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DAILY DOSE OF DELIGHT #10 (From CALAMITY JANE)

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In some ways, Calamity Jane seems to fall a bit outside of the standard for women in the period. She runs with the boys and does her best to match them in dress, manner, and attitude. Even dressed in more feminine clothing later in the film, she fails to meet expectations for a 1950s woman: coming home from fetching water, she falls into the mud, and even at the ball, where a lot of the men seem to recognize her as a woman for what she's wearing, her mannerisms toward them (calling them "fellers," cracking jokes) identifies her as a different kind of woman from Katie, who more fully fits the feminine ideal.

At the same time, the film makes clear that Calamity Jane is a "true woman" at heart, and that's what gets her the guy. After traveling to Chicago, she says she realizes how far she is from a true lady, and this prompts a change in her to dress and behave more like Katie. The scene in which they redesign her cabin plays a similar function to the typical makeover scene in a 1990s romcom: the character is made over to be much different, ultimately discovers that this isn't quite her, and goes back to a sort of median between who she was before and who she was made over to be. Calamity's more feminine outfit in the final scenes suggests that she's been changed by the whole encounter and become somewhat more typically feminine. The film also makes clear that she wants to settle down and have children, something that seems to surprise Hickok but especially attract him. The whole plot point of female jealousy and hysteria, too, reaffirms a feminine identity for Calamity, and the film doesn't say too much for female friendships, which bothered me a bit. 

I've always loved Day in musical and comedic roles, and this really seems ideal for her. 

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I like Day's bright demeanor for this role because I think it highlights the essential difficulty the character (and real person) must have faced trying to get men to take her seriously. At the same time, it makes it a little difficult for the audience to take her seriously, no matter how much she tries. It's a bit of a tricky line to walk. 

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I believe Calamity Jane would fall into the middle of the continuum. While she doesn't achieve true equality as a female looking for acceptance in a man's world, she does manage to successfully portray a strong female character, who softens romantically while not losing her tenacious strength of character. 

In her later films, she would continue to portray strong women who had to prove themselves, while always managing to stay feminine and likable, whether as a career woman or stressed-out mom. I believe she carried this wholesome quality into the 1960s, managing to balance it with the more feminist ideals of the time. 

I first thought that Day's sunny disposition detracted from the character, making her appear less tomboyish, and precluding her from being taken as seriously by the men. However, it does make the transition to a more feminine Jane more believable and much more enjoyable for the audience. Her likability factor makes you care and keep watching till the end. "Secret Love" is a beautiful blend of all Jane's character traits. 

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I think Calamity Jane was portrayed on screen to challenge the feminine stereotype and also define the essential characteristics a woman must have in order to survive socially in the 1950s. She is not your typical dutiful housewife; she is strong, skilful and independent and very capable of being involved in the “Man’s World”.  When she softens and lets her guard down emotionally, Bill Hickok realises that he has been in love with her all along. Hence, it is communicated that a woman should intrinsically display her kindness, compassion and emotional vulnerability on the pathway to finding love.

This role suited Doris Day to a tee. I saw one of her interviews on YouTube where she recalled that as a child she had both boy and girl tendencies – she would participate in sports but she also loved to play with dolls. I think she was able to bring this nature to the character of Calamity Jane and display both masculine and feminine energy. She was at the height of her career in this motion picture. I think this role brought out the best in Doris Day, it showed her versatility as an actress and singer. She trained very hard for the role too which is evident in her performance.

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This film character is very much a product of the 50s in that her greatest wish is to win Hickok's love. The concept of marrying and settling down is very much at play here. It is she who must change herself in order to get him. 

Doris Day's performance in this film is very staccato and hard, bordering on pantomime. As her career progressed, however, she found a balance between her athletic physical abilities and performing in front of a camera. The characters she portrayed had similar traits: strong women who struggled with society's expectations (Pillow Talk, Don't Eat the Daisies, Touch of Mink, With Six You Get Eggroll, to name a few). Her characters changed as she aged to include situations that were appropriate for her age range (including characters with children, for example). She had a balance of sex appeal mixed with the girl next door that appealed to a broad range of audience members.

