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Cathy Bitler

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  1. 1 - The contrast between the more realistic scenes of Paris and the ballet sequence at the end helps to meld the film. The ballet make the rest of the movie seem more “real” even as Minnelli makes use of his traditional lush colors. 2 - I think Jerry’s “unlikeability” is meant to mask his fear of failure. He’s gone to Paris to practice and perfect his art but he is, at heart, and American trying to fit in. I remember thinking when I first saw the film, many years ago, that he is not a very like able character until he meets Lise. Love brings out the likeability factor that lies just under the surface in the early scenes.
  2. 1 - The scene builds as Buchanan, Fabray and LeVant convince Astaire that the idea has merit. You can see Astaire come on board and when he does, the threesome becomes a guartet with each member playing his or her part. No one character is emphasized over another. Even LeVant, who is clearly out of his element here, is a necessary part of the whole. 2- While I’ve seen this film several times, and this clip even more times, I had never notices how the costuming blends with the colors complementing each other. The husband/wife duo are in gray with the “singles” in shades of blue. The piece is performed on an unset stage with various backdrops and props that don’t seem to match the lyric but support the concept of “everything can be used”. 3 - Obviously, this is an ensemble show and not one in which there is a starring character with supporting actors. The dancing, the use of individual lines of the song building to tell a story or set a potential scene, and the camera angles that don’t put one character center stage all help to portray the sense of “community”.
  3. 1 - Until this week, I had never seen Cabin In The Sky an while I was familiar with the song, I had no idea it was featured in this film. Seeing this scene gave the song new meaning for me. This is a song of devotion; of Petunia’s deep abiding love for Joe. It helps us understand their relationship. While Joe is a bit of a scamp, Petunia is happy to overlook his habits as long as he loves her. She is convinced Joe can change and, literally, prays for him with all her heart. She is willing to sacrifice herself for Joe. The song sets up the plot. In the beginning, Petunia is forced to contemplate a life without Joe and she is devastated by that prospect. Waters does a great job with body language and facial expression portraying the change from grief in thinking Joe is dead, to relief that he is alive and, in the laundry scene, outright joy that he is with her. Joe’s love means everything to Petunia. Because of it, life’s hardships are bearable. I think it’s funny a bit later in the film when it seems the greatest gift he feels he can give Petunia is a washing machine - which would certainly relieve her daily burden - even if they don’t have the electricity to run it. 2 - The song would be different if it were sung from a mother to or about a child. I’ve always thought of Judy Garland’s version as a song about her son, Joe. Did a bit of research today and found she released that song in 1955, just a few months after Joe’s birth, so perhaps I’ve only imagined the link. 3- Cabin In the Sky offers what was at the time a typical version of African Americans. Women were often portrayed as very religious (Petunia) or “bad girl” types (Georgia). Men were a bit lazy and not necessarily bright.
  4. 1 - Like so many of my generation, The Wizard of Oz was my introduction to Judy Garland. I was fascinated by the story and the color, of course, but I distinctly remember being wowed by Garland’s voice. Upon hearing Somewhere Over the Rainbow I knew, even as a child, that she was something special. 2 - As a Garland fan (while in high school, I was invited to make a presentation about her to an English class), I have seen all of her films. I followed her from enthusiastic, bright eyed, spirited teen (i.e., Andy Hardy movies) to maturing woman (i.e. Meet Me in St. Louis and Easter Parade), to adult (i.e., A Star is Born). The fact that MGM allowed her to “grow up”, albeit keeping her younger than her true age as Dorothy, showed what a valuable asset she was to the studio. It’s a shame they didn’t value the person above the property asset. 3 - Her performance of The Man That Got Away is iconic. She sold that song, telling a story of lost love and regret. Judy was a master of the use of facial expression while singing and her eyes, especially, drew in the viewer bringing the lyric to life.
  5. 1 - The very act of opening the film with a visit to the White House and a private meeting with the President is a show of patriotism. Add to that the flag positioned across from FDR’s desk near the fireplace, the flag pin in Cohan’s lapel, the reference to Irish-American’s wearing their patriotism like a flag and the number of flags along the parade route and you’ve got a very patriotic picture (literally and figuratively). Any maybe it’s just me, but the darkness of the Oval Office seemed to reinforce the action taken by every-day Americans of the time: blackout curtains and conservation of resources needed for the war effort. 2 - The dialogue about flag waving, which Cohan says was part of his life from a young age, would boost morale. So, too, would comments about the Cohan family (the relationship plays out fully in the film). I was also struck by references to You’re A Grand Old Flag being a good tune then and now. Finally, Cohan says he wishes he had all the answers and FDR says he does as well. I think that’s a reference to the time and would have resonated with film goers. 3 - Had the film opened with the 4th of July parade, it would have been a fine biopic. Opening it in the White House adds the patriotic element important for the time period.
