Senior HTF Member
- Feb 20, 2001
- Livonia, MI USA
- Real Name
- Kenneth McAlinden
Warner Home Video Classic Holiday DVD Collection, Vol. 2
Blossoms in the Dust (1941)/It Happened on 5th Avenue (1947)/ Holiday Affair (1949)/All Mine to Give (1957)
|Studio: Warner Brothers|
Film Length: Various
Aspect Ratio: 4:3, 16:9
Subtitles: Eng SDH, French
Release Date: November 11, 2008
Following on the heels of the Warner Bros. Classic Holiday Collection, which has itself been repackaged, renamed as the Warner Home Video Classic Holiday DVD Collection, Vol. 1 and supplemented with an additional title (The Singing Nun) comes the Warner Home Video Classic Holiday DVD Collection, Vol. 2. This new release features four never before on DVD titles from Warner's MGM, Allied Artists, and RKO libraries with thematic ties to the Christmas season. Three out of the four titles are also available separately, but for some reason, Blossoms in the Dust, arguably the best known of the four titles, is exclusive to this box set collection.
Blossoms in the Dust (1941 – MGM - 99 minutes)Blossoms in the Dust is based on the true story of Edna Gladney (Garson). Coming from a well to do family in Wisconsin, Edna is swept off of her feet by charming Texas mill owner Sam Gladney (Pidgeon). They are married and move to Texas. The film details a series of personal tragedies that lead Edna along the path to becoming an advocate for orphans, including her founding of the Texas Children's Home and Aid Society in Fort Worth, Texas in the mid 1920s. She also becomes an active campaigner against the stigma of illegitimacy on Texas birth certificates, taking her case directly to the Texas legislature.
Directed By: Mervyn LeRoy
Starring: Greer Garson, Walter Pidgeon, Felix Bressart, Pat Barker
Mervyn LeRoy's Blossoms in the Dust is an old-fashioned melodrama, even by 1941 standards. Its roots in a true story of an inspirational woman prove strong enough to withstand a screenplay and lead performance from Garson that lay on the pathos extremely thickly in what seems like a bid for an Oscar nomination. Garson's best scenes are the ones she shares with Walter Pidgeon, and they would build on this chemistry even more successfully a year later in Mrs. Miniver. The designed for Technicolor sets are typical MGM eye candy which resulted in an Oscar for the Art Direction team headed by Cedric Gibbons.
The holiday connection for this film is the most tenuous of all of the titles in this collection, but it does achieve its dramatic conclusion over the course of a Christmas night.
It Happened on Fifth Avenue (1947 – Allied Artists - 116 minutes)It Happened on Fifth Avenue is a holiday-set farce that follows the exploits of a series of interesting homeless characters who all find themselves living in the boarded up swanky Manhattan brownstone of millionaire Michael O'Connor (Ruggles). Hobo savant Aloysius T. McKeever (Moore) has been regularly wintering at the O'Connor estate for several years, moving in whenever the snowbird millionaire boards up his house and moves south. He sympathetically offers to share, if not fully explain, his arrangement with recently evicted ex-GI Jim Bullock (DeFore). They are both surprised when O'Connor's daughter, Mary (Storm), AWOL from college, discovers them in her house. Mary recognizes the squatters as harmless, falls for Jim, and decides not to let on who she really is. Events are further complicated when Jim invites a couple of his former Army pals and their families who are feeling the effects of the housing crunch to stay with them, Mary convinces both of her estranged millionaire parents to move in and pretend they are indigent, and Michael discovers that his company is bidding against Jim and his GI buddies to purchase an old barracks to turn it into a residence for veterans.
