Dr. Vanessa Theme Ament

DAILY DOSE OF DELIGHT #11 (From Singin' in the Rain

238 posts in this topic

1- If you had followed Gene Kelly's dances from when he first started out until this point you could tell that he was getting better and better with his craft.

2-O'Connor was making fun of the professor at the start of the clip until it turned into a song. They both carried the professor around the room like a doll. The professor being the straight man the entire time.

3-Donold is the playful male who does not take much serious (in this clip) Gene takes the lead as the male in charge and the professor is just there to be "the smart one"

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

1. From the very beginning you can tell that O’Conner isn’t there for the lesson but more for adding comic relief. The way he looks back and forth between the professor and Kelly you can see how he’s there to have fun and break up the seriousness. Then when he starts in back of the professor to make faces steals the scene. With the phrase rhyming it leads into the dance part of the scene.

2. The professor is trying to do his lesson seriously. Even as he losing control due to O’Conner’s antics he continues to try. He finally gives up with Kelly joins in. The poor guys final insult is when they loaditems from the office on him with the lamp shade on his head. 

3. Even though all three are dressed professionally, Kelly and O’Conner are dressed in what I call business casual. The professor acts refined and and business like. Which is typical in Office. Kelly and O’Conner are more athletic as demonstrated through their dance routine. 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Before they begin dancing, Donald is performing the comedy while Kelly is more or less to me the straight man.  Once the dancing begins, they are absolute equals.  The professor is the one character here who remains the same:  the comic foil.  The patsy.  My favorite moment here is near the end where Donald and Gene rip the poor guy out of his chair, seat him on a table or desk or whatever it is, and cover him with props.  Even after this, the duo continue to dance while the professor just sits there, legs visible but otherwise completely piled on.  To me, the best comedy work of the old days always had a straight man/comic foil.  For instance, I don't think Abbott & Costello would have ever been nearly as funny or as famous if they were both at times the Alpha (clearly Bud Abbott) and at other times the patsy (clearly Lou Costello).  Jack Benny to me had the best ensemble of anyone in classic radio/TV, and Jack actually was almost always the foil.  The funniest lines were coming out of Mary Livingstone, Phil Harris, et al.  Jack got his biggest laughs usually without saying a word, or even sometimes literally by just standing there expressionless.  The professor being buried under furniture and a rug and a lampshade and even wall art while just sitting there and taking it makes me think of Jack's style of humor, and it's probably why I consider this scene the funniest in Singin' in the Rain overall.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

1-The "pre-dance" movements I would argue are not "pre-dance" but the beginning of the dance, they are rhythmic-stepping in time to their self created beat to the spoken word of the tongue twisters, the two characters (and might I add actors as well!) are perfectly in tune with one another, each simultaneously gets the idea of where they are going and what is about to happen. The set up is that neither actor is taking these lessons very seriously and like two cut-up kids in class, they know they are going to cause mischief and wreak havoc on the unsuspecting professor. They are literally conducting themselves with their arms (with excellent carriage for those ballet students in the house) and tapping out the beat to set up the rest of the dance, it's foreplay for dance!

2-I have always felt bad for the Professor in that half of the number he is completely obscured, buried under props galore (but let's be honest, if they had left his face available to see, would anyone look at him when faced with a choice of watching Kelly and O'Connor dance together? Nope!) He underplays but does it well and is right on point, he starts big, the know it all elocutionist, but as he is cut down by the two men, he becomes befuddled, then clearly gives up, he doesn't struggle or fight when he is buried, he sits and takes his lumps like a good straight man should!

3-There is no more masculine dancer than Gene Kelly, no one can compare to his physique and strength which is in perfect harmony with his agility and grace, an unheard of combination. For anyone to dance beside him is a risk, no one can match him, but in this number, O'Connor is an equal, a stunning feat of watching not just one, but two absolute masters meeting one another step for step. Their styles are slightly different, but as a dancer myself, you have to acknowledge not just their footwork being in perfect harmony, but the gait, swing and positioning of their arms-now that is genius at work! Clearly Gene will always be the Alpha here, but Donald gets a Beta PLUS for his stunning side by side dancing, and the poor Prof comes in with a solid C for being a Champ to take what is served.

  • Like 2

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

1.    How do the pre-dance movements of O’Connor and Kelly compare to their actual dance movements? Starting with Donald O’Connor aping the Professor during the “Moses” tongue twister, they let that rhythm inform their dance to come. Once Gene Kelly holds the elocution book, their gestures match the beats of the poetry’s rhythm. Once O’Connor tosses the book, they start dancing in time to the beat.

