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DVD Reviews

HTF DVD REVIEW: Classic Musicals from the Dream Factory Vol. 3



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#1 of 10 OFFLINE   Ken_McAlinden

Ken_McAlinden

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  • Real Name:Kenneth McAlinden
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Posted April 21 2008 - 01:14 PM

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Classic Musicals from the Dream Factory Volume 3

Broadway Melody of 1936 (1935)/Broadway Melody of 1938 (1937)/Born to Dance (1936)/Lady Be Good (1941)/Nancy Goes to Rio (1950)/Two Weeks with Love (1950)/Deep in My Heart (1954)/Hit the Deck (1955)/Kismet (1955)

The Films

Broadway Melody of 1936 (1935 - MGM - 101 minutes)

Directed By: Roy Del Ruth

Starring: Jack Benny, Eleanor Powell, Robert Taylor, Una Merkel, Sid Silver, Buddy & Vilma Ebsen, Robert Waldrick, June Knight
 In Broadway Melody of 1936, Eleanor Powell plays Broadway hopeful Irene Foster. Irene's old pal from Albany, Bob Gordon (Taylor), is a big time producer, but does not think the Irene is cut out for the dog eat dog world of show business. In the meantime, Bob must contend with Bert Keeler (Benny), a snooping newspaper columnist and Lillian Brent (Knight), the wealthy diva who is both financing his show and angling for the lead role.

Broadway Melody of 1936 is my second favorite entry in the series, which nominally kicked off with the Oscar winning "Broadway Melody" in 1929 (The "…1940" entry is tough to beat due to the addition to the formula of Fred Astaire and Cole Porter). This is the film that established Eleanor Powell as a fixture in the series and as MGM's tap-dancing queen. Powell's impressively high stepping tap style arrives intact in her first feature film setting a precedent for spectacular solo performances that would continue through the finales of most of her films. This also features the best collection of Arthur Freed-Nacio Herb Brown songs of the many 1930s MGM musicals for which they wrote. Most of these songs eventually found their way into many subsequent MGM films (and cartoons) over the next few decades.

A fine supporting cast with solid stage-honed comedy and dancing chops further enhances the film, including siblings Buddy and Vilma Ebsen as Broadway hopefuls who befriend Powell's character, Una Merkel as Taylor's gal Friday, and the film's co-writer Sid Silvers as Benny's sidekick.

Broadway Melody of 1938 (1937)(1938 - MGM - 110 minutes)

Directed By: Roy Del Ruth

Starring: Eleanor Powell, Robert Taylor, George Murphy, Binnie Barnes, Buddy Ebsen, Sophie Tucker, Judy Garland, Charles Igor Gorin, Raymond Walburn, Robert Benchley, Robert Wildhack
 

In Broadway Melody of 1938 MGM presents us with yet another backstage musical featuring Powell as an aspiring hoofer and Taylor as a producer, but this time, there is a parallel plot involving a race horse abandoned by the snobbish Whipple family which Powell's character helps train for a big race.

Assembling largely the same cast as the previous entry in the series, Broadway Melody of 1938 does not attempt a new twist on the conventions of standard racehorse stories or backstage musicals other than to meld them into a silly everything but the kitchen sink plot. It definitely has its moments, though, especially when Powell meets up with a landlady/stage mother played by Sophie Tucker whose daughter is played by Judy Garland. Either one of Garland's performances on featured numbers "Everybody Sing" or "You Made me Love You" (re-written as a specific paean to Clark Gable) would have been sufficient to establish her as a star.


Born to Dance(1936 - MGM - 105 minutes)

Directed By: Roy Del Ruth

Starring: Eleanor Powell, James Stewart, Virginia Bruce, Una Merkel, Sid Silvers, Frances Langford, Raymond Walburn, Buddy Ebsen
 

Released in between the two "Broadway Melody…" films in this collection, Born to Dance is largely cut from the same cloth, with Powell playing Nora Paige, yet another Broadway hopeful looking for her big break. James Stewart plays sailor Ted Barker, her romantic interest who is docked off the coast of Manhattan, and finds time for a little romance while on leave and on the town with shipmates "Mush" (Ebsen) and "Gunny" (Silvers, once again pulling double duty by co-writing the screenplay). Chief among the obstacles to their happiness is Broadway Diva Lucy James (Bruce), who arranges a date with Stewart as a publicity stunt, but winds up falling for him in the process.

