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

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Once I freed myself from the hypnotic effect of William Powell's voice, I was able to think clearly. When Anna Held decides to meet with Ziegfeld, she doesn't depend on logic or business sense -- but on the beauty of the flowers. It's going to be an interesting decade!      And I understand all about the escape from the dreary depression, but honestly -- those clothes on the people in the audience. Did people really dress like that when they went out?

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I understand that during the Depression folks felt a need to escape.  In the clip, what is most noticeable to me is not just the escape from reality, but the lack of concern of tomorrow's consequences of today's decisions.

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

I agree that this clip approaches life with more of a light-hearted sentiment and glamorisation than might have been realistic for the subject matter and the times. For example, the two producers, Ziegfeld and Billings, are portrayed as having not so much of a hard-hitting business competition relationship as playful adversaries in a battle to "get the girl" (in more ways that one perhaps). The carefree manner in which Held approaches the matter at hand seems to show us that even in matters of seemingly great importance, there is humour to be found. Everything about the mise-en-scene drips glamour. From the fancy hotel Ziegfeld emerges out of, to the doorman and stage hand's outfits, to the theatre's interior, the backstage dressing room, and the penguin suits and dresses worn by show-goers. These are great examples of the tendency to dress up real life during the Depression Era. Even the way the cast speaks to one another with a bright sing-song tone and somewhat formal language could be a way to let average audiences escape into a brighter reality than the one they were facing.

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

Some themes I may anticipate include: Competition between producers and businessmen, "getting the girl", the jealous male, humour, double-meaning, playful jabs, wit, emphasis on backstage life, glamour, somewhat formal approach to social life, glossing over cultural issues, frivolity and carefreeness

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 first example that comes to mind is how Ziegfeld and the doorman engage in a discussion about Held. In pre-code film, their language may not have been so formal and they may have opted for a different way to flatter Held than to describe her "beautiful eyes". During Held's performance, her costume is quite conservative. I can imagine a pre-code world in which this film has her dressed differently, perhaps with a shorter costume. The words "play with me" could still be considered risque for a coded musical, and they may have opted to shoot it in a more suggestive way especially since she is engaging the two producers with those lines. Lastly, in the dressing room we see a screen behind which Held can undress (we assume) and her maid begins to undo her dress; however, we never see her actually get undressed which most certainly would have happened in front of the camera and not behind a divider or screen in a pre-code film. Interestingly, there is also a lack of profanity or slang language in this clip. They have opted for a very glamorous, formal-sounding tone. As such, the dialogue in the film is very much delivered for the code.

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I have really enjoyed reading everyone’s posts.  You can tell those who have seen the movie and those who haven’t.  For those who haven’t don’t judge the 3 hr movie by this one clip, it’s pretty good. Also the movie was made just 4 yrs after Ziegfeld’s death, that’s pretty quick.  His wife Billie Burke was the main powerhouse behind the film being made.  So I wondered how much of the story sanitizing was her doing besides the Movie Codes in place.

1. I agree the clip exhibits a brighter perspective of life than might be realistic. Why? The tone is light hearted and happy. The people are generally from the wealthier class, we don’t see or hear their troubles in the clip. The costumes are fancy dress and the song is light hearted and flirty.

2. Themes I might anticipate from this clip in other Depression era musicals are romantic entanglements, power and influence, money & success, grandness, beauty moves you forward to success, pull yourself to success through cleverness and/or determination.

3. My imagination is quite good, so I can easily imagine this film or script clip differently had it been done pre-code. As many others have stated, the costuming would have been more risqué, more skin on show. I also think the choreography of the number would have reflected the double entendre in the lyrics. The dressing room scene would be more provocative. The men would have been in or by her dressing room. I believe the interaction of the men in competition would have been scripted differently, however I like the way that part was filmed. The film would have had the freedom to be more realistic (Ziegfeld’s big personality, his interactions with others especially women, and his shows) pre-code but based on the fact Billie Burke was behind the film leads me to think that wouldn’t necessarily have happened.

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I find it interesting that the Austrian born actress is playing a Polish born performer who is identified in the film as French. I suspect the producers at the time thought this made her seem more romantic (and perhaps naughtier). (By the way, can anyone fix the typo that misspells the enchanting Ms. Rainer's first name?)

There is certainly a romantic and lighter than air atmosphere that adds to the fairy tale aspect of the story. It's also interesting that there is still an emphasis on silent closeups of the two producers rather than a reliance on dialogue and that the song is almost secondary to everything else going on.

