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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? Had this song been sung less tenderly and emotionally, the entire meaning of it would have been lost. Fanny has fallen in love with an exciting but dangerous man. She has feelings wound up inside of her she fears will be unrequited. Nick clearly is not the type of man who will devote his entire heart and sole to another person, especially one woman. Fanny feels she must let Nick know how she feels and why he should feel the same way towards her. If there ever was a time for the soft sell, this would be it. 2. Note the emotional transition moments in this scene: how do the two characters relate to each other as the lyrics are sung? Whether the director wanted to spotlight Streisand in this scene or was merely trying to emphasize the diametrically opposite attitudes the characters had about relationships, the result is a minimal amount of interaction between Fanny and Nick once the song begins. They start out laughing on the outside, but on the inside Fanny sees she is in one place and Nick is in another. The song is meant to bring Nick over from the dark side to the light. Through the song, Fanny is actually pouring her heart out to Nick, revealing her innermost emotions and professing her love for him. Those few times the camera cuts back to Nick during the scene, he has a facial expression that could just as easily be reflecting amusement as opposed to love. He is absorbed in her singing, never gazing away from her, but never really changes his expression much or attempts to move physically closer to her. He is a man who tends to keep his distance from romantic love and continues to do so throughout the entire song. At one point, Fanny puts her hand down on a fence railing at the same time as Nick does. That's the closest they get once the initial dialog has been spoken. 3. How does the direction and editing of this scene support Streisand’s performance? Be specific about blocking, reaction shots, etc. It is clear throughout this scene that Fanny wants Nick to get closer to her emotionally. As the scene progresses, she is leading him down the street and he is following -- to a point. As they move onto the sidewalk and down the street, the shot is taken from behind and over Nick's shoulder which puts the audience's focus on Fanny, who is the only character who faces the camera as they start walking down the street. She leads Nick as far as the railing, but when she continues down the street to the stoop, he remains in place at the railing. The shots back towards him from behind Fanny emphasize the distance that remains between them, both physically and emotionally, throughout the second half of the song. In the end, she has emptied her soul and laid herself bare before him and there is Nick still standing where she left him when she first moved down to the stoop for the second half of the song. Fanny has tossed Nick a lifeline to reel him in and he has chosen not to grab on. Even the cuts to his reaction to the song speak volumes in that he remains a faithful audience, apparently liking what he sees and hears, but there is no indication in his face that he is buying into what she is selling. The last 45 seconds of the scene Fanny is stage front and Nick remains in the distant background, keeping his distance throughout and emphasizing the imbalanced nature of their relationship. In the last 45 seconds, the camera begins to zoom in on Fanny to the point that Nick gets blocked out of the camera shot altogether, ending the scene on a close-up of an emotionally drained Fanny.
  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) A common theme shared by Gaslight and My Fair Lady is that of a woman being manipulated by the male head of household. In the former, the goal is to convince the woman she is going mad. In the latter, to win a bet that he can make a silk purse out of a sow's ear. In some small ways, I also see some similarity in the behavior of the male and female characters in the scene from My Fair Lady and earlier scene we examined in The Love Parade. In each film we have a man who remains cool under fire, while the woman loses control and in their own way feels lost in the moment. 2. Note the emotional transition moments in this scene, how the actors portray them, and how Cukor supports them. Eliza is both humiliated and despondent at the start of the scene. After performing exceptionally well at the ball, it turns out she is given no credit for her achievement. Instead, Higgins takes full credit for the transformation from gutter snipe to lady and displays complete indifference to Eliza's future now that he is effectively done with her. She has suddenly realized the game is over so far as Higgins is concerned, but she is now caught between two worlds. She has been transformed into a charming, beautiful young woman who can no longer return to her previous Cockney existence, but has no true place in a society in which she has been trained to exist. Higgins enters the salon, totally indifferent to Eliza's state. Out of both anger and frustration at his attitude and her distraught state of mind, she hurls his slippers at him. He treats her like a little child and provides little more solace than a tap on the shoulder and empty words of advice. With each passing moment Eliza falls further into despair while Higgins stands above the fray, indifferent to her severe state. Eliza is often down low, frustrated and crying, while Higgins remains fully **** and calm. She is screaming her plight to him and he speaks in moderated, condescending tones back to her. 3. What do you notice about the relationship between Eliza and Higgins that seems enhanced by Cukor’s direction? Using close-ups and tight double shots, Cukor enhances the conflict existing between the Higgins and Eliza. In this scene, the two characters begin the action far apart but eventually get closer as Higgins works to calm Eliza down. Cukor makes good use of close-ups and cuts to both emphasize the emotional chasm between the two characters and the polar opposite feelings they are exposing. The audience is thrown to and fro, one moment experiencing Eliza's emotional plea for help and guidance and the next observing Higgins' dissonant responses. By keeping the shots close, even when both characters are on screen, Cukor lets the audience get teh full thrust of Eliza's emotional outbursts and Higgins' uncaring reaction to her situation.
