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Dr. Vanessa Theme Ament

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

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1. Yes I do agree that the clip portrays a brighter perspective of life. You see expensive orchids being given away, fancy decor,  and people wearing beautiful clothing. And everybody is very cheerful and they are having a good time. They have nothing to worry about. Even their "problems" are nothing serious. You also hear jokes and songs. The songs in the clip are meant to put people in a good mood. The song "To Play With Me" portrays this image of people having a good time. The jokes such as, " I'm trying to lose five pounds", or "Why is he a junior is he a little boy?" all show that these people are all about having a fun time. 

2. The themes and approaches from this film might be about having a good time. Rivalry-getting the actress to be a part of your theatre. Choosing between two different men. Happiness. 

3. If this film had been made during the pre-code era you would have seen the actress changing in the change room. You might hear more provocative jokes in the film. More romance. The actress might have worn a more revealing dress in her performance. Maybe even shorter sleeves. I don't know if that would have made a difference. Or if the length of the sleeves would have been an issue during the pre-code era. 

Edited by srehncy

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Don't forget this story is not set during the depression. Part of the escapism is in going back to a pre-depression era, so the story will not reflect hard times.  Also, Ziegfeld shows of that time featured acts that the code would not have allowed to be portrayed accurately in this film

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After watching the clip from The Great Ziegfeld I do agree that it shows a brighter perspective of life. At this time in history people all over the United States were dealing with extreme financial hardship. When they watched this they were shown a lifestyle of opulence and entertainment. For example, Ziegfeld gives the door man such a large sum of money without questioning it. Later in the clip he sends an extravagant arrangement of orchids to Anna Held. At first she has no interest in Ziegfeld, but the expensive flowers peak her interest just enough to think about meeting with him. Instead of highlighting the disparities that the viewers are experiencing this production aims to transport them to a place where there is no need to worry about money. 

If this musical has been filmed before the motion picture code was enforced I think Anna Held would have been far more sexualized, but she might have been given more character development. In the clip she is presented as a very beautiful and demure woman that is apologetic for her lack of fluency in the English language. I have only seen this clip of the musical, but I doubt that Anna Held gets to do a lot of critical thinking before picking a producer. A pre-code production may have allowed for more of an internal struggle. However, with this musical being filmed during the Depression-era that is the exact thing producers wanted to stay away from. No one wanted to see a main star struggling. They wanted a light-hearted and playful musical about a woman who was being swayed with expensive gifts. 

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even the song was lighthearted, quite suitable for escaping dreary reality.  The 5 pound comment as well.  Certainly the costumes would've been different pre code and perhaps more suggestions very lyrics.  Although these lyrics could be construed as suggestive.

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Most definitely, many movies, especially musicals were "sweetened" for the audience, especially after the Code was enforced. I've often wondered what would have happened if there had never been a Code, especially since so often movies reflect societal issues (and society is changed by movies). I often explain the "Code" to my students by stating "Pre-code presents life in America closer to reality than movies made after the Code". It's an oversimplification, but it helps to give them perspective on a 80-year-old doctrine. 

Dr. J. Catherine Herbert

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I also think it's much more lighthearted than its era. As others have mentioned,  the puns, plus the "bouncy " music. Huge bouquet of expensive flowers definitely  a treat. With the  onset of  codes and censorship,  her outfit is quite covering, compared to the ones in the Broadway Melody snippet.

 

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The I enjoy the movie and of course the actors in it. If this was precode would not have been dressed head to toe while singing her song. The joke of 5 pounds was funny. She was impressed with the cost of the orchids and the price is what made her decide to see him. Which by the way ignored the depression going on.

