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DVD Reviews

HTF REVIEW: The Classic Comedies Collection (HIGHLY RECOMMENDED).



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#1 of 110 OFFLINE   Herb Kane

Herb Kane

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Posted February 24 2005 - 03:06 PM

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The Classic Comedies Collection
The Phildelphia Story: Two Disc SE / Bringing Up Baby: Two Disc SE / Libeled Lady / Dinner At Eight / Stage Door / To Be Or Not To Be





Studio: Warner Brothers
Year: Various
Rated: Not Rated
Film Length: 613 Minutes Total
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1 Standard
Audio: DD Monaural
Color/B&W: B&W
Languages: English
Subtitles: English, French & Spanish
MSRP: $19.97, $26.99 (SE's), $68.92 Set
Package: One and two disc sets/Keepcase





The Features:
If you’re a fan of classic and screwball comedies, you’re going to appreciate March 1st. On that date Warner is set to release its next boxed set of classic films entitled, “The Classic Comedies Collection”. The set will be comprised of six titles including: To Be Or Not To Be (1942), Libeled Lady (1936), Stage Door (1937), Dinner At Eight (1933) and the last two will be Two Disc Special Editions; The Philadelphia Story (1940) and Bringing Up Baby (1938). The Philadelphia Story is the only re-release, while the other five films are new to the format.


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Bringing Up Baby

Dr. David Huxley (played by Cary Grant) is a somewhat blundering and absent-minded paleontologist, years into his reconstruction of a brontosaurus skeleton. He only needs a single bone to complete his task; an intercostal clavicle - the missing piece to his puzzle. David is engaged to be married to his rather stiff assistant, Alice Swallow (played by Virginia Walker).

On the eve of their wedding he is notified by Alice that a telegram has arrived from the museum's expedition in Utah with the news that they have found the intercostal clavicle - the only remaining bone that is needed to finish the skeletal reconstruction. After four years, the recently-unearthed fossil will be delivered the next day. However, the operation is funded by various philanthropists and David is reminded that he has an appointment that afternoon to play golf with Alexander Peabody (played George Irving), a lawyer who represents a wealthy sponsor. Peabody will supervise Elizabeth Random's (played by May Robson) proposed donation of one million dollars to complete the construction of the hall. Alice reminds David that he must make a good impression with the donor's attorney so as not to compromise the donation.

During the golf game, David stumbles upon a young, wacky and eccentric socialite, Susan Vance (played by Katharine Hepburn) after playing his ball on the 18th hole. Ms. Vance’s driving ability leads to another confrontation, as David doesn’t take too kindly to the creases she has left on his new vehicle. Needless to say things go from bad to worse after David learns the true identity of Ms. Vance, a conflict ensues with a leopard named “Baby”, and a dog with a desire to bury a certain intercostal clavicle rounds out the afternoon.

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This RKO film is often referred to as “the definitive screwball comedy”. It is one of the funniest and wackiest films of all time with lightning fast pacing all of which add up to a mountain of absurd situations and misunderstandings. Its director, Howard Hawks, considered the film a personal failure – presumably due to its poor reception at the box office. Ironically, it’s now considered to be one of Hawk’s finest films and a fan favorite of modern day audiences.

1938 would mark the end of Katharine Hepburn’s association with RKO. Earlier in the year, she was allowed to star in Columbia’s Holiday, a film directed by George Cukor which also starred Cary Grant. That, combined with the miserable box-office results of Bringing Up Baby forced studio executives to rethink Hepburn’s value and ultimately led to the termination of her contract. The film also served as the inspiration for the 1972 Peter Bogdanovich remake, What’s Up Doc? As was typical of many of Hawk’s greatest films, the movie was slighted by the Academy with not a single nomination however, the film just squeaks in ranking #97 on the American Film Institute’s list of Top 100 films.


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The Philadelphia Story

After a rocky marriage to C. K. Dexter Haven (played by Cary Grant), Tracy Lord (played by Katharine Hepburn) sends her husband packing after throwing his bag of golf clubs at him. Fast forward two years and Tracy is once again preparing to head into matrimonial commitment, only twenty four hours before the big-scale wedding and reception. This time, the lucky guy is a somewhat stuffy, self-made millionaire/executive named George Kittredge (played by John Howard).

Serious writer/reporter Mike Connor (played by James Stewart) and photographer Elizabeth Imbrie (played by Ruth Hussey) of Dime and Spy Incorporated (publishers of Spy Magazine) are grudgingly dispatched to cover the story of the society wedding after Mike’s job is threatened by the rag’s editor and publisher Sidney Kidd (played by Henry Daniell). Kidd has blackmailed Dexter into placing the two journalists inside the Lord mansion in return for withholding a potentially-damaging and scandalous story about Mr. Seth Lord (played by John Halliday), Tracy's father.