  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? In the early decades of movie musicals the male leads were generally very masculine and were either pursuing or being pursued by their female counterparts. As the decades moved on, the male leads became less one-dimensional. Their various relationships with female characters began to reflect the changing sexual dynamics of the times. Oft times, the characters were less romantic and masculine. Their insecurities were allowed to show through. Unlike the earlier musical leads who exuded confidence and self-assuredness. (See, e.g., Chevalier in The Love Parade.) In The Music Man, Harold Hill starts out as the extremely self-confident male who pursues the librarian for nefarious purposes, to perpetuate his con. However, as the movie progresses he finds himself ensnared in an unforeseeable conplication: He falls in love with the librarian. He admits he finally "got my foot caught in the door." He finds himself losing confidence and ultimately needs her encouragement to face the music (pun intended!). He has to marshal up the courage to admit to Winthrop that "I always believe there's gonna be a band, kid." Earlier leads in musicals did not have to confront such personal crises. 2. What other specific qualities do you notice about Robert Preston in either or both of these clips? Preston has always be a dynamic actor. Lots of hand and body action incorporated into his performances. Early on he was cast in a lot of westerns and other action films at Paramount Pictures, often playing the bad or flawed character. While he could emote with his eyes and voice, he invariably was demonstrable with hand movement often grabbing on to his fellow performers. He acted with his entire body, throwing his whole self into the part. In The Music Man his character physically commandeers the townspeople to get their attention and gather them in the town square to hook them with his Trouble number. During the song, he points, he raises his arms like a holy roller, all done to tell his story and capture the audience's attention. He goes for their hearts and minds using not just his voice but every part of his body as well. As Toddy in Victor/Victoria Preston again seeks and keeps the audience's attention but with much subtler physical movements. The movements reflect the song being sung, designed to entertain a mixed audience. A diametrically opposed audience to the kind Harold Hill was playing to! The hand movements and use of the handkerchief color the story being told in Gay Paree, that being the second, less obvious interpretation of the long standing phrase used to describe the effusive night life of the City of Lights. Preston also moves through the night club audience to embellish his performance. Again, this is in contrast to his Harold Hill persona. In The Music Man he is always working on the hard sell, whereas in Victor/Victoria he is engaging in a more soft sell approach. 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? Preston's earliest work in film was in to a great extent in westerns, often playing a second lead and a less than honorable character. I first recall seeing him on television in Union Pacific (1939), co-starring with Barbara Stanwyck and Joel McCrea. What stood out was his ability to go toe to toe with Stanwyck, a brilliant actress who normally monopolized an audience's attention. Preston's character, an amoral businessman who attempts to sabotage the construction of the intercontinental railroad, both physically and emotionally dominated the film (IMHO). Perhaps typecast as an impulsive, hot-headed second lead after his brilliant performance in Union Pacific, Preston again found himself portraying western characters who come to a bad end in Northwest Mounted Police (1940) and Whispering Smith (1948), playing across from Gary Cooper in the former and Alan Ladd in the latter. In a 1984 interview, while filming Finnegan, Begin Again with Mary Tyler Moore, Preston noted of his Paramount years: "I played the lead in all the B-pictures and the villain in all the epics." Looking back on my recollection of these films, I still remember Preston's characters as much--if not more so--than the lead characters. This is a tribute to his enormous raw talent, honed further by his involvement in the method group. Finding out in this course that Preston was a method actor was a pleasant but not surprising revelation, considering how always immersed himself, body and soul, into each role he played. It does go far to explain why after all these years his performances still stand out in my memory.
