Dr. Vanessa Theme Ament

DAILY DOSE OF DELIGHT #14 (From TWO ROBERT PRESTON FILMS)

217 posts in this topic

Men can show their softer side and still be masculine.

Robert Preston is very talented, he grabs your attention. Both of the clips his performances drew me in and kept my attention on him.

I have never seen any of his other movies but I know he would not disappoint.

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In the two clips you see two different sides of Robert Preston one a slick shyster the other a suave slick troublemaker.one is trying to sell to the public the other is showing the audience themself. I saw him in the last Starfighter and even in that one he was trying to convince a young boy to come with him and fight in a real star battle. In this and the other clips he is this convincing  kind of con artist naughty devil may care character.

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And how could I forget his role as Steve McQueen's father Ace in Junior Bonner.

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1. As the movie musical is transitioning through the 1960s and beyond, we are starting to see a broadening of not only the types of male characters seen, but also the actors capable of playing them. Gone are the hard and fast categories of "alpha" and "beta" males; actors are no longer playing a vague archetype of what sort of man they "are". Instead, with the rise in popularity of various acting techniques, performances are becoming increasingly nuanced, multi-faceted, and true-to-life, even in the fantastical world of musicals.

2. The most noticeable thing about both of Preston's performances is his ability to simultaneously command and acutely connect with his audience. In The Music Man, we see him rousing the townspeople to the dangers amongst them with all of the zeal of a fire and brimstone preacher, yet his method of getting his point across has a constant laser-focus, even if you remove the bombast. We watch him carefully form his arguments, illustrating them literally with his hands, making them so believable we almost think he believes them himself. Meanwhile the audience hangs on his every word, moving with him as if they are an orchestra and he is a conductor. This same sharp but subtle power is seen again in Victor/Victoria, but in much more intimate and serene (at first) surroundings. The same gesticulations are there, and the same feeling as if you are the only person in the room he is speaking to is still there. His words do not whip you up into a frenzy - unless he makes a jab at your age - but they still are able to carry you away.

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1 - What I mainly see that in older movies they're "alpha male men", over the years, they could experiment another performances like this second clip and proving their versalities.

2 - What I mainly see here that proves his versality, both are very different clips and he performed that very well, I didn't know this Robert's side.

3 - Yes, I saw This Gun For Hire, when he does Veronica Lake's boyfriend, that's what I remember, but what I must say in these movies he seems so quiet man and another he plays the man who gets the girl or the leading man and see his musicals, we see another side of him, that proves his versality.

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I fell in love with Music Man the moment I saw it as a young girl.  This movie really became a classic and I feel Robert Preston should have won his Academy Award in this movie and not for Victor Victoria.  Although he’s great he WAS the music man.  There was so much going on with him in this movie..  Nobody could have portrayed this character like he did.  This said, I think others could have believable played his role in Victor Victoria.

1.  As you look back to the masculine performances in musicals of past decades, what changes in male representation, and performance would you say are most noticeable?  

I think Harold is masculine without having to fill the shoes of the alph male.  He was a very likable character in spite of the fast talking traveling salesman that finally falls in love with the girl.  
 

  1. 2.  What other specific qualities do you notice about Robert Preston in either or both of these clips?
  2. I found Robert Preston so believable in his role of Harold Hill that I found missing in his character of Toddy.  Robert Preston is still a masculine character in both films, very engaging.
  3.  
  4. 3.  Have you seen any Robert Preston films that are not musicals? If so, what do you notice about his characters and his approach to acting, now that you are more aware of his dedication to working his craft outside of

I’ve always wanted to see his other films but have not, at least that I remember.  I will look forward to seeing some of his other work.

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1 hour ago, Kate Mz said:

I love what y’all are saying about the precision of Preston’s movements (in both clips) and his skill at working a crowd.  What I want to add involves the play between tradition and change in the two films.

In The Music Man, Harold Hill is appealing to tradition (“Remember the Maine, Plymouth Rock, and the Golden Rule”; he also tries to win over the mayor and other authority figures), but if he succeeds in conning them, the whole town will be upended.  (Just imagine: when they discover they’ve been duped, the bickering and finger-pointing of the school board will spread all over town.)  But it turns out that “tradition” isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.  Anyone who defies conventions is ostracized and gossiped about.  Marion is treated with scorn and suspicion because she is an independent, intellectual woman.  (Plus she had the audacity, as an unmarried woman, to befriend a man--a man who also “didn’t have a friend in this town.”)  So the true happy ending for The Music Man is to allow the town to unify behind its “small town values,” but also to change those values--to allow a space for people like Marion (plus those wild teenagers: great honk!).

