Dr. Vanessa Theme Ament

DAILY DOSE OF DELIGHT #9 (From THE BAND WAGON)

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The idea that theatre is a community and all work together is exemplified in this song.  They need each other in order to portray or give the world "entertainment."  This scene is more of a collaborative effort as opposed to a couple or single dancer/singer.  

The costumes are simple- nothing outlandish or too, too colorful.  Simplicity sometimes is better than spectacle; the really colorful outfits are for the productions for the show they are going to do.

Everything they do blends into each other's action- a reaction to what one starts.  There's great continuity in the things they do.  They are obviously good friends and they are adding to the song's idea of what makes entertainment.

 

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1. In this scene, the 4 characters actions are similar to the Let's put on a show motif where everyone ensures all are on board. No one is dominant except for the intro done by Cordova and Lilly and Lester are right there supporting him with smiles and assurances they can put on a good show as anything can be entertaining. This convinces Tony to join in.  

2 Costumes are in neutral blues, grays, and white. No one stands out except for Lilly's wide skirt. This supports the all for one and one for all theme.

3. The set for the Faust concept is in fiery red and brimstone with a grim face on a green door is the backdrop to the actions of the 4 performers as they do comic routines and acrobatic pyramids. The design supports the selling of entertainment no matter what form it takes. 

 

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1. What really stood out to me is how they were constantly touching and interacting with one another. Each person has a part, no one is more important than anyone else.  In previous musicals, there is usually one person singing.

2. The costumes are similar. They are all simple, not overly flashy.  No one costume stands out.

3.  There is a sense of friendship, cooperation and fun throughout this scene.  They are helping one another, goofing off and playing.  

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1 - The scene builds as Buchanan, Fabray and LeVant convince Astaire that the idea has merit.  You can see Astaire come on board and when he does, the threesome becomes a guartet with each member playing his or her part. No one character is emphasized over another.  Even LeVant, who is clearly out of his element here, is a necessary part of the whole. 

2-  While I’ve seen this film several times, and this clip even more times, I had never notices how the costuming blends with the colors complementing each other.  The husband/wife duo are in gray with the “singles” in shades of blue.  The piece is performed on an unset stage with various backdrops and props that don’t seem to match the lyric but support the concept of “everything can be used”.

3 - Obviously, this is an ensemble show and not one in which there is a starring character with supporting actors.  The dancing, the use of individual lines of the song building to tell a story or set a potential scene, and the camera angles that don’t put one character center stage all help to portray the sense of “community”.

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1. There is a sense of cooperation between the four of them. No one is trying to upstage the other.  The segment seems more like a conversation with free flowing ideas instead of being one sided where one person dominates the scene.

2  The cohesiveness is reflected through the costumes and dancing.  No one is wearing an overtly flamboyant costume; instead they are dressed in everyday clothes so they look like the normal American. 

3.  Again they are dressed alike and use sight gags like the long ladder to show some humor.  They.play off each other and even help each other out when they are standing on the stage prop.

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1. As you watch the interaction between the four characters in this scene, what do you notice about the way they include each other or relate to one another? How is it different from early musicals we have discussed?

The number begins with the three coming to the aid of the one, Jack Buchanan who has fallen over. It mirrors what Fabray and Levant are attempting to do, lift their friend, Astaire's career up out of the doldrums.

In this group, at least in this scene, there is no competition and criticism of one's follies and bad luck as in previous comedic musicals featuring Astaire (The Gay Divorcee [which Levant even  mentions] and Holiday Inn). Nor does only one person show compassion and help him up but rather all present rush to help him.This sets up the theme of cooperation that will more fully flesh out in the number and the musical.

As the scene continues the couple (Levant and Fabray) join the first actor (Buchanan) who is attempting to convince all three that they can do this (produce a great play) if they could only join in with his vision that all of life is fodder for a successful musical play. The three then band together to convince Astaire who himself soon jumps on the, "band wagon" and is singing in harmony with the others. They are all soon tossing out examples which prove Buchanan's point.

