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Brittany Ashley

The Post War era:Musicals vs Film Noir

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I was getting caught up on Good News this morning. I've never seen or heard of this movie before this class and I really enjoyed it.I was on the look out for the themes and ideals we learned about this week and how it relates to the post war optimistic spirit. What a movie centered around college/youth, friendship and romance says about what American culture was feeling at the time. The war was over, the US won and people were feeling good and happy and had bright futures ahead of them.

I also thought about the other post war phenomenon film noir and what those themes and stories dealing with murder/crime, corruption, sour relationships between and men,violence, angst, anger, hopelessness etc also said about what American culture and society was and apparently was feeling at the time. And since both Good News and my second favorite film noir after Double Indemnity is Out of the Past were released in the same year 1947, I couldn't but contrast what either film "said about" or spoke to people that year. I also remember something I heard Eddie Mueller say on Noir Alley last year that the year 1947 had an explosion of psychological/mental illness and murder themed plots. Symbolizing what soldiers felt upon returning home after the war- the fact they killed people and wanted to forget that fact (High Wall with Robert Taylor).

So-

Where OOTP is cynical GN is hopeful

Where OOTP shows death GN shoes life

Where OOTP is literally dark and filmed in black and white, GN is filmed in glorious and beautiful Technicolor 

Where OOTP involves detectives getting reeled back into a seedy underworld of corruption and greed, GN involves attractive college students singing and dancing in the malt shop and being positive about their relationships 

Where OOTP has lines about about gutters and guns GN has lines about school dances and football games 

Where OOTP has illicit affairs and an implied by the Code sex scene GN features wholesome couples and chaste romantic kissing

And so forth. 

Film noir tells me there was social disruption, cold heartedness and unease following the Second World War but the musicals tell me there was hope and excitement about living and that "people have more fun than anyone" (Rita Hayworth in Down to Earth also from 1947). American cities could be sites of isolation and confusion (Joan Crawford's early scenes in Possessed, again from '47) but they could also be sites of wonder and amusement (the whole plot of On the Town). 

Its so fascinating to me to reflect on the stark differences and contrasts of the types of movies Hollywood made after WW2. The fact that there were so many different elements and how they processed the war that went into people's feelings about where society/the culture was at present and where it could be headed in the future. Its a very nuanced thing to consider when analyzing the different genres that were popular at this specific time in history.

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2 hours ago, Brittany Ashley said:

I was getting caught up on Good News this morning. I've never seen or heard of this movie before this class and I really enjoyed it.I was on the look out for the themes and ideals we learned about this week and how it relates to the post war optimistic spirit. What a movie centered around college/youth, friendship and romance says about what American culture was feeling at the time. The war was over, the US won and people were feeling good and happy and had bright futures ahead of them.

I also thought about the other post war phenomenon film noir and what those themes and stories dealing with murder/crime, corruption, sour relationships between and men,violence, angst, anger, hopelessness etc also said about what American culture and society was and apparently was feeling at the time. And since both Good News and my second favorite film noir after Double Indemnity is Out of the Past were released in the same year 1947, I couldn't but contrast what either film "said about" or spoke to people that year. I also remember something I heard Eddie Mueller say on Noir Alley last year that the year 1947 had an explosion of psychological/mental illness and murder themed plots. Symbolizing what soldiers felt upon returning home after the war- the fact they killed people and wanted to forget that fact (High Wall with Robert Taylor).

So-

Where OOTP is cynical GN is hopeful

Where OOTP shows death GN shoes life

Where OOTP is literally dark and filmed in black and white, GN is filmed in glorious and beautiful Technicolor 

Where OOTP involves detectives getting reeled back into a seedy underworld of corruption and greed, GN involves attractive college students singing and dancing in the malt shop and being positive about their relationships 

Where OOTP has lines about about gutters and guns GN has lines about school dances and football games 

Where OOTP has illicit affairs and an implied by the Code sex scene GN features wholesome couples and chaste romantic kissing

And so forth. 

Film noir tells me there was social disruption, cold heartedness and unease following the Second World War but the musicals tell me there was hope and excitement about living and that "people have more fun than anyone" (Rita Hayworth in Down to Earth also from 1947). American cities could be sites of isolation and confusion (Joan Crawford's early scenes in Possessed, again from '47) but they could also be sites of wonder and amusement (the whole plot of On the Town). 

