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About SRG

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  • Birthday January 13

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    Chicago Area, Illinois
  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? Unlike theatre, film magnifies the emotion, so for Streisand to belt the song and be more theatrical would have made the emotions exaggerated and over the top and we wouldn’t feel as compassionate towards Brice in this number. The opening of the scene is an intimate discussion between the two characters on what their lives are now and finding that, from different perspectives, their lives are similar. They lyrics themselves are more reflective of Brice’s fragile emotions. She wants to put herself out there and open herself to love but is fearful of rejection, especially because she feels Arnstein is so out of her league. If she began (and sustained) the song in a more theatrical fashion, it would negate the intimacy they just created. Note the emotional transition moments in this scene: how do the two characters relate to each other as the lyrics are sung? Brice begins the song very soft and slow, even segueing into talking portions of the lyric. She is beginning to open up to Arnstein. As the emotions pour out of here, she can become more expressive and theatrical. Because of the gradual crescendo of the piece, Brice goes from being fearful of rejection to showing her desire that she truly wants to be in that kind of relationship that she feels is out of her grasp. How does the direction and editing of this scene support Streisand’s performance? Be specific about blocking, reaction shots, etc. Up to this point, Brice has absolute confidence in her talent, but never sees herself as an attractive woman. She is enamored of Arnstein, but simultaneously, doesn’t believe he could fall in love with someone like her. In this scene, she is at “home” in Henry Street. Brice keeps her distance from Arnstein, as well as keeping objects between them (lamp post, stair bannister). And yet, his focus is completely on her throughout the scene. She looks away on the line “Lovers are very special people.” She is both embarrassed to express her feelings and fearful of rejection because she feels they are from two different worlds but, as the camera pulls back, we see Arnstein leaning at the railing, looking very much at home in her area of New York. The scene ends with Brice in the foreground, Arnstein in the background. She has ascended the stairs almost as if it were a stage, a place where Brice is the most comfortable (and now Arnstein is in the “audience” looking up at her). This will also foreshadow the end of their relationship because he would always be in the background.
  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) Firstly, I’d like to comment on Cukor’s label as a “woman’s director.” I feel this was terribly unfair because he’s truly an actor’s director with no preference to one sex over another. As noted in the lecture notes, he won more awards for films featuring men. What Cukor did was to allow the actor (male and female) to focus on the character. I read once that Cukor liked to watch his actors lose control and we see this in various scenes in The Women (1939), Gaslight (1944) and A Star is Born (1954), to name a few. In Gaslight, Ingrid Bergman tries terribly hard not to lose control but is being manipulated by Charles Boyer. Both Eliza Doolittle and Paula Alquist are manipulated by the men in their lives. Cukor uses close-ups to focus on the characters, but also pulls back to show the relationship of the characters. In My Fair Lady, we often see Higgins standing, maintaining the role of the teacher. In the scene shown here, the characters don’t look at one another directly. Charles Boyer, as Gregory Anton, almost looks through Paula which we first believe is the character acting in charge but it turns more ominous as we learn he is the one behind the plot to drive her mad. Both films use sumptuous backgrounds and both female characters find themselves backed into a corner, both literally and figuratively. In Gaslight, a black and white film, the characters blend more into their surroundings. Cukor doesn’t pull back as much as he does in My Fair Lady, but Gregory’s world is small and Higgins’s larger. Note the emotional transition moments in this scene, how the actors portray them, and how Cukor supports them. Eliza comes out from the shadows and is interrupted by Higgins and she explodes. Higgins is immediately on the defensive and takes control of the situation by assuming the teacher/lecturer role and tries to reason with Eliza. He does not hesitate to correct her when she uses improper grammar (“them slippers”). Cukor begins the scene with tighter shots on Eliza but, once Higgins enters the scene, Cukor pulls back to show the characters in the environment. Even in evening dress, Higgins is comfortable in this setting while Eliza is out of place. What do you notice about the relationship between Eliza and Higgins that seems enhanced by Cukor’s direction? In this particular scene, Eliza is uncertain of her future. She stands between her old world and the possibility of a new one, illustrated by her speeches in which she uses Cockney phrasing, but with the polish of proper English pronunciation. Higgins, on the other hand, prefers the status quo and sees no reason why anything has changed. He offers her chocolates, something that had appeased her in other situations. When Higgins feels out of control (he doesn’t quite know whether to put his hand in his pocket, he fiddles with his jacket), he immediately goes back into the role of teacher. As he decides Eliza is just overwrought, his manner becomes more typical of the way we’ve seen Higgins in the film. Cukor has the actors together in the scene, but after Eliza tries to attack Higgins, they rarely look directly at each other. We, the audience, see Eliza’a anguish because she is facing us and, facing her back, Higgins can’t see the real Eliza, only his creation--in fancy dress and jewels to perpetuate the illusion—and there is a sense of pride in what he has created.