  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? The setting is akin to the show within a show motif of early movie musicals. We get shots from the seats up to the stage and inside show biz terms and dialog, not unlike 42nd Street and Footlight Parade. Part of that is due to Gypsy being set in a similar time period to the earliest musicals. All that changes with Rose's entrance! Chaos now ensues and continues until she gets the pink spotlight on her kids, where she then turns her attention to popping "Balloon Girl" out of show business. The scene progresses with Rose ignoring the stage manager and taking control of the action. She entirely disrupts the planned--dare I say rigged--talent contest. The song is not the focus of the scene, but rather Rose behaving as an overbearing stage mother. The musical number becomes secondary to the action and to the story line. 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. Rose's entrance could not have been more intrusive had she entered on an elephant with trumpeters following in her wake. She didn't enter the theater, she invaded it! She took over the entire scene in the same loud, overbearing manner. When you think back one year to her performance in Auntie Mame, playing a character of charm and wealth, and dressed to the nines. Now only a year later, she splay a walking tornado, wreaking havoc wherever she goes. Her experience both on the stage and in film shines through in her portrayal of the ultimate stage mother, Rose. Russell takes command of the stage when she enters and keeps control of it throughout the entire scene. Similarly, she takes charge of the screen with her brilliant performance. You don't just see a driven woman, you feel her drive cascading off the screen. Even when she is sharing the stage with others, you can't take your eyes off of her. That is star quality. 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). Jules Styne and Stephen Sondheim, knowing they were taking a story about kids performing in vaudeville that would eventually blossom into a story about one of the most famous strippers in stage history, had a challenging task: writing a soft, pleasantly amusing song for two young girls while at the same time writing a song that became the anthem for ecdysiasts. They proved quite up to the job! The underlying music of the number can be played in a constant rhythm and sung with high-pitched voices of young children to actually come out cute and entertaining. Who wouldn't be amused and find themselves smiling at the antics of these two cute kids. Many probably have watched their own children or those of relatives performing in living rooms all over America. (See, Meet Me in St. Louis.) The same music, played slowly and erotically, is perfectly suited for burlesque. But the music only works because the brilliantly written lyrics serve as one long double entendre. Each line in the song has both an innocent interpretation and an erotic one. Absolutely brilliant!
  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? On the contrary, just as you can't compose a symphony consisting entirely of crescendos you also cannot film an entire movie musical in one particular approach. In The Bad and the Beautiful, one of my favorite inside Hollywood dramas, the main character is a producer who thinks he can direct a saga better than one of the leading directors of the day. The director quits out of frustration and the producer takes over and creates a monumental flop. His main failure was to make every scene a climax. Just as dramas need variations in mood and pace, so do musicals require the use of action, dialog, slow and fast pacing and variations in style to tell the whole story. The Broadway Melody number in Singin' in the Rain is a perfect example of using a stylized, less-than-realistic setting to change the pace and feel of the movie. It also moved the plot along as it emphasized how the introduction of sound would bring a sea change to the making of Hollywood musicals. Similarly, in An American in Paris, the ballet sequence is staged to reflect the fact that we are watching what is going on in Jerry's head and heart, not in his real life. Bringing famous French paintings to life fits in perfectly with a story about an American ex-GI painter trying not too successfully to ply his craft in the heart of Montmartre, where many notable artists had lived and worked. His unfulfilled love for Lise is played out to its sad conclusion when he loses her and is left standing with a lone red rose in her place. The stylized set designs and choreography are perfectly meshed with Gershwin's magnificent tour de force opus, which gives the movie it's title, it's setting and it's plot. Had the entire film been staged in the same unrealistic style, the impact of the ballet sequence would have been lost. 2. What keeps Jerry Mulligan from being completely unlikeable in a scene in which he acts pretty darn unlikeable? Jerry's character is not unlikeable at all. The greetings he exchanges with his fellow street artists reveals that. He is frustrated that his painting career has not been very successful, and he does not have an apparent love interest at that time which lends to his cynical and surly reactions to "third-years" and potential customers. It's clear he does not like the way his life is going and possesses a low level of self-esteem. People with low self-esteem tend to get cynical and distrustful of the rest of society. This explains his interactions with the art student and at first with Milo. While he may have been short on tact, he undoubtedly had the art student pegged as a receptacle for lectures she knows nothing about. His initial encounter with Milo starts off pessimistically, reflecting the many times his paintings have been viewed by tourists without a sale. However, when she displays a more sophisticated, experienced sense of art to the point of liking two paintings Jerry also liked and indicates she is willing to buy them, his demeanor changes completely.
