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Michael McCarthy

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About Michael McCarthy

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  1. 1) I think that in order to answer this question you need to remove Ms. Streisand from the equation. The song "People" and Barbra Streisand will forever be as one, no denying that. If you were to have given the part of Fanny to a young Ethel Merman or a Betty Hutton, you would have had an eleven o'clock number that would have been a real toe tapper...but you would have also lost all of the subtle nuances given to us by Ms. Streisand. 2) Fanny is telling Nicky that for a man who needs nothing (other than that which money can buy) he needs to look inside himself and realize that you cannot love alone. 3) After Nick speaks his last line the entire rest of the scene is directed to showcase the talents of Barbra Streisand. Nick is needed just to let the audience know who she is singing about. "Ah yes", the audience nods in unison, "she is singing about people needing people but she really means that Nick needs Fanny as much if not more than Fanny need Nick. Why, without the other they are incomplete. I hope there is an intermission so we can go and collectively pat ourselves on our backs."
  2. 1) I believe that dancing--or the lack thereof--was the greatest change for men in the film musical. Movie musicals in the thirties had Fred Astaire in evening attire, which many in the depths of the Great Depression could only consider to be the stuff of fantasy. This is not to say that Fred was less than manly but he was usually presented as a dancer in rather dandy attire, which to the millions out of work was a dream to get them through the worst times of their lives. Enter World War II and Gene Kelly. This was not a guy in a tux hoofing...this was Superman dancing acrobatically (or acrobatically dancing, you decide). Gene made the average Joe believe that he might be able to do this...after a few beers. Gene was the guy at the plant, your next door neighbor, a real man's man. When we later see Gordon MacRae, Elvis Presley or Yul Brenner onscreen they are actors who can sing but not really dancers; dancing seems to have been an afterthought. The toning down of males dancing in musicals might have been a studio idea based on audience suggestions or a cultural shift that doesn't return until the late 1970's with John Travolta in "Saturday Night Fever" and "Grease" and later with the inception of MTV and music videos, particualary those of Michael Jackson.
  3. 1) This scene from "Gypsy" looks backward as it is set in a theatre, which is the setting for many traditional backstage musicals. This scene is reminiscent to the early portion of "Yankee Doodle Dandy" where the action also takes place in a theatre. It looks ahead as the actors talk over each other's lines, which is something that would never have been considered a few years before. This is something which had taken hold on Broadway with more realistic acting in the post war era. 2) The coarseness of Mama Rose is seen right at her entrance. She is not a very likable character; she is brash, pushy, rude over opinionated with an elephantine persecution complex ("If we only had better management", she bellows as if it is not her fault). We see later in the film that Mama Rose is an overbearing, pathetic stage mother who pimps out her daughter Louise in order to fulfill her own feckless dreams of stardom. (Full Disclosure: I really love Roz Russell's portrayal and I consider the role of Mama Rose to be the musical theatre's equivalent to Lady Macbeth) 3) The singing voice of Baby June could peel the bark off a redwood as it is that bad. That said, having a little girl sing a song that will later be sung by her stripper sister is unnerving to say the least.
  4. 1) I feel that film musicals in and of themselves are less than realistic if not entirely unrealistic. Perhaps that is what draws me to them, I don't know...I have never asked myself that question until this evening. Therefore, a stylized piece like the ballet in "An American in Paris", the dream sequence from "Oklahoma!", Fred Astaire dancing on the ceiling in "Royal Wedding" or the "Beauty School Dropout" number from "Grease" to name but a few, all help to elevate the musical to a higher degree. If the willingness to accept characters who burst into song and entire small town's citizenry breaking into a choreographed dance routines is to be expected when viewing a film musical, than it stands to reason that an even greater suspension of disbelief is going to be required when needed to express what is going on in the mind of a character. The ultra romantic ballet in Central Park performed magnificently by Fred Astaire and Cyd Charisse in "The Band Wagon" is not just a dance number; it is the expression of their love and I will go so far as to state that this is onscreen sex writ large (and sanitized for 1950's audiences) At no time do any of these hyperrealized scenes diminish from what came before/what is to come in their respective films. 2) Judging from this clip alone I'd say that Jerry is a curmudgeonly jerk. He is a starving artist with a chip on his shoulder and has zero people skills (did those exist in 1951?). The only thing Jerry has are his good looks and a rather charming smile. (What is really interesting is that Jerry is completely unaware that the woman he just insulted is actually Lois Lane and when she tells her boyfriend Superman what happened, Jerry will be an American in pieces!)
