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DAILY DOSE OF DELIGHT #1 (From The Great Ziegfeld)

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I believe that this film showed a brighter side to life to help the public forget and relax from their worries. Beginning with Ziegfeld giving away so much money; to the doorman and buying flowers and everyone's extravagant fancy clothes. Even Held's carefree song is focused on playing and having fun which is a stark contrast to what the public was dealing with. 

But making movies better than reality, isn't such an old idea. Many movies today are making things look brighter or more exciting. For example, every single superhero movie is a great way to hide from the politics of today and imagine that there is superhero out there taking care of things. 

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I agree with the comments that the film was made to be light, and an escape from the everyday worries of the time period.  I actually find it a little frivolous.  One would presume, based on the title of the film, it is meant to pay tribute to Ziegfeld, but just in the clip, it feels a little superficial,and comedic. I would think that the actual rivalry between Ziegfeld and Billings would not have been as good-natured as was portrayed here.  Afterall, this was also business!  

Anna seems very easily distracted, and a little child-like, not only with the song selected, but also in the way she keeps going back to the flowers, and how pretty they are.  She doesn't seem to need a lot of convincing to meet Mr. Ziegfeld Jr.

I think the idea of the woman being a rival for men's attention and affection, is a continuous theme, not only in depression era films, but one that continues today.  I think another, would be how money is used, as a source of buying favours.  Example, the doorman, and the bouquet, of "all the orchids in the world".

As for the change due to the code - I think Anna's costume may have been different, before the code.  Her dress was quite demure - for a "French" singer.  I think that would have played more towards a "Moulin Rouge" style of costume, prior to the change.  More of a stereotypical version of a French showgirl.

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Yes, I believe the clip where Florence Ziegfeld woos Anna Held in "The Great Ziegfeld" (1936) is more optimistic than realistic because instead of emphasizing his blatant attraction for her he exhibits a romantic gesture by sending flowers to her dressing room. This approach is totally appropriate, however, and more palatable for a Depression-era audience looking for escapism instead of realism in their films. Since their goal is to get away from the harsh truths of their daily struggles it seems very charming and empathic. 

The way Ziegfeld and Billings, who're rivals, are portrayed in Held's musical number is almost friendly, as they knowingly nod to each other, despite the intense competition each has for the other, making this exchange a  pleasant way to present a serious Depression-era issue to the audience that hints at but doesn't directly remind them of economic matters.

If this film were made "pre-code" I think Held's song and dance routine would've been more seductive and intense towards both of the men she knew were pursuing her. The amount of time she spent on viewing them in her mirror would probably have been extended, as well, to project the elicited reaction of her performance.

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1. I do agree that the clip from "The Great Ziegfeld" (1936, w/ William Powell, Luise Rainer and Frank Morgan) would present a "happy-go-lucky" perspective, where Ziegfeld, the doorman, Anna Ziegfeld's associate Jack and the audience are having a splendid an carefree time during Anna's performance on stage. 

2. Large musical numbers at the time were key to lift the spirits of depression-era audiences who attended film musicals in their neighborhood theaters.   I feel that the scene would represent a form of escapism and zeitgeist from the realities of everyday life throughout the depression.  

3. Had "The Great Ziegfeld" been made before the enactment of the Hays/Breen motion picture code, Luise Rainer's costume for her number would have had more of a provocative and revealing look for the number, along with more bawdy lyrics in the number. 

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3. I do think it's interesting that Held's stage costume has a very youthful, even juvenile appearance. Her hat is a baby bonnet, for crying out loud. She is definitely showing less flesh on stage compared to the costumes of Broadway Melody. I also would have expected the dressing room scene to involve more seductive undressing, aside from removing that baby bonnet!

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As far as themes that might be present in other Depression-era movie musicals, I think extravagance might be something that could be seen in more than just this film. When Ziegfeld is done speaking with the doorman, he tips him with a five-pound note--obviously a decent amount of money judging by the doorman's reaction. He is dressed well and, when Held returns to her dressing room, she finds that Ziegfeld has sent her a large amount of orchids. Both she and her attendant comment on the extravagance and what the flowers must have cost. During this time, moviegoers went to the cinema to escape the hardships the world was facing, especially financial hardships. Seeing displays of wealth and frivolity might have afforded a welcome escape and the source of many daydreams. 

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Yes, there seems to be a care free feeling from this clip, parting with cash easily when in reality times were tough and having the biggest problem be choosing between two wealthy powerful men. The clip is light hearted and I cannot help but wonder what goodies could have been seen if it was made during the pre-code era. Would we learn more about her upbringing, know the truth about her relationships with these suitors, and would she have been more outgoing-flirtatious-openly assertive about what she wanted out of life?

