5 Stars

“Can’t act; slightly bald; can dance a little…”

What an extraordinarily wonderful occurrence. A three-strip Technicolor production making its way to Blu-ray, appearing to perfectly mimic the look of three-strip Technicolor – one of only seven that Warner released in 1948.

In this case, a Michael Curtiz directed slightly off-kilter comedy-musical starring Jack Carson, Janis Paige, Don DeFore, with assists from Oscar Levant and S.Z. Sakall. Dance numbers are directed by a guy named Berkeley.

Watching the Blu-ray, I was struck by how gorgeous it is, not that it shouldn’t be, as it’s a Warner Archive release, and derived from the original nitrate negatives. To me it looks as if someone has struck a brand new 35mm dye transfer print. It’s that good!

It also has a bit of a Daisy Clover thing going on, as it’s a huge production, pushing a studio’s newest starlet. In this case a 25 year-old singer named Doris Day. For those unaware, she worked in a mermaid costume in the ’60s.

Some interesting history: Apparently, the original plan was to borrow Betty Hutton from Paramount for the part of Georgia, which fell through when Hutton became pregnant. The picture was set to start shooting under the title “Romance in High C” (a song of which can be heard in the trailer). A mad scramble to find someone for the part was not going well. Seems that Styne and Cahn heard Miss Day sing Embraceable You at a Hollywood party and coaxed her to go to WB to sing for Curtiz the next day. She was hesitant, with no acting background. After years on the road with the Les Brown band, and being in a physically and mentally abusive marriage, she was ready to throw in the towel. She agreed to sing, but was so emotionally upset that she broke down during her test. Curtiz reassured her and told her that her emotional vulnerability gave her dimension and was warm and supportive. Screen tests followed and she was signed. Curtiz took personal interest in her career, and the picture was a hit. It’s Magic went to #2.

Day was signed by WB for a 7 year contract, and although Janis Paige was top-billed (97, still going by the way), she was flung into stardom. Of note are her songs with the Page Cavanaugh Trio with whom she recorded often, and they also appear with her in Lullaby of Broadway.

Many original reviews were far more favorable than Crowther, but I’ve not been able to pull them up. And it was The New York Times’s Bosley Crowther’s words that reminded me of the Astaire review.

In July of 1948, Crowther noted: “Maybe this bouncy young lady, who came directly from singing with bands to a leading role in that studio’s color musical,… has ability and personality. But as shown in this picture… she has no more than a vigorous disposition, which hits the screen with a thud.

“…it must also be acknowledged that Miss Day herself seems much inclined to a vicious catch-as-catch-can technique of wrestling with her material. She’s the brassy type, the jive-Joint cut-up—a sort of blonde Joan Davis, you might say—who calls people “schmoes” and “chooches” with reckless nonchalance. Maybe the Warners figured they had a new Betty Hutton in her but, even without other assets, she still lacks Miss Hutton’s vital style. Also Miss Day’s singing voice, while adequate to such night-club tunes as “I’m in Love,” “You or No One” and “It’s Magic,” is nothing to herald.”

If this was an accurate feeling back in 1948, the film plays far better today, seen through the fog of time and history.

So this one’s for Jack Carson (Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, A Star is Born), Don DeFore (The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet) fans. It’s a pleasant way to see them in action.

Anyone for some great Technicolor? Make no mistake, the final number is the red hot cherry on top of a Technicolor sundae.

Kudos to Warner Archive for returning to the Nitrate Originals!

Image – 5

Audio – 5

Pass / Fail – Pass

Upgrade from DVD – Don’t even ask

Highly Recommended

RAH

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Robert Harris

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Robert Harris

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WAS there a previous blu ray? How did it escape my attention?
No, there was not. It was a DVD. Corrected. Thank you! I'm enjoying a wonderful cabernet...
 

Robert Harris

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Wow! No sooner is this one announced then we already have a review for it! Now I'm REALLY looking forward to it!
I've been following this one. First release in ages, that truly looks like a newly imbibed dye transfer print.
 

Matt Hough

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Wasn't expecting it but am absolutely delighted. I rewatched it on TCM not that long ago, and I was struck by just how natural Doris was before the camera, and all of her songs are a tonic. "It's Magic" won her another gold record. And I'm not sure I wouldn't have chosen it for the Best Song Oscar over "Buttons and Bows."
 

Mark-P

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So I guess since this is a scan of the nitrate original negatives, it would be digitally recombined 3-strip Technicolor by whatever they are now calling the process and should have “ultra-resolution” results!
 
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Thanks for digging up that Bosley Crowther review. In total contrast to his reaction, what struck me watching the film was just how much of a screen natural Doris Day was. Similar to Julie Andrews in Mary Poppins, it's impossible to believe that it was her first film. But Julie Andrews had done extensive stage and television work when she made her film debut; Doris had neither. Apparently, the only "acting" she had done was a few radio skits with Bob Hope.

I can't wait to get this one.
 

Will Krupp

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Crowther always reads like he would benefit from some extra fiber in his diet. Seems as though he couldn't get over the fact that he was THE premiere reviewer for the NYT and never had a kind word for Joan Crawford either. 20 years later, his animus toward Doris hadn't abated, as he IS the one who infamously wrote about her in CAPRICE:

Miss Day? Well, let's just say of her that she appears to have reached that stage where massive wigs and nutty clothes and acrobatics cannot conceal the fact that she is no longer a boy.
Vicious. (Funny, but vicious)

Anyway, I couldn't be happier about this release OR about the fact that it looks so good. It even looked great on DVD but, as I have learned, that's not necessarily a guarantee that blu-ray will improve upon that. This is day one for me! Thanks!
 
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JoeDoakes

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Never thought I’d see a Doris Day compared to Joan Davis!
 

benbess

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Wow! With that great review from RAH I'm going to get this one!
 
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