Musical Genre: Women Answers | Assessment Answer

Answer:

Construction of Women in the Musical Genre

After the World War II, the number of women entering the music profession started to increase. The role of the women in music in the middle of 20th century was moderate, neither it was small nor big. Majority of the growth was seen in the orchestral employment which had a decline after the war. There was a marked increase in the symphony orchestras and the proportion of the female musicians was found to be in higher proportions in the community and metropolitan orchestras, which had a low budget. During this period, women were getting qualified in music and started to earn degrees in music . Since the middle of 20th century, the position of women in the music industry started to flourish and this essay will discuss the construction of women in the musical genre with reference to the movies Singin’ in the Rain (1952) and Cabaret (1972).

The American musical comedy Singin’ in the Rain was released in 1952 and depicted the lighthearted depiction of the transition from the silent films to the talkies. On its release, it did not receive much success excepting a few recognitions. However, later it moved on to become one of the best musical movie ever made in Hollywood. Hollywood was witnessing the era as a paradigm shift from the stereotypical patriarchy to employment for women with dignity. Women were encouraged to join the film industry and it was a bright opportunity for them since many of the musical films were made during the later phase of the 20th century. Since women were earning degrees in music, they had the opportunity to work in the movies and share equal screen space as compared to the condition that was previously prevailing. Debbie Reynolds, the lead actress in this movie, in her autobiography shared her experiences of working in the movie. She described her experiences in terms of her body where she had to spend grueling hours of rehearsals, her physical collapse after severe exertion, her bleeding feet and the fear of the unpredictable rage of the director. From these experiences, it can be stated that women artists were ignored and they had to suffer extreme pain in order to establish themselves as the musical performers in the industry. The path to success was not easy and was dominating by the male counterparts. From the critical history of the movie, Debbie Reynolds has been ignored and the probable reason can be attributed to the fact that she did not have great singing and dancing skills. These inabilities further reduced her efforts to establish herself as women in the musical genre in Hollywood. Throughout the movie, she never really had the chance to share the frame with a solo appearance with a song and dance number and this clearly states that gender hierarchy was very much obvious in that era of Hollywood movies. Debbie had to try hard to construct her position in the musical genre but things were not easy in a male dominated industry. The movie has been often acclaimed as the autobiography of Hollywood as it not only signified the transition from the silent era to the talkies but also demonstrated the performance of two ladies and showcased their talents. Women did not have the liberty and opportunity to enter the film industry during the early 20th century but after the war, things began to change. Women started to construct and establish their position in the musical genre not only through the teaching and learning of music but also through the movies of Hollywood. The female counterparts of the movie Singin in the Rain are the bright examples of this statement. Apart from Debbie Reynolds, Jean Hagen was the other leading lady in the movie. While Kathy Salden was played by Reynolds, Lina Lamont was the character of Hagen. In the movie, Kathy has been signified as the talented performer and Lina has been the poor performer of music. Kathy used to sync her lips for Lina and therefore, Lina was the public figure of the magical voice. In the movie, the musical performance of Kathy was the construction of an audiovisual entity and depicted the containment of Lina and Kathy within the diegesis and emphasized the entrapment of the women of the movie within the technological apparatus of the cinema. Not with a strong force, but the construction of the foundation for women in the musical genre was built with this movie. The illusion of a transcendent, spontaneous and coherent character of the musical female subject was portrayed by Kathy and this motivated the women of the age to participate in the musical genre and put forward their talent in the patriarchal community. Different ways have been adapted by director Gene Kelly and Stanley Donen to represent the characters of women in the musical movie. Lina Lamont is the aspiring Hollywood actress and dreams of making an established career in the industry. Kathy Selden was the damsel in a distress and was another aspiring actress of Hollywood. Both of them played two contrasting and opposing characters with similar dreams separated by ideologies and thought process. Lina represented a woman of strong opinion who is stubborn enough to go any distance for fulfilling her dreams. Kathy represented a quiet, shy, witty and smart lady with agreeable disposition and lovely voice. Therefore, the lives and status of the women of that era were reflected in both these roles of these ladies and the struggle of the potentially talented women to enter the limelight of success was beautifully screened. Women with talent and potential did not have enough opportunities to enter the musical industry and secured a position as it was a male dominated area well preserved for the ladies they admire. Women like Kathy had no chance to display their talent and women like Lina used to enjoy the favors, in spite of being a vapid actress. Her proximity with the male protagonists in the movie endowed her with the opportunity to be in the fore front event with duplicating her voice and Kathy’s shy and quiet nature restricted her to lip syncing for Lina. This was the actual scenario for the woman in the middle of the 20th century in Hollywood with very little opportunity for women to enter the musical genre. Although women were getting interested in the genre and an influx was occurring, however, without appropriate exposure of talent, the condition did not improve. This fact was further strengthened by the constant interpolation in the movie that Kathy does not have the appropriate authority to enter into the musical genre on her terms as both Cosmo and Don have done. Her mental agony has been reflected in the song Good Morning as a form of self-expression that she can hardly establish herself as a musical subject on the basis of her potential and talent. She has to stay as under the shadow of Lina that separates her voice from her body. This again justifies the fact that although the women could be indirect contributors to the musical genre, they cannot be direct performers as was the scenario in Hollywood. Patriarchy was reflected in the songs of the movie as well where the songs pictured on Don were free floating and projects his imagination. On the contrary, the songs of Kathy were positioned rigorously in the diegesis and seemed to be in the can. The solo by Kathy was finally included in the final print but it could not equalize the gender imbalance completely. However, the inclusion of the solo established the character of Kathy as an expressive and coherent musical subject and it was a big step towards the establishment of women in the musical genre. The romantic solo ‘You are my Lucky Star’ by Kathy altered the musico-dramatic structure of the denouement of the movie at the climax of the movie, Don sings the same solo which was a reprise of the original number by Kathy. This song not only provided a happy ending to the movie but also made it clear that men are emulating women and times are changing. Male dominance is falling weak and women are making their space in the musical genre of the industry. Although times were changing, the male dominance still prevailed and was demonstrated at the climax of the movie where Don reprised the song for Kathy without even hearing it before exhibited the mastery of Don over the musical discourse and alternatively, over his female counterpart. The solo was sung by Kathy as an inner narrative and Don singing the song granted him omniscient access to the female interiority realm and gave him a dominant image. Although this movie did not have enough evidence of women constructing the musical genre, it laid the foundation for women entering the musical and film industry and later on taking up dominating positions. Powerful performance by Debbie Reynolds crafted the character of Kathy and gave it proper justification by portraying the condition of women in the musical genre in the early and middle of 20th century.

