A Date with Judy
Directed By: Richard Thorpe
Starring: Wallace Beery, Jane Powell, Elizabeth Taylor, Carmen Miranda, Xavier Cugat, Robert Stack, Scotty Beckett, Leon Ames, Selena Royle
The 1948 MGM musical A Date with Judy was released on DVD by Warner Bros. Home Video in late 2007 and distributed exclusively through the Deep Discount DVD web site and the affiliated Critics Choice Video web site and catalog. It is now available at all major retailers and has been provided to sites such as ours for review.
A Date with Judy adapts a popular 1940s radio show for the big screen. It follows the travails of the Foster family of Santa Barbara, CA. In particular, we chart the chaste romantic life of eldest daughter Judy (Powell) as she falls for older drug-store employee Stephen Andrews (Stack), much to the chagrin of Ogden "Oogie" Pringle (Beckett), the boy who leads the high school band and has been dating Judy until recently. Oogie's sister, Carol, Judy's manipulative, marginally more worldly, best friend, also takes a shine to Stephen resulting in some passive aggressive competition for his attention. A subplot involving the impending anniversary of Judy's parents leads to her father, Melvin (Beery) secretly taking rhumba lessons in his office from Rosita Cochellas (Miranda). This unwittingly leads to Judy and Carol suspecting that he is stepping out on Judy's mother.
Producer Joe Pasternak plays it extremely safe, plugging teen soprano Powell directly into the same formula that resulted in his string of successful films with Deanna Durbin at Universal. Powell and Taylor make a slight but significant transition from their typical juvenile roles to older teenagers with (gasp!) romantic interests. For the object of their mutual affection, Pasternak cast Robert Stack, who, in his screen debut, memorably helped Durbin make a similar transition by sharing her first on-screen kiss in 1939's "First Love".
The "sitcomish" plot is decidedly old-fashioned. The deepest social issue the filmmakers seem to ponder is whether or not the wealthy and the fabulously wealthy can successfully maintain a friendship in this crazy world. Things are prevented from becoming too dull or derivative thanks to an amusing performance from Scotty Beckett as the romantically confused and sympathetically gullible Oogie, and the entertainment inherent in the very idea of Wallace Berry learning how to rhumba.
Highlight musical numbers include Powell's take on "Love is Where you Find It" (which Pasternak would re-use a few months later with Kathryn Grayson in "The Kissing Bandit") and Carmen Miranda and Xavier Cugat's "Cuenta La Gusta".
The 4:3 Technicolor film is well represented by the transfer and compression on this DVD. Grain is noticeable, but natural looking. Damage is light and infrequent, and colors and contrast are very good, with near-perfect registration. There is occasionally some light fluctuation in density, but nothing significant.
The Dolby Digital 1.0 audio is a fine representation of the film's original sound. Digital noise reduction is employed judiciously but not excessively, resulting in ligh hiss and decent fidelity.
Extras consist of a vintage featurette, a vintage cartoon, and the film's theatrical trailer. All are presented in 4:3 video with Dolby Digital 2.0 mono sound.
Martin Block's Musical Merry-Go-Round #3 (10:51) is a 1948 black and white featurette from a series where DJ Martin Block would feature music, scripted interviews, and performances from popular music performers. For this installment, British bandleader Ray Noble, and vocalist Buddy Clark are featured. Songs include "I'll Dance at Your Wedding", "Goodnight Sweetheart", "Linda, and "Serenade".
Professor Tom (7:34) is a 1948 Technicolor Hanna-Barbera Tom and Jerry cartoon where Tom tries to teach a young protégé cat that he should hate mice. Jerry offers a counter-lesson resulting in Tom absorbing a tremendous amount of punishment.
Theatrical Trailer (2:47) is a pretty straightforward affair with promotional text superimposed over film clips.
The disc comes packaged in a standard Amaray-style case with cover art adapted from original promotional art.
A Date with Judy nicely compliments the recent slate of Jane Powell titles released in the Classic Musicals from the Dream Factory Vol. 3 box set. It is a pretty by the book entry in her early film career, representing a transition to slightly less juvenile, but still innocent and wholesome parts for both Powell and Elizabeth Taylor. It is presented on DVD with a very good transfer, representing its Technicolor origins nicely, and a good mono soundtrack. Extras include a trailer along with a vintage featurette and cartoon.