The dance routines as mentioned are simplified so that all (almost all) can perform. Early Astaire musicals would have had Fred breaking away and dancing some spectacular Astaire moves alone, with a woman or maybe with a prop but he was never a group dancer as he is here.

Even when the three (Astaire, Fabray, Buchanan) dance in a bit of upstaging hamminess (moving to plant their feet in front of the other) it is more for fun than to prove themselves superior to the other. Their moves and even hand gestures throughout mimic one another. 

The group performs the pretend balancing act of being supported by Levant until he breaks away and shows the three are supporting one another but the enduring image is of the four united. They even dance with their hands on the next dancers waist thus confirming this solidarity. The two men (Astaire and Buchanan) react similarly to Fabray's hip flip with their hats falling off. Levant lights Buchanan's cigarette. All signs of sameness and cooperation.

The entire number differs from previous musicals especially of the pre-war era when individuality was more the central message. The theme here is cooperation and mutual support.

2. What do you notice about the costuming of the characters that indicate cohesiveness of the ensemble, as opposed to setting anyone apart? Be specific.

They are all dressed conservatively with Astaire and Levant in suit and tie and the more flamboyant Buchanan even in subdued mid and dark blues. Fabre is femininely attired in a white and grey dress/skirt with a charming little red rose prominent on her belt. The colors are all subdued, just shy of drab and blend well with what each other participant is wearing. There is nothing loud or colorful about their clothing. Nothing that makes one actor stand apart from the other. I just could not see Gene Kelly in a role here bc at this point in his career he persistently wore costumes or even put small touches to his wardrobe that caused his character to stand out.

3. What do you notice about the staging and interplay between the characters that helps define the relationships between the characters in the song?

They sing of the clown, the vamp, the king, and the regular guy and the dance and playful interaction of the four in the scene match the lyrics exactly. Fabre struts and wiggles, Levant clowns, Astaire is the regular nice guy and Buchanan is the king, the boss and visionary.

One other thing I love about this one scene is the genuine smile on Fred Astaire's face at the end of the number. He must have really had a blast making it.

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  1. As you watch the interaction between the four characters in this scene, what do you notice about the way they include each other or relate to one another? How is it different from early musicals we have discussed?

The four characters each get a turn singing alone at the beginning, but then sing together for majority of the remainder of the song. This sets them up as equals and they play together in different gags, such as Astaire catching the handkerchief  or the lighting of the cigarette. Most of the early musicals feature just one or two people singing and usually the main focus is only on one of them. The early musicals also really showcase the talents of those in the numbers. In this number, the dancing and singing are relatively simple {except the part that Levant steps out for}. There doesn't need to be a huge range of talent to get through either of those things for the most part, so even if you're not a strong singer or dancer like Oscar Levant, it doesn't matter in the scope of this number. 

  1. What do you notice about the costuming of the characters that indicate cohesiveness of the ensemble, as opposed to setting anyone apart? Be specific.

Their outfits are more like everyday clothing instead of fancy costumes. They are wearing the normal attire for their characters with Astaire and Levant in suits, Buchanan in nice pants and more of a casual/robe-like top and Fabray in a cute, but still simple, skirt and shirt. None of them are wearing anything fancy or flashy that makes them stand out from the others. This helps show them as a single unit.

  1. What do you notice about the staging and interplay between the characters that helps define the relationships between the characters in the song?

They are all very playful together. It's really fun to watch. Levant is more of the comic and does more of the gag work in the number, while the others are stronger dancers. The personalities of their characters really shine through their facial expressions and how they react to each other.

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This is one of my favorite musical numbers, and now I see why. 

Interactions: This number highlights working together and having fun while creating a show.  There is very little true dancing; most of the movement consists of steps and shticks - the result appears very casual and upbeat, with no "artistic skill" needed.