In the clip from Victor/Victoria, Toddy (Preston) reminds us that the past has not always been as “traditional” as we think.  Gay Paris has always been “gay,” in all senses of the word--and so, by implication, has everywhere else (at least in private, on the fringes, in the closet).  The change the film is advocating is for visibility--for public acceptance, acknowledgement, even joy.  Not to mention more flexible borders between masculinity and femininity.  Still, for all its breaking of boundaries, the film takes care not to disrupt too many expectations or ruffle too many feathers.  The primary love story is heterosexual, and the "man" who performs as a woman (just a little too convincingly) turns out to be a woman after all.  And most importantly, the leading man (played by James Garner) does not, in the end, have to upend his own more rigid sense of masculine identity by entering a relationship with another man.

In his autobiography James Garner says that he wanted his first kiss with Julie Andrews to happen before he was sure she is a woman. Garner says that Blake Edwards decided not to take this risk.

 

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  1. As you look back to the masculine performances in musicals of past decades, what changes in male representation, and performance would you say are most noticeable?
  2.  
  3. By the time was get to the 60's, we have seen a huge shift in the roles of men and women.  Many of the past male leads were two dimensional, they sang love songs or rallying songs, but often there was a disconnected feeling of who the man was and what he was singing.What other specific qualities do you notice about Robert Preston in either or both of these clips?
  4.  
  5. What other specific qualities do you notice about Robert Preston in either or both of these clips?
  6.  
  7. He is divine! In both films he is an flim flamming opportunist.  He is so suave, you not only can't help but route for him and you have to like him. He gets to redeem his selfish intentions and make good. 
  8.  
  9. Have you seen any Robert Preston films that are not musicals? If so, what do you notice about his characters and his approach to acting, now that you are more aware of his dedication to working his craft outside of his stage or film work?
  10.  
  11. I have enjoyed several films with Preston.  I love him in How the West was Won as the wagon master, he is great in S.O.B., Beau Geste, and Junior Bonner also come to mind.  I have long been a Preston fan, he has a strong male presence, a sexiness that is like a musical Sean Connery.  He has amazing diction, a nice set of pipes and can do more that a simple step ball change.

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1. Robert Preston has such an elegance and lightness about the way that he performs, not just in these clips, but in everything that he does. Honestly, I saw Victor/Victoria when I was in my teens and I always thought that Robert Preston was gay. Now I realize that he was just a great actor who was in touch with – and was not afraid of – his feminine side.

2. He has an amazing knack for bantering. There is so much dialogue in the first clip that he has to sing and speak, and he doesn't miss a beat.

3. I never saw him in a role where he wasn't convincing. I just rewatched a bit of one of his last films, Finnegan, Begin Again, and I remember him well from his last big picture, The Last Starfighter. Finnegan was an HBO romantic comedy, and Starfighter was a teen-oriented sci-fi movie. Two totally different roles, but he brought his typical authenticity to both of them.

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As you look back to the masculine performances in musicals of past decades, what changes in male representation, and performance would you say are most noticeable?

changed in contrived performances and the need to showcase vitality changed from early musical numbers and male characters in musicals.
 

What other specific qualities do you notice about Robert Preston in either or both of these clips?

Robert Preston had an amazing speech control. Every word spoken and pronounced crystal clear. That’s a very hard thing to accomplish in multiple performances.
 

Have you seen any Robert Preston films that are not musicals? If so, what do you notice about his characters and his approach to acting, now that you are more aware of his dedication to working his craft outside of his stage or film work?

unfortualy I haven’t seen anything from him apart from some musicals. But from what I watched, he was on top of his game and his craft was impeccable. 

