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Earthshine

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  1. 1. How might Streisand’s performance of the song “People” have felt different in the film, had she been more theatrical and expressive, perhaps even belting her song more? Having seen a few videos of Streisand performing “People” live, I do not see how she could possible belt this number more than she does in the film. However, her rendition here is more “muted,” as it needs to be within the context of the larger film, I think. Once, again I am at a disadvantage because I have not seen the entire film as of this posting. But based on what I have seen, it seems that Fanny sings the song to Nick as an invitation to be with her, even though they are both individuals. “People who need people are the luckiest people in the world.” Being more expressive and theatrical would have removed that intimacy from the number and the message she was sending him with her words. I may be wrong—it has happened before—but I think that being more expressive would have made this less of a “love letter” or an invitation to Nick. 2. Note the emotional transition moments in this scene: how do the two characters relate to each other as the lyrics are sung? Even before Fanny begins to sing, there seems to be sadness in her eyes while they are discussing how each of them is lonely for different reasons. Then she seems to look longingly at Nick even as she is walking away, turning back to face him when she stops on the sidewalk just before ascending the stairs. Also while on the sidewalk, the glances she gives Nick are her way of saying she is not as happy as the people she is singing about, and she is hinting that it is Nick whom she wants in her world. Nick has stopped following her at that point, creating a greater physical distance between them, as well as an emotional distance between them? While Fanny is on the steps, there is a bit of “playfulness” to her performance as she smiles and evens laughs a bit when singing about how lucky these different groups are, whether they are children or lovers. She seems to want these things and it seems she is hoping Nick does as well. 3. How does the direction and editing of this scene support Streisand’s performance? Be specific about blocking, reaction shots, etc. It seems I already answered much of this question in number two above. However, beyond that I will say that the blocking and editing tell us this is Streisand’s song, unlike say “You Are Woman, I Am Man,” which was clearly Sharif’s number where he actually sings to Fanny whereas Fanny sings her inner thoughts. There are more close-ups of Streisand as the song progresses so we can see the emotions she is feeling and trying to convey to Nick. Yet there are occasional shots of Nick as he reacts to her words. Based on both of their facial expressions, despite the physical distance in the scene, it seems both characters wish to bridge the physical gap, as well as any emotional gap?
  2. 1. Explore any common themes and filmmaking techniques in a very different movie also directed by George Cukor, Gaslight. (If you are not familiar with Gaslight, compare and contrast Cukor's theme in this scene and his techniques with another musical you have seen during this course) I have not seen Gaslight. However, I have seen The Wizard of Oz several times, a film that Cukor also contributed to, as I am assuming no one taking this course needs for me to mention. I discovered that Cukor was hired as a “stopgap” director at one point after Richard Thorpe was fired? According to one Wiki page dedicated to The Wizard of Oz, “Nonetheless, Cukor had a significant impact on the production. Given his reputation as a "woman's director," it is unsurprising that that impact centered on Judy Garland and her role as Dorothy Gale. Cukor jettisoned the blonde wig and heavy makeup of Thorpe's Dorothy; more importantly, he changed the interpretation of the character. Thorpe's Dorothy had been a fantasy figure among other fantasy figures; Cukor returned her to a much more naturalistic and down-to-earth persona, one who could serve as the emotional center and psychological anchor of the film.” And it seems that this is how Cukor has Hepburn play the part of Eliza. She assumes a down-to-earth persona, and she is clearly the emotional center of this scene. Just like Dorothy in Oz, she exhibits vulnerability and strength. She is upset with Higgins but does not back down when confronting him. Also—and I realize this is a very disparate comparison—I was reminded of the scene from Gigi when they sing “The Night They Invented Champagne.” I first noticed a similar lush setting in both rooms. Although Cukor seems to use a more muted palette than Minelli does, both rooms are still very rich shows of color and even wealth. The one thing that I find very refreshing about the musicals from the eras we have studied is that the directors use a nice wide focus and deep focus regularly, unlike the frenetic, rapid jump-cuts and quick-cuts that too many contemporary “innovative” directors use today. With all due respect to Baz Luhrmann, my usual example and biggest irritation is his remake of The Great Gatsby, which at times contains more than 300 images in a span of no more than 10 minutes. Instead, Cukor and Minelli allow the audience to view the entire set and different images for more than 2-3 seconds at a time, so we can truly appreciate the story and the characters they are trying to develop. And even though the tone and storylines were drastically different in both scenes, they were very similar visually and aesthetically. 2. Note the emotional transition moments in this scene, how the actors portray them, and how Cukor supports them. Eliza is very upset with Higgins at the beginning of this scene, realizing she was a bet that he has won. She now fears that she will be cast back into the streets, wondering what will happen to her now. This anger comes to a head when she throws his slippers at him and shows her displeasure with his teaching when she screams “those slippers” after he corrects her use of the word them. We also see this anger when she tries to attack him and he tells her to put her claws away. However, it seems her displeasure and anger are a result of her true feelings of love for Higgins because of how her behavior changes about two minutes into the scene. When he asks her about her time with him, she quietly concedes that no one has mistreated her. Even when he suggests that she is just “tired from the strain of the day” and offers her a chocolate, initially she yells “No!” but then more softly says “thank you,” showing her true feelings and why she is upset when she thinks he does not feel the same. 3. What do you notice about the relationship between Eliza and Higgins that seems enhanced by Cukor’s direction? I will try to keep this response a bit more succinct. In this scene, at least, it seems that Eliza has stronger feelings for Higgins than he does for her. I say this because she is very upset by what she has overheard about the bet and his prayers that he is glad it is all over. At one point he calls her a “presumptuous insect,” a “creature,” and a “cat.” He even asks why he should care what becomes of her. At the same time, he does seem to have some feelings for her, especially when he asks about her treatment, finally asking if he himself has mistreated her. However, overall, he does not really know why she is upset, nor does he really know how to console her, at one point even trying to offer her a chocolate and telling her to go to bed, say her prayers, and have a little cry. Perhaps this is a general insensitivity to her feelings, or perhaps this is the way men generally perceived women and their behaviors at this time. Either way, having accomplished his goal, the teacher has no more interest in the student? But Cukor’s direction tells us this is not the case as Higgins slowly moves closer to Eliza and she allows him to as she finally calms down by the end of the scene.
  3. 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? These two clips seem to focus more on the singing as a means of establishing/developing Preston’s characters, and of advancing the plot in The Music Man, since the song about pool in integral in “selling” the town on buying instruments to keep their children out of “trouble in River City.” True, the songs in earlier musicals often did the same thing as well; however, some songs in earlier musicals—as noted earlier in the video discussions—also served as show pieces to highlight a given performer or to reflect the given folklore of the film’s era (e.g. some of the songs in Hallelujah!). These two numbers also seemed to focus more on the songs and the lyrics themselves, with very few dance moves at all. This approach allows the audience to focus more on the character and how the song and scene work together to advance the story. 2. What other specific qualities do you notice about Robert Preston in either or both of these clips? 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. On the other hand, Preston does show more diversity, first as a salesman shyster, and then second as a gay man in Victor/Victoria. His presence fills the screen, and he actually plays both roles with a sense of masculinity, noticeable even toward the end of the second clip where he ducks a punch after insulting some of the people who are present. These scenes are more about establishing Preston’s characters, and his diversity when viewed side by side. 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 enough films in Preston’s canon to answer this question with any sense of knowledge or confidence at this time. However, I will say that from these two clips Preston seemed to thoroughly study his roles, immersing himself in them and becoming the characters he played, so much so that he was able to play a non-offensive, non-stereotypical gay man.
