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DAILY DOSE OF DELIGHT #14 (From TWO ROBERT PRESTON FILMS)

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1. As you look back to the masculine performances in musicals of past decades, what changes in male representation, and performance would you say are most noticeable?

There was a style and elegance in the thirties that transformed in the fifties to a more aggressive, masculine tone in the fifties and early sixties.  Astaire vs. Kelly.  The more stylistic dancers of the fifties (Gene Nelson, Bob Fosse) would often play second fiddles (and then become directors of others musicals.)

2. What other specific qualities do you notice about Robert Preston in either or both of these clips?

In the Music Man, Harold Hill is an evangelist, spouting brimstone and fire against the evils of Pool. The way he starts with focusing on one person, then a group, then everyone, invoking along the way patriotism and apple pie.  He is  a con man, who plays his audience.

Toddy, on the other hand, reads his audience, teases and jokes with them, allowing personal animosity towards a past lover to be part of the act. There is a sly way in his moves and comments, with the song being sung to entertain, not entice.

3.Have you seen any Robert Preston films that are not musicals? If so, what do you notice about his characters and his approach to acting, now that you are more aware of his dedication to working his craft outside of his stage or film work?

I have, but, to use the example of one of his, if not, last film, "The Last Starfighter", his role was the "Obi-wan"/wise old man/mentor role that called for half con man, half honest, caring person. It was a microcosm of Preston as Harold Hill, which he did with ease.  His hilarious turn as the "Dr. Feelgood" physician in Blake Edwards "S.O.B." was done by a man whose acting was natural, a fella who was enjoying himself getting paid to be in the film.  An almost underrated performance.

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1. The is more of change in emotion. The men of earlier musicals really didn't show vulnerability where in later films they are as afraid to allow it to be shown.

2. He does now how to charm a crowd of women.

3. No I have not. 

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1.  I think the performances change as the music style change. The style of the music man is more classic musical while Victor/Victora is more jazzy and modern.

2. Robert Preston's performances show that he is a true musical performer who is able to change with the times.

3. I haven't seen any further Preston films so I can't really speak to this question.

 

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1. What's interesting about Robert Preston's performance in Music Man is that it reminds me of the fast talking alpha males in the 1920's and 30's, but with much more nuances to the performance. Harold Hill does not seem like a one dimensional character although he sure is a fast talker.  His performance in Victor/Victoria (one of my favorite movies) offers an updated take on masculinity.

2. Both characters have magnetism and wit. Both are con-men in their different ways, so both characters have the ability to win over a crowd in their own different ways. Harold Hill by playing into the fears of the  parents, and Toddy with his wit and style.

3. I have to say that I must have seen Robert Preston in a non-musical role...but can't remember any. oops

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The masculine performances evolved into different performers. First, Fred Astaire, then Bing Crosby, Gene Kelly, Frank Sinatra, Elvis, and the list goes on. Robert Preston's performance would belong with Rex Harrison. In "Ya Got Trouble", he is in command and speaking loudly with confidence. In Victor/Victoria, his performance is more cabaret related. I remember watching S.O.B. and thinking he was great in that movie plus in Victor/VictoriaVictoria and The Music Man.

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I would say that it all depends on the style of the music and the presentation of the number changes the style of masculinity of a person. In the music man, Preston had more movement and used his whole stage to get his point across, while in Victor/Victoria he is much older in am, and with a bit more elegance and class. Both characters are con artist, but they both play the game with a different handle, one youthful as an everyday man, while the other portrayed as an upperclassman who is well diverse and have seen the world.

In the Music Man, Preston comes to town with a con in mind, but soon falls for the town librarian and so his act is in a trap, while in Victor/Victoria, he is a poor impresario trying to make a living, when he meets Andrew's character and turned her into a sensational star over night. His character maybe pretending class, his mouth has a way of getting away with him (both with promotional advertising to shady snaps at those who have angrily put him down in the past).