  6. 1. How do the pre-dance movements of O’Connor and Kelly compare to their actual dance movements? While in pre-dance mode, O'Connor continues to play the comic sidekick to Kelly's more serious, alpha male leading man. O'Connor mocks the elocution teacher while Kelly plays it straight and recites the phrases as they are presented to him. It's obvious Kelly's character does not really require speech lessons so off they go into their magnificent dance number. The elocution book is tossed and they literally take control by manhandling the teacher. They move him into position and transition into the dance once the stage is set. In some fashion, they are working together up to this point, but with some slight variations. Once the number starts it's fast pace and high level dynamics at work. For the most part, both Kelly's character and O'Connor's are on equal footing throughout the entire dance number. Kelly always appears just a bit stronger in movement and O'Connor a bit more flexible, but for all intents and purposes this is a mirror dance with two brilliant tap dancers performing at their peak. 2. Watch the Professor all the way through and consider the role of the straight man. Poor Bobby Watson, I really feel for him here. After all, the guy's just trying to do his job! (Think Margaret Dumont.) In the early part of the clip, Watson is strictly the foil for O'Connor and eventually Kelly as well once the dance setup begins. Watson does a really swell job in this scene. He's not to get irate but to serve as another prop for Kelly and O'Connor to shuffle around while they make full use of the room. He not only has to take abuse from the other two, but at a couple of points actually has to step in time and movement with the dancers when he is being escorted across the room to set up the next part of the number. Note how they place him in a chair facing the desk so that the dancing done on the desk is actually being seen by the audience from a similar angle as the teacher. Watson's acceptance of all the abuse leaves the audience feeling like he didn't really mind what was done to him, allowing the playfulness of the number to come through with no sense of guilt to bring the mood down. 3. How do the representations of masculinity in all three men compare and contrast with each other? We are dealing with a trio of personalities in this scene. The dilettante teacher, the Alpha male and the Beta male. On the surface, it is clear Kelly is the Alpha and more masculine male character while O'Connor is the Beta male and loyal sidekick to his Alpha male pal. While we have little to go on regarding the elocution teacher, he is clearly cast and written to be a neutral male character at best and more likely a shy and bookish type. There is one notable place in the number when the Alpha and Beta males are clearly recognizable. This occurs when Kelly gets up on a chair and drapes himself with a curtain like Julius Caesar addressing the Roman Senate. A very masculine and confident pose. O'Connor, on the other hand, is on bent knee with the other side of the curtain wrapped around his head like a woman's scarf and nearly crying.
