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I love how the costumes present our two protagonists on a near-even footing, from the very beginning of the clip. Where else, in 1935, are you going to see a woman in pants, facing off with a man? If it were pajamas, you'd still see the woman at a disadvantage - jodhpurs give Ginger a literal sporting chance. And the dancing starts with Fred doing a slow walk, but once he discovers that Ginger can match his every step, he increases the pace until they're doing a mad dash. It's better than Bobby Riggs versus Billy Jean King.

Interestingly, this clip isn't half so decorative as the other films we've watched this week - it lacks the gowns and glamor of The Great Ziegfeld, the props and privilege of Friml, and the scenery and songbirds that hit us on the head in Rose-Marie. It does offer witty dialogue and a rueful humour between equals. 

That rueful humour may be just what the man, and woman, on the street was looking for viewing endless glamor in movie after movie during the early 1930's. You can't eat cake forever - sooner or later you need some basic bread. And during the depression, everyone was looking for a dime. Women - poor, single, immigrant - were entering the workforce and needed independent role models, the realization that they weren't alone. Escapism definitely had a place, but the girl next door who overcame obstacles and helped her family - that was a winner.

I was really interested, to compare the dancing styles of Ruby Keeler and Eleanor Powell. I've never watched them side by side before and the dancers' physique definitely has an impact on style. Eleanor makes use of her whole body to dance in a more statuesque style, while smaller Ruby is a natural hoofer. Ruby had cuts in her dance, which was shorter; the filming cut away from both dancers' feet, which Astaire negotiated against. A really interesting exercise.

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6 hours ago, Cakane said:

With Top Hat we do see more strength in a Woman’s role and character. As now we are seeing women in higher working roles especially with Roosevelt in office and Eleanor’s push for woman.

I wonder if the studios began to see women as a target audience, and so we get strong female roles in the 30's like Scarlett O'Hara, Becky Sharp, Nora Charles, Queen Christina, Ninotchka and many others.

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7 hours ago, ghostiegirlc said:

In this clip, Rogers’ character is reluctant to play the game Astaire’s character is playing. When the dancing starts, she immediately starts to mimic Astaire’s mannerisms in a mocking way. As the dance progresses, the mocking turns to a partnership where she shakes his hand at the end.

I see it more as playful rather than mocking.  Would you agree?

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As you can see by my name, I'm naturally a huge fan of Fred and Ginger. And this film in particular is a favorite of mine. I like how it shows them both on a more equal footing, something that really wasn't seen in other musical films prior to this. In the first part of this clip, I noticed for the first time Ginger's facial expressions as Fred is singing to her. She has this look of like 'Oh really, you think you can charm me? Think again.' But, Fred is persistent and begins to dance. The surprise I think here is how well she can match him, step for step. It's fascinating. I love how they seem to feel each other out, see how far the other can go as well. Watching her hold her own against him is also what makes this number so great. They're equals. 

This film seems different from other films of the time because of the independence of the woman, being able to take care of herself. The music itself also feels like part of the story rather than being thrown in to create a number. 

The woman appears to be on more equal footing with the man than in earlier musicals. This gives her more independence and security than before. 

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  1. What other aspects of battle of the sexes do you see indicated in this clip or in the film Top Hat?

What stood out to me was Ginger Rogers wearing a hat instead of Fred Astaire so that posed a visible sign of a battle of the sexes like she is saying “I’m the leader and I’m confident”. The other visible sign is Ginger wearing a riding outfit. Why didn’t they choose a pantsuit? Again Ginger is saying “I’m riding my own horse and I ride out my destiny and make my own path”.

  1. How does this film distinguish itself from other Depression era musicals we have watched or discussed this week?

This film distinguishes itself from the other musicals as a by product of the earlier musicals. These musicals just get better and better. In MacDonald and Eddy the focus was on the singing. Now a brand has been formed! Ginger and Fred! A winning combination that is used for the next big musical and the next big musical. I believe Garland and Rooney also had the winning combination that appealed to the masses. We are starting to see the emergence of Hollywood stars.

  1. What possible reasons might there be for the changes in roles between men and women depicted in these screwball comedy musicals that distinguish themselves from earlier musicals in the 1930s?

Men and women were changing in the 1920’s and 1930’s and the societal boundaries were constantly tested. Women used to have long hair and then women started cutting their hair super short to their ears. How scandalous! Women and men used to dance prim and proper. Dancing very energetically and fast with jazz sounds was considered very wreck less and flapper dance moves like the Charleston and the Lindy Hop were the rage. Women were no longer wearing corsets because they liked their Flapper dresses flapping (haha) and shorter. The 1920’s and the 1930’s were a time of letting loose and having fun and living for the day. Not everyone lived this way but when it’s portrayed in the movies I’m sure some people yearned for that life to have choices and to have fun.

