Dr. Vanessa Theme Ament

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

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DONALD OCONNOR WAS A DELIGHT AS USUAL ALMOST STEAL THE SHOW A COMIC THE HUMOR MAKES THE MOVIE DELIGHTFUL. KELLY KNOWS WHAT HE IS DOING. HE CAN BE FUNNY BUT AT THE SAME HE KNOWS WHAT IS RIGHT LIKE NOT THE SPEECH AS THE PROF. WANTS. OUT OF TOUCH STRAIGHT MAN

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Although I love this scene and the mastery of Kelly and O'Conner, I do not like the portrayal and subsequent treatment of the professor. This is in line with the stereotype of intellectuals in American film... think Ball of Fire and the remake, A Song is Born. Brainy types are portrayed as the antithesis of the Alpha male and brainy women are portrayed as unfeminine … take off their glasses and they become sexpots!. Anti-intellectualism has been pervasive in American life and film reflects that which has lead us to where we are today.

Other than that I love the dancing in this and how the patter between Kelly & O'Connor leads seamlessly into the song and dance.

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When Donald O'Connor and Gene Kelly aren't dancing they are standing sedately, hands in pockets or arms crossed across chest. Most of their movements are done from the waist up, and much of that is hand gestures. As things start to pick up speed Donald O'Connor moves to stand behind the Professor to mock his mannerisms. Finally the music has increased in tempo and things are in full swing. They tease and play with the professor and start dancing in earnest, and there is nothing sedate about them.

The professor is the typical straight man, prim in his mannerisms and speech, but oblivious to the fact that others make fun of him behind his back. He is well intentioned in that he sincerely wants to help the young men develop their elocution skills but, like many young people who feel that they don't need advice or tutelage from anyone, the lessons are seen as fodder for jokes and not taken seriously.

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This is a fun, fun number! It's amazing how Donald O'Connor and Gene Kelly keep exactly in sync. Also, the tune is very snappy, and the use of the tongue twister exclusively as the lyrics is genius. Who would think you could write an entire song just using one tongue twister? Sounds ridiculous, but boy, does it work!

In the scene, the only way you know that Gene is the alpha male is that he, not Donald, is reciting the tongue twisters, although Donald coaches him. Otherwise, the two men are equals. And they are definitely equals in the dance routine.

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  1. How do the pre-dance movements of O’Connor and Kelly compare to their actual dance movements?
    • Pre-dance movements of O'Connor and Kelly seem to completely correlated with their character, as well as their style of dance.  O'Connor from the get-go has this air of youth and playfulness to him, and is seen in how overly compliments the Professor, in a teasing, mocking way.  Kelly stands there and is more suave, put together, and gentlemanly.  (These ideas also tie in to how they are cast in other pictures as Kelly as the Alpha Male, and O'Connor as the Beta Male who is the sidekick.)  Once they start dancing, the movements are very similar.  Kelly dances in a very smooth way, even when tapping.  Kelly is a chameleon in his dance styles, but through his arms, and the way his body seems to flow, it has the same security, and suaveness he shows throughout the movie, and in the beginning of the scene before they start dancing.  O'Connor is more of a hoofer to me.  He sinks a little lower into his taps, and has more edges in his arm movements, that continue his playful, Beta Male side that is set up at the beginning of the scene.  These differences between O'Connor and Kelly are noticeable, but do not take away from the synchronicity of the dance, but shows their character throughout. 
       
  2. Watch the Professor all the way through and consider the role of the straight man.
    • The Professor is clearly from a different time than Kelly and O'Connor's characters.  He is refined, proper, and enjoys crisp speaking, as if he is there to teach a Cotillion class.  One could imagine that he has a very strict routine everyday, and that the corners of his bed are always tightly squared, and everything around him is always in order.  He keeps his character throughout as he gets thrown around the room with the nonsense of Kelly and O'Connor.  His face tells us that he is in over his head, and is quite appalled by their behavior. 
       
  3. How do the representations of masculinity in all three men compare and contrast with each other?
    • As I mentioned in question 1, one can see the Alpha Male in Kelly as he often puts his head up during some moves, as if not a care in the world.  O'Connor has this more fun, jokester way about him, trying to do what he can to impress those around him by being comical, being a great Beta Male/sidekick.  The Professor doesn't ring out as an Alpha or Beta male to me, but simply of a Male from yesteryear that is a no nonsense type, that needs order.  I do not feel any of them steal the scene or take the power, but shows how the 3 different types all coincide in the world.

