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Posts posted by mariaki

  1. 2 hours ago, Brittany Ashley said:

    I was getting caught up on Good News this morning. I've never seen or heard of this movie before this class and I really enjoyed it.I was on the look out for the themes and ideals we learned about this week and how it relates to the post war optimistic spirit. What a movie centered around college/youth, friendship and romance says about what American culture was feeling at the time. The war was over, the US won and people were feeling good and happy and had bright futures ahead of them.

    I also thought about the other post war phenomenon film noir and what those themes and stories dealing with murder/crime, corruption, sour relationships between and men,violence, angst, anger, hopelessness etc also said about what American culture and society was and apparently was feeling at the time. And since both Good News and my second favorite film noir after Double Indemnity is Out of the Past were released in the same year 1947, I couldn't but contrast what either film "said about" or spoke to people that year. I also remember something I heard Eddie Mueller say on Noir Alley last year that the year 1947 had an explosion of psychological/mental illness and murder themed plots. Symbolizing what soldiers felt upon returning home after the war- the fact they killed people and wanted to forget that fact (High Wall with Robert Taylor).


    Where OOTP is cynical GN is hopeful

    Where OOTP shows death GN shoes life

    Where OOTP is literally dark and filmed in black and white, GN is filmed in glorious and beautiful Technicolor 

    Where OOTP involves detectives getting reeled back into a seedy underworld of corruption and greed, GN involves attractive college students singing and dancing in the malt shop and being positive about their relationships 

    Where OOTP has lines about about gutters and guns GN has lines about school dances and football games 

    Where OOTP has illicit affairs and an implied by the Code sex scene GN features wholesome couples and chaste romantic kissing

    And so forth. 

    Film noir tells me there was social disruption, cold heartedness and unease following the Second World War but the musicals tell me there was hope and excitement about living and that "people have more fun than anyone" (Rita Hayworth in Down to Earth also from 1947). American cities could be sites of isolation and confusion (Joan Crawford's early scenes in Possessed, again from '47) but they could also be sites of wonder and amusement (the whole plot of On the Town). 

    Its so fascinating to me to reflect on the stark differences and contrasts of the types of movies Hollywood made after WW2. The fact that there were so many different elements and how they processed the war that went into people's feelings about where society/the culture was at present and where it could be headed in the future. Its a very nuanced thing to consider when analyzing the different genres that were popular at this specific time in history.

    Really great and thoughtful post!  Thanks for writing this. It is something I have thought about in reference to the arts of the 1950s in general.  It's been said that the 1950s had "multiple personalities."  On the one hand, you had the rise of teen culture and the carefree times of drive-ins and hops, but on the other hand, the Korean war starts in 1950 and the US gets involved soon after. On the one hand, you had economic boom, home ownership, and increased consumerism and "things", on the other hand the realities of what the atomic bomb could do (and fear of Russia) competed in horror with what was becoming fully known about the extent of the concentration camps. Civil Rights had not improved at all with the return of African American servicemen and McCarthy and his gang proved just who they were when they swept up homosexuals in addition to imagined or real Reds. But Lucy was loving Ricky and Father knew best, and Americans were bonding over TV programs.  Weird times!  No wonder the Beat Generation busted out and got "On the Road" and thought the "best minds " of their generation were being destroyed by superficiality and conformity.  In addition to the noir you mentioned,  Rebel without a Cause, Imitation of Life, All that Heaven Allows, Man with the Golden Arm - for me, these films help us see into the 1950s.     

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  2. On 6/12/2018 at 7:39 PM, johnatone said:

    My uncle, Emmett "Babe" Wallace, was one of the three top stars in Stormy Weather along with Lena Horne and Bill "Bojangles" Robinson.  He played Chick, the night club owner, singer and bandleader who was Lena Horne's love interest and rival to Bill Robinson.  He never received much acclaim and I don't think was even credited.  Not unusual in those days for a handsome, talented black man who may have been perceived as a threat by some.  He went on to greater acclaim in Europe with the Follies Bergere in Paris and in the nightlife of Israel. There is much material available on early black cinema.  One just has to do a lot of digging.  The Schomberg Library in Harlem is a good beginning point.  Vast resource!  Sorry to be so verbose, but it's a subject close to my heart and my family's as we had several relatives in the entertainment industry of the periods mentioned.  