Its so fascinating to me to reflect on the stark differences and contrasts of the types of movies Hollywood made after WW2. The fact that there were so many different elements and how they processed the war that went into people's feelings about where society/the culture was at present and where it could be headed in the future. Its a very nuanced thing to consider when analyzing the different genres that were popular at this specific time in history.

Really great and thoughtful post!  Thanks for writing this. It is something I have thought about in reference to the arts of the 1950s in general.  It's been said that the 1950s had "multiple personalities."  On the one hand, you had the rise of teen culture and the carefree times of drive-ins and hops, but on the other hand, the Korean war starts in 1950 and the US gets involved soon after. On the one hand, you had economic boom, home ownership, and increased consumerism and "things", on the other hand the realities of what the atomic bomb could do (and fear of Russia) competed in horror with what was becoming fully known about the extent of the concentration camps. Civil Rights had not improved at all with the return of African American servicemen and McCarthy and his gang proved just who they were when they swept up homosexuals in addition to imagined or real Reds. But Lucy was loving Ricky and Father knew best, and Americans were bonding over TV programs.  Weird times!  No wonder the Beat Generation busted out and got "On the Road" and thought the "best minds " of their generation were being destroyed by superficiality and conformity.  In addition to the noir you mentioned,  Rebel without a Cause, Imitation of Life, All that Heaven Allows, Man with the Golden Arm - for me, these films help us see into the 1950s.     

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35 minutes ago, mariaki said:

Really great and thoughtful post!  Thanks for writing this. It is something I have thought about in reference to the arts of the 1950s in general.  It's been said that the 1950s had "multiple personalities."  On the one hand, you had the rise of teen culture and the carefree times of drive-ins and hops, but on the other hand, the Korean war starts in 1950 and the US gets involved soon after. On the one hand, you had economic boom, home ownership, and increased consumerism and "things", on the other hand the realities of what the atomic bomb could do (and fear of Russia) competed in horror with what was becoming fully known about the extent of the concentration camps. Civil Rights had not improved at all with the return of African American servicemen and McCarthy and his gang proved just who they were when they swept up homosexuals in addition to imagined or real Reds. But Lucy was loving Ricky and Father knew best, and Americans were bonding over TV programs.  Weird times!  No wonder the Beat Generation busted out and got "On the Road" and thought the "best minds " of their generation were being destroyed by superficiality and conformity.  In addition to the noir you mentioned,  Rebel without a Cause, Imitation of Life, All that Heaven Allows, Man with the Golden Arm - for me, these films help us see into the 1950s.     

Thanks!

The 1950s did have multiple personalities, as you said. Seems like this is the decade the total film going audience began to split into true demographics (the teen movies and teen culture). Socially aware dramas, film noir, westerns, musicals and more. All these different genres speak to  different aspects of the decade. That's why you can't really accurately list a set of movies that defined a decade because you miss alot and you can't really categorize the human experience that way. You laid it out perfectly. Civil rights/race, the Black list and McCarthyism, understanding the war, consumerism, film noir. A lot of different and interesting factors going on.

Those are great films you listed. I agree! When we get to that decade next week it will be interesting to see how those dramas relate (or don't) to the musicals. 

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On 6/16/2018 at 2:44 PM, Brittany Ashley said:

I was getting caught up on Good News this morning. I've never seen or heard of this movie before this class and I really enjoyed it.I was on the look out for the themes and ideals we learned about this week and how it relates to the post war optimistic spirit. What a movie centered around college/youth, friendship and romance says about what American culture was feeling at the time. The war was over, the US won and people were feeling good and happy and had bright futures ahead of them.

I also thought about the other post war phenomenon film noir and what those themes and stories dealing with murder/crime, corruption, sour relationships between and men,violence, angst, anger, hopelessness etc also said about what American culture and society was and apparently was feeling at the time. And since both Good News and my second favorite film noir after Double Indemnity is Out of the Past were released in the same year 1947, I couldn't but contrast what either film "said about" or spoke to people that year. I also remember something I heard Eddie Mueller say on Noir Alley last year that the year 1947 had an explosion of psychological/mental illness and murder themed plots. Symbolizing what soldiers felt upon returning home after the war- the fact they killed people and wanted to forget that fact (High Wall with Robert Taylor).