2.    Watch the Professor all the way through and consider the role of the straight man. It’s actually hard to focus on the Professor because we’re so captivated by the dancing and shenanigans of Kelly and O’Connor. In a way, this number encapsulates a lot of what Singin’ in the Rain has to say about the early days of sound. The studios thought actors should focus on speaking in correct Mid-Atlantic accents, but Don and Cosmo know what the people really want – music, dance, and fun. Throughout the number, the Professor is perplexed by their antics and becomes their hostage. He’s so formal that he allows them to slowly rotate him using his tie and hide his head under a curtain. He tries to escape being their dance foil, but never really challenges them. Midway through he puts on his glasses to watch their dancing and Don and Cosmo sit him in a chair, pointing to the dancing of the other man. Finally they stack the trappings of his lessons on top of him, making him a ridiculous shrine to elocution.

3.    How do the representations of masculinity in all three men compare and contrast with each other? As was articulated in the notes, Gene Kelly is clearly the alpha male while Donald O’Connor appears as the beta male, allowing him to more easily ape and mock the finicky gesture style of the Professor reciting his tongue twisters. The Professor himself is finicky and repressed, unable to release himself in male exuberance like the younger men when they dance and take over his room.

 

Moses.jpg

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

The two dancers couldn't help but feel the rhythm of thatrhyming jingle and go from speaking the rhythm to clapping to a full out dance routine.  Although the two men dance on sync most of the time they give off 2 very different feels. Gene aKelly is a very ahletic dancer.  I always think of Donald O'Connor as midway between aKelly and Fred Astaire- looser than Kelly, but not quite as light as Astaire.  Not that he's midway in talent- just in style!  The straight man provides comic relief as he maintains his seriousness throughout the scene.  I'm sure he is never able to lighten up which makes him laughable.  

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Well in this daily dose I'm afraid the professor is no match for these two friends who at first try to humor him but the whole thing is at his expense.  It is so gloriously entertaining that you can hardly blame them.  Donald O Connor's facial expressions as the professor is attempting to improve Kelly's diction are priceless and of course generates their rejection of the exercise which then becomes this great dance routine.

It is interesting and very clever as the rhythm of the spoken word moves seamlessly into the rhythm of the dance.  The straight man (professor) becomes a prop as the dance evolves into a fast paced athletic routine.  I don't see a contrast of masculinity as much as personalities.  The professor is serious, Gene Kelly is the attractive leading man and Donald O'Connor is his amiable, loyal side kick.  Though not part of this routine it is easy to see how Debbie Reynold"s character fits right in with Kelly and O Connor as their characters all seem to look at life through the same lens.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
1 hour ago, MotherofZeus said:

Let's just get out of the way that Donald O'Connor is a delight.  He's absolute mischief in human form in this film, but he's self-effacing that it isn't destructive or counter-productive. Again, the clown, as traditional character plays his part perfectly to deflate positions of power. Gene Kelly is a hunk a hunk a burning greatness in taps, but for my money Donald O'Connor, although not the lead, almost steals the show from Gene. 

 

Now, to the three gents.   The direction of movement is seamless into the dance number. Breaking into song almost seems the most natural thing to do the way it lead into it. At least, that's the excuse I give when I break into song or dance in daily life.  At least here, it's in the script. 

 

I'd like to address the anti-intellectual streak in America that we see play in the treatment of the professor.  It is highly traditional in Western culture to undercut the intellectual. That is the manly thing done here by O' Connor and Kelly.  As much as I love the number -- and, boy, do I -- it depends upon undermining and making a buffoon of the professor.  The lead and support are manly in their making fun of the intellectual. As the support, O'Connor is the sillier and more colorful of the two males while Kelly is smoothly dismissive of the same. He is in more subdued color.  His dance is just a tick under the animated facial and physical gestures of O'Connor -- making him "the cool guy" alpha.  Hearing that Levant was Freed's preference over O' Connor, I am glad they went with O'Connor as this is a masterful performance. Levant was an intellectual himself and would be hard pressed to fit into the character of as we know it. One of my frustrations with Hollywood (and the ticket purchasers) is the inability to embrace a Levant as the male lead type. 

