DVD Review HTF REVIEW: Easter Parade - Two Disc Special Edition (HIGHLY RECOMMENDED).

Discussion in 'DVD' started by Herb Kane, Mar 13, 2005.

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  1. Herb Kane

    Herb Kane Screenwriter

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    [​IMG]
    Easter Parade
    Two Disc Special Edition





    Studio: Warner Brothers
    Year: 1948
    Rated: Not Rated
    Film Length: 103 Minutes
    Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1 Standard
    Audio: DD Mono
    Color/B&W: Color
    Languages: English & French
    Subtitles: English, French & Spanish
    MSRP: $26.99
    Package: Two discs in a double Keepcase with cardboard slipcover





    The Feature:
    The next wave of Warner classics is sure to keep fans of the gone but not forgotten musical genre, very happy indeed. They are about to release The Classic Musicals Collection - Broadway to Hollywood which will contain the following films: Easter Parade (1948) and The Band Wagon (1953) - both as Two Disc Special Editions, as well as single disc versions of Bells Are Ringing (1960), Finian's Rainbow (1968) and Brigadoon (1954). The boxed set lists for $59.92, while the Special Editions and single disc versions are $26.99 and $19.97 respectively.

    Don Hewes (played by Fred Astaire) is half of a top Broadway dance team whose polished and somewhat conceited partner Nadine Hale (played by Ann Miller) decides to leave the duo with the intention of making it big on her own. Though he is unwilling to show his true feelings, Don is disappointed not only for professional reasons, but it would appear his true feelings for Nadine are deeper than he is willing to admit. Nadine seems to have lost interest in her dance partner and has become smitten on Don’s longtime friend, Jonathan Harrow (played by Peter Lawford) however her feelings aren’t necessarily reciprocated. In an attempt to get the act back on track, Don discovers an unknown nightclub dancer Hannah Brown (played by Judy Garland) and grooms her as Nadine’s replacement.

    Though the transition isn’t an easy one, Hannah eventually learns the act and soon the new duo are making a name for themselves. As the film progresses, so to, do a number of personal feelings and intertwining relationships. While Don secretly pines away for Nadine, her feelings for Jonathon are on the rise. Jonathon however, isn’t even remotely interested in Nadine but has fallen for Don’s new dancing partner Hannah. Soon after however, Hannah realizes there is more to Don than a pair of dancing shoes and she too falls fall her dancing partner.

    [​IMG]

    As he had done several times in the past, Fred Astaire had announced his retirement just before the production of Easter Parade. Coincidently, Judy Garland's only pairing with Fred Astaire came about almost by accident. In 1946 songwriter Irving Berlin first approached 20th Century Fox about making Easter Parade and to build the film around a catalog of his songs, as well as new songs he would write specifically for the film. However, they balked at his request for $600,000 plus a percentage of the film's profits. Longtime MGM musicals producer Arthur Freed jumped at the chance to do a film with Berlin and with a quick pre-approval of Berlin's money request from the shrewd MGM Studio Head Louis B. Mayer, Freed began pre-production on Easter Parade utilizing all the talents of his famous "Freed Unit".

    Frances Goodrich and Albert Hackett wrote the script for Easter Parade. They had recently completed the script for The Pirate, which was currently in production starring Judy Garland and Gene Kelly. The Pirate's director, Vincente Minnelli, was initially assigned as director for Easter Parade. MGM musical arranger Roger Edens began the process of going through Berlin's song catalog and chose a number of songs that best suited the story and stars, while Berlin began writing the new songs for the film. Easter Parade was slated as MGM's next big musical production, to star Judy Garland, Gene Kelly, Frank Sinatra, Kathryn Grayson, and Red Skelton.

