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Posts posted by LCM123

  1. 1. Over time there seems to have been a shift from the gentleman figure, like any of Fred Astaire's characters, to the more typically masculine, confident male lead. The alpha male figure in the Music Man clip seems to have evolved a bit from the alpha male figure in the 1950s. I'm thinking in particular any of Howard Keel's characters- in Kiss Me Kate, Calamity Jane, Seven Brides for Seven Brothers- though he's somewhat similar to the vibe Gene Kelly gives off. The sense of confidence and charisma rather than overpowering masculine aggression seems prominent here.

    2. I really love Robert Preston in the Music Man. There's something effortlessly persuasive about the Trouble number- we know that he's spouting nonsense and that the song is built on hyperbole and slippery slope arguments, but he lends a logicality to it by his loose, smooth presentation. I like the way he gravitates between people and strings them along in the beginning of the number- again, the effortlessness of his amassing the crowd is somewhat stunning. And of course the enunciation is notable, and the sharpness of his movements. Overall I'm just amazed by the charisma of it all: it's very easy to see why Marian would fall for this guy, in spite of his sketchy background.

  2. 1. The clip looks backwards to earlier musicals in its exposure of the "backstage" of a show- in this case vaudeville rather than Broadway, but still a similar concept to earlier movies in which the female lead is struggling for a role in musical theatre (for example, Broadway Melody of 1929 and 42nd Street). But looking forward to later musicals, this clip is dealing with grittier issues and exposing some of the harsh realities of the business, especially child exploitation. Even as they show dealings backstage, earlier musicals seem to maintain the glamour of the theatre: even the hardships endured by the characters are all part of what makes Broadway the glittering thing it is. Show business isn't remotely glamorized here; it's harsh and corrupt and entirely inappropriate for the children who inhabit it.

    2. What I like about Russell's performance here is how brash and attention-grabbing she is. Even as she acts to improve the presentation of her daughters' act, she overshadows it with her booming voice and her walk around the girls. Her acting is a little over the top (some others have identified it nicely as stage acting), but I'm not sure that's out of place here: Mama Rose always wanted to be on the stage, so it makes sense that she should adopt that persona in the rest of her life as well. I'm sure Russell's background in both stage and film exposed her to a number of figures with larger than life diva personalities, and it shows here.

    3. As many have observed, the lyrics foreshadow Gypsy Rose Lee's later career in their sexual undertones, though in the mouth of Baby June they're pretty innocent.

  3. 1. I don't think that a highly stylized approach like that of the dream ballet has to be used throughout the piece; the contrast actually is nice. But I don't think that we need to see a completely realistic, nitty-gritty Paris either. The film as a whole is somewhat escapist, and it would be a shame to lose that quality. I like Minnelli's mise-en-scene in this movie in particular because it feels like we're watching a movie about an artist through the lens of an artist. It's so easy to find beauty in just a simple street scene in this film, and it feels oh so appropriate that this is what Mulligan himself is painting. 

    2. I'm not sure Mulligan is acting unlikeable at all, to be honest. The American girl criticizes his work to his face under the guise of having an intellectual conversation, and I think he responds appropriately. His conversations with his fellow artists at the start of the scene establish him as a friendly, good-humored guy, and this helps us to sympathize with him more. 

  4. 1. Before the dance, O'Connor and Kelly's movements are more parodying the professor and his earnestness about these silly tongue-twisters. O'Connor in particular starts by imitating the professor, and then by mocking him more playfully with silly faces; when Kelly joins in, both start chanting in imitation with a mockingly formal tone and gestures. The gag seems to break out in fully when they use the curtains as costumes, and the scene gets increasingly dynamic from there, with some seriously great dancing. 

    The professor's role at first is overly serious, but by the time Kelly and O'Connor start to dance, his character becomes less conspicuous and more of a vulnerable observer instead. He doesn't really react to anything, instead becoming more of a prop for Kelly and O'Connor; we're really encouraged to focus on what they're doing, instead of what the professor is doing. His own inactivity serves as a strong contrast to the dynamism of his scene partners. 

    O'Connor plays the beta male; he's the funny guy in the room but doesn't have a strongly masculine presence. Kelly is more of the alpha male, and the professor has sort of a posh, pretentious masculinity- a very proper 'gentleman.'