  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? The biggest change in male respresentation of this time is that the male characters have real flaws. Earlier musicals might have the upright, stoic character (Nelson Eddy) or elegant gentleman (Fred Astaire). Any “flaws” these characters might have are often due to the situation or a misunderstanding (e.g., the female lead may believe the hero is married). In these years, the male characters have true flaws—he is a conman, a gambler, a lothario. I don’t necessarily want to imply that the male is “saved” by the love of a good woman but, instead, comes to realize that his life can be better. The musicals of this period also do not necessarily have to have the obligatory happy ending. Fanny Brice and Nick Arnstein do not save their marriage, Guenivere leaves King Arthur for Sir Lancelot and the Round Table is destroyed. What other specific qualities do you notice about Robert Preston in either or both of these clips? One thing I love about Preston’s performance in The Music Man is that he is so light on his feet and almost “bounces.” I had heard a story that, while in rehearsal for the stage version of The Music Man, dance rehearsals were on one floor of a building (before they moved to the actual venue), singing rehearsals on another, and blocking on yet another. Since his presence was require at all of these, Preston wore sneakers to run from one floor to another. He found that the running up and down stairs gave him a feel for the character who needs to be ready to run away at a moment’s notice. He brings that same energy to the film version. In Victor/Victoria, he doesn’t play Toddy as completely straight nor as completely effeminate, just human. He only plays the character as effeminate when someone “expects” him to act in that manner, such as in the nightclub scene or when he emphasizes a point to Victoria. And I believe that’s why this performance gained so much recognition. As an actor, Preston connects with people in the scene, he’s not just singing at the crowd in The Music Man. In “Trouble,”—he speaks with the individuals and with the crowd. Later, in the “Sadder, but Wiser Girl” number, after the line “I hope, I pray, for Hester to win just one more A,” he specifically looks over to the little girl knowing that was something he shouldn’t say in front of an innocent. In this number from Victor/Victoria, he’s not just singing at the crowd but interacting with the individuals. Many actors haven’t the faintest idea what to do with their hands. Robert Preston and Danny Kaye are the exceptions. Their hands are almost as choreographed as their feet. In this scene from The Music Man, Preston constantly touches the grocer or directs his attention this way and that, pulling people into the crowd, etc. It reminds me of the way a magician uses his hands as a form of misdirection and showmanship. 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? Although I’ve seen Preston in many non-musicals shows, what I always remember (whether he is playing a supporting character or the lead), he is very present in the scene. He was an actor who listened, not just reacted to the other characters in the film. In a made-for-TV film, September Gun, he even has a wonderful on-screen relationship with his dog.
  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? Based on a popular Broadway hit (similar to The Bells are Ringing, Music Man, etc.) and typical to earlier musical numbers, this one is very proscenium-based (as are most of the numbers in this piece)—all takes place on a single set and the audience is the casual observer. In this particular scene the musical number does help to move the plot, but it is also an inserted piece. Until we see this same song used in the rest of the film, this song doesn’t have particular significance. Unlike a lot of the earlier musicals, there are no particularly “big production” numbers with the full cast – it remains intimate. Based on the life of Gypsy Rose Lee, it’s also a coming of age story and how she develops from the no-talented sister to a star in her own right and on her own terms. 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. Mama Rose rushes into the scene in the same way she rushes in and takes over the business of handling her daughters’ careers. She charges down the theatre aisle with the now famous “Sing out, Louise!” While she is giving instructions to anyone and everyone, even passing along the dog to hold while she takes over, she also ingratiates herself with the men by saying she’s an honorary member of whatever fraternal organization to which they happen to be a member. At the same time she’s complimenting the orchestra conductor, she is also instructing him in how exactly she wants the part played. She knows what to do and what to say to get the work done. The fact that Rosalind Russell is an accomplished stage and screen actress only helps to make what can be an obnoxious character into one that we can admire for her chutzpah. She is trying to do what is best for her children, knows what she needs to do and does her utmost to get it. We know we’re supposed to dislike her for pushing her children into show business and yet we ache for her when the children leave and don’t need her anymore. Like her character in His Girl Friday, Russell expertly talks over the other characters and can do this without the audience losing either side of the conversation. She has a subtlety that not a lot of screen actors have: the slight arch of an eyebrow, a look. We don’t need to see her popping all of the little girl’s balloons (although we do hear one pop)—it’s her “look” and the smooth taking out of the hairpin that gives the audience all they need to know—she means business and she won’t anyone get in her way. 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). What I love about the “Let Me Entertain You” number is how it changes in the course of the film. In this particular scene, it’s quite innocent – a little girl wants to entertain and she will dance and sing. Later, when Gypsy becomes a stripper, although the lyrics do not change essentially, it now sexually charged both by how the rhythm of the song becomes more syncopated and Natalie Wood’s more seductive performance. The lyrics “And if you’re real good, I’ll make you feel good. I want your spirits to climb…” now take on a whole new connotation.