Directed By: Roy Del Ruth
Starring: Don DeFore, Ann Harding, Charles Ruggles, Victor Moore, Gale Storm, Grant Mitchell, Edward Brophy, Alan Hale Jr., Dorothea Kent, Edward Ryan, Jr., Cathy Carter
If there are two things for which I am a grade "A" sucker, they are class warfare farces and the comic character actors of Hollywood's golden age. This film, with which I was unfamiliar before this viewing, touches on both by casting Victor Moore as the hobo with expensive tastes at the center of a farcical storm in a millionaire's 5th Avenue mansion. The post World War II housing crisis has never been so much fun. Don DeFore, who sometimes would stumble in traditional leading man roles, is perfectly suited for his idealistic if slightly naive character in this film. Charles Ruggles also gives an interesting turn as the blustery millionaire who undergoes a change of heart that is cleverly underplayed. My fondness for classic Hollywood character actors is further satisfied by the presence of Edward Brophy in the small but memorable role of a police officer in two scenes.
Director Roy Del Ruth had a long career at both MGM and Warner, but this was his first foray into producing his own films outside of the majors. He seems to revel in the freedom although perhaps a bit too much at times. An effective farce needs to continuously build until its payoff, and It Happened on Fifth Avenue tends to spin its wheels quite a bit in the middle section. That being said, Del Ruth takes chances that he might not have gotten at a big studio with interesting results. One such example is a scene in a restaurant that advances the romantic plot between DeFore and Storm in the midst of some borderline surrealist slapstick from a waiter. During this scene, Del Ruth twice violates the editorial rule about not breaking the imaginary line between two characters, switching to a reverse angle mid-conversation to comic effect in what would have otherwise been a fairly dull scene.
Despite the lag in the middle, It Happened on Fifth Avenue blends a warm but not too sappy message into an amusing farce with likable characters.
A Holiday Affair (1949 – RKO – 87 minutes)A Holiday Affair stars Janet Leigh as New York war widow and mother Connie Ennis. She tends to her young son, Timmy (Gebert), while working as a comparison shopper for a Manhattan department store. When shortly before Christmas, clerk Steve Mason (Mitchum) catches her comparison shopping in the Crowley's toy department, he refuses to turn her in for it and loses his job as a result. Far from upset, Steve uses the occasion to treat Connie to lunch at his favorite New York restaurant, a hot dog stand near the seal exhibit in Central Park. Steve and Connie seem to connect despite some prickly conversations, and Steve even manages to charm young Timmy. The problem is, Connie is already engaged to affectionate and dependable lawyer Carl Davis (Corey).
Directed By: Don Hartman
Starring: Robert Mitchum, Janet Leigh, Wendell Corey, Gordon Gebert, Griff Barnett, Esther Dale, Henry O'Neill, Harry Morgan
A Holiday Affair is an extremely enjoyable romantic comedy that makes the most of its perfectly cast stars. Mitchum plays Steve as an intriguing combination of laid back and determined. Leigh, in one of her earliest leading roles, plays Connie as an understandably cautious single mom and believably conveys just the right amount of subtextual attraction to Mitchum to make the film's plot work. Even Wendell Corey in the traditionally thankless "Ralph Bellamy" role hits all of the right notes to keep viewers at least mildly doubtful as to whether the conclusion they expect is in the works.
All Mine to Give (1957 – RKO – 100 minutes)All Mine to Give, based on the true story of the father and grandparents of author/screenwriter Dale Eunson, follows the experience of Scottish immigrants Mamie (Johns) and Robert (Mitchell) Eunson beginning with their arrival in Wisconsin in the mid nineteenth century. Despite initial hardships, they eventually establish a stable home with Robert working hard as a lumberjack and boat builder and Mamie tending to their six children. Multiple bouts of illness result in the family facing tragedy, and at the age of twelve, eldest son Robbie (Thompson) accepts a monumental responsibility from his mother. He is able to accomplish this task on a single Christmas Day through the steady perseverance he has learned from his pioneering parents and the gracious Christmas spirit of his neighbors.