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3 hours ago, Earthshine said:

. . . With all due respect to Gene Kelly and his fans, whom I certainly do not mean to offend, Robert Preston shows more diversity as an actor with his respective roles in these two films.  This is a diversity that I have not seen with Gene Kelly in his films that I have seen, among them Singin’ in the Rain and An American in Paris.  He is certainly very charming, a bit of a womanizer with a heart of gold in both, and he is an amazing singer and dancer.  As Dr. Ament noted, Kelly did bring a masculine athleticism to his dances.  However, and again with all due respect, I did not see much diversity between these two roles.  It seems that the emphasis was more on his musical talents instead of his character?  I welcome feedback from anyone who might be reading my posts, so please, correct me if I’m wrong. . . .

 

Gene Kelly has played some dramatic roles. Have you seen him in Marjorie Morningstar (1958) with Natalie Wood? It's been a really long time since I have seen it, but it might be worth checking out again.

Believe it or not, Kelly also starred in a film noir: Black Hand (1950). This one I haven't seen, but I would like to. Maybe in these films, Kelly shows more of a range.

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In both movies he plays a chrming con man.......in earlier musicals I think he would have been more of a slippery/slimy character- one who wouldn't have gotten the girl ( or guy in V/V).  You somehow wanted him to be victorious in spite of his con man habits.  Obviously the times had. Hanged between the two films, and his portrayal of a gay man was daring, but not so overt as to be off putting to anyone. Chrming in both roles.

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I think that as time went on into the 1960s we began to see that there were different types of masculinity across the spectrum. The idea of "alpha" and "beta" were not the only types to be considered. Audiences began to see more layers to a man than had ever been seen before. Man was now more complex and multi-faceted and so was their masculinity. 

Robert Preston is truly fantastic. I hope to see him in other films as I've only ever seen The Music Man and always thought he was stupendous in it. He is a very articulate performer who pulls you in to the point that you don't want to let go. All of his movements and gestures have specific meaning. And in The Music Man I always thought that though Harold Hill was a con artist through and through, Robert Preston managed to showcase his vulnerabilities (especially in the case of Marion and her little brother) in a way that I don't think anyone else could. 

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1 hour ago, ESei said:

In his autobiography James Garner says that he wanted his first kiss with Julie Andrews to happen before he was sure she is a woman. Garner says that Blake Edwards decided not to take this risk.

Really interesting!  I'd love to see it played that way.  Making the gender ambiguous adds to the risk not just for the film but for Garner's character.  Raising the stakes in that way would, I think, make it more interesting to watch.

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1.  Masculine performances in past musicals were straightforward and one dimensional.  They sang, danced, had an eye on a girl, worked to get the girl, got the girl and were basically in charge of the relationship, with the woman following or losing them. Male representation in musicals changed to be more than that to be multi-dimensional.  They were no longer one dimensional - they were independent gang members in West Side Story; a charming con man with no morals at the start of The Music Man, who ends up getting a conscience, changing his ways for a woman; a gay man who is simply a gay man and not a comic figure or overly flamboyant, and a good friend in Victor Victoria; regular bunch of guys trying to deal with success in A Hard Day's Night.

2.  Robert Preston is very charismatic, very natural, and mesmerizing.  He looks like he is not acting and is believable in building up on the individual talents of the townspeople.  He uses facial expressions and close contact speaking right to the individual.  His hands are always in motion are very expressive as well.  Both are honest performances to the role he is playing.

3.  I saw him in Gun for Hire - the antagonist hero but memorable;  he was GREAT in S.O.B.  There were a few westerns as well but I have not seen them in quite awhile so cannot comment.  He did continue on stage and Broadway as well but unfortunately never saw him on stage.  Apparently The Music Man was his first professional singing role.  He worked hard to hone his craft to keep his parts coming across as always natural.  You saw and followed the character he played truthfully and honestly.  You saw and felt for the character without seeing the actor Robert Preston acting.

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1. I think the most noticeable thing is there isn't exactly one more dominant male of the group. There are more roles being filed that wouldn't have been filed before, like a gay man being portrayed.

2. I notice that he captures everyone's attention when he is in a scene.

3. I have not seen any other of his movies.

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1.      I feel the characters are more nuanced. The characters in the 20-30’s seemed to be specific “characters”, they were playing a gangster, or a big-wig. They were being a stereotype of either the bad guy or good guy.  In the 40s, the roles are shaking off some of the stereotypes, but filling them in with the patriotic good buy, the team player. This decade’s character is a hard worker, steadfast and true. This is what drives them forward, and you really don’t know much else about them.  The 50s is the decade of social norms, you have “buddies”, the attractive ladies’ man, and his comic relief best friend. The 60-70’s “shakes” that up a bit, the norms are “twisted” away, men get to be nuanced and have multiple dimensions. The characters across each of this decade’s movies vary greatly, there is no one standard.