  5. 1) Gene Kelly's moments are almost nonexistent until he launches into the song; Donald O'Connor is aping the professors behind his back, reminding us of the junior partner status of his Cosmo character. He is acting like the little brother but once the dancing starts he is the equal to big brother Don Lockwood. 2) The professor's initial role is to be a supercilious vocal coach; his job is to get the laughs by going over the top with his overly strict insistence that Don follow his tongue twisters to the letter. Cosmo's faces put the twist in tongue twister! The duo quickly take over and it is now the time for the actor playing the professor to have the thankless job of staying out of the way and allow the boys to create their brand of bedlam. 3) The professor is intelligent, fussy and persnickety. This is 1950's movie code for stating that the professor is most likely a homosexual and that it is fine for all to laugh at him. Cosmo is the immature little brother type of pal to Alpha Male Don; the two dominant males pick on the older homosexual gentleman. Fortunately, no blood is shed but a stereotype is allowed to continue unabated for another few decades.
  6. 1) By far, Doris Day was ahead of the curve in her portrayal of Calamity Jane. Jane is a stagecoach guard, which is most definitely--even by today's standards--is usually considered a man's job. Jane retains her independent streak which indeed does define who she is. This is not a trait associated with women of the 1950's. 2) Doris Day most definitely grew as an actress. Her portrayal of Ruth Etting in "Love Me or Leave Me" (1955) should have garnered her an Oscar nomination; her performance in "Teacher's Pet (1958) did see her receive an Oscar nomination. Doris Day played the personification of a character that filmgoers know as "Doris Day" and while she might not have fared well in a Shakespearean play, she was always the best at giving us the girl next door who always rose to the occasion...something very few actors can accomplish. 3) If the producers had wanted a sexy Calamity Jane they would have gone with Marilyn Monroe; a sultry Calamity Jane would have been Ava Gardner, a plucky CJ would have been Shirley MacLaine and an ice cool CJ might have been Grace Kelly. The producer(s) of Calamity Jane wanted a bright and sunny actress to go with their bright and sunny production and in the 1950's no actress was sunnier than our beloved Doris Day. Warner Bros. picked the right actress for their production. Now was this a historically accurate portrayal? No, not from all that I have read about CJ, but then again a musical isn't supposed to be a documentary. I didn't come away learning more about CJ nor was I yelling at the screen about historical inaccuracies. I believe that Calamity Jane is a fine Doris Day musical. I can live with that.
  7. 1) These are four people in search of an audience. They are brainstorming ideas off of each other almost faster than the lyricist can write! This is the grown up version of Mickey and Judy's "Hey gang, let's put on a show!" They ooze sophistication while being very free in their own skin to do or say (or sing) whatever it takes. As Jeffery says there is no difference between Bill (sic) Shakespeare's verse and Bill Robinson's dancing feet and so it goes here. 2) I think that three of the four are casually attired in that their clothes look like clothes and not costumes. Tony's suit, however, looks too tailored and formfitting to not be anything but a costume. It sets Fred Astaire apart from the group because he is not just the star of the motion picture but because he is "Fred Astaire" and people come to the movies expect to see a dapper Fred not a rumpled Fred. 3) I've always believed that Nanette Fabray tried to steal focus in this number. Yes, she is a capable performer but for my money it has always been Oscar Levant who walked off with whatever scene his was in. I could watch this number over and over because they are a fine ensemble that works so well together and you believe that they genuinely care for each other.
  8. 1) With Petunia at Joe's bedside she is still concerned for his health as well as thankful to God that Joe is on the mend. By transitioning to the outdoor laundry scene we are acknowledging the passage of time; Joe is no longer confined to his sick bed but he is in fact recuperating and sitting in a wheelchair. Petunia's demeanor is an ear-to-ear grin as her man is getting well. the concern is in her heart but now she is full of love and the prospect of life with a soon-to-be healthy Joe. 2) The song would most definitely change if Petunia was singing about her child Joe, just as it would change if she was singing about her lesbian lover "Jo" or a beloved hound dog named "Joe" or any other configuration.The cultural meaning would, I believe, remain the same: someone in love and expressing this love through song. 3) I never saw "Cabin in the Sky" until the other evening and I had to watch it again, as I was so enthralled by it. That said, there must have been thousands of filmgoers of all races who loved "Cabin in the Sky" when it was released and MGM should have made more films with black actors; history tells us why they never did. Damn shame.