I have unfortunately not seen any of Preston's other films except Victor/Victoria. But I think he's an extraordinary actor and hope to see many more of his great hits. 

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     In these films you can see deeper into the characters of Professor Hill or of Toddy are deeper than those of before the Second World War.  They are stars buy not the stars of the past, with the studio system gone, they can do all kinds of roles.  By the '60's John Wayne was just John Wayne, you went to his films knowing exactly what you were going to get.  The studio could lock stars in as they tried to do with Bogart, they never saw him as a romantic lead, Cassablanca changed that, as The Actor's Studio and others changed what it meant to be an actor.

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1. There seemed to be more athletic performances and they were less suggestive, more playful or flirty. The men were very confident and suave. In the Music Man, he is basically a salesman, trying to swindle common folk.

2. His appearance is mostly average and he is loud to get their attention, like he makes jokes and antagonizes patrons in Victor/Victoria. He appears to be trying harder to get attention in both movies.

3. I haven't seen any of his other films. 

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1. Not sure how to quite put this, but I believe that the changes in male representation for both of Preston's roles in "The Music Man" (1962) and "Victor/Victoria" (1982) would be a mix of being carefree and foolish in a way.

2. I think Robert Preston's characterizations of Professor Harold Hill in "The Music Man" (1962) and Toddy in "Victor/Victoria" (1982) would be energetic and jovial; trying to interest the attention of the supporting characters in both productions and the audience in general.   

3. Besides "The Music Man" (1962) and "Victor/Victoria" (1982), I have seen Robert Preston in John Farrow's Paramount war action drama, "Wake Island" (1942) and in Blake Edwards' comedy (based off of Edwards' own battles with Paramount over the production of "Darling Lili" in 1970), "S.O.B." (1981, also with Julie Andrews) in the role of the madcap Dr. Irving Finegarten.

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  1. As you look back to the masculine performances in musicals of past decades, what changes in male representation, and performance would you say are most noticeable? Well, masculine performances in musicals really did change with the times (for this question I'll stick with the 70s onwards) Look at Rocky Horror from 75 my guess that was a BIG leap in musicals where a man could play a transvestite and also be gay in the musical. Flash forward to the 90s when Rent came out You could really see what was going on in the world thru the musicals at the time and as we know the code was gone so you can be as risky as you could.
     
  2. What other specific qualities do you notice about Robert Preston in either or both of these clips? Both clips he sings with people. The first clip he sings with the towns people about trouble and the second clip in the night club he starts trouble with the crowed in the club.
     
  3. Have you seen any Robert Preston films that are not musicals? If so, what do you notice about his characters and his approach to acting, now that you are more aware of his dedication to working his craft outside of his stage or film work?  I have never seen any of his films.

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As you look back to the masculine performances in musicals of past decades, what changes in male representation, and performance would you say are most noticeable?

First, my observation the speech teacher in "Singing in the Rain" was being held up for ridicule as a stereotypical gay man contrasts dramatically with the Preston characterization in "Victor Victoria". Here, Preston is not a buffoon to be acted upon but the instigator of trouble. Although he plays it much straighter than the earlier depictions we often saw in Hollywood, he does have certain effeminate flourishes - the scarf in the pocket; the eye make-up; the ****y Queen behavior; the hand movements. But, victim he is not.  

The net effect of this is to present a gay man in a much more realistic light. Yes, gays have been victims of outrageous behavior for centuries, but they are also more fully-realized people than earlier Hollywood (and society, in general) have portrayed them as.

What other specific qualities do you notice about Robert Preston in either or both of these clips?

In "The Music Man" his movements are much more exacting in that they have no swish! to them. A hand thrust forward is thrown out with control and stops firmly in place. Compared to "Victor Victoria", we now see him doing controlled movements but those movements end with a swing of the hand or a feminine stuffing of a scarf into his pocket. Still exacting movements but here designed to give off a wholly different impression. But, each is filled with little movements or make-up details to drive home the message.
 