 

 

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1. The clip definitely shows a brighter perspective of life in the depression era.  It focuses only on positive and happy situations.  Even when showing someone from the working class, like the bellman, they are all shown to be happy.  It also seems to hint that happiness is rewarded with financial gain.  Also the concept of lavish gifts, such as the orchids sent to miss Held, exhibits that all is well and bright in the world.

2. Based on this clip, I would expect themes from other depression era musicals to be happy and hopeful.  As a form of escapism, the concept of showing people experiencing happy moments in life would be beneficial for musical productions.  It would be more likely to attract the downtrodden if it gives them the ability to escape to a happy, flowery, and hopeful landscape, even if just for a short while.

3. I was unaware of the motion picture code until i began this course.  I think the differences we may have seen would have definitely included the way miss Held was approached. Pre-code I feel that Miss Held would have been approached directly, instead of being sent a note.  It's possible that she would have begun to undress during the interaction as well.  I also feel that perhaps the Bellman's description of Miss Held may have been a bit more risque as well.

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1.  Everything in these scenes says the word "Grand". The show Anna sang at was held at The Palace Music Hall.  All of the characters costumes were grand for the part they were playing.  The dress she wore was grand, the large elephant vase with large bow holding many many orchids, the seating area where the men sat alone were grand.  

2. Anna was a bit naïve and child like.  Dressed as a woman with rings and a diamond broach during show to make her look more grown up.  Child like with two men sending her beautiful gifts.  The maid almost matronly towards her.  When Anna asked if there was a card there was and it had already been read by her maid.  The maid had to read the English words for her and the maid was also steering her towards Held and not Ziegfeld.

3.  The men would have come to her verses her going to them. 

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Post-code:  "Don'ts and Be Carefuls" ( Wikipedia)  allowed for more imagination via audience participation allowing for a brand of movie marketing through word of mouth, i.e., good old gossip.  Pre-code, not so much.

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It is a very interesting choice in clips and it is very much a "brighter perspective".  It is a necessary escapism.  During such a bleak time, some levity was necessary.  Just imagining getting five pounds could be a major uplift to people and help their mood.

In addition, the time did not call for truth in cinema and it was as much about making a legend as compared to giving the gritty aspects (since it was under the Code).  I also would assert that Ziegfeld had too many friends, co-workers, and supporters for there to be much negative about about him.  He had only died in 1932 and his wife and others were still very active in Hollywood.  Even reading his obituary (Zig Obit) adds to that glorification for a great producer.  

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Anyone who has ever been in a real theater dressing room would recognize that there is some "brightening" happening. 

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This clip does exhibit a "brighter perspective of life" as many films typically do. The movies were, and still are, a place for people to go and leave their world and their worries behind

and just enjoy the show. Especially during this time, it being the Depression era, many welcomed that escape, and from this clip, it seems as though this film provided an escape in more

than just music. I noticed the playfulness of her performance, like when she used the mirror to incorporate her audience into the song and her performance, spotlighting them as she sang

"I want you to play with me!" as if she was actually inviting each of them to join her. The song itself is an upbeat song, even I found myself nearly tapping my toes and bobbing my head

to the music while she sang; the upbeat tone is aided by her wardrobe. She looked like an innocent porcelain doll with her white dress, that seemed from another era all together, which provides

a feeling of comfort and safety as you watch her performance, something I imagine would be widely used during Depression era musicals.

Because of the enforcement of the motion picture code, the main difference in this film, I imagine, would be less of a playfulness in the depiction of the competition between Ziegfeld and Billings, as well as

probably seeing more undressing in the dressing room than what is shown.

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Daily Dose of Delight #1: Progressing through the Depression / Questions and Answers

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

I think the clip must be a brighter perspective on life because the film, The Great Ziegfeld, from which it comes, was released in 1936: during the Great Depression. How many people could afford one orchid, let alone the huge bouquet depicted? How many people could afford the luxurious clothes and stage costumes?

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

The luxury would be a form of escapism, and I imagine that other 1930s films also featured sumptuous costumes and lavish set designs. I haven’t seen a whole lot of musicals from the 1930s, but I imagine they would feature escape and luxury to give moviegoers some respite from economic woes.

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.

 

In the pre-code era, I would think Anna Held’s costume would be more revealing and risqué. Her gown, hat, and parasol seem like a throwback to the Gay Nineties (1890s). I also think the song’s lyrics would be more explicit. I guess you can read what you want in “Play with me,” but there probably wouldn’t have been much left to the imagination before the code was enforced.

 

I also wonder if Anna Held would have been French in the pre-code era. Was there already the stereotype that the French were more romantic and could afford to be more daring because they were foreigners?