Over the course of the next twenty four hours, the three young men wind up vying for Tracy’s affection before time runs out.

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The film, a sophisticated romantic comedy, was directed by George Cukor and was based on Philip Barry’s play of the same name. Unlike the other SE included with the collection, this film was indeed embraced by theater-goers at the time. The film was nominated for six Academy Awards including Best Actress in a Leading Role (Katharine Hepburn and helped served as a kick-start after her problems at the RKO studio and after being referred to as “box-office poison”), Best Actress in a Supporting Role (Ruth Hussey), Best Director (George Cukor), Best Picture (Joseph L. Mankiewicz) and winning for Best Actor in a Leading Role (James Stewart) and Best Writing, Screenplay (Donald Ogden Stewart). The film also places very high at position #51 on the American Film Institute’s Top 100 films.

An interesting bit of trivia had Cary Grant demanding top billing in the film (and getting it) as well as an enormous salary ($125,000) of which he donated every penny to the British War Relief Fund. It would also be the only Academy Award Jimmy Stewart would win despite five nominations throughout his long and distinguished career.


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Libeled Lady

Without question, Libeled Lady is one of the of the best classic screwball comedies of the 1930s. The newspaper of managing editor Warren Haggerty (played by Spencer Tracy) prints a libelous, false story about wealthy heiress Connie Allenbury's (played by Myrna Loy) affair with another woman's husband. She sues the paper for five million dollars, just as Haggerty is preparing to marry fiancée Gladys Benton (played by Jean Harlow).

The wedding is postponed. The scheming editor hires ex-employee Bill Chandler (played terrifically by William Powell) to marry Gladys, so he can be free to seduce Connie, to trap her and prove the truth of the adultery story so the lawsuit can be dropped. But the perfect plan falls through when Chandler falls in love and marries Connie. The MGM film is terrifically clever with a fast paced script, and yet another comic pairing of Powell/Loy from the well-known The Thin Man series and was directed by Jack Conway.


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To Be or Not To Be

Hilarious Joseph Tura (played by Jack Benny) and flirtatious Maria (played by Carole Lombard), the husband-and-wife stars of a shabby Polish Shakespearean theatrical group, satirize and outwit the Nazis during World War II in Nazi-occupied Warsaw. Their anti-Nazi play is censored and replaced with a production of Hamlet. They help Polish flyer Lt. Stanislav Sobinski (played by Robert Stack) prevent a spy named Professor Alexander Siletsky (played by Stanley Ridges) from delivering names of the underground to the Gestapo. Joseph gives priceless imitations of Hamlet and Hitler. A perfect example of a black comedy satire which propagandizes and exposes the real nature of the Nazis by lampooning the Third Reich and its leader.

The film is the last Carole Lombard would ever make. She would die in an airplane crash after returning from a tour selling war bonds. She was married to Clark Gable at the time of her death and had been previously married to William Powell. The film was produced and directed by Ernst Lubitsch well known for his romantic comedies of the period including Ninotchka (1939), The Shop Around the Corner (1940), The Merry Widow (1934), Trouble in Paradise (1932) and Design for Living (1933).


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Stage Door

The film is an adaptation based on the Edna Ferber/George S. Kaufman play about a New York boarding house filled with hopeful theater actresses. An entertaining backstage, behind-the-scenes comedy/drama of the lives and ambitions of aspiring actresses and stage hopefuls who live together in a theatrical boarding house. They include the privileged and wealthy debutante Terry Randall (played by Katharine Hepburn) who is trying to make it on her own without the help of her family's money, her rival and sarcastic roommate Jean Maitland (played by Ginger Rogers), and high-strung depressed actress Kaye Hamilton (played by Andrea Leeds). Jean allows leering producer mogul Anthony Powell (played by Adolphe Menjou) to take her out only to insure getting a part, but Terry gets the lead because her father has backed and financed the production without her knowledge.

The writing is tight and Ginger's character gives most of the best lines. Her talent shows in her deadpan delivery and her impeccable timing, with great dialogue and a realistic, almost all-girl cast. Apparently Ann Miller, who was only 17 years-old during casting, secured her role in the film with a forged birth certificate and Adolphe Menjou's character was an original addition as it was not in the original stage play.


