Dr. Vanessa Theme Ament

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

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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?

Masculine performances in musicals change over the decades. If we start with Maurice Chevalier, Fred Astaire and Dick Powell from the 1930’s they represent the Beta leading man, they are charming, romantic, sophisticated and smooth in their tuxedos and top hats.  The women tend to swoon for them and they win the woman by their wit and cleverness. By the post war 1940’s and early 1950’s we have actors like Gene Kelly (On the Town) or Howard Keel (Kiss me Kate), he’s the alpha male, he athletic, physically imposing and aggressive.  He might be fresh out of the military or rough around the edges, but he is confident, and his can-do attitude wins the girl.  Around the mid 1950’s, Elvis (Viva Las Vegas) or Marlon Brando (Guys and Dolls) enters the picture, not only are they alpha males, but they are young and they have a raw sexuality that jumps off the screen.   This is leading man might be a rascal, playboy or thug and the women still want him.  Frank Sinatra starts in the 1940’s as a Beta male but by the 1950’s (Pal Joey, Robin and Seven Hoods) he an Alpha male, with a slightly dangerous persona and this never leaves him.   By the 1960’s and beyond we have a mixture of everything.

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

He grabs the attention in both scenes with his presence, his voice and his every move dominate everything around him.  In Victor Victoria he effortlessly holds the scene and then at will, he allows it to give way to chaos.  The other thing about Robert Preston is how he handles song lyrics, the songs couldn’t be more different, but Preston’s ability to use the lyrics to communicate panic in the first scene and inuendo in the 2nd scene is very effective and he makes it look easy. 

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?

In “How the West was Won”, I particularly remember the scene when Robert Preston’s character proposes to Debbie Reynolds. His approach is very head-on, straight forward and honest.  It is apparent that he has training in method acting techniques. His acting is not physical as much as it his control of his voice and his ability to make you believe his character  

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Robert Preston is superb as Harold Hill. I think it would be difficult for anyone to step into his shoes. I also liked him in Victor, Victoria though it is a much softer role. I haven't seen him in much else except, The Last Starfighter which was very good.

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Daily Dose #14:

1) The changes I can notice relate to this male representation feeling more honest, in your face and definitely not elegant like some of the performances in musicals of the past.

2)I notice that Robert Preston provides a honest performance where he appears to easily adapt to either character with such sincerity. 

3) Unfortunately, I have never seen a Robert Preston movie so I have nothing to compare this too.

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A tie in--The only Broadway song ever recorded by the Beatles was "Til There Was You" from the Music Man. The Beatles recorded it in 1963. The lead was sung by Paul McCartney. "There were bells all around, but I never heard them ringing...."

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1. I'm not sure there's an easy answer to this question. Throughout the decades the men are always trying to woo women, and be respectful, yet also flirty. The style in which they do this changes a bit. In the 30's the Dick Powell's, Fred Astaire's, Nelson Eddy's were a bit more 'innocent' and sweet. In the 40's  the women took a bit more control (Ethel WAters in Cabin in the Sky,  Betty Garrett, even Judy Garland in For Me and My Gal or Summer Stock). In the 50's we saw more of the alpha and beta male characters - Howard Keel, Gene Kelly, Donald O'Connor, Gene Nelson - competition was either non-existent or friendly. As we move into the 60's the Preston's Harold Hill is more of an alpha male, still flirty, very confident, yet thrown for a loop at his own feelings. Men are becoming more in touch with their feelings. 

2. In both scenes he has 'control' of his audience. He's not necessarily the best singer, but he enunciates and talks musically and almost lilting. 

In The Music Man he has the townspeople eating out of his hands. He knows just what to say to get them 'scared' about the pool table and the youth.  

In Victor/Victoria he's performing for an audience, but they are focused on him. Even as a group of people enters the room talking loudly he keeps the audience's attention.  

3. I have not seen any other Preston films. 

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First of all - SQUEE! Robert Preston! This man has such a huge presence on stage and screen. His acting ability seriously draws out the character he plays.. and I am so drawn into him. I need to see him in other films. And I just found out he was born in Newton,MA - just down the street from me!

Slightly off-topic, I don’t know if there are any fans of the show Frankie and Grace. Martin Sheen’s character in the his show is playing Prof Hill in The Music Man, and I swear the bits of the performance we see are spot on. Which now makes me think - were Preston and Sheen part of the same actor’s studio. Hmmm...