  9. My first recollection of Ms. Garland is likely the same as millions of others, watching the umpteenth annual presentation of “The Wizard of Oz” on CBS television in the early 1960’s. I liked her voice and her presence held my attention every year. My parents encouraged my interest in old movies and the late show provided me with “The Pirate”, “Easter Parade”, “Summer Stock”, “A Star is Born” and especially “Meet Me in St. Louis”. (Full Disclosure: I am from St. Louis and “MMISL” is considered rather sacrosanct by its citizens and many of us wouldn’t consider it Christmas without watching it after coming home from Midnight Mass). It always amazes me that her voice lasted a in such great shape disputes the damage she did to it. “A Star is Born” by all accounts should have been a turkey but Ms. Garland gave the finest performance of her career. Simply amazing.
  10. 1) Even though "YDD" was filmed in glorious black and white, this film has always been in living color to me...specifically red, white and blue. From the portraits of former American Presidents lining the walls of the White House, to the flag on George M.'s lapel to the bunting and the flags being waved by the parade spectators, this is AMERICA writ large. OBTW: Just for fun, look at the scene @2:13 and as the camera pans from a flag waving in the breeze to the parade take note of the Hollywood Hills in the background. Who knew Providence, Rhode Island had such hills! 2) When the White House usher talks about seeing George M. about thirty years prior and he saw him courtesy of Teddy Roosevelt, whom he claimed loved to sing "You're a Grand Old Flag" while bathing. George M: It was a good ol' song in it's day. Usher: Yes sir, and it was and it's just as good today as it ever was. This is reminding the audience of one of the many patriotic hit parade numbers that Mr. Cohan had given to his country and that (hopefully) the audience will get to hear as the film progresses. 3) If the film had opened from the Rhode Island setting this would have been a film bio that went from point A to point B and so on. Seems rather bland and that an audience unfamiliar with the work of Mr. Cohan might (possibly) leave the theatre. By opening with our star James Cagney he grabs the filmgoer from the start. We know things will be fine as Mr. Cohan was alive at the time the film opened; no need to worry if he is going to die at the end of the picture. We are not here for a tragedy. This is a very happy and boisterous film. Sure, Mom and Dad Cohan kick the bucket but not our hero. We can happily relax as we watch this star spangled extravaganza.
  11. I have always thought of "Top Hat" as a genuine screwball comedy with musical numbers. The Dale Tremont character is as sharp, confident and shrewd as other screwball comedienes like Barbara Stanwyck or Roz Russell...plus, Ginger Rogers can sing and dance! It has been argued that the sexiest organic in the human body is the brain. With films being forced to clamp down on sexual situations screenwriters were forced to take the high road and sophisticated and witty dialogue started to come of age.
  12. I have never bothered to watch the films of NE/JM as they always seemed far to stiff and staged for my tastes. I should really give "Rose Marie" my full attention sometime. Mr. Eddy's singing voice is quite splendid; unfortunately I find Ms. MacDonald to be very irritating. Chalk this up to a lack of appreciation for opera and the recording techniques of the 1930's. The pair are fine but at the end of the day that's best I'll give them--fine. Perhaps this is generational but I found them to be bland and as exciting as mayonnaise on beige carpeting.
  13. "The Band Wagon" is probably my favorite musical. I have seen it more than twenty times and it never gets old or tiresome. That the musical they are attempting to mount is so awful and it forces Tony and Company to go back to light musical comedy and all parties (both on screen and we in the audience) are all the better for it.
  14. I would really be interested in pursuing more online film classes. Some topics might be: * A Century of Film Musicals * Monster Movies: Universal, Hammer, A.I.P., Toho and more * Rock 'N' Cinema: From Pariah to Payday * Whatever Happened To Originality: Why Hollywood Depends On Sequels * The Films of Sergio Leone * The Great Film Scores * The Rise And Fall Of The Western
  15. If Mr. Hitchcock was alive in 2017 with whom would he be collaborating? The easy answer is that he would seek out an unproven young-ish man from St. Louis and we would start working next week. Kidding aside, since he worked with John Williams on his last film it seems natural that they would continue working together. I believe that Phillip Glass and Danny Elfman might also be composers of note who would work well with Mr. Hitchcock. Giorgio Armani and Tom Ford come to mind as his costumers as they are very stylish and you know that it is their clothing the moment someone is wearing it. I also see Mr. Hitchcock working not only in IMAX (he would have been the first) buy also to work in television in partnership with Netflix, Amazon and HBO in telling stories longer than 120 minutes in length. I could easily see him doing a series.
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