Dance, Girl, Dance is a film from the Classical Hollywood period that presents a complicated reading when viewed through a feminist lens. The 1940 film was directed by Dorothy Arzner, one of the most notable female directors and the only prominent woman in Hollywood at that time. Arzner presents her audience with an array of female characters, the main characters being Judy O’brien and Bubbles/Tiger Lily White. Judy is a dedicated dancer, honing her talents as a ballerina. Bubbles, on the other hand, uses her looks and sexuality to land jobs as a burlesque dancer. Dance, Girl, Dance reveals these characters’ experience in a dance troupe with several other girls. When the troupe disbands, Bubbles comes to offer Judy a humiliating job as her stooge. As tensions rise, the two eventually come to blows, quite literally, when both fall for the same man, Jimmy Harris. Through their relationship with each other and with men, a dynamic is defined that gives insight into the power of the male gaze and sexual politics, not only in the film but also in society at large in the context of 1930s America. This can be seen in the analysis of a particular scene near the beginning of the film. Judy and one of her roommates, Sally, are preparing for bed after their performance at the nightclub in the opening scene. Bubbles, their third roommate, arrives at home after a disappointing outing with Jimmy. This scene specifically highlights the contrast between the personalities of Judy and Bubbles, and speaks to the many ways female characters are coded based on their sexuality and appearance.
The analysis of the scene begins at the moment Bubbles enters the room. She comes into the frame through the doorway in a medium shot. It is important to note her costume, as it speaks to her character. She is wearing makeup, jewelry, a fox fur stole around her shoulders and a feathered hat. One may get the impression that she is trying to look as glamorous or ostentatious as possible on her...
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