  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? Had the film been presented in a more stylized setting throughout, it would detract from the final ballet sequence. We’ve seen the “real” Paris (albeit on the MGM backlot) and Jerry’s struggle as an artist. To have these scenes in a more stylized setting would not provide the same sense of character and might make the audience question whether Jerry is merely playing at being an artist or seriously pursuing it. The final sequence is Jerry’s fantasy and what better way to present it than the stylized drawings of Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec which includes vibrant colors with delicate strokes. Although, I must admit that An American in Paris is not a favorite film of mine. I can appreciate the artistry of the ballet sequence, but I have always found that it (a) is too long of a sequence even though it is choreographed to the Gershwin concerto and (b) is a cumbersome ending to the film. What keeps Jerry Mulligan from being completely unlikeable in a scene in which he acts pretty darn unlikeable? The sequence with Nina Foch is preceded by scenes of him walking through Paris to his “spot” on the wall. Here, we see him as a very friendly character, saying hello to his fellow artists. So we’re already predisposed to liking him. Granted, Jerry Mulligan treads a fine line between acting and being unlikeable, but I prefer to think of Jerry as more “brutally honest” rather than unlikeable. He doesn’t tolertate fools lightly as demonstrated with his interactions with Noel Neill as the “third year girl,” starting by stopping her from speaking French with absolutely no trace of (nor the desire to try and emulate) an appropriate accent. He says he doesn’t particularly like criticism (who does?) but especially not when it comes from someone expounding their uneducated opinions. He’s incredulous that someone is actually willing to purchase his paintings and, given the offer, doesn’t even know what to charge for his works. It’s that disbelief that softens his demeanor and makes him more human. And we, as the audience, even feel sorry for him when he believes Nina Foch’s character is just handing him a line because she doesn’t have the money she promised.
  6. How do the pre-dance movements of O’Connor and Kelly compare to their actual dance movements? As the film has progressed, the relationship between Cosmo and Lockwood has always been a great friendship and they have endured many hardships before coming to this point in their lives. In the beginning of this scene, Lockwood is still playing the leading man. He doesn’t quite take the elocution lessons seriously and does the line as he sees it should be done. When Cosmo enters and sees the ridiculousness of the exaggerated consonants and rolling of the “Rs,” he brings Don back into the sense of play. They slowly begin to circle around the Professor. The dance, too, begins slowing. Verbally, Don reads the tongue-twister in a more rhythmic pattern and Cosmo picks it up adding an off-beat. When they finally break out in dance, here too, they are encircling the Professor, keeping him in their obit until he is finally obscured by them. Watch the Professor all the way through and consider the role of the straight man. In this case, the Professor plays the ultimate straight man. In the beginning of the scene, he is the “expert,” the one hired to teach elocution to the silent actors in preparation for the advent of sound in movies. He is indignant when he realizes he’s being made fun of. When Cosmo and Don break into the dance number, he is part incredulous to what is happening around him and yet, after being covered by the curtain, he is almost in step with the dancers (but not quite) as he’s being led to the table. He might want to be a part of the fun and yet he doesn’t quite understand them – he puts on his glasses as if to take a closer look. Lockwood even “invites” the professor to learn a few things as he and Cosmo take turns showing the professor the steps. But throughout this segment the Professor can’t seem to understand what is going on. But in having the Professor on the sidelines watching them, he also becomes the audience. By the end of the number, he is completely befuddled and overshadowed (literally and figuratively) by Cosmo and Lockwood. How do the representations of masculinity in all three men compare and contrast with each other? In this particular scene, Don Lockwood and Cosmo Brown mimic their roles before the advent of sound in motion pictures. Lockwood is the leading man (Alpha male) and, although he is out of his comfort zone, he is trying to keep his dignity while learning how to speak “properly.” He stands **** and, initially, saying the words as he might say them on stage, albeit without the accentuation of the consonants as demonstrated by the Professor. Cosmo Brown, the Beta male, hasn’t taken the motion picture industry seriously up throughout the film, and therefore acts the clown, both teasing the professor and even Kelly by cutting him down a bit. The professor is a Beta who is trying to be Alpha. He has neither the looks nor the talent to be the equal of either Cosmo or Don, but his position as elocution teacher has put him (he thinks) into an Alpha position. He is easily flattered by Cosmo and continues reading tongue twisters because he believes his talents are being appreciated. When Cosmo and Don break into the dance, he can only stand by and let the frolicking happen around him and he is unable to do anything to stop him.