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This clip from The Great Ziegfeld, definitely shows things in life as much brighter than they were. The NRA (National Recovery Act) had already been declared illegal by the Supreme Court and now parts of the AAA (Agricultural Adjustment Act) was thrown out by the Court. All the administration of Roosevelt tries to do, it seems Republicans and the Court are stopping. While GNP (Gross Nation Product), continue to rise, and unemployment goes down, for most things seem to not look so rosy. Germany is out of the Depression in 1936, and while the U.S. is seeming to be heading in that direction it seems very tenuous, and is, to most people. (http://www.huppi.com/kangaroo/Timeline.htm)

 

Yet, here are the well to do, producers like Ziegfeld in tails, going around throwing money at doormen (five pound note), getting box seats. Women in gowns, and just to meet Anna Held, Ziegfeld sends her a “white elephant” vase with “all the orchids in the world”. It is all fun and games for them, a chance to beat out Billings, and Held keeps remarking on how lovely the flowers are, as she decides to meet Ziegfeld.

 

Most musicals of this time will have this incongruity, between those affected by the Depression and those going to the Musicals “Broadway” dressed to the “nines”, including most of those working backstage. This is best done is Gold Diggers of 1933 when Joan Blondel sings “Remember My Forgotten Man” (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CzMy7-7WV44). This expresses like “Brother, Can You Spare a Dime”, how bad it was. But it wasn’t usually that bad, Backstage.

 

 

That was what Pre-Production Code would look like.

image.png.dba5d3b59448b92f336998de14b358ad.pngimage.png.b5cf057c065a5e02f66ddb20be88989e.png

While post code on the right.

 

I think the biggest difference would have been in the dressing room while Anna Held was gushing over the orchids Ziegfeld had sent her. We would have been seeing Anna undressing, maybe showing leg or shoulder, knowing she was undressed as she grabbed an orchid to smell, and talked to her maid. Just as Ziegfeld or Billings would show up at the door, and she would have to go behind a dressing screen to hide from them and us...but, we would have seen a lot.

 

Ads: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gold_Diggers_of_1933

 

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Daily Dose #1

1. This film does its job. Entertainment in the Depression, theatre and film especially, were created as a means of escape from the financially distressed world outside the theater doors. The character of Anna Held exhibits a playful stance on competition, which is standard for things made during this time. The film as a whole is a lighter retelling of what actually happened, especially since Ziegfeld and Held were not actually married and the relationship they had was less than delightful. 

2. The theme of light competition and uncertainty will find its way into the Depression era musicals. People were less likely to make rational decisions during this time because they thought they had nothing to lose. Held choosing to see Ziegfeld rather than Billings is an example of this. 

3. If this film were made after the code, it might have cut Anna Held's character all together. Her relationship with Ziegfeld was not as honorable as people would have liked considering they never married. The dressing room scene would have had Anna Held behind a privacy partition the entire scene, maybe peeking out her head every few lines, so as to preserve her modesty. 

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I agree that this clip/film seem to have a very light-hearted comedic feel to it, and that it served the purpose of allowing the audience a break from the struggles of the depression.

Before I go into my next thought however, I would like to preface with the fact that I tend to overthink and overanalyze, so please forgive me if my thoughts are completely off. One moment that stuck out to me was when Ziegfeld gave the doorman 5 pounds like it was nothing. Yes this was a comedic moment, and had a fun line. However, aside from the comedic effect I feel it could also instill a feeling of shock from some audience members that are struggling in such a way that they could not fathom just throwing away a large sum as five pounds. It certainly would not ruin the film for anyone. This clip alone was able to lift my spirits in a short period of time. I expect the full film is just as enjoyable, but I can't help but wonder, what other emotions were being experienced even as they had a moment to get away from the struggles that were occurring outside the theatre.

I think we can expect to see much more comedy in the depression-era musicals in order to keep spirits light. I also expect to see some moments that are slightly more relatable to audience members. Not necessarily completely depressing, but rather moments of struggle that do get resolved in an effort to instill some hope in movie goers that these hard times will pass eventually.

I was not personally aware of the motion picture code. I am excited to learn more about it, and its effect on directing and films in general, but I would imagine the same as many that I have seen posting: less clothing, more suggestive dialogue, etc.

