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  1. It's funny, but I woke up thinking about this question just this morning: What makes a movie a musical? Where does the soundtrack end and the musical begin--or vice versa? I was thinking in particular about Guardians of the Galaxy. I heard an interview with Chris Pratt where he said that the music for the movie was determined before the movie was written, so the action and dialog was built around the soundtrack, unlike most movies where the musical soundtrack is added to the movie to enhance scenes and/or evoke certain emotions. Forest Gump is another example where the soundtrack is virtually another character in the movie. Do characters in the movie have to sing to make it a musical? That seems to me to be the main difference between the two types of movies where music plays a significant part.
  2. This scene is definitely all about Barbra. Although Omar is in it, he's always in the back--whether literally following behind her as they walk down the street (where we only see his back), or in the background seated on the railing as Barbra belts out "People." During part of the song, Omar doesn't even show in frame; however, Barbra is very much the center of attention at all times, sometimes right in the center of the frame. Also, Barbra is positioned in such a way that she looks taller than Omar. She steps on the base of the street light at the beginning of the scene, so even when Omar comes up to her face to face, she's taller than he is. Later as she sings, she climbs some stairs while he sits down, making her look much larger and more important than he, which foreshadows exactly what happens in their relationship later in the movie.
  3. After learning of Cukor's homosexuality and how he had to hide his true self, it helps me understand why he made this scene so powerful. I can well imagine Cukor empathizing with Eliza not knowing what is to become of her now that she's become a cultured lady, although she's really still just a lower class flower girl. She doesn't fit in either world, just as Cukor didn't fit in the heterosexual world he was forced to work in. Like Cukor, Eliza finds her strength and shows Professor Higgins that she can make it on her own. She doesn't need to marry (sell herself) nor does she need to depend on Higgins. So when she returns to Higgins' home, it is as an equal--although it may take Higgins a while to figure this out. He seems a bit slow deciphering human emotions and interactions that fall outside of his very narrow notion of normality.
  4. I love the way Robert Preston "talks" his songs. It gives them a feeling of being more than just song lyrics, that instead he's directly talking to his audience and including them in the song. He does this in both clips. In the Music Man clip, Harold Hill shows how easy it is to persuade people to think a specific way and jump on the band wagon. It's sad to realize that this is a typical human foible that is so easily exploited, and Harold does all he can to exploit it for profit. He thinks he's going to clean up in this hick town. Robert Preston plays this part to the hilt. It's easy to believe that he really thinks and feels this way. Unlike most of the main male leads in earlier musicals, Robert seems to be primarily an actor, rather than a dancer or singer first and an actor second.
  5. I'm not particularly fond of this movie, but I've seen it a couple of times. I think Rosalind Russell is absolutely marvelous as Mama Rose, but I think she's kind of mean to Louise. She's exactly what we think of as a typical stage mother--highlighting one child over the other based on perceived talent. And pushy? You bet! But she, unlike many stage mothers, has a heart of gold, and really does want the best for her daughter, not just the revenue she can generate. To me, this movie is a hybrid between the older, typical musicals and those coming up in the 1960s that deal with current events, such as civil rights (Finnegan's Rainbow, which I personally like) and the Vietnam War (Hair). It uses the typical behind-the-curtain story line that many of the previous musicals used; however, it deals with an edgier topic than those predecessors did--burlesque and strippers.
  6. Using a realistic approach to the movie makes the ballet at the end much more dream-like and stylized. Using both styles cues the audience that the ballet is imagination, while the rest is the real world. We all have our flights of fancy, so why should Jerry Mulligan be any different? I'm not a dancer, so although I appreciate the expertise of the ballet scene, I usually tune out until the movie returns to the real world. I do the same thing to all of Gene Kelly's ballet insertions in his movies. I'm sure lots of people find them very diverting, but to me they're just disruptive. They don't do much to advance the story, and I feel they are only in the movies because they are Gene Kelly's special babies. The only one I really like is the one he does with Jerry Mouse in Anchors Aweigh. Probably because it's shorter and has real story to follow.
  7. This is a fun, fun number! It's amazing how Donald O'Connor and Gene Kelly keep exactly in sync. Also, the tune is very snappy, and the use of the tongue twister exclusively as the lyrics is genius. Who would think you could write an entire song just using one tongue twister? Sounds ridiculous, but boy, does it work! In the scene, the only way you know that Gene is the alpha male is that he, not Donald, is reciting the tongue twisters, although Donald coaches him. Otherwise, the two men are equals. And they are definitely equals in the dance routine.
  8. Although Doris Day was very good as Calamity Jane, I always thought she was an odd choice for the role. In my humble opinion, I think Betty Garrett would have been better--someone who had already played strong female roles (Take Me out to the Ball Game, On the Town). Doris had the reputation of being very "girly," so I have a hard time believing her as a tomboy. However, Doris does a good job portraying Calamity Jane, and you certainly can't fault her voice in the musical numbers. She more than keeps up with Howard Keel. At times, though, her acting seems a bit frenetic, as if she's really having to dig deep to portray a woman who's trying to be part of a man's world. The scene where she tries to wear a dress is just painful. I feel so bad for the character because you know before she starts that she's going to fail at trying to fit the stereotype of a woman. She's not that type of woman; she's her own type. In this sense, the movie shows that women can fill more than one role in life--something quite different that society in the 1950s told us. I find this idea refreshing.