Visually, Nanette Fabray's dress adds a bit of movement and life, though still part of a cohesive palette with Levant's suit.  Others have already noted the blue scheme with Astaire and Buchanan - Astaire the conservative, dressy American; Buchanan, the artsy, ascot-ed "other" (he s not identified as British or European in the film, but the chacaracter easily reads that way for American audiences).

The interplay here gets the story going.  In this number, Jeffrey Buchanan is seen as just one of the other actors - which helps the audience relate to him during those scenes when he's being over-the-top artistic and demanding "more flame!"  - we know that he'll turn out to be part of the team. 

Though it's not part of the daily dose or the questions - this dynamic also plays out with Cyd Charisse's Gabi character, whom we see as aloof until we see her with the rest of the company at the cast party.

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The featured scene and the song "That's Entertainment" show a backstage view of performers collaborating and musically brainstorming for the sake of a successful production.  This idea of unity is confirmed and supported by the lyrics: "The world is a stage; the stage is a world of entertainment."  The concept of life being material for theatre and theatre being the platform for life is an old notion from Shakespeare's Winter's Tale where the characters discuss how art imitates nature and nature is reflected in art--the two parts blend together without a clear distinction of where one ends and the other begins.  This overarching idea of blending and cohesiveness is mirrored in the movements of the four actors.  One performer begins a line of a lyrical story and another picks up the next part which is followed by the third person with a third piece and concluded by the fourth person:  

The clerk who is thrown out of work
By the boss who is thrown for a loss
By the skirt who is doing him dirt
The world is a stage; the stage is a world of entertainment!

The lyrics even give credit to Shakespeare:  

Some great Shakespearean scene
Where a ghost and a prince meet, and everyone ends in mincemeat.

The theme of unity is additionally projected through the performers' clothes.  All four are dressed in neutral or dark tones:  Buchanan and Astaire in navy blue, Fabray and Levant in grey with Levant also in black pants.  This choice of color palette lends a feeling of equality.  All of their clothing is fairly standard for everyday wear.  Buchanan does seem a bit more theatrical with a cravat and silk smoking jacket, and Astaire does look a bit more elegant in his suit, but no person stands out as the main focus.  Fabray does wear a splash of color with the red flower in her belt, but it adds to her femininity, not as a sign of her greater importance. 

Along with their appearance, the four performers actions are choreographed to blend and balance each other.  They step in sync with the same arm and leg movement such like a chorus line or a marching band.  Sometimes they work in pairs or threes, but never is one person doing any movement in solo.  Many of the movement scenes are pure vaudeville shtick--Astaire and Buchanan knocking each other's bowler hats off, Levant carrying the long ladder on both ends, Fabray giving a hip bump which throws the bowler hats off Astaire and Buchanan's heads.  These strings of mini-skits are an homage to the beginning of American entertainment to which the lyrics support: 

The guy who was waving the flag
That began with the mystical hand
Hip hooray! The American way.

The ensemble professes that American entertainment is at its roots a cooperative effort--we are all in it together.  When Buchanan's egotistical effort at the first musical of Faustus fails, it is the encouragement of Fabray and Levant along with the chorus of young dancers who move Astaire to give it one more try.  Buchanan even concedes his role as the director to join in the collaborative effort.  They will all work together as equals to make the musical better.  This portrayal of grassroots effort for the success of a show is also displayed in the movie Summer Stock.

The idea of unity and the ensemble effort is shown again in the Triplets song with Astaire, Fabray, and Buchanan all clothed in the same white dress and bonnet.  It is the sense of the homogeneousness of family life that is reflected in the growing neighborhoods of ranch-style houses in the suburbs.

 The audience is reminded through this song of "That's Entertainment" that cooperation and collaboration is a hallmark of American life.  The US and its citizens had just recently won WWII through shared efforts of soldiers and citizens, and now that lesson of unity can be applied to all parts of everyday life.  The song and the performers exude a energy, vitality, and optimism that is characteristic of the 1950s.  The song is reprised at the conclusion of the film with Cyd Charisse joining in the rendition.  It reminds the audience one last time that "Life is good, and the United States is a great nation to be living and working."  The only visual we do not see is the American flag waving, but the swelling crescendo of the music emotionally makes us mentally envision the glorious Stars and Stripes.