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  1. 1 I didn't notice that the clip really omitted the poverty aspects early on before reading more on this bit. Plus the political progression in the background for everyday Americans, that happen to be the case in almost all of the 30s films. So I really agree that everything's a brighter and happy environment as meant to be escapism from their Great Depression blues.
  2. Mostly the producer seeking a new star whether a pretty actress or a handsome performer at first glance during the performance. There would be competition by rival producers or performing partners playfully. And also how the performer would choose the right producer/co-performer whether rivals or a love triangle scenario. And perhaps any type of song number like this would have a bright spot for audiences to escape into and have a smile while coping through the Great Depression. After this scene, and expected for the coming attractions, some more extravaganza numbers plus individual ones showcasing their talents would heighten the escapism and enjoyment of the musical numbers evolving.
  3. If this were made in the Pre-Code era, it would have the performer do stripping acts, or 20s cabaret/vaudeville dancing at a risque level instead of her wearing full dresses from the Victorian era.

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As others have already pointed out the clip certainly highlights the sort of "carpe diem" philosophy of Depression-era films. The characters seem to embrace the notion that life is fleeting as is wealth and joy.

In terms of themes and techniques that carry over, the lush sets and elaborate costumes are certainly features that you see over the next couple of decades. Also with a few exceptions, the characters themselves tend to come from either end of the social spectrum -- the wealthy toff or the plucky poor kid -- form the focus of the drama, and the woman seems to be more plot device than character.

Pre-code Hollywood would likely have capitalized more on the salacious tone of the song in this clip with a more sheer costume with strategically placed slits to show some leg. The musical hall performance set is awfully highbrow for a song that seems like it would be more at home in the 19th century dance halls that were often men's only clubs that sold drinks, cigarettes, and other things. 

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1. The clip, i.e. the light-hearted, suggestive lyrics, the fancy dress, artistic set, etc. is an entertaining escape. I      agree with those who said that the depiction is one of weath, power, fame, fortune which offers more of an          allure than a turn-off and then on to frustration, envy or any other negative feeling bordering or                          stimulating depression.

2. The clip depicts desire, striving, competition, interest, being pursued, sought, possibilities, hope, investment        opportunities for growth, being greater than and success which I would think would be welcomed notions in          the midst of contrary thoughts and feelings relative to the reality of the depression ear. 

3. Pre-code would have allowed for more body exposure, less modest apparel, the movement on stage would          be more provocative. 

 

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Bright-siding is the theme du jour in The Great Ziegfeld. Notice how brightly lit the scenes are, how clean the sets, and how all characters are always smiling and speaking with such jovial tones. When Ziegfeld gives the doorman a large tip, he does so easily, nearly thoughtlessly. It is not until the doorman makes mention of the large five pound tip, suggesting that perhaps Ziegfeld had mistakenly given such a sum, that Ziegfeld stops to consider. He makes the “losing weight” joke and continues on his way. This exchange can be viewed as a message to audiences that it is only money, easy to come and easy to go, and that it will be back in pockets again soon. Further, by ridding himself so casually of the extra weight of carrying the money, Ziegfeld plants the idea that possessing too much money is actually a burden which can be eased by sharing with others, a tenet which was very much a part of the culture of the time. 

Films of this period made it their mission to present Depression-weary movie-goers with light, lavish, lovely stories. In the case of The Great Ziegfeld, a great deal of historical accuracy was forfeited in order to tell a story in which all the characters lived relatively trouble-free situations. Lavishness in costume and set dressing helped create an otherworldliness in which audiences could lose themselves. Substance, plot, and character development were replaced sometimes with pap because audiences were in no mood for didacticism or realism. The rise of the movie musical in this period showed audiences that singing and dancing, activities associated with happy times, could still be part of daily life, if only within the confines of a darkened movie house.

When Will Hays appointed Joseph Breen as head of the new Production Code Administration in 1934, so began a tenure of rigid enforcement. It was the movie industry’s means of self-audit, and Breen became one of the most powerful (and I dare say despised) men in Hollywood. In essence, the PCA was charged with legislating morality in a business that had been viewed by many as morally questionable. Gone were the days of nearly nude starlets, displays of love or lust, violence in great measure, and a host of other subjects deemed detrimental to the accepted “standards of life”. So, when in The Great Zigfield the doorman describes Anna’s attractiveness, he does not speak of her figure, or how she moves, rather he tells of her big, bright eyes. The two men do not have the type of lascivious conversation about Anna as would men in films of later periods. Anna’s song and dance are made childlike, as if she’s not really saying “come up and see me sometime”. In the end, she decides to meet Ziegfeld, after first saying she wouldn’t, in an effort not to appear rude. Surely the PCA was pleased that all these characters deported themselves in such civilized fashion. 

