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Tupelo Honey

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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? This is a scene between just Fanny and Nick. It is personal. I feel that she is fairly theatrical and very expressive, but she is speaking to just him. 2. Note the emotional transition moments in this scene: how do the two characters relate to each other as the lyrics are sung? He watches her intently. She gets lost in her song and thoughts but looks toward him frequently. She laughs at one line. This is more like an intimate conversation. 3. How does the direction and editing of this scene support Streisand’s performance? Be specific about blocking, reaction shots, etc. As she sings she walks away from him. Perhaps shy about what she is getting ready to sing. They are standing far apart during most of the scene—perhaps a suggestion as to how far apart they are emotionally.
  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) I have not seen Gaslight, but I have heard that a theme of the movie that is common with MFL is that a very powerful has taken a poor, downtrodden woman, and takes control of her. As far as filmmaking techniques, the acting in many of the other musicals viewed has been lighter. Cukor may or may not be a woman's director but he is certainly an actor's director as he gets award worthy performance from his leading lady and man. 2. Note the emotional transition moments in this scene, how the actors portray them, and how Cukor supports them. Eliza is in the middle of a good cry when Higgins enters looking for his slippers. She throws then at him. Higgins is shocked and worried about his slippers. This sparring goes back and forth. Cukor uses wide shots so that we can see the emotions and reactions of both actors as they play out the scene. 3. What do you notice about the relationship between Eliza and Higgins that seems enhanced by Cukor’s direction? Eliza is upset that Higgins has taken all the credit for her transformation. She truly finds herself caring about him and realizes he does not feel the same. She is just the useful object of his experiment. He has won the bet and she is being case aside. Higgins has no earthly idea why she is upset. So when she is angry or sad he is astonished or dismissive of what she is feeling. Cukor's uses lighting to effectively portray this part of their relationship (i.e.) Eliza turns off the light, representing the end of their relationship. Eliza seems to fade into the shadows of Higgins's home just as she is in the shadows of his life. It's a contrast to the previous scenes that were well lit and colorful where Eliza is performing and Higgins is joyous.
  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? I think the most noticeable changes are how the roles have gone from lone, romantic types in the 20s-30s to more conforming alpha buddy groups in the 40s - 50s who are in control of the situation, and now back to non-conforming individuals. Strong but many times taking a back seat to the women in the musical. 2. What other specific qualities do you notice about Robert Preston in either or both of these clips. He is very precise in his singing and his gestures. He moves gracefully, although I have not noticed any real dance skills. He displays humor in both and is very convincing in his roles. He takes charge in both. 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? I have not that I recall.
  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? Gypsy looks back to classical musicals by being a backstage musical. It also takes us all the way back vaudeville. It takes us forward in that Rose is an assertive, vicious, not to be ignored woman. She is living out her own fantasies through her daughters, especially Baby June in the beginning. She is the stage mother of all stage mothers. She sets the bar high for that! 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. Rosalind Russell knows how to take command of a scene/stage. Her movement, her projection. She has a Broadway stage presence, and she uses particularly in this scene. Something she also did in the movie, Mame. 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). The words are not really suggestive when the song is sung by a child, and I don't think it is meant in anyway to be by Rose or the children. We find it suggestive, knowing what we know now. But the singing of the song by Baby June is a preview for what is to come. And of course, when it is sung later to striptease, it is very racy, edgy. I think Sondheim wrote it to adapt to the later storyline.
  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? I love highly stylized scenes and they clearly allow the director to bring his own vision to a film. They take us into someone else's imagination. There has too be some realism to contrast with the highly stylized scenes and to carry the storyline and make it realistic. Stylized scenes work especially well in musicals where you have to accept a certain amount of suspension of disbelief anyway. 2. What keeps Jerry Mulligan from being completely unlikeable in a scene in which he acts pretty darn unlikeable? Possibly because he is so energetic and gets to the point. He's pretty brash though and you get the feeling you will get the truth from him...as he sees it.