Just a side note: Why would someone blinding you with light reflected from a mirror be a fun game to play? I couldn't understand that gimmick at all.

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 Anna Held is lovely and is being sought after by two elegant Broadway producers.  She is carefree and gay; her clothes are frothy and expensive; her dressing room filled with orchids and roses...and a personal maid.  This is a dream life!  The typical audience member at this time might have had difficulty scrapping together the ten cent ticket price.  There were a lucky few who lived this way but it certainly paints a much more beautiful existence for the rest of us.  There is no indication of what it may have taken for her to get to this point.

Pre-code, she may have worn a more revealing outfit or changed into her dressing gown once she returned to her dressing room.

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1. I do agree that it exhibits a brighter side of life! During the Great Depression, the movies were an escape for most, so to have a movie that exhibits a care free attitude with life is just what people were wanting back in those days. Even the thought of being able to tip a doors man five pounds was probably very enthralling for some! To think that someone could be so care free with money back during those times! I am sure it made some dream of better days, and a time in the future when they may also be able to tip five pounds. Little did they know that the Great Depression would be ending three years after this film, so yes, I believe this exhibited very realistic times that were to come.

2. I think a common theme that we see through-out movies, even to this day, is of who will get the girl. Another theme is of money and status. Since money was so sparse back then, it seems fitting to include money in the pictures.

3. I imagine it would have been a little more risqué. For example, when she enters her dressing room, I feel we would have seen more of her undressing (behind a divider) while she talks with her maid in regards to the flowers.  

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1. Yes, I think it does exhibit brighter aspect of life. Everyone is rich and well dressed. The woman, Anna, is naive and is like a little girl in this scene. She is thrilled by the flowers, there is no negative thought in her mind about the motives of Ziegfeld sending the flowers. She doesn't even know who Ziegfeld is and I would guess he must've been very famous at the time. Ziegfeld also gives the doorman 5 pounds just to be generous. He didn't pay for the info, the doorman answered him and he just gave him money which implies money is no object for him.

2. I would think the approaches would be everything has a happy ending. I would guess all would end up well for everyone. If it's Depression era, people went to the movies to be cheered up, so I don't think they would show much sadness or anyone down on their luck.

3. I think the song she sings is a little suggestive, if it was before code was enforced, I think she might be wearing an outfit more revealing. Instead of shining light from a mirror, maybe she would be more flirtatious with the men in the audience. Another way it might have been scripted differently is in the dressing room scene, the maid would take off more than her hat. She would take off the whole dress, but instead she only looks like she might be unfastening the dress. 

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I think that it is interesting that the topics are related to Broadway musicals and stars.  They ate reproducing these stories and songs on film.  I wish they did that more today then a lot more people who don’t get to go to New York to see Broadway can experience it.  I believe if the this film did not have the censorship they may have explored the relationship more realistically but the depression is also a factor.  People went to the movies to forget all their problems so they wanted to express this on film.  This was a form do entertainment that people could afford to do even with the depression.

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The doorman stated that the show wasn’t a big deal, but Ann Held had an elaborate costume and a large dressing room. Compared to pre-code costumes, she had more modest clothing than ladies found in earlier backstage musicals. The elaborate flower arrangement was inidicative of the opulence the movie was suppose to portray.

The patter of the conversation was typical for that time, and William Powell was a master at delivering snappy lines. The theme of many depression era movies was to boost the morale of American movie goers. 

The casting of Luise Rainier fascinated me. She was a German actress in this film playing a French star. I read that they were hoping to groom the next Greta Garbo. Soon after this film, she played a Chinese immigrant. Does anyone know if she did her own singing?

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The first thing that comes to mind is how this film is expressing "post-code" sensibilities. First, the actress remains dressed in her dressing room. Second, Neither Ziegfeld or Billings comes to her dressing room to see her, and Ziegfeld says he will "wait at the stage door" for her.

The French performance is another aspect to investigate. French women were seen as more "loose" than American women - who symbolized mom and apple pie. Whether or not Anna Held was French is not the question - the question is how are French Women typified in this film.

As for the lightness of the film in the Depression, yes, there is a softness to things. The scene where Powell gives the 5 pound note to the doorman is clearly softened, with only shadows crossing behind them.  I don't think this film shows the same optimism as "Gold Diggers of 1933," however. At least, not from the clip presented.

 

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It shows that in the beginning during the Depression, the musical films were there for escape and more entertainment than real reflection on the subject's true life.  It was an opportunity to present big beautiful production numbers that reflect Zeigfeld's "image" even at the time - larger than life.  The truth got in the way.  The musical film was young with less plot.