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1.  Representation of males has changed over time as males have changed. The ideals of masculinity have changed as well.  Throughout the 50's males were represented in the traditional gender roles as being alpha males, tough, athletic, strong.  In the 1960s you can see that males moved in more sensual and sexual ways.  They were able to show off their sensuality more.  

2.  Robert Preston has a more realistic approach to acting. He doesn't seem like he's playing a character.  He seems more like an actual person.  He has idiosyncratic mannerisms and ways of moving that seem very detailed and specific.  Gene Kelly though I love him as an actor sort of seem to just be Gene Kelly in every movie he was in.  Robert Preston was more playing a different person and role.

3.  I'm not familiar with Robert Preston films that are not musicals.  But his portrayal of Professor Harold Hill is one of my favorites. I actually watched the Music Man when I was going into labor with my daughter!  It's one of my favorite movies, and part of the reason is because he brings such humanity and character to the role even though the character is a bit of a cad.  I would love to see some of his other work.  I think he's an excellent actor. 

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I love Robert Preston. Seeing him in a grand movie theater  in The Music Man n downtown Cleveland Ohio as a 12 year old child literally changed my life. I was mesmerized by his charming con man role as Professor Hill. His warm smile ,his understanding eyes his singing voice his character portraya made me see the way a character could come alive on the screen. I bought the soundtrack, wore out the album and saw every kive production of The Music  Man that I could see. His portrsyal of Harold Hill got me interested in musicals a passion that I have to this day.. My Mom allowed me as that young girl to stay up late and watch my first Academy Awards show the year Music man was nominated  and Robert Preston was nominated . I was heartbroken when Lawrence of   Arabia won. . Robert Preston was great in all his roles. I have seen many and love them all.

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It seems as we went into the 1960's, the male singers/dancers did not need to be the dominating focus of the scene.  In the The Music Man clip, he isn't so much an alpha male as he is a Pied Piper of sorts.  What starts as him giving his spiel to one person turns then into two, and then more, and soon pretty much the entire town.  They hang on his every word and react as he wants them to.  With the Victor/Victoria clip, he commands the room in a purely entertaining fashion.  What sticks out the most to me with these two particular clips is that Preston isn't so much a dancer as a singer, and he has a talent of being able to speak as he sings.  He isn't singing in the classical sense, but storytelling to the music and only occasionally doing so with traditional musical notes.  I found that rather interesting.

The only non-musical role I know of Preston's is The Last Starfighter from, I think, 1984?  1985?  I saw it as a child and back then, I had no clue who he was.  I was only starting to figure things out at that stage in my life.  I also remember that Victor/Victoria was one of the first films we were able to see on HBO as cable TV had just entered my life, but my parents put the kabosh on me watching it.  Looking back, I guess 8 years old probably was a bit young to understand what was going on in the movie.  I probably wasn't ready to digest crossdressing and all.  I just remember the commercials made it look funny, so it piqued my interest.

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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 seems a bit deeper than those in some other movies.  He does seem to embody the character and IS the character.  He doesn't seem to just be singing a song in a glamorous way.  He is telling a story and creating the story through his song.
     
  2. What other specific qualities do you notice about Robert Preston in either or both of these clips?
    He really is deliberate and sings to the audience - he looks them in the eye.  He uses hand motions and slight movements to accentuate his song.  
     
  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 have not seen any other movie of his, despite seeming so familiar to me.  I am looking forward to watching more of his movies and seeing these movies as well - I have only seen the clips!

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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?

What is quite clear is that typical male lead role has been changed (disrupted). The forties and fifties were careful to present the American lead role as the alpha male winning the female by displaying virtues that were in line with a strong male of the war years or a conservative one of the post war years. 

One thing that changed was honest hard working character. We now get more of the bad boy male. The womanizer in 'Pal Joey' or in the case of the 'Music Man' Professor Harold Hill the 'flim-flam' man that uses his skills to rip off a town of innocent people and is also a womanizer. He collects on all counts and leaves a wake of destruction behind.

By the seventies we have the gay rights movement taking root and that begins to reflect in film. In the film 'Cabaret' we have the gay and bisexual characters. Directors like John Waters collaborate with actors like Divine to make films like 'Pink Flamingos' where dressing in drag is featured. By 'Victor/Victoria' we now have an actor who who is known for one of the most famous family films of all time playing a gay performer. Its a full character in a mainstream film and having the typical Blake Edwards comic style. Compare this to previous decades where the gay character if at all was only slightly alluded to with a subtle suggestion of femininity. What is especially sad is that for decades gays had to remain in the 'closet' including a number of actors who never got the chance to play a character that was more real to them.    
 