  6. 1. How do the pre-dance movements of O’Connor and Kelly compare to their actual dance movements? The pre-dance sequence gets more and more fluid as it moves along. The fluidness of O'Connor's mimicking of the professor is like a choreographed dance between him and the professor and sets the stage for what is to come—a highly choreographed and syncopated tap of Cosmos and Don. 2. Watch the Professor all the way through and consider the role of the straight man. He seems to be very proud of his expert diction and with a little encouragement very easily slips into showing off rather than teaching until he catches a glimpse of Cosmo mimicking him. After that he goes from annoyed to completely overwhelmed by Don and Cosmos. It's always a plus to have a straight man for reactions. 3. How do the representations of masculinity in all three men compare and contrast with each other? All three of these are stereotypes: The professor is the intellectual—not much fun. Don is the masculine, hunky one while Cosmos is the sidekick—who often steals the show and in this case is nearly as athletic and skilled as the hunk.
  7. 1. As you reflect upon female representation in the 1950s, where do you think this film character falls in the continuum? Why? Doris Day as Calamity Jane is definitely challenging the stereotypical role of females at this time. She is proud to be in charge of a responsibility that helps her community. She believes she's as good at what she does as any man, but she is not getting a whole of respect. This is probably the way many women who worked during WWI felt when the men came home and continued to feel into the 50s. But she doesn't give up. 2. How do you think Doris Day grows as an actress in her various roles in the 1950s, before and after this musical? She definitely gets into more sophisticated roles in the 50s. She always has the girl-next-door persona for me and a nice singing voice. There is nothing threatening about her. For me, she's kind of an All American Girl in an All American time. A product of the 50s. 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. I think her bright and sunny persona in this role adds to the character of Calamity Jane. She looks happy and pleased with herself and the choices she has made and the job she is doing.
  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? This reminds me of Garland and Rooney "putting on a show." They all work together in this. It's a collaboration. No one stands out, not even Astaire. This is different from earlier musicals because many times you had one or two who were the lead with others more or less performing backup. 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. Astaire is elegant as we would expect, but not "Top Hat" elegant. Fabray in her skirt is very defined as the female. Buchanan is in a coat and tie as a producer/director might be while Levant is more casual as a writer. They all blend, however, they are all a team. 3. What do you notice about the staging and interplay between the characters that helps define the relationships between the characters in the song? They are funny and having fun. This is teamwork, showing what they bring to the table when they decide to put on a show.
  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? When she goes to his bedside and sees that he is alive, she is so filled with joy that it's a natural segue into her song. It's hard to keep your eyes off Ethel Walters' face when she sings it because she is so expressive and her love for Joe just fills her body and face. I think the cut to the hanging laundry scene mainly shows the passing of time. Joe is better and Petunia is still filled with love and joy at knowing her man loves her. It also serves as a way to transition to the two men at the fence at the end. 2. How would the song change if it was a woman singing about her child? Does the cultural meaning change? How? I suppose this song could be song about a child, but certainly Walters' body language and facial expressions would have to change and some lyrics would be slightly changed. In some ways, it almost comes off better being song to a child rather than a husband. Children evoke more unconditional love, while it might be hard to sing with such joy if you had gone through what Petunia went through with Joe. 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? I feel there are still plenty of Black American stereotypes in this film. Black Americans had been valiant and an important part in America's WWII victory, and perhaps, the film is meant to portray Black Americans in a better light than what they had been portrayed in previous movies. However, Black Americans still faced decades of prejudice and segregation, and this, too, was only one film. It would be decades before they would be portrayed as equal and possibly superior to whites—maybe all the way to 2018 and "Black Panther" (although it's not a musical).
  10. 1. Thinking like a director and editor, describe how each shot spotlights key actions. This is actually a cute song and the choreography perfectly matches the words to the song. This must have taken a lot of time to plan and execute. I still don't see how she made that run up those bleachers in that long dress. 2. It’s interesting to examine how musicals segue into musical numbers. How does this sequence prepare us for the singing? I think this segue works better than others because there is so much action and the lyrics of the song are specific.
  11. 1. What was the first Judy Garland film you recall watching? What was your impression of her? The Wizard of Oz was the first film I remember seeing Judy Garland in. It was so long ago that I don't remember my first impression but I would think that it had to do with her seeming so genuine in the role of Dorothy. A good singer, actress and dancer. 2. How do you view her differently after viewing these clips than you might have viewed her previously? I've always thought she was extremely talented and she proves so in the clips 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? "A Star is Born."