    Judy Garland was by far MGM's biggest and most bankable musical star and was the logical choice to star in the film. But as production got under way in the fall of 1947, a series of set-backs would force a number of changes to the initial all-star lineup. On September 18th, 1947, director Vincente Minnelli was taken off the film and replaced with Charles Walters. Minnelli was married to Garland at this time and their working together was not only frowned upon but suggested that it might not be in their best interest - not only for professional reasons but for personal ones as well. A month later Gene Kelly broke his ankle and suggested to Louis B. Mayer that he should call Fred Astaire, a call which resulted in a ten year association between Astaire and MGM. Cyd Charisse was slated to play Astaire's ex-dancing partner Nadine but an injury also forced her removal from the film and was subsequently replaced by Ann Miller.

    Sidney Sheldon was brought in to make a number of changes to the script. The story is a slight departure from the average MGM musical fare of the day in that, although it's about musical performers, the story is centered around the love lives of the principal characters. In this case not just two or three, but four people whose lives are intertwined romantically. The dialog is crisp and convincing, and a definite improvement over most musicals. It's this storyline, sprinkled with the parade of one musical showstopper after another, that keeps the audience’s attention and makes Easter Parade one of the greatest of all MGM Musicals.

    Easter Parade was completed on March 12th, 1948 and would go on to become MGM's biggest hit of 1948 and was the last big-budget MGM musical Garland would make for the studio. Her films after Easter Parade, while all huge hits at the box office and with the public, were of a smaller scale and were produced not by the Freed Unit (where most of the big budget MGM musicals were made) but by the Joe Pasternak Unit, a unit known for making reliable small budget musicals.

    With the pairing of Garland & Astaire such a success, MGM immediately planned to team them again in The Barkleys Of Broadway, written by the witty husband and wife team of Betty Comden & Adolph Green. However, after the physical and emotional strain caused by the production of The Pirate, Easter Parade, and her guest appearance in Words & Music she was unable to complete the high profile production and was replaced by Ginger Rogers and eventually put on suspension by the studio. MGM tried to team Garland with Astaire again, this time for Royal Wedding (1951) but she still wasn't up to the task.

    There are a number of terrific songs used throughout the film including: Happy Easter, Drum Crazy, It Only Happens When I Dance With You, I Want To Go Back To Michigan (Down On the Farm), A Fella With An Umbrella, I Love a Piano, Snookey Ookums, The Ragtime Violin, When the Midnight Choo-Choo Leaves for Alabam', Shaking the Blues Away, Steppin' Out With My Baby, Mister Monotony, A Couple of Swells, The Girl on the Magazine Cover, Better Luck Next Time and Easter Parade. The film also won an Academy Award for Best Scoring of a Musical Picture (Johnny Green & Roger Edens).

    [​IMG]

    NOTE: It would appear the Two Disc SE is only available in the U.S. For those in Canada (or those interested in importing from Canada), the single disc version does not contain the "Judy Garland Trailer Gallery" or more importantly, the "Judy Garland Documentary: By Myself". See this thread for more info.

    The Feature: 4.5/5
    [​IMG][​IMG][​IMG][​IMG][​IMG]



    Video:
    Easter Parade is yet another Technicolor classic to undergo Warner's proprietary “Ultra Resolution” process. Although I was impressed with The Band Wagon, I feel Easter Parade is even slightly more impressive. Described by the studio as:

    Warner Bros. introduced this process with the release of Singin’ in the Rain in the fall of 2002 followed by The Adventures of Robin Hood, Meet Me in St Louis and most recently, Gone with the Wind. More than seventy years after the introduction of Technicolor, Warner Bros. Studios is employing the "Ultra-Resolution" process that begins with scanning the original Technicolor 3-strip black and white ‘records’ at extremely high resolution. The black and white records are then combined electronically to create the color images, which are also electronically re-registered, steadied and cleaned before the final DVDs are produced.

    Typical with other UR projects, the colors jumped from the screen. The colors just simply couldn't look any more vibrant with an absolutely perfect level of saturation. Typically with many of the 3-strip Technicolor films, color is slightly on the exaggerated side with skin tones looking slightly red. In terms of colors this is really impressive.

    Black levels were exceptionally deep and dark, while whites just couldn’t be any cleaner or crisper nor did they ever appear to be overblown or washed out. The levels of contrast and shadow detail were absolutely perfect.