    A little anecdote:  my father, who was living in North Carolina at the time, said that a traveling book salesman came to his door one day selling a novel he had written.  He was an African-American gentleman and his name was-guess...Oscar Micheaux.  If it's true, and I don't doubt it, Oscar Micheaux was also an author and did travel around selling his books to make a living and to help bankroll his films. 

    What a wonderful piece of family history! I said in another post somewhere that much African American contribution to entertainment is hidden. I've been learning bit by bit over the years, ironically, AFTER I left school and sort of through the back door, because of my interest in jazz. Your mention of the Follies brings to mind Josephine Baker, another great who went abroad to reach her full artistic potential. Of course, I had to look up your uncle and I nearly fell out of my chair to see he wrote and sang a song "Dizengoff" which is/was the main strip of coffee shops and clubs in Tel Aviv and which I have visited a few times. I love it when the universe makes these connections happen in front of my eyes. Thanks for your interesting post!

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  3. On 6/11/2018 at 7:07 PM, Brittany Ashley said:

    Thank you for correcting me. So these films were really made as an attempt to get white audiences to accept black people and performers? I knew vaudeville was segregated but I did not know that Mr Robinson played white vaudeville or headlined Broadway.

    Ken Burns' series Jazz explained that white audiences came to Harlem to see black entertainment, though of course the opposite could not happen. In addition, black entertainers played in white venues though blacks could not be in the audience.   And as far as the motivation for making Cabin in the Sky? It had been a successful stage musical and Hollywood sniffed money. Aside from any possible motivation from progressive individuals/artists, you can be quite sure the studio motivation was $$$$. I don't know for sure, but I doubt any promotion of tolerance or acceptance came into it. The fact that studios cut scenes from films so they could make their full dollar by complying with the racist standards of the south shows that money trumped ideals at the corporate level. 

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  4. Ethel Waters covered that song some years before this film.  Waters and Horne had professional "tensions" between them.  Maybe Waters had some claim on the song and didn't want it in the picture? She clearly couldn't be the singer in the film since she disliked Georgia Brown. However, if you think about it, she could have done a very acid-tongue rendition- "Fellers she can't get are fellers she ain't met..." but that wouldn't have been Petunia's style! 

  5. 41 minutes ago, Charlie's Girl said:

    Might not be considered musicals exactly, but the Marx Brothers movies almost all contained music -- Chico playing the piano, Harpo of course playing the harp, and the songs of Groucho.  Loved them all but some stand out more than others: The Laws of My Administration and The Country's Going to War from Duck Soup (probably my favourite flim), Whatever It Is, I'm Against It from Horse Feathers, and Hello I Must Be Going / Hurray for Captain Spaulding from Animal Crackers. Marx Brothers simply have no equal.  

    My favorite has always been "Lydia the Tatooed Lady" from At the Circus:  


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  6. Almost any of the early ones with Maurice Chevalier- and I say that as a true Chevalier fan. He minces and moues, overacts or forgets to act at all. The plots are trite little vehicles that showcase his skill as a lover. Did I mention I absolutely adore his films?   This song from Love Me Tonight (1932) is brilliantly shot and edited and makes this "silly" picture one of my favorites!  



  7. 15 hours ago, BlueMoods said:

    I'm curious what African-Americans at the time thought about blackface and how they reacted to it. I did a cursory google search but couldn't find much. But I know that a lot of African-Americans weren't happy with the way they were presented in Gone With the Wind (no character development or depth). They urged Hattie McDaniel to refuse her Oscar and weren't very pleased when she didn't comply. So I'm guessing they probably didn't think too highly of blackface, either. 