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ThatsEnt.jpg

The_Band_Wagon_(1953)_trailer_3.jpg

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1.    The theme of conformity and cooperation are subversively presented through costume, the props and gesture. First, we do not have the usual configuration for four characters (two paired couples) as there is an extra man. Already the scene poses imbalances, so equality must be achieved in other ways. Therefore, it begins with three picking up a fallen chum, restoring his equilibrium, setting the stage for the theme. Buchanan rises, singing, at first pointing at Astaire, a normally aggressive movement. However, its that gesture is softened by quick change of the pointed finger to a flat palm while vocalizing their goal: everything in life can happen in a show. Except for Fabrey’s red flower, all of the costumes are various arrangements of the background colors blue, grey and white, the same color of job site uniforms prevalent in the 50’s. Even Fabrey’s skirt  celebrates conformity with its round, full shape (inclusion) and square (a person who is conventional and old-fashioned, no hip) pattern designs. Astaire sits in a chair that is deliberately too wide for him, thus signaling openness. As they take turns relating their ideas, each person pantomimes the situation and soon, Fabrey and Levant’s hands are on Astaire’s shoulders as a buddy gesture. Everyone is smiling as they raise the chorus, “That’s entertainment” in unison. Their only competition during the tap dance is playfully accomplished in locked arms. They make a pyramid on a red set piece that looks somewhat like it has big, round eyes (Big brother is watching you). Then, Levant steps forward to expose that it is a merely a visual trick of perspective, reducing that perception. This is ironic as MacCarthyism with its Red Scare is in full swing.  After allusion to vaudevillian slapstick, as it nears the end of the song, they are in one line, waving as they sing about “the American way” with reference to Cohan (patriotism) and the America flag. Finally, the world is a stage for Americans who earned that position of dominance with common war effort.

 

This is in sharp contrast to buddy dances from the 40’s. For example, in On the Town, the sailors compete with each other to outdo each other in every way possible, breaking out of their sameness expressed by their shared sailor uniforms. The first song “New York, New York” establishes the setting and their common intent but we see the distinct personalities of each character. Even though they are presenting forward to the audience and often in unison dance step, much is said by posture, physical distance, who leads the line, gesture and facial expression. We know that Gabey will be the dominant one, Ozzie comic relief and Chip the awkward one.

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The Band Wagon is probably my favorite movie musical for reasons, some of which are deeply buried in my subconscious at this point. However, I thought it important to mention that The Band Wagon was a stage show in the 30s that started Fred and Adele Astaire, so even though Dr. Ament mentions the title as aligning with the theme of solidarity and working together, I've always assumed that really, the title was taken from the original show (which also had "Dancing in the Dark" as its big number, as well as a few other songs that were shared: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Band_Wagon_(musical).

Also, I've either assumed or read somewhere the the Nanette Fabray and Oscar Levant characters were take-offs on Adolph Green and Betty Comden.

The opening number, "I'll go My Way by Myself" is a fantastically melancholic tune, and is a bit inside baseball because Astaire's movie presence at this point was certainly not what it once was, and he no longer had his screen partner, Ginger Rogers.

Finally, one of my favorite numbers from this movie is "I Guess I'll Have to Change my Plans" which, in addition to be a fantastic song, has the benefit of showing how lithe and elegant Fred Astaire is, even at 54, when dancing next to Buchanan who is also very talented, but just not quite the dancer that Astaire is. https://youtu.be/ew54Qdb2l1g

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As you watch the interaction between the four characters in this scene, what do you notice about the way they include each other or relate to one another? How is it different from early musicals we have discussed?

