racism and sexism.

I've been watching more musicals. Are you sick of this yet?

Flower Drum Song
Most of the musicals I know are Rodgers and Hammerstein like this one. However, Flower Drum Song is much less well-known these days because it's fallen out of favor for, well, being a little bit racist. It was a big deal at the time for featuring an almost entirely Asian cast, a notable exception being the actress who played Auntie Laing. She also played the Polynesian Bloody Mary in South Pacific, but was actually a black woman named Juanita. The characters are all Chinese, though the actors playing them come from a variety of countries in the Far East. It wasn't quite like Peter Lorre playing Mr. Wong, but it was less than P.C.

Despite the casting, I didn't think the movie was terribly offensive. Like many movies of that age, it also had some seriously old-fashioned ideas about women. But maybe racism is worse than sexism? And the songs sounded like Rodgers and Hammerstein. There was an extended dream sequence. I've never figured those scenes out. Maybe there used to be a rule about having ballet in a musical and so they just shoved in a scene with hazy lighting and limited scenery where people who looked sorta like the main characters could dance symbolically about?

The ending was a bit weird. The plot is one mixed-up love pentagon, and at the end is a double wedding. Because it doesn't get any cheesier than a double wedding. But one of the points on the love pentagon is left out and sort of drops off the face of the script. Apparently, in the book, she kills herself. I guess they cut it out because it would have been a real downer at the double wedding.

I would feel remiss if I did not mention that Jack Soo is one funny-looking dude. I'm glad he was able to get famous and I'm sure he was a nice guy, but wow. Genetics did him a disservice.

Songs and Dance: R & H quality - memorable melodies, lyrics sometimes clever, sometimes bland. I particularly enjoyed "Don't Marry Me."

Moment of Recognition: "I Enjoy Being a Girl," which had some fame in feminine product commercials, is from this show. Here's Nancy Kwan singing it.

Will I Make Josh Watch It: Nah.

Thoroughly Modern Millie
This one is sort of a parody, making fun of the early party of the 20th century. Which means that I didn't get some of the jokes. If you watch That 70s Show now, you get the jokes, because we all have this similar general idea of what the 70s were like. Not that I remember the 70s, but I understand that they didn't have things like cd players. Also, the jokes are written for a modern audience, who understands generally what the 70s were about, even if the target audience wasn't alive for them.

Now, imagine you've gone into the future, say into 2030, and you're watching That 70s Show. The jokes are not targetted toward your new, 2030-based idea of the 70s. Also, who even remembers the 70s, when the 2010s were such a riotous decade? I mean, really.

That's what watching Thoroughly Modern Millie in 2009 is like. Written in the 1960s, set in the 1920s (I *think*), I can tell that I'm missing some of the jokes. I can feel the air displacement that occurs as they whiz by. But who cares?! Because there is Julie Andrews and Mary Tyler Moore, singing, dancing, finding love and trying to avoid being sold into white slavery by Chinese laundry owners! This movie was way more racist than "Flower Drum Song," to the point where it was almost parody. So maybe it was making fun of racism and was therefore less racist. Racism is hard.

Also, Carol Channing is in it. Anyone who does not love Carol Channing is just being bitter. She takes a huge mouth, some weird hair, and an annoying voice and makes you like her for them. She did some vaudevillian type acts. They were wonderful. In all, the movie is frothy and fun. Despite the potentially dark plot element of stealing young women for slaves, it's all so over-the-top that you can't help but enjoy yourself, even during the parts that are potentially racist or not racist.

Songs and Dance: Most of the music is old songs from the 1910s and 1920s, so a lot of them are familiar. The best single moment of the whole movie is when Mary Tyler Moore meets the man that she falls in love with AT FIRST SIGHT, and there is instant, swelling music: "OH, sweet mystery of life at last I've found you!" Watching movies like this in my formative years led me to expect instant, swelling music at any moment when I might look up and see some handsome stranger (preferably across a crowded room). There are some other good numbers, most memorably "The Tapioca." It made me want to dance. And eat pudding. I did both. Here is that scene, which includes the ridiculous slang. "He's fresh as paint!" "Oh, he's just full of applesauce."