The anti-intellectual bent we are seeing at a fevered pitch in our current decade can look to the history of its depiction here. It is all in good fun, but it feeds the view of intelligence as buffoonish and out of touch. As I go for the brainy type (which Kelly and O'Connor most certainly were but played the character of the causal average Joe), I really hate this trope and how it feeds culture's embrace or rejection of intellect in politics, business -- in everything. I know we have geek chic going on, but present-day America is most assuredly anti-intellectual, so the depictions of the three male characters here, as funny as it is, depresses me this week. 

This is a very thoughtful analysis and I couldn't agree more.

  • Thanks 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

This clip always makes me smile.  The Professor, gods help the poor man, is just flabbergasted that 'these movie people' don't take him seriously...after all, he's JUST trying to do his job.  Kelley and O'Connor are in sync essentially from the beginning of the bit, with O'Connor the court jester to Kelley's alpha male king.

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I saw Donald O'Connor on stage in Show Boat (as Cap'n Andy) at the Orpheum in San Francisco in 1982. Lonette McKee played Julie. That production later went to Broadway in 1983.

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I really like O'Conner in this scene. He is hilarious!

1. I notice we start with the facial expressions only, with arms mostly at their sides, and they they start speaking and timing their arm movements to the music, and then finally pan down to the legs moving in time to the music as they walk. Then the real dancing begins.

2. The Professor is portrayed as a stuffy academic, someone to make fun of and gets reduced to a prop during the dance. Also,he may be able to enunciate all those words, but then we see his astonishment at Kelly and O'Conner's cool dance to the beat of the words. 

3. I notice O'Connor's character as being a little more feminine. The academic seems stuffy and the Kelly character seems more of an alpha male type.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

This is one of my favorite dance numbers in any musical. There is an irony running through the scene that captures a larger theme in the movie Singin' in the Rain. The coach is attempting to teach Don and Cosmo (Kelly and O'Connor) in order to ensure they will be able to make a successful transition from silent to sound pictures. At this critical moment in film history, all of a sudden voice coaches were hired by movie studios and filmmakers were forced to become concerned with how people sounded on film. This, of course, is the main premise of Singin in the Rain. And yet Don and Cosmo have so much talent that it is laughable that anyone would be trying to coach them in anything. Thus they make a mockery of the well meaning vocal coach in this number, "Moses Supposes". I think this is the reason that Singin in the Rain works so well and has become such a classic. It pokes fun at the movie musical while celebrating it at the same time. In this number, Kelly and O'Connor seem to be saying "look how far we've come."

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

1. How do the pre-dance movements of O'Connor and Kelly compare to their actual dance movements?

Right before the actual dance movements, they do a little strut while reciting the rhyme, and it seems like they're really getting into the whole lesson, but on their own terms. When they grab the professor's tie, the musical number officially begins.

2. Watch the professor all the way through and consider the role of the straight man.

The professor obviously doesn't know what to make of the whole situation since diction is his expertise, not singing and dancing. Throughout the whole dance number, he shows a combination of discomfort and confusion.

 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

1) How do the pre-dance movements of O’Connor and Kelly compare to their actual dance movements? 

It's quite obvious that Kelly doesn't really need lessons, but he's just playing along. However, O'Connor isn't taking the lessons seriously as he mocks the Professor behind his back. Even before the music begins, the audience is treated to O'Connor and Kelly's physical abilities and subtle rhythms before they start really dancing. There is a buildup and there is definitely a payoff. It's clear that O'Connor is the class clown and Kelly is the straight man, but as they're dancing, they both before similar and in sync where you can't tell which guy is the comic and which is the cynic.

2) Watch the Professor all the way through and consider the role of the straight man.

Bobby Watson is mincemeat all the way through as he is mocked, jerked around, and in the end, bombarded with books. It's obvious that he isn't in on the joke; he is the joke. In an odd way, he did ask for it. He seems snobby and defensive, as it is clear that he believes he is better than O'Connor and Kelly just because he's a Professor. You're glad that they get best of him, especially at the end of scene.

3) How do the representations of masculinity in all three men compare and contrast with each other?