  7. As you reflect upon female representation in the 1950s, where do you think this film character falls in the continuum? Why? The character of Calamity Jane falls somewhere in the middle of the 1950s female representation. In the beginning, she is competing in a man’s world by acting and dressing as a man. But, in order to get Bill Hickok’s attention, she must become more feminine. Going to the opposite end of the spectrum, she fails and comes to a compromise. Granted, she maintains her masculine garb with a more feminine edge, but she is still conforming rather than being accepted as the person she is. Her character must always straddle the line between feminine and masculine and we see that in the fact that, as she rides her horse, she swings her leg over the pommel in an imitation of the feminine way of riding side-saddle, and yet towards the end of the song, swings her leg back and rides astride. In the first scene, she is ridiculed even though the community, as a whole, respects what she brings to the community: connection to the outside world and protection. By the end of the film, she is still providing the same services to the community, but by being more feminine, she is more readily accepted. How do you think Doris Day grows as an actress in her various roles in the 1950s, before and after this musical? When you look at Doris Day roles from her earliest appearances (e.g., Romance on the High Seas, It’s a Great Feeling), she is playing a more typical female character, one that is trying to please the man and be molded into the person he wants her to be. In the 1950s and later films, even the non-musical films, she plays far more three-dimensional characters who have both admirable traits as well as flaws. Even in her romantic comedies (late 1950s to early 1960s), she’s not playing typical female roles from this same period. Often, her characters are career women and women who excel in their field. But, typical of the time period, her character will often compromise to the male characters in the same film. Some people have condemned her roles from this period as “goody-goody,” virginal characters, but in reality, her characters are far more self-actualized. In 1962’s A Touch of Mink, she goes off with Cary Grant and a series of events prevents her from actually having an affair with him, but she did travel with him for that purpose. By the end of the film, she actually becomes the aggressor, something women in early 1960s films would not do. Does Doris Day’s bright and sunny persona add or detract from the role of Calamity Jane in your opinion? Please defend your answer. Because Doris Day is such a likeable personality, she can bring a lighter touch to the more masculine image of Calamity Jane. In the hands of a less capable actress, the character might come off more annoying and less sympathetic. Her athletic ability (jumping up on the bar) is something the audience can enjoy, showing her more playful side rather than just rough-housing. And yet, the audience can she definitely means business when she pulls her revolver and is not someone to be taken for granted.
  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? The entire song is the creation of a play. Initially, Jeffrey takes charge of the situation to convince Tony that this play is doable; Lily and Lester, respectively, are the next ones to take over convincing Tony. When Tony finally comes to the realization that they can do the play (“It could be Oedipus Rex”), he is not overly enthusiastic but rather deciding logically that it can be done. In the next section, Tony is becoming more excited and adding his own ideas (“By the skirt who is doing him dirt”). They then embark on improvisational play, a technique that actors might use as they are fleshing out their characters and determining the best way to present the work. This includes dancing, acrobatics and, a variety of vaudeville routines and gags. Throughout this section, they rely on each other to complete the scenes. They also act out a range of typical film plots. At the very end, they break the fourth wall, entreating the audience to accept their efforts as if asking, “What do you think?” In the earliest musicals, numbers appeared to be add-ons and not specifically enhancing the plot of the film. Here, they are essentially parodying film and musical styles. What do you notice about the costuming of the characters that indicate cohesiveness of the ensemble, as opposed to setting anyone apart? Be specific. Lily and Lester are both dressed in whites/greys whereas Tony and Jeffrey are in blues – this sets up the two pairs: the behind the scenes characters versus the performers. But apart from the color palate, only Tony is dressed formally (pinstripe suit with matching jacket/pants, pocket square) whereas Jeffrey is dressed in a casual jacket and ascot; Lily’s dress is more casual and Lester, although in a suit and tie, his jacket doesn’t match the pants, making the ensemble a little more casual. All of the characters are basically dressed in neutral palates, compared to the colorful set (very red) and set pieces they use throughout the number (red/green, and even a splash of blue). What do you notice about the staging and interplay between the characters that helps define the relationships between the characters in the song? Initially, when Lily comes to Jeffrey’s rescue, he immediately recovers and takes charge of the situation to convince Tony that this play is doable; Lily and Lester, respectively, are the next ones to take over convincing Tony. When Tony finally comes to the realization that they can do the play (“It could be Oedipus Rex”), he is not overly enthusiastic but rather deciding logically that it can be done. In the next section, Tony is becoming more excited and adding his own ideas (“By the skirt who is doing him dirt”). Throughout the number, Jeffrey displays a wider range of emotion and characters from comical to tragic. Once they have come together as a cohesive group and being trying out different scenarios, they rely on each other to complete each scene. In the class notes, it was mentioned that Astaire is “the only truly gifted dancer in the group.” Granted, Fabray and Buchanan are not equal to Astaire (but who was, really?), but they definitely hold their own in this scene. In fact, Buchanan was often referred to as “the British Fred Astaire.” Buchanan was 62 (versus Astaire at 54) at the time of this film and died only four years later in 1957.