It is interesting to hear that Calamity Jane was one of her favorite roles because, while it is clear she's enjoying the role, it is not one of my favorites of hers. It feels almost like she is trying too hard to play against her type. That is not to say I don't enjoy her performance, but I feel that she didn't truly find her stride until the comedies she did later with leading men like Rock Hudson, James Garner, Cary Grant and Rod Taylor. In those roles you feel like those characters were written for her and her characters experience situations that she might have been in off-camera. 

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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?

This is among the first representations of a female tomboy in the movies. It shows progression in characterization in films. 

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

First of all, I absolutely LOVE Doris Day. Her first roles were more tomboyish, and I feel that this role is the epitome of them. In the later '50s into the '60s, she becomes a refined leading lady. 

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.

I think it adds to the role. She looks very comfortable in it, and her personality executes the part to a T. Jane is an "out there" soul, and Day's exuberant, sunny personality fits that quite well. 

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1.  I actually feel Day's Calamity character falls right in line with the female representation of the 1950s. It tells the story of the post-war gender conformity, yes? Women were no longer meant to be strong, be breadwinners, be heads of households with the ability to stand on their own two feet as during the Depression and WWII.  There was a societal clamp down on the strong woman.  Women were now meant to return to the role of housewives and mothers.  Calamity was the strong, independent woman who stood on her own two feet. But, in this MGM musical, that had to be tamed, and tamed it was.  Calamity learned the appropriate way for a woman to be.

2.  Oh, Day definitely grows.  She began as a sort of girl next door coming into maturity. She then comes alive on screen in the musical in wholesome, smart singing and dance roles. Then, she moves to my favorite of her periods, the Pillow Talk and Please, Don't Eat the Daisies era where she is the definitive 1950s pure (i.e., chaste), good girl looking to become a good Mrs.; however, she never loses her intelligence or sense of comfort in who she is. She radiated during this time, in my opinion. As she moved into television in the 1960s, her character remained intelligent, independent, and comfortable - she didn't lose a beat, though I feel her wholesomeness pigeon-holed her in terms of casting.  I mean, she acted pretty damned well in Midnight Lace and could have proved herself in more dramatic roles.

3.  Oh, definitely added. This was a musical. Day was not only a talented singer and dancer, she was a talented comedian - a triple threat in musical terms.  She knew how to pull of the tomboy role with womanly ease.  Her bright and sunny persona did not seem an act adding believability of the Calamity Jane musical role. This role was meant to be bright and sunny.  This was 1950s America - everything was bright and sunny.

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This film character falls in the continuum at the almost masculine range. She is proving that women or she, in particular, can do everything a man can. She doesn't seem to fit in the feminine end as well as other actresses. I think the film fails as a movie that represents equality with women. It is too dependant on the time in history and geographically and just don't think a musical fit it. I am sure all women back in the 1800's out west had to be tougher and do more masculine jobs as routine, not the exception and they didn't have the time or energy to sing about it.

Doris Day grows as an actress in her roles in the 1950s from this lighthearted musical to the very serious movie following this, Love Me or Leave Me.  It relies on her acting ability much more as a fictionalized biography. Then she seems to get more serious and leave the singing behind her.  She later turns to comedy and does it well.

Doris Day’s bright and sunny persona adds to the role of Calamity Jane in this musical.  If it was a serious film, it would not work at all. In the musical Jane is almost a caricature or comical version of a tough tomboy woman who was equal to men in the wild west.

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Compared to other female characters during the 50's, Day's interpretation seems to show one of a woman discovering herself on her own terms. I haven't seen many musicals during this period, but it looked like most women were either the strong and smart type of the sexy blonde. Jane is refreshing in that we're watching her grow. I think most of us that were the "tomboys" can relate to that. 

Doris Day was all over the board. She was wonderful in musicals and equally talented in dramas and comedies. Personally I liked her in the dramas she made. It amazes me that she was some one who could be so entertaining in Calamity Jane and so intense in The Man Who Knew Too Much. That is a wide range of talent. 

I did think Day's bright and sunny persona was just a tad distracting. It was as if I was watching a child trying way to hard to be heard and throwing a tantrum when not getting its way. Not too mention always too cheery. Having said that, I was able to get past that and begin to enjoy her performance. She is such a charming person that it was hard not to like 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?