All four actors spend most of the time in formation: They dance with the same steps and moves. None is separated and showcased as a single performer, as the star. When they split up, they are still dancing or acting in pairs. For example, there’s one part where Jack Buchanan is on the stage for a moment and getting out a cigarette, and Oscar Levant appears out of the set to light it for him; the bit becomes about both of them. And once that brief bit is done, they rejoin the others.

What do you notice about the costuming of the characters that indicate cohesiveness of the ensemble, as opposed to setting anyone apart? Be specific.

They’re all wearing rather neutral shades. Nanette Fabray wears a red rose at her waist, but that’s the only real bright spot of color. I noticed that they are staged to alternate light and dark with their costumes a good part of the time.

What do you notice about the staging and interplay between the characters that helps define the relationships between the characters in the song?

I think I answered this in the first two questions.

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In the clip, the actors’ costumes are all blended in and each of them is participating in the musical numbers and no one is leading any parts, as the numbers are synchronized. All the men wore business-like suits.

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I agree with everyone who has noticed that the four performers work as a team, but as a team of leads rather than a chorus. Previous musicals have tended toward musical numbers with solos or duets or large ensembles. But the thing that stuck out to me was their verve and intelligence as as well as breadth of show business experience. These are people who could have a wide-ranging and intelligent conversation about theatre. They know Hamlet and Oedipus as well as vaudeville and classic French drama. But they don't take themselves too seriously--they enjoy trading quips and doing classic stage moves. Notice how Nanette Fabray plays the hip-swinging broad moving in a horizontal line as if she were playing the Palace. Fred Astaire has his Laurel and Hardy imitation with the hat. The ladder appears in a move that would fit into Donald O'Connor's Make 'Em Laugh in Singin' in the Rain. Considering the 1950's supposed emphasis on the wholesome and family-oriented, their references and body language suggest people who are not easily shocked. So many of their plot references are pretty lurid--prostitution in Camille, incest in Oedipus, madness and murder in Hamlet. But they face life with a smile all the same--nothing throws them.  Their movements are synchronized in ways that suggest they have a history or at least come from the same tradition--for example, the pyramid that they so handily do without apparent rehearsal. 

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As you watch the interaction between the four characters in this scene, what do you notice about the way they include each other or relate to one another? How is it different from early musicals we have discussed?

They worked more visually as a unit, playing off each other's strengths and encouraging one another. The earlier movies also did this but in a less conspicuous way, I think. I believe today's actors could learn a thing or two from these musicals. These stars had it all -- acting ability, singing, dancing. The ensemble is effective at entertaining the audience, unlike many movies I've seen lately!

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1. As you watch the interaction between the four characters in this scene, what do you notice about the way they include each other or relate to one another? How is it different from early musicals we have discussed?

The intent of the number is to convince Tony Hunter (Fred Astaire) that the classical dramatic actor/director, Jeffrey Cordova (Jack Buchanan), can be successful transitioning from drama to musical stage since in the end both genres are just different forms of entertainment. The number opens with Tony's friends Lester and Lily Marton (Oscar Levant and Nanette Fabray) and Cordova ushering Tony into a chair so they can start convincing him to go along with their plan to put on a show written by the Martons for Tony, who has returned to New York from Hollywood as his movie career has waned. The three alternate lyrics--working as a team--with the song until they are joined by Tony, indicating the plan to entice Tony into going ahead with the show is going to work. Throughout the song, the four are smiling and clearly having a good time interacting as they display the many forms entertainment can take. Unlike earlier musicals, where each character usually performed numbers either alone or with one of two people to tell their individual stories and move the plot along as needed, here we have a quartet of characters performing as a cohesive unit, highlighting the talents of each but for the most part all sharing the load.

2. What do you notice about the costuming of the characters that indicate cohesiveness of the ensemble, as opposed to setting anyone apart? Be specific.

The costuming matches the era in which the film was made, mid-century America. The men are dressed conservatively in jackets with neck wear and the woman is dressed tastefully in a light day dress adorned with a mid-century window-pane pattern, not unlike decor that was prevalent in kitchens and women's clothing in the 50's. All four are tastefully clothed and reflect the conservatism and uniformity of post-WWII and the early 50's.