  4. 1. In what ways does this scene look backwards to classical musicals and how does it look ahead to new disruptions that we now know will happen in the movie musical? As a backwards glance to earlier musicals, this scene shows the hallmarks of the “behind-the-scenes” or “backstage” musical as we watch the auditions for Uncle Jocko’s Kiddie Kapers and the politics and pressures surrounding signing the “balloon girl.” The song being part of an audition at this point in the film, it does not necessarily advance the plot, as songs in musicals from the 40s and 50s might have. However, indirectly, it does help to develop Russell’s character when she takes over and does all that she can to have her daughters selected for the show, even going so far as to pop a balloon on the other girl’s costume. So, on one hand, it does not directly advance the plot. However, nor is it simply included as part of the historical context or folklore of the story—as was the case with films such as Hallelujah! Within the context of this scene alone, the musical number does not seem, to me, to have the same flow and continuity that song-and-dance numbers had in earlier musicals, possibly foreshadowing the disruptions that were on the horizon? 2. This is the introduction of Mama Rose in the film. Comment on Rosalind Russell’s entrance and performance especially as a traditionally trained stage and film actress. Russell makes a very grand entrance. Boldly announcing her presence as she walks down the aisle towards the stage, speaking over the musical accompaniment and giving the girls directions. Then, Russell takes over when she steps on to the stage and tells everyone what they should be doing to help her girls and their performance. And the precision of her requests shows that as a trained stage and film actress, she not only knows the terminology, but she also knows—or seems to know—what will complement the girls’ performance the best. Also, when she is on the stage giving directions, her minor singing and movements suggest she is familiar with performing on stage, but not necessarily very successful, based on George’s comments about Russell never making it to the big time. 3. Pay attention to the song “Let Me Entertain You” in this scene. Is there anything you notice in Sondheim’s lyrics that are sly, subversive, or edgy? You can also discuss the song’s performance and staging as disruptive (or not). There is more innocence—or at least should be—with a young baby June singing “Let Me Entertain You.” As a young girl, she is merely entertaining us with her cute voice and kicks as a Dutch girl accompanied by Louise as a little Dutch “boy.” No one should attach any sexuality to a children’s show. Again, not having seen this entire film yet, I will base my answer on speculation and on the curator’s notes, more specifically the following point: “What the audience views in Gypsy is the saucier side of vaudeville and burlesque, with humor.” I’m assuming that later, as Gypsy matures and becomes a stripper, these words will take on a more risqué meaning as she sings about doing some “kicks” and some “tricks,” with possible innuendos as to what those terms might mean.
  5. 1. Does a movie that has as stylized a scene as An American in Paris’ ending ballet need to use a less-than-realistic, stylized approach throughout the film? I must admit that I have not seen the entire film as of this posting. In fact, all I have seen so far are this clip, the scene where they try to describe Caron’s character, and the final ballet scene, so my response is largely speculative and may end up missing the mark a bit. However, as Dr. Ament, Dr. Ghering, and Gary Rydstrom have all noted, this musical is a “luscious love letter to Paris.” That being said, it seems that the final ballet might represent what most people envision Paris to be: lush and colorful, perhaps more a dream than a reality because people wish to visit that city but many do not have the chance. Visions of different countries often do not match reality. I’m not sure if that is a factor in the final dance though. Nonetheless, the rich colors and the characters who inhabit the dance scene may reflect people’s visions of this beautiful and mysterious foreign city. Again, I am hoping that this is a logical and coherent speculation. However, this does not mean that the entire film needs to have this look or feel, nor does the final scene seem incoherent within the larger context of the film. From the clips that I have seen, Minelli does a masterful job of blending natural colors—which represent reality—and stark backgrounds, some of them in solid colors, especially in the scene where they are trying to describe the type of girl Caron’s character is. The set for each of her dances contrasts sharply with her outfits because of their single-color schemes. But primarily, I’m assuming, this is a view of Paris through an American’s eyes, one who does see and must deal with the daily realities of life in Paris. Therefore, the film needs to reflect that realistically, even though Minelli strays from that periodically without taking away from the film’s realism. 2. What keeps Jerry Mulligan from being completely unlikeable in a scene in which he acts pretty darn unlikeable? Jerry immediately shows his disdain for “third-year” American college girls—who are “officious and dull,” merely repeating opinions they have overheard—by calling the critical student “sister” and telling the “good little girl” to keep walking because she’s “blocking out the sunshine.” Then later he states it is tough enough to receive criticism from people who do know what they are talking about. He doesn’t value her opinion and doesn’t want to hear it. If she says something nice, it won’t make him feel any better and if she doesn’t say anything nice, it will bother him. However, he is surprised and humbled when Milo offers to buy two of his paintings. We know this is a new experience for him because he doesn’t know how much money he should ask for them: “I never thought I would come to the point where that would be an issue.” He shows more surprise and even gratitude when she offers to pay 15,000 francs for each one. Furthermore, when she says she does not have the money, he shows a bit of doubt about his work’s appeal to others, perhaps, when he tells her they will still be available the next day if she returns. And even though he concludes the scene with the joke about charging her more once he sees her car, he seems to be intimidated her money, once again being humbled as the prototypical “democratic ideal of a ‘regular guy,’” as Gary Rydstrom states in the Curator’s Notes for the clip.
  6. 1. How do the pre-dance movements of O’Connor and Kelly compare to their actual dance movements? O’Connor’s rubbery facial expressions reflect how his dance style differs slightly from Kelly’s: O’Connor seems to be a bit looser and more elastic than Kelly. Also, there is a definite rhythm and “poetry” to O’Connor’s and Kelly’s words and movements—after their initial “stiffness”—as they repeat the tongue twisters more quickly, which prepares them and the audience for the song and dance that this leads into. This rhythm carries over into the beginning of the dance, which quickens just as their words and pre-dance movements do. 2. Watch the Professor all the way through and consider the role of the straight man. Very early in the scene, the professor realizes O’Connor and Kelly are not taking him seriously. In fact, he catches O’Connor mocking him with his facial expressions (which are very humorous, despite a slight editing gaff?). They then continue to mock the tongue twister about Moses by using the drapes as garments, with the professor looking at each of them with displeasure. It seems that they try to encourage the professor to join in their dance, but he is either not interested or not as limber as the dancers. This is evident when the professor is in the background so we can focus on the dancers. Then they end up simply walking him across the room to the other chair instead of dancing with him, at which point both dancers do their brief solos. Even though we can see the professor—the straight man—in the background, it is as if he has been taken out of the equation now that his role of setting up the song-and-dance number is now finished. In a sense, he has set up the “joke” and O’Connor and Kelly are delivering the “punch line.” Finally, by the end, the professor is removed from the equation completely when O’Connor and Kelly cover him with the chair, the cover from the piano, lamp shade and picture of the letter A. 3. How do the representations of masculinity in all three men compare and contrast with each other? As has been noted in earlier video discussions—at least as I recall, although I cannot find the module at this time—Kelly brought a masculinity and athleticism to his dancing. These are clearly on display in both performers in this dance number. Only one example of this is when they both jump backwards onto the chairs behind them and dance on the chairs without losing a beat or their balance. Or even when they are dancing on the desk earlier in the number. And they show this athleticism with a wonderful style and grace. As a teacher myself, I don’t necessarily agree with the following stereotype, but professors can be perceived as more scholarly or erudite, and less physical or athletic? At least, that is how I perceive the professor to be in this scene, making the dancers “manlier” by comparison.