  9. The Band Wagon is not one of my favorite musicals because of the story. However, I really, really enjoy the music in this movie. Nanette Fabray is one of my favorites, as is Oscar Levant. I noticed that at the beginning of the movie that Fred Astaire plays a loner, but his friends Lily and Lester bring him back to the stage community where he becomes one of the gang. However, after the play bombs on opening night, Tony (Fred) finds himself alone again at the after-party--until he stumbles on the gang at their own much better party. Again, Tony is welcomed into the group, and this time he becomes their leader by keeping the group together by financing another go at the play--restructured to run as originally written by Lily and Lester. Tony goes on to prove that he is a great addition to the group.
  10. Petunia obviously dotes on Little Joe. Showing her in the bedroom and then in the back yard doing laundry shows that her love for Joe is as much a part of her life as breathing. Even if she tried, she couldn't stop loving him. Fortunately in Hollywood, the love of a good woman can fix anything--even a gambling problem. Joe gets a second chance thanks to his good woman. Personally, I would think that Ethel Waters would find the southern Black vernacular language in the song a little offensive. It makes her sound like a poor black woman--about the lowest station in the U.S. at the time. However, since the rest of the movie is written in the same language, I suppose it makes sense. As is well known, African Americans were segregated to all-black units during WW II. Therefore, it is not too surprising that there were not many African Americans portrayed in the movies coming out of Hollywood at the time. Other than musicians and band leaders and a few comedians here and there, there were few African American celebrities--and certainly no movie stars. Still, it is encouraging to see that a major Hollywood studio took the giant leap to make a mainstream all-black movie. It shows that some people in the U.S. were trying to fight the pervasive prejudice against African Americans. On a side note: It's obvious that Ethel Waters didn't do her own laundry in real life. Otherwise, she wouldn't have wadded up the laundry she took off the line as she was singing. Wadding means more ironing!
  11. Judy Garland is the first actor I remember from musicals because the first musical I remember seeing is The Wizard of Oz. I immediately loved her and could empathize with her. She seemed to really be Dorothy. Of course, I was 4 at the time! But as i continued to watch musicals--particularly those with Judy--I saw that she was always the same wonderful, real person. I was probably influenced a lot by my mother, though, as Judy was one of her favorites, too. I haven't watched many of Judy's early films with Micky Rooney; I prefer those that came after that had more of a plot and gave Judy greater breadth. The Harvey Girls is a favorite, as is Meet Me in St. Louis. She is perfect in these films. When she drops the guns in the middle of the street and tries to pick them back up, I always laugh. You can tell she comes from a more civilized part of the country. Also, the songs she sings in these two movies advance the plot line, and you can tell the songs weren't just "stuck in" to make a musical. And they're some of the best, toe-tapping tunes from Hollywood. At the end of Easter Parade when she turns the tables on Fred Astaire, she makes a real blow for women's rights. Good for her! She's not about to let anything stop her; certainly not a man! She's got enough talent to make it on her own, but she allows her man to come along for the ride!
  12. I've watched this musical several times, and I've always enjoyed it. You can't beat Cohan music! Although I understand the story does not really reflect George M. Cohan's life, it's still a wonderful picture. When viewed in historical context, you can understand why the writers emphasized Cohan's patriotic songs and made it look like he was the ultimate patriot (maybe he really was). It was important for Hollywood to reflect the national spirit and inspire patriotism at this time since the U.S. had just entered World War II. I like the way the conversation with FDR book-ends the movie. This technique makes the movie contemporary and firmly places it in 1942. If the movie had opened with Cohan's birth, the movie would have been a historical biography--a much different movie. Instead, it shows how Cohan's past contributions surely will continue through WW II to bolster the country's patriotism and keep optimism alive. One of my favorite scenes is Cagney dancing down the steps of the White House at the end of the movie. To me, this shows that the White House belongs to all U.S. citizens, which is ultimately what Cohan (at least, the one in the movie) would have wanted everyone to know.
  13. I didn't see this movie when it was on this week, but after watching the clip and reading the information about it, I'm going to see if it is available through the TCM app. It looks like it's very funny. I enjoyed Maurice Chevalier's performances. It's interesting that you can hear the couple arguing before they enter the room/stage, which is a theatrical touch. The focus of the camera on various items, though, is a cinematic technique. I found this a very interesting combination. The opulent apartment shows that these characters are of high society, a setting that many Depression Era movies use. Also, the fact that the main character (Chevalier) is royalty is a typical motif for the time. Americans love their nobility.
  14. I really enjoy the Ginger Rogers/Fred Astaire musicals, and Top Hat is one of my favorites. I particularly enjoy the supporting actors that are in the movies--Edward Everette Horton, Eric Blore, and Helen Broderick. They crack me up! Besides the obvious battle between Ginger and Fred, there is the other "battle"--not that it's much of a battle--between Horace and Madge. I absolutely love how she handles the supposed infidelity of her husband. Such a hoot! There's not much of a battle here, really, as everyone can tell that Madge has the battle well won!! Horace never had a chance. Madge's advice and explanations of marriage to Dale are some of the best parts of the movie. They show that women's role in marriage is changing. No longer are women merely chattel for their husbands; women are partners and just as strong (if not stronger) than their men. This attitude differs greatly from the Jeanette McDonald/Eddy Nelson movies that require Jeanette to be rescued by Nelson. Neither Dale nor Madge need rescuing. If anything, Jerry and Horace could use some help!
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