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1. The pre-dance movements are a bit more silly, like when they are playing around with the curtains, though otherwise they seem to correspond with the actual dance movements fairly well.

2. It is impressive that he is able to keep a straight face all the way through this routine. The straight man often is an important role in these scenes and Watson does an excellent job as a confused outsider.

3. O’Connor is the silliest of the three, although Kelly obviously has some of that in him as well. However, Kelly’s main role in the film is as the Alpha Male, while the professor serves as the normal person who is not used to these kinds of antics.

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1.  Both of their movements are musical and rhythmic even before they begin dancing.  Donald O'Connors movements are mainly about poking fun at the professor and making silly faces, but he does so in a rhythmic sort of way. 

2.  The straight man is there to make the comedy even funnier and to stand out more.  Had they just started dancing to the words of the song without it poking fun at someone it wouldn't be quite as funny.  The straight man is there to lend more humor to the situation.  I especially like the bit at the end where they start piling stuff all over him. 

3.  Gene Kelly is the Alpha male type and he's the one that will likely get the girl.  Donald O'Connor is the beta male side character who is the funny man and will contribute the laughs which he does excellently in the song Make Em Laugh.  The professor serves as a straight foil character to the other two gentleman and represents a stuffy professor type. 

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Just a shout out to Kathleen Frreman and Jean Hagen’s diction class. Simply hilarious! There were so many talented people in this movie. I feel you could do a whole class on it. I first saw this movie on the big screen when I was in college in the 70s. People were actually giving standing ovations.

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Singing in the Rain is all about "old school" vs. "new." Kelly has played and replayed the same role forever (in the film) and America is ready for something new. Within the film, that newness is the talkies and a fresh young actress; in the real America, that newness is a new post-war decade full of possibility and the rise of youth culture.  Though not particularly young,  Kelly and O'Connor give off the exuberance of youth and innovation in contrast to the stuffy old school style of the professor who is mocked and finally becomes nothing more than a dance prop like a coat rack.  

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3 hours ago, Helene said:

Although I love this scene and the mastery of Kelly and O'Conner, I do not like the portrayal and subsequent treatment of the professor. This is in line with the stereotype of intellectuals in American film... think Ball of Fire and the remake, A Song is Born. Brainy types are portrayed as the antithesis of the Alpha male and brainy women are portrayed as unfeminine … take off their glasses and they become sexpots!. Anti-intellectualism has been pervasive in American life and film reflects that which has lead us to where we are today.

 

Excellent point, Helene!  I think I've become so used to it, I never thought of it as clearly as that.  Just one exception from our class comes to mind. In On the Town, the very desirable Ann Miller  is working on her anthropology thesis in the museum when she falls for "prehistoric" Munshin.  She is intellectually slumming! But then again, that implies that the highbrow men at her university can't satisfy her in the way a lowbrow can, so back to your point! 

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

The dancing in the scene wouldn't have been any less impressive without the professor, but the straight man is essential to making the scene funny. He's the setup for the gags and provides a baseline by which to gauge the outlandish activity by Kelly and O'Connor - you can't tell dark unless you have some light, right? The straight man often goes un-thanked in comedies. He (or she) provides the base off which the star can play and, therefore, shine.

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Rather than comment on the clip, I have to comment on the discussions about “masculinity.” This points to uncomfortable reactions to movies by viewers - they mistake artifice for reality. These stereotypes of masculinity ought to be retired. I am bothered that in the 21st century, qualities like “leadership,”  and “power” are seen as more masculine.  Really? Alpha and beta? is this helpful, or even accurate? Most movies lazily work on tropes and stereotypes, narrowing the already narrow conventions of “masculine” and “feminine.”  For me, this is a disturbing aspect whenever watching older movies.  I find Gene Kelly plays basically the same character is most of his movies — womanizing jerk learns to act a bit better through love.  If that makes him more masculine, perhaps we need to retire masculinity.  

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  1. How do the pre-dance movements of O’Connor and Kelly compare to their actual dance movements? Donald was definitely having a lot more fun with the professor and dancing than Gene. Gene was more serious, trying to learn and while they danced. 
     