While not as good as Broadway Melody of 1936, Born to Dance still manages to entertain thanks to an appealing musical score featuring songs from Cole Porter, most notable Easy to Love, and a talented cast which is allowed to show off their skills. The fairly slight main plot line is beefed up by allotting prominent time to subplots involving the comic supporting cast, most notably the relationship between Gunny and Jenny (Merkel) Saks, who have not seen each other for the four years since their wedding night, and have a child that Gunny does not know about. The fact that James Stewart takes on his one and only musical role, dancing and performing his own singing, adds a certain curiosity factor as well.

Lady Be Good (1941 - MGM - 111 minutes)

Directed By: Norman McLeod

Starring: Eleanor Powell, Ann Sothern, Robert Young, Lionel Barrymore, John Carrol, Red Skelton, Virginia O'Brien
 

In Lady Be Good Ann Sothern and Robert Young play Dixie Donegan and Eddie Crane, a songwriting team who are going through a divorce as the film commences. We learn the details of their marriage and professional partnership through flashbacks during a divorce court hearing. After their divorce, they gradually start drifting back together professionally and then personally with some encouragement from their friends including dancer Marilyn Marsh (Powell), and singer Buddy Crawford (Carroll). As their reconciliation progresses, their old problems start to resurface, jeopardizing their partnership yet again.

While nominally adapted from the 1920s Broadway musical of the same name, Lady Be Good completely dispenses with the plot of the play and retains only two of the George and Ira Gershwin songs from the production. The fact that those two songs are "O! Lady Be Good" and "Fascinating Rhythm" goes a long way towards making this alright. The rest of the score is filled out with contemporary songs from Arthur Freed & Nacio Herb Brown, with one "ringer" slipped in from Jerome Kern and Oscar Hammerstein, "The Last Time I Saw Paris".

Despite top billing, Powell has what amounts to a supporting role, although she figures prominently in two production numbers in the film's second half. The first is an inventive dance with a trained dog through a swanky Manhattan apartment set. Fashionistas, take note that the trousers Powell sports in this number pre-date MC Hammer by 50 years. The second is a featured section of the Busby Berkeley-staged "Fascinating Rhythm" finale. Berkeley is credited with directing the musical numbers, and this finale, which also features a mind-blowing feature dance routine by the Berry brothers, is the one number where he really imprints his signature style.

Fans of classic movie editing will get a kick out of the phantasmagoric "O! Lady Be Good" montage which tracks the song's mounting popularity over a period of several weeks. Film and TV buffs should also keep their eyes peeled for a brief cameo from a young Phil Silvers.

Nancy Goes to Rio (1950 - MGM - 99 minutes)

Directed By: Robert Z. Leonard

Starring: Jane Powell, Ann Sothern, Barry Sullivan, Carmen Miranda, Louis Calhern, Scotty Beckett
 

Jane Powell stars as Nancy Barklay, the teenage daughter of Broadway star Frances Elliot (Sothern). Nancy's big break comes when the producer of a forthcoming Latin-themed Broadway show is wowed by her performance in a community theater production. Her elation is complicated somewhat when she learns her mother, who is vacationing in Rio de Janeiro to soak up the local flavor, coveted the same lead role. Nancy decides to visit her mother and grandfather (Calhern) in Rio, embarking on an ocean voyage. A series of farcical misunderstandings leads businessman and fellow traveler Paul Berten (Sullivan) to believe that Nancy is an abandoned pregnant girl and Nancy to believe that Paul's acts of kindness to her are overtures of love. Upon arrival in Rio, things only get worse when Paul falls for Nancy's mother and Paul's business partner, Marina Rodrigues (Miranda), tries to straighten everything out with Nancy's family.

Seeing how MGM and Producer Joe Pasternak had been positioning soprano Jane Powell as the heir apparent to Deanna Durbin, it should come as no surprise that they would re-work the plot of "It's a Date", one of Durbin's successes at Universal, as a vehicle for Powell. Writer Sidney Sheldon grafts the Rio location into the plot to allow for some then-fashionable Latin sizzle to the production numbers, but Carmen Miranda's numbers are the only ones that really take advantage of the opportunity. The lack of any non-stock location footage prevents this relatively low budget (by MGM standards) production from ever feeling like it left its studio trappings.

The farcical misunderstandings are stretched too thin, defying plausibility and failing to escalate at a pace sufficient to keep audience interest. A few more musical production numbers could have gone a long way towards covering up this flaw. Highlights of the musical numbers that do appear include a couple of entertaining novelty numbers from Miranda and an impressive take by Powell on "Musetta's Waltz" from Puccini's "La Boheme".