Will I Make Josh Watch It: He was there when I watched it, though he was not paying attention. Sometimes I make him dance "The Tapioca" with me.

Annie Get Your Gun
I didn't know anything about Annie Oakley before I watched this movie. To say that I learned something from this movie illustrates the depths of my ignorance, because musicals are not great history lessons. I knew that Annie Oakley was a good shot and had something to do with the Old West. For all I knew, she could have been a member of the James gang, though I did have the vague notion that she was probably one of the good guys. But no, Annie Oakley was a sharpshooter in Buffalo Bill's Wild West. The movie is a highly fictionalized version of her life, but it did lead me to read the wikipedia article about her, so all in all, my Annie Oakley knowledge has gone way up in the past couple of days. Of course, I might be of the mistaken impression that she sang a lot, too.

While we're talking about old-fashioned ideas today, this movie has a few. Annie Oakley is something of a feminist hero(ine), in that she excelled in a male-dominated field. And the movie addresses that, but at the same time has her doing almost anything for the love of a man. Of course, she is so gosh-darn, hy-uck, naive and sweet that you love her, even if you want to tell her that she doesn't need no stinking man. Her man, Frank Butler, is also a sharpshooter in Buffalo Bill's show, and in the end, the only way she can get him to propose is if she loses a shootin' match to him to save his pride. The message is that us ladies can do anything men can do, but sometimes we have to pretend that we can't because men are silly creatures that we love because we are also silly creatures. Maybe I should stop examining these musicals in such depth.

Betty Hutton played Annie. She was not your traditional musical star, in that she obviously came from a comedic background. She was hamming it up the whole time, which worked for the character. She did a great job of acting like someone who does not know how to act like a lady (and I should know!). Judy Garland was cast at first, but had to drop out due to health issues. The DVD I saw had clips from the scenes that Judy shot - she did not look well. Or happy. Betty is...not quite beautiful. She has her own sort of prettiness, but she is definitely not a classic beauty, which is probably why she decided to go into comedy.

Frank Butler was played by Howard Keel, in his first-ever movie. I love Howard Keel. He makes singing look masculine. I see him singing about how they say falling in love is wonderful, and I go, "Now there's a man!" Now that I think about it, in all the roles I've seen him do (Adam in Seven Brides for Seven Brothers and Frank in Kiss Me Kate), he plays the man who has to swallow his pride for his lady. I also like it when romantic male leads have to overcome character flaws for love. It can't be all wacky misunderstandings and white slavery. Oh, Howard, you can swallow your pride for me anytime. Well, not really, because you're dead.

Songs and Dance: The songs were by Irving Berlin. I like ole Irving, and I bet you do too, even if you didn't know it. Dude wrote "White Christmas" and "Puttin' on the Ritz." Neither of those were in this movie. However, there was "Anything You Can Do," which was probably my favorite scene. "Doin' What Comes Natur'lly" was also cute, in a celebration of illiteracy sort of way. "You Can't Get a Man with a Gun" succinctly sums up the plight of the modern woman. Dancing was not as prominent, I guess because the stars were more singers or actors than natural dancers. There wasn't even a dream sequence.

Moment of Recognition: "There's No Business Like Show Business," which was a complete surprise to me since I thought this movie was about the Old West, not the Old West show business. Later, a movie by that name was released, mostly so they could make a movie where Ethel Merman (who originated the role of Annie Oakley in the stage version of Annie Get Your Gun) could sing that song. I saw that movie a long time ago, and the plot is pretty loose. It's sort of like a pornographic movie, but instead of having sex, people sing Irving Berlin songs. Also, "Anything You Can Do," which I've already mentioned.

Will I Make Josh Watch It: Nope. But when he saw the DVD sleeve from Netflix, he started singing "Anything You Can Do," which adds to my suspicion that he is secretly a huge musical fan.


Anonymous said...

We have just watched the Annie Get Your Gun clip 3 times. The boys and Rachel thought it was hysterical and are begging me to add it to the Netflix cue.


Carla said...

We just watched Thoroughly Modern Millie and really liked it. By jingo! :)