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

He appears to be completely comfortable in the roles in the clips. Perhaps that is part of the technique that he worked at to become immersed in the character. Why do we feel that he will always be Professor Harold Hill? Is it all chance or catching lightning in a bottle? His use of actors to play off of in a scene. In the 'Trouble' number he starts pulling in the crowd then like a conductor works the crowd. Is that him or just the way the character was written? I think its him. In the cafe scene in 'Victor/Victoria' he also works the crowd. I don't believe this was Blake Edwards. It is Preston again playing off the actors as the audience in the cafe. He moves around them in a sort of dance, flirting and finally causing a fight (that end is Blake Edwards). The key here is that we get to enjoy him play off other actors which has the effect of keeping us drawn to him. 

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 remember him in 'How the West Was Won' but that film was one of those epics that included a lot of actors and spanned over a long period of time. He didn't have much screen time. I don't have another film of his that comes to mind.

 

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Oh my gosh, two fantastic movies, both of which were formative films for me! "Victor/Victoria" is one of my absolute favorite movies of all time! 

In watching these two clips back-to-back, I notice that Harold and Toddy are both performing for an audience in the clips, and in both roles, he does such a great job connecting with his audience; in turn, it helps him connect to the film's audience. I also notice that Preston is definitely a commanding presence in both clips, but he's more forceful in "The Music Man," in a traditional alpha male way, while he's a little more laid back in "Victor/Victoria." There's definitely a traditional masculinity in both roles. I've always liked that Toddy isn't the stereotypical swishy gay man; it's important to see a range of LGBTQ+ characters in movies, and Toddy felt ahead of his time by being a more traditionally masculine character. 

Both Harold and Toddy end up being likable characters because of Preston's nuanced performances, too. Harold, in particular, is a terrible person (and while Toddy is much warmer and a better person, he can be pretty catty), but Preston makes the characters understandable and sympathetic. 

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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? Representations of past were of men who were alpha or dominating over their female counterparts. Men of more present are more emotional, not afraid to show who they really are. They seem to notice that they are more of an equal to women than above them. 
     
  2. What other specific qualities do you notice about Robert Preston in either or both of these clips? He's very versatile. His style of singing is quite different than others we have seen thus far, it's almost as if he's just talking through the song. He seems to be been trained so well that he could play any role extravagantly, even that of a gay man. 
     
  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 currently have not seen any of his films that I'm aware of. But will definitely be checking some out. 

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1. From these clips, in the earlier musicals neither Professor Harold Hill or Queen would have been a leading man. Harold is not young and handsome or rich and Queen couldn’t be the Alpha male. So the most noticeable difference of masculine representation and performance is that the men no longer have to be Alpha males or follow as strict of guidelines on what was acceptable. 

2. In The Music Man Robert Preston has a fast pace, smooth way of talking. He uses his hands like a salesman pointing at things and grabbing people to join him, you can tell he’s pushy. In Victor Victoria he uses his hands with softer movements and more graceful gestures. These characters are so different, one is loud and pushy and the other is subtle and graceful, yet they both are played very naturally by Preston. I couldn’t tell you which was more his personality.

3. I’ve seen Robert Preston in The Last Starfighter many years ago, I just remember that he tried to recruit a boy to be a starfighter. It was one of my favorite scenes in this movie, cause that’s when the video gamer finds out it wasn’t just a game. Robert did stand out in this scene cause I remember him explaining to the boy that they needed him and he’d have to go to space. I’ve never given it much thought, but Roberts characters are very realistic, because at the time it made me think of what all it meant to leave home and fight in space. 

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I think Robert Preston was a phenomenal actor. I’ve seen several of his non-musical roles, and he just really puts his all into his characterizations. He is so believable in each role, he becomes that character. I really like his depictions in Union Pacific and Whispering Smith. He had me rooting for his bad guy character!

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Robert Preston was a phenomal performer in both of those films. He is very masculine in The Music Man and still shows masculinity in Victor/Victoria without having any trouble portraying a gay man. He gives each role everything that you could want. I can’t imagine anyone else in those roles.

The only film I can easily recall of Robert Preston that I have seen is the Last Starfighter. It was a cute film but he still gives the role everything and is an encouraging mentor similar to the roles in the above movies. 