3. What do you notice about the staging and interplay between the characters that helps define the relationships between the characters in the song?

There is no question this number is designed to reflect how entertainers, like all Americans, need to work together towards a common goal to achieve what has been described as American Exceptionalism. The number opens with three of the quartet trying to convince the fourth person to join the team. They alternate lines of lyrics along the way, building up to a finale in which all four are singing in unison to a finish on their bent knees with arms held out to the audience.

The fact that each of the quartet is only a part of a larger entity is reflected in a time step routine performed by Tony, Lily and Jeffrey. (Lester/Levant obviously was not capable of doing even a simple time step and goes off-screen.)  Lester returns, tossing a handkerchief to Tony, and the group dynamic is restored. The lyrics and related physical sets, including the performance of an illusory acrobatic act, are all designed to reinforce the premise that audiences can be entertained in many ways. The scene harkens back to vaudeville comedy (the lost derby routine, the man on both ends of a ladder, etc.) to enhance the message that "entertainment" has had many forms over time and has continued to succeed in pleasing audiences regardless of genre.

Perhaps most importantly, the characters appear to be having a ball while engaging in this number. The clear message is teamwork is both beneficial to achieving American Exceptionalism and it's good for you!

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In the beginning of the song they are shown surrounding the Fred Astaire character who is seated and a appears a little down or skeptical. The other three appear standing around him and supporting him with advice. Then he comes around to their ideas and contributes his own idea, then stands up as they dance and sing together as a cohesive team the rest of the song.

For shows of cohesiveness, I notice that they are all dressed in matching grays and blues, the female has a little pop of color with the red flower, but otherwise they all blend together well.

The characters are shown supporting each other and working together. First supporting the Fred Astaire character with ideas, then all dancing together and working around the set (carrying the ladder). The song portrays hard work and team work.

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1) As you watch the interaction between the four characters in this scene, what do you notice about the way they include each other or relate to one another? How is it different from early musicals we have discussed?

As I watched the clip, I was glad to notice the equality of all four actors (Buchanan, Levant, Fabray & Astaire), where they all had the same footing. This allowed everyone to be on the same wavelength, without trying to one up each other. They gave each other the same respect and right-away as they would want from the other person. In terms of how The Band Wagon compares to early musicals, it allows for every party to bring out their talent in pure unity, instead of trying to outdo another like in other musicals. That is pretty refreshing.

2) What do you notice about the costuming of the characters that indicate cohesiveness of the ensemble, as opposed to setting anyone apart? Be specific.

Judging by the costumes, no one wears bright colors, or stands out. They all have the same palette, which is not showy or extravagant. Although Fabray is a woman and wears a dress, she doesn't stand out. She is on equal position with the others. She is apart of the scene, and the men don't discriminate against her. They share the same compatibility and rapport.

3) What do you notice about the staging and interplay between the characters that helps define the relationships between the characters in the song?

Even when Levant leaves the scene for a moment, the other three actors dance in unity until he comes back into the picture, and then he joins them. Like I said, no one steals the scene from anyone else; they are all on equal terms. The song "That's Entertainment" also contains elements of unity, community, togetherness and equality. I think some of the lyrics suggest that when actors suffer harsh times in the film industry, there are others who come to their rescue. They pick them up, dust them off, and encourage them not to quit.

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I noticed that in this scene, the characters are interacting with each other, and the camera is a witness to that intersection, rather than in some of the previous movies when the characters interacted with each other through the camera.  No one was the central character, they all interacted.   Their clothing as neutral, blacks, greys, whites, so they blended as they moved around each other in the musical sketch.  They all moved stage material to support what each charter did next.  Their steps mirrored each other, and were in sync.    They moved like the supporting cast might behind the main character.   This this case the main character was the song. 