Have you seen any Robert Preston films that are not musicals? If so, what do you notice about his characters and his approach to acting, now that you are more aware of his dedication to working his craft outside of his stage or film work?

I remember him primarily in Westerns as a character actor. I would have to go back and look at some of those roles to make anything approaching an educated remark about this. But, unlike in these two films, he's not working as the center of attention in any of them. The characterization that comes to mind most is his role in "How the West Was Won" as the wagon train leader. Of course, that is a film that specializes in cameos of a sort. He's not a Debbie Reynolds or a Karl Malden but he plays his role just as effectively. Entirely believable.

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As you look back to the masculine performances in musicals of past decades, what changes in male representation, and performance would you say are most noticeable?
 
What other specific qualities do you notice about Robert Preston in either or both of these clips?
 
Have you seen any Robert Preston films that are not musicals? If so, what do you notice about his characters and his approach to acting, now that you are more aware of his dedication to working his craft outside of his stage or film work?


Some males in musicals were leading man types who would not and did not look out of place in any other genre.  Then there were the others that were only suited to musical comedy (I can’t imagine Fred Astaire in buckskin tramping through the woods or Maurice Chevalier slogging through army trenches).  In their careers Gene Kelly and Frank Sinatra were able to transition well to straight non-musical roles.  Then in reviewing the list of late fifties and early sixties movies what occurred to me was the male characters often had an occupation as opposed to having a career as an onstage performer.

Robert Preston started at Paramount usually in the role of friend to the stalwart leading man; Gary Cooper, Joel McCrea and John Wayne, in Adventure flicks like Beau Geste, Northwest Mounted Police and Reap the Wild Wind; or in pot-boilers featuring women leads like Joan Bennett, Susan Hayward and Barbara Stanwyck.  And prior to his starring as the affable, charmer Harold Hill he was frequently cast as the heavy.  Ironically while best remembered for Music Man and Victor/Victoria Pres, as he was known to his friends, had never been in a musical until M.M. or even sung a note professionally.  Pres was such a success in the stage version of Music Man that Meredith Wilson insisted he be cast as Harold Hill in his screen adaptation, although Jack L. Warner had wanted Frank Sinatra or Cary Grant.  (I can sort of picture Sinatra singing “Trouble” but I can’t envision Cary at all, can you?)

I have seen quite a few of the movies Preston was featured in, he was seldom the lead but always gave a good solid believable performance.  I found these two quotes telling of his approach and dedication to his craft:

(On DeMille directing him in "Union Pacific") He was no director. For over two weeks of shooting, Stanwyck and I were alone in a boxcar, and because there were no crowd scenes, no special effects, just two people acting, you'd never have known the old man was on the set. He didn't know what to do with it, except just roll and print. He didn't know what to tell us.

Image result for Union Pacific movie

 “Just two people acting…”  Just two people who were superb artists!

Everytime I turned down something, or wasn't offered something I really wanted, the very next thing that I did was the thing I should have done all along. It's been a lucky career that way. Nothing that I've ever made really hurt me. I've survived some bad ones just the way I've survived some plays that ran four performances.
He called it luck, I’d say it was talent!
 

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Characterizations of men in the movies are starting to bring attention to the inner doubts, a more heightened awareness of emotions, the inability to use brute strength to overcome an enemy and win the girl. We see characters who win the girl through intelligence and sensitivity, but we also see how the sexual revolution has placed men in unaccustomed roles that they struggle through.

I have seen The Music Man countless times, but taking a moment to focus on this scene really brought his brilliance in focus for me. It occurred to me that the opening of this song was very similar to rap, using the lyrics as spoken rather than sung. His physical movements are strong and precise, offering us a clear vision of the masculine side of the character. He uses his quick thinking to come up with his plan, but his execution of the plan is very physical: the townspeople are influenced by this more than his words. 