Pre-code would have shown more skin and probably more "scandal".  More than that is very softly implied as with most post-code than they would be today.  Actually, my view is that it made them more appealing and entertaining.  Less plot and more musical.

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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 at this time of the story it was realistic for the time.  It was before the stock market fell.  People lived outside of their mean and so did Ziegfield.
  1. What themes or approaches might you anticipate from this clip in other Depression era musicals?  I think the theme is everything is wonderful.  Do what you want and be carefree!
  1. 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 dress that Rainier was wearing would have shown more skin.  

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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, this was during the Great Depression.  People were having a hard time, if they could scrape up the money to see a movie, they wanted to escape and dream. People wanted to see glamorous people, over the top dresses,  money flowing, etc.
  2. What themes or approaches might you anticipate from this clip in other Depression era musicals? This musical has the similar theme of any person with talent might be discovered and made into a star. It also illustrates the up and down, cut throat nature of show business.
  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.      Anna Held sings a light-hearted song about "come play with me", if this was Pre-code, her dress would have been more revealing (she was covered from head to toe), and her delivery would be more overt and direct to play up the song lyrics. In the scene where Anna is described to Ziegfeld, the door man might have described Anna in a more sexual terms....

I think Anna was shining the light on the audience because she was slyly  joking that some of the audience was playing indeed (they were not with their wives). Notice the reaction of the men...lol

 

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1. The things that struck me the most were at the beginning when the door man simply gives him the important information he needs and then Ziegfeld gives him £5, which I’m assuming is quite a bit of money. The next thing I found was the reaction of Held to the flowers. She’s initially confused as to what they mean and only plans on meeting with one of the men, but then she decides to go to the stage door and meet Ziegfeld. I’m assuming that the audience is supposed to be rooting for Ziegfeld, so this is a good thing. Things just seem to be going the protagonist’s way and that’s a reality that people of that time needed.

2. Wealth and positive circumstances would likely be some common themes in Depression era musicals. Many people at that time struggled in many aspects of their lives, and seeing their hopes displayed in popular culture would be an effective  form of escapism.

3. In this era of motion picture code enforcement, Held’s dressing room scene could have presented a problem in that nudity was possible. Instead, Held only takes off her hat and is covered head to toe in a costume that suggests the purity and innocence of a child. 

 

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1.   Yes, a lot brighter.  30's movies sometimes make you think that everyone went around in gowns and tuxes during the depression era.  That touches on question 2 as well.  The formal attire and lavish settings are typical of so many 30's musicals.  You always saw Astaire and Rogers looking high class.  And 3.  Had it been pre-code, you might have seen a more scantily dressed Anna Helm flirting more provocatively for Flo on stage, with Ziegfeld coming directly to her dressing room to make his move.         

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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?

The clip certainly presents a brighter perspective of life than might be realistic. For a Depression-era audience, seeing a character like William Powell's Ziegfeld give away five pounds to the doorman, accompanied by a carefree quip about trying to "lose weight" makes light of the financial struggles that led to unprecedented poverty and unemployment. Although money may be a metaphorical "weight" on the shoulders of many audience members, the cinema offered an opportunity for viewers to lose that weight for a few hours. Furthermore, the competition between Ziegfeld and Billings over the talented Anna Held is kept light-hearted and sportsmanlike, with Held being swayed into a major business decision with a bouquet of orchids.

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

The biggest theme that I picked up from this and other Depression-era musicals is the treatment of wealth, competition, and stardom. Even in the depth of the Depression, Anna Held, an immigrant, has come to the United States with the promise of being discovered and making it "big." She clings to her talent and the dream that being discovered by right wealthy backer will make her a star. The chorus-girl-to-star trope that began with 42nd Street is presented similarly here with Held's character.

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 few key areas where the scene could have been changed in a pre-code film are Held's stage performance and the following scene in her dressing room. On the stage, pre-code writers could have heightened the sexuality of her performance, giving Billings and Ziegfeld yet another reason to fight over her affection. This could have been done with both costuming and the lyrical content of the song. Later, in the dressing room, a pre-code film may have shown Held in a state of partial undress as she received the flowers, again playing up her sexuality while also more accurately depicting the purpose of a dressing room. A pre-code film may also have gone more deeply into the story of Ziegfeld and Held, not shying away from some of the details of their relationship; without the oversight of the production code, we may have gotten a film that was more willing to show more of who "The Great" Ziegfeld really was.

 

 

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