 

 

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Viewing the clip displays no indication that there is a financial struggle taking place. In fact you could say that the opposite is being shown, from the clothing, jewelry, flowers and tip - one would be led to believe that the characters are living in a world where all is fine or that everyone is flourishing monetarily. Even as Anna flashes her audience with her mirror, you see that all are dressed well including her two rivals.

The theme or approach I believe would play the same - all is good and fine in the world, everyone is employed, people have money to make frivolous purchases and my biggest problem is 'Do I want to meet this guy who sent me an elephant vase full of orchids?' Films wanted to give their audience less to think about the real world and offer them a place where they could escape to that was more picturesque and far less serious. 

Had this been filmed pre-code, I imagine we would have seen Anna take more than her hat off once she returned to her dressing room. She may have even been filmed a bath as she pondered the idea of meeting Florenz. I would even say that her costume may have shown more skin or been made of a lighter material. Her discussion of the meeting may have even been more dramatic than playful. 

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1.    Do you agree that the clip exhibits a brighter perspective of life than might be realistic? Why or why not? 

    I think so.  It would seem that the whole point was to make everything seem more pleasant and easier than what everyday life would have been.

2.    What themes or approaches might you anticipate from this clip in other Depression era musicals?

    Just exactly what I said to the first question.  Since the point of movies was to help people forget about their problems and to make life seem easier than what it was for the majority of people at that time, that seems to be a running theme in musicals more than other movies.  Other movies seemed and still do, want to reflect what is going on in the world as a whole.  Musicals help to put that aside for a while.

3.    Since this is a musical that was made after the motion picture code was enforced, how might you imagine it might have been filmed or scripted differently if it had been pre-code? Give specific examples.

   I think costumes would have been way more reveling.  Not skimpy per say but clingier and fabrics used that were less kind to some figures.

 

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1) Do you agree that the clip exhibits a brighter perspective of life than might be realistic? Why or why not?

- Respectively, I disagree.

  • The Great Ziegfeld is a "biopic" of the man behind The Ziegfeld Follies during the early 1900’s (think roaring 20’s).
  • The movie represented a very affluent time, especially for those in entertainment—$500, $1000, $5,000, and even $10,000 bills were in use.
  • Generally speaking, the uber-wealthy and/or those of high social status live a very unrealistic life (search: Hearst Zoo or Neverland) as well as exhibit “a brighter perspective of life.”
  • For those in entertainment, “Perception is everything.” Living a “brighter” and/or “unrealistic life” is part of the job. Think on all the stories that you have heard or read about some actor/actress accepting a job to roller skate, ride a horse, or something else they don’t know how to do; knowing that they wouldn’t get the job otherwise.

 

2) What themes or approaches might you anticipate from this clip in other Depression era musicals?

  • As previously stated, I don’t see this movie as a “Depression era musical,” I believe it to be a biopic about Flo Ziegfeld who had passed away a few years earlier, presumably in debt.
  • Possibly, the movie was made to pay his debts. Billie Burke, his wife, had not done a movie for about a decade (except a cameo in a movie made by Ziegfeld); yet, she returned to films shortly before he died in 1932.

 

3) Since this is a musical that was made after the motion picture code was enforced, how might you imagine it might have been filmed or scripted differently if it had been pre-code? Give specific examples.

  • Not sure that the “code” made much difference.
  • Again speaking in generalities, the entertainment industry has always had great respect and a high regard for Ziegfeld; considered a legend. It is highly doubtful that anyone would produce a film portraying Ziegfeld in anything other than the best light (i.e., keep hidden what he kept hidden) (e.g., debt, adultery).
  • IF, there were to be a difference, it would most likely have been with the costumes. The movie costumes were not as risqué as they were in the pre-code 1929 Ziegfeld movie, Glorifying the American Girl.
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In the scene the actress is coquettish, naive, unable to read English, not terribly sophisticated  (is Junior a little boy? ).  The men are sterotypical rivals, disgruntled that they are both there as competitors for her attention.  The gowns and settings are lovely, made to transport the audience from far less glamorous lives.  Rainer's odd mirror shtick would seem to be almost an annoyance to the audience, the little people out there.  I have no doubt that in a precode setting Ziegfeld would be in the dressing room himself, not just his orchids, with more suggestive dialogue, and snappy comebacks on Anna's part.  And there would certainly more dressing/undressing.  As is, the audience gets a sense of how the other half lives, but with a knowing wink, i.e., the girl is still silly and the guys are still impatient.