    Frederick Douglass was one of the first African Americans on record to speak out against blackface. However, there were also some very popular blackface minstrel shows in which the players were all African American.  Complexions were darkened and features were outlined. The whole era of minstrelsy and its move into vaudeville is a complex and fascinating period of American history and our history of entertainment. I don't intend to sound glib and light- hearted about images and acts that were hurtful and insulting, but rather to encourage people to look into the somewhat "hidden" early history of African Americans in entertainment. 

    University of South Florida library exhibit: http://exhibits.lib.usf.edu/exhibits/show/minstrelsy/jimcrow-to-jolson/african-american-performers 

    NAACP website:  Oscar Micheaux, early African American film maker:  http://www.naacp.org/oldest-and-boldest/naacp-history-oscar-micheaux/

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  8. It's interesting that quite a few posts refer to how Garrett "outsizes" Sinatra. When I watched, I was thinking how slim her waist was and that she seemed smaller than in On the Town. I grabbed a still from our clip to show a body comparison. Perhaps the fact that so many of us thought she was physically larger/stronger than Sinatra is a tribute to her acting skills building her character as an aggressor. 

    sinatra and garrett.JPG

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  9. I watched Cabin in the Sky (1943) the other day and am so glad I did.  What a beauty Ethel Waters is!  She just radiates personality in general and sings with such love to Joe that I can only assume she is a terrific actress. In comparison, Lean Horne, with whom I was previously familiar, lacked connection with the camera, in my opinion. Of course, that could have been the self-centeredness of her character, I'll admit. 

    What immediately struck me about this film is that African Americans are performing for themselves. In so many films, African Americans are performing "on demand" and for a white gaze.  Here, they are not trying to please a white audience and not submitting to racist expectations (i.e., the slow-talking stupid guy, or the eye-bulging coward.) Character speech styles range the gamut from heavy dialect to tough guy slang to standard English which adds to a realistic depiction of African American community- individuals who are not all cut from the same cloth and thus defy stereotyping. 

    World War II made it important to have national unity. It was sort of unspoken that race issues were kept to side for the duration as ALL Americans came together to serve. However, if movies are going to work both for escape and for subtle propaganda, a person needs to feel part of that national group, and how can that be possible if they never  see a familiar and realistic depiction of themselves on the big screen?  Enough with the butlers, the waiters, the Pullman porters, who were the black community as seen through the white lens.  Cabin in the Sky shows a beautiful wife and respected member of the community who is very powerful in her own way and with her own special skills (her faith and love.)  Kudos to Minnelli or whoever put this quote at the beginning which aims for an inclusivity of common "American values" :  “The folklore of America has origins in all lands, all races, all colors.  This story of faith and devotion springs from that source and seeks to capture those values.”

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  10. 2 hours ago, A Ryan Seacrest Type said:

    ... Wonderful stuff, and one of my favorite Best Original Song Oscar winners contained within it as Judy Garland puts everything she has into "On the Atchison, Topeka and the Santa Fe".  She sang, danced, moved and acted/emoted her way through that like a master, and that's the moment where I realized just how uniquely talented Judy Garland was.  Today's clips only further prove that too.

    I just watched Harvey Girls again today on TCM (On summer vacation!) and that number is so wonderfully done with all the townspeople having their bit to say. It's so energetic and captures the energy and excitement of the westward movement in the 19th century.  I love the "chug chug" dance move Judy does with a crowd of girls as they move next to the slowly starting train.  As a train fan, I am likely to break out in this song when I see a train go by!

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  11. When the lights go on....

    I just wanted to add that the ending of Meet Me In St. Louis, when the lights all go on as they did at the Palace of Electricity in 1904- just wow!  Thinking of the year 1944, America fighting on 2 fronts, the message is clear:  there IS a light at the end of the tunnel, so chin up.  There are bright happy days ahead and all will be well. 