  5. So I do get the sense that the film was really trying to defend women in some way: Adam is outed as a sexist jerk, and all the men learn how to treat women more properly.

    But I agree that there's something just really disturbing watching the film! Or at least there was for me. Watching the girls get carried away in a comedic musical number is unsettling because of course that's every woman's nightmare- being kidnapped and taken to a second location by strange men. I couldn't help thinking about rape the whole time, and it was hard to see it treated so lightly. 

    But maybe that's too much of a 21st century perspective to take. 

    • Like 2
  6. In some ways, Calamity Jane seems to fall a bit outside of the standard for women in the period. She runs with the boys and does her best to match them in dress, manner, and attitude. Even dressed in more feminine clothing later in the film, she fails to meet expectations for a 1950s woman: coming home from fetching water, she falls into the mud, and even at the ball, where a lot of the men seem to recognize her as a woman for what she's wearing, her mannerisms toward them (calling them "fellers," cracking jokes) identifies her as a different kind of woman from Katie, who more fully fits the feminine ideal.

    At the same time, the film makes clear that Calamity Jane is a "true woman" at heart, and that's what gets her the guy. After traveling to Chicago, she says she realizes how far she is from a true lady, and this prompts a change in her to dress and behave more like Katie. The scene in which they redesign her cabin plays a similar function to the typical makeover scene in a 1990s romcom: the character is made over to be much different, ultimately discovers that this isn't quite her, and goes back to a sort of median between who she was before and who she was made over to be. Calamity's more feminine outfit in the final scenes suggests that she's been changed by the whole encounter and become somewhat more typically feminine. The film also makes clear that she wants to settle down and have children, something that seems to surprise Hickok but especially attract him. The whole plot point of female jealousy and hysteria, too, reaffirms a feminine identity for Calamity, and the film doesn't say too much for female friendships, which bothered me a bit. 

    I've always loved Day in musical and comedic roles, and this really seems ideal for her. 

  7. 1. The scene as a whole is very interactive, as the gags tend to require multiple players instead of emphasizing the humor or talent of one. In the beginning, Fabray, Levant, and Buchanan surround Astaire and act as a cohesive effort to bring him to their side; the configuration of three against one makes clear the idealistic disagreement at this point in the scene. Once Astaire joins in, there's an emphasis on configurations of four (besides the moment Levant steps out, which seems to be for practical reasons of dance ability), and even when the characters aren't arranged in this line of four, they're often coupled to show cooperation. 

    There's a couple moments that seem to toy with the question of how cooperation is or isn't necessary. For instance, the false pyramid gives the illusion of a team effort, but when Levant steps away it's clear that it's a visual trick. Levant's ability to carry the ladder all the way around by himself is also something that should require two people. When Buchanan is lighting a cigarette, he's surprised when it turns out to have been a team effort (Levant from behind the wall). As a whole, there's an emphasis on interaction and how it fits together with showmanship. 

    In other movies, dance scenes have tended to be either focused on a few central performers- Fred and Ginger in Top Hat, Eleanor Powell's solos in Born to Dance, Gene Kelly's ballet at the end of On the Town- or large ensemble numbers, like those of The Broadway Melody. Here there's a focus on individuals as they work together.

    2. All the costumes are somewhat formal and in shades of grey, white, and blue. There's no one who really stands out, though no one is wearing exactly the same thing either. I'm not sure we're intended to pay much attention to the costumes, except in that they tie the characters together as a team.

    3. It's staged to point attention at the group rather than the individual. Most of the shots feature multiple characters. There are a few moments that highlight one over the others-- Levant's ladder trick, Fabray's hip thrust--but nothing that takes attention away from the group dynamic. 

  8. 1. The way Petunia's entrance into Joe's bedroom was filmed gives the sense that she is a step ahead of the camera, since we see her exiting from behind; I liked how this emphasized her haste in hurrying to him. The direction of the laundry scene suggests the way that her love for Joe permeates every aspect of her life, even the mundane task of laundry. Her sentiments at his bedside aren't just an outburst of joy that he is alive; that attitude is one she carries with her always.

    2. The idea of loving unconditionally would transfer well to a mother-child relationship, but I feel like a mother's responsibility for raising her child well conflicts a bit with Petunia's lack of concern for what Joe does, so long as he loves her. 

