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

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1. I do agree that life is presented brighter than it was in real life at the time. Every exchange is light hearted and bright. William Powell (Ziegfeld) even jokes about the large tip he gives the doorman, "I'm trying to lose weight!" Few ppl at the time had 5GBP or ~$24 USD to their name let alone to toss about as tips. It would have been considered enough to feed a family for months but in the movie Ziegfeld's response is so flippant as if he abounds in money. Also, everything is so clean and attractive. Luise Rainer's (Held's) costume and even the dress of the audience compared to the rags and mismatched clothing the masses would have been wearing after years of Depression are such a contrast. One only needs to look at photos of the time to notice the difference. And those orchids! The price even then would have been astronomical. So yes, the movie was pure escapism from the dreary, difficult lives many ppl were experiencing at the time.

2. I would expect more of the same since this movie was so popular when released. More extravagance, more witty banter about being carefree and frivolous. Even more beautiful dresses, gowns, hats, evening wear, makeup and gifts bestowed on even more beautiful women. And a recurring theme that you too can be like these ppl. You merely need to be a go-getter if a man and pretty and petite, shapely and with a cute accent (if you are foreign or can fake it) and be able to sing somewhat (as long as you're pretty and cute) if a woman. So grander costumes and sets, more pretty and shapely singing coquettes, more witty and clever leading men, and more extravagance all the way around to make a Depression weary audience long for their piece of the pie too if experienced only through the lens of a movie camera.

3. If pre-code we would most likely have seen some of the darker sides of all the main characters instead of just stereotypes as we get in the film, the music professor turned encouraging producer, the patient Anna Held, the pretty and carefree Billie Burke. They all are shown as mostly one dimensional characters especially Ziegfeld and he and Held's relationship.

There would likely also have been more scenes of female "undress" backstage and more than just a hint of sexual provocation as we get in Anna's lyrics to, "play with me" because she has, "such a nice little way with me do not think it wrong" to play with her because she, "wishes you to play with her all the day long." More overt sexual tension and the reality of it. AlsoHeld is shown throughout the film as the naïve little French chanteuse charmed by the worldly and extravagant Ziegfeld and the excitement and bright lights of Broadway. It is doubtful that after so many years and countless leading roles on Broadway she would have remained the delicate and winsome girl we first meet in this scene. So perhaps we would see more truth and less sanitized fiction.

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The movie was definitely full of fluff and lightness. Very little to no signs of the actual depression era. I feel filmmakers wanted to give viewers escape and make them believe that life could be beautiful again. This is a theme that I believe a great number of musicals as well as romantic comedies of the time employed for the same reasons.

I believe if this film was made precode there would have been scantier costumes and much more blatant overtures from the males.

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Hello

1.  I do agree that this film clip shows the lighter side of the time period. The film gave people a chance to escape the worries of the time - finding work, keeping a roof over the family and so forth. Escaping reality is still a very common thread for movies

2. The common theme in many movies of the battle for the lead performers affection. Whether it is two men looking for the same girl or the reverse. There is also the concept of culture as the young lady decides that even though she thinks the orchids are from a child the only proper thing to do is to have the courtesy to meet the person. Being polite is the only thing she can do after such a grand jester.

3. If the film had been made prior to the initial movie code being enforced, the actress probably would have had at least the top part of her dress lowered to show she was truly being assisted at getting changed. There is also the possibility that her costume during the stage number would have been slightly more risqué. The dress is very formal and while very pretty conservative for a performer (more legs and cleavage)

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Certainly the atmosphere is light and gay. The surroundings are opulent with never a glimpse of the real world outside. Held seems unconcerned with her job prospects even though newly arrived and not well known yet. She is very causual about a new contract which would have been the most important thing in real life. The backstage scenes are less realistic post code with no disrobing and no glimpse of other performers in undress. This is still "stagy" and done as a true music Hall performance. The dialog is still more like a Broadway stage production than real life. Audiences mist have been fascinated with all the gorgeous costumes and settings in contrast to everyday realities.

 

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Maybe it is just me but I thought her song, as innocent as it might appear was filled with double meaning- "come play with me" could be just innocent as spend the day with me or interpreted as suggesting more adult activities 

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Answers below:

1) This clip absolutely exhibits a brighter perspective of life. I can imagine that during the great depression, seeing such glamour on the screen helped lighten the current mood of life and was more of an escape from reality for the run time of the film. I'm sure that a majority of the audience at that time, saw giving 5 pounds away or buying a bouquet of flowers as extravagant.

