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    George White's 1935 Scandals DVD Review

    DVD Fox

    Jul 03 2014 01:34 PM | Matt Hough in DVD & Blu-ray Reviews
    When theatrical entrepreneur George White’s 1933 Broadway show Melody had a disappointingly short run, he packed his bags and went west to try his luck in Hollywood. His 1934 screen edition of his famed Broadway revue Scandals (thirteen editions which he mounted during his Broadway career) was enough of a hit for Fox to give him the go ahead to mount a 1935 edition – George White’s 1935 Scandals. Unlike his stage Scandals, the film does have a (feeble) narrative that plays out between various musical numbers and specialties, but the movie’s primary claim to fame these days is that it provided another stepping stone in the ascent of Alice Faye from band singer to top tier Hollywood star.

    Title Info:

    • Studio: Fox
    • Distributed By: N/A
    • Video Resolution: 480I/MPEG-2
    • Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
    • Audio: English 2.0 DD
    • Subtitles: None
    • Rating: Not Rated
    • Run Time: 1 Hr. 24 Min.
    • Package Includes: DVD
    • Case Type: Amray case
    • Disc Type: DVD-R
    • Region: All
    • Release Date: 12/17/2013
    • MSRP: $19.98

    The Production Rating: 3/5

    After his 1934 stage Scandals closes, producer-director-choreographer George White (playing himself) mounts a train for a rest in Palm Beach, but a stopover in a small Georgia town introduces him to a local Scandals being put on by Elmer White (Ned Sparks) featuring two fresh and talented youngsters Honey (Alice Faye) and Eddie (James Dunn). Not having an idea for his next Broadway edition, he brings them along with ukulele-strumming Dude (Cliff Edwards) and the sour-faced Elmer to appear in his next Broadway show. With Eddie supplying the score and a lavish mounting of various numbers, the show is a smash, but a few months into the run, Honey and Eddie begin to believe their own publicity and are seduced by two actors who had left White’s employ to start throwing away their big chance forcing White to fire both of them.

    The script for the film by Jack Yellen and Patterson McNutt is completely forgettable, but the tunes provided by Jack Yellen, Cliff Friend, Joseph Meyer with additional lyrics by Herb Magidson offer some solace from its banality. The main problem is that the two best ones – “An Old Southern Custom” and “According to the Moonlight” – get repeated throughout the movie almost to the point of distraction. There are a couple of clever conceits contained within the film: White spoofs the Astaire-Rogers dances sweeping the country like “The Carioca” and “The Continental” by staging one of his own “The Hunkadola” even at one point to mounting (rather mundane) overhead shots of his dancing girls a la Busby Berkeley, and there’s an elaborate number featuring Cliff Edwards called “I Was Born Too Late” which utilizes dream motifs in the kind of number which could actually never be mounted on any Broadway stage. Edwards also shares a lively duet with the sometimes indecipherable Lyda Roberti “Together, Side by Side“ which turns into an extended number about dancing shoes. White’s dances for the film never really rise above the mediocre, and a tap number he stages early for himself is thwarted by a poorly placed camera behind a chair which blocks our view of his feet. It seems obvious White was counting on the sheer size of these numbers with their elaborate settings and many dozens of chorines (who often don’t know the lyrics to the songs they’re mouthing) to put his show across, but it takes more than that to give a movie the kind of memorable chic it needs to erase the superficial plot and simpletonish characters.

