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  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? Fanny is supposed to be unsure of herself, and uneasy with her burgeoning feelings for bad-boy Nicky. To have her character belt out a song would be out of character. Especially a song about relationships and needs. That is a move of someone with confidence in their actions, which is definitely NOT Fanny. Note the emotional transition moments in this scene: how do the two characters relate to each other as the lyrics are sung? Nicky hangs back, not really interacting with Fanny as she sings beyond a few small smiles. Fanny on the other hand sings directly to him when she is singing about general things, like over protective mothers and their kids. When the lyrics turn to more personal themes, like lovers, she tends to turn her head away from him, often closing her eyes. It's as if the emotions are so intense that she can't work up the confidence to let him see her true feelings. How does the direction and editing of this scene support Streisand’s performance? Be specific about blocking, reaction shots, etc. Streisand is the star in this scene. She is centered in the frame most of the time, with the lighting strongest around her and edging toward shadows elsewhere. This gives her a spotlight to showcase both the character's struggle to understand her feelings, and the incredible talent she brings to all of her performances. Having Sharif off in the distance, part of the scene, but at the same time outside the action lets Streisand shine while keeping the story line of Fanny's conflicted feelings for Nicky in the viewers minds.
  2. 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) In both movies, Cukor used lighting to highlight the emotional states of the characters. He moves the actors in and out of shadows as their characters' emotions change. Note the emotional transition moments in this scene, how the actors portray them, and how Cukor supports them. Moving Eliza in and out of the light as her emotions cycle between sadness, anger and confusion, re-enforces the emotional struggle she is facing. Meanwhile Higgins roams around the room fidgeting with his waistcoat and the chocolates betraying his nerves. He isn't used to dealing with raw emotions, and this leads him to fluctuate between falsely positive and cheerful, to angry and short tempered. Both of these reactions only serve to anger Eliza more. What do you notice about the relationship between Eliza and Higgins that seems enhanced by Cukor’s direction? They both seem to be unsure of how to act with each other in this scene. She bounces back and forth between anger, disappear, and confusion. He fidgets around with his waistcoat and the chocolates trying to figure out what is suddenly wrong, and how to deal with it. Cukor has them both moving around the scene confronting and retreating. It creates a tension between the to that could be a result of anger, but it can also be the result of two people not used to expressing deeper emotions.
  3. 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? One of the changes I noticed was how the roles seem to become less about physical strength, and more about emotional strength. The emphasis is not on how high a man could jump, or how many spins he could do. The focus is often on how he projects his emotions, his vocal range, etc. What other specific qualities do you notice about Robert Preston in either or both of these clips? His ability to sing complex lines and still make the words understandable is amazing. His skill reminds me of Danny Kaye and his tongue twisting songs. 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? My favorite Robert Preston film is actually 1984's The Last Star Fighter. He was back playing the "flim flam man" role, but this time his goal was to save the galaxy. He had that same sharp articulated way of delivering his lines just like in The Music Man.
  4. 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 team work between the girls is a throw back to the ensembles of the 1950's, while the backstage vaudeville setting takes the viewer back the the earliest days in film. The fact that these performers are all "free agents" representing themselves, and trying to set up contracts directly with the promoters reflects the new business model in the film industry. 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. As a classically trained actress Rosalind Russell knew how to make an entrance. She projects her voice so the people in the very back can hear her, her words are clear and concise, she knows how to hit her marks on the stage, and how best to light a scene. All of these skills make her a top performer. They also lend an air of authenticity to Mama Rose, and also a little bit of sadness to her character. She knows all the right things to say and do, but never can grab a hold of the prize. 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). I think that the lyrics can be interpreted as both innocent and charming, but also as provocative and sultry depending on who is singing it, and in what context. On the one hand, a couple of cute little kids wanting nothing more than a little attention and the chance to make the viewers happy. On the other, later in the film, an adult woman asking for another type of attention while also promising to make the viewer happy, but on a much more personal level.