2.      Preston is a consummate performer. In both characters he is shaking up the status quo, he is a rule breaker. He seems to favor the underdog, and works to build them up, even in Music Man. He may not realize it at the beginning, the band is just another sale, but he begins to believe in the dream and wants the town and kids to be successful. Each film is a bit of a journey to self-discovery.

3.      Honestly, I pulled Robert Preston on IMDB to find out what others films I may have seen him in, there are a few but I cannot remember his performances, I saw the movies so long ago. I am sure when I watch them again, I will be looking at his performance with a different eye. I know I love him in the Music Man, his timing, his diction and ability to get in all of the words of the very lyric heavy songs. Plus, his ability to make you feel for the Professor all the way through his own personal journey.

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I love Robert Preston. His characters have layers to them. Earlier, musicals presented men with just one layer to their personality (the playboy, the mucho man, the shy man, the comedian sidekick, etc.) In the Music Man, Hill isn't all bad and he isn't all good, it isn't black or white with his character there are a lot of grey areas mixed in. That is more realistic since we all have different nuances to our personality.

You can't stop watching Preston when he's on screen. He grabs your attention completely. I also enjoy Victor/Victoria, such wonderful songs in that film and a great story too. I love the "Ya Got Trouble" musical number in Music Man. It has always been one of my favorite scenes in the film. That's a whole lot of lines to remember in one song. So impressive! I wonder if some might consider it to be like an early version of rap music...

I haven't seen any of his movies that weren't musicals. I'll have to check those out.

 

 

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   As we have progressed through the history of Hollywood musicals, we have seen a change in the nature of male performances and their representations of masculinity. These changes have been a response to the tenor of the times in which specific movies were made. In the thirties, We had the era of autonomous masculine characters who struggled with and solved problems on their own and through their exceptionalism. In the forties, themes of cooperation were the hallmark, and masculine characters had to work together. The buddy partnership became the norm, but this was not a partnership of equality. Masculine characterizations in these pairings bifurcated into primary and secondary roles. The primary character is the alpha member of the pairing, while the secondary is the beta member. The alpha male is self-sufficient and confident; when he looks for validation, he does so outside of the buddy pairing. The beta male is dependent and less confident; when he looks for validation, he looks to the alpha member. The fifties saw a return to strong, independent males but retained elements of the cooperative ethos in the trend towards ensemble presentations in wide-screen spectaculars. By the sixties, the decline of the studio system, with its tightly controlled production units (Freed Unit, et al), and the rise of independent production companies that aimed at niche audiences (such as the "youth culture"), reflected the social upheaval that was developing in the country.  The transition between the cohesion of the 50's and the unrest of the 60's resulted in competing forces of unity and disruption. Male characterizations reflected this struggle over a changing viewpoint and varied widely.

      In "The Music Man" (1962), Robert Preston portrays Harold Hill as a traditional male who would have been accepted by audiences in earlier decades. He is a confident and forceful con-man who knows what he wants. Even when he softens, later in the film, he does so in a traditionally masculine way. His performance is entertaining, without being iconoclastic or revolutionary. By 1982,  twenty years of social and political unrest had shattered both cultural norms and cultural cohesion. Preston's character in "Victor/Victoria" turns old notions of masculinity on its head by being openly homosexual, yet masculine. He does not use effeminate gesturing and does not shy away from a fight. This new characterization creates a man's man who likes men. In an interesting juxtaposition to his con-man character in "The Music Man," "Toddy" seems to have contempt for transvestites (expressed in both the song and his interaction with the audience); he seems to view them as "sexual con-men" who are pretending to be something they are not. They may be an affront to his view of acceptable masculinity.   