  7. 1. As you reflect upon female representation in the 1950s, where do you think this film character falls in the continuum? Why? The 1950s was a time of conflict for place of the female in American society. On one hand, women had taken a more equal position with men after having to join the workforce to replace the many men who answered the call of duty to fight in WWII. Women in the 50s began encroaching into the heretofore male dominated executive levels of business and commerce. However, there was also a desire to return to the era of traditional, conservative values, where a woman's place was in the home. Calamity Jane was a creature of her era, a single, independent woman making her own way in the wild and dangerous Western frontier. Jane, as depicted in this movie, is caught between two worlds. She has made a place for herself in a male dominated wilderness but this leaves her with a void in her personal life that forces her to try to assume the more traditional role of a helpless, subservient woman who needs a man to care for her. She dresses and attempts to behave as a more traditional female with some difficulty and eventually reaches a compromise, softening her appearance and manners but continuing to wear pants instead of a dress. Her challenge of being both independent and traditional mirror the role women found themselves living in 1950s America. 2. How do you think Doris Day grows as an actress in her various roles in the 1950s, before and after this musical? Doris Day started out, as many singers did in the 1940s, touring as the featured singer with a big band (Les Brown). Her singing career blossomed in the mid-40s and she moved on to a hugely successful screen career in 1948. As you might well expect, her early films cast her as a singer looking for her break in Hollywood. Even in her first dramatic part in Young Man With a Horn, she portrays a band singer. She then appeared in a number of films with Gordon MacRae depicting more traditional turn-of-the-century stories and values. However, intentionally or not, she continuously performed in roles that were less light-hearted and humorous. Films such as Storm Warning and The Winning Team, both co-starring Ronald Reagan, which pre-dated Calamity Jane and displayed Doris' ability to succeed in solid dramatic parts. In the mid-50s, while continuing to appear in musicals, she again took on dramatic parts in Young at Heart, Love Me or Leave Me, The Man Who Knew Too Much and Julie. In the late 1950s she was showcasing her enormous acting skills in roles that depicted her as an independent career women in Teacher's Pet (1958), It Happened to Jane and Pillow Talk (1959). The latter was her first of three co-starring performances with Rock Hudson and for which she received an Oscar nomination for Best Actress. 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. To a great extent, the Calamity Jane character is the most naive and unsophisticated character in this film. They say ignorance is bliss, and in this case Doris' bright and sunny persona is a plus as she comes across convincingly as the story progresses. She is constantly learning throughout the film. She experiences the big city when she travels to Chicago to bring back whom she thinks is Adelaide Adams. She learns about the man/woman dynamic and about love in general as she experiences both heartbreak and joy in her relationships with Lt. Gilmartin and Wild Bill Hickok. If she had started out as a worldly, cynical woman the film would not have worked as well as it did.
  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? The intent of the number is to convince Tony Hunter (Fred Astaire) that the classical dramatic actor/director, Jeffrey Cordova (Jack Buchanan), can be successful transitioning from drama to musical stage since in the end both genres are just different forms of entertainment. The number opens with Tony's friends Lester and Lily Marton (Oscar Levant and Nanette Fabray) and Cordova ushering Tony into a chair so they can start convincing him to go along with their plan to put on a show written by the Martons for Tony, who has returned to New York from Hollywood as his movie career has waned. The three alternate lyrics--working as a team--with the song until they are joined by Tony, indicating the plan to entice Tony into going ahead with the show is going to work. Throughout the song, the four are smiling and clearly having a good time interacting as they display the many forms entertainment can take. Unlike earlier musicals, where each character usually performed numbers either alone or with one of two people to tell their individual stories and move the plot along as needed, here we have a quartet of characters performing as a cohesive unit, highlighting the talents of each but for the most part all sharing the load. 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. The costuming matches the era in which the film was made, mid-century America. The men are dressed conservatively in jackets with neck wear and the woman is dressed tastefully in a light day dress adorned with a mid-century window-pane pattern, not unlike decor that was prevalent in kitchens and women's clothing in the 50's. All four are tastefully clothed and reflect the conservatism and uniformity of post-WWII and the early 50's. 3. What do you notice about the staging and interplay between the characters that helps define the relationships between the characters in the song? There is no question this number is designed to reflect how entertainers, like all Americans, need to work together towards a common goal to achieve what has been described as American Exceptionalism. The number opens with three of the quartet trying to convince the fourth person to join the team. They alternate lines of lyrics along the way, building up to a finale in which all four are singing in unison to a finish on their bent knees with arms held out to the audience. The fact that each of the quartet is only a part of a larger entity is reflected in a time step routine performed by Tony, Lily and Jeffrey. (Lester/Levant obviously was not capable of doing even a simple time step and goes off-screen.) Lester returns, tossing a handkerchief to Tony, and the group dynamic is restored. The lyrics and related physical sets, including the performance of an illusory acrobatic act, are all designed to reinforce the premise that audiences can be entertained in many ways. The scene harkens back to vaudeville comedy (the lost derby routine, the man on both ends of a ladder, etc.) to enhance the message that "entertainment" has had many forms over time and has continued to succeed in pleasing audiences regardless of genre. Perhaps most importantly, the characters appear to be having a ball while engaging in this number. The clear message is teamwork is both beneficial to achieving American Exceptionalism and it's good for you!