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Daily Dose #1

I think the clip exhibits a lighter perspective of life than truly realistic. I believe it just doesn’t feel the need to address it. The film is a biopic. It is not taking place during the Depression era. I think it makes a joke towards him giving a way 5-pound note, but I don’t feel the darkness of the era needed to be addressed. So, it comes across as playful rather than realistic.

I feel a theme to look at would be the new American dream and how in the Depression era, its still what Americans wanted. The film takes place during the end of the 1800s or early 1900s. America was being revitalized into a new idea of being totally free. She isn’t worrying about her choices, but enjoys the moment. Yet, Anna Held must chose between the two men. You could say she has the freedom to chose, but how much freedom is there in that choice.

I definitely think if this had been made pre code era, they would have had her change in the dressing room. She would have seen the flowers and read the note, but while she deliberated, she might have removed her stage costume (which may have been more revealing) and gotten into something more comfortable. This would allow her to be viewed more sensually and also given her more power on the screen.

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1.    Do you agree that the clip exhibits a brighter perspective of life than might be realistic? Why or why not?  

     First off, I agree that this clip exhibits a brighter perspective of life than might be realistic because it shows people throwing around money like its nothing with Ziegfeld giving the man 5 pounds and saying that hes trying to loose weight. Also during the performance the house is completely full of people. During the Great Depression people couldn't afford to go to see shows so the audience was almost never completely packed. Having the audience full shows the views that everyone in society is doing well and enjoying fun things like the theatre. lastly, the style of her song is playful and funny to help the viewers escape the troubles of the world outside the film. 

2.    What themes or approaches might you anticipate from this clip in other Depression era musicals?

 I can anticipate that other depression era musicals will be surrounded around money and the power it possesses to create status and respect. also I can anticipate that they will also center around a beautiful female who performs a small number or many were she's flirtatious. This was a way for movies and theatres to increase ticket sales by selling fantasies to men.

3.    Since this is a musical that was made after the motion picture code was enforced, how might you imagine it might have been filmed or scripted differently if it had been pre-code? Give specific examples.

The only thing I can think of is that the song may have been more seductive instead of innocent and light hearted. What do others think about this question?

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1.  My parents were about 4 when the depression started and I heard their stories of starvation, skipping out on their rent because they had no money, and living off of fish, eels and squirrels they caught themselves.  For my mom, who lived in the country and whose large family paid rent with the crops they grew, going to the movies was not even in their mindset.  My dad lived nearer to the city and told us of sneaking into the movie house to see the weekly serials (many of which TCM shows on Saturday mornings - thanks, they remind me of my dad!).  He told me that the movies were the only bright spot in his life during that time.  I think the musicals provided that same "happy place" for most people.  There are the musicals that reveal the lives of the showgirls: sharing a room, trying to make the rent, hoping the show doesn't close, trying to get a meal, and looking for a boyfriend with some dough, but the glamour and excitement of these movies helped a lot of people make it through.  Dreams can have a powerful effect.

2. We can anticipate the "star" being the valuable pawn between producers and angels, and her scoping out the man that can give her the best advantage.  Her sexual appeal will be more through innuendo, feisty speech, form fitting costumes, and show of legs.  The sumptuous sets will continue, and the orchestra pit will still be in view.

3. Pre-code, Held would have a more revealing costume, her flashing mirror would only spotlight the men, and she would have been more aggressive in flirting with the male audience, Billings, and Ziegfeld.  The doorman would have had a racier response to Ziegfeld about Held’s appeal, and Ziegfeld would have had a snappy retort, and perhaps an inquiry for more from the doorman, in lieu of just his facial reaction.

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1.   Do you agree that the clip exhibits a brighter perspective of life than might be realistic? Why or why not? 

Yes, it does offer a brighter perspective. The song that she sings is really light and fun. Also, without the background, I wouldn't have guessed there was a business rivalry at all. The looks the two men give each other are humorous at best as if there wasn't something important at stake. Ziegfeld also isn't at all bothered by giving away such a large amount of money or an expensive flower arrangement, which shows he is rich and doesn't need to worry about money at all. 

2.    What themes or approaches might you anticipate from this clip in other Depression era musicals?

I think there will be more focus on a carefree lifestyle and love. The point of movies during this time in history was as a distraction from how hard life was. There won't be complicated themes or movies that deal in depth with what's happening in the world. It will focus on happy themes like love and dancing and music to offer an escape for people. 

3.    Since this is a musical that was made after the motion picture code was enforced, how might you imagine it might have been filmed or scripted differently if it had been pre-code? Give specific examples

The main thing I think of with this question is definitely her costume. She is fully covered with only her face and maybe hands showing. A sexy French actress would definitely be less covered of this was pre-code. There would be some, if not a bunch, of skin. 

