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thstarkweather

On the Town and Jules Dassin's The Naked City

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Rather than commenting on today's Mad about Musicals Daily Dose, I wanted to write briefly about Dr. Ament's discussions regarding On the Town and the significance of it being filmed on location, particularly the opening sequence and musical number.  During the lecture, I couldn't stop thinking about the opening sequence in Dassin's The Naked City (1948). This was also shot on location in New York and its opening also begins with large panoramic views of the city. But unlike its musical counterpart, this noir film digs into the particular nitty-gritty aspects of the city as night falls and dawn approaches.  And instead of sailors beginning an adventure, we have detectives solving a murder.  

Dr. Ament commented on how New York is a character in On the Town, and it functions as such in The Naked City.  But if the character of New York in On the Town is jubilant and entertaining, the same city in Dassin's film is sinister and dangerous, but still compelling and fascinating.  

I was wondering if anyone else in the Mad about Musicals course had any thoughts on the connection between noir and musicals post-WWII. If musicals sought to unite the nation during and after WWII, does noir unconsciously expose all the cracks and fissures in American society during that time. Musicals unite couples, families and communities. Noir shows how individuals within those couples, families, and communities are socially and psychologically troubled, and those troubles lead to thoughts and actions that disrupt rather than unite. Maybe the viewing audience in 1940s USA had a need and desire to see both: the musicals and the noir flicks. 

To be honest, I have always been more of a noir fan than a fan of musicals. If Double Indemnity and Meet Me in St. Louis were screening at the same time, I think I would always choose Double Indemnity. (That is n't a comment on quality, just personal preference.) One of the reasons I took this course was to learn more about musicals and force myself to watch films that I probably would not have sought out on my own.  

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I think it's obvious you are more of a fan of noir since you are using a message board about musicals to discuss noir! When they did the course on film noir a few summers ago were people trying to draw comparisons to musicals? Doubt it.

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Well, if we can't draw comparisons between and across genres then I suppose that we will be prohibited from talking about the amazing noir influenced musical number in The Bandwagon.  

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15 minutes ago, thstarkweather said:

Well, if we can't draw comparisons between and across genres then I suppose that we will be prohibited from talking about the amazing noir influenced musical number in The Bandwagon.  

Nobody's saying you can't talk about that. But some people try to push noir as a more important genre than musicals and I think we have to caution against it. All genres are equal in my view.

You could also talk about how musicals influence films like GILDA, NORA PRENTISS and THE RACKET where Rita Hayworth, Ann Sheridan and Lizabeth Scott perform important musical numbers. But because you're trying to find noir in musicals instead of trying to find musicals in noir, I think your approach is obviously going to be biased.

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3 minutes ago, TopBilled said:

Nobody's saying you can't talk about that. But some people try to push noir as a more important genre than musicals and I think we have to caution against it. All genres are equal in my view.

You could also talk about how musicals influence films like GILDA, NORA PRENTISS and THE RACKET where Rita Hayworth, Ann Sheridan and Lizabeth Scott perform important musical numbers. But because you're trying to find noir in musicals instead of trying to find musicals in noir, I think your approach is obviously going to be biased.

I've pulled some musical numbers by noir dames into my musical assessments. Certainly there are "issues" both genres are dealing with in starkly different ways.  I happen to be a huge fan of both. I even find Jessica Rabbit's performance both musical and noir.  "Come on Rodger, let's go home. I'll bake you a carrot cake."

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I agree with you TopBilled.  While my personal preferences skew in certain directions, those preferences should not be seen a statements about which genres are more important or significant.  But I will inevitably draw upon my current knowledge of films to help me think about a genre with which I have limited experience. And I was struck by the convergence of those two opening sequences filmed on location in NY and released within roughly a year of each other.

I appreciate the feedback and  conversation.

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57 minutes ago, thstarkweather said:

I agree with you TopBilled.  While my personal preferences skew in certain directions, those preferences should not be seen a statements about which genres are more important or significant.  But I will inevitably draw upon my current knowledge of films to help me think about a genre with which I have limited experience. And I was struck by the convergence of those two opening sequences filmed on location in NY and released within roughly a year of each other.

I appreciate the feedback and  conversation.

Fair enough. You are building your knowledge of classic film and I understand that. I'm sure there are other films from the same time period with stock footage or on location filming of New York City. The noir PORT OF NEW YORK comes to mind, made in 1949. 