  7. 1. As you reflect upon female representation in the 1950s, where do you think this film character falls in the continuum? Why? Out of necessity during WWII, women needed to enter the workforce to fill the roles vacated by men who were serving. However, when men returned after the war, women returned to their more traditional roles within the home. As noted on the Khan Academy website, “The norms of consumer culture and domesticity were disseminated via new and popular forms of entertainment – not just the television, which became a fixture in middle-class American households during the 1950s, but also women’s magazines, popular psychology, and cinema. Shows promoting the values of domesticity, like Leave it to Beaver and Father Knows Best, became especially popular. These shows portrayed the primary roles of women as wives and mothers. Lucille Ball, in I Love Lucy, inevitably met with disaster whenever she pursued job opportunities or interests that took her outside of the household. On the other hand, the fact that every episode revolved around Lucy’s attempts to pursue outside interests indicated her discontent with remaining at home.” It seems that some women did not want to relinquish their place in the workforce and return to the role of homemaker, choosing to exhibit their strength, equality, and independence, as was reflected in shows such as I Love Lucy. And it seems that this is where Day’s portrayal of Calamity Jane tends to fall within this continuum. In the opening clip, Day is very sure of herself as she rides on top of the coach, protecting the cargo and passengers from danger, even singing about the dangers along the road, “Where the injuns’ arrows are thicker than porcupine quills.” As a further sign of her confidence and strength, at one point she stands on the moving coach as she continues to sing. Later, when she is inside the saloon, trying to order her “sasparilly,” she fires her gun to get the men’s attention, moving them out of the way so she can move to the front of the line. Of course, the scene ends with her showing a bit of “feminine weakness” as she slips and falls while the male patrons laugh at her. Despite this, Day, as Calamity Jane, shows that she can stand up to men, as we see in the song “I Can Do Without You” (which I think plays better than “Anything You Can Do” in Annie Get Your Gun). Day does show a more delicate, feminine side as she sings about the secret love within her heart. Yet even then, she is not the more stereotypical submissive female of the 1950s. As Dr. Ament notes, “She does not retreat into demure femininity. She throws a flower down, rather than keep and treasure it, rides her horse with security in her pants, with legs spread and not embarrassed, her clothes are manly, just more elegant, and her hat is a man’s hat,” showing femininity, grace, beauty, and strength equally. 2. How do you think Doris Day grows as an actress in her various roles in the 1950s, before and after this musical? Unfortunately, as of this posting, I have not seen enough Doris Day films, aside from Hitchcock’s remake of his own film The Man Who Knew Too Much—where Day plays a very strong female character. Therefore, I cannot formulate a through response at this time. 3. Does Doris Day’s bright and sunny persona add or detract from the role of Calamity Jane in your opinion? Please defend your answer. As Dr. Ament also stated in her curator’s note for these clips, “Day’s boyish, yet not ungainly movements (she was a trained dancer), her whimsy, and her wonderful singing voice, in addition to her beautiful smile and her buoyant demeanor add to her likeability, even though she tries to be gruff. All in all, she is a winning combination of appealing and smart. Quite the actress, Day inhabits the character as someone who has found her true home, and is comfortable in her skin, although it is clear she is not truly sure how to be an equal with men and they do not try to make it easy for her.” Unlike the real Calamity Jane, who had more of a “rugged” beauty, Doris Day more closely matches the typical societal definition of beauty. I think Day does a masterful job of portraying Jane with her bright and sunny persona. As I stated in response number one, Day shows a perfect mix of strength and femininity, bringing the character fully to life. She is brave enough to guard a stage coach and stand up to Bill Hickok in at least one number, and at the same time, she lets her guard down a bit and exposes her heart as she soliloquizes about the love within her heart. Overall, a perfect blending of all aspects of the character she is portraying.
  8. 1. As you watch the interaction between the four characters in this scene, what do you notice about the way they include each other or relate to one another? How is it different from early musicals we have discussed? Right away, when they begin dancing, I noticed that each character uses the same choreographed moves in the dance, unlike the “competitive” dance between Rogers and Astaire in “Isn’t it a Lovely Day?” from Top Hat. Perhaps as a sign of equality and stronger roles for women, at one point, Lily steps out from the line to sing, and each man in turn does a brief dance step with her before she steps back into the line as they all resume the same dance steps. At one point, Jeff, Tony, and Lily lock arms—as equals—and do the same dance steps toward the camera, while playfully vying to be the next (and final) person to put his/her foot forward. As another sign of equality, each singer takes turns providing examples of how a show can mirror real life: extra-marital affairs, problems with employees and bosses; even Oedipus, one of the best-known stories of parricide in literature. The scene further illustrates the idea of team work as they must cooperate to support each other on the platform. The number does a nice job of showcasing everyone’s talents equally. I saw this especially with the playful “Oliver and Hardy” pantomime between Jeff and Tony as they flirt with Lily and as Lester walks behind them carrying a ladder (at both ends) while they duck before getting hit as they stoop to pick up their hats. 2. What do you notice about the costuming of the characters that indicate cohesiveness of the ensemble, as opposed to setting anyone apart? Be specific. Most noticeable are the similar colors in the dancers’ outfits. It looks like each performer is wearing at least one shade of blue; however, it was hard for me to determine whether Lily’s skirt is gray and white or blue and white. Up close, at least, the squares in her skirt seemed to be blue. The various shades of blue draw the characters together, making them all more equal. Arguably, the viewer would still notice Astaire more, not only because he was an established dancer but also because his blue suit is much bolder than the other actors. And even if Lily’s dress is gray and not blue, it still ties in with Lester’s suit and still pulls all for performers together cohesively. 3. What do you notice about the staging and interplay between the characters that helps define the relationships between the characters in the song? The song is called “That’s Entertainment,” and that is exactly what the lyrics and choreography highlight. The lyrics point out how art imitates life. And despite the serious nature of some of these real-life situations (also noted above)—parricide, fratricide, extra-marital affairs—they sing about them in a playful way with an equally playful choreography. Every part of the dance displayed light-hearted humor, which is easier to convey—at least in this case—with each of the four performers having an equal turn in the light. The scene begins with the other three characters standing around Tony, who is seated in the chair. All four of them must work cooperatively to support each other as they stand on the set piece of “bricks and broken columns.” Almost all of the dancing involves all four characters doing the same dance steps or assuming different roles in the brief comedic pantomime. And the number concludes with all four stepping toward the camera to sing the final line “a world of entertainment.”
  9. 1. What do you notice about the way the scene is directed as Petunia goes to Joe’s bedside and as we cut to her outside hanging laundry? What does this tell us about her relationship, and the connection to the song? First, as a side note, I find it interesting that King Vidor first wanted to cast Ethel Waters as Chick—the temptress—in Hallelujah! It’s a bit ironic that she is now the dutiful housewife who is trying to keep Joe from the clutches of Georgia Brown in Cabin in the Sky. And as the dutiful housewife, she remains loyal to her husband, a known gambler who has left a church service which he attends because he says he has changed his ways to steal away to a craps game. The song and Waters’ actions seem to suggest that love transcends all hardship—when the “table’s bare,” but a kiss from Joe is just like “Christmas everywhere,” for example—and her worries disappear with just a smile from Joe. Happiness is a thing called Joe, and “he loves me and that’s all I need to know.” The laundry scene continues to establish Petunia’s role as the loyal and dutiful wife. Even though Joe is recovering in the wheelchair, he probably would still not be doing the laundry. Also in this part of the scene, I noticed Petunia making sure that Joe is not in the direct sunlight, taking care of her husband, happy he is still alive, despite how he almost died. 2. How would the song change if it was a woman singing about her child? Does the cultural meaning change? How? I think a mother/child relationship is more universal than the historical and cultural aspects of this specific number. Not to downplay the close bonds of marriage, and acknowledging that losing a spouse would be devastating, I think losing a child would be even worse. An emotion all mothers could relate to. They are different types of love, equally painful in their own regard, but the love that Petunia sings about here, how it makes her feel, is a bit different, and what Joe gives to her—I think—is different from what a child offers a parent. Culturally and historically, I think the woman was to be more submissive and loyal to her husband, perhaps forgiving him his errors and indiscretions? But as noted earlier, a mother’s love for her child is different and more universal, still forgiving and understanding yes, but these feeling have remained constant throughout time whereas, with women being more independent and gaining an equal voice today, some might be less inclined to stay in this type of relationship now. 3. What other thoughts do you have about this film, the issues of black Americans during WWII, and this film’s importance in this era? As noted in video discussions earlier this week, during this time period this nation was feeling a resurgence in national pride and unity because of the war. Even though the military was still segregated to a large extent—until about 1948, as I recall—everyone banded together to fight our common enemies. Interestingly, at one point in the film Lucifer, Jr. must hatch a plan to win Joe’s soul. He talks about how it would be easier in Europe because of the greater evil present in Europe, a reference to Hitler and his allies. On a deeper level, this film might serve as a metaphor for this nation’s battle against evil global forces, before our nation was referred to as “The Great Satan.” And even though I have not finished the film as of this posting, I am assuming that Joe will resist the temptations of Georgia Brown and the forces of evil, with goodness ultimately prevailing, just as we hoped that the United States would also prevail against the Axis powers. Finally, the all-black cast validates black Americans in film, I think, giving them a vehicle to display their equally gifted talents, as was the case with Hallelujah! and there are some amazing performances in both films.