  5. 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? I don't think it does. The ballet scene is the show stopper. We expect it to be over the top, vibrant, and bold. These exaggerated elements aren't necessary to the rest of the story. In fact I think they would become distractions taking away from the narrative of the movie. What keeps Jerry Mulligan from being completely unlikeable in a scene in which he acts pretty darn unlikeable? I think he acts so unlikeable in the section with the "third year' girl, not out of pure meanness, but as a way to protect himself from criticism. He knows he isn't the best artist around, and he doesn't need another art "expert" to tell him that. We can see that he is perfectly capable of being nice in his interactions with the other people he meets along the way to his spot.
  6. How do the pre-dance movements of O’Connor and Kelly compare to their actual dance movements? Their almost prowling steps are foreshadowing the synchronization that will be one of the main elements of the dance. Also the faces Donald O'Connor makes behind the instructor, reference the comedic elements in the dance. Watch the Professor all the way through and consider the role of the straight man. Poor man is treated more like a prop than a living person. He has the unenviable task of reigning in the juvenile dancers put in his care. How do the representations of masculinity in all three men compare and contrast with each other? You have the wise father figure, the attention seeking alpha male, and the needing-to-please beta male all trying to occupy the center of attention all at the same time. The father figure tries to control the other two using his vast knowledge base. The younger alpha male is not impressed. He often looks at the father figure with an almost amused look, and responds to the instructor with thinly veiled sarcasm. The beta is just trying to make everyone happy. Complementing the instructor while mocking him behind his back to please the alpha.
  7. As you reflect upon female representation in the 1950s, where do you think this film character falls in the continuum? Why? I think this role is a transition between the 1940s woman who was strong, capable, and independent, and the idle 1950s woman, feminine, demure, and traditional. How do you think Doris Day grows as an actress in her various roles in the 1950s, before and after this musical? I think her roles become more complex, less cookie cutter. She gets to play more than just the girl next door, branching out into roles that include a woman caught up in the intrigue of an assassination plot, and a wife fleeing an abusive relationship. She displays a fantastic range as an actress and singer. Does Doris Day’s bright and sunny persona add or detract from the role of Calamity Jane in your opinion? Please defend your answer. I think it helps make Calamity more relatable. Even a hard nosed gun toting scout, can be a happy person. It goes back to her song on the stage coach about her joy at being able to help those she cared for. Not something an unsmiling morose person would do.
  8. 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? In this scene, each member of the group helps out the others by providing props, physical support, etc. In earlier musicals the performers often performed individual routines that paralleled their partner, but didn't often directly include them. 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 first thing I noticed were the colors. Astaire and Buchanan, the two single men, are dressed in blues while the married couple are in matching gray and white outfits. All of the clothing is unremarkable, everyday dress, not theatrical costumes. What do you notice about the staging and interplay between the characters that helps define the relationships between the characters in the song? I noticed that the writers often dealt with the props, bringing the handkerchief, carrying the ladder, etc. The performer didn't stray too far from signing/dancing/acting. The director bounced between acting/singing and promoting the show to his potential artist.
  9. 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? For me the dark room represents her fear for Joe's health, and that he doesn't love her. As he recovers, and her faith in his love is strengthened, the scene heads outside into the bright reafirmming sunlight. How would the song change if it was a woman singing about her child? Does the cultural meaning change? How? I'm not sure the lyrics of the song would work for a child. The lyrics are about her husband's charm and his physical appeal making her forget his short comings. What other thoughts do you have about this film, the issues of black Americans during WWII, and this film’s importance in this era? While touching on the poverty that many African American families endured during and after the war, this film's focus on the personal relationships makes this film accessible to everyone. A truly special accomplishment.