  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? The first shot with Ethel Waters and Butterfly McQueen is shot with almost a noir quality to illustrate Petunia’s fear that she may lose her husband; these deep shadows mimic the scene when the devil, or evil, is present. Even her dress is comprised of dark patterns. Inside the bedroom, there are still shadows, but not as severe, most likely from the presence of the angel. Just before she starts singing, you can see a bright light reflected on her arm, coming from the direction of the angel. As she sings, her face is lit and gets brighter as the song progresses. The entire section by Joe’s bedside is a tight two-shot and she leans in to simulate that they are in bed together in a loving relationship. Outside, the scene is shot in a more natural, bright lighting to show that her happiness not only comes from within but also within her world as she goes about her normal activities (something that she probably couldn’t have done while Joe was in danger). She still wears a patterned dress, but it is lighter than in the previous scene with stark white collar and cuffs which heighten the brightness of the scene. The scene ends with her taking his shirt off the line and wrapping it around her as she would his arms. At this point in the film, we know that Petunia is “good” and enjoys even these little activities and taking care of her husband. Joe, on the other hand, is an observer in the scene – sitting in a wheelchair on the sidelines. This illustrates how, with his six-month reprieve, needs to really look at his relationship with his wife. How would the song change if it was a woman singing about her child? Does the cultural meaning change? How? An interesting idea. Petunia, as a mother, would be just as self-sacrificing for her child as for a husband she loves and prays for and she would receive the same joy for a child smiling on her. But, simultaneously, a religious woman might also expect a child to obey her and might not be as forgiving for the transgressions of a child as she would for her husband. What other thoughts do you have about this film, the issues of black Americans during WWII, and this film’s importance in this era? Despite the fact that the armed forces in WW2 remained segregated, this film provide an opportunity for African-American actors to portray leading fully developed, three-dimensional characters as opposed to playing stereotypical roles as secondary (or even tertiary) characters that were often inserted purely for comic relief. There are still some stereotypical things about this film (e.g., the characters’ dialect), but it is definitely a large step forward. Before this film, there were African-American films created by and for African-American audiences. But this film was more mainstream, much of the production staff were Caucasian A-listers at MGM - director Vincente Minnelli, producer Arthur Freed, art director Cedric Gibbons, set decorator Edwin B. Willis, and costumer Irene – meaning that a great deal of money and effort was put into this film. I believe it was a huge step forward.
  10. Thinking like a director and editor, describe how each shot spotlights key actions. Firstly, it’s interesting to note that, despite being set in turn-of-the-century, Shirley Delwyn (Betty Garrett) is very much the aggressor in this relationship (something she also does in On the Town). Both films were released in 1949 and reflect the greater independence of women after World War II. Shirley is waiting outside the locker room for Dennis Ryan (Sinatra) and immediately seeks to block his path before chasing him outside into the stadium. We go from close-up action to wider shots to show that, no matter how large the space, he is not going to be able to get away from her. When Ryan tosses the ball to her (on the line “start playing ball with me”) and immediately puts his hands in a catcher’s position showing that he just wants to get along. The cutting back and forth from long shots to closer shots creates a kind of cat-and-mouse game between the two characters. Every action of Shirley’s that’s more aggressive (blocking him in, grabbing his hands or even picking him up like she is a cavewoman trapping her man), the shots are more close-up whereas the camera pulls away to show the distance between them. It’s interesting to examine how musicals segue into musical numbers. How does this sequence prepare us for the singing? The scene begins with a lively tune – a kind of walking off tune, light-hearted and gay – as Ryan is leaving the locker room and tossing the game ball. The tune comes to an abrupt halt as Shirley blocks his way and, with each block the music becomes staccato until it segues into an almost ominous phrase (the beginning of her stalking him). Then it changes to chase music, coming to an abrupt halt when she shouts, “Hey!” before she begins singing.
