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  1. Science fiction - the one genre I really don't watch. I'm not knocking it, but it's just not my thing. So I'll skip this year. Too bad. I'd like to see courses that don't necessarily focus on genre. Like the Hitchcock course was great. How about another director? Or music in films? Thanks for the info.
  2. The main way I saw the "Battle of the Sexes" and the equality in their dancing was in two places. As others said, they were matching each other step for step, and occasionally Ginger threw in something extra. (Though I don't feel like Fred was leading all the time - maybe we just "read" it that way because that's what we expect.) Nonetheless, given her clothing, she was the one who was matching Fred - she was in the masculine clothes and dancing to match the "real man." However, at two moments, Fred look "feminized" to me. One was at 3:26 when Fred initiates a strong rhythmic move that propels Ginger to whirl around him. It's a typical maneuver when the guy pretty much stays in one place as the woman spins around him. But then - surprise - Ginger takes him by the elbow and initiates the same movement for him - and he spins around her. And it's a bit jarring and, to my eye, pretty, actually really, gender bendy. He looks like he's dancing the female role in that moment and she's the one who stands still. A similar thing happens at 4:20 when he lifts her and swings her around. And then she returns the favor and she swings him around her in what is that more feminine maneuver. Now - they'd done this same movement earlier in Swing Time in their first dance number. But that didn't read quite as jarringly from a gendered perspective. In Swing Time Ginger is in a dress and heels, and all of her moves have remained within the feminine realm, so their swinging each other over the little fence there seems almost inevitable and practical (a result of the fence they both had to get over), but not something that Ginger seems to be initiating in order to remain equal to Fred. It's a subtle difference. But in Top Hat, that same move sure seems a lot more edgy, partly because we've already seen the first gendered inversion move that I mentioned first (at 3:26) - so this 2nd time seems more obviously part of that game. Just as with anything that blurs the genders - women taking on masculine clothes, moves, etc. isn't viewed as that odd or transgressive as when men take on feminine clothes, or in this case, a momentarily feminine dance position/move. And that was what was so interesting to me about this sequence - how much those two moments I describe really stuck out for me - when Fred was dancing the female role for a second or two.
  3. What do you notice about the Lubitsch touch? How do the props, the dialogue, and the staging help you understand the character of Alfred (Maurice Chevalier)? Several folks (chillyfillyinak and thinman2001) have mentioned the great use of the garter, the gun, the drawer full of guns, the zipper, etc. One thing that I also noticed was the picture on the wall just above the cabinet where the guns were stored. It shows a woman lounging in a diaphanous gown - it seemed almost like a representation of his life with all these women that he's seducing. It's subtle, but it shows that this approach permeates his life and apartment. Based on this scene, what are some of the things you notice about the scene’s use of sound? Describe a specific sound or line of dialogue you hear and what you think it adds to the scene’s effectiveness. One thing related to sound that I noticed is that the French dialogue doesn't have subtitles, and Chevalier translates the action for us twice ("she's jealous" and "her husband"). This not only breaks the fourth wall, as noted, but it made me think of title cards of silent film. I could totally imagine this scene being in a silent film (which in a way it is for an English-only-speaking audience since they all can't understand the French dialogue). So Chevalier, like a title card in a silent film, explains whats going on. I could imagine the scene without his asides - and instead replace them with a title card with the words he says. I'm not saying this would be better. No - his character doing this shows him as the master of seduction and he's cool under pressure and a little amused at the situation, etc. But I'm just saying that this odd fourth wall break seems to have some kind of tie to the silent film world. Maybe I think this because when I rewatched 42nd Street or Broadway Melody (can't remember which it was - maybe both?) last night on TCM, I noticed that there were a couple of title cards used there to tell us where we were, etc. Just like early film borrowed the look and style from B'way and general straight on theatrical presentation, so the early sound film might still retain vestiges of the conventions of silent film - even as they have sound. Another sound element I noticed was the moment when, after the couple has left, Chevalier opens the French doors to the outside and you can hear the crowd noise below - which disappears as soon as he closes the door. That created a very realistic feeling, and it also demonstrates how much of a spectacle and scandal he's created. This isn't a little private incident between him and the married couple. No - we saw people on the street running toward the apartment when the gun went off - and we're reminded that the crowd is still gathered, gossiping happily, no doubt, about this Sylvanian lothario. This moment of crowd noise creates this mental picture of the reaction of the community, and further sets up the appearance and attitude of the ambassador who scolds him for creating such a problem for his country. Finally - was it just a coincidence? But I noticed when the people are running to the apt outside, they go past an awning with the word BOIS on it (meaning "wood"). And Chevalier is from Sylvania (the "wooded" place - as in sylvan). Just sayin'. ?