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Dinner At Eight

The ultimate dinner party is being hosted by the haughty social-climbing Millicent Jordan (played by Billie Burke), wife of shipping magnate Oliver Jordan (played by Lionel Barrymore) who is in the midst of financial despair. A distinguished group New York’s whose-who are all invited to a Manhattan formal dinner party during the height of the Depression. The film looks at the tangled and changed lives of the high society guests, from the time the invitations are given out for "dinner at eight" at the Jordans’ to the time of the party itself. A number of legends from the era appear including “the blonde bombshell” Jean Harlow, Marie Dressler and Wallace Beery - all of whom serve up a dose of reality that confirms social dysfunction exists in all walks of life.

The MGM film was based on the popular Broadway hit by George S. Kaufman and Edna Ferber, which was originally produced on the stage by Sam H. Harris. The witty romantic comedy is filled with choice lines of dialogue, and revolves around various relationships between the characters. Issues such as suicide, financial ruin, love, infidelity, economic pressures, class conflict, divorce, aging and fading careers, and alcoholism affect their interactions in a film that’s as dramatic as it is serious.

A masterfully crafted, poignant melodramatic comedy by director George Cukor and producer David O. Selznick, Dinner at Eight (1933) was filled with a tremendous cast of stars (inspired by the previous year's Grand Hotel (1932).


As for the packaging, the set is comprised of two Special Editions that are housed in a regular sized double Keepcase. Once again, the Two Disc SE’s come with an attractive cardboard slipcover case to tie in with the look of the previously released Digipaks, while the other four films are represented on single discs in single Keepcases. I can’t confirm if the cardboard slipcovers are part of the discs contained within the box set itself as mine were shipped individually. Very nice.

The Philadelphia Story: 5/5 Posted ImagePosted ImagePosted ImagePosted ImagePosted Image
Bringing Up Baby: 4.5/5 Posted ImagePosted ImagePosted ImagePosted ImagePosted Image
Libeled Lady: 5/5 Posted ImagePosted ImagePosted ImagePosted ImagePosted Image
Dinner At Eight: 3.5/5 Posted ImagePosted ImagePosted ImagePosted Image
To Be Or Not To Be: 4/5 Posted ImagePosted ImagePosted ImagePosted Image
Stage Door: 4/5 Posted ImagePosted ImagePosted ImagePosted Image



Video:
Let's start with my favorite from the collection, The Philadelphia Story. Since the film is the only re-release of the set, the magic question here is: "is there an improvement over the previous version?" In a word, yes. TPS was already a pretty decent release in my opinion, however, so the differences aren't night and day but WB have improved upon this release. The most notable improvement is in the way of contrast. The original version had a tendency to look washed or blown out. The newer version is darker, thus improving upon the vastness of the grayscale. This time around, whites are stark and never blooming and blacks are deep and very impressive.

The other area of noticeable improvement is in the cleanup. The previous version is riddled with scratches, dust and dirt as well as numerous light specks and even a few bullet marks remained. The newer version is much cleaner, and the light specks (in comparison) are virtually non-existent. There is a significant scratch at the 40:00 minute mark on the left side of the screen which last for a few seconds - again, not a big deal.

There is a slight amount of fine film grain noticeable throughout the movie which offers up a very pleasing film-like image. The level of image definition was equally impressive appearing mostly sharp throughout with infrequent instances of softness. There were only occasional signs of light shimmer as the image appeared to be mostly solid. With respect to the presentation alone, I would have no reservations about recommending an upgrade if you are a huge fan of the film. The extras on the other hand are a different story as they seal the deal.

The next heavy hitter in the set is Bringing Up Baby and this presentation is almost as impressive. I recall reading much about the original elements and the rather poor condition in which they existed. Obviously much work went into this transfer and the results are pretty impressive. I've certainly never seen the film ever looking better. This RKO film has a slightly coarser look to it with a fair amount of fine to medium density grain. The end result is a very pleasing film-like image with a pleasant amount of depth and dimension. The overall image was mostly sharp with occasional softness.

Black levels were amazing, while whites were clean and stark. The level of contrast and shadow detail was perfect and the level of grayscale was vast. There were occasional instances of light speckle but the image was solid and basically free of any shimmer or jitter but there is a fair amount of dust and dirt and blemishes. All in all, a very nice job.

Another of my favorites from the collection is Libeled Lady. The transfer looks good but time has taken its toll on this film - nor does it appear that a significant amount of work went into this release. When the opening title and credits first appear, the amount of blemishes, scratches and light speck was certainly cause for concern. While things did ease up throughout the course of film, these anomalies plagued the movie to varying levels. Blacks were downright impressive and whites were never problematic. Shadow detail was mostly pleasing but occasionally in terms of contrast, the film appeared a tad bright. Grayscale was satisfactory and there was only a slight amount of fine film grain present. I'm sure the elements are partly to blame but the presence of bullet marks tells me little was done in the way of any type of restoration.