2) There a sense of escaping the real world presented in films during the depression, especially musicals. They would play with the mind to help see that there is light at the end of the tunnel. People didn't want to go to the movies to be reminded of the troubles they are facing with daily life.

3) Films pre-code would get away with a lot such as the bathing scene in Broadway Melody or undressing sequences and swimming sequences such as in Footlight Parade where all the women are scantily clad. Also in Footlight Parade we get a nice joke where Joan Blondell almost calls Claire Dodd's character a word that rhymes with Rich because that is her character's last name. You would never see anything like that in a movie after the code was developed.

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To look at this clip, one might not believe that the country was in the throes of the Great Depression- light-hearted fighting over a star for a show, not the gritty reality of people waiting in bread lines, trying to find work to support families. But movies were an escape for the public fighting to get by during this time- no one wanted to be reminded of the reality they lived every day on the big screen. They could dream about becoming big stars, too. 

 

I would think that money for big Broadway productions would be tight during the Depression and in order to secure a big-name talent for a show, producers would be fighting hard to get a coveted performer, not just send flowers and wait outside stage doors, as seen in this movie. But again, that would put the reality of the day in the movie when people just wanted to “get away” for a few hours. 

 

Had this clip taken place pre-code, the backstage scenes would have been more risqué- the woman would have been seen in various stages of undress, most likely with mixed company in her dressing room. 

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1)I wouldn't say that the clip is unrealistic as much as it presents a lifestyle that few people had access to during the Depression. The real Ziegfeld did put up lavish theatre productions on Broadway, so he must have had enough money to finance those productions and there must have been enough people willing to buy tickets. So I'd say that movie musicals offered a glimpse into the carefree life of the urbane '1%'

2)I guess the film is an example of 'backstage' musical, which were pretty common in the 1930's because the story line of Broadway musicals didn't become fully integrated until the 1940's with Oklahoma, so movie musicals could only go so far in terms of coming up with storyline ideas.

3)I think that if the film had been made during the pre-code era, there would have been slightly more innuendos and the leading lady's costumes would have been more revealing, but I think that the film would have been more or less similar. However, if it had been made in the 1970's, then we would have had a grittier look at the world of showbizz, kind of like Cabaret and All That Jazz

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This was certainly more optimistic for the time.  Movies became an escape for people, at least for 90 minutes or so, even today.  This musical was made at time that the economy was starting to turn around, people were going back to work, things were looking brighter on the horizon.  Europe was just starting to feel the pangs of Hitler and his regime.  When William Powell gave away the 5 pound note to the doorman, you feel that the rich have the money to bestow on the working class but it also showed that money was beginning to flow in the world again.

This movie lead the way for looking at the light at the end of the tunnel, that things were going to turn out okay in the end.  Musicals that followed put a positive spin on the ending, that everything was going to turn out okay.  

If this movie had been made prior to the pre-code era, I feel that there would have been a lot more skin showing throughout the movie, in the dressing room, back stage.  Definitely showing various stages of undress.

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I think that aside from the musical number being very light and flirty, the lighting in the dressing room scene was deliberate in setting a mood.  One expects the stage to be brightly lit, but the dressing room had no shadows cast anywhere.  The “colors” represented by value were all light save for the maid’s uniform which contributed to the uplift the scene would give the audience of the time.  White orchids vs red roses certainly offer a feeling of hope, or at least positivity.

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Daily Dose #1 Mad About Musicals

 

  1. Yes I do think the movie was depicting a much brighter look at life given the political and social issues of the time. As movies often do, life is portrayed to allow the viewer to escape from the realities of their daily lives, one might argue more often so in the movie musicals of this era. Later on of course movie musicals took on much darker themes like West Side Story and Cabaret.

  2. I think with the success of a musical such as this one at the time, others would continue the same uplifting, comedic themes with an emphasis on entertainment rather than realism or enlightenment. Musicals such as this one offered an escape from the real challenges faced during the depression era.

  3. If this movie had been filmed pre-code, with different motivation and priorities first the costumes; less flowers and more cleavage would have been allowed. The song choice and style of performance would have been more provocative than flirtatious. Despite the many qualities and skills of Louise Ranier perhaps a different actress would have been chosen for the role with emphasis on less demure presentation. Mr. Ziegfeld may have been presented as more cutthroat character after all he is trying to sway the popular performer from a rival.

