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Laurel H

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About Laurel H

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  1. Thanks for all the input. I dearly love Mel Brooks. He is one of my all-time faves, and I told him so, when I met him. A lovely man!
  2. I'm not sure if this was brought up already, but I am curious about The Producers and other Mel Brooks films that include music, such as Robin Hood: Men in Tights. Where does this fit into the musical spectrum? The Producers is really a film spoof about the making of a musical that is partially shown and embedded in the film. Is this considered a musical itself or a sub-genre? And what other films have gone from screen to stage, like the Producers has? Thank you to the professors and everyone. I have had a wonderful time taking this course!
  3. If Streisand's performance had been more theatrical and loud, she might have appeared more forceful as well and less humble and reflective, also less coy and flirty. It would have taken away from the subtlety of the masterful performance, and might have ended up intimidating Nick instead. At first, Fanny seems flirtatious toward Nick. She's unsure and hesitant, turning away from him. From afar, Nick smiles and becomes more riveted on her, as her singing grows more intense, really emphasizing the lyrics. Fanny crosses to the lamppost, holds it, and cautiously flirts with Nick, drawing him in. She leads him over to the stairs and turns back with a question: "maybe we ain't." Nick focuses on her, as she proceeds up the stairs. He is passive now, allowing her her space. He smiles, but keeps his distance. The coloring of her dress blends into the background, as if to say this scene is about the song and its powerful words, keeping the viewer from being distracted. As the song grows more intense, Nick is riveted from afar. Intimacy is felt, even at that distance, though the question remains: Do they really need each other? At the end of the scene, we see a closeup of Fanny's face with her eyes closed, deep in the feeling of the moment. Nick stays focused and smiling throughout.
  4. As I try to recall Gaslight (it's been a long time), I think both films have women with an uncertain fate, under very rocky circumstances. It is the man who seems to be in control, placating and manipulating the woman, to varying degrees. She is supposedly ignorant, but "outsmarts" the man in the end. The set props and especially furniture are used to good effect in both films, almost as a separate character in Gaslight. Both films have wide scenes with space for interaction of the characters. Eliza turns out the light, and the lighting becomes softer and darker, she falls to the floor and hides her face from the gaze of the viewers. After her emotional outburst, Higgins throws her down; she is nothing more than a piece of furniture to him. Revisiting the chocolates, as if nothing has changed and she is the same flower girl he met on the street, Eliza of today is repulsed and turns away. His condescending, unemotional attitude makes her despair look all the more real and heartbreaking. Here there are no closeups or harsh lighting, giving them the space and respect to display all the feels and range of emotions. Higgins holds in his emotions, showing a restraint that enables Eliza to gain composure at the end of this scene. As a "presumptuous insect," Eliza feels used by Higgins and lost now. Repressed passion comes out as anger. She feels less important than the furniture itself. Higgins is complacent, not realizing yet that Eliza is to leave him now, leaving his fine home empty and quiet. And he will return to being alone. The implications of being "free," as it begins to dawn on him, include his own loneliness and suppressed feelings for Eliza.
  5. In these two clips, we see male leads who are far from the well-defined alpha and beta male types of earlier musicals. Now the characters are well-rounded and human, with all the character flaws and range of emotions of men in the real world. The performances and songs are integrated into the story and forward the character development, instead of just showcasing a particular star and his talents. Preston stands apart from the crowd; he is not one of them, he is a cut above them. His wordplay is above their heads, he reels them in with trickery and sophistication. In both clips, you sense that he has a secret, is hiding something, is mocking them, is smarter than they are. He is in total control, with swift and agile tongue and feet. And while every movement and word is calculated, he retains a looseness, a genuine quality that feels real, a vulnerability and believability factor that is very appealing. Preston is in the top echelon of movie musical entertainers, a real actor's actor, who will always get the girl or guy and achieve his dreams. I have not seen him in any other non-musical films, but I imagine his stellar approach to acting would make them very enjoyable to watch.
  6. The opening scene of Gypsy looks back to classic movie musicals as a quaint brightly colored throwback to more innocent vaudeville days, seemingly wholesome and good fare for the whole family. It makes one think of the backstage musicals of the past, though more novelty than elegant. It's an ensemble cast, until Russell enters and takes over the scene. The scene looks ahead as it is literally disrupted by Russell, her risque innuendos, broad bold movements and portrayal of a strong woman who is not subservient to any man...all qualities more fitting to the cultural climate of the 1960s and beyond. Russell enters from offstage, shouting to Louise, and takes command. Her rapid fire speech and dialogue overlapping the music reminds one of the style she employed in Howard Hawks's His Girl Friday. This and the blocking of the scene, show her professionalism as a trained film and stage actress. There is something unnerving about the way the children are presented, the little girl's movements being more adult and stripper-like than childlike and innocent. Sondheim uses the words "tricks," possibly implying sexy stage moves as part of a stripper act. As stated earlier, "Let me entertain you" is more alluring than "see me entertain you" or some other word choice. Mama Rose's directions seem like double entendres, when she says "every little movement has a meaning" "Hit her with something pink...or amber lights I forget" Amber could reference the book "Forever Amber" or mean cautionary. The girl dressed in balloons also seems like a hint at the costumes strippers wore onstage at one time.
  7. I do not believe that it's imperative for the director to use a more gritty, less stylized approach, because the beautifully fantastic ending ballet scene would be too jarring of a contrast. Minnelli's striking use of color and sophisticated mise en scene throughout the film leads well into Kelly's ballet scene. Besides Gene Kelly's obvious natural charm, it is his self-deprecating humor that gives Jerry Mulligan a humble quality and makes the viewers like him very much. We empathize with him, when the third-year student criticizes him, and cheer for him, when Milo decides to purchase his paintings. He's just a down-on-his-luck guy, whose life is about to change, and we are happy to be along for the ride.