  10. 1. Thinking like a director and editor, describe how each shot spotlights key actions. At the risk of imposing an unintended baseball metaphor on this clip, one could argue that Garrett is simulating the role of a catcher blocking the plate and getting Sinatra in a “run down,” keeping him from getting past her. I saw this as soon as he leaves the locker room and tries to walk down the hall and around the corner. Even though there is no actual dance in this scene, their slide steps come close as she keeps stepping in front of him. As they come out into the stadium, the camera remains stationary, with Sinatra seeming to gain distance between himself and Garrett. However, when she calls out to him, we switch to a camera shot over his shoulder and the two seem closer to each other than in the previous shot. This is the first time she catches up to him. Later, they continue the “run down” up the bleachers where she finally catches up to Sinatra again, as he tries to scale the wall (a move that outfielders occasionally must make to grab a fly ball?) With this chase as well, Sinatra seems to gain some distance; however, Garrett closes the gap as Sinatra hits the wall once more. Once Garrett does catch him, she says that he is her “dish,” which might have double meanings here, one of which extends the metaphor I’m trying to develop. Of course, a dish could simply refer to someone’s favorite food. However, I believe at that time (dating back to the 20s) dish was slang for an attractive person. Dish can also be slang for home plate, the catcher’s domain. Also—stretching this metaphor a bit too far perhaps—as a catcher, she is hoping to catch him as a mate, and does she finally come closer to her goal as he slides down the tunnel wall right into her arms? 2. It’s interesting to examine how musicals segue into musical numbers. How does this sequence prepare us for the singing? The director prepares us for the song within its baseball context right away. Sinatra leaves the locker room carrying a baseball, which sets up the segue into the double meaning in the first line of the song about making his mind up to play ball with her. And he pretends to take the line literally by tossing her the ball. Garrett then sings to Sinatra about not waiting until next season (a term often associated with sports) to do what he should do right now, since his future is “inescapable” anyway. Sinatra’s attempted escape up the tunnel and his attempts to escape Garrett once they are in the stadium continue the motif that the segue established before the song itself.
  11. 1. What was the first Judy Garland film you recall watching? What was your first impression of her? To be honest, prior to this course, the only Judy Garland film I was familiar with was The Wizard of Oz, which I have been watching since my childhood (too many times to count and more years that I want to mention). In fact, this is one of the reasons I took the TCM course this summer. I was more “well-versed” in the films of Alfred Hitchcock for last year’s course, but I wanted to learn more about the history of musicals, which is why I took this course as well. But when I saw Garland in Oz, I noted her initial innocence and vulnerability. However, I have a theory that, arguably, The Wizard of Oz could be viewed as the archetypal hero story. Dorothy unwillingly leaves home (even if it is just a dream) to embark on a journey of discovery as she learns more about who she truly is and what she can accomplish when necessary, as she is forced to overcome her nemesis with the aid of her mentors. She learns that she does have brains; she does have “heart”; she does have courage, all lurking beneath her vulnerability and naivete. Garland was able to bring a young, sweet, and charming innocence to the role, yet she also ultimately showed strength and fortitude, refusing to back down from her quest, just as any archetypal hero or heroine would do. 2. How do you view her differently after viewing these clips than you might have viewed her previously? Both of these clips showcase Garland’s very playful side with the songs and choreography, a playfulness that she first displays as she danced down a yellow brick road in 1939. The first clip displays her grace and fluidity with the rolling cityscape backdrop as she and Astaire simulate skating and walking along the avenue as the backdrop rolls behind them. The first number is also more up-tempo and “comedic,” especially at the end as each dancer vies to be the last one off the stage. Whereas the second—while still upbeat—is a bit more traditional with the typical tap and ballroom steps, and the second was clearly intended to be more romantic than the first (which focused on two “male” bums singing about how successful they claimed to be and how much richer they wanted to be). As mentioned in the introduction to the clips, “Garland was noted for her generosity at sharing the scene with her fellow actors. Never a focus stealer, she is able to show her authentic warmth and humor.” And she does just that in both of these clips. There is a sense of equality as each performer feeds off of the other in both numbers, which is necessary for comedy in the former (and romance in the latter) to succeed. Also, as Dr. Ament noted in the video discussion today, Garland brings such a warmth and so much of herself to each role and each song that you seem to know her on a personal level. 3. What films in her later career come to mind as examples of her increasing ability to capture an audience’s imagination as a storyteller when she sings a lyric? As I noted earlier, I’ve not seen enough of her films to fully or fairly answer this question. However, I did notice that even if it doesn’t necessarily tell a story, the song from Easter Parade at least does a nice job of establishing the character of the persona Garland assumed as the bum. Her words and actions complement each other in “telling” the bum’s “story.”
  12. 1. Describe how the scenes in today’s Daily Dose were designed to promote American values for audiences during World War II. Be specific. Refer to props, set design, settings, etc. in your answer. The opening scene being set in the White House as Cohan is preparing to meet Roosevelt and the flashback to the July 4th celebration the year Cohan was born not only establishes the framing story that outlines Cohan’s (auto)biography but also establishes both the American values prevalent at that time and the values that the nation tried to promote during the war. Roosevelt’s presence in this scene addresses the current war immediately. As the Commander-in-Chief, he will make decisions determining the nation’s involvement. (I find it interesting that they cast a Canadian actor to portray the President.) Also, I did not realize production began the day after the attack on Pearl Harbor so I can understand the patriotic fervor, the jingoism, as well as the emotions present on the set. The flashback takes us back to Cohan’s birth and a celebration of the nation’s independence not too long after the end of The Civil War, a huge blemish on this nation’s history. Nonetheless, the parade acknowledges that war, perhaps even honoring veterans in that war since the year is 1878? Seeing people dressed in these uniforms would indirectly address the audience watching the film, encouraging them to serve as well, perhaps. 2. Listen carefully to the dialogue in these scenes. In what ways does the dialogue and/or the screenplay work to boost American morale? Quote specific lines of dialogue in your response. (I didn’t include direct quotes, choosing to paraphrase the lines instead.) One bit of dialogue that would boost American morale is Cohan’s reference to the Horatio Alger era, when everyone had the same opportunity to succeed, no matter his humble beginnings. Perhaps proof of this is how America was seen as a land of opportunity then, as is shown not only in the fact that Cohan was Irish-American but also the fact that the director, Curtiz, was from Hungary. Also, as I noted in response number one, this scene shows the optimistic spirit as people celebrate their independence and acknowledge the Civil War, which would still have been fresh in their memories. I also think that the lines about singing about the grand old flag would promote American morale and the pride people are supposed to take in that symbol, especially with “Mr. Teddy” singing the song in the bathtub. Finally, the President notes Cohan’s admirable quality of wearing his patriotism on his sleeve and sharing it with all 48 states. Then Cohan responds by saying that his own father was proud to run away at 13 and serve in the Civil War, another reference to that war which might be an attempt to encourage citizens to join the military to serve the country during WWII? 3. Since this is the opening of a biographical musical, how differently do you feel this film would be if it opened with the Fourth of July Parade scene in Providence, Rhode Island vs. the opening with FDR in the Oval Office? Defend your answer. Eliminating the framing device and making the film a straight chronological biography would have downplayed the timeliness of the war that the nation was on the brink of entering. True, the opening scene still would have included references to the Civil War and the Revolutionary War, both of which could promote American Jingoism, but there was suddenly a more immediate call to arms after the attack on Pearl Harbor. Without the framing device, the film would have focused immediately on Cohan’s earlier years as he grew into the man he became, promoting his patriotism and sharing it with the nation. The audience needs to see this idea at the beginning of the film, along with his respect for the President and all that the President represents as the leader of the most powerful nation in the world. It was a time to promote patriotism, unifying the nation to support what the President decided and to support and protect each other and this nation from external threats.