So ... 

Its so fascinating to me to reflect on the stark differences and contrasts of the types of movies Hollywood made after WW2. The fact that there were so many different elements and how they processed the war that went into people's feelings about where society/the culture was at present and where it could be headed in the future. Its a very nuanced thing to consider when analyzing the different genres that were popular at this specific time in history.

Perceptive post.  America has always been a nation of contrasts.  Even as Americans were basking in the glow of victory, President Truman planted the seed in 1947 that grew into McCarthyinsm in the early 1950s.  The message was one of conformity and obedience to authority.  But by the middle of the decade, the pendulum began to swing the other way and we see Bill Haley and the Comets and Elvis Presley giving birth to rock and roll, predicated entirely on rebellion.  Rock Around the Clock and Jailhouse Rock will be shown on TCM, but the syllbus for the course skips both of these films.  I hope, however, that at least some of the historical context is addressed when we get to that era.

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Thanks for bringing this up. On the surface, it does seem ironic that the same audience went to see film noir and optimistic musicals.

However, I think some of the lectures presented in this course are misleading when talking about American exceptionalism and optimism in the 1950s (which I am old enough to have lived through) as portrayed in these Hollywood musicals. Anybody who thinks Show Boat, even the 50's version, is cheerful is not paying attention. Julie is fired because she is passing for white, Gaylord Ravenal loses all his money gambling and leaves his pregnant wife; Joe singing about his life as a black man being hopeless. A film not mentioned at all (weirdly) is Oklahoma: Laurie's near rape by Judd; the "Poor Judd is Dead" number; Judd attempting to murder Laurie and Curly by setting their house on fire; Ado Annie sleeping around. Not so light and fluffy.  I could name several if not many musicals that do not fit the stereotype of the course writer. I hope that people taking this course will watch these films without the preconceived notions presented here and try to develop their own views.

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3 hours ago, Suzy-Q said:

Thanks for bringing this up. On the surface, it does seem ironic that the same audience went to see film noir and optimistic musicals.

However, I think some of the lectures presented in this course are misleading when talking about American exceptionalism and optimism in the 1950s (which I am old enough to have lived through) as portrayed in these Hollywood musicals. Anybody who thinks Show Boat, even the 50's version, is cheerful is not paying attention. Julie is fired because she is passing for white, Gaylord Ravenal loses all his money gambling and leaves his pregnant wife; Joe singing about his life as a black man being hopeless. A film not mentioned at all (weirdly) is Oklahoma: Laurie's near rape by Jed; the "Poor Judd is Dead" number; Judd attempting to murder Laurie and Curly by setting their house on fire; Ado Annie sleeping around. Not so light and fluffy.  I could name several if not many musicals that do not fit the stereotype of the course writer. I hope that people taking this course will watch these films without the preconceived notions presented here and try to develop their own views.

I haven't begun this week's 1950s lecture but even when I saw the headlines for the week about American Exceptionalism I thought "hmmm" I don't know if that was totally true. Maybe I was thinking about movies and genres broadly not just musicals. But even then I knew that labeling the themes or images/perceptions of a particular genre as American exceptionalism might be misleading. I know they aren't musicals but Johnny Guitar and High Noon use the western genre/old West setting as a metaphor for the McCarthy/blacklist situation but their messaging and the perspective the director took in presenting it are different. Yet both films deal with the same topic and are from the same decade. Yet they couldn't be more opposite in their view point.

I know this version of Show Boat! Great example and Oklahoma. I know there was music and Rita Hayworth sings in Miss Sadie Thompson but I don't know if its counted as a musical. Anyway, she is raped by a minister and out of the previous two versions of that story,this one is more obvious and explicit about that. Your mention of Laurie's almost rape in Oklahoma made me think of that movie. 

There's also the entire "Sobbin Women" song and number in Seven Brides for  Seven Brothers

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12 hours ago, Charlie's Girl said:

Perceptive post.  America has always been a nation of contrasts.  Even as Americans were basking in the glow of victory, President Truman planted the seed in 1947 that grew into McCarthyinsm in the early 1950s.  The message was one of conformity and obedience to authority.  But by the middle of the decade, the pendulum began to swing the other way and we see Bill Haley and the Comets and Elvis Presley giving birth to rock and roll, predicated entirely on rebellion.  Rock Around the Clock and Jailhouse Rock will be shown on TCM, but the syllbus for the course skips both of these films.  I hope, however, that at least some of the historical context is addressed when we get to that era.