Up next is Dinner At Eight. This transfer gets a terrific mark as the film is 72+ years old and is as visually pleasing as any film from a similar vintage. Blacks looked impressively dark and dense while whites looked clean and only slightly gray on occasion. The level of contrast and shadow detail looked very nice. Appropriately, there is a fair amount of fine film grain present throughout. Typical of the period, image detail was slightly soft throughout but very pleasing.

The print appeared mostly clean with only occasional signs of dust and dirt and the image was mostly stable with only infrequent signs of shimmer. I was very impressed with the video presentation of this film and the black levels are definitely the standout in this case.

To Be Or Not To Be appears slightly on the bright side in terms of contrast, otherwise the image is excellent. Image detail was slightly soft but most pleasing. There was only a slight amount of grain present and the print appeared to be relatively clean.

Finally, Stage Door looks superb. Typical of what I would describe of many of the RKO films is a noticeable coarseness. The film boasts terrific black levels and shows mostly clean. Very nice indeed.

Given the age of these films, this is a very solid effort from the folks at WB with The Philadelphia Story showing the strongest and Libeled Lady fairing the weakest – mostly due to age. The rest of the films fall (pleasingly), somewhere in the middle. Great job Warner.

The Philadelphia Story: 4.5/5 Posted ImagePosted ImagePosted ImagePosted ImagePosted Image
Bringing Up Baby: 4/5 Posted ImagePosted ImagePosted ImagePosted Image
Libeled Lady: 3.5/5 Posted ImagePosted ImagePosted ImagePosted Image
Dinner At Eight: 4.5/5 Posted ImagePosted ImagePosted ImagePosted ImagePosted Image
To Be Or Not To Be: 4/5 Posted ImagePosted ImagePosted ImagePosted Image
Stage Door: 4.5/5 Posted ImagePosted ImagePosted ImagePosted ImagePosted Image



Audio:
I won't be nearly as verbose in this portion of the review. All of the tracks are DD Mono encoded and for the most part, are effective.

All of the tracks were crystal clear and basically free of any hiss or noise with the exception of Bringing Up Baby which contained a slight amount of hiss however and surprisingly, Libeled Lady contained a significant amount of hiss. None of the tracks were plagued by popping or crackling. While the remainder of tracks are hiss free, their tonal fidelity hasn’t been compromised as a result. To Be Or Not To Be had an infinitesimal amount of hiss.

The overall tonality of all tracks is on the natural side. Again the only exception here is Libeled Lady where the track borders on slightly raw. The track also suffers when it comes to dialogue intelligibility. Throughout the entirety of the film, dialogue is strained and downright difficult to discern at times. There is a fair amount of static present as well adding to the problem. This isn't terrible by any means, but in contrast is vastly noisier than the other films. On the other hand, the other films within the set are remarkably clear and the dialogue is exceptionally bold. Very nice.

There isn't much to speak of in terms of dynamics as these films range from 60 to 70+ years. Ironically enough, one of the oldest films in the collection, Dinner At Eight impressed me the most with the closing of doors to the clanging of plates etc., this is almost a perfect job for a film of its age. Aside from the limitations of the period, and the static and strain on Libeled Lady, these are all pretty effective tracks and I don't think we could ask for much more.

While there was a noticeable difference in terms of the video portion of The Philadelphia Story, I was unable to detect any difference with respect to the audio portion.

The Philadelphia Story: 4/5 Posted ImagePosted ImagePosted ImagePosted Image
Bringing Up Baby: 4/5 Posted ImagePosted ImagePosted ImagePosted Image
Libeled Lady: 3/5 Posted ImagePosted ImagePosted Image
Dinner At Eight: 4.5/5 Posted ImagePosted ImagePosted ImagePosted ImagePosted Image
To Be Or Not To Be: 4/5 Posted ImagePosted ImagePosted ImagePosted Image
Stage Door: 4/5 Posted ImagePosted ImagePosted ImagePosted Image



Special Features:
Although The Classic Comedies Collection isn’t quite as loaded with special features as some of the other WB releases, there are certainly enough to go ‘round. The majority of special features are included with the two special editions, while the single discs are limited to a couple of features on each disc. They look like this:


Bringing Up Baby

Disc One:
[*] First up is a Commentary By Writer/Director Peter Bogdanovich. Okay, let’s get this out of the way so we can spend the remainder of time on a more positive note. I might be alone here, but I tend to grow tired of Mr. Bogdanovich very quickly. That’s not to say I don’t have the utmost amount of respect for his accomplishments but he just comes across as rather self-important. In any event, he does a good job at outlining some of the history as to how the film came together. He also spends a great of time discussing the various collaborations between Grant and Hepburn. There’s no doubt the track is informative but it’s by no means an easy listen.
[*] The only other special feature on this disc is a Howard Hawks Trailer Gallery which includes the original trailers for:

- Bringing Up Baby (2:22)
- Sergeant York (2:01)
- To Have And Have Not (2:49)
- The Big Sleep (1:52)
- Rio Bravo (2:49)

All of the trailers are in decent shape with the last three looking terrific.

Disc Two:
[*] Cary Grant: A Class Apart is a fabulous documentary that was produced for TCM by Robert Trachtenberg. The feature hosts a number of family members, friends and working colleagues who share personal reflections and experiences working with the film legend. This is a mandatory watch for fans of Grant – outstanding. Duration: 86:58 minutes.
[*] The Men Who Made The Movies: Howard Hawks is another fabulous documentary which chronicles the terrific career of Hawks who averaged a movie a year for 43 years. Narrated by Sydney Pollack, the special was written and directed by Richard Schickel for TCM in 2001. Similar to the Grant documentary, this is absolutely worth your time if you’re a fan of Hawks and his films. Duration: 55:00 minutes.
[*] Campus Cinderella is an early 1938 Vitaphone Technicolor short in which a scheme is hatched in an attempt to recruit a star athlete to the Darford College basketball team. The short is in reasonably good shape although the colors appear to be tired. Duration: 18:24 minutes.
[*] A Star Is Hatched is a fabulous Freleng MM short from 1938 which follows the path of a persistent hen (who fittingly sounds identical to Katharine Hepburn) who has hopes of making it big in Hollywood. The short appears to be un-restored (has the Turner "dubbed version" line in the closing title) but it is in terrific condition. Unlike many of the un-restored shorts, the colors here are lush and vibrant. Duration: 8:08 minutes.


The Philadelphia Story

For those wondering about the previous version, the original version contained only the theatrical trailer. The new special edition contains the following added supplements:

Disc One:
[*] A Commentary by Jeannine Basinger does an admirable job here as she recounts quite a bit of enlightening trivia relating to the film and its all star cast. She does keep this mostly scene specific however she sounds a bit stiff. I’d give it a go if you’re a fan of the film.
[*] The next feature is a George Cukor Movie Trailer Gallery which contains trailers for the following films:

- Dinner At Eight (3:02)
- Little Women (3:03)
- The Women (3:27)
- The Philadelphia Story (3:33)
- Gaslight (1:54)

All of these trailers are in excellent condition with Little Women showing its age the most.
[*] The last supplement on disc one is an Awards list which is merely a one page text listing of the film's various awards.

Disc Two:
[*] Katharine Hepburn: All About Me – A Self Portrait. This is a fabulous autobiographical documentary on the legendary star hosted and narrated by the star herself in 1992 for Turner Pictures. To say this feature is amazing would be selling it short – big time. A 70 minute documentary on arguably the greatest actress ever hosted by Katharine herself… what more could we ask for? Many terrific stories including numerous home movie clips and myths put to rest. Just in case my enthusiasm isn’t shining through, I enjoyed this as much as the film itself… Mandatory viewing. Duration: 69:58 minutes.
[*] The Men Who Made The Movies: George Cukor is another tremendous documentary installment narrated by Sydney Pollack which was produced by TCM in 1991. The documentary goes through a number of Cukor’s films in chronological order as Mr. Cukor offers up interesting and informative reflections relating to each of the films. The feature was obviously obtained from older footage as he passed away in 1983. Another very interesting and worthwhile documentary. Duration: 54:59 minutes.
[*] That Inferior Feeling is another Joe Doakes (played by Robert Benchley) installment, which deals with man’s inability to cope with personal emergencies or those in a position of authority due to his inferiority complex. This very funny short is in excellent shape. Duration: 9:09 minutes.
[*] The Homeless Flea is a 1940 MGM Rudolf Ising short in which a hobo flea finds an uninhabited dog and settles in, chopping down hairs, stringing up a hammock, and building a bon fire. The dog takes comfort in a fish-bowl and sets out after the flea. I’d say this has seen little in the way of restoration work but it does look terrific. Duration: 7:36 minutes.
[*] Radio Programs. There are two radio theater broadcasts. The first is a Victory Theater Broadcast from 7/20/1942 and the second is a Lady Esther Screen Guild Playhouse Broadcast from 3/17/1947. Duration: 57:56 and 29:20 minutes respectively.