Two Weeks with Love (1950 - MGM - 92 minutes)

Directed By: Roy Rowland

Starring: Jane Powell, Ricardo Montalban, Louis Calhern, Ann Harding, Phyllis Kirk, Carelton Carpenter, Debbie Reynolds
 

In Two Weeks with Love, we follow the adventures of the turn of the century Robinson family as they take a two week vacation in Kissimmee of the Catskills spanning the 4th of July holiday. In particular, we follow eldest child Patti (Powell) as she contends with a crush on fellow vacationer Demi Armendez (Montalban), the manipulations of rival Valerie Stressman (Kirk), and the shame of being forced to attend a dance without a [gasp!] corset. In the meantime younger sister Melba (Reynolds), pines for Billy Finlay (Carpenter), who only has eyes for Patti, but cannot convince his mother to let him wear long pants. Father Horatio (Calhern) tries to both maintain discipline and keep his four children happy, usually with comic results. Mother Katherine (Harding) does her best to keep her daughter from growing up too soon.

This gently nostalgic musical in the spirit of MGM's earlier Meet Me in St. Louis and Warner Bros.' subsequent Doris Day films adapted from Booth Tarkington's Penrod novels, provides an amusing light entertainment. The plot never adds up to much, but that is almost the point of a film like this, which is meant to work as an amusing slice of life. The best musical numbers are the "Abba Dabba Honeymoon" number between Debbie Reynolds and Carleton Carpenter, which was the breakout performance that established Reynolds as a star, and two fantasy numbers featuring Powell.

Deep in My Heart (1954 - MGM - 132 minutes)

Directed By: Stanley Donen

Starring: Jose Ferrer, Merle Oberon, Helen Traubel, Walter Pidgeon, Paul Henreid, Rosemary Clooney, Gene & Fred Kelly, Jane Powell, Vic Damone, Ann Miller, Cyd Charisse, Howard Keel, Tony Martin
 

Deep in My Heart is a moderately fictionalized biopic of composer Sigmund Romberg (Ferrer). The film tracks the composer's beginnings as a Hungarian immigrant playing piano at a café owned by old-world friend Anna Mueller (Traubel). An encounter with a song publisher leads him to composing a novelty jazz song called "Leg of Mutton", which becomes wildly popular. After his initial success, he gradually establishes himself as top composer of Broadway show-tunes through a series of mostly operettas created with the devoted backing of frequent collaborator Dorothy Donnelly (Oberon). The film follows his ups and downs as he struggles with Broadway producers for more control over how his songs are presented. We also see his awkward courtship of future wife Lillian (Avedon), and the unrequited romantic affection of Donnelly for Romberg. As his career is tracked, we see one spectacular specialty number after another featuring top MGM talent.

While veracity is never the hallmark of these composer biopics from classic Hollywood (most composers seem to have led lives either so boring that they would not make interesting movie plots, or so colorful that they would not satisfy the Production Code), these films generally live and die by the strength of their specialty numbers. In this regard, Deep in My Heart succeeds quite nicely. Acts featuring the only on screen pairings of brothers Gene and Fred Kelly, and married couple Ferrer and Rosemary Clooney succeed on the level of both novelty and entertainment. Ann Miller gets a standout number on the song "It" from Artists and Models which recycles much of the wardrobe from Singin' in the Rain. Jane Powell and Vic Damone sound wonderful together on a couple of songs from Maytime. Cyd Charisse and James Mitchell are about as smoking hot as the Production Code will allow two people to be on screen during their dance following "One Alone" from The Desert Song. Ferrer even gets a chance at a standout high-energy solo number when he acts out an entire production intended for Al Jolson called Jazza-Doo.

Ferrer was a non obvious but somewhat inspired choice to put at the center of this production making odd but interesting choices in his characterization of Romberg. That being said, the film's chief weakness stems from the lack of chemistry between Ferrer and Avedon, especially given the amount of screen-time devoted to their characters' courtship.

On a side note, fans of the television show Arrested Development are bound to get a few chuckles over the fondness for hanging banners demonstrated by Traubel's character every time she hosts a party after one of Romberg's Broadway openings.