  13. I love the graceful fluidity of the choreography in this scene. 1. What other aspects of battle of the sexes do you see indicated in this clip or in the film Top Hat? One aspect of the battle of the sexes that I detect at the beginning of the scene is Rogers’ reaction to the storm. Astair compares aspects of the storm to parts of a courting ritual. And it is assumed to be a man’s role to comfort a woman during a storm. The lightning is the spark; their kiss, the thunder. He makes the latter comparison after seeing how Rogers reacts somewhat negatively to that suggestion, showing that she insists on being an equal. Nonetheless, Rogers appears to be frightened by the thunder, and it is Astair’s job to comfort her—this stereotype being one aspect of the battle of the sexes? As Astair begins singing, you can see the playful expressions on Rogers’ face. She smiles to show that she is interested, but she will not simply acquiesce to him. As was the case with the canoe scene in Rose Marie, the male lead will have to work to win the girl. However, as the scene and dance progress, Astair and Rogers do become more equal, as she gradually joins him in the dance, matching his moves and challenging him with moves of her own. At one point, they come close to dancing while embracing and holding hands, merely simulating those motions instead. However, eventually they do embrace each other, but when they do, they dance as equals without either of them taking and refusing to relinquish the lead, “flinging” each other as they twirl towards the end of the dance. Their equality also seems to become complete when the lightning strikes a second time. Rogers is no longer frightened by the thunder and lightning, smiling instead and embracing the energy that the storm brings to the dance number. 2. How does this film distinguish itself from other Depression era musicals we have watched or discussed this week? Compared solely to the other clips and films I have seen this week, this dance number contributes more to developing the story, the characters, and their interactions. True, Eddy’s song to Rose Marie while she merely sits and reacts does help to reveal the characters’ traits and develop their relationship, but this number from Top Hat seems to develop these aspects more fully. It seems to more fully develop their relationship, display their equality, and advance the story. It is a much more elaborate song-and-dance number than in other films we have discussed, perhaps setting the stage for even bigger production numbers in future films. This is a far cry from the folk songs and spiritual songs from Hallelujah, for example, some of which did advance the plot within the context, but many of which seem to be there for the sake of being there, simply as a reflection of the given era and culture. 3. What possible reasons might there be for the changes in roles between men and women depicted in these screwball comedy musicals that distinguish themselves from earlier musicals in the 1930s? One theory—which is mere speculation, considering the double standards of other films from this era—is that this movement might have been a carryover from the women’s movement of the 1920s? Women sought independence and an equal voice then, along with equality in the work force. I believe there was also a brief spike in divorces at one point in the 20s as women chose not to live under a man’s thumb? Perhaps during the era of the Depression, women also wanted to see more equality, especially if they were using films as a means of escaping their real lives. Why would they want to see submissive women on screen, especially if they perceived themselves to be strong matriarchs in their own homes? Audience members went to laugh and be entertained, not to be reminded of the bleak times outside in the harsh sunlight.
  14. 1. 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)? First, I noticed a carryover of some silent film techniques in this clip. More specifically, I noticed the close-ups on the garter, the handbag and gun, and the contents of the drawer. Granted, more contemporary films also include similar close-ups. But too often, today’s “innovative” directors create a more frenetic pace, by not focusing on any image for more than 2-3 seconds. In earlier films, more specifically silent films, directors and actors needed to tell the story by focusing on props that played a key role in a scene and by conveying the story through actions and facial expressions. All of these elements were at work in this scene, especially with Chevalier displaying his cavalier attitude while addressing the audience, while arguing with his mistress, and when confronting her jealous husband. I was also reminded of some of Hitchcock’s earlier films with the camera shot of the people in the street as they react to the gunshots. Chevalier also displays his cavalier attitude about his behavior and affairs when he reacts to being “shot” with great animation and when he zips up his mistress’s dress. He is very smug when he looks at her husband while zipping the dress as if to say he knows his wife better—and more intimately—than her own husband does. 2. 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. Similar to a silent film, the characters are using quite a bit of dialogue, which the audience might not understand or “hear,” unless they speak French. However, like a silent film, the audience does not necessarily need to understand the dialogue because the ideas are very evident through the props and characters’ actions. The audience is introduced immediately to the conflict and tension as we hear the characters arguing behind closed doors, setting what we assume will be a serious tone, until Lubitsch introduces the juxtaposition of humor with the tension of the gunshots, the apparent suicide, and the failed homicide. And despite the tension between Chevalier and his mistress and his mistress and her husband, the mood is lightened with the dialogue. Alfred has engaged in similar acts in the past and he will continue to do so, despite his plea that the stories of his past are exaggerated. 3. What themes or approaches might you anticipate from this clip in other Depression-era musicals? It seems that directors and writers at the time wanted to keep the mood light, despite some more serious elements in a storyline, at least in this film with the affair, the confrontation, and the assumed suicide. Despite these elements, the scene ends on a positive note and there is an under lying current of humor throughout the entire scene. As was the case with the film clips from Rose Marie, it seems that this film addressed a double standard present at that time, and still present to some degree even today. It seemed acceptable for men to objectify women, viewing them as cast away conquests. But this film also seems to fit the notion that people during that era went to the theater to seek a brief respite from their otherwise harsh lives, living vicariously through the characters they aspired to be living lives they wished they had, instead of being reminded of the harsh realities beyond the darkened theater and images that offered them hope.