  4. The thing that struck me about the male/female relationships in these scenes is the way that music is used for seduction. In the canoe scene, it is Eddy's crooning - and his virtuosity - that is appealing to MacDonald. As long as he's singing in that very refined, "gentlemanly" kind of way, she seems to be thinking, "Hmm, he's appealing." It calls to mind the quote that Dr. Ament gave us: "the soundtrack indicates that he is avidly commingling with her." His vocal mastery and dexterity seem to also be a stand in for his romantic (and perhaps sexual) dexterity that she seems to be intuiting from his singing. Conversely, when MacDonald is singing in the saloon, her refined way of singing is not seductive to the crowd. When the other gal starts singing, we see what the crowd (and the men in particular) want from the woman singer - a lot of physicality, showing off the body - and that pelvic thrust she gives at the end of her singing was a surprise. The men aren't moved by the refined, "ladylike" singing of MacDonald. So I think this also shows us a kind of sexual dynamic between the male and female characters - in these scenes men and women want different kinds of sexual/vocal display. I thought it was interesting that in the saloon scene, MacDonald is singing every note/pitch correctly, but her rhythm is off - often by a whole beat. She can't quite "get" the syncopation that the song has and that the piano is playing. This is also a sign of her "ladylike-ness." The bodily, physicality of that music isn't something she can do. This music inspires a kind of sexy movement - a rhythmic bodily response - that she doesn't "get." So that also shows her as more genteel - she is not physically swept away by the music. And then when she tries to imitate those movements, it still doesn't work - and it just looks forced. This more physical/rhythmic/sexual music isn't something she can embody. So her more pure stance is intact. What's telling though is that Eddy's character sees beyond her inability to perform well. He's not seduced by her sub-par singing of this kind of rhythmic popular music (or her later attempts at gyrations). What appeals to him is her willingness to put herself out there - it's her gutsiness combined with her vulnerability that gets to him. And perhaps he too is seduced by the "real" voice he can tell she has - the voice that is a counterpart to his (and that they will soon "commingle"). It's a kind of virtuosic voice that is refined, not "debased" in physicality. So that shores up the Hollywood desire to depict moral characters, and it's definitely strengthened through their musical depiction.
  5. I wanted to comment about the clip in the Lecture Notes of Judy Garland and Deanna Durbin in Every Sunday (1936). The juxtaposition of the classical/popular music is, of course, obvious in the scene in their two singing styles. But a couple of other things also strike me. 1) Right at the beginning the guys in the audience look at the program and say, "Ah, a waltz. Real music." That gets right to the heart of the issue. For many at the time swing wasn't "real music," but a waltz with its classical flavor was. 2) When Judy starts singing in her more swing way (after singing a bit of a proper waltz), the meter changes from a triple/waltz meter to a duple sub-division like in swing. BUT! the syncopation in the orchestra still embeds an oom-pa-pa waltz rhythm in it. So it's like Judy is singing swing to a waltz (even though technically it isn't a waltz). And this oom-pa-pa rhythm dissipates eventually - and we get more proper swing rhythms. So her performance masquerades momentarily as a waltz which is then subsumed into swing. 3) Note the change in the words she sings. Instead of "dance to a waltz" like at the beginning they eventually become "dance to Americana." At this time a lot of people in the classical musical world were wondering what American music really was and how it differed from European music. Americans didn't want to just be copies of European music, but they didn't agree on what "Americana" music would be. The waltz (i.e. "real music") is marked as European. But swing/jazz was American (and some folks thought that was great, and others thought it was not "real music" at all - and often put all kinds of hateful racists reads onto that music). So in this scene we not only get the juxtaposition of two styles of music, but we also see a kind of cultural debate about American identity (both in general and in music) being worked out. And which one seems to come out on top in this scene? We know musicals went with the popular sound..... That is the sound of AMERICANA (which to my ears in this scene also has a Latin flavor as well as a jazz sound). --Lydia