    3. I think the actress for the young girl in this scene played Prissy in Gone with the Wind as well. It's striking to compare the portrayal of African Americans in the two movies, considering they came out within 4 years of each other (though, of course, Gone with the Wind was set in the South during the Civil War period and had source material to contend with).

  9. 1. The choreography here is mostly focused on Betty Garrett's pursuit of Frank Sinatra through the bleachers; they (and the camera) occasionally pause for gags, like Garrett sitting Sinatra down and trying to lie on his lap, or Sinatra throwing a baseball in response to Garrett's "Play ball with me." The bleachers sort of entrap Sinatra, aiding Garrett in her attempts, and allow for some nice up and down motion to create interest in the cinematography.  

    2. I thought the musical segway was actually pretty clever. Sinatra is coming from another room and is accompanied by a jaunty kind of background music, not anything you'd think too much about. When he runs into Garrett, however, the music comes to a pause: she interrupts him musically as well as physically. The music then transitions into the notes of Garrett's song, rather seamlessly. 

  10. 1. The first Judy Garland movie I saw was the Wizard of Oz, and I was just enamored with it! Her performance is just perfect in a role that could have easily been over the top in naivety, and her singing in Somewhere Over the Rainbow is just stunning. 

    2. I don't really view her any differently in these clips; they just confirm how talented she really was.

    3. Probably Meet Me in St. Louis; her performance of Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas had me in tears!

  11. 1. As they go up the staircase in the opening of the scene, the camera follows the pictures of the presidents on the wall along with the characters. The setting of the White House generally is very patriotic, as it is kind of considered the epitome of American government. The ships on the wall of Roosevelt's room are a reminder that it's wartime. 

    2. There's a strong emphasis on patriotic behavior and glorification of the United States. The screenplay particularly emphasizes the patriotism of Cohen and his performances: "You was just singing and dancing all about the Grand Ol' Flag." "Regular Yankee Doodle Dandie. Always carrying a flag or parade or following one." "You carry your love of country like a flag, right out in the open." 

    3. Opening with the White House scene suggests how patriotism can get you far- Cohen himself was a Yankie Doodle Dandy, and it got him to the White House! It makes the country and its government feel more accessible and closer to the people, something which would probably boost patriotic spirit and make people feel connected to the cause they were sacrificing so much for. 

  12. 1. I do think there is some battle of the sexes going on in this clip. Ginger is wearing men's style clothing and adopting Fred's carriage and movements, and the overall sense is one of "anything you can do, I can do" (though I don't get the sense of "anything you can do, I can do better" because she isn't initiating the steps so much as emulating them). Ginger seems to be showing herself to be on the same level as Fred, even if it's not really a competitive number. I do like how they don't dance hand in hand until the end of the number, once each has shown the other what he/she can do and they've accepted that they're on an even playing field: only then can they truly dance as partners. Elsewhere in the film, I think we see battle of the sexes when Ginger's character tries to trick Fred (thinking he's Madge's husband) that they met in Paris, and Fred catches onto the gag and pretends to remember her. This feels like a more traditional battle of the sexes because they're both trying to outwit each other.

    2. This feels different from other depression era musicals we've seen because the relationship is based on a more equal footing, and there seems to be more character building to ground the romance between the two main figures. Ginger's character isn't having any of Fred's antics-- or if she is, she doesn't let on, instead keeping higher ground. The two seem really well matched in wit as well as in stubbornness, and we feel as if we know them better as people as the plot progresses. The romantic plots in earlier movies seem less well-formulated, even though the main plot is less screwball; the romance between Ruby Keeler and Dick Powell in 42nd Street, for example, is somewhat random and only based on a few encounters. As other commentators have observed too, earlier movies often place the girl in a more dependent role, often as a singer or dancer who relies on the male lead to get her that big role. Ginger could have fallen into this with her relationship with Berdini, but she clearly shows him that she's in charge of where she goes and what she does, and he comes across as the idiot. In terms of music, this movie wove song and dance more seamlessly into the plot. There's no reason for it to be here, as there is in backstage musicals like many we've seen, but there's no awkward set-up to explain the singing or dancing either; it's just there, and we go along with it. It reminds me more of a Broadway style.