  11. What was the first Judy Garland film you recall watching? What was your first impression of her? I grew up with my parents playing the recording of "Judy at the Palace" (they had seen her perform in New York on their honeymoon), so I was more aware of her voice long before I remember seeing her on film. It’s hard to say which may have been the first Judy Garland film since one of our local stations televised classic films. I suppose, like many fans, it was one of the early 2television presentations of The Wizard of Oz, so I may have been a little taken aback by the fact that this powerful stage voice was emanating from, essentially a young girl. But, no matter what the film, you are drawn into a voice that has so much emotion. Some singers, like Bing Crosby or Frank Sinatra, have wonderful phrasing when they sing. Garland possessed not only that same kind of phrasing, but brought so much emotion to her songs as well, whether the song was an outpouring of emotional angst like “Over the Rainbow” or more humorous as in “The Trolley Song.” How do you view her differently after viewing these clips than you might have viewed her previously? I’ve been such a huge fan of Judy Garland for so long that I don’t think I view her differently based on these clips because I’ve watched these films (and others) numerous times. However, every time I see one of her films, I always find something new in them. In later films (whether it was the decision of the producers, directors or Garland herself), there wasn’t as much focus on making her “pretty” in the film’s musical numbers. Here in “A Couple of Swells,” her makeup has blacked out teeth and she wears an ill-fitting oversized suit, oversized clown shoes, and stubble makeup. And it appears as if she’s wearing less eye makeup as well. Astaire, on the other hand, has the stubble makeup, but no blacked out teeth, his shoes look worn but normal size, and his jacket is more fitted to his lean frame. Therefore, the focus in on her singing rather than her appearance. Her comedy is broader maybe because she is so camouflaged. In For Me and My Gal, an earlier Garland vehicle, you can see the focus is on making her pretty. Despite the fact that the film is set in WWI, the style of costuming is more reminiscent of 1942 with the exaggerated shoulder pad and a hairstyle that is more styled and curled than the 1910s. I’d also like to touch on the comment that, although not a trained dancer, Garland can keep up with her more trained co-stars. That was another point I’ve always appreciated about her work in film. It’s her attention to detail. I’m certain she rehearsed long hours in order to make her dancing look as effortless as her co-stars’. I noticed, in the second clip, her piano playing also seems far more natural; most actors will pound the keys in only a general location of the correct notes. Here, Garland actually appears to be playing. 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? Of her later films, one of my favorites is A Star is Born. Like many of her early films, her vocal talents encompass not only heart-wrenching songs (“Born in a Trunk” and “The Man that Got Away”) but comical ones like the medley she sings to describe that day’s shooting to husband Norman Maine in their living room. I was always particularly impressed with her performance in the (non-musical) film A Child is Waiting (1963). There is a particularly emotional scene where she is teaching the song “Snowflakes” to the developmentally challenged children of the school. Within the simple melody she shows her compassion and heart-ache for these children who have been left at the institute by their parents. As the film progresses, she gradually begins to understand how to interact with these children and as she does, how she sings the song also changes. More importantly, her later non-musical films (Judgment at Nuremberg and A Child is Waiting) prove that she had the acting chops to go along with that marvelous voice.
  12. 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. Walking up the steps to the President’s office, Cohan and the butler pass a variety of presidential portraits on the wall and it appears as if they are chronologically going back in time (last portrait is that of George Washington). At the end of the film, as Cohan dances down that same staircase, he’s coming from the past back to the present day. Cohan wears a flag pin on his coat’s left lapel. The mere fact that an “ordinary American” (as Cohan will state in the final scenes of this picture) can come in and “talk things over” is, as Cohan will state, one of the best definitions of being an American. The presidential office is warm with FDR’s personal items (ship model, desk clock, etc.) and the desk light casts a warm glow on the scene. This creates the feeling of home in what might otherwise feel too formal. The Fourth of July parade in Providence, Rhode Island is awash with American flags (flying from buildings and waved by parade participants and watchers) and the building are also decked out in red/white/blue buntings. 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 banter between Cohan and FDR in the opening scenes show that even an ordinary American can sit down with the President to discuss things. FDR shows wonderful self-depricating humor when he quotes the newspaper review that states Cohan makes “a better president in I’d Rather Be Right than I am.” And Cohan jokingly reminds the president that it’s a “Republican newspaper.” Cohan refers to himself as a “regular Yankee Doodle Dandy, always carrying a flag in a parade or following one.” By 2018 sensibilities, it may seem rather racist to say that Irish-Americans “carry [their] love of country like a flag, right out in the open.” But FDR adds that this is “a great quality” implying that everyone should feel the same way. 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. Introducing George M. Cohan coming to the White House neatly bookends this film biography. In the opening scenes we see Cohan (James Cagney) a little nervous about meeting the President, not knowing exactly why he’s been summoned. In the dialog, we’ve already learned (if we didn’t know it already) that Cohan is very patriotic, that he inherited that trait from his father who is, himself, a war veteran. This helps to set up the idea of the family and how closely they’re linked in their feelings towards America and Cohan’s strong relationship with his father especially. FDR also sets up the idea of the story being told in flashbacks by saying he had seen the Four Cohans when he was “attending school near Boston.” Cohan refers to himself as a “pretty cocky kid,” setting up the fact that we’re going to see some of the trouble he got in. Had the film begun with the Fourth of July parade in Providence, we wouldn’t have any initial idea that this film is about George M. Cohan unless you were able to read the theatre advertising board (“Mr & Mrs Jerry Cohan, Irish Darlings”) as the camera pans to the theater. And, without the overlapping narration, we wouldn’t even know this was in Providence. Because the scenes in the president’s office already set up the sense of family and country, we see instead how patriotism was instilled in Cohan’s character.