The late of the 20th century saw another musical film named Cabaret released in the year 1972 that was directed by Bob Fosse marking the construction of women in the musical genre. Situations changed rapidly since Singin in the Rain and it was easier for women to enter the musical genre. Set in Berlin, the theme of the movie was during the Weimer Republic in the year 1931 featuring the growth of the Nazi party. The movie was based on the book Cabaret by Joe Masteroff was a success in the box office. The movie was widely appreciated and went on to become one of the greatest movies of all time. Liza Minnelli was the leading lady of the movie who not only portrayed the character of Sally Bowles but also sung the songs of the movie. There were a number of Kit Kat Klub dancers who were ladies as well. This suggests that women entered the musical genre with confidence and a built up a strong foundation. This era of new Hollywood or the American new wave balanced the masculinity and femininity imbalance. On contrary to the era of Singin in the Rain, feminism was in a larger proportion in Cabaret. Women were no longer subservient to men and took over the protagonist position in the movies as strong and independent women. Cabaret is a movie of the era of new Hollywood which was more revisionist and liberal and the film delved deep into the themes of sexuality and sex. The movie blurred the masculinity images and gender roles and made the sexual revolution of the decades of the 60s and 70s more prominent. Women were more into the musical genre and music was no more a mere performance on the stage with an elegantly dressed lady. It got transformed into the display of bold bodily movements in the form of dance along with the song. Dresses of the singers also changed from the body covering type to the body displaying type and women started to make their mark in the musical genre in all of its forms, singing, dancing and acting. The movie Cabaret was a love affair between and American cabaret singer and a British writer in the 1930s of Berlin. Sally Bowles is an androgynous and sexually aggressive female character that was bold enough to reveal her sexual promiscuity. She signified the sexuality and women power in the movie and made it clear that women are no more to get dominated and raised a silent voice for liberty. It was also one of the first Hollywood movies that depicted gay lifestyle. Since this movie was ahead of its time, it provided ample opportunity for the growth of the women in the society and in the musical genre. Cabaret is a type of entertainment that features song, music and dance often performed in a nightclub, restaurant and pub. Cabarets were popular in the 70s decade where people sought an escape. Sexual freedom was celebrated and people found independence and this factor has been well depicted in the movie. The main cabaret performers were women and therefore, the limits of the musical genre got extended where women participated. The failure to establish a romantic relationship by Brian with Sally exposed his sexual nature and the urge of Sally to get into physical contact with Brian further exhibits the fact that the desires of women are prioritized. They no longer had to suppress their desires and feel the mental agony of rejection and ignorance. They have made their choices clear and this hugely signified women empowerment. In another scene where Brian, Maximilian and Sally were drunk and were dancing closely together, Sally seemed to be carefree and interested in the money of Max. This exposed the ugly and garish side of the cabaret performers and also established the fact that with the advancement of time, women constructed their position in the musical genre and along with it, brought about the bizarre sexuality and decadence. Their representation in the movies as well as in the society turned out to be commodities and objects of male gaze. Their identity was constructed but dignity was degraded. The movie was based on the 1939 novel by Christopher Isherwood named Goodbye to Berlin and the 1951 stage play by John Van Druten named I am a Camera. Most of the musical numbers in the movie were captured on the cabaret stage. There is underlying bisexuality and homosexuality in the movie and this has been evident from the opening sequence of a male cabaret dancer with a wig on and a female from the audience member putting on a monocle. This mixed the feminine and masculine features of the characters and indicated on a positive note that equality has been achieved in the society and sexism is no more a barrier for the women to enter the musical genre. The doors were open for the talented women to enter the musical genre not only in the movies but also in the world of cabaret and live performances. Women fortified their position in both the domains of musical genre and earned sufficiently to have a lavish living. Arguably, it can be said that culturally and ethically, women were no more respected as they used to be in the era of Singin in the Rain. Money became the center point of all as it was evident from the cabaret number in the movie ‘Money Money’. It proclaimed the fact that women not only entered the genre of music out of sole interest, but also to have a better earning and a serious profession. More women started to take up music seriously and not as amateur performers and this ultimately went on to the construction of a strong and effective position for the women in the musical genre in the forms of singing and dancing.