  15. 1. What do you notice about the interaction between the characters in these two scenes? Please give specific examples. In the first clip, Eddy seems to view women as conquests, perhaps, as is suggested with his comment about using his song more than once, as long as a woman’s name fits the tune. This seems to be reinforced with his comment about Maude—merely one of his past women—when he says nothing worked with Maude. His comments about MacDonald’s current love interest also suggest that he perceives her as yet another conquest, showing that he doesn’t like to lose, and usually does not? However, MacDonald clearly has the upper hand at first in this scene, as she responds to Eddy’s questions in an emotionless manner. But then, she seems to let her guard down as he sings his song, as she displays warm and welcoming facial reactions while he sings. Still, it is MacDonald who sets the tone in this scene, choosing to let Eddy in only as much as she wants to invite him in. In the second clip, MacDonald does not have the upper hand, as she is clearly out of her element in the saloon whose patrons do not appreciate her singing style or her stiff movements and who respond only to the more burlesque singing and dancing of one of the regulars. I also noticed that Eddy is losing more of his “womanizing” mentality as the scene progresses. He enters with two women—a sign that he has “romanced” many women—yet he focuses his attention more on MacDonald than he does on his dates, sensing and sympathizing with her discomfort and leaving when she leaves, apparently to follow her and console her? 2. If you have seen either or both of these actors in other films or television shows, please share your perceptions about them. Unfortunately, I have not seen any other films featuring either MacDonald or Eddy, so I am unable to response at this time. 3. What do these clips tell you about the male/female relationships as they are depicted in the films during this era? What norms might you expect are supported under the Hollywood Film Code? It seems that during this era, there was a double standard, certain expectations for both men and women (some of which still exist today, I think). It seemed acceptable for men, at least as represented by Eddy, to objectify women, who were expected to be more submissive, nice to look at but not allowed a voice (unless they were singing or otherwise entertaining men). This expectation makes the dynamic between Eddy and MacDonald in the first clip interesting. Instead of falling victim to Eddy’s charms MacDonald shows an independence and a strength that is shaken only when she is trying to entertain the saloon patrons. The dynamic between the two stars is also interesting in the second clip, when Eddy begins to view MacDonald more as a person and less as an object. Not having seen the entire film yet, I can only speculate, but perhaps within its historical context, this film can be viewed as a “Rom-Com,” where the male lead changes his perception of his conquest, seeing her more as an equal by the “happily-ever-after” ending? Regarding norms under the film code, since this was a post-code film, it seems they were unable to take more chances with the song and dance number in the second clip, making it less risqué and burlesque than they could have done in a pre-code film, being force to use more “conservative” costuming in this film.
  16. 1. Do you agree that the clip exhibits a brighter perspective of life than might be realistic? Why or why not? Gary Rydstrom noted in today’s video discussion that films, especially musicals, were a means of escape for people during the Great Depression, a more positive perspective than what they normally saw in their own lives perhaps. This 3+ minute clip seems to verify this notion, as it focuses on the lavish theater, sets, and performers singing light-hearted numbers. It also includes the patrons and influential people who could afford to attend the theater, which is illustrated by Ziegfeld handing the doorman a five-pound note and making the blithe pun about trying to lose weight. The clip also takes a light-hearted approach to the two rivals who are vying for Anna, with the interspersed camera shots of both men, each of which the audience sees because Anna has trained her mirror on both of them, reflecting the stage lights onto their faces. Once they spot each other, their facial expressions and other actions become more animated, almost comical, which adds to the light-hearted feel of the scene. The scene in the dressing room is also light-hearted as Anna tries to read the card from Ziegfeld, but she must ask Marie to help her read, stating that she can speak and sing in English but she cannot read English, with Anna’s comical comment about Ziegfeld, Jr. possibly being a little boy concluding Marie’s reading. This approach might also be included to avoid a voice-over of her reading the note or the often-awkward notion of reading the note out loud? 2. What themes or approaches might you anticipate from this clip in other Depression era musicals? Not having seen many Depression-era musicals yet, I am basing this answer solely on this 3+ minute clip and today’s video discussion. Unlike the gangster films of other studios—such as Warner Brothers—and more serious fare such as John Ford’s adaptation of The Grapes of Wrath, it seems people went to films (more specifically these musicals?) to escape reality for a while. I am assuming that other Depression-era musicals will follow the formula that was set in The Great Ziegfeld, with a more light-hearted and more whimsical view of life at that time, an opportunity for people to escape their worries for a while. I might end up being wrong by the end of this course, but I am assuming many of the musicals at this time were comedic, with the protagonist overcoming an obstacle to achieve what he/she was striving for? 3. Since this is a musical that was made after the motion picture code was enforced, how might you imagine it might have been filmed or scripted differently if it had been pre-code? Give specific examples. Also in today’s video discussion, Gary Rydstrom talked about how film makers could take more chances and be a bit more risqué before the motion picture code was enforced, with characters—more specifically women—in various stages of undress or even bathing, not unlike the double standard between male and female nudity in films today? Perhaps the dressing room scene might have been a bit more daring, with Anna undressing while Marie reads the note included with the flowers. In a pre-code film, perhaps her song and dance might have been a bit racier and more burlesque as well?
  17. I don't know if there is much to add to what DC SURFERGIRL has already said, but I will try. I was also very excited when I heard about a course dedicated solely to the works of the master, Alfred Hitchcock. Perhaps like many others, I was mostly familiar with Psycho, Vertigo, Rear Window, and even Frenzy and Family Plot. However, I gained so much more knowledge and so many more incredible insights into Hitchcock's work while taking this course, especially his earlier periods and the strong Germanic influences, which are very noticeable in films such as The Ring (if you compare it to The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari). And kudos to the way that Dr. Edwards chose to structure the course. Even after teaching at the high school level for 32 years, I can still learn a new trick or two that I can use in my classes, especially the next time I show the film Psycho to my Horror Fiction classes. I loved the daily balance of the lecture notes; the one-on-one discussions with Drs. Edwards and Gehring, which I found to be very entertaining and insightful; and the daily dose with the corresponding written responses. From this daily structure, I have some new ideas about how to differentiate my own class lessons. I love to view films critically and analyze technique, much to my students' dismay because I force them to do the same. But I appreciated the chance to look at a different clip each day, reflect on it, and then share my thoughts with everyone else who took this course. As a side note, I would like to extend a very heart-felt "thank you" to all of you who took the time to read my thoughts and to show how much you appreciated them by "liking" them. I know I tend to get long winded with my writing, so I thank everyone who had the patience to read my thoughts. It is rewarding to me to know that other people value my ideas. Thank you to everyone for such an enjoyable experience: the people I met and became Twitter friends with along the way, Drs. Edwards and Gehring, and finally Alexandre Philippe, whom I had a chance to speak with directly during the Shindig. It was an amazing experience.
  18. In response to this question, I could go with an "obvious" answer, such as Stephen King as a writing collaborator. At least then one of King's novels would finally translate well into film in the hands of a master such as Hitchcock. I realize King's texts are hard to convey on screen, given the nature of his ideas. However, if anyone could make it work, it would be Hitchcock. Not to say that all films based on King's novels are bad, it's just that so many fall so short of the mark. I could also be very self-centered and say that a dream come true for me would be for any director, let alone the masterful Hitchcock, to translate one of my original dark and unpublished stories into a film. Alas, that will remain on my bucket list forever. Instead, I think I would love to see what Hitchcock would do with the novel White Noise by the author Don Delillo. For me, this was a novel that was difficult to confine to only one genre. However, it does contain a very dark and bleak view on society with apocalyptic overtones and commentary on the overall futility and despair of society, being somewhat existential in that regard. I think this would have fit well with Hitchcock's later years, especially when he made The Birds and Frenzy, both of which left me a little unsettled, just as I felt after reading White Noise.
  19. I apologize if other people have already noted this, but I thought I would mention it anyway. It seems to me that the film director M. Night Shyamalan tries to make a cameo in many of his films (The Sixth Sense and The Village for certain). In both of these films, he took the cameo appearance a bit farther than Hitchcock by giving his character dialogue. For me, the verdict is still out on how I feel about his roles in his films because generally speaking I am not a big fan of his style (aside from The Sixth Sense, which I thought was brilliant and still his best film). This may or may not be a Hitchcock influence, but it seems likely considering how notorious (no pun intended?) Hitchcock was for making cameos in his films.