      I have seen many movies with Robert Preston in them. My favorites are among his earliest films - "Beau Geste" (1939) and a trio of Cecil B. DeMille epics: "Union Pacific" (1939), "North West Mounted Police" (1940), and "Reap the Wild Wind" (1942).   Other roles in "Wake Island" (1942), "This Gun for Hire" (1942), "Whispering Smith" (1947), 'Tulsa" (1949), 'The Last Frontier" (1956), and 'How the West Was Won" (1963). In almost all of these films, Preston plays his usual charming, witty self, even when he is being serious. One role that stands out against type is in "The Last Frontier" (1956), where he plays a harsh martinet (shades of Henry Fonda in 1948's "Fort Apache"). The sound of his voice is distinct, it stands out in a crowd. 

A couple of asides:

1) Meredith Willson (1902-1984), who composed the music for the Broadway musicals "The Music Man" and "The Unsinkable Molly Brown," was not just a gifted musician, he was also a skilled comedian. He spent many years as a musical conductor and on-air talent on several radio shows in the forties. He was hilarious as a regular on "Maxwell House Coffee Time," starring George Burns and Gracie Allen. Many of these shows are still available and are definitely worth listening to.

2) I can't help but think of Jebadiah Springfield (from the Simpsons) when I see the statue at the end of the clip from "The Music Man."  Truly, "A Noble Con-Man Embiggens Us All!"

 

 

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As you look back to the masculine performances in musicals of past decades, what changes in male representation, and performance would you say are most noticeable?

In earlier musicals the men were the center of the films. They were looking for love and found willing partners in talented women. Even Judy Garland who was just as talented as Gene and Fred was looking for love and the men overshadowed her. Like in A Star Was Born. Judy’s character was thecreal star, but she was going to give up everything for Norman. In the fifties the women were the center of the musical. Doris Day was the focus of Calamity Jane and Love Me or Leave Me. The 60s brought forward super stars  like Barbara Streisand and Julie Andrews and the men were now in the secondary roles
 

What other specific qualities do you notice about Robert Preston in either or both of these clips?

Robert Preston used his whole body to express the lyrics he was singing. Sometimes it was a facial expression or a quick flip of a hand or a slight wiggle of his hips. I always thought that he played The Music Man in an effemonate manner. It was a little over the top at times. I felt if he was playing to a live audience. He also had sweet and quiet moments, especially his scenes with little Ronnie Howard. Rappers should take note of how he handles “Trouble.” In Victor/Victoria, he still plays Toddy in the same over the top style as in The Music Man. Yet he has more opportinity to emote especially in his scenes with Julie Andrews.  You really feel that the characters were the best of friends. One of my favorite scenes is his first encounter with Norma. Their dialog is so precise and funny. Because Robert Preston plays his character so well, it is easy to see why she is attracted to him before and after hecreveals that he is gay. I can watch both of those movies over and over and enjoy the music and performances if I was watching them for the first time.
 

Have you seen any Robert Preston films that are not musicals? If so, what do you notice about his characters and his approach to acting, now that you are more aware of his dedication to working his craft outside of his stage or film work?

i saw him in a couple of westerns after I saw The Music Man. He played a kind of a blustery guy in How the West Won. He tried to demand that Debbie Reynolds choose him over Gregory Peck.

 He had a wide range of talents. I had a hard time to believe he was the same person. Robert Preston had a wonderful voice. Some times when he spoke, you felt if he was singing. 

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23 minutes ago, Video Girl said:

I love Robert Preston. His characters have layers to them. Earlier, musicals presented men with just one layer to their personality (the playboy, the mucho man, the shy man, the comedian sidekick, etc.) In the Music Man, Hill isn't all bad and he isn't all good, it isn't black or white with his character there are a lot of grey areas mixed in. That is more realistic since we all have different nuances to our personality.

You can't stop watching Preston when he's on screen. He grabs your attention completely. I also enjoy Victor/Victoria, such wonderful songs in that film and a great story too. I love the "Ya Got Trouble" musical number in Music Man. It has always been one of my favorite scenes in the film. That's a whole lot of lines to remember in one song. So impressive! I wonder if some might consider it to be like an early version of rap music...

I haven't seen any of his movies that weren't musicals. I'll have to check those out.

 

 

I loved him in Union Pacific and How The West Was Won. Enjoy!

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21 hours ago, Dr. Vanessa Theme Ament said:

Today's forum is on Robert Preston and two roles he has played. If you recall, you saw clips from The Music Man and Victor Victoria. Please post your comments here.