His performance in Victor/Victoria was perfect! He brought a sensitivity, a real ness to the character that is such a wonderful portrayal. His musical number at the end of the film was so hilarious! This film could so easily have glossed over and become campy fluff. Instead, we have such wonderfully relatable characters, that we can't help but love them!

In reviewing the list of his films, I was surprised at the number of non-musical films he was in, and many I had seen on TCM! (Thank you, TCM!) The most memorable were How the West Was Won, SOB, The Last Starfighter, and Finnegan Begin Again. 

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1.  What is more noticeable to me is that the performance shifted from being more animated and lively towards more realistic and relatable to the audience.  The performances seemed more out of real life as opposed to feeling "staged."

2.  I notice the first clip shows masculinity in an authoritative, lively way, full of confidence.  The second clip also shows masculinity, but in a subtle yet strong manner.  The character has confidence, but a different type of confidence in who he is.

3.  I have not seen any of his other films, but am curious to see how his acting styles differ in his other roles.

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  1. As you look back to the masculine performances in musicals of past decades, what changes in male representation, and performance would you say are most noticeable?  Masculinity has now new meaning.  One is a showman/salesman the other is a gay male.  Both are masculine.  Today both are acceptable.  The Toddy character is flirty with male and female, but you know the preference.  The other thing is that his sexual preference is not hidden.
  2. What other specific qualities do you notice about Robert Preston in either or both of these clips?  His hand motions are the same.  He is the ultimate salesman.  In one he is trying to cheat the town while in the other he is selling his lifestyle.  Both roles are fun and lively.
     
  3. Have you seen any Robert Preston films that are not musicals? If so, what do you notice about his characters and his approach to acting, now that you are more aware of his dedication to working his craft outside of his stage or film work?  I have see the Last Starfighter with Robert Preston.  I have always liked his acting, but this character was very similar to the musical roles.  I think the only role where he plays someone different is How the West Was Won.  This role was not the salesman and upbeat it was a regular role.

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  1. It’s similar to today when we compare the “Chris’s” from the Marvel films vs. the Stallones and Arnolds of the 80s, the “ideal” lead goes through phases. And it’s often that it’s not just one that is preferred even at the same time. But it does, like fashion, seem to go in waves. The biggest change seems to be an increase in empathy, and an understanding that the man doesn’t know it all. Those are probably the biggest changes in not just musicals, but American film in general.
  2. Preston is truly a leading man in both performances. He commands attention of those around him, and while the camera and direction are aimed at him, he allow would be calling attention to his presence. His actions seem filmic, where small facial movements and subtle gestures (small, not big, hand movements; the placement of his scarf in his pocket) have large meaning.
  3. As a child of the 80s, I remember him best from The Last Starfighter—a film that I always hope will get better the next time I watch it! Like in these roles, he’s the strong presence. Interestingly, we has come back to the roles where he starts as the snake oil salesman who is ultimately redeemed.

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As you look back to the masculine performances in musicals of past decades, what changes in male representation, and performance would you say are most noticeable?
 

Not seeing either films, the clips are so different from earlier persona of a masculine performance. everything has  changed, the sexual revolution and cultural differences from post war production. These films surely shocked audiences who did not realize the plot and thought oh goodie another musical in small midwestern towns. The expressionism in Preston’s performance is with precision. I see pure confidence in every step, every word.

What other specific qualities do you notice about Robert Preston in either or both of these clips?
 

Basically, I see an actor who has authenticity. He has charisma, intellect. He believes in who he is, he trusts himself and has full confidence of self. Impressive. 

Have you seen any Robert Preston films that are not musicals? If so, what do you notice about his characters and his approach to acting, now that you are more aware of his dedication to working his craft outside of his stage or film work?

im not familiar with his films 

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  1. As you look back to the masculine performances in musicals of past decades, what changes in male representation, and performance would you say are most noticeable?
    • Over the decades, the male representation seems to change with the climate of the nation.   I think about Astaire and how he didn't really have that Alpha male mentality in the 30s, which was fine, because it wasn't something the climate of America needed.  But as we got into pre-War musicals, American's needed to feel strength and command from men.  You then get the Alpha male with the Beta Male friend who show that someone can take charge.  We "loose" the Alpha male during Wartime, but the men are still very active in fighting for a cause, which again, helps the American viewers.  Now, in the 60s, America feels powerful, so we are able to allow the masculinity to take a backseat, and start showing more personal takes on men.
       