Hit the Deck (1955 - MGM - 112 minutes)

Directed By: Roy Rowland

Starring: Jane Powell, Tony Martin, Debbie Reynolds, Walter Pidgeon, Vic Damone, Gene Raymond, Ann Miller, Russ Tamblyn, Alan King, Henry Slate
 

In Hit the Deck, Chief Boatswain's Mate Bill Clark (Martin), Seaman Rico Ferrari (Damone), and Seaman Danny Smith (Tamblyn) are on leave in New York City. Over the course of the film, Bill tries to reconnect with Ginger, his long-suffering fiancé (Miller), Danny enlists his buddies in trying to defend the honor of his sister, Susan (Powell), who is mixed up with a lothario Broadway producer (Raymond), and winds up falling for Carol (Reynolds). Rico tries to help Danny, and winds up falling for Susan. The sailors' efforts to defend Susan's honor lead to fisticuffs, which run them afoul of Shore Patrol, resulting in them spending most of the rest of the film trying not to get arrested.

One of two Navy-themed musicals released by MGM in 1955, Hit the Deck is decidedly more old-fashioned in its sensibilities than the uncharacteristically dark It's Always Fair Weather. While it brings little new to the table, it does present a reasonable excuse to showcase a handful of Vincent Youmans songs, including the standout, "Hallelujah" that kicks off the film and subsequently works its way into the score at various points. While the cast is somewhat skewed towards singers, Ann Miller provides a couple of standout dances, and choreographer Hermes Pan and Art Director Cedric Gibbons let their imaginations run wild during a number set in a Tunnel of Love/Funhouse setting with Tamblyn and Reynolds.

Kismet (1955 - MGM - 113 minutes)

Directed By: Vincente Minnelli

Starring: Howard Keel, Ann Blyth, Dolores Gray, Vic Damone, Monty Woolley, Sebastian Cabot, Jay C. Flippen
 

Kismet is an "Arabian Nights"-styled fantasy set in ancient Baghdad. Howard Keel plays a poet who is so frequently assuming false identities that his real name is never revealed. Beginning with his assuming of the identity and prominent soliciting location of a beggar named Hajj, he finds himself in one extreme situation after another with only his wits and the whims of fate (aka "kismet") spelling the difference between his being executed like a slave or promoted to the station of Emir. His efforts to improve the station of himself as well as his daughter, Marsinah (Blyth), are in turn helped and harmed by encounters with the angry brigand chieftan, Jawan (Flippen), the strong-armed corrupt Wazir of Baghdad (Cabot), the Wazir's flirtatious wife, Lalume (Gray), and the Caliph of Baghdad (Damone).

While the older MGM production of this story from 1944 starring Ronald Colman and Marlene Dietich moved along at a better pace and seemed more committed to the material, this slower moving production from 1955 has the advantage of several fine Robert Wright and George Forrest songs adapted from musical themes by the 19th century Russian composer Alexander Borodin for the Broadway musical adaptation. These songs include "Baubles, Bangles, and Beeds" and "Stranger in Paradise".

If "Hit the Deck's" cast was skewed slightly towards singers over dancers, Kismet tips the scales almost completely in that direction. The major dancing work is handed over to specialty and secondary performances, most prominently, Reiko Sato, Patricia Dunn, and Wonci Lui as the three princesses of Ababu. The main cast is filled primarily with strong singers. Most noticeably Keel, Gray, and Damone. Damone's wooden performance as the Caliph makes one question why he was even cast in the film until the "Strangers in Paradise" duet with Blyth answers that question fairly completely.

The filmmakers went out to the desert for a handful of shots in the early sections of the film, but for the most part, the mythical Baghdad of the film is created by stylistic background matte paintings and impeccably designed sets and costumes as one would expect from an Arthur Freed production directed by Minnelli.

The Video
 

All of the films in this collection appear to have been derived from new high definition transfers of best available elements, and most look quite good compared to comparable films of their age.

Of the black and white films, the oldest title, Broadway Melody of 1936 is perhaps the best looking. Apparently, the film's original negative escaped destruction in the George Eastman House fire that consumed a lot of MGM's assets. 1941's Lady Be Good looks almost as good with only minor instances of film damage visible. Born to Dance displays the heaviest amount of film element wear and tear with Broadway Melody of 1938 appearing slightly better, but both are still appealing presentations with nice contrast balance, acceptable compression given the amount of film grain, and no distracting video artifacts.