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I feel the early musicals portrayed men as strong, dominate characters. As time moved forward it appears that men and woman were more on an even playing field. The men now seem to have more of an edge to them. No longer do they need to be soft spoken, dressed to the nines, or overly handsome. They can be flim flam fast taking men. They look like the guy next door, they can sing and dance, however they don't need to appear perfect. 

I couldn't help but notice the twinkle in his eyes. He sure looked like he was having fun. His character is the consummate spin doctor. It is wonderful to watch him perform. 

I have never seen Mr Preston in any movies. This is honestly the first time I've seen him perform in these two clips. 

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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?  Gentlemanly manners (Fred Astaire) are replaced by animal magnetism (Elvis Presley) with Gene Kelly being the pivot point.  
     
  2. What other specific qualities do you notice about Robert Preston in either or both of these clips?  In V/V He moves gracefully through and keeps performing at the same volume even though newcomers come in loudly and the audience makes disparaging comments.  He has experience all this before and is able to keep his feet when others attack.  In the Music Man he does that light-footed prancing around the circle of the crowd. I think the higher center of gravity was the advantage Eleanor Powell had over Ruby Keeler.
     
  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've only seen The Music Man, The Last Starfighter and this clip of V/V.  His fingertips resting on the man's shoulder as his goes by and the Liberace smile at the end of the song were very gay but not overdone.

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1. As films and the culture surrounding and influencing them continue to change, so do the characters. In the male-dominated Hollywood of the 30's - 50's, men in the movies were... well, manly. Any male character who was not a properly macho person got relegated to being either the comic relief or the villain. This began to shift in the decades we're discussing; leading men could be more than just an Adonis for the ladies to throw themselves at. They could be bumbling goofballs, or shrinking violets, or even just the tiniest bit effeminate. Robert Preston shows this shift quite nicely between the two clips, playing the traditional man's man in Music Man, then treading newer ground with his performance as a gay fellow in Victor Victoria.

2. Mr. Preston seems to have a knack for capturing one's attention. I always knew this to be true from Music Man, but now I see he was a maestro in the art of spotlight-wrangling, having watched the Victor Victoria clip. He would've been a great conman in real life - there's just a cool charisma about him that makes you latch onto every word he speaks. And even if not everyone is into what he's selling (as we see with the group at the end of the second clip), he's still got his wry wit to take care of the naysayers.

3. I'm afraid the only thing I've seen Robert Preston in that wasn't a musical is How the West Was Won, and that was a while ago. The only thing I remember about that film was Jimmy Stewart playing a mountain man. I really should re-watch it sometime when I'm not marathoning movie musicals. In any case, Robert Preston is a phenomenal actor; one I regretfully am not more familiar with.

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One of the most prominent changes in male representation and performance has to be the evolution of method acting/workshopping. Prior to this time, when a person is watching a Fred Astaire or Gene Kelly film they are watching Astaire and Kelly playing the character as Astaire and Kelly with the same wonderful characteristics. Here we have an actor who inhabits the character completely so as to lose himself in the role. Also of note is the delivery of the song in The Music Man. Preston delivers the song as a sermon to the townspeople, rattling off the lines as if they are an Americana version of slam poetry. It is a far cry from the melody of the 30's. Furthermore, Preston's mannerisms and facial expressions are those of an inhabited character. They do not reflect the over the top flair of classical musicals, but instead bring story and song seamlessly together.

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23 hours ago, Dr. Vanessa Theme Ament said:
  • 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?
     
  • What other specific qualities do you notice about Robert Preston in either or both of these clips?
     
  • 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?

1. I would say the fact that over time, there isn't or wasn't necessarily one specific way to be masculinity or for a man to express themselves as a man or an individual. Or that their masculinity  It almost seems that the male representation often has to do with what "people" wanted from their movies (and stars to an extent) at a given time period. For example Fred Astaire's sophistry and high class with the ballroom/formal dances he performed with Ginger Rogers. The romantic aura fit with the escapist fanstasyland quality their movies had that appealed to a Depression weary audience. That was a masculine ideal (the leader in dance, courtship and romantic pursuit of a woman) that worked well for its era and the type of movie he was in with Ginger. But now it seems that the individual man is himself and doesn't necessarily have to conform to a set standard of manhood or have his performance "speak to" any larger cultural sentiment about gender. I watch Ryan Gosling in La La Land and I just see a talented and charming man. He is a male but he is himself, an individual, and his character in that movie is someone who is passionate about jazz music.He concerns himself with music, not so much defining or conforming to any specific representation of manliness or masculinity. 