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

  1. As you look back to the masculine performances in musicals of past decades, what changes in male representation, and performance would you say are most noticeable?
  2. His compassion.  The tenderness and detail.  He is an exquisite actor.  I miss his kind.  I miss him.
     
  3. What other specific qualities do you notice about Robert Preston in either or both of these clips?
  4. In a way he is so real.  His Harold Hill makes u forget you're watching a musical.
     
  5. Have you seen any Robert Preston films that are not musicals? If so, what do you notice about his characters and his approach to acting, now that you are more aware of his dedication to working his craft outside of his stage or film work?
  6. The Last Starfighter.  I know it's a odd choice but he is so Real again, even with the make-up and the story.  

Return to top

 

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As you look back to the masculine performances in musicals of past decades, what changes in male representation, and performance would you say are most noticeable?
 

No longer does the male lead need to be an alpha male or even a beta male.  He is more like a "real" person, and his character that has been more fully developed than in the past.

What other specific qualities do you notice about Robert Preston in either or both of these clips?
 

Two things that stood out to me were his impeccable diction and timing and the how he convincingly played both roles.

Have you seen any Robert Preston films that are not musicals? If so, what do you notice about his characters and his approach to acting, now that you are more aware of his dedication to working his craft outside of his stage or film work?

The only other Robert Preston movie I recall was The Last Starfighter. His character in it seemed rather like Harold Hill, a bit of con man with a good heart.

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1. Looking back to the masculine performances of past decades, I would say that a male performer doesn't have to be the "alpha" male to now be successful. He can have real feelings and emotions in his performance. Also, females are even stronger performers who can hold their own as the lead in musicals. 
 

2. I notice that Robert Preston is insightful and strong in both of these clips. In "The Music Man," he knows exactly what to say and how to say it to achieve his goal. In "Victor Victoria," he's also strong, but with added sensitivity and dignity.
 

3. I've seen Robert Preston in "How the West Was Won." He plays Roger Morgan, the Wagon Master who "loved in vain." Again, he plays a strong character with real feelings. I notice that he truly does bring a kindness, strength, and insight into all of the characters he plays whether he's in a musical or drama. 

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1.    As you look back to the masculine performances in musicals of past decades, what changes in male representation, and performance would you say are most noticeable?

Preston is much less stuffy than the males of earlier films. He seems a more natural persona on film. He has an infectious enthusiasm that seems terribly real and authentic. Somehow he seems to pull the audience around him in deeper and faster to what he is saying or singing about than previous movies. Part of that is his voice, which is very deep and calming. But it is also his animated facial expressions and hand, and body movements. They cause excitement and engagement.

2.    What other specific qualities do you notice about Robert Preston in either or both of these clips?


He is very suave and debonaire but not sissyish. Even when playing a gay man he doesn’t act like the stereotypical gay. In fact he acts in both movies in similar ways. Looking full on at whoever he is speaking to. He doesn’t avoid eye contact with the person or camera. His voice remains calm even when excited. There are no vague hand or body motions. Everything is deliberate and punctual; masculine not feminine but not in an overbearing or thugish way.

3.    Have you seen any Robert Preston films that are not musicals? If so, what do you notice about his characters and his approach to acting, now that you are more aware of his dedication to working his craft outside of his stage or film work?

I am sure I have seen Preston in films that are not musicals, but I can’t remember their names other than How The West Was Won. He was the wagon leader in that film who fell in love with Debbie Reynolds character. She was a  dance hall girl going west to claim the mine an old man had left her. Even knowing her ‘jaded’ past Preston noticed how capable she was. How she helped everyone in the train and he proposed in a nice direct come-join-me way. Not with the flowers and wooing that other men might have done.

That was the how he played his character. A straight forward, tell it like it is, not flowery man, who sees what he wants and goes after it. He has too much to do to waste time doing anything else but be direct. That’s how he seems to approach his parts. Where are they coming from? How would they act? And that’s what he does. 

Wait, I do remember him in The Last Starfighter. He made video games to recruit people to kill the bad guys. He was great. In a sort of bumbling, good hearted, he was doing the best for everyone kind of character. It wasn't a big part but important because it set up the movie. He may have played it a tad humorously but still in that direct how would a game designer explain away signing up a kid to fight in a war that isn't his kind of way. You can still see the thinking underneath.

        

 

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