  2. What other specific qualities do you notice about Robert Preston in either or both of these clips?
    • Harold Hill shows his masculinity as being that conniving, con-artist.  He's not an Alpha Male, but he's capable of knowing what to do to get his way and what he wants.  Victor surprises me, as we are in the midst of Communism.  People that were different were looked at suspiciously, so it's surprising to see that character come out (not pun intended) during this time.  That being said, he is still very much a man.  He's a softer man, but not a man that can be walked over, and shows his strength in his sass. 
       
  3. Have you seen any Robert Preston films that are not musicals? If so, what do you notice about his characters and his approach to acting, now that you are more aware of his dedication to working his craft outside of his stage or film work?
    • Unfortunately, I can only think of Robert Preston as Harold Hill.

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1. As you look back to the masculine performances in musicals of past decades, what changes in male representation, and performance would you say are most noticeable?

In the past musicals, most of the lead men tend to be the strong type and very masculine -- handsome, wealthy, debonair -- ready to rescue the damsel in distress and be the hero that made everything better. Most seemed to be a little older and distinguished as well.  As we march through the decades, we see men who aren't necessarily those things, with their flaws and vulnerabilities coming to the forefront more readily without diminishing the character and in fact making them more attractive/sympathetic to the audience.

 

2.  What other specific qualities do you notice about Robert Preston in either or both of these clips?

While being the lead in the first clip, Hill (Preston) is the lead but he isn't necessarily handsome but still manages to captivate the small town.  As an actor in both clips, Preston seems to really not let any part of him go to waste from small gestures to facial expressions he knows how to work the crowd and the room he is in drawing the audiences eyes to him.

 

3. Have you seen any Robert Preston films that are not musicals? If so, what do you notice about his characters and his approach to acting, now that you are more aware of his dedication to working his craft outside of his stage or film work?

Two of his movies which aren't musicals stand out to me, those being 'S.O.B' and 'The Last Starfighter'.  Robert Preston was a supporting character in each, still having a significant role though.  In the former, a Blake Edwards' comedy, he was sharp and witty, as the resident friend and doctor who was in the middle of everything. He showed perfect comedic timing and an ability to make something funny that probably would have been only so so with another actor.  In the latter, he played an Alien disguised as a human to enlist someone from earth to fly his planet's ultra elite fighting ship in order to win a war.  He made me care about his character so much that when it looked like Centauri (Preston) had died I was devastated and driven to tears. I saw these movies as a young girl, after I had seen him in a couple of musicals.  I was amazed it was the same actor in fact.  Most actors which I had watched in the classic musicals were only so so in movies not featuring song.  Not this man though.  He has been a favorite of mine for many years, not only for his singing abilities.

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As you look back to the masculine performances in musicals of past decades, what changes in male representation, and performance would you say are most noticeable?

  • I think it would be the representation of gay characters in movies and Tv.  It used to be such a taboo topic, but I think now it is more widely accepted.  At least more than it used to be.  

What other specific qualities do you notice about Robert Preston in either or both of these clips?

  • He is a wonderful singer and he works the crowd.  He not only walks into the crowd but engages them.  Tattling on the kids by telling the parents what to look out for and then calling the guy out in the other clip.  

Have you seen any Robert Preston films that are not musicals? If so, what do you notice about his characters and his approach to acting, now that you are more aware of his dedication to working his craft outside of his stage or film work?

  • I have never seen any movies with him in it, but now I want to. 