Kelly is the Jock; O'Connor is the Comic, and the Professor is the Silent guy. The Professor become the lesser of the three because he tries to be superior, but he is easily taken down by both Kelly and O'Connor. He tries to teach them, but his intellect doesn't stand a chance against their bigger personalities. He is also used as a prop, as they take over and dominate him and the scene. Kelly remains masculine, O'Connor remains class clown, and the Professor is lesser than he actually was.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

The genius of Kelly the choreographer and virtuosity of his dancing are highlighted here although it is a duo-dance. Before they dance, O’Connor and Kelly begin as respectful students, but O’Connor has an irreverent glint in his eye. He deftly moves slightly out of the professor’s field of vision and uses his rubbery face to mock him. After asking him to show off, they both applaud the professor’s performance. The fun starts when Kelly starts to accentuate the rhythm of the tongue twister. O’Connor’s ratchets the rhythm up and leads directly into the song and we are off to the races. The dance becomes a tap exhibition, which, of course, shows the professor that they use their feet to elocute quite well indeed. This playful scene shows how silent film stars might have originally mocked the significance of diction and elocution and real acting skills by using every symbol of the classroom (chair, desk, etc.) as their playground. In that way, the professor and the audience get a lesson, just not the one they thought at the beginning.

The role of the straight man is essential to a comedy routine or dance, the real linchpin. He/she uses dead pan to set up the situation, inhabits an exaggerated stock character worthy of irreverence, and remains in character no matter the chaos created around him. In this case, the caricatured professor is not only the butt of the joke but becomes a prop himself as he is pushed around the room, allowing the audience to follow the dancers. He must remain impassive and rigid and allow himself to be a piece of furniture or part of the set. It is essential that the straight man must remain visible the entire time or the comedy loses its purpose. His quiet physicality grounds the scene from beginning to end.  Thank you for this question. I had never thought of the role of the straight man before, especially in a musical. However, they are used in many gags in musicals.

The masculinity of each man is distinct. Kelly is the alpha male as he is obviously the better dancer. Whether mid-dance or not, he exudes a masculine physique yet moves like a cat. He and O’Connor dance in unison throughout most of this routine but his skill is non-peril. O’Connor is excellent and keeps up with Kelly but he is also cast as a comic so that distracts the audience from taking him seriously. He is small than Kelly and not as powerfully built. The gag with his rubbery face shows that he is the sidekick buddy who is not going to get the girl in this movie. Good guys finish last. The professor is straight and stiff, too formally dressed and relegated to a role with no spontaneity or life. His more cerebral presentation is the bread to Kelly and O’Connor’s peanut butter and jelly and they eat his lunch.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Before going into their dance routine, Kelly and O'Connor are already preparing the audience with an increasing tempo in their word play and their synchronized movements around the "professor."  The elocutionist plays his part quite well not really quite sure if he is being mocked or if just has some overly exuberant college boys using his lessons in their own playful way.  

The voice lesson scene with Kelly and O'Connor is dramatically opposite of the one undertaken by their hapless co-star.  And the latter has an even more hidden lesson when LaMott's singing instructor will be recognized by most movie audience as a character actress who often spoke with a Scandinavian accent.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

The pre-dance movements act smoothly and have great timing. The professor acts very stiff and wants to do everything his way, no help from the other two. There's the straight man, the clown and the serious type. Each character represents a type of masculinity. 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Their pre-dance movements there are really two sets. The ones where they are listening and following the lessons and then it's the mocking sequence where they start to take the book, undo his bow tie. Each one kind of leads into the other. There is the dance part that includes the tongue twister and then it changes to just dancing which is where basically I think they are saying....hey this is what we get paid to do! :) 

The teacher plays the straight man well. During the curtain part he is still trying to play somewhat against them. Looking around and trying to figure them out. The part where Gene Kelly basically slides him back to the desk his body is just putty to where ever they have him go. Takes a lot of effort to glide in front of Kelly being some what led from behind then when he comes to the desk he immediately lays back so they can complete the number and then comes up to sitting position with no facial change. He gives them something to play off of. 

I don't know that I would call any of them masculine to be honest. But then again times change and what might have been a "dream boat" back then seems a bit feminine today. The teacher is button up and serious, Gene Kelly is honestly kind of too graceful (beautiful to watch) but doesn't exude macho. Donald is just a goof ball! 

  • Confused 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

The only thing I can add to what's already been said is that it gives me an even better appreciation for the raw talent of Frank Sinatra-never dance trained yet held his own in dance numbers with Gene Kelly in the films they made together.

Kelly wasn't just a dancer- he was an athlete.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I'd like to address the anti-intellectual streak in America that we see play in the treatment of the professor.  It is highly traditional in Western culture to undercut the intellectual. That is the manly thing done here by O' Connor and Kelly.  As much as I love the number -- and, boy, do I -- it depends upon undermining and making a buffoon of the professor.  The lead and support are manly in their making fun of the intellectual. As the support, O'Connor is the sillier and more colorful of the two males while Kelly is smoothly dismissive of the same. He is in more subdued color.  His dance is just a tick under the animated facial and physical gestures of O'Connor -- making him "the cool guy" alpha.  Hearing that Levant was Freed's preference over O' Connor, I am glad they went with O'Connor as this is a masterful performance. Levant was an intellectual himself and would be hard pressed to fit into the character of as we know it. One of my frustrations with Hollywood (and the ticket purchasers) is the inability to embrace a Levant as the male lead type. 