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Band Wagon is certainly a departure from the musicals we have been seeing up till now.  Most often we see Fred Astaire dancing solo or with Ginger but always at his finest but in this dance scene in The Band Wagon his talent is still much toned down to be cooperative with his fellow characters and certainly highlights their togetherness.  I would like to point out something from the today's lecture just in case no one else picked up on it.  Gary Rydstrom compares the Stairway to Paradise number in An American in Paris and Michael Jackson's Beat It as being similar in the stairs and sidewalk lighting up but it is not Michael's Beat It it is actually Michael's Billie Jean video 

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In The Bandwagon 'that's entertainment' song has four stars with varying talents, but none of them are jockeying for the starring position; instead they're playing off each other's talents. Fred, Jack and Nanette each dance delightfully, while Oscar wanders in and out comically. It seems like a great example of what we can do working together - a key factor of the 1950's - versus having a single star, or a leading role which was prevalent in earlier years. That may have been easier to stomach in this movie since we did have a large ensemble cast with names we were comfortable with as stars from the past.

The costumes show the different roles each play in the movie: Jack has on a belted director's jacket, Fred a tailored suit that a successful star might have, while Nanette's skirt and Oscar's grey suit make up a set, just as their roles as lyricist and writer match. However, the colors of all these different outfits do not clash; instead they play off each other just like the roles themselves do. We have an ensemble of greys, blues, and black, with a highlight of red in Nanette's belt and the set - no clashing here.

Levant is the one who has the gags you have to watch for - the ladder that appears circular thanks to editing - just like his personal sense of sardonic humor. I thought it was interesting that Jack Buchanan introduces the song, and leads the lyrics, which makes sense in his role as director of his show. Fred is the delighted participant, while Nanette and Oscar are part of Jack's entourage, like acolytes, wanting Fred to sign on because the show will be so successful - as we all hope because that's entertainment. We know, though, that a successful play will require that everyone get together to put on a show - that's really what will make it work. 

 

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Based on "Faust" The "Band Wagon" includes the song "That's Entertainment" which makes a community with the classics, everything from "Oedipus Rex" to "Hamlet".  My favorite lines: 

A swain
Getting slain
For the love of a queen
Some great Shakespearean scene
Where a ghost and a prince meet
And everyone ends in mincemeat
The gag
Might be waving the flag
That began
With a Mr. Cohan
Hip hooray
The American way!
The world is a stage
The stage is a world
Of entertainment!

Here we see Shakespeare and George Cohan in close proximity, musical comedy shakes hands with classical tragedy because our lives are tragi-comedy. Are we just entertaining the gods?  Notice the stairway at the beginning goes to the heavens.

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The scene is built for the four characters, from the song to the actions they take. Each of the staged gags must involve more than just one person in order for it to be delivered and the actors seamlessly move between each "skit" as the song progresses. They look for each other and maintain their uniformity in the group. Fred Astaire, a star dancer, doesn't mind sharing the stage with two other actors, and it shows. Because I've seen this movie, I know that the four characters work closely together in the film, relying on one another to move the story and the musical forward. They all share the same weight, though their roles are different, but they know that the play can only be successful if everyone participates. 

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This is a famous clip from The Bandwagon and was used as the springboard theme for the retrospective movie, and its sequels, That's Entertainment!

What I find interesting here is that the scripted characters represent different elements of the musical.

Jack:       The Shakespearean or classic actor. - acting

Fred:       The dancer

Nanette:  The singer

Oscar:      The musician/songwriter

Note:

We have heard a lot about techs, producers, and directors in the course, but not much about songwriters so far. They are as vital as the performers!  Songwriters, such as George Gershwin, Cole Porter, Irving Berlin, (all uncovered) and George M. Cohan (partially covered) created a majority of song content.

One star omission in the above number though was Cyd Charisse, important as well; however, she would have been an extra in the dance category, if they were striving for different pathways. It is interesting how they chose the elements of the representation for the viewer.

The fact that acting, singing, dancing and songwriting/musician are the four elements of this iconic song represents that it is a collaborative effort in front of the camera, as much as behind it.

 

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