  6. In light of the discussion in the Lecture Video of women in musicals having to choose between career and domesticity - it's interesting to watch the scene of Anna in her dressing room. Billings is clearly the man she's planning to meet - and he's depicted as all business (when her dresser says something about - he'll talk to you about the American tour). But she's also clearly smitten with the flowers. Even as she's pooh-poohing Ziegfield as a "Junior," she intrigued and is continually drawn back to the flowers. Billings = career; Ziegfield = romance? I know it's not that simple, but I just found it interesting to think about the woman's dilemma of choice being sort of implied even in this scene: should she go with her heart or her head? As others have said - if it were pre-code, the dance number and her dressing room scene would have been much more risqué. Also - in the Lecture Discussion the point was made that theatre was the reference point for how that early musical was shot. I also think (as others have said) that vaudeville is a part of that as well as burlesque. And Anna's song seems to me to be right out of the English Music Hall genre - particularly the way she "plays with" (to continue that word play of her song) the audience. As they all create a spectacle out of her - she gazes right back at them. They're blinded by lights more than she is. So that's also an interesting turn-about (reminds me of what Hitchcock will do later in reminding the audience that they are LOOKING at people on the screen).
  7. Wondered if anyone can identify someone in a clip from Broadway Melody. If you look at the Lecture Video from Day 1 (Monday) at 2:55 - you can see her behind the male singer. She's in a black dress with long pearls. What energy she has!! This is just a quick clip, but I recall from seeing the full movie that she's just right there the whole time adding pep and joy to the scene. Any thoughts on who she is? To me, she makes the scene.
  8. Interesting no one's mentioned Doctor Doolittle. Not a fave of mine either. But I thought I'd share that it's one of the films that's discussed in the book by Mark Harris, Pictures at a Revolution: Five Movies and the Birth of the New Hollywood. An interesting book that looks at 5 films from 1967/68 and how they changed the terrain in Hollywood. It also looks at Guess Who's Coming to Dinner?, Bonnie & Clyde, The Graduate, and In the Heat of the Night. Lots of interesting history and backstory about the making of each film. Evidently Rex Harrison was a real piece of work on the set (and even getting hired) in that musical!
  9. One thing that's also of interest when it comes to musicals: how do we define what a musical is? We all know one when we see one, right? But there are those interesting examples of blendings of genre. My students often ask me if, for instance, O Brother! Where Art Thou? is a musical. I always say "good question - what do y'all think?" And then I don't have to try to give them a definitive answer - because ... who knows? I can go either way. It's on the musical continuum it seems to me. But I also think you can't just say a musical is when music is at the center of a film (like in Amadeus or The Constant Nymph), right? Does a musical always involve someone breaking into song (and dance) to further the plot (even if sort of tangentially)? I think it's interesting to think about - not to find the "right" answer, but to further understand the genre. --Lydia
  10. Like many others - I enjoy a variety of musicals (Sound of Music, Oklahoma, West Side Story, 1776). But I can NEVER turn away from Fred and Ginger - no matter how many times I've seen them. My favorite dance sequence is the first one in Swing Time. So amazing - much of it in one long take! And the way they fly over the little "fence" around the dance floor as if they're floating - lifts my heart! And Fred singing "The Way You Look Tonight" from the same film - so sweet! And I love Fred and Eleanor Powell's "Begin the Beguine" number in The Broadway Melody of 1940. The way her skirt keeps whirling around her after they've finished the dance is pure magic. And I can never get enough of the Nicholas Brothers "Jumpin' Jive" number in Stormy Weather. Grace and athleticism! Finally NO ONE sings "Over the Rainbow" better than Judy did in The Wizard of Oz! --Lydia
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