Exactly. Which is why I never understood when people label or paint the entire decade and the culture as one of conformity and repression. Granted, those elements did exist in society but there are many examples from music to film to art to literature that contradicts this. That challenged the culture or people's assumptions of what the decade was like. 

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Another question I have is about the assertion that these musicals were designed to portray Americans as coming together collectively. That doesn't align with extreme anti-Communism of that period, as communism celebrates and enforces the collective, rather than the individual. I think alleging that these films were designed to support American internal cooperation and coming together does not jibe with the political mood during that time, which was the celebration of the individual (especially the individual man) and scorn for the collective. 

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While the musicals of this era focused on the brighter aspects of "normal" Americana.  The film noir began to show a grittier, side to America.  It reflected some of the disillusionment others were feeling after America won the war.  It was like two sides of the same coin.  The hopefulness of America after winning the war and the more realistic side of America where many people felt as if they still needed to improve upon their situations.

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14 hours ago, Charlie's Girl said:

Perceptive post.  America has always been a nation of contrasts.  Even as Americans were basking in the glow of victory, President Truman planted the seed in 1947 that grew into McCarthyinsm in the early 1950s.  The message was one of conformity and obedience to authority.  But by the middle of the decade, the pendulum began to swing the other way and we see Bill Haley and the Comets and Elvis Presley giving birth to rock and roll, predicated entirely on rebellion.  Rock Around the Clock and Jailhouse Rock will be shown on TCM, but the syllbus for the course skips both of these films.  I hope, however, that at least some of the historical context is addressed when we get to that era.

Instructors with such a small space of programming and so few weeks to cover musicals of over 40 years have to determine the themes they can adequately address.  It is unfortunate we cannot take all of this musical course and to the 30s cohesively, then the 40s, then the 50s, and so forth.  Or by theme, or by director or choreographer. So many things going on as is pointed out in this discussion.  @Charlie's Girl astutely points out this is always the case. Perhaps those of us who wish to continue the exploration of musicals could continue a "viewing group" after the course is over to discuss a topic, director, cinematographer or decade and come back together to assess.

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8 hours ago, Suzy-Q said:

Anybody who thinks Show Boat, even the 50's version, is cheerful is not paying attention. Julie is fired because she is passing for white, Gaylord Ravenal loses all his money gambling and leaves his pregnant wife; Joe singing about his life as a black man being hopeless. A film not mentioned at all (weirdly) is Oklahoma: Laurie's near rape by Judd; the "Poor Judd is Dead" number; Judd attempting to murder Laurie and Curly by setting their house on fire; Ado Annie sleeping around. Not so light and fluffy.  I could name several if not many musicals that do not fit the stereotype of the course writer. I hope that people taking this course will watch these films without the preconceived notions presented here and try to develop their own views.

 

I wonder if the fact that Oklahoma, Show Boat, and South Pacific were all Broadway shows has anything to do with their darker undertones. 

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7 minutes ago, mariaki said:

I wonder if the fact that Oklahoma, Show Boat, and South Pacific were all Broadway shows has anything to do with their darker undertones. 

And they all have books by Oscar Hammerstein II.  Interestingly, the fire in Oklahoma! does not exist in the stage version.  It is in the original play Green Grow the Lilacs, and was reinstated in the film.  But in the stage version of Oklahoma!, the fight between Curly and Judd occurs without the fire.

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1 hour ago, mariaki said:

 

I wonder if the fact that Oklahoma, Show Boat, and South Pacific were all Broadway shows has anything to do with their darker undertones. 

Interesting and great observation. I remember Dr Ament saying something about darker or more adult themes of the Broadway production either getting cut, altered or sanitized in the movie version (she was talking about On the Town). But if "dark" elements were part of the story then they were probably kept in because they were relevant to the plot/story. 