  20. One more question from me, if you don't mind. This one is for Alexandre Philippe. I love the idea behind your film 78/52 and how it focuses on the number of camera shots and edits for the shower scene in Psycho. In a few of my earlier posts for this course, I have been critical of certain contemporary film techniques. More specifically, I am bothered by any film maker who chooses to stay on any one camera shot for no more than 1-3 seconds before moving on to the next shot. I see that as a response to a shorter attention span. Usually the film I use as an example to illustrate this is the remake of The Great Gatsby, with all due respect to the actors and the director, Baz Luhrmann. However, finally, my point/question is this: I think the quick cuts are very effective in Psycho, unlike similar camera cuts in today's films. I was just wondering if you could share your thoughts on how the shower scene compares to other quick editing and why and how you feel about some of today's contemporary techniques. As always, thank you very much, Loren Santiago
  21. One other question, which of course is merely speculation: If Hitchcock were still alive and making films today, do you think he would remain true to himself as a film maker, or do you think he would feel pressured to resort to the cliched and bad film techniques that audiences expect today because of a shorter attention span and a need for non-stop action and violence? I realize that Hitchcock would always "reinvent" himself his entire career, always pushing the envelope while still including his signature touches in each of his films. Personally, I would like to think that Hitchcock would NOT feel the pressure to cater to today's average viewers who do not have the patience to listen to Hitchcock's beautiful dialogue, appreciate his character development, and admire all of the pain-staking detail he put into each of his films. Thank you again, Mr. Loren Santiago
  22. I was wondering if you would be willing to share your thoughts on what seems to be a recurring Hitchcock theme of the dynamic of male/female relationships, roles, and expectations in his films. Is there a hint of misogyny in his films (as was noted in our class discussion of the noir genre), is it a reflection on how Hitchcock himself felt about marriage and women (which does not seem logical considering his long marriage to Alma), or do these recurring situations in his films simply reflect societal beliefs and expectations from each of the time periods when the films were released (with women being objectified in films dating back to The Pleasure Garden and continuing up through Rear Window)? And finally, how should the audience reconcile these ideas with the equally strong and independent women that also appear in some of his films? Thank you, Mr. Loren Santiago
  23. How does the opening of Frenzy differ from the opening of The Lodger? Feel free to rewatch the clip from The Lodger (Daily Dose #2) for comparison. I really like the opening tracking shot in Frenzy. I noticed in today's discussion, I believe, that Hitchcock wanted to do a similar shot as the opening for Psycho, but the shots needed to be scrapped because of inadequate technology. Personally, I liked the opening that Hitchcock had to "settle" on for the opening to Psycho, and I could not picture it any other way. Of course, if he had used the alternate tracking shot that he wanted, I might be saying I prefer it, instead, just as we react when we learn that directors had other actors in mind for certain roles. I am reminded here of the story that Bernard Rose wanted Sandra Bullock instead of Virginia Madsen to play Helen in Candyman. I am a big fan of Bullock's work; however, I think Madsen was a much better fit for that role, just as I think Rod Taylor was a better fit than Cary Grant in The Birds and Jon Finch was a great fit for his role as Richard Blaney in Frenzy. I realize I am digressing here (again), but I have seen Finch in only two films: Frenzy and Polanski's dark take on the already very dark tragedy of Macbeth. Finch does an amazing job showing how Macbeth is conflicted with his guilt, his desire for power, his wife's manipulations, and ultimately his remorse and how to deal with it (by choosing foolishly in the end). For in Frenzy, it seems he leads a bit more of a "charmed life" than he did as Macbeth. But back to this question: In The Lodger, we are thrown immediately into the idea that a murder has been committed. We see the victim and "hear" her silent scream. We then see the witnesses gather, many of them doing nothing other than satisfying their dark desires to feed on someone else's death and suffering. Just as people gather for a stoning or at the gallows for a hanging, they are justified in their actions as witnesses to crime and suffering. I seem to be "editorializing" a lot (sorry), but I see this motif in several Hitchcock films, either as witnesses to the crime itself or to the aftermath. And in most cases, aside from the woman describing the murderer in The Lodger, most of the witnesses serve as onlookers, just as more than 33 neighbors sat in their darkened apartments in the 1960's and watched Kitty Genovese be attacked for more than 30 minutes before she was finally killed. No one bothered to lift the phone and call the police, so the story went at the time. By contrast, as I have already noted, Frenzy begins with a long tracking shot, beginning in the air and then swooping down toward the Thames River with the camera hovering above the water bringing us ever closer to the latest necktie murder victim. And this time, in his inimitable manner, Hitchcock provides his signature sense of humor. Everything is dirty or brown: the smoke from the barges, the barges themselves are brown, the water is brown, the banks are muddy, the buildings are brown. The politician (I am assuming) is talking about cleaning up all of the pollution caused by humans: He is talking more specifically about the waste in the water. However, I think Hitchcock is also setting us up for the crimes, more specifically murders, that men commit to pollute the world? For right after he makes that comment, the crowd notes the nude victim floating in the river, the tie around her neck providing the only color in the dirty Thames. So making a very long answer short, in The Lodger we are thrust immediately into the latest murder, whereas, in Frenzy we discover it more gradually. However, both films do feature serial killers with a nosy populous speculating on who the murderer is. What are some of the common Hitchcock touches that you see in this opening scene? Be specific. As I stated above, Hitchcock uses quite a few tracking shots in the film, not only in this clip but elsewhere later on as well. Spoiler! One of my favorite Hitchcock tracking shots takes place when Rusk has taken Babs to his flat. By now the viewers know what is going to happen, and this time Hitchcock implies it instead of showing us in graphic detail. Personally, I think this film could have been equally or even more effective without resorting to the overt violence and nudity. Hitchcock was always a master at implying, allowing the audience to use their imagination, unlike many horror films today. Once again, Hitchcock also encourages us to be witnesses/voyeurs. What better way to say that than to position photographers in the crowd at the press conference. And then we are peering down into the water when everyone discovers the body. And as I have also noted, Hitchcock never fails to include his dark humor whenever he can, but only when he knows that it will work, and for Hitchcock, his humor DOES work in his films. "Put me in the fruit cellar. You think I'm fruity, huh?" In this scene, he uses his humor the establish the theme of murders as pollution, perhaps, and the gentleman who continues discussing Jack the Ripper sending women's organs as calling cards (shortly after this ends, I think? Spoiler!) Finally, by the end of this film we once again realize this is another example of the wrong man being falsely accused and he must fight to clear himself using his own, everyman wiles. Using Frenzy as an example, what thoughts do you have about the various purposes Hitchcock had in mind when he created his opening scenes? In the Daily Doses, we have focused on opening scenes, so there should be patterns or strategies you have noticed over the course of opening scenes spanning Hitchcock's 50 year career. I will just quickly recap some of my earlier comments here (you're welcome) Generally, I think that Hitchcock tries to get the audience into the action of the film immediately. He does this by inviting us to spy on the characters in some cases (Rear Window) and by putting us in the film in their shoes in other cases (The Pleasure Garden, to name only one). In doing this, he gets us emotionally invested right away. As in the case of Frenzy, we have a mystery, a serial killer. We, the viewers, want to discover whether the detectives will learn what we already know, because in most cases Hitchcock provides us the luxury of dramatic irony. We know an innocent man has been wrongfully accused and Hitchcock builds suspense as this victim must try to clear his name. We root for him, and in most cases justice prevails.
