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About Derek

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  • Birthday 11/11/1958

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    Toronto, Ontario
  1. It's become routine in recent years for the performers in live musical theatre to wear radio mics. This isn't as easy as it sounds, even with the latest technology. In the early days of musical theatre, performers were expected to reach the back row unassisted, hence "The Belt". The microphone, once the kinks were worked out (see Singin' in the Rain),brought with it the ability to whisper a song and still be heard. In this scene from Funny Girl Barbra Streisand is able to show off her full range, singing in almost a whisper in some passages and opening up in others. In terms of bloc
  2. My Fair Lady along with George Bernard Shaw’s Pygmalion and another, quite different story, Gaslight are about seeing and not seeing. They remind us that appearances can be deceiving. In My Fair Lady, Professor Higgins is in the business of identifying people’s place in society from the way they speak. The ruling class is separated from the working class by their speech and by their appearance. Clothing, and My Fair Lady certainly has a lot to say about clothing, is another barrier between the classes. Eliza’s soot-stained face too, becomes a mask which hides her true self. In one of many m
  3. As I write this I have A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum on in the background, a musical with con-games on con-games. The traditional musical hero is a paragon of virtue compared to the heroes of the sixties. Rosalind Russell and Karl Malden con their way through the vaudeville circuit. Unlike the charming gamblers of earlier musicals, Omar Sharif’s Nick gets sent to prison. Guys and Dolls is also built around multiple cons. Then there’s Professor Harold Hill (not his real name). He’s a notorious con-man. Marion is the moral center of The Music Man. I found this quo
  4. Gypsy is on its surface a conventional back-stage musical with the ingénue seeking her big break. The audience knows a few things that subvert this narrative. Baby June isn't going to make it big in vaudeville and, in any event, vaudeville is dying. The act Rose has put together for her favorite daughter is, well, crap. Until the moment Louise becomes Gypsy Rose Lee, the onstage performances are comically bad. It's great to see Rosalind Russell face off with Karl Malden. Neither is a singer or a dancer, but their skill as actors shows in the verbal battles that run throughout the movie.
  5. The scene begins in middle shot, without Donald O'Connor's or Gene Kelly's legs in view. O'Connor is marking off the beat of the text with his head and his hands. As we move into the song, the camera moves out so that we see O'Connor and Kelly dancing with their whole bodies. it's interesting that the studio is sending both Don Lockwood and Lina Lamont to to elocution lessons. Lena obviously needs help, but why is Don here? Before the fifties, American actors were often encouraged to speak with a "mid-Atlantic" accent. https://www.atlasobscura.com/articles/how-a-fake-british-accent-t
  6. The point is, there's very little synchronized speech or singing in "The Jazz Singer". You might want to look at this section of the Wikipedia article on the movie: The Jazz Singer - Introduction of Sound
  7. Singin' in the Rain is the musical I've seen most often, it might be the movie I've seen most often.I love movies about the movies.
  8. Some Jacques Demy would be interesting (Les Parapluies de Cherbourg,Les Demoiselles de Rochefort). His work would provide a European perspective while being, in some ways, an homage to the Hollywood musical.
  9. Watching (and listening to) this sequence, I'm struck by how easily it could veer off into low comedy in the hands of a lesser director. Hitchcock's touch is light enough that the scene remains suspenseful without becoming ridiculous.
  10. Something I've always found interesting about Young Frankenstein is the way it transitions from the present day to the thirties or earlier. The lecture room scene clearly takes place in the present day, looking at the costumes, decor, and the number of women med. students. Freddy then boards a steam train to journey to Transylvania. The Transylvanian costumes and the one car we see suggest an even earlier time. Young Frankenstein's black and white photography actually makes this less jarring than it might have been
  11. Lou Costello always cultivated a "little boy" image, pitching his voice higher than Abbott. (Originally so audiences could tell them apart on radio). In Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein, Bud expresses amazement that Lou has attracted the attention of a beautiful woman. The Marx Brothers, meanwhile, are clearly oversexed grown men. Groucho is ever in pursuit of a wealthy matron and Chico, well, likes the chicks.
  12. In improvisational comedy, a gag is defined precisely as an attempt at humour that doesn't develop naturally from the narrative. http://improvencyclopedia.org/glossary//Gagging.html
  13. 3. What impact do you think documentaries, compilation films, and essays like these have had on popular opinion about the silent film era? A lot, although perhaps not as much as later comedians reaching out to the comics who inspired them. I remember being introduced to Buster Keaton through the NFB's The Railrodder and the accompanying documentary Buster Keaton Rides Again in a long ago summer day camp. https://www.nfb.ca/film/railrodder/ https://www.nfb.ca/film/buster_keaton_rides_again/
  14. Oh well, this series is going to be like drinking from a fire hose as is. (and isn't that a nice slapstick image!)
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