  12. 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. What could promote American values more that walking into the President's office. Portraits of former Presidents, flag in the room, speaking the song, Grand Old Flag, and about patriotism and Irish ancestors fighting in the Civil War for the Union. Then, a parade and lots of flag waving, etc. 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. Nearly every bit of the conversation promotes patriotism. The WH butler talks about how Teddy Roosevelt loved the song the Grand Old Flag. FDR says, "That’s what I like about you Irish Americans, you carry your love for your country around with you like a flag.” Cohen says of his father, "A regular Yankee Doodle Dandy. Always carrying a flag in a parade or following one," and he "ran away to the Civil War at the age of thirteen. There wasn’t a prouder boy in Massachusetts.” All of this talk of patriotic Americans would boost morale. 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 opening in the WH sets the stage for what Cohen became and offers the opportunity of flashback for telling the story.
  13. 1. What other aspects of battle of the sexes do you see indicated in this clip or in the film Top Hat? Up to this point, he has been wooing and she has been ignoring his romantic advances. In this scene, he begins singing to her back, but eventually, she goes toe to toe with him dancing and proves she is equal. I think its funny that at the end they shake hands. It seems important to everyone that she was wearing pants. Maybe in that time period of the 30's, it was. Maybe it did put her on an equal footing with him. Today, we are more inclined to say that women are not only equal but perhaps a little superior. After all, as it has been said, "Rogers did what Astaire did only backwards and in heels!" 2. How does this film distinguish itself from other Depression era musicals we have watched or discussed this week? I'm not sure it does distinguish itself from other Depression era musicals other than the fact that Ginger is showing more independence. They all are opulent with beautiful costumes and sets. Rich people living the good life. 3. 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? Screwball comedies are characterized by a female that dominates the relationship with the male central character whose masculinity is challenged as they engage in a humorous battle of the sexes. In earlier musicals (i.e. 42nd Street, Follow the Fleet), the men dominate and the women are shown as pretty submissive to the man's attention. Some of their reactions to situations are even a little embarrassing. Ginger is getting a mind of her own. This is probably a product of the times because during the Depressions years, women were becoming more independent.
  14. 1. 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 Lubitsch touch certainly re-enforces the old saying, "a picture is worth a thousand words." The single garter in her hand, the two garters she is wearing, the gun, the drawer of guns, the zipper that the husband can't close, but the lover can—all say so much that the French being spoken is not a problem for those of us who do not speak it. The props (single garter, drawer of guns), the dialogue, and the staging all work together to help us understand that Alfred is a ladies man and a bit of a rogue. 2. 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 use of a language we do not understand, makes us watch the scene closer. The pop of the gun, makes us realize that this is not a serious "murder." I thought the rather lengthy French dialogue behind the door at the beginning of the scene was especially interesting and attention getting. Then, when M.C. says "she's jealous" at the camera, we know that this is comedy rather than a drama. The sound of the people on the street when M.C. opens the window makes the scene more realistic. The use of dramatic music when the gun goes off and when the husband approaches M.C. seems to be a nod to silent movies. 3. What themes or approaches might you anticipate from this clip in other Depression-era musicals? Wealthy people acting badly or stupidly is a theme that will come up often in Depression-era musicals. Also, the lavish sets and the well-dressed, high society people are all typical of these musicals.
  15. 1. The interactions between the characters in the two scenes are very different. The first scene takes place in a romantic setting—a guy rowing a girl to some destination at night. Nelson Eddy is trying to woo Jeanette McDonald and is being very romantic. She, however, is having nothing to do with him until he starts to sing. She is impressed with his voice and perhaps a little taken by the attention, but in the end, the light flirting gives way to the fact that he uses the name of the object of his attention every time he sings the song. Maybe he just doesn't want her to know how interested he is. Maybe, she is trying to tease the romance away by accusing him of being fickle. Either way, the romance begins. In the second scene takes place in a very different setting—a rowdy saloon. JM is embarrassed by the fact that she can't adapt her singing style to the saloon situation and crowd and by the fact that NE is watching her struggle. He seems embarrassed for her, but also possibly a little impressed that she is trying so hard. She slips away from the scene and he in turns leaves also. 2. I have mainly seen them together. They have beautiful voices, but I always have the since that JM is a better actor than NE. I remember seeing her in San Francisco with Clark Gable and Spencer Tracy where she plays much the same type of part—a fish out of water when she tries to sing in Gable's saloon. What do these clips tell you about the male/female relationships as they are depicted in the films during this era? What norms might you expect are supported under the Hollywood Film Code? 3. The male/female relationships are depicted in this era as very polite, proper and sexless. I am surprised that JM and Gilda Gray, especially Gilda, were allowed to do such a sexy shimmy with suggestive movements while singing "Some of these Days."
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