  24. I will admit that I have not seen Marnie yet, so my responses will probably be more brief today, perhaps much to the delight of the other members of this course who have been gracious enough to read and reply to my posts. Thank you, by the way. Based on the opening sequence alone, what do you feel you already know about Marnie as a character? In what ways does Hitchcock visually reveal her character through her interaction with objects. From the opening sequence, we learn that Marnie is a thief who has needed to change her appearance and identity several times, as indicated by the black hair dye and the five or six Social Security cards. I find it interesting that the name on the first one is Marion, just like Marion Crane in Psycho, who also uses an alias when checking into the Bates Motel. She has stolen quite a bit of money already, as indicated by all of the packages with nice clothing and the money that she still has with her. We sense that she has done this several times in the past because she seems to have a routine and there is noting frantic about her actions, nothing to draw attention to her. In fact she seems confident, almost smug, especially when walking down the hall and through the station and then when placing the suitcase in the locker and dropping the key in the grate. She does it very casually by dropping the key on the ground and then guiding it in with her shoe. I am reminded of the cigarette lighter scene in Strangers on a Train here. And of course a key played a prominent role in Dial "M" for Murder, just as a necklace was crucial in Vertigo and a missing necktie was vital to the plot of Frenzy. Hedren also displays this smug confidence after washing the dye out of her hair. What a beautiful shot of Tippi Hedren when she stands up from the sink, throws her hair back, and hits us with that mysterious and confident smile. How does Hitchcock use Bernard Herrmann's score in this scene? Even though there is additional orchestration here, more than just strings, I was reminded of the scene in Psycho when Janet Leigh is writing out numbers on the paper she finally tries to flush away later. (Once she has decided to return to Arizona) I replayed that portion of Psycho just now and Herrmann's strings sound very similar in both films. So there are two recurring images/sounds or motifs here: Marnie has an SS# with the name "Marion" on it; she has a large amount of cash; and the music is very similar in both scenes. Furthermore, Herrmann's score does a nice job of complementing the images on the screen, adding to what is going on here. This is not light-hearted scoring that you would hear in The Trouble With Harry (although that is a dark comedy). This music helps to establish what type of person Marnie might be and it suggests any suspense that may arise later in the film. For me the score helps to draw parallels between Psycho and Marnie, the film and the character. In both we see a woman who has absconded with a large amount of money; we see the name Marion in both; and as Dr. Edwards pointed out in today's discussion, we see black hair dye spiraling down a drain, reminiscent of the blood in the shower scene in Psycho. Many people who watched Marnie possibly also saw Psycho. They knew how things ended for Marion. Will they end the same way for Marnie? Will she have a change of heart? If so, will it be too late? Again, this is speculation, questions that many of you probably already know the answers to. Did you see any variation in what Hitchcock is doing with his cameo in this film, and what do you think that variation means? With this cameo, Hitchcock defies the fourth, "invisible" wall between the audience and the film itself. I realize this is a practice dating back hundreds of years, and it is often used so often today that it almost becomes a bad cliche. Again, I can merely speculate on why Hitchcock did his cameo this way in this film, and I am looking forward to seeing what other people have to say as well. For me, the look he gives us is saying he knows we are watching. He has always known that we have been watching. Much has already been said about movie goers as voyeurs. Hitchcock calls Jeffries a peeping tom in Rear Window, and Truffaut spoke with Hitchcock about this in his interview. We have been spying as viewers and spying along with characters in his films ever since The Pleasure Garden. Sitting in a theater with other movie goers just seems to make it easier for us to justify and permit our voyeuristic tendencies. As a film maker, Hitchcock wanted us to watch his films. He needed for us to watch his films since they were his livelihood. However, it seems to me that his look says, "Join me yet again on another journey. Join me as we watch these events unfold together." We are complicit in this undertaking, all witnesses to what is about to transpire. That is make take, anyway, which is either very insightful or way off target. Please, let me know, but be kind.
  25. In what ways does this opening scene seem more appropriate to a romantic comedy than a “horror of the apocalypse” film? What do we learn about Melanie (Tippi Hedren) and Mitch (Rod Taylor) in this scene? Please pardon this horrific pun here, but as is the case in almost any romantic comedy, the male and female interests play a "cat-and-mouse" game involving witty banter and innuendo. I believe we see exactly that happening in the opening scene between Mitch and Melanie (which means "black" or "dark," I believe?) When Mitch enters the pet shop--already knowing who Melanie is and joking about returning her to her gilded cage--they discuss several aspects of birds: the various species, which Melanie cannot name or distinguish; the cruelty of caging them; and protecting them, especially during molting season (two themes that are developed throughout the film). Melanie says molting birds have a "hangdog" look on their faces. It seems that Mitch has a similar look on his face, adding to the light romantic banter and tension between Melanie and him. Also, Melanie is there to pick up a Myna bird for her aunt, a bird that is hard to catch according to the shop keeper. Melanie says they might have to deliver him to her and the bird she is receiving will be full grown, but she will have to teach him (not it) to talk (her colorful words she is learning in a college class). In some romantic comedies the conflict arises between the love interests because they don't "speak the same language." Immediately, Mitch (her myna bird?) enters, and the banter begins. This banter continues later in the film in a scene that reminds me a bit of the scene from North by Northwest. In the diner scene from The Birds, Melanie tells Mitch, "I loath you," perhaps knocking him down a notch, comparable to Eva Marie Saint standing her ground with Cary Grant? So, overall, at this point things are light and carefree between them. The standard formula for a romantic comedy is for the romantic interests to engage in playful banter, then encounter a problem, and according to one definition of comedy overcome the problem and end up together. Ah, but therein lies the rub in this film. We do have the give-and-take; we do have a problem; the couple does end up together. But at what cost in The Birds. And has Melanie ("dark") brought "darkness" to Bodega Bay, as some characters speculate? How does Hitchcock use sound design in this opening sequence? For example, how are the sounds of birds used to create a particular mood and atmosphere? I love the basic, stripped down, simplified score for this film, with all due respect to Herrmann's concerns about that. Birds can be harbingers of many things, some good, some bad. They can announce the coming of spring and the coming of winter (as was the case, I believe, in the original story?). They can also presage death, especially all of the black birds that gather around Melanie while she sits outside the school. As the film begins, nothing really foretells any danger. As Melanie crosses the street, all we can really hear, aside from traffic, are the birds. The first indication that something might be amiss is the number of birds hovering above the water. However, the shop keeper logically explains that they are probably there because of a storm at sea. As an interesting side note, interesting to me anyway, I like how when the young boy whistles at Tippi Hedren, it sounds just like a bird. Another note from the opening exterior shot: I noticed several billboards for airline companies. Does this help to establish the major theme of this film: the idea that animals have finally revolted against man because man has imposed himself on nature? With airplanes, men have tried to simulate flight and imitate birds. Only one reason the birds don't like us? The film doesn't need an elaborate musical score to accompany the sounds of the birds. The bird sounds are more horrifying on their own. I remember first seeing this film as a child and being traumatized then. I re-watched it today, and thought it was still frightening, without using the cheap, over-the-top gimmicks that film makers use today to shock an audience. A "bird in the hand" of Hitchcock beats two Human Centipede films any day. The opening scene contains a famous Hitchcock cameo. Describe the cameo and if you think it has any particular meaning in relation to this scene. I already began to address what I see as one of the major themes in this film in response number two: animals, more specifically birds, revolt against man who has invaded upon nature for too long. Man tries to tame and domesticate animals that thrive better in a more natural habitat. Perhaps dogs do not like to be put on leashes. For in doing so, if those dogs were ever left to fend for themselves later, they might not survive unless they regain their natural instincts. I could be wrong. It could just be Hitchcock establishing the notion of couples: two dogs, two love birds, Mitch and Melanie, Mitch and the teacher, even Mitch and his mother? However, other details and events in the film also suggest that Hitchcock is establishing a theme of revolt and how man is at the mercy of forces beyond his control or how we must pay the price for our previous selfish actions (as indicated in the notes for today: The Birds as horror of the apocalypse). Man, by his nature, tends to impose himself and his will on other entities. The farmers till the soil (nature); they raise animals (nature); we kill animals for food (three chicken dinners at the diner in one scene). Man is conscious of his actions; animals react more instinctively to defend themselves. Mitch is a lawyer who talks about putting men behind bars. Animals should not be caged. I realize I am digressing from the question, but I think in some way these ideas do relate to Hitchcock walking his own two dogs on leashes. And one final note about the birds in the pet shop: Mitch and Melanie mention canaries at one point. Canaries have been used as harbingers of danger, with miners taking them into coal mines. Man should heed warnings from nature and learn from his past mistakes?
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