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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 blocking, Fanny starts the scene walking away from Nick swings around an iron column turning to face him,but with the column between her and Nick. She turns and walks away, this time with her back to both Nick and the audience, seemingly alone in her thoughts. The camera catches up with her and we see her in profile (that famous profile) and then full face. Throughout all this, Nick is keeping a respectful distance, respecting her space. This is clearly important to Fanny, a fiercely independent woman who's willing to be intimate, but only on her own terms.
  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 memorable scenes, the soot will be scrubbed off. Eliza presents herself to Professor Higgins so that she can learn how to speak properly, hoping to at least rise to the level of a shop clerk in a flower shop. It should be noted that the spark that sets the story in motion. She may not be aware of what she’s letting herself in for from the team of Higgins and Pickering, but it's her choices that drive the story. This scene in MFL begins with Eliza in the shadows. Her emotions are revealed as she emerges from the shadows. She collapses on the armchair, partially obscuring her face. As she lifts her face we see more of her emotions, but she soon places her clenched fist in front of her face. The entire film follows a pattern of revelation and concealment. As a director, George Cukor is teaching us how to see. Higgins enters and she lashes out at him, throwing the slippers he came looking for. After a brief struggle, Eliza collapses on the couch. Higgins speaks to her, or rather at her, from behind. We’ve another scene to go before these two can see each other as they really are. Private and public faces In this scene from Gaslight Paula, played by Ingrid Bergman, literally sees the light. Her eyes turn up to the ceiling at one point, glimpsing a skylight. At all times, Boyer and Bergman are face to face, fully lit. Anton entreats her to look into his eyes. This time, though, she isn’t taken in. She play-acts the kind of mind game she’s been subjected to and finally rejects him. It sure takes long enough, but Eliza Doolittle and Henry Higgins will reveal their true loving selves to one another. In Bernard Shaw’s Edwardian England the mask of social convention doesn’t slip very often, but it slips often enough. In Gaslight Paula looks into Anton’s eyes and sees irredeemable evil, it’s a good thing she has Joseph Cotten to turn to. Oh, and I still think Eliza should have married Freddy.
  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 quote from Donna Feore’s program notes for the 2018 Stratford Festival production of The Music Man interesting: https://cdscloud.stratfordfestival.ca/uploadedFiles/Whats_On/Plays_and_Events/Plays/2018/The-Tempest(1)/About_The_Play/MUS_0146_-_2018_Accessibility_House_Program_FINAL-s.pdf
  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. "Let Me Entertain You" begins as an innocent children's song and ends as the theme song of Gypsy Rose Lee, the famous stripper. No lyric changes are required.
  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-took-old-hollywood-by-storm This was particularly true at MGM, which was seen as the "classy" studio (Ars Gratia Artis and all that). In the post-war period, Hollywood promotes the authentically American accents of its talent. Kelly shows that he can pick up on what the coach is teaching him and then goes back to speaking with his normal voice. Don's hapless voice coach becomes the butt of the joke not so much because he's trying to improve Don's speech, but because he reflects a clichéd idea of what good speech with its "round tones" and clipped endings.
  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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