Genre had an important function to play in the film history. Musical films belong to the genre where the songs that are sung by the characters in the film are interwoven in the narrative and are often presented along with dancing. The songs are used to advance the plot of the movie and in the development of the characters in the movie. After the silent era and with the introduction of the talkies, stage musicals were introduced. Stage musicals utilized lavish locations and background scenery for making the songs look more attractive. Singin in the Rain did use different locations but the locations of Cabaret were far more gorgeous. In the musicals of 20th century, theatrical elements of reminiscence were present and the performers looked into the camera while performing considering the viewers as the direct audiences. Both the movies discussed in this essay followed this trend and most of the musical numbers had the participation of the women performers in the form of singing, dancing or both. Singin in the Rain reflects on the musical genre at the very key stage of its evolution and narrates the story of an actor who is affected by the industrial and technological changes. Since the world of cinema was moving towards the transition to talkies, this affected his generic personae and has been well depicted in the movie. Women had a vital role to play in the movie as Kathy lent her voice to Lina and this marked the beginning of the musical intrusion of women in the talkies, against the patriarchal dominance of the silent era. Contrary to this, Cabaret was a divine decadence and it was well stated by Sally when she meets Brian. The director reconceptualized the genre of music along with this movie and exhibited Sally as the free-spirited woman who works as a cabaret singer. Much had changed since the days of the Singin in the Rain and the musical genre also underwent a transformation from slow musicals to loud music accompanied with dance numbers. So changed the role of the women in the musical genres from being sober dressed singers to shorter dressed cabaret dancers.  However, in both these movies, there existed a similarity in the desires of the women. Both Lina and Sally sought stardom though the genre of music and both were ambitious to construct their position in the musical industry. While Lina sought it in a treacherous way by lip syncing the voice of Kathy, Sally sought it on the basis of her potential as a cabaret performer. Both these movies indicated towards the fact that women were ambitious to leave their mark in the musical genres and therefore, music played a pivotal role to highlight this desire of women in both these movies. After the success of both these movies, all the women associated with these movies either as actors, background singers and dancers received the success and fame that they desired for in the movie, not only in the story of the movie, but also in the real life.