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  12. I so enjoyed our professors' discussion on Meet Me In St. Louis, one of my all-time favorite films. I never could understand why that film always reduced me to tears, but after watching the lecture, I think it was the pure emotion in the film. My family moved across the country when I was a kid, and I don't think I ever really got over it- losing my friends, special childhood places that became almost mythic in memory, etc., so seeing the love  within this family and a father who decides NOT to move is touching.  "Honesty" is the word used in our lecture, and that nails it. Judy and this film radiate honest sentiment without being treacly.  And when the world sometimes seems hard and tragic, as it must have seemed to wartime audiences and often seems to me, the richness of the mise-en-scene and sumptuous color is wonderful escapism.  

    I love the time capsule aspect of this film as well. Made in 1944, there must have been people working on the film who remembered first-hand how life was in 1903. This made exquisite detail like the turning out the gas lights, boiling homemade ketchup, and the magnificent excitement of the World's Fair. I know you don't have to live through an era to recreate it, but there is such detail in the activities of the characters that I feel some must have been drawn from writers' lived experiences.  It's fascinating just to see the Halloween traditions of the past, when kids were quite destructive and there were no princess costumes! 

    The Harvey Girls is another great time capsule of Americana which I find fascinating, and I was thrilled to stay at El Tovar at the Grand Canyon, the only remaining Harvey Hotel. I think this film is quite boldly feminist for its time, and that might reflect the attitude of many 1946, post-war women who were not content to go back to being "only" homemakers once the men had returned from war. Judy was delightfully plucky and adventurous in Harvey Girls, really the center of everything and I can't imagine anyone else in that role.   

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  13. The slow climb up the White House stairs was a wonderful opportunity to work in a conversation with the African American butler as they talked about patriotism with portraits of US presidents behind them.  Even though Cohan was a major celebrity at that time, it rather brought to mind the great ascent of the "simple" Irish immigrant family and how that could only happen in America. This really kicks in when the flashback shows Cohan's father in a sort of "leprechaun" suit in start old-world contrast to his fully integrated American son. 

    In FDR's office, the walls are covered with pictures of ships, many of which are great sailing ships. Ships brought immigrants, helped build the country and in 1942 have a martial overtone. Ships, and the sailors in them, imply duty, service, and self-sacrifice. I can imagine the Office of War Information was grinning ear to ear with mise-en-scene of Yankee Doodle Dandy!   Also in the office, one can't help but notice the flag pin on Cohan's lapel.  

    In the flashback, the music hall sign announces "Zouaves" which I found very interesting. Zouaves were originally French North African troops, but later many tough army units around the world took on that title. There were even American Zouave units in the Civil War and Louisiana French Zouaves, so I don't know if that theatrical show was about the Civil War (a few years before Cohan's parade flashback,  or if the Zouaves are a reference to the "exotic" fighting abroad, which, in the contemporary 1942 era, included North Africa.

    Just as an aside, as a teacher, I am very conscious of the lack of color in many crowd scenes in so-called "typical American cities"  when I show films or clips to my students. (Yes, I understand that we have to view these as historical artifacts, and the fact is I never looked at the films for race until I began to teach.) I just think would it have killed casting, even back in 1942,  to add a few non-white faces in the crowd of the parade, faces of people who were also very patriotic? Sometimes I wonder with all the Jewish people in the Studio System who knew what prejudice was, why they weren't a little more sensitive. 

  14. I see quite a few responses who did not see a battle of the sexes.  I will say I didn't see much "battle" either, but I did notice around 2-3 times when Ginger moved first and Fred followed or Ginger added some flourish that Fred noticed but was too late to copy. I sensed a slight one upsmanship on her part when it could be fit in. However, and this is a big however, I thought the way he grabbed her in his arms for the close dancing segment was brutal. It was manhandling! I can't believe I am saying this about Astaire, but when I view this through the lens of battle of the sexes, that is what I see. 

