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Lanin

Silk Stockings and the depiction of the USSR

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The lecture notes refer to the "Siberia" number in Silk Stockings, and how it makes light of conditions in the Soviet Union. An even more indicative scene is the "Red Blues" number, which ostensibly takes place back in Mother Russia.

 

It's interesting to contrast this scene with the recent Russian series "The Red Queen", in which the main character is actually tried and expelled from her school by her fellow students, for the "crime" of dancing to decadent Western music.

 

EDIT: I was mistaken. Having checked the episode in question, she was expelled from the Komsomol, not the school.

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The three commissars lured by the West are played as lovable goofballs, needing to be retrieved by the no-nonsense Nina.   Yet within three months of this film's release Sputnik was launched, escalating the Cold War, and America freaked.  How many lovable goofball Soviets did we see in films after that? 

Also the non-musical play/film on which this is based, Ninotchka (1939) is really terrible, slow, plodding, tedious.  Even though its catchphrase was "Garbo laughs"  Wow.  What a draw, not.

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This post doesn't speak to the OP but I suspect it will be combined with this discussion if I begin a new topic. So I will post it here and save the moderators their efforts to keep the forum tidied up.

First, I have to say that Silk Stockings was never a favorite musical of mine. I am, however, a huge fan of the comedy, Ninotchka (1939 MGM) starring the incomparable Greta Garbo and the very likable Melvyn Douglas. If you haven't watched it do yourself a favor and do so. Garbo's comedic performance (it is her first foray into full comedy) is perfection. I adore the 1939 movie so much I was always a little snobbish about Silk Stockings even though my favorite, Astaire, starred. Who would dare to attempt to best Garbo? Or Lubitsch who produced and directed her in the film?

So today I sat down to watch Silk Stockings. And as I watched I began to realize that no one was trying to improve upon Garbo, Douglas or Lubitsch. That the story had been modernized and set to words and music. An obvious point but one I had failed to admit before now. Slowly, I began to enjoy this movie as it's own offering with special musical moments between Astaire and the magnificent and stunning Cyd Charisse. I have as well been enjoying the talents of Janis Paige who was more well known at the time as a musical theatre/Broadway star. I especially love and laughed out loud at their not so gentle criticism of the flashy over the top musicals of the time in their number, "Stereophonic Sound."  I especially love the part where they parody the many ballet sequences of 50s musicals ending with their finish flying towards the camera on the chandelier a'la Gene Kelly. Astaire enjoyed poking fun at his friend!

So all that to say I am now a fan of this movie and understand it as a musical of its time with wonderful cinematic moments of its own. How could I have failed to see this in the past when its roots lie in the wonderful 1939 film? I have this course to thank for that change in my viewing acumen. I am now beginning to understand the cultural and technical changes that produce such films and the reasons why and so thanfully am now able to enjoy and appreciate them for what they are, pleasurable entertainment. I now strive to view each film through the eyes of their audiences of the time and not that of a woman of the 21st Century. They speak to me in ways different but I am now also able to hear the theme of their moment in time.

There is so much to be enjoyed if we can only suspend reality and our own modern perceptions. It is important to recognize moments of changing attitudes for the better but we can demand too much of a film from over 50 or 90 years past. Haste to condemn as I did has little to recommend it.

Thank you all who have walked with me on this journey along, "the yellow brick road." I am excited as the remainder of the course plays out producing further changes in my perceptions of these classic musicals.

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Gosh, I had to WORK at watching this Musical. Fred's routines were an attempt at Modern Jazz, which I think faied miserably along with the entire script. This era is my LEAST favorite time in Musicals. They had the technology, the ability, but the talent for songwriting had possibly moved to Broadway or something along with the writing. I was very sad.

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12 minutes ago, reslyn said:

but the talent for songwriting had possibly moved to Broadway or something along with the writing.

Note that before Silk Stockings was a film, it was a Broadway musical that starred Don Ameche, Hildegard, and Gretchen Wyler.  The film used most of the songs that were in the Broadway musical.

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57 minutes ago, CynthiaV said:

This post doesn't speak to the OP but I suspect it will be combined with this discussion if I begin a new topic. So I will post it here and save the moderators their efforts to keep the forum tidied up.

First, I have to say that Silk Stockings was never a favorite musical of mine. I am, however, a huge fan of the comedy, Ninotchka (1939 MGM) starring the incomparable Greta Garbo and the very likable Melvyn Douglas. If you haven't watched it do yourself a favor and do so. Garbo's comedic performance (it is her first foray into full comedy) is perfection. I adore the 1939 movie so much I was always a little snobbish about Silk Stockings even though my favorite, Astaire, starred. Who would dare to attempt to best Garbo? Or Lubitsch who produced and directed her in the film?