  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? This scene makes one thing absolutely clear: Petunia's whole existence and source of sustenance is her love for Joe. The camera closes in to a tight head shot of Petunia and Joe and his hand being lovingly held in hers. He has returned from the edge of eternity and is now back in her life, and she is glowing with joy that her Joe is back with her. Caring for him and loving him with no limits. The cut to the exterior laundry emphasizes how happy she is to be doing what for many would be an act of drudgery but for Petunia is an act of love for her Joe. Showing Joe outside and sitting up in the wheelchair evidences he is on the road to recovery, a huge step up from the weak bed-ridden Joe seen at the beginning of the scene. He also displays a cane, indicating he has progressed to walking. Petunia gently moves him back with a smile as big as all outdoors. Through good and bad, Joe will always be the center of her universe. 2. How would the song change if it was a woman singing about her child? Does the cultural meaning change? How? To some extent, love of child and love of a spouse can be similar. Devotion to each unconditionally would come across in a song like this for either relationship. Culturally, the man/woman dynamic is different than the mother/child relationship in that spousal interactions usually have a dominant/subservient factor to consider. The age old struggle over "who wears the pants" in a marriage is not the same as a mother's devotion to her child. A parent will always expect to be the dominant figure in the latter relationship. Nonetheless, selfless devotion and love to either a spouse or a child would have enough similarities to work with this song. 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? Almost without exception in films during the 40's, Black- or Asian-Americans were bit characters and often were portrayed as caricatures of their races. Usually playing servants and often there solely to provide comic relief. I have always been a huge fan of Charlie Chan movies, having grown up watching the films on TV in the 1950's. Now, while I am still entertained by them, I can't help but observe the fact that the lead Asian character was never played by an Asian actor! The black performers are chauffeurs, maids or butlers, and always portrayed as shuffling, ghost-fearing targets of derision. I cringe now when those scenes come on screen. It is clear they did not move the plot along at all and served only one purpose: to provide comic relief to the audience while reinforcing a racial stereotype. WWII presented a problem for America. The war was being fought on two fronts, in Europe and Asia, and black Americans were bleeding and dying in both theaters of operation. How do you encourage heretofore abused blacks to fight for their country when they were being treated like second class citizens. Remember, a good portion of the country--primarily in the South--still segregated their societies with separate schools, water fountains and movie theaters. Hollywood had the capability of depicting blacks as human beings with the same hopes, desires and family relationships as white Americans. "Cabin in the Sky" was a vehicle that served two purposes. First, it provided an opportunity for black performers to appear on screen and in movie theaters all over the country--the South being excluded to a great extent--to portray themselves in a non-stereotypical story and environment. Secondly, and more importantly, it sent a signal to black Americans that they too had a stake in preserving and protecting American democracy. Performers like Ethel Waters and Lena Horne had appeal for general audiences, not just the black community. This film was another step forward in helping lay the groundwork for what would later lead to the enactment of civil rights legislation.
  10. Actually, they did appear together in On An Island With You, a 1948 musical comedy. It was one of MGM's most popular movies that year. Lawford played a navy flyer who woos Williams while serving as a technical adviser on a movie in which she is performing. Cyd Charisse and Ricardo Montalbano were the second leads in what I found to be an entertaining film. Life is expectations. Lawford was not the best singer on the lot but was popular enough to have starred in this film as well as in Good News, Two Sisters From Boston, Easter Parade, It Happened in Brooklyn and Royal Wedding.
