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DAILY DOSE OF DELIGHT #10 (From CALAMITY JANE)

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This forum is for Daily Dose of Delight #10, regarding the two clips from Calamity Jane, featuring the performance choices of Doris Day.

 

Here are a few discussion starters (though feel free to come up with your own).

 

  1. As you reflect upon female representation in the 1950s, where do you think this film character falls in the continuum? Why?
  2. How do you think Doris Day grows as an actress in her various roles in the 1950s, before and after this musical?
  3. Does Doris Day’s bright and sunny persona add or detract from the role of Calamity Jane in your opinion? Please defend your answer.

 

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1) I feel she is slightly different because females in musicals at this time were very feminine. Her being in pants and not riding sidesaddle made he a little less ladylike.

2) She changes into many characters and her songs vary a lot making her interesting and versatile.

3) I think it adds to her persona because even though she is a tomboy she also has that bright and sunny cuteness to add to her character making her more of a lady.

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Doris Day is a favorite of mine, but I always avoided this film because it is a poor man's Annie Oakley. Day's voice is lovely, and her appearance is beautiful as well - she looks great in trousers. It is amusing that Howard Keel thought Day would have been a better Oakley than Betty Hutton. In an interview with Robert Osborne I remember Hutton stating that when she replaced the fired Judy Garland on the Oakley film, the entire cast resented her and was unpleasant about Garland's termination and Hutton's casting in the lead role. I wonder if Keel would have accepted anyone as Garland's replacement at the time, including Day.

It is doubtful that Day would have turned in a much different performance than Hutton. Both were somewhat manic actresses, who tended to overact in dramatic scenes as well as slapstick scenes. Day's voice is smoother than Hutton's and much richer, but there is no denying that Hutton could put over a song. At any rate, when watching the few scenes that Garland shot as Oakley it is clear that she would have been wonderful in the part despite the fact that she had to deal with Busby Berkley as the original director of the Oakley film. It is apparent that Garland just didn't enjoy working for him, and both were substance abusers making matters worse.

1.As you reflect upon female representation in the 1950s, where do you think this film character falls in the continuum? Why?

If we are comparing Calamity Jane with Annie Oakley in the two films, and accepting the lecture notes as reflective of the Calamity Jane film, which I have not seen, the two characters are women who are fish out of water. They favor manly pursuits, dress like men, and enjoy jousting with men, both verbally and literally. Annie's transformation to a feminine woman is complete when she dons dresses which are custom made costumes, wears polish on her nails, and throws the shooting contest she has with her love interest Frank Butler. Her friend and mentor Chief Sitting Bull assures her "you can get man with THIS gun!"  In contrast It appears that Calamity Jane accepts that she is different than the other young ladies and embraces her trousers and manly pursuits, despite the fact that she too is in love with a man. Calamity Jane doesn't feel she has to sublimate her basic nature to pursue her man as Annie does. So, we would have to recognize that Calamity Jane is the more fully evolved woman.
 

2.How do you think Doris Day grows as an actress in her various roles in the 1950s, before and after this musical?

Day had the makings of a good dramatic actress as well as a musical comedy star. She had a tendency to overact in dramatic roles and become melodramatic and somewhat annoying ("The Man Who Knew Too Much," 1956). Alfred Hitchcock said he did not like having to 'police' her. In her best performance (in my view) she definitely learned something from acting with James Cagney in "Love Me or Leave Me" (1955). Although in some scenes Day is shrill and melodramatic, she gives a much more nuanced performance which matches Cagney's well. As with all performers, the better the role and co stars, the better the performance, no matter where on the timeline of the career it falls. In fact, "Calamity Jane" (1953) appears to be right in the prime of Day's career.

3.Does Doris Day’s bright and sunny persona add or detract from the role of Calamity Jane in your opinion? Please defend your answer.

Without viewing the whole film this is a difficult question to answer, however, Jack Warner probably had the role written for Day, persona and all, which means it was tailor made to her talents so her personality didn't detract from her performance. The lecture notes make clear that Warner saw the film as a consolation prize for Day losing out twice for the Oakley part, so this bolsters the idea that he had the part custom made for Day. As such, her personality was perfect for the part.

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I think this reflects conformity to traditional feminine roles that was emphasized in the 1950s. In the first clip, she is depicted as a trying to be one of the guys. She is overflowing with energy, constantly moving. Her song is about her job as a scout. In the second clip, she is more sedate, not moving as much, and singing a song about love. It definitely seems like she has conformed to more traditional feminine roles in this clip, and she is rewarded with the man she wants.  It seems as if love and family are valued more than careers for women.

