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About PetuniaBrown

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  1. How might Streisand’s performance of the song “People” have felt different in the film, had she been more theatrical and expressive, perhaps even belting her song more? It would be been off-putting since the song is presented as an extension of the conversation she is having with Nicky Arnstein. It would have been like shouting in his face. The conversational tone she uses is essential to making the scene work. Note the emotional transition moments in this scene: how do the two characters relate to each other as the lyrics are sung? He is listening, but she is moving away from him. As presented, it remains to be seen whether her point has gotten through to him. How does the direction and editing of this scene support Streisand’s performance? Be specific about blocking, reaction shots, etc. "Arnstein" is almost always in view, which makes sense. Otherwise, it would appear she is "talking" to herself, which of course does happen in musicals. But in this case, the song is used to further the story, so the positioning of the characters makes perfect sense.
  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) If you look at the ending confrontation between Ingrid Bergman and Charles Boyer in "Gaslight" you get the same dynamic as the example from "My Fair Lady." In both cases Cukor keeps both characters in the frame and lets the emotions spill out in one long take. Note the emotional transition moments in this scene, how the actors portray them, and how Cukor supports them. The transition in emotions seems to be between the characters: SHE is an emotional wreck; HE is cavalier and can't figure out what her problem is. Again, Cukor just lets it all flow onto the screen. What do you notice about the relationship between Eliza and Higgins that seems enhanced by Cukor’s direction? It seems at the point captured in the clip, they don't really know anything about each other -- or how the other feels even though they have been working together for weeks and have taken this transformative journey together. Having the two of them constantly in the same frame allows you to see how out of sync they really are. SHE is tense and teary; HE is holding a dish of chocolates and hoping that will be enough to resolve the matter.
  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? In my opinion, there is an added dimension of "real men" with a softer side and/or a good heart. In earlier years, men in musicals were often cads (such as in the earlier clip from "An American in Paris.") What other specific qualities do you notice about Robert Preston in either or both of these clips? (Preston is an early favorite of mine but I will try not to gush). For me, the most notable thing about Robert Preston in musicals is the twinkle in his eye. He seems to be having a ball, regardless of the character, and he takes the viewer along for this fabulous ride. These are musicals you watch when you need a pick-me-up. 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? Plenty, spanning his career: S.O.B., Semi-Tough , Tulsa, This Gun for Hire , Beau Geste, Union Pacific and How the West Was Won among them. He was always a solid presence in films. But he just kept getting better. He seemed to be hitting a new peak, even in flawed projects, right up until his untimely death in 1987.
  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? It looks back via the time-honored tradition of "The Audition" where "ya gotta show 'em what ya got. It is future-forward as one of the earliest of what would soon be a deluge of big screen musicals adapted from Broadway plays. 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. Coming from the stage, Russell knows how its done: loud, proud and in your face. 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). Well, I don't know about subversive. I do note the changes for the kiddie version vs. what will be heard later in the film. Kiddie: "I will do some kicks." Adult Stripper: "I will do some tricks." Either way, ya gotta be versatile.
  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? Not necessarily. After all, this isn't a documentary. The film is fairly stylized throughout. So in a way, it matches the ending ballet. What keeps Jerry Mulligan from being completely unlikeable in a scene in which he acts pretty darn unlikeable? Not much. ? For me, it is the knowledge that he is trying to bluster his way through his disappointments and relative lack of success up to this point.
  6. How do the pre-dance movements of O’Connor and Kelly compare to their actual dance movements? They are already moving on the beat before the official dancing begins. Watch the Professor all the way through and consider the role of the straight man. Thankless. How he (or other straight "people") doesn't start laughing is a miracle. Plus, they keep pointing out the steps -- like he's going to join them. How do the representations of masculinity in all three men compare and contrast with each other? Since, a least for the moment, Gene Kelly is less alpha than usual, it allows he and Donald O'Connor to appear as equals -- especially since their dancing in so in sync. The professor, on the other hand, is made the befuddled buffoon -- which of course is the whole point.