Women were still very feminine in most movies (and society) but this movie and it's star character are possibly ahead of their time.  In an age where women were still wearing long sleeved dresses to cover up, with only a hint of a bustle here Calamity Jane comes and wears pants, has a side iron and is security for a stage coach! This movie seems to push the time line along for women characters in the movies, making them more than just the damsel in distress needing to be rescued.  The main character seems to be more equal in the role she has in society at that time with the men around her.  She seems to be more accepted and seen as more than just a pretty face or a possible love interest.

 

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

Doris Day is one of my favorite actresses.  The first movie I had seen her in was 'Teacher's Pet' with Clark Gable.  I think all her characters reflect what women wanted and how they were fairly well.  Most were accomplished, working women who had nice lives but were looking for the "yang to their yin".  She had a beautiful voice, and all the movies she sang her voice seemed to just hold center stage -- soft and feminine yet strong and captivating -- just like she did in her acting.  The two movies I love the most are 'Pillow Talk' and 'That Touch of Mink', both with legendary heart throb status actors yet she was all most could see and stole the show, giving the audience a woman who was feminine yet at the same time tough as nails.  Plus, she seemed to always be "the good girl" that every guy wants to woo, marry and bring home to mom.

 

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.

I think it adds to it.  Not only do we see the rough and tumble side which fit in perfectly with the other gun slingers of that time period, but we also see that she is a girl no matter how much buckskin or how many pairs of pants she wears.  She brings a beauty to the character, a softness, that no amount of grime can cover up.  I think that is important to the story, which details the character realizing and falling in love with her best friend.  Calamity Jane realizes that even though she likes to do typical "guy" things, she is still very much a girl with the same wants and needs as the rest of the women at that time regardless of what she wore.  Plus, as I stated above, Doris Day has that natural affable quality of the girl next door in all her characters because I believe that is who she is deep down, not just her "acting" but it's who she is.  That fact makes all her characters appealing.

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1. I think this falls in the middle. Many of the musicals made in the 1950s had female characters who lived outside the norm of a demure woman. Kiss Me, Kate, Annie Get Your Gun, Calamity Jane, and even Day’s character in By the Light of the Silvery Moon all had characters with strong, empowering woman as the leads.

2.Doris Day could do everything. She could play comedy as effortlessly as she did drama. Day’s strength came in her ability to make a statement without showboating, and she seemed to have an amazing chemistry with anyone she acted. Her voice only served to enhance her performance.

3. Day’s sunny disposition only adds to her charm. It made her relatable to her audience, and it allowed her audience to feel as if they knew her. Her hopefulness drew her to her audience, and it immediately caused audiences to respond to her difficulties with empathy.

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In this film both representation of women are portrayed. Calamity is not in the least bit feminine, and she's just fine with that. Wearing dresses and overall being concerned about her outward

appearance doesn't fit with what she does. She protects the town and the stagecoach; she shoots, she rides, she rides and shoots, and she shares her stories of her adventures with the guys.

Wearing a dress and worrying about how she comes across would only get in the way of that. She's a female, everyone knows she a female, but she isn't seen as a woman, and I don't think

she totally understands that when she's told that (something I liked about her). The first time she shows any form of "femininity" is when she sees the photo of the actress wearing almost nothing;

she shows great concern over her posing in her underwear like that. When she meets the city girl, that's when Calamity really starts to realize what was meant by her not being seen as a woman,

that she isn't feminine. Because of how she is during this movie, how she is represented, even when she becomes more feminine towards the end, but still isn't wearing dresses, it's a great step

forward for women. I'm not saying that most of the portrayals of women before were "wrong" and this one is "right," I'm just saying that this shows that you can be independent, strong willed,

and not have to conform in order to "get the guy." You can express yourself, be yourself, and not be afraid.

I haven't seen many of her films, or at least I can't currently think of roles I've seen Doris Day in at the moment, but I'm sure she only improved as she continued on in her career.

Doris Day's bright and sunny persona only added to the character of Calamity Jane because it added that bright and sunniness to the character. It made Calamity seem more full of energy, more

expressive in her movements and reactions. Every smile, every little bit of excitement seemed natural and not just a form of acting. Day's personality highlighted the character of Calamity's

personality.

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It's interesting that in the 50's we applaud Calamity Jane's transformation into a woman who conforms to the era's idea of femininity, today we would applaud her taking on more masculine traits.