2. In both clips he genuinely engages with the community of people he is singing to and singing about. He is appealing to their sensibilities (the small town Midwestern conservatives) and their identity/culture (Gay Paris). He isn't really from those communities but he is able to "speak their language" authentically and respectfully. He is appealing and likable. A real people person. 

3. I have not seen Robert Preston in anything besides The Music Man and that was many years ago so I can't comment. 

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1. I can only say that Preston in Music Man (the role he’s renown for) resembles past male musical roles in sone ways but is definitely somewhat the anti-hero which makes his character modern. As Toddy, in Victor/Victoria still a sma artist only its a sweeter version but still a force. Its amazing how he doesn’t fall prey to stereotypes or big gestures. Toddy seems to teeter very close to breakng the fourth wall. 

2. Again the two characters are grand scammers easily adaptable to any environment, group or situation.

3. Another role thats in tune with the Toddy character is his wonderful portrayal of Dr. Finegarten in S.O.B. yet another masterwork of Blake Edwards. He makes it look so easy, so smooth! Robert Preston was a comedic genius!

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I love Victor/Victoria. I have probably seen this film at least 20 times if not more. I am not sure exactly what the allure of this film is for me. I think maybe it's the friendship between Victoria and Toddy that continues through the film, as well as other friendships that happen.  I think Preston gives Toddy gives a view of masculinity that isn't frought with apologetic nuances for being gay in that era. Preston, in his portrayal of Professor Harold Hill, in The Music Man, is on the outside a flim flam man. But ultimately his character, through Preston's singing and acting and dancing abilities, shows a vulnerability. It is that vulnerability that shines through in his portrayal of Todd in Victor/Victoria. I think this ability to show a man in a variety of emotions gives a greater meaning to the leading man character.

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Male roles have changed from the 1930s to the 1960s. They have evolved because society:  women desire more freedom, and men do not have to be the authority figures that manage their lives.  Robert Preston shows in both The Music Man and Victor/Victoria that a man's position can be one of an equal balance of strength (physical or intellectual) and vulnerability.  A man can show his character by being assured of himself and allowing a woman to be herself.  As Harold Hill, Preston does not attempt to control or change Marian (Shirley Jones), but instead, he gives her space to discover her own feelings for him.

Preston is shrewd as Hill in creating a panic in the River City Iowans, and he dances artfully around the four-part harmony city councilman and mayor when they seek his credentials, but as viewers, we see his moment of hopeful desperation when he prays that the Think System will win the day as the boys play their band instruments.  In Victor/Victoria, we see the brashness of his bravado in singing about Gay Paris, but we see restraint when he corrects the pianist's musical flourish, "Not that gay!"  Preston plays the range of confidence and caution in a way that shows his full humanity.  His characters know full well that they are not perfect, but these characters like themselves enough to be relatable to the audience.

I have seen Robert Preston in other films which are not musical such as his brief encounter with Debbie Reynolds in How the West Was Won when he fits her up and declares that she would be a wonderful wife who could give him many children.  His estimation did not impress Debbie's character, but Preston could certainly express a manly admiration for the feminine physique.  I also loved Preston in the HBO movie Finnegan, Begin Again (1985) with Mary Tyler Moore.  HIs optimism and vulnerability as a journalist who is writing a lovelorn column are heartwarming.  He tries to counsel Moore to end her affair with Sam Watterson by admitting to his egotism in his affair from years ago.  Preston is a wonderful actor who can show how life can be complicated but also compassionate.

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in terms of changes in male representation in musicals, the movies started basing characters in more relatable life to the viewer.   As for their acting, dancing, singing, the male characters seemed to become more rugged in their physical movement and appeal, rather than smooth and elegant.  As I think of the upcoming movies, many of which I have seen previously, it seems that films are moving their male characters (and especially the leads) into anti-heroes, rather than hero roles.  

Robert Preston plays that in both of these clips.   In Music Man, he reaches out to the townspeople in the words he chooses to sing to them, with the purpose of inflaming them and seeing to his own agenda for the town and the townspeople.   He does it while lounging singing in Victor/Victoria as well.   He sings and is stingingly pointed or gently personalized to his audience.  

I only recall on other Preston movie, and that as How the West Was Won.  He was very masculine, and alpha, but the opposing and not so noble male anti-hero character, ended up with the girl.  

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