    Alice Faye as usual has a creamy voice and a winning screen presence, but she had yet to abandon her Jean Harlow-style platinum hair and heavily-made up eyes with severely shaved brows, so her personality and her look seem a bit at war with one another. James Dunn is raved over by critics in the movie as a talented juvenile performer (he was thirty at the time), but he actually doesn’t sing or dance enough to warrant such praise. Lyda Roberti has a fine voice and a feisty personality (the kind of spitfire Carmen Miranda would become a mere five years later), but her character seems less important the longer the movie runs. Cliff Edwards brings his usual sunny persona to the proceedings, and Ned Sparks offers his foghorn monotone frown to similar effect, both reliable comic actors in their limited sphere of performance. George White playing a version of himself comes off as unassuming and affable but a stern-enough boss when he needs to fire his two leads to slap some sense into them. As the former Scandals star who tries to ruin the show by stealing Eddie away, Eleanor Powell makes her screen debut as a schemer. She gets one showy tap number which she stomps out more forcefully than her later MGM numbers would be danced (perhaps she was using wooden tap shoes that require greater force from the dancer rather than metal taps in order for her sounds to register for the microphone), but it’s clear there was a unique talent here that MGM lost no time in snapping up and starring in a movie the same year Broadway Melody of 1936 (filmed and shown in 1935 and which made her a star).

    Video Rating: 3/5 3D Rating: NA

    The 4:3 theatrical aspect ratio of the film is accurately reproduced in this MOD transfer. Grayscale is better than one might think: blacks are certainly deep and whites can be crisp and bright. Sharpness is the erratic quality of this transfer, however, as long shots are often soft enough to be completely indistinct and even medium shots vary in clarity with detail generally lacking. Close-ups are better, but occasionally contrast is a bit too hot. The age of the film is certainly seen in some scratches and a small hair rather present throughout. The film has been divided into chapters every ten minutes so there are 9 chapters here.

    Audio Rating: 3/5

    After the Fox fanfare (which sounds overly loud and somewhat distorted and wavering in sound levels), the audio quality of the Dolby Digital 2.0 mono track settles down considerably into a consistent mediocrity. Volume levels aren’t really extreme, and there is clarity in the singing and speaking which are never overpowered by the orchestra or the sound effects. There is hiss present and occasional flutter, too, but they’re not too distracting.

    Special Features: 0/5

    There are no bonus features on this made-on-demand disc.

    Overall Rating: 3/5

    George White’s 1935 Scandals is interesting for those focused on the growth of singer Alice Faye into one of Fox’s biggest stars, but while the music and dancing are pleasant, there’s nothing especially memorable about this edition of George White’s revue which is possibly why another one didn’t emerge for a decade.

    Reviewed by: Matt Hough
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    4 Comments

    Meh!

    Matt, I usually, pretty much, agree with all of your great reviews but I think this time you have been exceptionally generous in regards to the quality of this disc.

    In my opinion it is virtually unwatchable and possibly the worst to come out of the Fox Classic Archives.

     

    The sad thing is that as a Musical I've always liked this film. I love the catchy songs and of course I love Alice Faye and Lyda Roberti

    I have collected several video versions of this title over the years and unfortunately they all look the same.

    It's obvious that this is all that remains of what was once a very watchable and enjoyable movie.

    Unless Fox is hiding a better print somewhere, this dark, grainy, hideously blurred excuse of a print is all that we have.

     

    I just pray and hope that they uncover a better print one day, although I may not be around long enough to see it.

     

    Doug.

    This was to be the great UFA star Lilian Harvey's film. When she walked off the picture, Faye replaced her and garnered stardom.

     

    I am glad this is available, but it makes me hope we are getting closer to the films Harvey made for Fox.

    "I Am Suzanne" has been restored and was shown Metropolitan this year and "My Weakness" with Lew Ayres hasn't been screened since the 70s, that I know of.

    Mark, I believe Lilian Harvey walked off the previous years' Scandals (1934) and that's how Alice Faye ended up with a leading role in her first film. 

     

    Also Matt, I agree with Doug that you're being very generous here with regard to the print quality. Your equipment must do a wonderful job up converting. I didn't find it unwatchable unlike Fox's Golden Girl, but it's close. A shame because there are some real delights here if you enjoy 30's musicals as you point out. Another good musical number is "Oh, I Didn't Know" sung and danced by Faye with the Scandals chorus line. Obviously, an attempt to duplicate the success of "Oh, You Nasty Man" from the first filmed Scandals.

      • Doug Bull and Mark Mayes like this