 

 

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The irony of this clip is that, as Dr. Ament points out, Ginger Rogers is known for "doing everything Fred did, only backwards and in heels". But in this clip, there's very little of that at all. Of course, she's not wearing heels, and throughout most of the dance, she's matching Fred's movements head on. There's only really one signature "ballroom spin" moment in the sequence.

The battle here is for the balance of power. It's obvious from Ginger's face that she's not averse to Fred's attention (I love the moment when she starts twirling her riding crop in rhythm to the song). But she's not going to melt in his arms just like that. And in fact, she never does throughout the song. "If you want to dance with me, you're dancing with me. You don't dance around me, and I don't dance for you."

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Daily Dose of Delight #4: The Competitive Mating Dance | Questions and Answers

What other aspects of battle of the sexes do you see indicated in this clip or in the film Top Hat?

I’m not sure it qualifies as a battle of the sexes scene, but the dance to “Isn’t It a Lovely Day?” involves Jerry Travers attempting to win over Dale Tremont, and he has to work for it, too. She isn’t going to let him get away with anything, it seems to me.

How does this film distinguish itself from other Depression era musicals we have watched or discussed this week?

The song and the dance routine are part of the plot. Viewers know by the end of the dance that Tremont has allowed Travers to win her over. At the end they shake hands: They’ve come to an agreement.

What possible reasons might there be for the changes in roles between men and women depicted in these screwball comedy musicals that distinguish themselves from earlier musicals in the 1930s?

Isn’t it said that only the middle class cares about etiquette and social conventions? By the Great Depression, there really wasn’t much left of the middle class, so there’s less reason to stick to traditional male and female roles.

About Top Hat in general, Wes Gehring in the lecture video for Week 1, Part 3, said something like the following (forgive me: I’m paraphrasing from memory): Don’t think of film as so compartmentalized into one category or another. Try to watch Top Hat as all the labels (an Astaire/Rogers film, a screwball comedy, a musical, and so on) rolled into one. Today’s categories weren’t particularly relevant when the film was made.

Gehring's observation helped me to see the film as more than a Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers movie. It's been a long time since I've seen Top Hat, and this time I could really enjoy the humor—one might even say, slapstick comedy—throughout. Edward Everett Horton and especially Eric Blore provide plenty of comedic relief. I noticed this time, during Astaire’s sandman dance, for example, that Horton was dozing off in the background, just as Rogers was downstairs, and just as I was wondering why he was letting his friend dance and possibly create more trouble with the management!

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There's a moment in the dance, halfway through, where Ginger starts calling the steps and Fred follows. This is the first time I've noticed and it charmed the heck out of me. Moreso than any other clip this week, these two felt like equals, as Dr. Ament mentioned. They are geninely engaged in play and nothing about this scene feels romantic or sexual - just fun. 

I think I'm with the consensus where - in this clip at least- I don't see a battle but the end of one. the scene earlier in the film- at the weird dance studio/ bull fighting ring- feels a little more combative; then the 'never gonna dance' waltz is tragic, but here everything just feels kind of 'right' and magical. 

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What other aspects of the battle of the sexes do you see indicated in this clip or in the movie Top hat?

In the Screwball comedy and musical films of this period, the battle of the sexes is constant. But in this scene I see a different dispute, one wanting to show others their attributes and that they are on an equal footing. Tapping is often the weapon used in these films to demonstrate this.

How does this movie stand out from other Depression-era musicals we watched or discussed this week?

Top hat seems more like a romantic comedy than the others and takes on the characteristics of musicals and screwball comedies, which makes complex themes like class struggle and gender differences lighter and more fun.

What possible reasons can there be for the role shifts between men and women depicted in these crazy comedy musicals that stand out from earlier 1930s musicals?

I believe that female suffrage and the role of women in society at that time influence this, as well as the code that took the woman's explicit sensuality and put her on an equal footing with men. Strong-willed women were trademarks of the music and screwball comedies of that era.

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After reading the lecture notes, looking at the lecture videos and reading the questions, of course, I look at all of these videos a little differently than I have the (probably) hundreds of times I have seen some of these movies.  In looking at the pavilion dance sequence, I guess I never realized that in most of the routine, they never touched one another.  Thinking about the "battle" question as I watched it again, I thought to myself, who was going to put his/her arms around the other one first?  Who was going to give in and make the first move.  It sure seemed like a stand off to begin with but I do think Fred finally made the first move.  (Hard to tell though since they move so quickly).

