Director Lloyd Bacon was reunited with his 42nd Street choreographer Busby Berkeley for the first time in eighteen years for Call Me Mister, a very loose adaptation of a Broadway revue for the big screen. It’s not altogether successful with its tedious rocky marriage wrap-around story which takes us away from the song and dance and a mixture of stage and screen talent that doesn’t always mesh amenably. For those looking for entertaining musical numbers, the movie is okay (though leagues behind what MGM was doing during the same year with An American in Paris, Royal Wedding, and Show Boat), but this kind of fluff that was Betty Grable’s eggs and bacon for a decade was wearing decidedly thin by 1951.
Distributed By: N/A
Video Resolution and Encode: 480I/MPEG-2
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
Audio: English 2.0 DD
Rating: Not Rated
Run Time: 1 Hr. 35 Min.
Package Includes: DVDAmray case
Disc Type: DVD-R
Release Date: 04/16/2013
Husband and wife song and dance team Kay Hudson (Betty Grable) and Shep Dooley (Dan Dailey) began separation proceedings even before World War II took him into the Pacific, but now after the war with both of them in Japan entertaining the troops there waiting for discharge, Shep decides he wants a reconciliation. Kay is none too eager to start things up with him again especially since she’s staging the big camp show “Call Me Mister” using talent from the division there. She’s also being romanced by the attractive captain of the outfit (Dale Robertson) and a lowly PFC (Danny Thomas) who can never seem to score a date with the other two men as his rivals for her. Shep breaks rules and ignores orders to try to win Kay over, but all she can see is a man who’s irresponsible and self-involved.
The Production Rating: 3/5
All of the on again-off again romantic nonsense between Kay and Shep (script by Albert E. Lewin and Burt Styler) will try your last nerve and make you wish as hard as can be for another musical number to begin. But the numbers themselves aren’t always a tonic. Only three songs from the original stage revue by Harold Rome have been ported over to the movie version, and one of them, “Going Home Train” sung meltingly by Bobby Short, is by far the best thing in the movie. The other numbers are by Mack Gordon and Sammy Fain, Frances Ash, and Jerry Seelen and Earl K. Brent and include the somewhat entertaining if politically incorrect “Japanese Girl Like American Boy” (which does feature in its second half a delicious tap sequence with Grable and The Dunhills, a talented tapping trio of men who also have a super-charged tap number later in the movie), Betty Grable’s solo ballad “I’m Gonna Love That Guy,” and “I Just Can’t Do Enough for You, Baby” pairing Dailey and Grable in a pleasant song and dance but on an extravagant woodland set that would never fit on a real stage. Most of the numbers have fairly unexceptional staging, but the hand of Busby Berkeley is undoubtedly behind the climactic “Love Is Back in Business” with its whirling turntables, swooping and twirling camera, and spurting, colorful fountains surrounding its rising parapet.
By 1951, Betty Grable had to have been tiring of these simplistic marital discord scenarios with Dan Dailey as her troublesome, untrustworthy spouse, and both actors go through the motions but without much real zing in the book portions of the film. Their song and dance work is as sturdy as ever though he continuously out-dances her in their tap duets together. Danny Thomas (from the original stage version) as the private who longs for Grable’s Kay and for a big role in the show tends to go overboard when he’s in the spotlight whether offering his “Lament for Pots and Pans” or in his unfunny monologue about army life which begins the camp show near the film’s conclusion. Along with him and Dale Robertson who isn’t given much to develop as the straight arrow army captain trying to win over Kay, the supporting cast is crammed with additional faces who would become familiar to TV audiences through the fifties and sixties: Richard Boone, Frank Fontaine (who doesn’t get to sing a note as the sergeant-at-arms), Harry von Zell, Dabs Greer, and Jerry Paris. Jeffrey Hunter, in a one scene role as a bivouac mate of Shep’s, does an excruciating southern accent.
The film is presented in its theatrical aspect ratio of 1.33:1. While this clearly isn’t three strip Technicolor we’re watching (with most film buffs conscious of Fox’s dumping of their three strip masters and saving only Eastmancolor elements of their Technicolor films), the color here is pleasing and nicely controlled with only a few shots where complexions get a bit too rosy for comfort. Sharpness is quite good, and there are only a few specks of dirt and a slight scratch or two that pass by momentarily. There is also no problem with overly dark processing which has existed on some previous Fox MOD titles. The film has been divided into chapters every ten minutes so there are 10 chapters on this disc.
Video Rating: 4/5 3D Rating: NA
The Dolby Digital 2.0 sound mix is decoded by Dolby Prologic into the center channel. As with many of the Fox MOD titles, the audio has been encoded at excessive volume levels which will require some user adjustments to prevent distortion. Apart from that and some occasional flutter which can be heard in quieter scenes, the mono mix is nicely balanced and offers a pleasant listening experience.
Audio Rating: 3.5/5
The Fox made-on-demand discs do not offer any bonus material, not even a trailer.
Special Features Rating: 0/5
The Betty Grable hit machine was winding down by 1951, the last year in which the star would appear among the box-office top ten. Call Me Mister offers moderately agreeable if fairly unremarkable entertainment, but this Fox MOD release offers the film in a package fans can buy with confidence. They won’t be disappointed with the video or audio presented here.
Overall Rating: 3/5
Reviewed By: Matt Hough
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