  11. 1. Thinking like a director and editor, describe how each shot spotlights key actions. 2. It’s interesting to examine how musicals segue into musical numbers. How does this sequence prepare us for the singing? This scene is brilliantly structured around both music and camera settings. The music has two general themes: the chase and the vocals. The director uses close-ups for singing and distance shots for the chase. There are also a number of visual and action tricks designed to move the scene along both visually and musically. The scene opens with Sinatra flipping a baseball as he exits the locker room. He's all baseball. Garrett sets up her road block. She's all Sinatra! The music matches their movements as he tries to escape. As he then retreats, the chase melody is played. This will recur on each wide shot/pursuit segment of the number. The director focuses on the "To Bleachers" sign as the chase begins, letting the audience know they are moving from the tight confines of the concourse to the open spaces of the bleachers, allowing the pursuit to proceed on a long shot. Garrett hollers "Hey!" and both Sinatra and the music stop. This signals a change in both camera shot from wide to close-up and from action to the opening lines of Garrett's song. Here, the action and the lyrics are synched for full effect. She wants to "play ball" so he tosses her the ball. Not the "play" she is interested in, so she tosses it angrily aside. She then traps Sinatra against a wall and makes it clear running will do him no good when she tells him "It's fate, baby, it's fate." The song continues in close-up. Sinatra puts out a hand to shake and she tells him she's not his brother! The singing stops momentarily and the chase music re-commences, letting everyone know we have a wide shot with pursuit coming up. Sure enough, they're off again to the top of the bleachers. Lap sitting and walking in embrace follow but everything makes it clear Garrett is in full charge of the action and the entire scene. Having refused his offer to shake previously, she now shakes his hand when she is ready and tells him they are "pards." The remainder of the number is shot in close-up, signifying the chase is over and his capture is imminent, as is the song itself. The director then uses a clever way to substitute Sinatra's stand-in for the upcoming slide and continue to show Garrett's control of the situation. He has her remove his hat and replace it so as to permit the camera shot to obscure his face at the end of the scene. Sinatra's last attempt to escape is foiled when Garrett catches--or should I say "captures"--him at the bottom of the railing, bringing the pursuit and the scene to an end. It is also interesting to remember this scene takes place in a post-WWII musical, allowing the film to reflect the fact that in American society women have joined men as relative equals in the workforce and can be depicted in movies as "take charge" people without turning off the audience.
  12. While his film career was not extensive, I did enjoy If I'm Lucky, a 1946 musical co-starring Vivian Blaine, Phil Silvers, Carmen Miranda and Harry James and his Orchestra. If you haven't seen it, give it a try. It shows up on TV every once in a while. No question his TV work on Kraft Music Hall was the best running variety show for almost 20 years. I still think his performance of A House is Not a Home is the best version of that song ever recorded!
  13. 1. What was the first Judy Garland film you recall watching? What was your impression of her? At the age of five my mother took me to see the re-release of Wizard of Oz at the Loew's Pitkin in Brooklyn. The two things I remember most were diving with fright under the seat when the Wicked Witch first appeared in Munchkinland. My other lasting memory was how spunky and take charge Dorothy behaved, while still showing unbounded empathy for the rest of the characters, notwithstanding her plight of being whisked far from home and not knowing if she would ever return. Garland commanded the screen even at the relatively tender age of 16. 2. How do you view her differently after viewing these clips than you might have viewed her previously? Having watched her films for over 60 years, viewing these clips did not really have any impact on my impression of her as a performer. However, they do serve to remind you how versatile and talented she was. Few performers could handle singing, dancing, comedic and romantic/dramatic parts as well as she could. From Wizard of Oz to The Pirate to Judgment at Nuremberg, we see the full spectrum of her boundless abilities displayed on the silver screen. 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? The standout performance in her later years was without question A Star is Born. Backed by superb songs from Harold Arlen and Ira Gershwin, George Gershwin and Rodgers and Hart, among others, Garland was able to once again capture the attention of the audience with her renditions of tunes like The Man Who Got Away and Swanee. But most poignantly -- most relevant to this question -- she actually plays the part of a storyteller in the Born in a Trunk number. The only other performer who could both sing and tell a story as well as Garland was Frank Sinatra. Not bad company to be in, IMHO!