  7. As you reflect upon female representation in the 1950s, where do you think this film character falls in the continuum? Why? It kind of straddles eras because you have the Katie Brown character, a traditional feminine female, and Calamity who is tomboyish in the extreme and sees no reason why she can't do the same things men do. But despite their differences in appearance (initially anyway) and approach, both are strong women. Calamity just is and Katie gets there when she tries to take a shot at Calamity. She misses. But she was brave enough to try. How do you think Doris Day grows as an actress in her various roles in the 1950s, before and after this musical? To me, Doris Day was always a natural. That never changed. Does Doris Day’s bright and sunny persona add or detract from the role of Calamity Jane in your opinion? Please defend your answer. She works hard to suppress her natural personality -- or to substitute spunk for sunny with this role. But there is no reason why a strong woman can't have a sunny personality.
  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? There is great camaraderie throughout. As Jack Buchanan begins to sing, you can see Oscar Levant and the Nanette Fabray (RIP) look at Tony (Astaire) to be sure he is catching on. For the first two lines Astaire sings, he is still seated and still, seemingly, skeptical that there is anything in this proposed production for him. He finally stands up and fully joins in, signaling he is now convinced they can all work together and produce great "entertainment." In this number, all four are already working together as a team in singing, doing gags, etc. No one steps out for the type of solo/showcase you might have seen in earlier musicals. What do you notice about the costuming of the characters that indicate cohesiveness of the ensemble, as opposed to setting anyone apart? Be specific. The colors are all blues and grays so they match. It's another signal that they are already in sync. In most musical numbers, the "standout" wears brighter colors or something bright as part of their outfit to indicate they are the "star." Here, the "star" looks great in his pinstripe suit, but still blends in. What do you notice about the staging and interplay between the characters that helps define the relationships between the characters in the song? Despite the props, the staging is a simple backstage with typical features you would expect to find in such an environment. I also noticed the gags add another layer to what defines "entertainment." The lyrics talk about everything from Shakespeare to "a Mr. Cohan." But those lyrics are paired typical vaudeville-comedy bits such as "who lit Buchanan's cigarette" and what's up with Levant and that ladder ?.
  9. What do you notice about the way the scene is directed as Petunia goes to Joe’s bedside and as we cut to her outside hanging laundry? What does this tell us about her relationship, and the connection to the song? For one, she is happy that he is alive. As she approaches the bed early on, the covers are pulled over Little Joe's face. She pulls them back and is surprised and delighted just as she begins to sing. By the time she gets to the clothes line, life is getting back to normal. Joe is out of bed and sitting in a wheelchair. And she continues to sing and become more confident that the life she had with Joe before the shooting will continue for the foreseeable future. As the song says, being with Joe makes her happy -- and allows her to overlook his flaws. How would the song change if it was a woman singing about her child? Does the cultural meaning change? How? She would be nurturing and delighted under both circumstances. But with a man, there are added expectations of what "happiness" will mean than there would be with a child. I don't know that this is "cultural," but it is how life works -- for anyone regardless of their race or social status. What other thoughts do you have about this film, the issues of black Americans during WWII, and this film’s importance in this era? To me, this film is so important in showing 1) the talented black performers of the time and 2) a fantastical, but still closer normal portrayal of what life would have been like for black Americans during the 1940s. It has its stereotypes, but it also has its truths.
  10. Thinking like a director and editor, describe how each shot spotlights key actions. Although this is not a dance sequence, it is highly choreographed. At the beginning, for instance, each time Betty Garrett moves, you hear a musical beat. When she talks about "fate knocking," she knocks on the rail and we hear it. This sequence is masterfully synchronized between the actions/acting of Garrett and Frank Sinatra, the song lyrics and the editing. Well done. It’s interesting to examine how musicals segue into musical numbers. How does this sequence prepare us for the singing? She confronts him. She chases him across the bleachers. After that, she just has to sing a song to explain her actions. It's fate.
  11. What was the first Judy Garland film you recall watching? What was your first impression of her? I want to say "The Wizard of Oz," but it more likely was "Easter Parade" (I must have my annual "Easter Parade" fix to maintain peace and order in my universe) or one of the Judy-Mickey "let's put on a show" musicals (these can be problematic (blackface anyone?), but I love them just the same, and I am one of those people who actually respects and admires the many talents of Mickey Rooney as well). So, what was my impression? That she was one of the Great Wonders of the World -- as were many of her co-stars (separate Wonders, that is). I happen to be of an age where I heard the tragic news live on TV/radio almost 50 years ago this month (June 22, 1969) that she had left us. Needless to say, my parents had a "lot of splainin to do" before I settled down. I had always watched every year to make sure Dorothy got home safe and sound to Auntie 'Em and the gang back in Kansas. I was devastated to learn otherwise (at least in real life). But we are so blessed that she and all of our other classic movie "friends" are still with us on film/DVD/TCM. Where would we be without them? ? How do you view her differently after viewing these clips than you might have viewed her previously? Frankly, just the same. LUV! LUV! LUV! I already confessed to my "Easter Parade" habit. I am also a "For Me and My Gal" fan from way back. And because I am a fair and just person, I always roll each of the song and dance numbers at least twice (especially my childhood favorite "Swells). One time for Fred/Gene. One time (maybe more) for Judy. After all, fair is fair. ? 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? Duh! "A Star if Born." I like "I Could Go On Singing" as well. Neither is a favorite of mine, but there is no denying how successful she had become in using her inner demons to sell a song.