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1. I couldn't notice any apparent battle of the sexes aspect from this clip alone. Maybe very slightly in Rogers' facial expressions whenever Astaire compares their relationship to that of thunder and lightning, but other than that: nothing.

2. I've only seen this film maybe two or three times, but from what I remember there was more of a character arc and development for Rogers. Compared to the other films studied this week, which seemed to feature their female leads in a "damsel in distress" type of role, this film seemed to give Rogers a character that has a distinguished personality. Instead of being easily swayed by Astaire's charm, Rogers only acknowledges him when she thinks they could be seen as equals. Which is something that stands out when presented with the other clips we studied.

3. Films were beginning to reflect the current changes going on in the world. Women were beginning to become more self-reliant and independent while their husbands were at war. The Great Depression sparked motivation in women to join the workforce.

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56 minutes ago, Jim K said:

I wonder if the studios began to see women as a target audience, and so we get strong female roles in the 30's like Scarlett O'Hara, Becky Sharp, Nora Charles, Queen Christina, Ninotchka and many others.

I thinking yes because it’s such a dramatic change in character. Woman are more than something to just look at and admire on screen now. Of course it’s film dependent through the years obviously. But what a wonderful change of direction and again it’s due to what was happening in our society at the time. 

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1. "Top Hat" shows Fred and Ginger's characters at odds with one another; Astaire is trying to woo Ginger's character, but rather than submit to him as he expects, she challenges him, and insists on being regarded as an equal, not only wearing riding clothes and pants during the dance, but matching him step-for-step, while deliberately avoiding the tradiitonal waltz position common in usual male/female dances, resulting in neither one leading or controlling the other, and staying equal all though the dance and final handshake.

2. Unlike some of the earlier Depression-era musicals we've looked at, even the Macdonald/Eddy films, "Top Hat" as well as other Astaire/Rogers films, emphasized the team aspect of their dance partnership, something which was used to develop and market their later films.

3. The Screwball genre emerged partly due to the constraints imposed by the Production Code; things that would have been taboo to show or discuss after 1934 could be put across more on the sly through witty dialogue and humor, and the Astaire/Rogers films are great examples of this. That being said, in society, woman's roles were changing, and women were taking on roles and responsibilities more equal to men, and later musical films reflected this change with stronger female characters that were less dependent on men than they had previously.

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1. This clip from Top Hat is interesting because there's a strong woman and the man has to play by her rules or not at all. She's his equal and he has to accept that for her to be interested in him.

2. This film distinguishes itself from other Depression era musicals we've watched/discussed this week by the strong female lead. She's in charge. She doesn't have to choose between love and career. The man has to play by her rules and accept her as an equal and on her terms.

3. I think some of the possible reasons for changes in roles between men and women in these screwball comedy musicals versus earlier musicals in the 1930's is that women were taking on more active roles in society. They were contributing to the family and working hard too. Even though a lot of jobs went to men during the Depression, new technologies emerged that employed women. Eleanor Roosevelt was also a strong woman and role model, along with others like Amelia Earhart and Frances Perkins.

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First off - gotta say I love the Fred and Ginger dances when they dance together without touching.

 

  1. What other aspects of the battle of the sexes do you see indicated in this clip or in the film Top Hat?

Fred is the lessor role in this number, Ginger has the upper hand until they dance, when it becomes equal, ending in the acknowledgment of equals by a handshake.

2. How does this film distinguish itself from other Depression era musicals we have watched or discussed this week?

It doesn't really acknowledge the Depression.  Everything is upper middle to upper class, changing locals without a problem.  This could be remade today without much tweaking of the script.... casting would be a nightmare, but it could be done.  Maybe a non-musical version.....mmm...

3. What possible reasons might there be for the changes in roles between men and women depicted in these screwball comedy musicals that distinguish themselves from earlier musicals in the 1930s?

The Motion Picture Code, still early after it's formation, must have played a large part in deciding script, costumes, and settings.  The woman seem so much more sensible in attitude than the men.  The role-reversal works in these types of comedic musicals.  

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It’s fun to look at Eleanor Powell and Ruby Keller together and know that they both were extremely popular dancers, but their dancing styles are as different as night and day.

Eleanor Powell is a technically proficient dancer, very nimble, and quite a gymnast. Her ballet background is obvious. She has a curvy figure, and she looks womanly as she moves. 

Ruby Keeler is a hoofer. Her dance routines are much less complicated, and she appears a bit stiff. She does not hold herself **** as does Powell, and it is plain that her only training was in school dance class. She has a youthful, nearly boyish figure, and she does not possess sway. I personally always believe she is just about half a beat behind the music.