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1. In comparison to other female roles of 1950s musicals, I think Day's Calamity Jane is a bit of an outlier. While Jane does become more feminine, she still wears men's clothing instead of frilly dresses. 

2. I mainly know Doris Day as a comedic actress in movies like Pillow Talk with Rock Hudson, although I do know she later made forays into dramatic movies such as The Man Who Knew Too Much and Love Me or Leave Me. While I do enjoy some of her more serious roles, she definitely shined the most in her musical comedies.

3. I personally think that Day's personality works well in her role as Calamity Jane. From the first scene, Jane is made to seem like not a various serious person so the happy-go-lucky Day works well here as well as in the last scene where she fully embodies the feeling of a woman in love.

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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 Doris’ character falls at the beginning. She is definitely of the my man is away and I have to take care of everything until he comes back kind of mind. She may not be married but she is helping her community by getting the stage safely through. Towards the end of the movie as she makes the shift to a more feminine version of herself it shifts the movie along the continuum also to a less masculine  female to a more feminine female..

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

Many of Doris’s roles were of a single, independent female working to take care of someone or something. Her ealier roles were more boisterous and in your face. That gave way to roles that had a more reserved  but still tom boyish feeling. The feeling of a woman, not a girl playing at being a woman, who could take care of things and still know that she needed help sometimes.

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.

I think her sunny persona added a lot to the role of Calamity. The bright sunny personality was what lent the strength to the boyishness, and plain strength of purpose and will that Calamity had to face what she saw coming. And the sunniness gave the personality the lightness to be able to transform herself from a huge tom boy into a woman at the end.

 

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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?

I think male roles do not evolve nearly as much as female roles. Calamity Jane is interesting because it begins to truly showcase a woman in a mans world. Does she embarrass  herself ? Yes? But she still seems to come out those moments as one of the guys. Which is monumental in changing the way women are perceived. 

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

I have not had the opportunity to view many films with Doris Day but i found Calamity Jane captivated me and i definitely  see a star when i look at her. I would be interested to see more films that showcase her.

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

I'm not sure if she's a good fit for Annie get your Gun or Calamity Jane. As rough and tough as shes trying to portray it still comes across as a bit of a "dress up" act. Her voice and mannerisms are inherently feminine and because of them it lends to a much softer appearance. Fierce in little pieces instead of Fierce with a little bit of softness. There is something about her though that really draws me in.

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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?
    Female representation in musicals of the 1950s varies. We had some films like Gentlemen Prefer Blondes representing women in more objectivity or sinfulness whereas Calamity Jane a beautiful Doris Day is not here to please you visually, she is setting out on her own adventure, a little hard. 

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1. I think the character of Calamity Jane falls somewhere in the middle of the continuum for female representation, inching a bit closer to the more feminist side of it because while Calamity Jane does experience a love story and her relationship with a man takes up some of the story of the film, it is ultimately a story about her and her relationships with the townsfolk, her profession, her friends/rivals, and herself. The concept of changing any part of herself for a man is an issue, especially as there isn't anything really wrong with her beforehand and I like her exuberant, rough and tumble attitude before, but the fact that she retains many key aspects of her personality that could be deemed "too masculine" is still pretty revolutionary for the time. 

2. Just based on these two clips, Doris Day strikes me as the type of actress who grows to encompass the typical elements of femininity based on her appearance but is more than capable of playing complex women with more going on underneath the surface and balances the preferred gender roles of the 1950s with her own spunky personality.

3. I think Doris Day's bright and sunny persona adds to the role of Calamity Jane because it makes her a more well-rounded character who has multiple dimensions and isn't trapped in the wooden role of the stoic that besieges many other "tough" female characters. You feel her exuberance in all of her dialogue, movement, and interactions with others and it gives the character a charming dimension that grabs you and doesn't let go. I find her to be an altogether more compelling character with that bright and sunny persona, a woman who is her own person with her own brand of femininity that still sets her apart from other female performers of the 1950s.

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Q1) This female character is outside of the norm as she is a tom-boy rather than a girlie girl.  This time period was very interested in reinforcing traditional roles for men and women.  Of course by the end we see Calamity Jane give the role of being a woman in this era her own twist.