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4 hours ago, Suzy-Q said:

Another question I have is about the assertion that these musicals were designed to portray Americans as coming together collectively. That doesn't align with extreme anti-Communism of that period, as communism celebrates and enforces the collective, rather than the individual. I think alleging that these films were designed to support American internal cooperation and coming together does not jibe with the political mood during that time, which was the celebration of the individual (especially the individual man) and scorn for the collective. 

Excellents points! I know Communism was perceived as Anti-American because (they believed) Communism doesn't allow for people's freedom and is anti Capitalism. It was seen as something against or opposite of "the American way of life". 

Which examples were you thinking about for celebration of the individual? I thought maybe rock n roll or the Beat literary movement which criticized the conformity they believed was affecting mainstream society.

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4 hours ago, MotherofZeus said:

Instructors with such a small space of programming and so few weeks to cover musicals of over 40 years have to determine the themes they can adequately address.  It is unfortunate we cannot take all of this musical course and to the 30s cohesively, then the 40s, then the 50s, and so forth.  Or by theme, or by director or choreographer. So many things going on as is pointed out in this discussion.  @Charlie's Girl astutely points out this is always the case. Perhaps those of us who wish to continue the exploration of musicals could continue a "viewing group" after the course is over to discuss a topic, director, cinematographer or decade and come back together to assess.

I love this idea. Count me in!

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4 hours ago, MotherofZeus said:

Perhaps those of us who wish to continue the exploration of musicals could continue a "viewing group" after the course is over to discuss a topic, director, cinematographer or decade and come back together to assess.

Wonderful idea!

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On 6/16/2018 at 6:18 PM, mariaki said:

Really great and thoughtful post!  Thanks for writing this. It is something I have thought about in reference to the arts of the 1950s in general.  It's been said that the 1950s had "multiple personalities."  On the one hand, you had the rise of teen culture and the carefree times of drive-ins and hops, but on the other hand, the Korean war starts in 1950 and the US gets involved soon after. On the one hand, you had economic boom, home ownership, and increased consumerism and "things", on the other hand the realities of what the atomic bomb could do (and fear of Russia) competed in horror with what was becoming fully known about the extent of the concentration camps. Civil Rights had not improved at all with the return of African American servicemen and McCarthy and his gang proved just who they were when they swept up homosexuals in addition to imagined or real Reds. But Lucy was loving Ricky and Father knew best, and Americans were bonding over TV programs.  Weird times!  No wonder the Beat Generation busted out and got "On the Road" and thought the "best minds " of their generation were being destroyed by superficiality and conformity.  In addition to the noir you mentioned,  Rebel without a Cause, Imitation of Life, All that Heaven Allows, Man with the Golden Arm - for me, these films help us see into the 1950s.     

When I read your post, I couldn't help thinking of the post WWII drama The Best Years of Our Lives.  Al has an upper middle class lifestyle, family has been able to continue living in quite an apartment while he was at war and he returns to the bank he worked for with the nice surprise that he has been promoted.  But Fred has no real job skills and can't find a better paying job, winds up going back to his old job as a soda jerk.  His younger  coworker is now his boss!  And Homer and his family and fiance are struggling to adjust to his having come home with a major disability.  Three very different homecomings!!  Al's daughter works in a hospital and apparently is keeping that job.  Fred's wife has been running around with other men while he was at war and finally divorces him, and Al's daughter is going to marry him, a divorced man!  The male bonding talked about in the lectures is evident in the film but it's not guys trying to get the girl.  It's men who have been through war and who give each other support at various times in the film, support that only fellow veterans can provide.  None of the issues in this film are the subject of any 1950's musical I've ever heard of!

 

On 6/8/2018 at 6:58 PM, Darlene W said:

When I watch a movie, any kind, I watch it for the mere pleasure of enjoyment and have a difficult time picking it apart and answering these questions put to us.  I read what others are posting and nod yes to myself in agreement to most responses but I don't see those comparisons or ideas until they are brought to my mind.  I very much enjoyed all the clips this week and especially Lecture #2 video on "Hallelujah", when Richard Edwards made the statement that King Vidor "created" the roadmap, he did not "follow it" I think that speaks huge volumns.

i am finding this course fascinating but get so frustrated that I have to be hit over the head to see or pick out nuances that others see and can comment on so easily.  There is also so much to learn about the "behind the scene" details like the Foley Artist!  Who knew :)

 

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