     

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1. Yes, The characters’ general lack of having to worry about money, so they can focus on other things, like romance. Helps the viewer escape. 

2. The things I mentioned in 1.  Romance, characters who don’t worry about money or where their next meal is coming from. 

3. Pre-code could show more states of undress backstage. They wouldn’t have to omit topics such as divorce and cohabitation. But I wonder if the “code” version of things could also fit into that depression era escapism fantasy mentioned in questions 1 and 2, where everything is perfect, and the girl gets romanced and married.  

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Everything in this clip is so clean and well-lit and nostalgic that it serves as an escape from reality.  Pre-code, we might have seen more of the backstage chaos and a more violent conflict between Billings and Ziegfeld.

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The lavish backdrop, clothing and lifestyle really do make the viewer forget about the time that this was filmed.  Those of us who did not go through the Depression (face it, that is most of us) have no idea what life was really like.  Someone else commented on how large and fancy the dressing room was.  And to have a uniformed maid to help seems so luxurious. 

Shining the mirror into the faces of the audience was a real head-scratcher!  While most of the men she shined it on looked away, Ziegfeld embraced it as if he was used to being in the spotlight and he wanted Anna to know his face for when he would meet her later. 

I am unfamiliar with the motion picture code rules, but from reading the other messages, it does seem very "chaste" in relation to what probably really happens when a performer comes off stage.

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1. While the happiness and frivolity might be exaggerated, the clip sill portrays verisimilitude.  Whether "we" could expect such a bright outlook might depend on individual and group circumstances.  

2. Some other posters have mentioned the theme of money and economics. The undercurrent of finances would be something that I would expect to run through many depression era musicals.  In fact, many backstage musicals work with this theme.  Even the 2011 Muppets movie dealt with issues of financing and financial hardship.  

3. A pre-code film would have contained a great deal more sexual innuendo as it played out the love triangle.  I can imagine the glances from Held to her male suitors would be filled with more sexual tension, and even the discussion she has with her maid might have utilized innuendo and double entendres. The woman here is played quite innocently (why would a man send me flowers!), and a pre-code portrayal of Held would, in my opinion, be a little wiser to the sexual and financial motives of the men.  

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Yes, this clip shows an unrealistic hint of ebullience, with this frivolous song. A number of musicals from this time period were over-the-top escapism for audiences. The lyrics would be more suggestive like the song "Pettin' In the Park" (Gold Diggers of 1933) and costuming might be a bit different if this had been pre-code.

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Response to #2: the overall opulence of the scenery and costumes is indicative of Depression-era filming

The acting is a bit broad, BUT it works for this particular film; because The Great Ziegfield is all about Ziegfield as entertainer, NOT as a human being. 

Response to #3: I would assume that pre-code, something else a little more suggestive would have been sent to Anna Held, or the flowers would have been personally delivered by Ziegfield with a dressing room romp ensuing. 

 

 

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Just from this scene alone, you can glimpse just how much the film is trying to stay cheery and positive, showing things better than they are.

The themes that may continue to show up in these films are perseverance, the wonder of show business, the strength of love, and the ability of the American entrepreneur to build himself up. Sort of a “you can have it all” message.

The Hayes code prevented some serious drama from being created on screen. It keeps reality out of the picture. If the studios didn’t have to worry about the code, the film could definitely have been darker and handled a lot of issues that were prevalent during the day.

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The clip shows a light-hearted and optimistic attitude to be sure, but there was more there than just the clever banter between the doorman and Ziegfeld about his tip that was not realistic.  I found the naivete and superficiality of Anna extremely unrealistic - though appealing.  As an established entertainer in Europe, she would have needed to be much more savvy to have a successful stage career than the clip implies.  While the depression era audiences may have found her "Marie Antoinette" not-a-care-in-the-world attitude a happy escape from their own circumstances, the reality of her situation would have demanded level-headedness and careful consideration on her part.  

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What fascinates me about "The Great Ziegfeld" is that Ziegfeld doesn't survive the Depression.  His death is made beautiful (as all Post-Code hero death should be), but he is broke and Billie is working again.  The ending doesn't seem logically uplifting or provide escapism for an audience waiting in bread lines.