  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. Well there is a lot going on in this scene ... and from different perspectives. You have the valet/butler, who is black, extolling the virtues of the old Cohan song "You're a Grand Old Flag" and how it is still relevant "today" as they are walking along a row of presidential portraits. Then you have "FDR" praising Irish Americans for wearing their patriotism on their sleeves. And if you still haven't gotten the message, the scene shifts to a closeup of an American flag, a 4th of July parade and the impending birth of one of America's most patriotic songwriters ever -- George M. Cohan. If you aren't up and waving your imaginary flag by then, heaven help you :) . 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. Well, if you listen to the valet/butler, he talks about how when he saw Cohan on stage 30 years ago "you were just singing and dancing all about the Grand 'Ol Flag." He then recalls how President Teddy Roosevelt used to sing the song "in the bathtub." It seems to imply that Cohan was so patriotic, even the president had to "step up his game" when it came to flag-waving. 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. Opening with the parade would have been confusing, even with a voiceover explaining what was going on. What year was this parade? If Cohan hasn't even been "born" yet, what is its relevance in the greater narrative? The visit to FDR sets up the flashback and puts the parade in context while getting us set for our look back at the life of Cohan.
  13. What other aspects of battle of the sexes do you see indicated in this clip or in the film Top Hat? I see it as not so much a "battle" but closer to the time-honored ritual of sizing each other up in a "let's see what you've got" kind of way. As they start to move, they are watching each other's steps (and probably a few other things) and in a way getting to know each other better. By the time they shake hands at the end, it's just a matter of sorting out who's who and then getting together. How does this film distinguish itself from other Depression era musicals we have watched or discussed this week? Despite all of the screwball shenanigans, it is very focused on "these two." The camera stays on them when they're dancing and doesn't "visit" anywhere near the number of places you would go if this was a Busby Berkeley film. There's also the opulence of the settings. This a film to see to escape your troubles and dream about your own Mr. or Ms. Right. 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? For one, women had won "the vote" roughly 10 years earlier and all media -- newspapers, magazines, movies, etc. -- were looking for ways to "exploit" the female audience. Empowering them with the "appearance" of greater equality was one way to do this.
  14. What do you notice about the Lubitsch touch? How do the props, the dialogue, and the staging help you understand the character of Alfred (Maurice Chevalier)? It is a very light touch about something that could have been serious -- a woman who pulls a gun on the lover she thinks has betrayed her only to "use" it on herself after her husband shows up. Chevalier's character is winking at the audience throughout to let us know this is NOT serious. No one will ACTUALLY be killed. It is farce. 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. Frankly, I didn't notice much about the sound other than the "gunshot." You also see/hear Chevalier open a drawer with "guns" and "garters" from previous dalliances with women. What themes or approaches might you anticipate from this clip in other Depression-era musicals? Continued playfulness with circumstances that would not end so well in a drama or noir-style film.
  15. What do you notice about the interaction between the characters in these two scenes? Please give specific example They are playful, attracted to each other but restrained. In both clips he looks at her longingly but doesn't make a move. In the first clip especially, Eddy is kind of "messing" with her, and she "plays" along." They have a connection, but it is a chaste one ... for now. If you have seen either or both of these actors in other films or television shows, please share your perceptions about them. I have not seen much of Eddy''s work without MacDonald, with the notable exception of "Dancing Lady," his film debut. He has an upbeat, less operatic number in that film, and is a little looser ... a LITTLE looser. I have seen MacDonald's films with Maurice Chevalier, and of course "San Francisco" and her dynamic with her leading men is obviously different than with Eddy ... as it should be ... but still playful and operatic. 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? Look ... be playful .. but keep your distance. What norms? The illusion of propriety.
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