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Robert Harris

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Based upon the Broadway musical, M-G-M released a gorgeously Technicolored version of Du Barry Was a Lady in April of 1943.

Eighty years later, Warner Archive has dusted off the original three-strip negatives, and stamped them to tiny discs.

And the results are breathtaking.

Directed by Roy Del Ruth
Photographed by Karl Freund
Songs by Cole Porter
Produced by Arthur Freed

And the cast:

Red Skelton, Lucille Ball, Gene Kelly, Virginia O'Brien, a very young Zero Mostel, appearing in his first film, Leave it to Beaver's Hugh Beaumont, silent screen star Barbara Bedford, and Ava Gardner in her penultimate, uncredited bit part.

I'll not bore you by describing the Technicolor, other than to note than it can be scooped off the screen and savored.

Another wonderful Technicolor M-G-M musical, courtesy of Warner Archive.

Image – 5

Audio – 5

Pass / Fail – Pass

Plays nicely with projectors - Yes

Worth your attention - 8

Upgrade from DVD - Yes!

Slipcover rating - n/a

Highly Recommended

RAH


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bujaki

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I wish it had starred Red SHelton instead of the other Red (whose name I can't even make myself spell); and that it had retained more of Porter.
And yet, of course I'll buy it, if only for Barbara Bedford and Ava Gardner in Technicolor.
 

Rob W

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This was one of the very first VHS tapes I ever purchased ( a blind buy because it had both Red Skelton & Lucille Ball ) and I remember being massively disappointed in it. Haven't seen it in decades, but your praise for state of-the-art transfers like this usually results in a buy for me. I'll have to think long and hard on this one...
 

Josh Steinberg

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This was one of the very first VHS tapes I ever purchased ( a blind buy because it had both Red Skelton & Lucille Ball ) and I remember being massively disappointed in it.

That was my response to it the first time I saw it as well. Unfortunately, the second time was not any better for me, which is a shame because on paper, it should be great. I have a DVD copy nonetheless but on I’m hesitant to grab a copy of the BD - I’m sure it’ll blow the DVD out of the water but I’d be paying more attention to the technical merits than the story.
 

Robert Harris

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I wish it had starred Red SHelton instead of the other Red (whose name I can't even make myself spell); and that it had retained more of Porter.
And yet, of course I'll buy it, if only for Barbara Bedford and Ava Gardner in Technicolor.
His pseudonym. Or Audo-Kerr et,
 

Robert Harris

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That was my response to it the first time I saw it as well. Unfortunately, the second time was not any better for me, which is a shame because on paper, it should be great. I have a DVD copy nonetheless but on I’m hesitant to grab a copy of the BD - I’m sure it’ll blow the DVD out of the water but I’d be paying more attention to the technical merits than the story.
Watching the Technicolor on this film, I never looked for a story. But I’m someone who can go to a film in a theater, and be more aware of the lenses and grain structure than story details.

There is a story here. I’m certain. I believe it may be a spin on the final show in Bob Newhart’s second series.

Something about getting hit in the head with a golf ball.
 

Josh Steinberg

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But I’m someone who can go to a film in a theater, and be more aware of the lenses and grain structure than story details.

Same. The question is always, with finite resources and time, how often should I be doing that? :)
 

Robert Harris

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Same. The question is always, with finite resources and time, how often should I be doing that? :)
To put M-G-M Technicolor in perspective - between 1938 and 1943, they made 12 films.

Warner Archive is slowly moving through their library of M-G-M, WB and RKO Technicolor features. The expense is enormous. If you’re going to support any film that may not fit into your “must have” category, I’d go for blazing Technicolor and in doing so help Warner Archive to support film preservation.

As things wound down in 1954, they produced only three, including The Last Time I Saw Paris.

And with that comment he stepped down from the soap box.

I generally purchase Technicolor and silents to support restoration. I purchased The Three Musketeers w/o reviews, and was thrilled with what had been done to it.
 
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Colin Jacobson

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This was one of the very first VHS tapes I ever purchased ( a blind buy because it had both Red Skelton & Lucille Ball ) and I remember being massively disappointed in it. Haven't seen it in decades, but your praise for state of-the-art transfers like this usually results in a buy for me. I'll have to think long and hard on this one...

That was my response to it the first time I saw it as well. Unfortunately, the second time was not any better for me, which is a shame because on paper, it should be great. I have a DVD copy nonetheless but on I’m hesitant to grab a copy of the BD - I’m sure it’ll blow the DVD out of the water but I’d be paying more attention to the technical merits than the story.

Watched this today and found it offered a paper thin story and superficial characters.

It's a bunch of gratuitous musical sequences cobbled together by a loose narrative.

Ball seems miscast, as I think May needs to be much sexier than Lucy could muster. Makes little sense Louis moons over her, especially when the much hotter Virginia O'Brien throws herself at her!

Weird little movie. Funny enough at times to be watchable - Mostel is a hoot - but it really doesn't turn into a coherent story, and the big fantasy segment is completely superfluous.

I've certainly seen worse movies but it's less a movie and more a compilation of musical numbers and jokes.
 

lark144

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Yeah, like that delicious dish, Ethel Merman! :P
(and in the stage show, the cigarette girl was Betty Grable!)
Actually, in "We're Not Dressing" I find Ms. Merman kind of sexy, as she reminds me of the young Bette Midler, sassy and bold, but then, my taste is not exactly mainstream. And compared to Betty Grable...
 