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I love Robert Preston's performance in Music Man as wonderful entertainment.  Most of us cannot imagine the role being played by another actor.  In fact its not likely that others could do it and in this case there is evidence,  The movie brought a lot of attention to the songs of Music Man and in an era to TV variety shows a number of male singers attempted to sing "Trouble".  These were famous  "fails" and most notable of these was Robert Goulet who totally flubbed the song on live TV.

According to TCM, Carry Grant was asked to play Harold Hill and he is claimed to have said that he would not accept the part and if the studio did not get Robert Preston for the role he would not watch the movie.

Preston had this amazing ability to speak and sing very rapidly as the "flim-flam" man with perfect annunciation and vocal clarity which was absolutely essential to the character of Harold Hill.

I also agree with those who say that he was a great actor.  His performance in Victor Victoria is excellent and I have seen him give great performances in dramas and other kinds of films.

 

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1.     As you look back to the masculine performances in musicals of past decades, what changes in male representation, and performance would you say are most noticeable?

The masculine performances become more believable. The masculine performances open up the circle of relatability to multiple people groups of both genders.

2.     What other specific qualities do you notice about Robert Preston in either or both of these clips?

He is so comfortable in his own skin! He is in command of the whole stage…the whole room (or park) is his stage. He is fearless with his audience. He draws all attention to himself!

3 .Have you seen any Robert Preston films that are not musicals? If so, what do you notice about his characters and his approach to acting, now that you are more aware of his dedication to working his craft outside of his stage or film work?

The roles Preston played, that came to mind most easily, were those he had played in musicals. I did have to research the lists for movies I may have seen in which Robert Preston had acted. I remembered seeing the movie “How the West Was Won” but was hard pressed to recall his role and unfortunately had to refresh my memory. Then, it was “Äh! Yes!”

While my statements are true it does not mean Robert Preston is in any way unmemorable!

It does mean that other roles he played left an indelible impression.

No matter which role…one that came to my memory easily or not…Preston comes across as a “man’s man”. This of course, in some instances, a play on words!

While playing The Wagon Master “Roger Morgan” in the movie “How the West Was Won” he is strong, a true leader, capable of handling any problem situation, an example for other men to live up to…fulfilling the traditional interpretation of the phrase “ä man’s man”.

 While playing “Toddy” in the movie “Victor Victoria” he plays the part of Count Grazinski’s (Julie Andrews) boyfriend…a “man’s” man. I have rarely laughed as hard, at any scene, than I did at Preston’s performance of “The Shady Dame from Seville”. What acting! It seems Preston is willing to do whatever it takes to get his character across to the audience!

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1. These movies seem to be moving away from the main strong alpha male lead and are heading to more female and males who show emotions led movies.

2. He is a very confident as a very likable charm to him in both of these roles.

3. I haven't seen anything else with Robert Preston that I know of. 

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1.  Preston plays Harold Hill and Toddy as more of the common man.  It was rare in earlier musicals for the male lead to be a common man-frequently they were stars, gamblers or other special types.  Here we have a salesman and a garden variety nightclub singer, both of whom were played in an understated fashion.

2.   In both clips, Preston moves about with ease.  There is a natural flow to his movements.  Even when he ducks the punch in the clip from Victor/Victoria, he does it fluidly.

3.  I have only seen him in two non-musicals:  Reap the Wild Wind and The Last Starfighter.  He is not the star of either movie.  However, that amazing voice never goes unnoticed.

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 The masculine performances in musicals changes from the more alpha male role to more beta, sensitive and less aggressive than the Howard Keel type performances of the previous decade. 

I noticed that Robert Preston performance in both roles he is less a perfect voice and dancer, and more of the story teller. He speak sings his lines without belting out operatic songs. He captures his audience and uses his gestures as much as the expression in both performances as any of the song and dance numbers in the previous musicals.

Mostly I have noticed in his other films that his method has wider use of expressions, confident mannerism, subtle presence, and his body language helping to tell his story outside of dialogue.  

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