Second Chorus, Fred Astaire on Blu-Ray.
This was a 1940 Paramount production. It was Fred Astaire’s 13th film. It was re-issued in 1947 by Astor Pictures Corporation. Somewhere along the way, it fell into Public Domain.
Fred’s co-stars were Burgess Meredith, Paulette Goddard, and Artie Shaw.
It is not one of Fred’s best films – it is probably a 3rd tier, or even a 4th tier Astaire. In my opinion, it is not his worst (as some stories put it). For my reckoning, that dishonor belongs to Let’s Dance. Even so, it has many moments to enjoy. Some very good music by Artie Shaw and his orchestra, some fine dancing by Fred, and some ok dancing with Fred and Paulette. Its not that there is anything ‘bad’ about the film, its more a case of not enough good stuff. It’s a decent 40’s flick
Now, Second Chorus is making its debut on Blu-Ray courtesy of Film Chest, Inc. and HDCinemaClassics.com. This is only the second US release of a Fred Astaire musical on Blu-Ray (along with Easter Parade), and only the fourth in total (Europe has Funny Face and Daddy Long Legs).
Now, since this is a PD film, there are multiple versions available – both on VHS, and on DVD. Most of them are pretty bad when it comes to quality. I’ve also seen the TCM broadcast, and it is OK, but not much of a step up from the PD DVDs.
So, how does the Blu-Ray look and sound. In a word, good. Now, I am pretty forgiving when it comes to picture quality, but there were moments when it looked very good. My eyes are not good at spotting digital manipulation, so I can’t say if any was done. My guess is that probably some was done – whether it was fiddling with the contrast or the sharpness, but if left alone, I think this would have looked worse (or at least as bad as some of the prior DVDs). Supposedly this was a new scan from a fine-grain 35mm nitrate print. It is nowhere near pristine, or reference quality, but it looks a whole lot better than I ever expected, given what I’ve seen from other releases or tv broadcasts.
As for the sound, it was very clean – I didn’t hear any hiss or static or muffled sound.
I can’t say whether anyone will like the film. I am too biased towards Fred Astaire to speak objectively, but if you know and like the film, this is the version to buy. It is currently priced a bit higher than I expected – currently about $15, but the quality of the transfer warrants that, even if I didn’t expect the film itself to be in that price range.
Now one additional note. I started by saying this was a Paramount production. The source for this print apparently is the Astor re-issue. The title cards say Astor, not Paramount (TCM’’s version says Paramount), So, this is not the original title card, it is the theatrical re-issue title card.
Also include is a DVD of the film. I have not watched that, so I can’t comment on its quality.