Though their styles and abilities are wildly different, this did not prevent both Powell (MGM) and Keeler (Warner Bros.) from representing their studios in a big way. Audiences loved both ladies. One might conclude that audiences were so desperate to feel better, to escape their Depression Era woes, that they gladly accepted both highly and barely trained dancers as their emotional saviors. Both dancers made it fun to go to the movies.

 

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1. Regarding the clip specifically, the "battle of the sexes" is illustrated through the way the dance number is structured. As the lecture notes point out, this is not the typical couple's dance with the man and woman swaying cheek to cheek. In fact, Astaire and Rogers don't even truly make physical contact until she is able to prove that she can match him, step for step. As much as she may be starting to like him, she is not here to be wooed or swept off her feet; she's here to work.
Regarding the movie as a whole, the spine of the film is the two main characters ruminating on the idea of marriage in general for either one of them, and how the supporting characters respond to it. Astaire's character is slightly cajoled into being matched up by Hardwick and Madge, but after his number at the start of the film about wanting to stay "fancy free", they more or less leave him alone about it. At one point, Hardwick even warns him about Rogers' character, worrying that she may only have designs on his wealth and fame, despite it being clear that she needs neither.
However, with Rogers' character, it seems out of this world to pretty much everyone that she hasn't committed to anyone yet, and she's lectured and judged left, right, and centre - from Madge, from Beddini, even the hotel staff - about her willingness to stay single until she finds her ideal of what love and marriage should be. Her impulsive decision to marry Beddini - however invalid the marriage - was the equivalent to her finally bowing to that unfair pressure, until the movie's confusions are finally resolved and she's able to ultimately live by the values she adhered to for so long again.

2. I think Rogers establishes herself as an extremely empowered woman whose career allows her a sense of autonomy and agency that other female characters in this week's films aren't. The film gives a subtle wink to just how unconventional her character is for the time period with how the hotel staff gossip about her "success" being assumed as a product of her "relationship" with Beddini which, a few minutes later, is proved to be non-existent beyond as a muse (though he sure as hell tries!). There's no hero saving the day by making sure his lady love is gainfully employed or taken care of. She doesn't owe any man a thing, and is determined to live, work, and love exclusively on her own terms.

3. At this point in history, we're only a little over a decade or so into women having the right to vote in the U.S., which is the first really big step into their enfranchisement and liberation in society. If they can choose who represents them in government, then there's a myriad of other things they're beginning to want to have choice in for themselves at this time as well. With the Depression happening, there's also the added need to make money not for wealth, but for mere survival. Women are becoming not only more empowered, but more resourceful in their methods of supporting themselves and their families, whether they are supplementing their husbands' income, working in place of a laid-off spouse or, in some cases, an absentee one (lots of men taking off to ride the rails far from home in search of work). In any case, through the experiences they've gained in the political and economic climates of the time, women are increasingly realizing that they have important roles to play beyond the home, and beyond being the docile wife and mother. Female characters in screwball comedies, like Rogers' Dale, are beginning to illustrate that realization, and these characters become even more prevalent as women gain further agency with the wider opening of the workforce to them during WW2.

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1 - The only battle of sexes I see in this scene, like you said, it's the fact she follows him in his dance and the rhythm that's going on move of dance.

2 - Here the script is more dinamic and funny, there's no dramatic situation here, it's like the Screwball Comedies in at the era, it's a funny situation, but musical.

3 - At this time, women have worked to help in house, this influenced to put in the films and they(women) got more independent.

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21 hours ago, Dr. Vanessa Theme Ament said:

This Forum is for The Daily Dose of Delight regarding Top Hat, for Thursday. Recall that the dance between the characters has a different purpose than the ballroom dancing we normally think of between Astaire and Rogers. As you watch the clip, and read the curated analysis, please respond to the questions. Post your responses in this forum.

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

  1. What other aspects of battle of the sexes do you see indicated in this clip or in the film Top Hat?
  2. How does this film distinguish itself from other Depression era musicals we have watched or discussed this week?
  3. What possible reasons might there be for the changes in roles between men and women depicted in these screwball comedy musicals that distinguish themselves from earlier musicals in the 1930s?

I don't me to be a wet blanket here, but I'm sort of tired of all that "battle of the sexes" stuff. I enjoy these movies for the music and dance, not for the very superficial and stereotypical stories. (By the way, Ginger is not wearing a man's suit. She's wearing a riding outfit. Even in the 1930's, women rode astride, hence jodhpurs.) In some ways, I think women and men were much more equal in this period of history than commonly portrayed. We went backwards after WWII. And I don't think depression audiences were any more looking for escape in musicals than we are now, with fantasy and violence. Many depression era films were dark and realistic and the same people who went to musicals went to other types of films, too.