Directed By: Allen Reisner
Starring: Glynis Johns, Cameron Mitchell, Rex Thompson, Patty McCormack, Ernest Truex, Hope Emerson, Alan Hale Jr., Sylvia Field, Royal Dano, Reta Shaw
All Mine to Give is a somewhat overlooked film, probably due to having a director more known for his television work than for theatrical films and to being released while RKO studios were in the midst of their death throes. It is wonderful to see it finally get released on DVD which will hopefully raise its profile. The first half of the film plays like a standard frontier family saga which succeeds; as such tales must, due to the likability of its protagonists. Mitchell and Johns carry the film through these sequences. Mitchell plays Robert as a hot-headed but affectionate Scotsman who is humbled by his circumstances and unbowed in his determination to transcend them. He even gets one of those standard-issue Hollywood brawls with his lumberjack supervisor (played by Alan Hale Jr. in exactly the way that his father would play such roles) that inevitably conclude with the men becoming fast friends with a newfound respect for each other. Johns plays the dutiful spouse who is equally devoted to her family and determined to pursue a better life, inclusive of an education, for her children.
As things get progressively darker, familiar melodramatic elements are introduced. Normally averse to such things, I was surprised by how affecting I found them in this case. The film's final half hour is staged and played in a very matter of fact manner. It avoids the phoniness normally inherent to such sentimental fare largely due to a wonderful performance from juvenile actor Rex Thompson. The film concludes on an effectively emotional note that hits the viewer in the gut, but does not even begin to get preachy.
The VideoBlossoms in the Dust, originally produced in three-strip Technicolor, is presented appropriately in 4:3 video. The element used for transfer appears to have been in rough shape with faded inconsistent color, sporadically poor registration, high contrast, and excessive grain. It is presented on DVD with decent compression and few if any video artifacts.
It Happened on Fifth Avenue fares a bit better. It is presented appropriately in 4:3 black and white video (Note: the DVD case for this title indicates that it is in color, but this is a mis-print.) Sharpness and contrast are generally pretty good, but there are multiple instances where film damage has forced the use of "dupe" sections with noticeably reduced detail and increased grain and contrast. There are also a few instances of dropped frames. Compression is decent and high contrast edge ringing is minimal to non-existent.
A Holiday Affair is perhaps the worst looking of the bunch as its 4:3 black and white transfer looks not unlike the dupe sections of It Happened on Fifth Avenue for its entire running time and shows even heavier signs of print wear and tear. It also is not flagged for progressive playback. My DVD player properly adjusted for this so I did not get combing artifacts, but some players may have to be manually adjusted into video mode to avoid such artifacts.
All Mine to Give is presented with a color transfer that fills the entire 16:9 enhanced frame. This is the best video presentation of this collection with solid color and detail, although it does have a few unusual artifacts. There are high contrast edge halos during some of the optical process shots early in the film that appear to be a film processing issue rather than video realm edge enhancement. Shadow detail is a little "plugged up", and I noticed occasional artifacts in dark areas of the screen, possibly a result of compression limitations and contrast manipulation.
The AudioAll films are presented with Dolby Digital 1.0 mono tracks. All Mine to Give is the best of the bunch with minimal noise and good fidelity. As with the video, the sound for A Holiday Affair is in pretty rough shape with a restricted frequency range and substantial noise. It Happened on Fifth Avenue carries a bit more optical "crackle" than Blossoms in the Dust, but they are both acceptable presentations.
ExtrasThe only extra is a theatrical trailer for Blossoms in the Dust.
PackagingEach film is packaged in a standard Amaray case with cover art derived from vintage promotional art. The hard cases are in turn collected in a thin cardboard box with snowflake and ornament themed graphics. Disc authoring is minimalist, with each film only having two menu screens, one for the main menu and one for subtitle options. The films are chapter encoded, but there is no menu-based chapter navigation. All titles are on single layered "DVD-5s" except for Blossoms in the Dust which is on a dual-layered "DVD-9".
SummaryAlong with the expected Holiday repackagings of perennial hits like A Christmas Story and The Polar Express Warner Bros. have dug a bit deeper into their vaults to present four lesser-known but worthy Holiday-themed titles for the Warner Home Video Classic Holiday DVD Collection, Vol. 2. Unfortunately, whether due to film element limitations of inattention in the video domain, Blossoms in the Dust and A Holiday Affair have below average presentations. It Happened on Fifth Avenue and All Mine to Give fare much better in their transfers to disc. All four titles are presented on "bare bones" discs with the only extra consisting of a trailer for Blossoms in the Dust.