  2. Watch the Professor all the way through and consider the role of the straight man. He was very serious about teaching Donald and Gene properly. Though, you could tell that in a short period, he was having fun with the tongue-twisters. 
     
  3. How do the representations of masculinity in all three men compare and contrast with each other? Donald was the fun one, making faces behind the professor and just showed more enthusiasm throughout the dance. Gene, though serious, was the alpha of the pair. The professor was stern and nearly emotionless (at first anyway). They all blended pretty well together. 

 

I was waiting patiently for a Daily Dose clip from Singin' in the Rain and it finally happened! :D 

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  1. How do the pre-dance movements of O’Connor and Kelly compare to their actual dance movements?  It works to get the song and dance.  O'Conner makes fun of the Professor before O'Connor got caught he thought the two gentlemen were being serious.  When they began to dance that was when the Professor knew he was being made fun of.
     
  2. Watch the Professor all the way through and consider the role of the straight man.  He only moves when he is moved or pushed into that position.  He is not having a good time.  They only time he tries to leave they grab him by the sleeve to put him back into the number.
  3. How do the representations of masculinity in all three men compare and contrast with each other?  Kelly and O'Connor are very much moving together.   The noticeable differences is O'Connor is smaller steps and he looks down more than Kelly.  Kelly has bigger motion and knows the steps.  The professor only moves when told to move.

 

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1. The dance moves are more in sync and open up to the musical number.

2. The professor adds humor to the scene by being straight. It's amazing that he can stay like that while two people dance around him.

3. All 3 of the men act very masculine, but O'Connor's character is a bit more feminine that the other men.

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

There’s a clear connection between the ore dance and performance dance sequence. All related to making fun of the professor.

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

The naivety of the professor is clearly shown maybe up to half the scene where he doesn’t notice where and how Kelly and O’Connor is making fun of him. Then the whole satire of it comes out.
 

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

Kelly clearly plays the alpha and O’Connor the Beta in this case. The professor stands alone as a supportive player. Three good examples of male model representation. 

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1.  The pre-dance movements of the two are more "normal", as in how they move when talking to.the professor.  They are less fluid then when they are dancing.

2.  Without the professor as the straight man the scene would lose alot of it's humor.  Especially when O'Connor is mocking him behind his back then he turns and catches him at it.  The professor acts ad if he's not really sure what's happening, which adds the humorous element to the scene.

3.  The two dancers are the strong characters in the sequence in that they are controlling the scene.  The professor looks more like a beta male with his timidity and uncertainty.

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  1. O'Connor and Kelly's pre-dance movements are slapstick, uncoordinated, and literally jerky compared to the actual dance movements which are very fluid and smooth as well as almost mirrored of each other. 
     
  2. It must be hard to be the straight man to slapstick/physical comedy and pretend that it has no effect on you or that the other person's behavior is normal. The Professor does a good job of being the straight man for O'Connor and Kelly.
  3. The Professor is seen as an egghead and perhaps effeminate. O'Connor and Kelly are the All American men who are strong, athletic and can literally dance rings around the Professor.

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

Kelly and O'Connor's back and forth on the Moses Supposes lesson then their syncopation on the words rhythmically sets up the dance. The two mirror each other near perfectly throughout the sequence with only brief solos by each. The Foley Tap matches their dancing on the nose to me.

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

He's in control (or believes he is) briefly then loses it to the antics of Kelly and O'Connor. I don't think he knows what to make of these crazy guys running amok in his classroom but then he simply sits and observes their entire dance routine. Maybe like the audience? Perhaps we and the professor are straight men reacting to the two dancers.

  1. How do the representations of masculinity in all three men compare and contrast with each other?
  2.  
  3. Donald is the adorable class clown Beta - complete with funny facial contortions. He is the sidekick and partner in crime to Kelly.
  4. Kelly as always is the Alpha. He's the reason they are at the elacution classroom because he is the money-making leading man whose speech concerns the studio (to keep making profitable sound movies) not Donald. Even is the scene where the characters are draping themselves with the curtains, Kelly is the higher position (Caesar) while O;Connor is kneeling and feigning weeping like a woman.
  5. The professor is the neutral, reactor. Very scholarly, precise and dull - which movies then seem to view academics. He's gray while Kelly and O'Connor are full technicolor metaphorically speaking.

