Comparing “The Godmother” and “Bugsy Malone” By Vikki Basten Essay
Both set in the 1920/30’s “The Godmother” and “Bugsy Malone” have a lot of similarities but they also have differences due to the way in which the two stories are conducted and the events that occur. From a social context both of the stories are extremely alike, the status of women was fairly low and they would never be controlling anything. For example Velma in “The Godmother” was the secretary of Spats Valetta and until the end of the story she was his assistant and wasn’t seen as a person of any importance by anyone else on stage.
For example when the showgirls came in for their auditions Velma was overlooked by the girls as they try to get Mr. Valetta’s attention. They ignored Velma even though she tried to create the impression that she was of some significance. So we can see that even women knew the lack of control that another women has over a business or an event.
The same type of thing occurs in “Bugsy Malone” Tallulah is Fat Sam’s partner but appears only to be seen as a sort of trophy for him, she is never asked for an opinion or to do anything important except ‘fix your make up’ as we hear Fat Sam tell her countless times. In both of the plays women did small jobs like assistants, waitresses and the most well known showgirls. Showgirls in both plays were merely entertaining, the showgirls in both plays had flirty nature’s and attitudes toward the opposite sex.
They were not seen to be on stage to provide for a family or earn a lot of money, they appeared only to be expected to entertain and if they were lucky earn an extra bit of money on the way. All of the real money making was left to the men, we see examples of this in “Bugsy Malone” when it seems that it is only men that are doing the high maintenance jobs, there were no female gangsters of female owners of the night clubs.
From the social aspect of both plays I think that they are both extremely alike and I believe that it would have been very difficult to portray the 1920’s in any other way without having the great status gap between men and women. The periods in both are exactly the same so therefore again it would be impossible to represent a realistic interpretation of the 1920/30’s without using the particular language and costumes in them as well as status.
In “Bugsy Malone” we can see that the typical costume for that era was, the wealthy businessmen and gangsters wore smart black suits with bowler hats, and to show the contrast in class the working class men tended to wear suits that were less sophisticated than the ones worn by the gangsters, this type of contrast also occurred in “The Godmother” especially in the opening when we see Spats and he is described to be ‘dressed like a tramp’.
In the 1920’s women very much enjoyed the freedom of new fashions, after the war women fought for more rights and decided that they would wear what they wanted. For the first time women’s legs were seen and this especially seemed to increase the popularity of showgirls, appearance seemed important for women and this is shown in “The Godmother” when the showgirls enter ‘They check their make-up in small make-up compacts’ and also in “Bugsy Malone” when Fat Sam tells Tallulah what is taking her so long and she tells him she was fixing her make-up.
The music played in both plays were also very similar, in the 1920’s classic jazz and dance bands were always in the clubs playing dances like the Charleston and this is shown in Fat Sam’s ‘joint’ in “Bugsy Malone” and in “The Godmother” when the showgirls audition singing ‘That’s my weakness now’. In both of the clubs the entertainment is high spirited, fun and easy going. Although the period and social contexts of the plays are extremely alike the style is one that is questionable.
It could go either way, “The Godmother” is a spoof so consequently it contains a lot of humor and lightly amusing violence whereas “Bugsy Malone” can at time’s be very serious and deal with issues that are to some extent fairly dangerous or gloomy. For example first when Bugsy is mugged, it is not an overwhelmingly serious event but it is not made humorous so therefore is taken as quite a solemn incident. And again when Bugsy promises Blowsy that he will take her to Hollywood but as a result of the mugging cannot, we see Blowsy upset and saddened, again this is not made into a entertaining event.
On the other hand we do see scenes and events that are overly amusing and therefore make parts of “Bugsy Malone” a spoof, similar to “The Godmother”. Parts of the main story lines are also alike, Fat Sam from “Bugsy Malone” is very much like Spats, they are both in charge of auditioning showgirls and are it seems that they are both quite hopeless as being successful. Both characters seem to want to create the image that they are tough, unbeaten and important, from which it is obvious by their stupidity that they are not.
We see this when they come across someone more powerful and more important than themselves, for example when Spats meets ‘The Boss’ we see him cower and reduce into a nervous wreck, as we see from Fat Sam when he looses his gang and is left with Knuckles. Overall I think that they plays are very alike in most ways especially the portrayal of what life was like in the 1920/30’s and what typical characters of that particular era are like. I think that the only difference was that “Bugsy Malone” was not entirely a spoof whereas “The Godmother” maintained a lighthearted and amusing portrayal of life in the 1920’s.