    3. I'm not really sure about why there is that change. I'm guessing women were becoming more independent during the period and gaining more rights. As others have suggested, maybe more women were working outside the home to provide for their families during the depression.


  13. 1. I really enjoyed the presentation of the props, like the garter and fake revolver(s), zoomed in at first to allow us to come to our own conclusions before we see the role they actually play in the scene. The cinematography used for the revolver was especially effective because of all the reversals of expectations it created. At first we see it in her bag, and the context make us think it's a sign of danger to come. When she shoots herself, the danger seems to be over, until the husband turns the gun on Chevalier (the music is very effective here), but that climax is absurdified when he checks his body for wounds and we realize the gun is a fake. We feel like we get the joke and the gag seems to be over, until Chevalier opens the drawer again and the camera zooms in on all the other fake revolvers. We realize that this kind of situation has happened before, and Chevalier is just a few steps ahead of us! The straight-on shots of Chevalier somehow present him as the "conductor" of everything too; he winks at us and even speaks directly to us. I also thought the joke with the buttoning up of her dress was very funny- what a clever and subtle way to suggest a previous sexual encounter (since she knew he was able to button her dress without a problem- he's evidently done it before). 

    2. The French dialogue was a clever way to evoke the Parisian setting and an elite world without giving much emphasis to the actual affair (which seems less important here than the general sense that Chevalier's character is a womanizer); I'm not sure how this could have been done in a silent film. Chevalier's addresses to the audience ("She's jealous!" "Her husband!") almost remind me of captions in silent film, incorporating an older tradition into the new world of sound and showing off perhaps more of what a sound film can do. As some other commentators have noticed, I'd imagine the gunshot sound would be especially effective at the beginning of sound in films. It's very striking, and the music leading up to the second gunshot is emphatic too; the sound makes it all feel much more real and serious than it ends up being. 

    3. I'd expect to see similar themes and characters- the rogue, secret affairs, etc. The idea of deflating more serious themes like death, violence, and adultery with gags like the gun trick seems to fit well with the escapism characteristic of Depression era movies.  

  14. 1. In both clips, Jeanette MacDonald and Nelson Eddy are separated in some way-- in the boat, she's facing away from him and their interaction is mostly vocal (rather than visual or physical), and in the saloon, he's seated at another table, and she's attempting to distance herself from him. The focus is all in how one reacts to the other individually; we see how Jeanette's character is slowly warming to Nelson's charm in the boat, and how Nelson's character admires Jeanette's bravery in the saloon scene. It's more subtle, rather than overt sexual attraction. 

    3. Based on these clips and some of the Fred and Ginger movies I've seen, I'm guessing that films of this era emphasized the courting routine-- the man is usually more direct and the woman is somewhat distant, but secretly warms to him and eventually they get together. In the era of the production code, propriety was expected, especially in the behavior of the main characters. I agree with some of the other commenters on this thread that Gilda Gray's character was probably meant as a sort of foil, to offset Jeanette's character but to show us the difference between the proper woman who gets the guy and the kind of woman who works at a saloon and dances like that (read: the "bad" example). 

  15. 1. The tone of the clip is light-hearted and hopeful in a way that definitely seems to transcend the hardships of reality during the time period. In particular, there's a sense of opulence and casual attitude toward money that seems out of line with the context of the Depression. Ziegfield gives money to the doorman rather offhandedly and simply makes a joke out of it when the doorman asks him if he realizes the amount; Anna's costume is lovely and elaborate, and her maid emphasizes how the bouquet of flowers must have cost thousands of francs. I imagine that seeing a world where money wasn't an issue would have been a nice form of escapism during the period. And more generally, little seems to be taken seriously in this clip. Anna makes the decision to see Ziegfield very casually and flip-flops a bit about it, and the competition between Ziegfield and Billings is somewhat light-hearted, rather than cut-throat (as we might imagine the theatre scene to be). 

    2. I'd expect to see a lot of old-fashioned romance (complete with wooing practices like buying flowers), an emphasis on song and dance, and perhaps a focus on the upper class, or at least people without money troubles.

    3. During the pre-code era, Anna probably would have been presented more seductively. The backstage scene might have more clearly shown her (or other characters) getting undressed, and her song and dance routine might have had a more revealing costume and more innuendo. The relationship between Anna and Billings and Ziegfield might have also been less innocently presented.

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