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The richness of the affair is a striking contrast to the times I am sure.  Visual escapism probably kept may movie goers sane during difficult times. The expense of orchids and dropping a five pound tip was noted. Precode would of allowed for Rainer's  costume to be more exposed and with less undergarments. The male competition for her companionship probably would of been more direct possibly?

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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? Of course. We know that this biopic presents a mostly flattering portrait of Zeigfeld, though the film does acknowledge his womanizing (in an earlier scene, he tells a little girl that appreciating beautiful girls is his hobby). Zeigfeld’s (William Powell) smooth talking and orchid-giving win over Anna Held (Luise Rainer, in a lovely, free-spirited performance), who chooses him over his older, less smooth rival (Frank Morgan). In this clip, it’s really that simple – she’s his for the show and for love. It’s a template that has been repeated for decades, from George M. Cohan (James Cagney) winning over Fay Templeton (Irene Manning) in Yankee Doodle Dandy (1942) to P.T. Barnum (Hugh Jackman) winning over Jenny Lind (Rebecca Ferguson) in The Greatest Showman (2017).

2.    What themes or approaches might you anticipate from this clip in other Depression era musicals? In this clip we see an on-the-rise showman spending money for a huge bouquet of orchids, which is something most Depression-era audiences couldn’t conceive of doing. Some musicals during this period portrayed a fantasy world where such extravagances are accessible (some of the RKO Astaire-Rogers films) while others reflected the economic difficulties of the times (the Warner Bros. Gold Diggers films, for instance, where the chorus girls are struggling to pay bills).

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 use of the reflected light from the mirror allows Anna Held to play the two producers against each other is a clever metaphor for her choosing between the men artistically and sexually. She coyly sings, “I should like you to play with me,” as she flashes the light over the men in the audience, stopping dramatically for the camera to pan over to Zeigfeld, who has won her heart and contract. If it had been pre-Code, we may have seen something more sensual when he visits her dressing room.

Luise 2.png

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I wonder if it were the producers or costumes who turned lemons into lemonade, when the astringent code was imposed. Producers who copied Zeigfield’s risque formula were probably stymied and angry. Then someone realized that long, sumptuous, opulent ball gowns reflected the wealthy life to which audiences yearned to escape, even if it did mean covering up a sexy body. Someone convinced the others that a coy flirtation in a modest dress with ample girlish ruffles positively breathed “I’m naive about life”. It was just as sexy.  Cha-ching. 

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1. Definitely. I think almost all movie musicals (with the exception of Les Mis) go out of their way to make life seem more like a fantasy

2. Showbiz musicals, female sacrifice, competition, etc. 

3. Maybe the showgirls would have been in skimpier outfits?

    

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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.

A pre-Code version of this scene would have likely featured Louise Rainer in some state of undress while she was backstage. Her performance would also likely have been more playful and physical: a more revealing or suggestive outfit, a song filled with double-entendres, winks and nudges a la Mae West vs. the prim and proper buttoned up song we saw.

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This was one of my late mother's favorite movies due to Luise Rainer's performance in the "telephone scene." This clip shows the light and fluffy side of life as most Depression era musicals did, not focusing in on the harshness of everyday life and providing an escape to as aspirational life where money was easy to come by and to give away. Not everything was a bowl of cherries... to me, the most poignant and political segment of these musical was Footlight Parade and "Remember My Forgotten Man".

Compared to pre-code, the dressing room scene is modest. I recall my late mother and grandmother loving this movie, particularly the telephone scene where Anna Held learns of Ziegfield's marriage to Billie Burke. Until today, I had no idea that Held was his common law wife.

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1.I agree that the clip exhibits a brighter perspective of life because the characters in the movie, especially Ziegfeld, have no concern about money.  Ziegfeld tries to one-up his competitor by bribing a doorman with a five pound note and bribing Anna Held with an enormous bouquet of orchids.