Libeled Lady
[*] Leo Is On The Air is a radio promo for the film highlighting various audio clips of the film. Duration: 13:31 minutes.
[*] The only other special feature here is the Theatrical Trailer which is in excellent condition. Duration: 2:47 minutes.


To Be Or Not To Be
[*] The Rounder is an MGM short from 1930 featuring Jack Benny as a drunk who climbs a ladder into a bedroom in the wrong house and gets romantically involved with the woman who lives there. The short is in very nice shape. Duration: 20:01 minutes.
[*] Buy Savings Bonds: A Patriotic Drama which is a wartime bonds defense promo featuring Jack Benny and Carolyn Lee. The short is in good condition but ends rather abruptly, so I can't say for sure if it's intact. Duration: 1:33 minutes.


Dinner At Eight
[*] Harlow: The Blond Bombshell is a terrific documentary which was produced by Turner in 1993 and is hosted by Sharon Stone. The biographical special covers everything from Harlow's birthplace to chronicling her legendary but brief career starring opposite the likes of Gable, Tracy, Powell and Cagney. A terrific and highly informative special feature - a must see. Duration: 46:58 minutes.
[*] Come To Dinner is a Vitaphone short which is in excellent condition. Duration: 22:10 minutes.
[*] And finally, the Theatrical Trailer is included which is in reasonably good condition. Duration: 3:01 minutes.


Stage Door
[*] Ups And Downs is a Vitaphone short which stars Hal Le Roy, Phil Silvers and June Allyson. The short is in decent shape. Duration: 21:37 minutes.
[*] Lux Radio Theater Broadcast from 2/20/1939 starring Ginger Rogers, Adolphe Menjou and Rosalind Russell. Duration: 58:15 minutes.
[*] The Theatrical Trailer is the final inclusion and is in very good condition. Duration: 1:42 minutes.

Special Features Overall: 4.5/5
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**Special Features rated for the quality of supplements, not the quantity**



Final Thoughts:
Finally, after a very long wait, the long time fan favorite, Bringing Up Baby has arrived. Was it worth the wait? You bet! The Philadelphia Story is also another WB Special Edition that was worth waiting for, not only for its improved transfer, but for a host of entertaining and highly informative special features. The set contains several films which define the zany, wacky and madcap Hollywood classics of the period not to mention the inclusion of the ultimate screwball comedy. The films contain some of the most beloved stars of the time including Katharine Hepburn, Cary Grant, James Stewart, Jean Harlow, William Powell, Spencer Tracy, Myrna Loy, Ginger Rogers, Lucille Ball, Jack Benny and Carole Lombard. This collection is yet another terrific ensemble of classics from the folks at Warner.

Aside from this wonderful collection of classic films, the presentations on the whole are quite impressive and the special features are entertaining, particularly the Special Edition complements. For those interested in several of these films, (once again) WB has priced the set extremely reasonable, whereby purchasing these discs individually makes very little sense. I can't imagine any serious classics fan not having this collection sitting high on their shelf – very high.

Overall Rating: 4.5/5 (not an average)
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Highly Recommended...!!




Release Date: March 1st, 2005





My Top 25 Noirs:

25. 711 Ocean Drive (1950), 24. Odds Against Tomorrow (1959), 23. Desperate (1947), 22. Pushover (1954), 21. The Blue Dahlia (1946), 20. The File on Thelma Jordon (1949), 19. He Ran All the Way (1951), 18. The Asphalt Jungle (1950), 17. The Killing (1956), 16. I Walk Alone (1948),...

#2 of 110 OFFLINE   Steve...O

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Posted February 24 2005 - 03:20 PM

Excellent review Herb! Very detailed and informative. Thank you. I can't say much more than Warners continues to amaze.

Quote:
even a few bullet marks remained


Presumably provided by the gangster set Posted Image

Steve
Please help UCLA restore the Laurel & Hardy films: https://www.cinema.u...aurel-and-hardy

#3 of 110 OFFLINE   Haggai

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Posted February 24 2005 - 03:35 PM

Thanks for another teriffic review, Herb. I'm salivating a little more now about some of those extras, the docs sound fabulous. I did see the Cary Grant one when it premiered on TCM, great stuff.

#4 of 110 OFFLINE   Jaime_Weinman

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Posted February 24 2005 - 04:08 PM

Thanks for the review. I wish To Be or Not To Be had rated a commentary or something, but this is an incredible release.