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I loved the clips of Eleanor and Ruby. I found their styles to be quite different than the tap in Top Hat.

I found Eleanor to be much more smooth and entertaining. I am counting down to The Wizard of Oz right now!

 

What other aspects of battle of the sexes do you see indicated in this clip or in the film Top Hat

I saw a battle between friends. Both man and woman as equal dancers but challenging the other to be the best. 

From the outfits right down to tap technique it was a mirror image of talent. This is different from other musicals we have watched this week.

How does this film distinguish itself from other Depression era musicals we have watched or discussed this week?

The male and female roles appear to be much more equal. From dress down to talent. I feel the director is trying to portray a certain kind of comedy that allows for talent to shine through on both without getting bogged down by gender roles.

What possible reasons might there be for the changes in roles between men and women depicted in these screwball comedy musicals that distinguish themselves from earlier musicals in the 1930s?

I think this big of a shift is sure to draw attention as the male/female roles were pretty set in other musicals previous.  This allows the thought process that anything you can do, i can do better. Even more challenging as a woman. 

 

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1. There is the battle for being the lead in this secene and it is obvious in the dance routine. She is also being more forcful in her approach to be equal in his eyes as well as her own.

2. This film is not based on the romance part as much as the other films are that have been looked at. It has a clear line of a woman stepping out into a more bold role where in the other films it was typical views of how women should be and what they should want.

3. In the later 1930's there is a more bold type of actress that you did not see in the early motion pictures. Stars like Ginger Rogers and Collette Colbert (It Happened One Night) who were not happy doing just the typical damsel in distress/housewife type roles. The code was still restrictive but these actresses and even some of the actors of the time were growing tired of the same old tyoe roles and it showed in the pictures being made.

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  1. What other aspects of battle of the sexes do you see indicated in this clip or in the film Top Hat?

Just the "pursuing male/reluctant female" aspect of the storyline, similar to the Jeannette MacDonald/Nelson Eddy clip we watched earlier in the week. It also seemed like Fred and Ginger were more competitive with each other on the dance steps than in other films. 

  1. How does this film distinguish itself from other Depression era musicals we have watched or discussed this week?

Long introductory song sequence, before the dance came in. Also, interesting use of costume, particularly on Ginger's part. Usually the women are dressed in very glamorous dresses and the men in tuxedos, but in this clip Fred and Ginger are dressed more casually.

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I am not sure it is exactly a battle of the sexes...more of a equality of the sexes.  Ginger can do anything that Astaire throws at her.....and is just as darn good at it as he is at dancing.

The dancing I feel is more free...casual....fun.  Not so regimented as in some of the other musicals we see.

Women are now coming into their own in this era.  No longer the timid..."don't speak till spoken to" women of just a few years ago. They NOW have opinions  :-)

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1) In this clip, Astaire starts off with a song to relate his intentions to woo her. Next, he challenges her to follow his expert dance steps. They go toe to toe on each step. Ginger"faces the music"as his equal and is pleased to have met his match. It is interesting to note that she is dressed in slacks and appears to be his equal in all physical moves. At the end she is pleased with herself and shakes his hand symbolizing parity at all levels.

2) Top Hat takes place in a luxurious Art Deco setting with the inclusion of important secondary characters that add to the comedic/romantic story. It is not a backstage drama. Here the song and dance numbers are central to the plot.In addition, Ginger's role is of a strong, assertive woman unafraid of challenges matching Astaire step by step.

3)The changes in the roles between men and women are due to the need for more sophisticated stories, I think. In addition, women were changing, joining the work force and establishing a firm place in society. Perhaps producers and writers realized that women were the ones attending the movie theaters more often and wanted to offer them a fantasy world or a model to follow.

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  1. What other aspects of battle of the sexes do you see indicated in this clip or in the film Top Hat? I liked how in the clip, he starts dancing, then she joins as if to challenge.  she mirrors his hands and arms, but the two never embrace to they do very fast swing together.
  2. How does this film distinguish itself from other Depression era musicals we have watched or discussed this week? The fact that money is not really discusssed or even that the garden covered patio is bigger than most apartments or houses of the day.
  3. What possible reasons might there be for the changes in roles between men and women depicted in these screwball comedy musicals that distinguish themselves from earlier musicals in the 1930s? To show that women could be strong and independant, screwball comedies made sure to feature women whose lifetime goal was NOT to be a wife and kept woman.Even the 1971 movie "What's Up Doc" portrays the woman as vastly more worldly and educated than the Music Professor.  She has come into her adulthood by her own volition. 

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