Nancy Goes to Rio and Two Weeks with Love, the Jane Powell film's paired together in one of the "double feature" slimcases, were both originally produced in three-strip Technicolor. Nancy Goes to Rio has the superior video presentation of the two, with excellent registration, modest natural film grain, and few digital video artifacts. Two Weeks with Love is more problematic. It has much higher levels of film grain, which occasionally gives the video compression algorithm fits. Worse yet, one of the color records appears to have density fluctuations which cause the color to shift every few seconds during certain scenes.

Deep in My Heart is presented in a 16:9 enhanced transfer that fills the entire 16:9 frame. The film is credited as being photographed in Eastman Color with prints by Technicolor. The resulting transfer is the best in this collection. It features very stable colors excellent sharpness and natural looking film grain. There is some fading and softness during opticals (such as the opening titles), but other than that, it is very impressive.

Both Hit the Deck and Kismet are early CinemaScope productions, and are presented on disc appropriately with 2.55:1 transfers enhanced for 16:9 televisions. Both transfers feature strong color and contrast with detail only a hair below that of the transfer for Deep in My Heart. The image gets a little fuzzy during optical titles and fades, but otherwise is strong throughout with good compression and few video artifacts.


The Audio
 

Broadway Melody of 1936, Broadway Melody of 1938, Born to Dance, Lady Be Good, Nancy Goes to Rio, and Two Weeks with Love are all presented on disc with Dolby Digital 1.0 mono English audio tracks. Of these films, Broadway Melody of 1938, Born to Dance and Nancy Goes to Rio also sport a dubbed French Dolby Digital 1.0 mono track. While the tracks are generally limited by their age, all feature an acceptable balance between fidelity and digital noise reduction artifacts with the noticeable exception of Nancy Goes to Rio which sounds like it was sourced from a print, resulting in an unfortunate amount of noise and distortion marring dialog and music passages and a limited high-end that does not do proper justice to Jane Powell's soprano.

Initial press release materials indicated that Deep in My Heart would include both an original mono track as well as a new multichannel remix. The finished product includes only an English Dolby Digital 5.0 track and a French Dolby Digital 1.0 track. The good news is that the Dolby Digital 5.0 track sounds excellent. It was apparently sourced from very good elements and offers wonderful musical fidelity. Some vocals sound better than others, but overall, I was quite pleased. The opening orchestral sequence is some prime ear candy.

Hit the Deck and Kismet have identical audio options including an English Dolby Digital 5.1 remix, and an English Dolby Digital 5.0 repurposing of the original theatrical mixes. All of the English tracks sound wonderful. The 5.1 remixes are actually quite faithful to the theatrical mixes, deviating primarily by mixing more of the orchestra into the surrounds during musical sequences. Hiss levels are slightly but noticeably reduced on the remixes. Hit the Deck includes a French Dolby Digital 1.0 mono dub while Kismet includes a Portuguese Dolby Digital 1.0 mono dub.

Extras
 


All discs contain multiple extras which consist primarily of archival shorts, but also include some behind the scenes material related to the films and their stars. Extras are in black and white and presented in 4:3 video with Dolby Digital 2.0 sound unless otherwise indicated below:

Broadway Melody of 1936 contains the following extras:

  • Sunkist Stars at Palm Springs is a vintage Technicolor short running nineteen minutes and 52 seconds. It is a somewhat bizarre affair where bathing beauties from every state in the USA are encouraged to watch a bevy of stars relax and occasionally lapse into production numbers at a Palm Springs resort.
  • To Spring is a vintage Technicolor Harmon-Ising "Happy Harmonies" cartoon running nine minutes and eight seconds in which a band of gnome-like creatures mine all of the spring colors and attempt to pump them above ground while fighting a malicious wintry wind.
  • Leo is on the Air Radio Promo is an audio only supplement promoting the film with lots of samples of its musical numbers.
  • Theatrical Trailer runs a lengthy four minutes and 22 seconds and includes some unique footage not in the film, including a shot of Arthur Freed and nacio Herb Brown working at a piano.