I actually haven't seen Day in anything else so I can't answer #2.

Without knowing anything about the real Calamity Jane, I can't say if her "bright and sunny" persona detracted from the role, but I personally enjoyed it in the first clip. Loved her energy.

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The character Calamity Jane is not quite what many of the female characters portrayed in the musicals of the 1950s. Having said that, Day portrayed this character was also being comfortable in her own skin albeit different from the rest of the females. She's one of the guys where most characters of that decade were more like the girl next door, pretty & feminine. Doris Day starts out as a crooner in her early movies & builds her persona as an actress as she progresses through her career. She acts, sings, dances & truly reflects that persona of "the girl next door" (unlike her portrayal of Calamity Jane.) My 2 personal favorite movies of hers are "The Glass Bottom Boat" & "Please Don't Eat the Daisies." I like her other musicals as well. I'm not too keen on her as a dramatic actress. I like the perky, bright & sunny persona of Day & it adds to the character of Calamity Jane. A tomboy can have her feminine moments & still be true to her character.

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  1. As you reflect upon female representation in the 1950s, where do you think this film character falls in the continuum? Why?

I think Jane is very much a step forward away from what female characters have been shown to be.  She is very much her own person and doesn't allow a man to tell her who she is and what she is going to do with her life.  She makes her own choices and deals with the consequences of those choices on her own.  Yet she is not afraid to make changes in herself to please the man that she wants.  With in reason to her.  

  1. How do you think Doris Day grows as an actress in her various roles in the 1950s, before and after this musical?

I think she is able to play a wide variety of roles.  I've seen her in several things and there seems to be a wholesomeness to her characters even when they are struggling with life.  But one thing every character I've seen her play seems to have in common is this strength to know who she is and to make her own choices and live with the consequences of those choices.  She is wonderful in dramatic parts, but seem to really shine in comedies.

  1. Does Doris Day’s bright and sunny persona add or detract from the role of Calamity Jane in your opinion? Please defend your answer.

Oh it totally adds to the character.  The tom boyishness of the character and her bright outlook seem to add to the optimism of of Jane as a character.

 

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I enjoy both this and Annie Get Your Gun for different reasons.  I've never been one to think that either Annie or Jane was better than the other one, or that the performance of one was better than the other one.  I did personally wish that Day would either have the exaggerated twangy accent for speaking AND singing, as opposed to only having it when speaking in this film.  That's really the biggest criticism I've ever had about Calamity Jane.  I don't think her sunny disposition hurts the character a bit.

I like how this character doesn't fully conform and submit to the "norms" of the day as far as feminism goes.  She softens a bit, OK, but at heart she's still Jane, and that's why this film wins me over.  If Jane would have suddenly turned into Little Miss Tee-Hee Y'all, that would have honked me off.

I don't know as much about Doris Day's work as I should, which is pretty inexcusable of me.  I'm more familiar with her comedy roles such as the Rock Hudson series of films.  I need to make July a Doris Day film month.

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I have a harsh time dealing with female representation in many 1950's musicals because they almost feel false to me. The change in women's roles is more perceived than real especially in postwar America where women were pushed back into more traditional roles. I often wonder if these were made as "feel good" movies for women as they gave back a bit of what they gained (out of necessity) in the 1940s. That being said I love Doris Day as a singer and comedienne but not always in the same film.

1. Calamity Jane does bring some changes to the female role. Jane is less concerned with looks. She dresses in clothes that suit what she is doing which in this case in non-traditional. She give a breezy "I don't care" attitude along with optimism about waking up each day. The easy acceptance of her looks and interactions don't always sit well with men (bar scene) so there is still a feeling that traditional roles and relationships will have to win out at some point. She will have to change a bit if she is going to find love.

2. Doris Day got type-casted into the quintessential optimistic, breezy, comedic female lead. She was the blond, blue-eyed, all American type of woman. She has appeal to men because she not the threatening, dangerous, sultry, cosmopolitan woman of the world. She appeals to women because she could be your sister, best friend or next door neighbor. There is a genuine goodness to her. By the time she gets weighty dramatic roles in  "Love Me or Leave Me" and eventually to "The Man Who Knew Too Much," she already has a body of work that she needs to fight off to show the dramatic side of her talent. I don't think she is every accepted as a dramatic actress. She ends up retreating back into that type-casted woman by the time we get to the end of the 1950s and into 1960s.  She is perhaps one of the few performers for whom type-casting actually kept her working and where she belonged. These light-hearted films showed off her fortes as a musical and comedic actress with a great singing voice and fabulous impecable timing.

