performed at this time. Ethel Waters appears to have dug deep and found some similar experiences to reenact when she sings this song making it ring with truth and passion.

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

If it were sung for a child the passion would be altered to reflect a maternal and protective devotion instead of an erotic, matrimonial one. A cultural change would definitely shift, because of this relationship, to show her heartfelt need for someone she was raising over someone chosen in marriage. The song sung, for her child, might also have a hint of desperation since she'd worry more for the child's well-being because he's more vulnerable to her.

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 love this film because it's an opportunity for blacks to show a range of emotions within a community they've created. While the usual stereotypes exist, the inclusion of erudite, educated characters in contrast to simpler ones, gives it variety and is an important step towards portraying the African-American race as individually as the Caucasian race. The bravery and pride of the characters, despite their status, probably reflects how Blacks felt during WWII when they were as needed as other Americans for the war effort. 

Overall, Cabin in the Sky, is an important film of the era because it reflects the complications African-Americans, and others during that time, had in distinguishing the line between good and evil. 

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1. The way the scene is directed in Cabin In The Sky with Petunia going from the sitting room of the cabin to Joe's side and then it cutting out to her doing laundry with Joe outside shows the feeling Petunia has for Joe. It shows love, concern, happiness and a deep connection between the two characters.

2. Would the song change if she was singing about her child, of course. The meaning and lyrics would be different with regards to how she expresses love. The difference in love one has for a child is very different from the love one has for their spouse. 

3. This film shows the Black American in a non stereotyped role that was so prevelent in the era. Even the use of the actress from Gone With Thw Wind as a friend to a woman who thought her husband was dead as opossed to the typical maid role. Despite the segragation of the time frame this movie does a lot to really showcase the talents and better story lines for the Black American. 

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1) With Petunia at Joe's bedside she is still concerned for his health as well as thankful to God that Joe is on the mend. By transitioning to the outdoor laundry scene we are acknowledging the passage of time; Joe is no longer confined to his sick bed but he is in fact recuperating and sitting in a wheelchair. Petunia's demeanor is an ear-to-ear grin as her man is getting well. the concern is in her heart but now she is full of love and the prospect of life with a soon-to-be healthy Joe.

2) The song would most definitely change if Petunia was singing about her child Joe, just as it would change if she was singing about her lesbian lover "Jo" or a beloved hound dog named "Joe" or any other configuration.The cultural meaning would, I believe, remain the same: someone in love and expressing this love through song.

3) I never saw "Cabin in the Sky" until the other evening and I had to watch it again, as I was so enthralled by it. That said, there must have been thousands of filmgoers of all races who loved "Cabin in the Sky" when it was released and MGM should have made more films with black actors; history tells us why they never did. Damn shame.

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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 song simply expresses and acknowledges Petunia's utter love and devotion to Little Joe despite how he's treated her in the past. We can see from the beginning of the scene as she rushes to her husband's bedside when she discovers he's alive and well after suffering a near fatal gunshot wound. She continually proclaims her praises  and affirmations to God for answering her prayers to save Little Joe regardless of his wandering ways. As she begins singing her song to display her overwhelming joy and happiness, we cut and see an angel appear in a white soldier's uniform to not only reaffirm Petunia's faith and commitment to Little Joe but also to God as well. As the scene transitions from Joe's bedside to their front yard, we then see Petunia hanging laundry while tending to Little Joe. While she's takes down her washing, she sings her song once again to express her feelings of glee and happiness. These feelings are conveyed through her actions as well. The way she flirts a little when she takes up the washing to how she ever so lovingly hangs Joe's shirt around her neck represents the fact that she can even be happy while doing hard work because Little Joe loves her now.

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

Culturally speaking, I don't think the meaning of the song would change very much mainly because the song is about acceptance and unconditional love, but the way the song is conveyed would be much different. It would be articulated in a softer and more nurturing tone indicating warmth and maternal splendor both in action and visually. She would be rocking a child in her arms and slowly stealing soft glances as she lulls the child to sleep while singing this song. It would've been simply beautiful.