Broadway Melody of 1938
includes the following extras:

  • That Mothers Might Live is a vintage Oscar-winning ten minute and sixteen second short directed by Fred Zinneman profiling the story of nineteenth century physician Ignaz Philipp Semmelweis and his ultimately life-saving theories on standards for cleanliness in the practice of obstetrics.
  • Pipe Dreams is a vintage Technicolor Harman-Ising "Merry Melodies" short in which (I kid you not) a group of young monkeys smoke pipe tobacco and have a hallucinogenic dream involving anthropomorphic forms of several varieties of smoking and chewing tobacco.
  • Alternate Audio Cues is an audio-only supplement consisting of five takes of the song "Everybody Sing", three of them Judy Garland solo takes on the first part of the song, and two takes of the complete cast running through the second part of the song.
  • Leo is on the Air Radio Promo is an audio only supplement promoting the film with lots of samples of its musical numbers. It runs fourteen minutes and ten seconds
  • Good News of 1938 Radio Program is an audio-only feature running 34 minutes and 55 seconds. This vintage broadcast offers a "tour" of the MGM lot hosted by director Robert Z. Leonard. It features appearances by Judy Garland, Sophie Tucker, George Murphy, Buddy Ebsen, Eleanor Powell, Charles Igor Gorin, Alan Jones, and Jeanette McDonald. There appears to be an authoring error since whenever I let it play through the transition from chapter 6 to chapter 7 on the disc, it resets itself to chapter 1. If I chapter advance with my DVD remote directly to chapter seven, it plays through to the end with no problem. I did not try this out on multiple DVD players, as it is frustrating to demonstrate since fast forward and rewind functionality is not allowed, so you have to wait through the entire three minute chapter to see if it will play through.
  • Theatrical Trailer runs two minutes and fourteen seconds. It is pretty standard stuff with titles over film clips. The most amusing moment comes when it describes Robert Taylor as "The answer to a million maiden's prayers" which, coincidentally, was my nickname in high school.

Born to Dance
includes the following extras:

  • Hollywood: The Second Step is a vintage theatrical short running ten minutes and 30 seconds. It tells the story of Jane Barnes of Mansfield, MA as she tries to work her way up from being a contract stand-in for Maureen O'Sullivan to an actual contract performer for MGM. Cameos from O'Sullivan, director Richard Thorpe, and comedian Chico Marx are included. This short gets a PC disclaimer due to scenes involving actors in native costumes from the set of a Tarzan film.
  • The Old Mill Pond is a vintage Technicolor Harman-Ising "Happy Harmonies" short in which frogs around a pond play a cotton-club style musical revue, inclusive of a Cab Calloway caricature. This cartoon is preceded by a PC disclaimer due to the racial caricatures.Outtake version of "Easy to Love" is an audio-only feature running two minutes and 55 seconds that is exactly what its title suggests.
  • "Hollywood Hotel" Radio Broadcast Excerpt is an audio-only vintage radio program feature running 41 minutes and 25 seconds with Dick Powell hosting a "preview" of Born to Dance
  • Theatrical Trailer runs a lengthy four minutes and 37 seconds and emphasizes Eleanor Powell's emerging stardom by highlighting the appearance of "The Broadway Melody Girl in her first starring role".

Lady Be Good
contains the following extras:

  • Glimpses of Florida is a vintage color short from the James Fitzpatrick Traveltalks series running nine minutes and nineteen seconds. It takes a look at Miami, The Swanee River, and Silver Springs circa 1941.
  • The Rookie Bear is a vintage Technicolor Rudolf Ising cartoon in which Barney Bear gets drafted.
  • Outtake Song: "I'd rather Dance" is an audio only extra running four minutes and five seconds featuring a song that was deleted from the movie.
  • Leo is on the Air Radio Promo is an audio-only feature running six minutes and fifteen seconds consisting of a vintage radio promotion for the movie.
  • Theatrical Trailer runs four minutes and 29 seconds and wishes everyone a "happy New Movie Year".

Nancy Goes to Rio
contains the following extras:

  • Wrong Way Butch is a vintage short from the "Pete Smith Specialty" series running ten minutes and six seconds. Smith wryly narrates as we observe the misadventures of a supremely accident prone handyman using dangerous machinery.
  • The Peachy Cobbler is a vintage Technicolor Tex Avery cartoon running six minutes and 46 seconds about elves helping a frail old cobbler complete his large shoe order.
  • Theatrical Trailer runs two minutes and eighteen seconds, is presented in color, and is a standard titles over clips assemblage with an emphasis on Powell.

Two Weeks with Love
contains the following extras:

  • Private Screenings with Jane Powell is a television program shot in color on video for the Turner Classic Movies network in 1995. It runs 43 minutes and 28 seconds. Called "Reel Memories" at the time of its broadcast, it consists entirely of a rare one on one interview between Robert Osborne and Powell during which she discusses her show business career at great length.
  • Crashing the Movies is a vintage short from the "Pete Smith Specialty" series in which Smith provides narration over found newsreel footage of odd and unusual achievements.Garden Gopher is a vintage Technicolor Tex Avery cartoon in which a bulldog battles a gopher over backyard digging rights. It ends with a corset gag that seems appropriate for the feature film with which this cartoon is paired.
  • Theatrical Trailer runs two minutes and seven seconds and is presented in color. It emphasizes the two fantasy sequences in the film to make it look more grand and romantic than nostalgic.