Quote:
The Men Who Made The Movies: Howard Hawks is another fabulous documentary which chronicles the terrific career of Hawks who averaged a movie a year for 43 years. Narrated by Sydney Pollack, the special was written and directed by Richard Schickel for TCM in 2001.

Actually this and the Cukor episode are revised versions of episodes that Schickel created in the '70s; it was a PBS miniseries featuring interviews with great Hollywood directors (Hawks, Hitchcock, Cukor, Raoul Walsh, Vincente Minnelli, King Vidor and William Wellman) and clips from their films. It was really the first time American TV had really paid in-depth tribute to the great directors of the Hollywood studio system era.

The versions included on the DVDs keep the same interview footage, but use improved-quality film clips (the original series used battered 16 mm clips provided by the studios) and new narration by Sydney Pollack.

The Band Wagon SE, due in a couple of weeks, includes a documentary on Vincente Minnelli; I suspect it might be his "Men Who Made the Movies" episode.

Edit: Count me in as a third anti-Bogdanovich voter. As I've said before, I can just barely accept him commenting on his own movies; he just drives me nuts talking about other people's.

#5 of 110 OFFLINE   ArthurMy

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Posted February 24 2005 - 04:48 PM

I am so glad somebody else feels as I do about Mr. Bogdanovich and his "contributions" to various DVDs. I can't listen to him or watch him - he literally makes my skin crawl. His voice is annoying, and his manner is completely off-putting. And the ascot - really, someone tell him.

I'll have my set very soon - can't wait.

#6 of 110 OFFLINE   PeterMano

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Posted February 24 2005 - 05:02 PM

Damn, I'm going to need a second job just to keep up with all these warner releases. Thanks for the informative review, herb. The extras sound as good as the films themselves.

I have to applaud Warner for treating these films with the healthy amount of respect they deserve. Fox has also done an admirable job with their studio classics series. When you think about it, it's very ballsy of Warners to be doing two disc special editions of vintage fare like Bringing up Baby and The Philadelphia Story. I feel almost compelled to buy these sets so that Warners will keep on putting these titles out.

Columbia at one time, was putting out some great titles with nice special features like Lost Horizon and It Happened One Night. But, lately, it seems that Columbia is just putting out bare bones titles. I'm wondering if this is case of pure sloth on Columbia's part or the sales of Columbia Classics titles weren't strong enough to warrant continued special treatment.

I've never seen Dinner at Eight, Libeled Lady, Stage Door or To Be or Not To Be and its been ages since I've seen Bringing Up Baby. My old copy of TPS will have to find a new home with one of my relatives.

I have to laugh at the pounding poor Peter Bogdanovich is taking here, but, I find him personally annoying as well.

#7 of 110 OFFLINE   Roger Rollins

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Posted February 24 2005 - 05:30 PM

Once again Herb Kane treats us to a wonderfully written and insightful review...as once again Warner Home Video astounds with yet another outstanding collection of films that have obviously been brought to market with a great deal of creativity and care.

I cannot wait until my copy arrivesPosted Image

#8 of 110 OFFLINE   Dane Marvin

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Posted February 24 2005 - 05:59 PM

Excellent review, Herb. For economical reasons, I'll just be picking up the 2 SE's (never seen Bringing Up Baby before either). And I really look forward to watching the docs as much as the features themselves. Thanks for all the info!

#9 of 110 OFFLINE   AlexHL

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Posted February 24 2005 - 07:07 PM

Another wonderful review, Herb. Judging by the extra's alone (extensive docs on Grant, Hepburn, Cukor and Hawks) this is going to be one of the sets of the year!

#10 of 110 OFFLINE   Robert Crawford

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Posted February 24 2005 - 08:36 PM

Great review Herb, I'll be watching my boxset today. My tolerance level must be higher than others because I enjoy listening to Bogdanovich's commentaries.





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#11 of 110 OFFLINE   Haggai

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Posted February 25 2005 - 08:56 AM

I like his commentary tracks on his own movies, certainly the one for Paper Moon is very good. But his track on Citizen Kane wasn't too hot. Hopefully his Bringing Up Baby track is better than that one.

#12 of 110 OFFLINE   Frank Ha

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Posted February 25 2005 - 09:11 AM

Excellent review. You have me salivating for this set. I can't wait to get my set in the next week or so.