However, the clip does illustrate a key theme in the movie: "With determination, cleverness and risk, a man can pull himself up from disaster to success."  The orchids, the tip and the theater tickets require Ziegfeld to spend all he was loaned by Billings to go back to the United States.  Ziegfeld instead wagers them on recruiting an act.  This act makes the foundation of his first successful show.  A second time Ziegfeld finds himself broke, he also builds himself back up.  His beautiful death suggests Ziegfeld's final recovery will be his eternal reward for the joy he gave his audiences.  Perhaps then the message of assurance for viewers is that even if this world doesn't ultimately provide worldly success, there will be something for the suffering in death.

For the women in Ziegfeld's life, honest labor also produces the reward of marriage and stability.  Neither needy Anna nor manipulative Audrey last as wards of Ziegfeld through marriage or patronage due to their own character flaws.  Billie, however, who is loyal enough to take over being the breadwinner, has a longer marriage and a child with Ziegfeld.  These are marks of success for a women of the time.

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1. Films provided an escape from the dreary prospects of the depression era. The focus is usually on the lifestyle of those perceived as being wealthy. Even characters of lower income brackets were often dressed in very nice clothing. Dialogue was often flippant, as we saw in this clip, downplaying serious matters such as money.

2. Their approach to dialogue was fast-paced and did not come across as real conversations. It was entertaining with lots of wise-cracks and one-liners. The back stage musicals would be a favorite theme of musicals through the years. Lifestyles of the rich and famous; making it to the top; sacrificing all for love - these would be also be recurring themes in the musicals.

3. Frankly, I was surprised that Held’s song made it through the Code. It was obviously a double entendre. Pre-code, I’m sure she would have been dressed more provocatively and would have met with one of the producers in her dressing room.

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1. Yes the clip and movie definitely shows a brighter perspective of life. The movie was made during a gloomy time in US history and audiences were hungry for glamour and extravagance. I also feel sometimes our culture likes to romanticize our past and I think the clip and movie definitely showcases that too.

2. Probably the most common themes during this era are money and extravagance.

3. I think if this movie would have been filmed pre-code I think Held's character would be wearing less in her dressing room scene or her costume would have been more revealing. I can't help but wonder too if the bigger production numbers in the movie would have included some nudity as well. Correct me if I'm wrong but didn't Ziegfeld have his girls pose nude sometimes in his shows?

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1.  I do agree partly and disagree partly, with the notion that this clip is brighter than real life.  Ziegfeld isn't the only broadway producer to bribe, an actress or actor with a gift to distract them from meeting another broadway producer.  At the same time unless we were there when Ziegfeld was interested in Held, who knows what the bribe was...or if he bribed her at all.   Just because its a musical doesn't always mean that, the reactions of those on screen are meant to be happy.  I think Held's reaction to the flowers is a smile of delight mixed with confusion. 

2.  The approaches I like from Depression era musicals, and even WWII era musicals are that, the reactions of the characters are in real time with the audience.  So no matter how old these films get the reactions always seem, to match up or relate to those seeing it for the first time.

3.  I think 'The Great Ziegfeld' would of been a dark musical comedy.  I think we would of seen his financial issues later on in life...we would of seen his marriage fall apart.  We would of been exposed to more about his life than what we are in musical film.  

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I do agree that this film depicts a brighter world. I found her use of the mirror as a spotlight fascinating. A mirror speaks of narcissism and yet it is being used to shine a light on the men. What does that say about the men?

  1. I assume we will continue to see wealth displayed as the norm. Women will continue to be stereotyped in various ways. Men will just be good old boys living the American dream in some way. Minorities will be stereotyped if shown. Music will be upbeat and boy will always get the girl.
  2. It could have been grittier, more noir. There may have been some value in showing the competition of two men fighting it out in the system of commerce and one prevailing. That was a theme at times in other films I have seen.

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Exactly why I fell in love with musicals, it definitely lifts the spirit from a time that was filled with worries. Still the way I choose the movies I watch today.  I love a movie that has been singing and dancing on my way out of the theater.  ?

More rivalry between the male characters, more flirting by the female actor.  I love the lighthearted approach to the competition.

Pre-code, maybe skimpier costume, more explicit flirting. Also, it would have been interesting to know more of the real story, although the movie probably would not have retained its lightheartedness. 

 

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