Deep in My Heart
Contains the following extras:

  • The Strauss Fantasy is a vintage short presented in 4:3 LB color video at an aspect ratio of 16:9 that runs nine minutes and 49 seconds. It features the MGM orchestra playing through a medley blending musical themes from all three members of the Strauss family under the direction of Johnny Green. The sound is particularly well recorded on this short.
  • Farm of Tomorrow is a vintage Technicolor Tex Avery cartoon running six minutes and 32 seconds. It features a wacky look at the future of farming via a series of blackout gags.
  • Outtake Song: "Dance My Darling" is presented in color 4:3 video and runs three minutes and one second . It features a performance from Helen Traubel that looks like it was cut from early in the film.
  • Outtake Song: Girlies of the Cabaret is presented in color 4:3 video and runs one minute and 15 second. It is sung by George Murphy and features Esther Williams.
  • "One Kiss/Lover Come Back to Me" Outtake is an audio-only feature running seven minutes and 26 seconds from the Tony Martin/Joan Weldon "New Moon" section of the film.
  • Theatrical Trailer runs a lengthy 4:29 and is presented in 4:3 video. It emphasizes the star power of the film as well as the novelty aspects (Ferrer and his real wife, Kelly and his brother, etc.).

Hit the Deck
Contains the following extras:

  • The Fall Guy is a vintage short from the "Pete Smith Specialty" series. This is the equivalent of a television series clip show as it presents a "greatest hits" retrospective of Dave O'Brien's staged falls and mishaps in various earlier Pete Smith-narrated shorts.
  • Field and Stream is a vintage Technicolor Tex Avery cartoon running seven minutes and two seconds. It consists of spot gags focusing on the largely unsuccessful exploits of hunter/fisherman "Ed Jones".
  • 5.1 Music Only Track is an alternate Dolby Digital 5.1 audio track available for the film's entire length with isolated music score.
  • Outtake Song: Sometimes I'm Happy (Reprise) is an audio-only feature featuring Powell and Damone doing a reprise of the song that is presented in real 2.0 stereo sound.
  • Theatrical Trailer is presented in 4:3 LB video at a 1.85:1 aspect ratio and suffers from some heavy color fading.

Kismet
Contains the following extras:

  • The Battle of Gettysburg is a vintage color CinemaScope short presented in letterboxed 4:3 video and running 29 minutes and 35 seconds. Narrated by Leslie Nielsen, it recounts the famous civil war battle via voiceover and a montage of shots of actual Gettysburg locations and historical monuments (sculptures, paintings, etc.).
  • The First Bad Man is a vintage Tex Avery cartoon running six minutes and 35 seconds. Narrated by Tex Ritter, it is a screwball tribute to Avery's home state telling the tall tale of the first Texas outlaw, Dinosaur Dan.
  • Excerpts from "The MGM Parade" features two excerpts from the promotional television program hosted by George Murphy running a total of nine minutes and 38 seconds. The first is an on-set visit with footage of Arthur Freed, Vincente Minnelli, and Cinematographer Joseph Ruttenberg as well as an extended excerpt from the "Rahadlakum" musical number. The second is a visit by Keel to the set of the TV show for a scripted interview followed by an excerpt of the song "Gesticulate".
  • Complete version of partially censored musical number "Rahadlakum" presents the omitted introduction to the number that actually suggested that something naughty may go on from time to time in a harem. The cut sequence is presented in black and white 4:3 video letterboxed to the CinemaScope aspect ratio and runs two minutes and nineteen seconds.
  • Outtake Song "Rhymes Have I" is an audio only feature presented in real 2.0 stereo and running three minutes and 22 seconds.
  • Theatrical Trailers are presented for both the 1944 non-musical Ronald Colman/Marlene Dietrich Kismet (color, two minutes and 56 seconds) and the 1955 musical adaptation (color, 4:3 letterboxed, four minutes and 25 seconds). The latter features unique promotional footage of Howard Keel out of costume/character.