  8. In this clip from Singin' in the Rain, O'Connor and Kelly's pre-dance movements set the tone for the rhythm and synchronicity to come during the dance routine. Their movements have a comical appeal and show us that it's them against the Professor, the straight man here. Their antics with the curtains and the chair and O'Connor's making faces behind the Professor's back all foreshadow the hilarious and tragic end for the Professor. As seen with the Professor, the straight man becomes little more than a prop, used by the stars as a means to showcase their talents as comedians as well as amazing dancers. The stars play off of his stern demeanor and stiff posture, which contrast their own lighthearted attitude and flexible movements. Gene Kelly is the alpha male, the most powerful of the three. His presence is strong and commanding. O'Connor is a close second, a bit shyer but still in control, unlike the Professor who is a meek pawn in their game. He is the epitome of the more conservative conformist of the 1950s male.
  9. I believe Calamity Jane would fall into the middle of the continuum. While she doesn't achieve true equality as a female looking for acceptance in a man's world, she does manage to successfully portray a strong female character, who softens romantically while not losing her tenacious strength of character. In her later films, she would continue to portray strong women who had to prove themselves, while always managing to stay feminine and likable, whether as a career woman or stressed-out mom. I believe she carried this wholesome quality into the 1960s, managing to balance it with the more feminist ideals of the time. I first thought that Day's sunny disposition detracted from the character, making her appear less tomboyish, and precluding her from being taken as seriously by the men. However, it does make the transition to a more feminine Jane more believable and much more enjoyable for the audience. Her likability factor makes you care and keep watching till the end. "Secret Love" is a beautiful blend of all Jane's character traits.
  10. At the beginning of the song, Astaire sits in the director's chair, and the others crowd around him as a unit. They each put their hands on him, as they attempt to convince him to do the show. They point at him and move in together toward him. Once he joins in, they link arms and dance with their legs over each other's as a cohesive whole. Again, they show support for each other in the acrobatic part of the scene. Unlike earlier musicals we've seen, there are no closeups of one person; noone is the star of the show. There are no solo spots, though the particular qualities of each are featured, including Levant's humor and Fabray's flirtatiousness. The blacks, blues and grays of the costumes all coordinate between the actors, ensuring that not one of them stand out as an individual. The black hats are used in a comedic buddy sequence between the men, as they slap them off each other's heads. Fabray then knocks the hats off, as the ladder passes by. They are all joking around together. Levant lights Buchanan's cigarette, and they all chase each other from behind the prop door. They each spin Fabray around and dance in one line, ending together, with hands outstretched toward the viewing audience, as if to say, come join us, you're one of us too.
  11. At the beginning of the scene, outside the bedroom door and then at Joe's bedside, the lighting is dark and dismal. The angel appears, Joe "awakes" and the mood is uplifted. In the outdoor laundry scene, it dramatically changes to a well-lit sunny day, with a bright, white sheet as a backdrop, filling the scene with more light. All is well, as long as Little Joe is around! This tells us that her relationship with Little Joe is everything to her, her reason for being, even with a bare table, his kiss is all she needs. As she sings his name, while taking in the laundry, she wraps his shirt around her and beams with happiness. The thought of him turns her mundane daily chores into a delightful afternoon. I don't think the meaning of the song would change much if it were about a child, except that it might be taken as condoning bad behavior instead of enforcing a more strict code of conduct, as they were expected to be "good" little children and held to higher standards. The example of unconditional love would remain the same. This film is important in reminding the audience that African Americans were also serving in the military at wartime, helping to evoke a sense of unity and integration that we are all in this together, as one, which was much needed to boost wartime morale. It probably also showed many Americans a world they hadn't been exposed to much, portraying African Americans as well-rounded characters, who had much the same joys and troubles as they had, without resorting to many of the stereotypes and cliches of the time.
  12. Blanche Sewell's expertise as a film editor is evidenced by the seamless flow of the characters, as they move throughout the scene, using the sets to enhance the choreography. At first, Betty blocks Frank in the narrow doorway, showing us at once that she is after him and he has nowhere to hide. She moves around him, backing him into a perfectly placed wall. When he ducks under, she pulls him back, and the chase begins, up the wide stairs, to a sign that reads" from mansion to cottage." Effortlessly, they dash across, finding another wall, where Frank tries unsuccessfully to escape. In one smooth move, he turns his head away and sits on the bench, where she lands on his lap, keeping him there. The control is all hers, as she lifts him up and twirls him around. At the stairs, he makes one more attempt, sliding down the rail, into her waiting arms, and he's trapped. All so smoothly and easily transitioned throughout the scene and inter-cut with the song and lyrics. After the chase scene, he is getting away, and Betty has to call him back to her, directly leading into "It's Fate Baby, It's Fate." One of my personal favorite songs in musical films.
  13. The first Judy Garland film I saw was Wizard of Oz. As a child, I felt that she was a friend, a real girl with real troubles. She even made the land of Oz feel like a place just over the rainbow. I recall her warm, lovely voice and sense of humor while interacting with the other characters. After watching the two clips, I can see how she matured into a more sophisticated performer, while maintaining the charm and exuberance she had early on. She makes complicated dance routines appear effortless and displays a great deal of empathy with her partners. One later film that comes to mind is A Star Is Born. In this film, she showcases both her storytelling and vocal skills.
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