3. There is an exaggeration in her performance that always annoyed me: The big deep breaths where we see the chest rise and fall; the stance with legs apart and hands on hips - almost in defiance to tradition. However, I felt like I was looking at someone who was acting out a character rather than having the character internalized. It didn't feel real.  I felt she was trying to prove something. Betty Hutton did that too.  But maybe that was the point.

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This is a bit harder to pin down for me as I’m a big Doris Day fan but I do not care for this film nor do I like Annie get your gun or Katherine Hepburn in Little Women. That being said I understand what the film is doing and Doris’s singing and acting is superb as always; just not for me. 

I think Calamity Jane is an extremely complicated Women and it’s hard to narrow her character down. We are seeing the rough and rugged side that she wants the men to see yet here comes the softer more feminine side that she’s trying to suppress. This definitely fits in with the age of Women that are emerging post-war, of course with less dramatics. I think much has been written on this movie and it’s been dissected to the point of no return in some cases. Calamity Jane was an American Frontierswomen and simply the subject of a fun musical that Doris Day apparently loved doing and I really can see why.  I would enjoy and still do her movies that would follow.  

 

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This film, Calamity Jane and Annie Get Your Gun (as well as the later The Unsinkable Molly Brown with Debbie Reynolds) seem to have the same theme...you can be a 'tomboy' but sooner or later a man will come along and sweep you off of your feet. Again, I realize we are looking at these films from a different perspective in time, but it seems as if many of the films of this era have that same theme.

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I recall seeing this movie when I was a precocious 5yr old and it had a profound affect on me in that it showed me that I could be a strong and accomplished woman (which I became) but needed a man to truly fulfill my life (which I sought). A dichotomy which has plagued Baby Boomer women in particular. I think that this movie as well as Annie Get Your Gun (which I only saw recently on TCM) sent mixed messages, as contrasted with other more traditional 50's musicals. 

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Doris Day's interpretation of Jane represents a departure from the 50's woman in being a tomboy and trying to fit into a man's world.  But, I think her exaggerated movements and gestures make this representation a little less believable.  Someone in her role as scout would need to be a little more focused and less sunny I think.  That wouldn't make for a good musical though!  I felt that Day had certainly grown as an actress from her days on the ship with Jack Carson.  Perhaps she acted a bit to ok Hard in some of the dramatic roles, but I think I prefer that to the eternally sunny disposition.  In life she really has been one tough lady, surviving a lot of difficulties.

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I think this film falls in the middle. Calamity Jane is shown as strong and confident but they still have to bring her down by showing her in pratfalls and being embarrassed. She does try to go with the feminine ideal but ends at least on a good note being more like herself. Men still don’t choose independent women until they show their feminine side.

Doris Day improves with every film. At first she is in light comedy with a few songs and then shows she can carry a whole picture. She is always appealing whether she is singing or not.

Doris Day’s sunny outlook is always welcome and in this movie it has to be a part of the story because it is a musical. If you watched HBO’s Deadwood it is a completely different look at Calamity Jane. If Day is too serious the film won’t work because she won’t have the playful banter with the town people and you would find it harder to root for her as things go wrong. She is so likeable that even when she drives the other woman out of town you want things to work out.

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1) As you reflect upon female representation in the 1950s, where do you think this film character falls in the continuum? Why?

The way that Jane carries herself is the opposite of other female characters, as she is a little more masculine than feminine. She mostly wears pants than dresses, talks/speaks a little more salty, and even moves more majestically. She knows who she is, and doesn't care if she looks rough and not so ladylike. However, as the film goes on, she becomes more polished while still containing her tomboyishness, once she realizes that she is in love with Bill. I think this pretty bold at the time, where the more tougher women were considered 'butch'. That word has quite dated badly, and I'm glad no one really uses it anymore.

2) How do you think Doris Day grows as an actress in her various roles in the 1950s, before and after this musical?

I think that she has the ability to portray many roles, that showcases her singing and dancing. Calamity Jane suggested that she can play a tough woman and still retain her femininity. Her variety, I think, has added to her overall appeal and longevity. 

3) Does Doris Day’s bright and sunny persona add or detract from the role of Calamity Jane in your opinion? Please defend your answer.