So today I sat down to watch Silk Stockings. And as I watched I began to realize that no one was trying to improve upon Garbo, Douglas or Lubitsch. That the story had been modernized and set to words and music. An obvious point but one I had failed to admit before now. Slowly, I began to enjoy this movie as it's own offering with special musical moments between Astaire and the magnificent and stunning Cyd Charisse. I have as well been enjoying the talents of Janis Paige who was more well known at the time as a musical theatre/Broadway star. I especially love and laughed out loud at their not so gentle criticism of the flashy over the top musicals of the time in their number, "Stereophonic Sound."  I especially love the part where they parody the many ballet sequences of 50s musicals ending with their finish flying towards the camera on the chandelier a'la Gene Kelly. Astaire enjoyed poking fun at his friend!

So all that to say I am now a fan of this movie and understand it as a musical of its time with wonderful cinematic moments of its own. How could I have failed to see this in the past when its roots lie in the wonderful 1939 film? I have this course to thank for that change in my viewing acumen. I am now beginning to understand the cultural and technical changes that produce such films and the reasons why and so thanfully am now able to enjoy and appreciate them for what they are, pleasurable entertainment. I now strive to view each film through the eyes of their audiences of the time and not that of a woman of the 21st Century. They speak to me in ways different but I am now also able to hear the theme of their moment in time.

There is so much to be enjoyed if we can only suspend reality and our own modern perceptions. It is important to recognize moments of changing attitudes for the better but we can demand too much of a film from over 50 or 90 years past. Haste to condemn as I did has little to recommend it.

Thank you all who have walked with me on this journey along, "the yellow brick road." I am excited as the remainder of the course plays out producing further changes in my perceptions of these classic musicals.

There are so many wonderful moments in the film. Watching Peter Lorre, who usually plays a sinister character, doing his Russian dance holding onto a chair and table is priceless. The Red Blues number is amazing. They go through so many dance styles in that one number. Cyd is amazing. Her pirouettes and extensions showcase her strong ballet talent, but then she slips effortlessly into a jazz style. It’s amazing how strong she is. I wonder if she was black and blue after being thrown about by the other dancers. The other dancers were all so skilled and talented. Every time I watch that number I focus on something new. Do you see how high they jump and how long they move in the low position kicking their legs in all directions? The designer of the gowns for the women had a challenge, because in some numbers the choreography for the men and women were the same. The women had to perform in those long, tight dresses. Just fabulous!

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I also really enjoyed watching Peter Lorre dancing in this movie -- it's so out-of-character!  Cagney's dancing may have come as a shock to those who first viewed Yankee Doodle Dandy without knowing his stage roots, but seeing Peter Lorre even attempt to dance fascinated me in Silk Stockings.  I couldn't help but notice how high he lifted his knees with each step in comparison to the other two, and how the choreographer was okay with this, not demanding more uniformity in his "chorus line."  I also noticed that when the other two stood on one leg to waggle an ankle back and forth, Lorre was allowed to cheat and keep the heel of his extended leg on the ground.  And then there was the chair-dancing at the end to top it all off.  Very funny but very sweet -- took my love of Lorre to a whole new dimension.

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To me, Lorre was the star of the show.  (Siberi-eri-eri-yah!)  Cyd and Fred were nothing to get excited about.  The best scene in the entire show was Cyd's transformation in the bedroom... putting on all the glam!  That was well done. (...as good as watching Liz taking it off in 'Cat on a Hot Tin Roof')

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*I agree with other posters that Peter Lorre was a delight in SILK STOCKINGS.  Who knew he could sing and dance!  

*Janice Page is a hoot in this movie, especially when she tries to shake the water out of her ears.  Her character is obviously a parody of Esther Williams.

*"Stereophonic Sound" is probably my favorite number, followed very closely by "The Red Blues."  Cyd Charisse--nothing more needs to be said.

*While I like the dancing that goes along with "All of You," I can't get past the cringe-worthy lyric of "I'd love to gain complete control of you/And handle even the heart and soul of you."  And I don't understand the logic of changing Cyd's skirt to culottes.  Censors--gotta laugh I suppose.

*Bob Hope and Katharine Hepburn did a comedic take off of the NINOTCHKA story in THE IRON PETTICOAT.  Or maybe it's supposed to be an homage.

*Reslyn, if you think Astaire's dancing was forced in this movie, try to watch FUNNY FACE.  Both movies were released in 1957, and Astaire had intended to retire after the release of SILK STOCKINGS.  Some say that's why he destroys the top hat at the end of "Ritz Roll and Rock."

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