  6. 1 - The battle of the sexes does play out in this clip. Astaire attempts to woo Rogers (even before this scene - here’s just another attempt) and she’s having none of it. He adds the dancing as part of the courting routine. She quickly shows she is just as adept as he. What I see playing out here is the concept that a woman can do things as well as men and that Rogers doesn’t necessarily need a man to feel accomplished and complete. 2 - Dancing in this film is more dreamy and romantic than in other films we’ve “discussed” this week. The ballroom scenes especially portray men and women as compliments to each other. They touch more often when dancing together. For instance, in the first dance between Jimmy Stewart and Eleanor Powell in “Born To Dance” they two barely touch each other. Like in this scene from “Top Hat” the primary characters are getting to know each other. In the park scene of Born To Dance, Steward holds Powell in his arms but that’s broken up by their walk through the park and the bit with the policeman. When Astair and Rogers dance in ballroom style, it’s just them. They and the dance are the focal point. 3 - Women are beginning to emerge as stronger forces in their families. In some cases, they are working to help support the family. They are becoming more self-sufficient. The screwball comedies show the central female character more in this light.
  7. 1- By allowing the Alfred to break the 4th wall, Lubitsch involves the audience in the process - rather than being mere observers, we’re almost “friends and confidantes” of the character. I’m not familiar with Lubitsch’s work, but from this clip I would assume his “touch” includes portraying characters as urbane and witty - perhaps likeable but flawed. 2 - The drawer full of guns is certainly a clue to Alfred’s roguish nature and what we might expect from him in later scenes. I found the use of French in the scene interesting. When combined with the visual expressions of Alfred, Paulette and her husband, I saw it almost as a bridge between silent films and the new use of sound. 3- The gunshot was completely unexpected and - much like the aside at the start of the clip - captured the attention of the audience. I would think it rather a new sound for audiences in a movie theatre. 4 - Here is a great example of the idle rich being made to look a bit foolish: Paulette is happy to cheat on her husband, to ridicule him and call him names but still he clings to her. Alfred isn’t at all sorry for what he’s done, only that he was caught. I think this theme helped audiences of the time escape, for a short time at least, their every day lives.
  8. In the first clip, the characters are more playful which indicates the start of their romance. It appears they don’t know each other well yet but, if Sgt. Bruce has his way, that will certainly change. His comments and questions about Rose Marie’s mysterious suitor are designed to both solicit information and to show her what she’s missing by not considering him. The song is one way of showing off to win her affection. In the second clip, the relationship changes. She’s embarrassed to be caught singing in a saloon as that behavior certainly doesn’t match the image she’s been portraying - it simply isn’t her. While listening, you can see Sgt. Bruce change. He moves from simply chasing a pretty girl - perhaps one of many in his life - to truly caring about Rose Marie’s feelings. At this point, the relationship has deepened for both of them; she cares about what he thinks of her and he sees her as something more than a pretty face. The choice of songs in this clip is also interesting to me. Dina is a light hearted song while Some of These Days is grittier. Certainly the second song would only add to Rose Marie’s embarrassment. It seems in direct opposition to her character and its use helped advance the plot. The only other film I remember with Janette McDonald was “San Francisco”. I know she made other films with Nelson Eddy, but I don’t remember seeing any of them. Male/female relationships of this era (post-Code) were playful and flirtty - often with the man pursuing the female until she allows herself to be caught. Women of the period were portrayed as looking for a husband first (and possibly a career second). Men were big, strong, brave types who went after the woman they wanted in a more direct way.
  9. Musicals of this era provided a method of escape for many Americans and this film was no different. Yes, I believe it definitely portrayed life as more upbeat and gay. When people went to the movies, they wanted a version of life different from their own. Several of the musicals released during the depression did seem to carry similar themes: portraying lives of the day’s “rich and famous” or, in some cases, showing the “little guy” triumph (seeing his or her dream fulfilled). Main characters in musicals of the era worked together and showed respect for one another even when in competition, as Billings and Ziegfeld did in this example. I think that that the darker side of people and their lives would be “glossed over” or realitively ignored (as was the case in this film). Pre-code, Anna Held would most likely have been more scantily dressed (weren’t all the Ziegfeld girls?). Her song is in itself a double entendre and, pre-code, may have been played up.
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