Q2) I love Doris Day movies and first, I have to say she not only has a beautiful voice, but an outstanding sense of comedic timing. From this musical you see her take on more light hearted musicals such as By the Light of the Silvery Moon and Moonlight Bay.  These were both with Gordon MacRae who is wonderful as well.  They seemed to have quite a chemistry together, which I think shows her growth as an actress.

Q3) Her bright and sunny personality adds to the role of Calamity Jane.  She always seems to be sure of herself and feels she fits in and life is all good.  Calamity Jane is made fun of for her manly ways, but she doesn't see that as a problem.  It isn't until she realizes she loves Bill rather than Danny that she understands she has to be true to herself to be fully happy and Doris Day carries that through with her singing Secret Love and the fact that while she is a woman, she is dressing and behaving in her own way to remain true to herself.

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1.  Jane is a individualist for the beginning lather half of the movie, and than transforms into the modern ideal of women of that time.  Her persona came off more masculine in the beginning of the movie, than later on when it became more feminine. 

2.  Doris Day grew as an actress definitely as the 1950s went on.

3.  Doris Day's bright sunny persona doesn't detract from the character, in fact it gives it more light than what it could of been....if Doris Day did what the director wanted her to do.

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1. Calamity Jane is the direct opposite of the normal female lead roles. Very tomboy not so much the glamour puss that were more common for this era.

2. Yes, every role does help an actor grow.

3. I think it added to the role. She used her optimistic attitude help to make her character more relateable.

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Well Calamity Jane isn't like most women, she is a tough and strong character, like one of the guys, unfortunately she doesn't quite fit in the category of women in the 1950's. There are some characteristics that do play out. The 50's with the rebirth after the war (baby boomers) picking up on wholesome family values, as well as following guide to women feminine and how although women can be equal to men (as seen when the men were off to war, the woman has to do their part, keep bread on the table, work jobs, etc), they do have their place now. Day (tomboy qualities) and Keel characters are equal in every way, they don't see each other in any other way but acquaintances, but when an attractive gal comes to town, and catches the eye of every men, a quality Day character slightly desires. When she finally settles down and changes her persona to match her new found friend, although attractive to the eye, she feels out of place, especially when her crush elopes with her now ex-friend, and Heel character starts to notice her in a new light.

Doris Day as stated in many of her autobiography books, that she is not The Girl Next Door (personal life) as her roles portray her to be, and one can see that in her films. She doesn't play the goodie, wholesome characters who must follow structure, she can be as versatile as other actresses of her time. She stands for her beliefs, fights for her man, holds her ground when trouble ensures and doesn't let others walk over her or put her down. 

Her sunny disposition can be at times a bit too much to handle and I am not sure how much the real Calamity Jane was that peachy, or hopelessly romantic. She was a tough character and one can see that in Day's performance, but truly one can see Day go back and forth from her own character demeanor to Calamity Jane's demeanor. 

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

I feel like Dorris Day had to play a different person in this movie. However, I think that her bright persona adds to the role of Calamity Jane because it makes her seem a little more like women and less like a man. Especially when she knows that she is in love with Howard Keel her sunny persona just makes it more believable that she is in love with him. 

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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?

She seems to be a tomboy, who just wants to be accepted and loved by a man to be a woman in love. In the 50's, women could be both. It was more difficult for the tomboy, since men wanted a more feminine women. 

2. It is hard for me to believe that Doris Day is this rough tough, tomboy. She is definitely a very feminine singer and women. She tried hard to play this part. She was always the soft voice, sweet etheral person, angelic. She did become a better actress as she continued in the field. 

3. Her sunny and bright persona does help her in this movie. I can see also how it could detract from the movie, she is just to sweet to be all tomboy and not the girly girl. They always dressed her in yellow, thus sunny. 

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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?

  • It kind of straddles eras because you have the Katie Brown character, a traditional feminine female, and Calamity who is tomboyish in the extreme and sees no reason why she can't do the same things men do. But despite their differences in appearance (initially anyway) and approach, both are strong women. Calamity just is and Katie gets there when she tries to take a shot at Calamity. She misses. But she was brave enough to try.

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

  • To me, Doris Day was always a natural. That never changed.

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

  • She works hard to suppress her natural personality -- or to substitute spunk for sunny with this role. But there is no reason why a strong woman can't have a sunny personality. 

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