I had TPS already, but I'm sure I can find a home for the older version. I'll probably give it to my daughter. She loved My Man Godfrey. I'm betting, she'll like The Philadelphia Story too.
"And in the end, the only thing you really own is... your story.  Just trying to live a good one" - The Drover 

#13 of 110 OFFLINE   RyanZ

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Posted February 25 2005 - 09:20 AM

Actually, Ann Miller was really 14 when she made Stage Door, not 17 as you said, but you are correct that she secured her RKO contract with a fake birth certificate and some heavy makeup. Excellent review!

#14 of 110 OFFLINE   oscar_merkx

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Posted February 25 2005 - 09:54 AM

another wonderful review.

Completely forgot about this coming out so soon after Gangsters, which is what I am waiting to watch in the next couple of days.

Will wait for this
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#15 of 110 OFFLINE   Paul_Scott

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Posted February 25 2005 - 10:02 AM

thanks for the detailed reviews Herb!
a little disappointed though, to hear that the film i wanted the most (Libeled Lady) is the one that seems to fare the least.
i'm really surprised to hear its in such bad shape, as i don't remember any major(or minor) problems with the LD (which i still own but haven't watched in about 14 yrs).
i'm going to pull it out tonight and see if the same print damage is present on that one.
i was also surprised to see the dearth of extras for the film.
i'm left wondering which release is going to see the inclusion of the Turner produced bio for Loy (was there ever one done for Powell?)- maybe thats being reserved for a TM boxed set- though going by comments in previous chats, Warner has always seemed curiously resistent to a set for that series.
in any case, i fully expected LL to rate a little more enthusiasm from Warners classic division.
kind of odd.

still will be nice to check another one off the master list.
with this release and A Letter To Three Wives from this past week, the only other LD's i need to replace now are
Swing Time, Cleopatra (34), and Wuthering Heights.

#16 of 110 OFFLINE   Russell G

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Posted February 25 2005 - 10:11 AM

plan to get it as soon as I can find it for a good deal on line in Canada.

Now we need a review of the classic Musical set : Broadway to Hollywood.

#17 of 110 OFFLINE   Deepak Shenoy

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Posted February 25 2005 - 10:17 AM

Quote:
Actually this and the Cukor episode are revised versions of episodes that Schickel created in the '70s; it was a PBS miniseries featuring interviews with great Hollywood directors (Hawks, Hitchcock, Cukor, Raoul Walsh, Vincente Minnelli, King Vidor and William Wellman) and clips from their films. It was really the first time American TV had really paid in-depth tribute to the great directors of the Hollywood studio system era.

Too bad Warner missed the opportunity of including the Raoul Walsh installment of The Men Who Made the Movies on Walsh's most well-known film White Heat. Not that I am complaining about the otherwise terrific Gangster set.

Quote:
i'm left wondering which release is going to see the inclusion of the Turner produced bio for Loy

Yeah I was hoping to see that as well. I can't think of any other high profile Loy release that may get the SE treatment. I watched the documentary on TCM a few years back and it was great.

-D

#18 of 110 OFFLINE   LorenzoL

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Posted February 25 2005 - 01:44 PM

Thank you for the review Herb. I can't wait to get my hands on Bringing up Baby. The rest will be first time viewing for me but I have yet to be dissapointed with WB boxset so I'm not too worried.

#19 of 110 OFFLINE   Steve...O

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Posted February 25 2005 - 04:14 PM

Quote:
i'm left wondering which release is going to see the inclusion of the Turner produced bio for Loy (was there ever one done for Powell?)-


Like you, I'm hoping for a Loy/Powell Signature Collection that could house the Loy documentary. Alternatively, it could show up as an extra on the upcoming Thin Man collection (assuming the other films are released as a set and not individually).

Regarding a Powell bio: one is sorely needed. He is one of the most fascinating actors of his generation, and I really respect the way he walked away from Hollywood when he did and made virtually no public appearances for the last 3 decades of his life.

Steve
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#20 of 110 OFFLINE   Jaime_Weinman

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Posted February 25 2005 - 06:17 PM

I just noticed that there's a little bit missing in one scene of Bringing Up Baby, where Hepburn poses as the gangster's moll. In my VHS tape, she says "Where my man goes, I go, and if I don't he knocks my block off." On the DVD, that line is cut off after "Where my man goes, I go."

I know that various prints of this film have missing lines due to the different elements used, so if they used a print where that line was missing for some age-related reason, I can live with it -- but if this is another "Tom and Jerry" situation where WB accidentally used a print that was edited for PC reasons, I'll be very P.O.'d.

I doubt if the line was cut by the DVD producers, considering that all the references to actual spousal abuse are intact in The Philadelphia Story; the line was obviously missing in the print they used -- the question is, why? I think somebody goofed and I'm not pleased.


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