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Yes this film helps one to forget the troubles of the time. Most people couldn’t afford and partake in most of what occurred but gave them a chance to dream for their future.   She was completely clueless and carefree over the flowers and her decision to sign the contact. 

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1. Yes, I do agree that the clip exhibits a much brighter perspective of life. The Depression was, for lack of a better word, depressing, and if people scrimped and saved their pennies to be able to afford to see a movie, they didn't want it to depict the harsh realities of their everyday life. The movies really saved people during this time by giving them a way to escape, even for an hour or two, from their downtrodden lives, and this clip depicts that escape. The costumes, the frivolity in Ms. Rainer's performance, the lighthearted music and score, the comedy - it all adds to the escape from reality. The way Ziegfeld throws his money around and the crowded theatre with people dressed in their finery add to this as well.

2. I would anticipate seeing the same lighthearted mood in other musicals of this era, going back to the idea of escapism. The opulence, the fancy costumes, the idea that money is no object and everyone has everything their hearts desire are other themes that I might expect to see. I would also anticipate seeing the same attitude of women as ornaments for the men. I have not seen the entire film, but going by this clip Anna seems to be portrayed as more of a toy to be fought over by the men rather than a real and fleshed out character in her own right.  

3. If this film had been made before the code, I would expect to see less clothing on the women, and especially on Anna during her performance. There might also be more of a backstory for Anna, or more truthfulness as to the reality of her relationship with Ziegfeld, rather than everything being so happy go lucky.

On another topic, does anybody know if this is actually Louise Rainer singing the song or if someone else may have dubbed her singing? I'd be curious to know that seeing as how Hollywood has a long history of using stand-in singers to record the tracks for musicals.

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Wondered if anyone can identify someone in a clip from Broadway Melody.  If you look at the Lecture Video from Day 1 (Monday) at 2:55 - you can see her behind the male singer.  She's in a black dress with long pearls.  What energy she has!!  This is just a quick clip, but I recall from seeing the full movie that she's just right there the whole time adding pep and joy to the scene.  Any thoughts on who she is?  To me, she makes the scene.

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In light of the discussion in the Lecture Video of women in musicals having to choose between career and domesticity - it's interesting to watch the scene of Anna in her dressing room.  Billings is clearly the man she's planning to meet - and he's depicted as all business (when her dresser says something about - he'll talk to you about the American tour).  But she's also clearly smitten with the flowers.  Even as she's pooh-poohing Ziegfield as a "Junior," she intrigued and is continually drawn back to the flowers.  Billings = career;  Ziegfield = romance?  I know it's not that simple, but I just found it interesting to think about the woman's dilemma of choice being sort of implied even in this scene: should she go with her heart or her head?

As others have said - if it were pre-code, the dance number and her dressing room scene would have been much more risqué.

Also - in the Lecture Discussion the point was made that theatre was the reference point for how that early musical was shot.  I also think (as others have said) that vaudeville is a part of that as well as burlesque.  And Anna's song seems to me to be right out of the English Music Hall genre - particularly the way she "plays with" (to continue that word play of her song) the audience.  As they all create a spectacle out of her - she gazes right back at them.  They're blinded by lights more than she is.  So that's also an interesting turn-about (reminds me of what Hitchcock will do later in reminding the audience that they are LOOKING at people on the screen).

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 Do you agree that the clip exhibits a brighter perspective of life than might be realistic? Why or why not?

   - Yes, I agree that the film seems to exhibit a brighter perspective. First, the man in the beginning gives the doorman quite a substantial tip, something was probably unlike in the depression era. You can see by the look on the doorman's face just how shocked he is. Additionally, the music was light and airy, and flirty, and all the singer had to do to attract the attention of Mr. Ziegfeld, though unintentional on her part, was to flash a little light at him from the stage. He gives her "the nod" via his counterpart, possibly setting up some fame and a sweeping romance. 

What themes or approaches might you anticipate from this clip in other Depression era musicals?

   - I'd expect the lightness and airiness to carry over to other films in the era, as a way to try to take moviegoer's minds of the troubles of daily life. 

Since this is a musical that was made after the motion picture code was enforced, how might you imagine it might have been filmed or scripted differently if it had been pre-code? Give specific examples.

  - I would expect her undressing after the show to be much more explicit, as was mentioned about "The Broadway Melody" (1929), which was shot pre-code and included undressing and bathing instead of implied. Also, the may have included the more salacious bits of Ziegfeld's life instead of glossing over them. 

 

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