No, it doesn't detract from her persona. In fact, it adds to it. She gives more and is allowed to do so, especially more than she did with the other characters she portrayed in the past. To be honest, I wasn't her biggest fan, but after viewing several of her films, she has definitely grown on me, and now I really love her. I know that she can be an acquired taste for some film fans, especially because of her overall brightness, but that is what makes her unique and accessible to many other fans. She is eternal, no matter what anyone else thinks.

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Even though I haven't seen many Doris Day's films, I really admire her as a singer and actress. She is fantastic in every possible way, but I must confess Calamity Jane has never attracted me, mostly because of some pure reviews I read and heard about it. In my opinion, that kind of female representation fails completely because it puts men as the parameter of a pretentious gender equality, giving us a false idea of female empowerment. Once you put "masculinity" as the standard that should be followed in order to achieve "equality", you are not really destroying patriarchy values, but reinforcing them. Full of "yang" energy, women are forced to be equal to man, but they end up looking affected and ridiculous, just like Hutton's character and even Doris' in some moments. I must watch those films to have a more solid opinion, but, for now, that's what I have to say. 

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Yes! Thank you so much for featuring Calamity Jane today and for spotlighting Doris Day. I feel that she doesn't get the attention she deserves when people look at the great movie musical performers.

Calamity Jane is such a study in female representations of the 1950s. The duality of the roles Day plays reveal a culture torn about women's roles during this decade. On the one hand, we can celebrate how Calamity fits right in with the men in Deadwood and how confident and comfortable she is with herself as "one of the guys". But then if course, you can also argue that in order for a man to find her attractive, Calamity has to feminize herself and give up the very qualities that make her stand out in the beginning of the film. I have watched the movie since I was very little, so it can be hard for me to see it with fresh eyes. But I like to think that Bill Hickok always loved Calam deep down inside and just needed a little persuasion to see it! I also like how in the end of the film, she isn't always in dresses but still wears pants and rides horses just as before. There's a great moment towards the end when she is frantically trying to stop the stage coach from taking Katie back to Chicago. She stops her horse to greet Bill with a romantic kiss and then immediately continues riding. One of my favorite scenes because in that moment, I feel that Bill loves her for who she is and she is totally happy and content in herself.

I may be biased because I am Doris Day's ultimate fan. But I can't think of anyone else who could have played Calamity Jane so well. I think this is because Day herself has stated that Calamity Jane is actually closer to who she really is (can we just take a moment to say that this beautiful lady is still with us, at 96 years young!) Doris has a wonderful sense of comedic timing. Actors who worked with her have expressed much admiration for this quality, as it is not really something that can be learned, but she is a total natural. In her biography, she describes how she was really a band singer and had no intentions of being in movies. Sadly, she had experienced some tragedy in her life already by the time she had her first screen test in the late forties. She describes how she didn't have any idea what she was doing, and couldn't believe that they wanted her for the film. But she is just one of those people who the camera loves. She was just saying her lines and doing what she was told, yet she looked like a pro. In those early Michael Curtiz films, Day didn't have much of a chance to branch out. She describes in her book feeling constrained by the types of roles that she was given in the beginning, and how freeing it was to finally branch out in the fifties to different types of roles.

Doris may be a wonderful singer and dancer, but she is a seriously good actress too. She has it all. Alfred Hitchcock himself was so impressed by her acting in Storm Warning that he wanted her for his remake of The Man Who Knew Too Much with Jimmy Stewart. She also shows her fabulous acting talent in Love Me or Leave Me with James Cagney. But the amazing thing about her is that arguably her most successful era was yet to come, in the romantic comedies she did with Rock Hudson in the early sixties. Can you tell how much I love her? 

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1-"Annie" in "Annie Get Your Gun" pre-dated Day's role as Jane, and years later Debbie Reynolds "Molly Brown" post-dated the role, all three very similar "backwoods gals just learnin' how to be proper like" (not to mention Eliza Doolittle was on the horizon too!) so this did become a familiar character type. No doubt the popularity of westerns was a part of this trend, and the blending of two styles, musicals and westerns, to draw a larger audience as the threat of television had come onto the horizon. These women all have a masculinity about them, but they are never truly accepted until they transform into the classic female mold.

2-Day went from more shiny, traditional, and large 50s musical roles to the 60s sex farce/comedy romp in a very small time frame, from shy and innocent to a little more racy, but always maintaining the Day sunniness and sweetness. She kept an integrity about her voice and overall character that remained unchanged despite the moving times and roles.

3-Day is one of those performers who for me, is always Doris Day first, I am always aware it is her playing a role as opposed to getting lost into it. This is not to detract from her abilities, a beautiful singer, actor and performer, but she was always a personality first to me. When she's dirty and shooting a gun, she is still a beautiful blonde with a beautiful voice, it just can't be erased.