2.Other Depression era musicals like The Great Ziegfeld, had the theme of the young actress being discovered by the successful theater director and eventually becoming a celebrity.  People would watch these musicals and think, "If that character can be successful, than so can I."

3.If the movie had been made after the production code had ended, Anna Held would have been wearing a more revealing costume and been shown undressing after her performance.  Also, Ziegfeld would have been shown meeting Anna Held in her dressing room instead of just giving her flowers.

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15 hours ago, Dr. Vanessa Theme Ament said:

Hi Everyone!

As we start the course, I will be posting a forum for you to post your responses to the Daily Dose of Delight, which will be available every Monday through Thursday. Here is the first one for Monday.

Recall that you watched a clip from The Great Ziegfeld. As you watched it, we were discussing the early beginnings of the movie musical in the historical context. With that in mind, look at the three questions below, as I listed them below the clip on Canvas, and post your thoughts. 

I look forward to reading your responses/

 

Here are a few discussion starters (though feel free to come up with your own):

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

Giving the doorman 5 pounds would have been pretty extravagant in those days. Anna's costume is expensive and elaborate, not likely to be obtainable by most people. Her attitude to the note was very lighthearted and dismissive at first, with no indication that she might suspect sexual motives in the gift of the flowers.

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

Competition over a woman's talent. Rivalry between an attractive man and an older rich man. The ever-present maid. Fancy dressing room. Expensive flowers as a courting maneuver.

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 the costume Anna wore would have been much more revealing and Anna would have been more worldly, "getting" what Zeigfield had in mind. The song "Play With Me" would have been less coy and more explicit.

 

15 hours ago, Dr. Vanessa Theme Ament said:

 

Vanessa Theme Ament, Ph.D.
Endowed Chair, Telecommunications

Ball State University

 

 

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This is certainly a more upbeat version of life that most people had during the Great Depression.  The lavish expenditures on flowers, tips, etc.  was way our of most budgets in that period.

Not to say that there weren't grittier musicals.  I'm remembering the "Remember My Forgotten Man" number from one of the Broadway Melody musicals, and even the Lullaby of Broadway number from Gold Diggers of 1935.

This seems to be a kind of a fairy tale, rather than any attempt to be realistic.  It's escapism, pure and simple.  Not all musicals of the period were like that, but many were.  I'm kind of reluctant to assume I know what to anticipate.  Could go either way.

Pre code, I'd expect Ziegfeld to show up in person and for Held to be in a dressing gown rather than full costume.  Ogling and groping aren't exactly William Powell's style, but some more direct suggestive behavior on Ziegfeld's part might also appear in the script. Held's musical number could well be a lot suggestive, and her costume skimpier.

Gold Diggers of 1935 A Study in Style on youtube is an analysis of Busby Berkley musicals in general and the Lullaby of Broadway number in particular.  You know things are gonna get dark when Triumph of the Will is cited.

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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? 

Oh yes, the clip definitely exhibits a brighter perspective of life. Money seems to be no issue in the clip – the price of the flowers is easily revealed, they were expensive and surely not something the common man would spend money on during hard times like the Depression. The same thing goes for when Ziegfeld tips the other man, he gives away the money like it’s nothing. Another thing is the dialogue. The characters know exactly what to say and they say it quickly. There is no time to stop and think, there is no time to think twice of what to say, the words are already there. The way Anna Held plays around with the mirror during her performance might also stand for an analyzation. The audience bring their hands up to protect themselves from the reflection – they could portray the common people during this era. They’re in the dark and they’re not used to the bright light that could symbolize a brighter future while the producers bask in it instead. They had money to get by, they were truly wealthy and thus lived a comfortable life despite the era – they didn’t need to worry about the future. To analyze that particular scene differently, the audience could also symbolize the average American in terms of going to the movies and watching a show. Anna Held is the ‘movie’ that makes them forget about everything else until she blinds them with the mirror and brings them back to reality.

