Wednesday, April 4, 2012

I Bet You Like to Walk in the Rain.

Don't you hate it when you're rooting for your movie heroine to pick the guy she'll obviously never pick? This happens to me mostly in musicals. I always yearn for Eliza to pick the lovely Freddy over the obnoxious Professor Higgins, for Giselle to pick Prince Edward over the dull Robert and for Maria to pick God over the Captain.
By the fifth time you've seen these movies you get used to the plot remaining the same, but few times do I cross my fingers hoping that this will change, as much as I do during Easter Parade. Why on earth can't freaking Hannah (Judy Garland) realize that Johnny (Peter Lawford) is so much better than Don (Fred Astaire)? Not only is he less of a sadistic co-worker, he's also not as much a misogynist as Don. 
Have you realized how women in musicals tend to have a thing for men they would oppose in social feminist dramas?
Don might dance better and sing better, but he does not inject Hannah with the same kind of life Johnny does. This is especially obvious during the scene in which they meet:

The worried young man sees a damsel in distress and literally dances in the rain to protect her.

If the Technicolor in this movie wasn't gorgeous enough, Johnny finds a lemony yellow umbrella (whatever happened to subdued black?).

As they walk under the rain the clever young man is able to figure out who this woman is by asking key questions. Completely taken aback by his insistence, Hannah asks "Yeah but you haven't told me a thing about yourself", which leads to the response which provides my favorite shot in the movie: 

"I'm just a fella, a fella with an umbrella"

I'm sorry but Fred Astaire never gets that smile out of Judy at any other point during the movie. This shot is perfect not only because it highlights that Garland magic we've all learned to worship but also because it shows the way in which studios were in complete control of everything that happened onscreen. The beauty of classic musicals is how they are always able to suspend our disbelief. Nowadays nobody would believe that a man who saves you from getting wet and curiously matches your outfit isn't a stalker. In the movies, it doesn't matter. This crazy array of coincidence makes for something our ancestors knew as "romance".
The way in which the strings swell, Lawford's voice comes out and Judy reacts with such joy makes for a scene that rivals much more famous musical numbers in the canon.

 Of course, Judy ends up revealing she loves someone else later but "Fella with an Umbrella" will be the song you'll find yourself humming for weeks to come.

This is part of Nathaniel's "Hit Me With Your Best Shot" series, go read the other fabulous entries here!

4 comments:

Andrew: Encore Entertainment said...

So, I'm watching this movie and he begins singing this song and I say to myself...oh, this is the Judy's own "On the Street Where You Live" because he's so obviously Freddie. But, I don't mind it as much because a) I'm not as invested and b) Don is no Henry, thankfully and c) at least Judy is furthering her career with Don. Eliza what were you doing, girl?

I digress.

(An, no I was humming "snooky ookums". Now, I'm humming "fella with an umbrella, though.)

NATHANIEL R said...

This was my third choice! I love Peter Lawford in this movie and absolutely agree with this rarely discussed point.

why do heroines have such terrible masochism with romance?

Janice said...

@Nat - because the scripts are written mostly by men? (And women have been brainwashed into thinking that's what they want?)

Jose thank you for bringing up this point - I had forgotten about Lawford's character, so now I do feel an urge to rewatch this film after reading this.

Your post here reminds me that I had the exact same thought watching Diane Keaton in "Something's Gotta Give" , (which unfortunately was written and directed by a woman, Nancy Myers, which makes it even more dispiriting.) Keaton holds out for that over-grown self-absorbed teenager played by Jack Nicholson over Keanu Reeves, who is already a true adult: sensitive, respectful, admiring her work and supportive. (No challenge in THAT, is there.) So the movie becomes about the character of Nicholson and his growth, not about Keaton. The script doesn't even require her to make a choice - Reeves steps aside for her in a scene we don't even see, (a missed opportunity and an awkward omission.) It was the ONLY time I've ever liked Reeves onscreen much less rooted for the leading lady to end up with him.

Yikes, I didn't mean to go on that long. Obviously you touched a sore point!

Jose Solís said...

Andrew: Eliza was being a cunning woman too. I believe she was going for the "he's rich and will die faster than Freddy" approach.

Nat: because people seem to love it. They're like OMG they love each other so much she'll cure his shitty personality or will sacrifice her dignity for him.

Janice: feel free to go on for as long as you want. I get very upset about this too. Now that you mention Keaton in that movie, that must be the reason why I have never enjoyed her performance in it. We see her blossom into a beautiful mature being, only to have her come crashing down because the Jack needs a mommy figure.
I think this is especially troublesome because it's a way to remind women that society still prefers to have them appear to be progressive while subjugating them to male desire, and have them think they're still being heroines!
I'd love for a woman to choose herself or no one for once!