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As you reflect upon female representation in the 1950s, where do you think this film character falls in the continuum? Why?  Calamity is the opposite of what the female role in 1950's musicals is moving to.  She is not beautiful, glamorous or even sexy.  She is just trying to be "one of the boys", which has not been seen until Doris Day and Betty Hutton take on famous women of western folklore.

How do you think Doris Day grows as an actress in her various roles in the 1950s, before and after this musical?  Ms. Day has the ability to lean into each role she is cast in.  She may not be the triple threat that Judy Garland was, but she evolves her talent with each role she takes on.  

  1. Does Doris Day’s bright and sunny persona add or detract from the role of Calamity Jane in your opinion? Please defend your answer.  This movie is not one of my favorites, and it surprises me that it is a favorite of Ms. Day.  Her ever present sunny disposition sometimes detracts from a particular scene she is in. I do not believe that Calamity Jane was a woman infused with a sunny disposition.  I believe that this is just Doris shining through, as she does in many of her roles.  Perhaps it is the precursor to her upcoming pairings with Rock Hudson and Cary Grant.

 

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Whether opposite of Howard Keel or opposite Rock Hudson or Tony Randall, Doris Day always appeared to me to have the same outward aggressive moment that seemed to prove that she was an equal to any man.  At the same time, as she does with the song "Secret Love," Doris Day was able to project a sensitive and softer side that was the hallmark of her choice by many as representative of the American woman of the 1950s. For many males entering puberty about the time that Doris Day was a Hollywood hit in the 50s, no doubt she established  some of our views about both womanhood and what to seek in a wife.  

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1. This film show a woman in a different way, she is more of a tomboy then a feminine woman.  Women in most moves were beautiful and very girly girl and this one shows a very type of woman.

2. I am a Doris Day fan, so I have seen many her movies. I am complete awe of the different characters she can portray. She can play the tomboy or the elegant, feminine leading woman.

3. I think it adds to her role. Her persona shows that any type of woman can be tomboy, can be independent and does not need a man.

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In this film, Day's character is outside the accepted female norm; she is allowed to show both sides of her nature.  The active, more aggressive side is dominant early in the film, then she tries to adopt the more passive role, in which she fails.  Finally, she seems to resolve the conflict by allowing one side to temper the other, thus becoming more balanced.  This contrasts to some of earlier work, like Tea For Two, My Dream is Yours, etc. in which she is cast in the more traditional feminine role.  Her later work evolves into smart, feisty, but feminine women who are up against a male-dominated world, as in her films with Rock Hudson. 

Day's interpretation of Calamity Jane is wonderful!  She shows an optimistic, brassy, and undefeated character.  The clip of "secret Love" is one my favorites.  She strides purposefully and confidently, leading the very flashy-looking horse through the land that she is a part of.  Terrific!  ( I believe I have read that she took the horse home with her after the filming).

 

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1. The character of Calamity Jane starts out very differently from the usual 50’s female role. She dresses , talks and acts like a man. In the middle of the movie she starts to wear more feminine outfits and in the ball scene has her dance card filled as a result.

2. Doris Day also started out as a tomboy in On Moonlight Bay. So her acting did progress throughout her career as she took on more sophisticated roles. 

3. This is one of my favorite Doris Day movies and her sunny persona definitely took the character where this movie wanted her to go. I don’t believe that this movie comes even close to portraying how any of these characters, who were real people, actually lived their lives. 

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During the 1950's women were being depicted as feminine but Calamity Jane is shown as a tomboy who can handle anything. She is comfortable wearing pants and not dresses but in the end she has to become softer to get her man.

After this musicals, Doris Day expanded her range with dramatic roles  with some music scenes such as The man who knew too much. I prefer her in her movies with Rock Hudson. She had great chemistry with him.

Her sunny personality fits this role, it makes the movie delightful.  

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I've always found Doris Day charming, with such a sweet singing voice, but never really thought of her as a singer who could belt out that big tune ('Que Sera' ain't it)... until I heard her sing 'Secret Love' at the end of 'Calamity Jane'.  It completely transforms her character and, to me, is her best song ever.  

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l watch the clip of Doris Day and l can say that  as far as l am concern she just got better she more she did . l have watched most of her movies  and l just love her in all of them and l can find no wrong in what she does so l am the wrong one t o judge her because l love what she does , weather it is a musical , comedy or drama.

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