 

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

The lighthearted dialogue is something I would think carries through this particular era as well as making sure that money is not an issue. The characters aren’t worried about the future and I think that’s a common theme.

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.
 

If the film had been made pre-code, the costumes would have been different. Anna Held would have shown more skin and wouldn’t have been portrayed so naively. There would have been more violence and the language would have been harsher. For example, the rivalry between Billings and Ziegfeld would have been much dirtier in terms of competition. There would have perhaps been gangsters involved. The scene were Anna Held is in her dressing room would have showed more backstage story and it would have shown her undressing. Ziegfeld would also have showed up at the dressing room instead of merely sending her flowers. It would have been much more 'hands on' where the characters went after what they wanted in a much bolder way.

 

 

 

 

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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?  Everything feels very lighthearted.  Also, everyone seems to have a lot of money.  Even the doorman seems well-off.  Costuming is opulent.  Ziegfeld clearly is well-to-do if he can tip $5 and give a performer a vase of orchids.  This may have correctly reflected wealth during the Edwardian era when Ziegfeld met Held but it certainly did not reflect the dire circumstances of the Great Depression when the movie was made.

2.     What themes or approaches might you anticipate from this clip in other Depression era musicals?  I would say “escapism” for Depression-weary audiences.

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.  Pre-code films were more likely to show women backstage in various stages of undress and would have likely shown the leading lady changing in her dressing room after her performance.  This film showed no other performers backstage and the only thing Louise Rainer took off was her hat.

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I was just thinking about "escapism" in the movies. Back in the 1930's, there was a serious socialist movement in the USA. A reaction to these films might also have been resentment--if you were poor and had to struggle, wouldn't you resent seeing depictions of people who had everything? I think it would be interesting to hear from people who were alive then about what they thought of the portrayal of the 1%. Did it have impact on support for the labor movement? Roosevelt's welfare programs? Were the gangster movies from the same time period the yin to the musicals' yang?

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1) Nearly all Depression era and many WWII ear films were aspirational and did not reflect the time.

    As the films of our current time reflect fantasy and escape (not to mention an uptrend in Horror)

2) Themes of opulence and overriding charm of all the actors as if none were playing for high stakes.

3) If this were a pre-code film it would depict the grit and torment of the core relationship, the inevitable casting couch before that relationship and perhaps star Barbara Stanwyck emotionally torn between two lovers.. and the two lover empresarios more concerned about their respective box office losses than the woman they had to use to become successful.

 

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I can’t imagine personally how hard life was during the depression. My mother shared stories and I saw how she lived her life because of it. If I had scraped together money for a movie I would want it to be light and make me feel good. I can see how the musical would be such a big hit. Music, dance and sixty minutes or more of your reality being swept away. We like to dream of the effect life and the characters in these movies had romance and intrigue and beautiful costumes. A prefect escape. 

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1) I feel that in the time period in which these films were made, the majority of Americans were struggling through every day, just trying to make it to the next. Their lives were far from glamorous, but a musical allowed them a glimpse into a life they could only imagine. For an hour and a half, they were wealthy, they were dancing, and they didn't have a true care in the world. Most wouldn't want to see something that they might face every day, whether it be financial or business struggles or people trying to get by. They wanted light and beautiful to take them away from the dark and dreariness of their own struggles and hardships.

2) As I stated previously, people were looking for the opposite of what they were experiencing, so it only makes sense that we will be seeing glamorous views, light romantic problems, and a happy ending.

3) I imagine the costuming was made a bit more conservatively. You simply compare the revealing costumes the women wore in Broadway Melody to the conservative gown worn in this film clip, and you see how even in the simple ways, things were made to fit the code. In this clip, Ziegfeld is trying to seduce the woman away from his competitor. Had this been pre-code, his actions and dialogue might have been a bit for forward and seductive, as it probably was in real life.  

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