Wednesday, July 04, 2012

Happy Fourth! Let's say it with musicals.

Here's hoping that all those without power and with too much heat on the east coast get more of the former and less of the latter.

For some inexplicable reason and contrary to its usual custom, TCM is not showing the most patriotic (or as TR says "bouncy patriotic schmaltz") movie of all time (Yankee Doodle Dandy) today, choosing instead to run the world's longest musical (1776, which runs for about 16 hours, give or take). You can see a clip of James Cagney at Tenured Radical's place. 

In lieu of that, I offer you a different clip of Fourth of July dancing,  "Say it with Firecrackers" from Holiday Inn:

And to think about the two sides of patriotism, this short list of WWII-inspired musical numbers:

1. Yankee Doodle Dandy, as above. They started shooting this movie, which had long been planned, on December 8, 1941, and according to Cagney and the rest, this spurred them on to make this movie good. Do you think that when Cagney as George M. Cohan yells "Everybody sing!" into the camera during the "Over There" number that 1942 audiences complied? How many of the songs in the "You're a Grand Old Flag" (originally, btw, "You're a Grand Old Rag") number would your students recognize and be able to sing along with? Discuss. ("Over There:

2. The scene in Casablanca where Major Strasser's troops sing "Die Wacht am Rhein" and are drowned out by "La Marseillaise." Do you tear up every time you see this scene? If not, are you made of stone? Discuss. Fun fact: "Die Wacht am Rhein" was banned in Nazi Germany.

3. The terrifying side of patriotism: in Cabaret, the young boy singing "Tomorrow Belongs to Me," all about the future and youth and nature and whatnot.  Then the camera pans past his arm and you see the swastika. Is there a better example of the power of crowds and emotions to inspire people to evil, outside of The Triumph of the Will? It's chilling.

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