Packaging

The discs are packaged in slimcases with the two Broadway Melody films, the other two Eleanor Powell films, and the two 1950 Jane Powell films paired together in double disc slimcases, efficiently packaging nine films in the space it normally takes to package three standard cases. The slimcases all feature cover art derived from original promotional art for the films included. They cases are bound together inside a foil-enhanced cardboard box which features a publicity photo of the cast of Lady Be Good standing arm in arm atop a list of the films included in the set.


Summary

Warner has topped themselves with the largest entry yet in their Classic Musicals from the Dream Factory series. Every title in the collection has at least two vintage featurettes, and the modest behind the scenes extras include some interesting deleted numbers, promotional radio and TV segments, trailers for each film in the collection, and a very enjoyable extended interview with Jane Powell.

Regards,



Edited by Ken_McAlinden - 8/11/2009 at 07:59 pm GMT
Ken McAlinden
Livonia, MI USA

#2 of 10 OFFLINE   Edward Weinman

Edward Weinman

    Stunt Coordinator



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Posted April 21 2008 - 03:08 PM

..."The Strauss Fantasy"...conducted by Johnny Green (unless he had a nickname).

Thanks for the review and the details of all the extras; it was a lot of work.

#3 of 10 OFFLINE   Ken_McAlinden

Ken_McAlinden

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Posted April 21 2008 - 03:27 PM

Quote:
Originally Posted by Edward Weinman
..."The Strauss Fantasy"...conducted by Johnny Green (unless he had a nickname).

Thanks for the review and the details of all the extras; it was a lot of work.
Fixed -Thanks for catching that typo.
Ken McAlinden
Livonia, MI USA

#4 of 10 OFFLINE   Matt Hough

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Posted April 21 2008 - 03:34 PM

I really enjoyed your review, Ken. Another huge box set in your most capable hands.

On the subject of DEEP IN MY HEART's box-office performance, according to Hugh Fordin's THE WORLD OF ENTERTAINMENT, the film cost $2.1 million to produce and grossed $4.08 million. Not a smash but I'd call that more of a breakeven rather than a flop.

#5 of 10 OFFLINE   Richard M S

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Posted April 21 2008 - 04:18 PM

Really thorough (and entertaining) group of reviews, thanks!

#6 of 10 OFFLINE   ChrisPearson

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Posted April 21 2008 - 09:35 PM

Great review, Ken. Just one tiny (possible) correction:

Quote:
Originally Posted by Ken_McAlinden
one "ringer" slipped in from Jerome Kern and Oscar Hammerstein, "Autumn in New York"

I thought Vernon Duke wrote Autumn in New York. Did you mean to write "The Last Time I Saw Paris"?

Regards

Chris

#7 of 10 OFFLINE   Ken_McAlinden

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Posted April 21 2008 - 10:59 PM

Quote:
Originally Posted by ChrisPearson
Great review, Ken. Just one tiny (possible) correction:



I thought Vernon Duke wrote Autumn in New York. Did you mean to write "The Last Time I Saw Paris"?
You are 100% correct. Not only is it Kern's "The Last Time I saw Paris" that Ann Sothern sings in the film, but the song won the Oscar (with some controversy - it had been a hit the year before and was clearly not written for the movie). I will fix it in the review. I have been listening to a Frank Sinatra compilation for the last few weeks with the Vernon Duke song on it, so it was on my mind. Once again, something got mixed up between my brain and my typing fingers.

Thanks!
Ken McAlinden
Livonia, MI USA

#8 of 10 OFFLINE   Russell G

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Posted April 23 2008 - 05:40 AM

nice! can't wait for this to show up!

#9 of 10 OFFLINE   Ken_McAlinden

Ken_McAlinden

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Posted April 25 2008 - 02:24 AM

By the way. If Jane Powell's four apperances in titles included with this box set are not enough for you, Warner just relased "A Date with Judy" this week. It was previously available exclusively at the Deep Discount DVD and affiliated Critic's Choice Video online retailers, but is now available everywhere.

The decidedly non-musical Merrill's Marauders, which was the other Deep Discount exclusive title, was also released widely this week.

I just received my review copies yesterday.

Regards,
Ken McAlinden
Livonia, MI USA

#10 of 10 OFFLINE   Steve...O

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Posted April 25 2008 - 02:41 PM

Ken, just wanted to express my appreciation for the great job you do with your reviews, including this one. They are always well written, quite informative, and entertaining to read. WHV is very fortunate to have such informed classic film buffs such as yourself (and Herb previously) reviewing their product.
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