  13. What other aspects of battle of the sexes do you see indicated in this clip or in the film Top Hat? As noted in the lecture notes, Rogers is wearing pants (something we have never seen before and rarely afterwards), but she is also mimicking his stance, his walk, and his hands (putting one or both of them in her pockets as he does). Yes, he challenges her, but when he issues the first “challenge,” she actually out-performs his original step, adding additional taps and flourishes. When they finally do come together (i.e., actually touch since in the majority of the dance they maintain a certain distance), they seem to alternate who is actually leading the dance to illustrate they are on equal footing. How does this film distinguish itself from other Depression era musicals we have watched or discussed this week? As mentioned in the lecture video, musicals such as Top Hat now feature music that is original and written for the screen as opposed to taking music from other sources. And, because they are using some established composers (here, Cole Porter), the individual songs were often popular outside of the film itself – available to the public as sheet music as well as recordings and being presented on radio programs (either by the original film stars or sung by other artists). Because so many of the songs from these musicals made the top Billboard lists, it helped to promote the film. I don’t know if the composer’s contract with the studio for these compositions would cover these kinds of after-market promotions, but it they did, it could also bring added revenue to the studios. The Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences created separate categories for Scoring and Song at the 7th annual award ceremony covering 1934 films. In that year, only 3 films were nominated in each category; By 1936, dramas as well as musicals were nominated for Scoring but all six nominated songs were from musicals (which would increase to 10 songs in 1938 and 13 songs in 1939), including “I’ve Got You Under My Skin” from Born to Dance. Also, because the music is original to the film itself, you now have songs that help to advance the plot rather than having a musical number inserted for the sake of inserting music. A brief mention in the lecture video referred to Georges and Jalna. Ballroom dancers were often inserted into musicals. Veloz and Yolanda, who first began appearing in nightclubs in the early 1930s were extremely popular and imitations are constantly used in musical films. I believe the inclusion of these specialty dancers, even if it doesn’t advance the film’s plot, add to the glamor of the film since patrons would typically have to go to a nightclub or supper club, something that would not be readily available to average filmgoers or Depression audiences. 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? In some of the original musicals after the introduction of sound, filmmakers relied on actors from the stage for their voices because silent films relied primarily on faces and body images. As sound technology progressed, we begin to see more characterization coming from the singing and dancing. James Stewart, who has a nice but certainly not professionally trained voice, can get away with singing the songs because his personality comes through. Because the technology has improved, scenes between men and women become more intimate (rather than playing to the balcony of stage actors) and the audience sees the development of the relationship. RE: Keeler and Powell: In the lecture notes, the question was posed to compare the styles of Ruby Keeler (Warner Brothers) and Eleanor Powell (MGM). I’ve always considered Eleanor Powell the female equivalent of Fred Astaire because she made her dancing appear totally effortless, as if you or anyone else walking down the street could suddenly burst into a dance and be as graceful. Keeler, on the other hand, was very heavy-footed (pun intended) and always appeared as if she were counting the musical timing. Years ago, I met Ethan Mordden, author of numerous books on film and Broadway musicals, including The Hollywood Musical (1982) and he mentioned that Keeler’s background was not in tap, but in clog dancing which emphasizes heel first. In clog dancing, the dancer wears wooden-soled shoes and basically stamps the foot on the floor. Powell, on the other hand because of her ballet training, appeared to be much lighter on her feet.