    I would also like to add that the later musicals show just how different the rich really are from the rest of "us." Of course, there is the wonderful escapism of the sets and wardrobe, but also I believe that class can really dictate gender behavior. Upper class women of the kind who jet set around Europe certainly had (in the movies and in reality) a different "license" to behave than lower and middle class women in Akron or Bakersfield in the 1930s. (Though not a musical, "My Man Godfrey" really makes that point!) 

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  15. I think the mix of French and English was very cleverly done. The audience gets the plot without understanding French up to the point where the "twist" is exposed and Chevalier says "her husband." The audience had assumed until that point that the the husband and jealous wife were Chevalier and the woman. Sound-wise, the only bit of music is when the husband holding the gun steps menacingly toward Chevalier. It's like a parody of a melodrama, an interruption in the comedy.

    On the other hand, it is also a  highly visual scene. It's hysterical where Chevalier and the husband examine the gun together to see why Chevalier is not dead!  

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  16. I think Jeanette MacDonald is brilliant- a great actress, wonderful voice, and beautiful with expressive eyes. One of my favorite films with her is San Francisco with Clark Gable, though he is so darkly sexy in the way he sizes her up  that I feel he could eat the "lady-like" MacDonald alive. Nelson Eddy is more of an equal sexual match for her with his more "gentlemanly" and non-threatening charisma.

    I noticed in the clip how the bar girls latched on to Eddy when he entered the saloon and he was quite happy they did. However, as he begins to focus on MacDonald and her attempt to sing, a nice little piece of acting (for the so-called "wooden" Eddy") softens his face and eyes and he sort of brushes away the hands of one of the girls at the table. He may be a heroic Mountie, but he's also a guy in uniform who seems comfortable with buying a working girl a drink until MacDonald comes along. We also get another hint of his character with his teasing conversation in the canoe about changing the girls' names in the song to suit the moment. A great line, by the way "Nothing worked with Maud."  

  17. I've been singing the praises of this class to my colleagues at State College of Florida.  I absolutely love the clever lecture delivery format of a conversation that is notes-based yet allowed to move organically.  The Canvas organization was superb and easy to follow, the material was  perfect for all levels to find something interesting and new, and the student contributions were thoughtful and diverse. 


    Thank  you to TCM and Professors Edwards and Gehrig, to our guest Alexandre Philippe and to my classmates who made such excellent presentations. I'm looking forward to seeing the remaining fan panels on Monday. 

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    8. Mississippi Mermaid - France ,1969 - Francois Truffaut's film of passion, betrayal and deception, starring Jean-Paul Belmondo and Catherine Deneuve is a classic homage to "The Master" himself.




    Oh my gosh this is one my favorite films and you are SO right!  There's an abundance of motifs in this film as well as a huge psychoanalytic overlay which is very Hitchcockian,  And speaking of cool blonds - Catherine Deneuve! 

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  19. Looking back through these posts (which are GREAT) I'm glad to see a couple of references to the other grand man of 20th century cinema -- Orson Welles.  In addition to Touch of Evil and The Lady from Shanghai, I would like to add a film in which Welles appeared, The Third Man.  To me, the film has certain aspects of North by Northwest and certainly a film noir feel.  Perhaps even add Citizen Kane to the list, coming out a year after Rebecca and featuring one of the first Bernard Herrmann scores.


    I have often wondered how much Hitchcock and Welles may have influenced each other as they 'grew up' in Hollywood at about the same time -- Hitch being able to navigate the landscape of the studio system much better than Welles.  Does anyone know of anything that has been written or analyzed about this?

    I would also add Welles' The Stranger with Edward G. Robinson, 1946.  There is a touch of Shadow of a Doubt in it- the evil from the outside world entering an idyllic small town. There's also a nice stairway chase up a clock tower which is not only vertiginous but reminds me of the windmill stairs in Foreign Correspondent - maybe it's the wood structure and the black and white.  It fits the "spy" Hitchcock template in many ways. 

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