  14. 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 in the White House was specifically designed to form a basis for the theme of the film, that of American Exceptionalism. Up until Pearl Harbor, there were many Americans who felt WWII was a European war and that the U.S. should remain neutral and isolated from the conflict. After Pearl Harbor the movies were asked to lead the way from isolationism to patriotism. This film was designed to remind the American people what they were fighting for in WWII. The inclusion of paintings of past presidents in the staircase opening, including the last shot of George Washington, through the 4th of July parade in Providence, was intended to get the audience thinking about how America had grown from its early revolutionary birth into the great nation it was in the 1940's. 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. The initial conversation between Cohan and the African-American servant about the grand old flag and Teddy Roosevelt was intended, in my opinion, to show the audience how patriotism ran across racial lines and that we all could and should work together to protect our country in its hour of need. Roosevelt's appreciation for the patriotism of Irish-Americans similarly was designed to bring us all together to fight the common foe. 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. The movie was constructed to take the audience back from then present-day 1942 to 1878 (the year of Cohan's birth) and then follow his life from the late 1800's, through WWI, and back up to the present. The opening sequence begins the saga and the closing scenes complete the circle, when Roosevelt gives Cohan a medal for service to America and Cohan subsequently ends up in a parade of soldiers going off to war singing Over There. From the title song of Yankee Doodle Dandy, to Over There and Grand Old Flag, the central theme is not just a biography of George M. Cohan, but a tribute to every patriotic American and the greatness of the country as a whole. As I recall from the dozens of times I have watched this movie, Roosevelt at one point says that the story of George M. Cohan was the story of America. A story of immigrants who came from all over the world to settle in and enjoy the freedom of being an American. This film was made to remind Americans what they were fighting for. The picture served as a shot in the arm to boost the morale of the entire country and steel them to the task ahead. Starting the film in the Roosevelt White House permitted the audience to be taken via flashback through the life of George M. Cohan and back into the present. The film had to start and end at the White House and subsequent parade finale to sell the audience on how they played a part of our great history, no less than Cohan, and that they had a job to do in the present to preserve and protect the country they loved just as Cohan had done with his patriotic songs.
  15. Not to offend Ruby Keeler fans, but I have always felt she was a triple threat: couldn't dance well, couldn't sing well and couldn't act a lick. While many say the studio dictates the performance, in Keeler's case I believe she could not have performed in musicals for any other studio. Powell, a classically trained dancer, was extremely athletic as well as being a magnificent tap dancer and would likely have been able to adapt to the style of any studio's productions. To a great extent Powell was a female version of Gene Kelly in that she could incorporate very physical movements into her dance routines but at the same time could match styles with a more sophisticated dancer like Fred Astaire. To some extent, you could make a comparison between Powell and Cyd Charisse much in the way people have been comparing Kelly with Astaire over the years. Powell was so dynamic she could be the central focus of a dance number. On the other hand, Keeler could only perform short, clunky routines and invariably had to be supported by a Dick Powell or a chorus line of dancers to complete an entire dance sequence on film. Her awkward, somewhat amateurish (IMHO) performances worked to an extent in the WB backstage style of musical but would likely not have transposed to the style of any other studio of her time. Keeler also had the advantage of performing at a time when depression era audiences were starved for escapist entertainment and would be much more forgiving of her performances than audiences of the forties and beyond. Costuming for each of the performances also highlight the difference between the two performers. Where Keeler had to be dressed up in ruffles and a bright white derby to decorate her and give her some character, Powell's military costume was neat, trim and emphasized her slender and athletic figure. Powell provided the character on her own.
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