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In the beginning of this clip, it is somewhat apparent to me that Donald O'Connors character is a "character... with him making fun of the professor who is very serious about his annunciation... their dance steps in the beginning seem to be soft and knowing where to go. Once they get it together they step and dance with great strides. They are so talented and always make it look so easy, and having so much fun. I truly wanted to be them !!!! Although Mr. asstair always looked like he was going to break out in dance when walking, these two gentleman ease into the dance steps. 

As a straight man one would think their role is extremely important. They have to be on point and ready for just about anything. As a straight man, they have to keep a straight face, and be quite articulate when delivering their lines. I would love to see the outtakes of Donald O'Connor making faces at the professor. Must have been quite a few to say the least ... 

Hmmmm..... their masculinity differs in the sense there are two entirely different professions. The professor is a bit stuffy, trying to teach, and very serious. Where on the other hand the masculinity of the dancers is that of being big kids, goofing around, and not really taking what the professor is pitching to seriously.... 

such a fun clip to watch.. Thanks for using this clip... 

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1. Even before they start dancing, Kelly and O'Connor are already in sync with each other - all it takes is a look between the two to get the song started. And from the beginning of the scene, the two are moving very relaxedly. They hold onto that air of ease even as they launch into an incredibly complicated dance number.

2. The professor is understandably startled when Kelly and O'Connor start to sing and dance, but he doesn't really do much to stop them. He watches them in confusion, seeming to think, "Wow, these guys are nuts." But he lets the scene play out anyway. His baffled reactions add to the comedy of the scene.

3. Gene's character seems to be the leader, the Alpha male, while Donald's is the comedic sidekick. Don Lockwood is out in front of the cameras all the time, the one who is in the public eye, while Cosmo works behind the scenes. That seems to have affected the way that they act even when they're not working. While it's implied that Gene is the more... influential of the two, however, they blend together well as a team and neither dominates over the other during the dance. You get the impression that they're used to causing some trouble together... and that the professor is not used to seeing it. 

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

This has to be one of the most brilliant dance numbers on film from any time. Honestly. The staccato of speech starts it all off ( a percussion of its own) and slowly from words to music to spinning off of the professors tie - lurching O'Connor and Kelly in a spiraled frenzy that ends in destruction!

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

The professor's job is over when he hands Gene Kelly the book for the last time. He does not add or detract from the scene. Who should even try with this number? I agree with previous posts that being the brunt of a joke as the academic is unnecessary as is the treatment of Lena Lamont's voice instructor.
 

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

O'Connor spends most of the film as the Beta - A great Beta :0 ) - but  Beta none the less. What I really love about this number is that O'Connor and Kelly become equals in the labeling of masculine. Equally clever - equally talented - equal energy - similarly dressed. There is almost  an undefined fight for Alpha.

Maybe this is the only use the professor has in this scene - to be the Beta, the foil. 

 

 

 

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The poor old prof is fussy and prim.  Too self satisfied, his priggish and strait-laced manner allows him to be easily mocked. Don and Cosmo, who speak in perfectly rounded tones, do not need voice coaching.  Their manner is also self-satisfied, but casual and vigorous.  The costuming accentuates the differences between the characters.

The trope of the prissy intellectual, especially as represented by a professor, has a long history in the movies. 

 

 

     

 

 

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7 hours ago, mariaki said:

Excellent point, Helene!  I think I've become so used to it, I never thought of it as clearly as that.  Just one exception from our class comes to mind. In On the Town, the very desirable Ann Miller  is working on her anthropology thesis in the museum when she falls for "prehistoric" Munshin.  She is intellectually slumming! But then again, that implies that the highbrow men at her university can't satisfy her in the way a lowbrow can, so back to your point! 

As an alpha female cultural anthropologist, I appreciate your comments

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On 6/19/2018 at 10:06 PM, Dr. Vanessa Theme Ament said:

This forum is to discuss Donald O'Connor and Gene Kelley as they perform in "Moses Supposes" from Singin' in the Rain. 

 

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

 

  1. How do the pre-dance movements of O’Connor and Kelly compare to their actual dance movements?
  2.  
  3.  
  4. Watch the Professor all the way through and consider the role of the straight man.
  5. He is there to be mocked and abused.
     
  6. How do the representations of masculinity in all three men compare and contrast with each other?
  7. Gene is  the he man, Donald the funny buddy, the elocution teacher hapless and in aware how goofy he really is.  Oblivious.  That's a good word.

 

 

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