Will Krupp

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Actually, in "We're Not Dressing" I find Ms. Merman kind of sexy, as she reminds me of the young Bette Midler, sassy and bold, but then, my taste is not exactly mainstream. And compared to Betty Grable...

In all seriousness, my aim wasn't to denigrate the charms of Miss Merman (honest!) but to point out that, if there is an obvious flaw in Lucy's portrayal, it's not based on a lack of sex appeal. I personally find that Lucy, ironically enough, just isn't all that much fun as May. Maybe it's because she's nervous making her MGM debut, but when she isn't mugging for the camera ("Crepes Suzette?" UGH!), she plays her too "straight" and it doesn't work.

In fact, I will go so far as to say that virtually nothing works in this movie. Arthur Freed was handed a smash Broadway hit that was, frankly, too dirty to adapt in 1942 without a major overhaul. It's shorn of almost all of its Porter score and, without the people pleasing chemistry of Lahr, Merman, and Grable (who finally became an overnight star on Broadway after thanklessly toiling for nearly 10 years in the movies) the show takes on a vulgar "everything but the kitchen sink" mentality with a parade of specialty numbers that destroy the charm and any cohesion the Broadway show must have had. It's a cynical adaptation and I've always found it big, boisterous, and generally awful.

That being said, I wouldn't miss having a beautiful blu-ray of it in my collection. How's that for a mixed message?
 
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Colin Jacobson

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Yeah, like that delicious dish, Ethel Merman! :P
(and in the stage show, the cigarette girl was Betty Grable!)

Wait - Merman played May on stage???

Yer right - that's worse in terms of "sexy babe" casting than Lucy! :oops:

And Lucy actually looks pretty good in "Lady" - she just doesn't look Every Man Wants Her good, which is what she's supposed to be.
 

Colin Jacobson

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In all seriousness, my aim wasn't to denigrate the charms of Miss Merman (honest!) but to point out that, if there is an obvious flaw in Lucy's portrayal, it's not based on a lack of sex appeal. I personally find that Lucy, ironically enough, just isn't all that much fun as May. Maybe it's because she's nervous making her MGM debut, but when she isn't mugging for the camera ("Crepes Suzette?" UGH!), she plays her too "straight" and it doesn't work.

Yeah, Lucy offers almost no comedic material in "Lady", which makes one wonder why they cast her.

Especially because they didn't need her singing voice - someone else dubbed her 1st song.

Again, Lucy's attractive in the movie, but she just doesn't make the role so magnetic that it makes sense all the guys lust after her, and she doesn't make May charming or especially likable either.
 

lark144

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In all seriousness, my aim wasn't to denigrate the charms of Miss Merman (honest!) but to point out that, if there is an obvious flaw in Lucy's portrayal, it's not based on a lack of sex appeal. I personally find that Lucy, ironically enough, just isn't all that much fun as May. Maybe it's because she's nervous making her MGM debut, but when she isn't mugging for the camera ("Crepes Suzette?" UGH!), she plays her too "straight" and it doesn't work.

In fact, I will go so far as to say that virtually nothing works in this movie. Arthur Freed was handed a smash Broadway hit that was, frankly, too dirty to adapt in 1942 without a major overhaul. It's shorn of almost all of its Porter score and, without the people pleasing chemistry of Lahr, Merman, and Grable (who finally became an overnight star on Broadway after thanklessly toiling for nearly 10 years in the movies) the show takes on a vulgar "everything but the kitchen sink" mentality with a parade of specialty numbers that destroy the charm and any cohesion the Broadway show must have had. It's a cynical adaptation and I've always found it big, boisterous, and generally awful.

That being said, I wouldn't miss having a beautiful blu-ray of it in my collection. How's that for a mixed message?
Will, as always, your knowledge and innate sense of humor is much appreciated. Believe it or not, I've never seen this movie. I was thinking of getting it, but your comments have given me pause. I've always thought Red Skelton seriously unfunny (especially compared to Bert Lahr)--though Bowsley Crother, that estimable film critic for the NY Times, who wrote after seeing Romance on the High Seas that Doris Day should consider getting another job other than motion pictures, loved Skelton, and praised the film of Du Barry was a Lady to the skies, even apparently adoring Lucille Ball's dubbing. Oh, well, those were different times, as Lou Reed sings in "Sweet Jane". But then, there's Karl Freund's three-strip Technicolor lensing, something I also consider essential, as I'm also collecting all the MGM three-strip films, hence your mixed message.
 

Will Krupp

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she doesn't make May charming or especially likable either.

You've hit it. THAT'S the point I was trying (however in-elegantly) to make! You have to like the characters in this type of farce and Merman could always bring charm and a sense of likability to any role she played. Hell, she's so likable that she even made us not realize that Mama Rose is a certified psychopath.

Lucy's May is neither charming nor likable and that's the issue. Lucy came to MGM in 1942 and, not knowing what to do with her, they parked her with the Freed Unit for a few years (a woman who couldn't sing, mind you) to decorate their Technicolor musicals. I've always thought she fared much better with Best Foot Forward, her sophomore outing.
 

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