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Actually, in discussing pulling music from non musical genres, I have to bring one of my all time favorites into the conversation.  Sadly, it  is so not noir.  Mel is a master of spoofing musicals.  Love what he does in High Anxiety, Blazing Saddles, Young Frankenstein, and, of course, History of the World Part I.  I won't include Robin Hood: Men in Tights as that should be forgotten. His second The Producers should be under consideration also.

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8 hours ago, thstarkweather said:

During the lecture, I couldn't stop thinking about the opening sequence in Dassin's The Naked City (1948). This was also shot on location in New York and its opening also begins with large panoramic views of the city.    Dr. Ament commented on how New York is a character in On the Town, and it functions as such in The Naked City.  But if the character of New York in On the Town is jubilant and entertaining, the same city in Dassin's film is sinister and dangerous, but still compelling and fascinating.  

New York is also a character in West Side Story.  Like the other two films New York is introduced at the beginning, including the famous helicopter shot.  Instead of the glamorous Time Square with flashing neon signs we get flashing cop car lights.  It's a a harsher, tougher view of life, with turf wars, clashing cultural groups, cops, and survival. Without the intro and accents, could this story have taken place in another big city, say, Chicago? 

Also I can't think of a noir musical. Perhaps maybe Sweeney Todd, but that's more of a horror fantasy.  There's Dick Tracy, which Sondheim wrote 5 songs for, but is that a musical?  And is that noir?  It's not in the sense of Double Indemnity.  Maybe you'd lose the angst needed for noir by interruping it with song or dance. 

Although do you think Chicago is somewhat noir?  Or Cabaret?  These both have troubled characters acting outside of social norms.  But these shows/films were made later than the 1940's, in another time of social upheaval.

I'd be curious to see a Blade Runner, the musical.  Science fiction noir? 

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The connection I see is not the genre per se. It is the attitudes and expectations of movie goers following the war. The style of filmmaking, even that of musicals began to change into the 50s and drastically in the 60s and beyond.

Women were no longer tied by their apron strings to home and hearth. By necessity they had ventured out into the world, some serving some taking up jobs in the factories. And once this happened the old tropes didn't play as well as they had in the 30s and prewar 40s. And the returning veterans had experienced real horrors and tragedies. They had experienced the gritty, cruel underbelly of life. Neither group could return to the ppl they had been before the war. 

Sure, Hollywood still produced saccharine sweet and bubbly films but the darkness of the other side of reality slowly stole in. Is it any wonder that it is in the post-war era we see the emergence of film noir? I don't think so. It makes perfect sense. Even the war films being put out changed. The US didn't win every battle and sometimes the hero died just like in real life.

So the similarities I see in addition to specific location shootings is the path of the pendulum. Once the audience's expectations changed and there was no longer a need for unremitting nationalism the pendulum picked up speed to show the alternative. Neither POV is better or more authentic. The way I see it is they are just two sides of the same coin.

 

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1 hour ago, Pastiche said:

 

New York is also a character in West Side Story.  Like the other two films New York is introduced at the beginning, including the famous helicopter shot.  Instead of the glamorous Time Square with flashing neon signs we get flashing cop car lights.  It's a a harsher, tougher view of life, with turf wars, clashing cultural groups, cops, and survival. Without the intro and accents, could this story have taken place in another big city, say, Chicago? 

Also I can't think of a noir musical. Perhaps maybe Sweeney Todd, but that's more of a horror fantasy.  There's Dick Tracy, which Sondheim wrote 5 songs for, but is that a musical?  And is that noir?  It's not in the sense of Double Indemnity.  Maybe you'd lose the angst needed for noir by interruping it with song or dance. 

Although do you think Chicago is somewhat noir?  Or Cabaret?  These both have troubled characters acting outside of social norms.  But these shows/films were made later than the 1940's, in another time of social upheaval.

I'd be curious to see a Blade Runner, the musical.  Science fiction noir? 

Thanks for the West Side Story reference.  I will see it next weekend in the theatre and look for similarities in how the city is captured. 

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48 minutes ago, CynthiaV said:

The connection I see is not the genre per se. It is the attitudes and expectations of movie goers following the war. The style of filmmaking, even that of musicals began to change into the 50s and drastically in the 60s and beyond.

 

 

I agree with this completely. 

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I love the opportunity to see the film that was shot inside the Roxy Theatre for the opening of Naked City. I don’t think there is anything else like it documenting the famous movie palace. Even though it’s only a few seconds.

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