  10. Thinking like a director and editor, describe how each shot spotlights key actions. With so many wonder moments in this clip, I'll just focus one of my favorite parts. When Frank's character tosses Betty the ball in response to her line about playing ball with her, her look of frustration and her impatient throwing away of the ball really show her character's emotions. You know that she has tried and tried to get him to commit, and she is reaching the breaking point. She has chosen his "turf" to give him her pitch for why they should be together. It’s interesting to examine how musicals segue into musical numbers. How does this sequence prepare us for the singing? As many people have already mentioned, the segue from closed off hallway to wide open baseball stadium is a key visual clue to a change in momentum. The plucky strings that build to a crescendo are the perfect way to begin the new dynamic in the interaction between the characters.
  11. 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 walk past historic portraits, the flag waving crowds celebrating past military campaigns, the reference to the current numbers of stars on the flag and the assurance that more would come, promote the idea of America as a country that is strong, deeply rooted in its history while looking forward to a successful and prosperous future. 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. "You carry your love of country like a flag, right out in the open." "I inherited that . . ." I idea that a love of country is a source of pride handed down from one generation to the next is, to me, a basic foundation of the American national identity. 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. Starting with the somber present, and then going to the bright joyous past, reflects how most people describe their lives. We tend to focus on the bright and shiny idealized past, and play down the recent events. Especially when that present is troubled.
  12. What was the first Judy Garland film you recall watching? What was your first impression of her? I think like many people, the first Garland film I saw was The Wizard of Oz. I was probably 7, and I mostly remember the flying monkeys. It wasn't until I was much older that I came to appreciate her acting in this movie. How do you view her differently after viewing these clips than you might have viewed her previously? I am much more impressed with her acting skills after finding out from the lecture notes that she didn't read music, play an instrument, and she was not a trained dancer. Her natural abilities are amazing. She makes it all look so effortless. 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? Her song "If You Feel Like Signing, Sing" from Summer Stock remains a favorite of mine. I think it captures the essence of musicals. Whenever, wherever, if the mood strikes, celebrate it by belting out a song.
  13. What other aspects of battle of the sexes do you see indicated in this clip or in the film Top Hat? I think the "battle of the sexes" can be seen in the back and forth nature of the dance. Rogers both initiates challenges in the "duel", but also counters Astaire's "attacks" showing her dance skills equal his. How does this film distinguish itself from other Depression era musicals we have watched or discussed this week? This film distinguishes itself from others of this era by giving Rogers' character a stronger role in the story. She isn't the demure woman waiting for the man to save her. She is strong, with her own idea about who she lets into her life, and on what terms. What possible reasons might there be for the changes in roles between men and women depicted in these screwball comedy musicals that distinguish themselves from earlier musicals in the 1930s? I think the changes in roles during this time reflect the changing role of women in society in general. Many more women were leaving the home to work in order to support the family. While these jobs were typically low paying service jobs, they provided a sense of power and equality that is reflected in the stronger female characters.
  14. What do you notice about the Lubitsch touch? How do the props, the dialogue, and the staging help you understand the character of Alfred (Maurice Chevalier)? The sort of dot-to-dot shots of the garter, her legs, the purse, and the gun lead you by the hand in the direction Lubitsch wants the viewer to go. Much like the dialog screens in a silent movie. No ambiguity, just a clear cut "blueprint" for a sordid encounter between a married woman and a man who, judging by the collection of guns, has done this before. Based on this scene, what are some of the things you notice about the scene’s use of sound? Describe a specific sound or line of dialogue you hear and what you think it adds to the scene’s effectiveness. The most important sounds in the film are the actors voices. The gun shot is so faint that it is almost an after thought, and the rattling of the door helps move the story along, but just barely. It is almost as if the sound effects are after thoughts. Like the movie makers are still trying to figure out how to use sound, so they are easing into it with baby steps. What themes or approaches might you anticipate from this clip in other Depression-era musicals? I think the theme of the wealthy and charming, yet flawed, ladies man will continue. I also think the use of a more mature father figure, in this case the government official recalling Alfred back home, trying to redirect the actions of the romantic lead will be popular.
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