References

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Benshoff, Harry M., and Sean Griffin. America on film: Representing race, class, gender, and sexuality at the movies. John Wiley & Sons, 2011.

Benthaus, Elena Natalie. "" We are not here to make avant-garde choreography!" So You Think You Can Dance and popular screen dance aesthetics."

Berliner, Todd. Hollywood incoherent: Narration in seventies cinema. University of texas Press, 2010.

Bingham, Dennis. "The New Hollywood Cinema (1967 to roughly 1976) is the." Invented Lives, Imagined Communities: The Biopic and American National Identity (2016): 49.

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Mundy, John. "A Song in the Dark: The Birth of the Musical Film, 2nd edn (review)." Music, Sound, and the Moving Image 5.2 (2011): 173-177.

Mundy, John. "A Song in the Dark: The Birth of the Musical Film, 2nd edn (review)." Music, Sound, and the Moving Image 5.2 (2011): 173-177.

Musegades, Paula. "Music and Levels of Narration in Film: Steps Across the Border by Guido Heldt (review)." Notes 72.2 (2015): 374-376.

Pendle, Karin, and Melinda Boyd. Women in music: a research and information guide. Routledge, 2016.

Perryman, Emmy. "The Artist and Hugo: Contrasting Perspectives on Cinematic Nostalgia."

Ray, Marcie. "My Fair Lady: a voice for change." American Music 32.3 (2014): 292-316.

Rix, Alicia. "Review: The Artist." Opticon1826 12 (2012): 18.

Symmons, Tom. The Historical Film in the Era of New Hollywood, 1967-1980. Diss. Queen Mary University of London, 2013.

Tropiano, Stephen. Cabaret: Music on Film Series. Limelight Editions, 2011.

Winters, Ben. "The non-diegetic fallacy: Film, music, and narrative space."Music and Letters 91.2 (2010): 224-244.

Woller, Megan. "Dangerous Rhythm: Why Movie Musicals Matter by Richard Barrios (review)." American Music 32.3 (2014): 364-366.

Woller, Megan. " Happ'ly-ever-aftering": Changing social and industry conventions in Hollywood musical adaptations, 1960-75. Diss. University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, 2014.

Grant, Barry Keith. The Hollywood Film Musical. John Wiley & Sons, 2012.

Lewis, Kimberly. "The Hyper-façade of Hollywood: Singing in the Rain, The Player, and Runaway Productions." Rediscovering LA is a collection of final project essays written by English 698D students at California State University, Northridge, in the spring semester of 2015. (2015): 57.