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 know that this film was definitely significant in displaying an all-black cast just like its predecessor Hallelujah! did several years before. It also highlighted the significance of inclusion and recognition of African-American performers as well as countless of African-Americans who voluntarily served in the war during this time. I know that before America's involvement in World War II, both President Roosevelt and his wife, Eleanor, were strong advocates for racial equality especially when the war effort came about. This film not only exemplifies that, but also focuses the importance of hope, complexities of human relationships, temptation, unconditional love, forgiveness, redemption, and most importantly, devotion and faith in God.

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#1

so many here have answered so well, but my two cents is this:

Whether Petunia is kneeling at Joe's bedside or hanging laundry, or folding it, or washing dishes, her conscious mind is preoccupied with Little Joe.  To wit, lil joe is not the be all end all motivation for Petunia.  Petunia's motivation, salvation, preoccupation, is God.  But on Earth, she cares for little Joe and his immortal soul.  Joe brings her happiness, but to her that happiness is a manifestation of Gods love.  

It is not degrading, or demeaning, that she does laundry or keeps a house.  It's an honest job and she works herself to the bone to provide for hers.  Point is, she's a hard worker and whatever action she's performing, she finds happiness in it just thinking of Lil Joe.

one moe point here: remember in the movie how luscifur Jr. Gets Lil Joe to rest instead of fixing the ceiling.  Well, idyll hands are the devil's playground, as they say.  So, Petunia constantly working reiterates she's a Godly woman.

#2

i wonder if the song would change and how.  Their relationship is almost like mother and son- in the sense that Petunia is mothering Little Joe.  Again, reiterating his name is Little Joe.  This is way before the our modern conception of "man child" but that's basically what Lil Joe is to petunia.  She washes his clothes, watches over his immortal soul.  This is not a "Romantic" relationship where one is swept off their feet.  It's not passionate, it's not sexy.  It's the life of a good woman, caring for her man.  And as many downsides as that may have for Petunia, she's all in.  Petunia basically plays the Madonna trope in this film.

#3

Aside from the segregated services and Japanese internment camps, there is a signifying unity of Americans.  Perhaps this is the era that give us "black Americans" as a bomafide group who are free and fight for our collectivecountry. (With obvious echoes back to the past in wwI, etc.). Example, all African American VAs start to pop up.  Black Americans go to Europe and see what atrocities a nazis are committing against people.  American audiences are waking up to that too and perhaps want to be more inclusive.  Even so, studios, many with members who've just narrowly averted persecution in Europe, want to send the message that the US is a safe haven for people under siege. Many of these same folks, who united the US during the war against fascist propaganda, would be blacklisted as communists a decade later.  

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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?

You see the love and devotion to her husband. She is happy with a simple life as long as she has his love.  She caresses his shirt from the laundry.  Even the song has very simple lyrics of love.

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

She would have sang it reflecting a different kind of love for her child.  The cultural meaning would be one of nurturing not one of a love for a man.

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

Society was becoming more diversified at this time.  Many black Americans served in the war even though they were still segregated within the military units.  It was a time for racial awareness, and having films which included minority actors and actresses. The film industry wanted to create films that personified their cultures for entertainment. 

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1. I noticed the scene was directed to show the audience that Petunia was so concerned for Joe that she was very distressed. Petunia is then relieved and overly happy that Joe is alive, she has a continual smile on her face. When they cut to her outside scene, she is extremely happy, still with her continuous smile. It tells us that her relationship with Joe is easy going and relaxed. She loves doing the domestic jobs for him. She has pleasure in caring and looking after him. The connection to the song is by the way she is looking out for him, for example wheeling him out of the sun into the shade. The lyrics "happiness is a thing called Joe" sums up Petunia's relationship with Joe. 

2. The song wouldn't change if it was a woman singing to her child as the lyrics would suit. The cultural meaning would change, to the song being a very maternal love of a mother to her child. 

3. It makes me think that the film was trying to demonstrate that all Americans, even African Americans are good Americans who have pride and are very patriotic for their country. This was very important in this era WWII. 

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