  14. (1) Lubitsch is one of the masters of subtlety – you don’t need to understand the French dialog to know that the woman had found another female’s garter in Alfred’s bedroom and yet Alfred fluffs it off my telling the audience “she’s terribly jealous.” It’s also interesting that Alfred has a better working knowledge of getting the clip out of the gun, as if he’s had previous experience. His collection of guns also attests to his numerous affairs and run-ins with husbands. Also the fact that the woman chooses to go to Alfred to re-button her dress shows he has far more experience with women. Alfred’s commentary to the audience, or “breaking the forth wall” brings the audience in as his co-conspirators. Keeping himself separated from the husband-and-wife interaction as if to see how it’s going to play out, as if merely an observer in the scene rather than an active participant puts him at the same level as the audience. Chevalier, like most stage actors, is better at using his body to define the character. My favorite part is when he “tests” himself to see whether or not he has actually been shot – he doesn’t seem to be particularly bothered whether he is or isn’t shot, and yet shakes his head at the husband as if he feels sorry for the husband being such a bad shot. I found this “shooting” scene similar to the champagne cork “shot” Lubitsch uses in Ninotchka. (2) This film was made only two years after The Jazz Singer and the effective use of sound is still sporadic. Like many early films, it's shot like a theatrical production and there are periods of silence until a piece of dialog. Lubitsch does try to vary the sound, e.g., when the characters are behind closed doors, to give the audience a sense of depth in the room. Also, after the husband and wife leave the room, Alfred opens the terrace door to let in some air and we can hear the murmur of crowds (whom we saw running toward the scene earlier), making the statement that they are still hanging around to see what the outcome of the situation will be. Like many films in the early days of sound, there is very little musical undertones to the scene. We only have dramatic music when the husband finds the gun and aims it at Alfred, the music punctuated by the inevitable shot. The breaking of the fourth wall, as I mentioned above, brings the audience in as Alfred’s co-conspirators so that we will be on his side. I especially loved that Alfred tries to explain that his affair is nothing as terrible as the ambassador is led to believe, and yet he still has the garter in his hand. (3) This scene displays some of the elements that will show up in other musicals of this period as well as later screwball comedies in both the characters and the settings. Our hero doesn’t particularly want to get involved or married (preferring his freedom) yet is playful and endearing; someone who gets into situations and a servant who seems to be in on whatever shenanigans his master is up to (as the servant in this scene signals to his master behind the back of the ambassador). Like Top Hat, the setting is lavish, albeit not as sumptuous, and the characters are impeccably dressed in evening clothes and jewels.
  15. (1) Like many of the movies of that time (or even beyond), the protagonists will often have a hate-love relationship, starting off as disliking each other which, over time, will develop into love. In the first scene, for example, she admonishes him but, once he starts serenading her, you can see her visibly change her attitude towards him, even turning on the line "I choose you." He, in turn, makes light of the song by showing that he can adapt it to any female. In the second scene, she's embarrassed that he has seen her humiliated and quickly takes on the "I don't care what you think" attitude, but we see his reaction is more of feeling empathy for her. (2) I've never been particularly fond of either Nelson Eddy or Jeanette MacDonald - love his voice but find him very stiff on camera; she's a better actress but of the film sopranos of the day, I find her voice (especially her upper range) more screechy - k'vitshy, as my mother would say. I do humbly apologize to those who may be her fans, but I much prefer Deanna Durbin. One of the questions for the section on Hallelujah was why MGM would turn down Durbin for Garland based on their appearance in Every Sunday. One of the stories I always heard was that this short was, essentially, a screen test for both actresses and, at the end, Louis B. Mayer told someone to "get rid of the fat one" (in his mind) referring to Garland, but was misinterpreted by the other person who let Durbin go and contracted with Garland. I don't know if that story has any validity, but MGM already had Jeanette MacDonald and Kitty Carlisle, so I can see Mayer not wanting to have another singer, especially a younger one who wouldn't be able to play the same kinds of roles. At Universal, she was more unique and got her start playing more of a singing protegee (Three Smart Girls, 1936). (3) Similar to Astaire seducing Rogers through dance, Eddy basically seduces MacDonald through song. She resists him at first, but ultimately falls to his charms. As independent as she is (or tries to be) in the film, she comes to realize that with him, she's stronger and more self-actualized. In-between meeting and the ultimate falling in love, there are often misunderstandings that threaten to derail the relationship, but all is resolved before the ending. Under the Film Code, you definitely expect that there is no overt affection between the two until the end of the film [after all, Astaire and Rogers never kissed on screen].
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