Jason, Gary. "The History of Cinema and America’s Role in It: Review Essay of Douglas Gomery and Clara Pafort-Overduin’s Movie History: A Survey." Reason Papers 35.1 (2013): 170-186.

de Lucas, Cristina. "Dancing Happiness: Lyrics & Choreography in Singin’in the Rain (1952)."

Pendle, Karin, and Melinda Boyd. Women in music: a research and information guide. Routledge, 2016.

Comden, Screenwriters Betty, and Adolf Green. "Singin’In the Rain,(1952)."

Mundy, John. "A Song in the Dark: The Birth of the Musical Film, 2nd edn (review)." Music, Sound, and the Moving Image 5.2 (2011): 173-177.

Perryman, Emmy. "The Artist and Hugo: Contrasting Perspectives on Cinematic Nostalgia."

Benthaus, Elena Natalie. "" We are not here to make avant-garde choreography!" So You Think You Can Dance and popular screen dance aesthetics."

Rix, Alicia. "Review: The Artist." Opticon1826 12 (2012): 18.

Kelly, Gillian. "Gene Kelly: The Performing Auteur–Manifestations of the Kelly Persona." eSharp, Special Issue: Communicating Change: Representing Self and Community in a Technological World (2010): 136.

Ray, Marcie. "My Fair Lady: a voice for change." American Music 32.3 (2014): 292-316.

Mundy, John. "A Song in the Dark: The Birth of the Musical Film, 2nd edn (review)." Music, Sound, and the Moving Image 5.2 (2011): 173-177.

Mazierska, Ewa, and Lars Kristensen, eds. Marx at the Movies: Revisiting History, Theory and Practice. Springer, 2014.

Hischak, Thomas S. "Destabilizing the Hollywood Musical: Music, Masculinity, and Mayhem (review)." Music, Sound, and the Moving Image5.1 (2011): 107-109.

Bingham, Dennis. "The New Hollywood Cinema (1967 to roughly 1976) is the." Invented Lives, Imagined Communities: The Biopic and American National Identity (2016): 49.

Woller, Megan. "Dangerous Rhythm: Why Movie Musicals Matter by Richard Barrios (review)." American Music 32.3 (2014): 364-366.

Tropiano, Stephen. Cabaret: Music on Film Series. Limelight Editions, 2011.

Berliner, Todd. Hollywood incoherent: Narration in seventies cinema. University of texas Press, 2010.

Musegades, Paula. "Music and Levels of Narration in Film: Steps Across the Border by Guido Heldt (review)." Notes 72.2 (2015): 374-376.

Woller, Megan. " Happ'ly-ever-aftering": Changing social and industry conventions in Hollywood musical adaptations, 1960-75. Diss. University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, 2014.

Casper, Drew. Hollywood film 1963-1976: years of revolution and reaction. John Wiley & Sons, 2011.

Isaacs, David E. "The Sound of Evil: Confronting Nazism in Two Movie Musicals." Constructing Good and Evil: 117.

Symmons, Tom. The Historical Film in the Era of New Hollywood, 1967-1980. Diss. Queen Mary University of London, 2013.

Hansen, Per Krogh. "All Talking! All Singing! All Dancing! Prolegomena: On Film Musicals and Narrative1." Intermediality and Storytelling 24 (2010): 147.

Barsam, Richard, and Dave Monahan. Looking at movies. WW Norton & Company, 2015.

Benshoff, Harry M., and Sean Griffin. America on film: Representing race, class, gender, and sexuality at the movies. John Wiley & Sons, 2011.

Grant, Barry Keith. The Hollywood Film Musical. John Wiley & Sons, 2012.

Winters, Ben. "The non-diegetic fallacy: Film, music, and narrative space."Music and Letters 91.2 (2010): 224-244.

Kalinak, Kathryn. Film music: A very short introduction. Oxford University Press, 2010.

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