 

Mother of Zeus, you are right on with this analysis - thank you for making the connection.  Lena Lamont's voice instructor might not be mocked in a musical number, but she is not portrayed in a much better light.  This also reminds me of On the Town - the Vera Ellen character's voice teacher is shown sneaking some booze and is not a savory character at all, just someone trading on an intellectual appearance.

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
  1. Before the number even begins, Kelly and O’Connor set the tempo with their repetition of the tongue twister. Right before they go into the dance, they rhythmically pat the table as a precursor to tapping their feet. All of this lead up sets the high energy tone of the dance. 
     
  2. Playing the straight man serves to amplify comedic moments. The only person not participating in the joke sets up an extra obsticle to overcome in the comedic moment. The straight man can also serve as an example of the way a person would react to being in the situation of it happened in real life. Acting as the foil of the comedian, the straight man gives the other performers a chance to play off of the seriousness of this person. 
     
  3. Gene Kelly plays the slightly more uptight man’s man, Donald O’Connor plays the funny guy who likely has many friends and is secure with the Alpha male’s position of power, Bobby Watson plays the role of the over-educated straight man who is unnecessarily self-serious. All three of these roles work to round out the scene so that each man has a specific purpose for their presence. 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

This trio here work into the template of the professor/teacher who is not street smart enough to know that he is being had by the two school buddies: class clown (O'Connor) and the too-cool-for-school alpha male (Kelly). All three play their roles perfectly.  And O'Connor facial expressions are pitch perfect.  I love how he and Watson go back and forth and how O'Connor skillfully sides with the professor only to undercut him later.  

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
7 hours ago, Jon Severino said:

DAILY DOSE OF DELIGHT #11 (FROM SINGIN' IN THE RAIN:

“You say laughter and I say larfter.”  (from Shall We Dance)

1. The classmates initiate gesticulates as they enunciate which punctuates what they articulate, then they graduate and matriculate into animated syncopated gyrates which dominate their educator into emasculation.

2. The professor is the lessor and his learners are the master of the lesson so they press on some more upon the lesson by digressing while the professor looks on like a moron. 

3. The Diction Teacher is a constricted creature.  O’Conners’ Cosmo is comical. 

Don Lockwood is cocksure--not awkward.  Gene Kelly is an alpha-male only in classes on musicals. 

Hi - Interesting final point.  Could you please clarify what you mean by the comment about Gene Kelly?  Are you intentionally separating the actor from the character he is playing?  In what way is GK a beta male?  

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

 

  • How do the pre-dance movements of O’Connor and Kelly compare to their actual dance movements?

They begin reciting the tongue twister together, with a rhythmic cadence, almost mirroring each other's expressions and movements. This leads perfectly into the dance movements.

  • Watch the Professor all the way through and consider the role of the straight man.

The professor's almost non-reaction to what is going on adds to the humor. He is almost a non-human and more of a prop, as evidenced by the way they incorporated him into their routine as a table. He just adds another layer of funny (at least to us and the dancers) to the scene.

  • How do the representations of masculinity in all three men compare and contrast with each other?

Obviously, the professor ranks low on the masculinity scale. Brains and no brawn, and apparently no sense of humor, either. Kelly and O'Connor appear to be fairly evenly ranked on the masculinity scale, but a few differences stand out that seem to label one as Alpha and the other Beta. O'Connor's funny guy routine of mocking the professor behind his back would point to him as more of a Beta male. When the two men wrap themselves in the draperies, he assumes more of a feminine pose, with the curtains around his head as a scarf, while Kelly strikes a rather Romanesque and authoritarian-looking pose, making him appear to be the Alpha in this scene. (So funny that because of his dancing, in real life, few people would have called him an Alpha male.)

 

 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

They both are so fluid in their movements that it is hard to tell where the dancing actually begins.

The professor is a master at facial expressions, going from happiness to surprise to shock.

Gene Kelly dances with masculine upper body movements and facial expressions. O'Connor has more of the clownlike facial expressions. What terrific dancing by both!!!!!

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now

New Members:

Register Here

Learn more about the new message boards:

FAQ

Having problems?

Contact Us