    This is where the film differs from The Band Wagon; image detail. While the level of image definition on The Band Wagon is very good (only slightly soft), the definition on Easter Parade is clearly sharper. There was only a minimal amount of fine film grain present throughout which offered a fine looking film-like image with a pleasing amount of depth and dimensionality.

    The print appeared to be virtually immaculate and free of any dust or dirt or any other bothersome blemishes. There was virtually no light speckle or video noise whatsoever. Also slightly superior looking to The Band Wagon is an image that is slightly more stable assuming the registration turned out a hair better. Compression was handled to perfection and there were no issues relating to haloing caused by edge enhancement.

    Just to be clear, my comparisons and observations to The Band Wagon are just that. The Band Wagon is also an amazing effort and except for some nitpicking on my part is equally impressive. A fantastic job Warner! Perfect score.

    Video: 5/5
    [​IMG][​IMG][​IMG][​IMG][​IMG]



    Audio:
    Unlike the soon-to-be released Special Edition of The Band Wagon, this set doesn't come with a remixed 5.1 track and the only track featured is the original monaural track, which for the most part is quite effective.

    The track basically performed flawlessly but it was somewhat limited. There was a very slight amount of hiss noticeable throughout the film but the track sounded mostly clean and natural. Dialogue was always clear and exceptionally bold. Let's face it; Judy had a pretty hearty voice. Some of the (her) musical numbers seemed slightly strained but I would assume this transfer is representative of the original recordings. The musical numbers themselves, sounded terrific.

    There is very little to speak of in terms of dynamics but the track is more than capable.

    Audio: 4/5
    [​IMG][​IMG][​IMG][​IMG]



    Special Features:
    Typical of Warner’s Two Disc Special Editions, Easter Parade comes with a host of terrific supplements to complement this classic musical. While the bulk of the features are housed on disc two, disc one contains the following:
    [*] Commentary By Ava Astaire McKenzie and John Fricke is fantastic which features Fred’s daughter as well as the renowned Judy Garland biographer. Obviously, much of the history and production information is provided by Fricke while Ava’s comments are more along the lines of personal recollections. They work well together and provide a delightful balance of hard facts and information on more of a personal level. Discussed are a number of items relating to the production of the film such as the various musical numbers (which are kept screen specific), the various problems and obstacles the film endured resulting in numerous casting changes and lots of bio trivia relating to the various cast members. I’m not a huge fan of commentaries but I was impressed with this one. Mr. Fricke’s enthusiasm is contagious.
    [*] Up next is a Judy Garland Trailer Gallery which contains 12 trailers. They are:

    - Love Finds Andy Hardy (1938) – (2:59)
    - The Wizard Of Oz (1939) – (1:41)
    - Ziegfeld Girl (1941) – (3:55)
    - For Me And My Gal (1942) – (2:12)
    - Meet Me In St. Louis (1944) – (1:42)
    - The Harvey Girls (1946) – (2:52)
    - Ziegfeld Follies (1946) – (2:32)
    - Till The Clouds Roll By (1946) – (4:21)
    - The Pirate (1948) – (2:23)
    - Easter Parade (1948) - (1:56)
    - In The Good Old Summertime (1948) – (3:03)
    - A Star Is Born (1954) – (3:54)

    All of the trailers are in very good shape and again, as good as Easter Parade looks here, the results after the UR process of the film should make us appreciate the efforts even more.


    Disc Two:
    [*] Easter Parade: On The Avenue is a documentary on the making-of the film. Highlights include the involvement of musical master Irving Berlin, the "Freed Unit", the reasons behind the numerous casting changes, the production schedule, and cast bios. Those who appear include: Garland biographer John Fricke, writer Sidney Sheldon, Ava Astaire McKenzie, the late Ann Miller (from footage that appeared to be fairly recent) and Jimmy Bates (the young boy who acted next to Fred in the "Drum Solo" number) who recounts a touching story regarding the generosity of Mr. Astaire. Also included are a number of old stills and footage of the MGM backlot. Mr. Fricke unleashes a wealth of information and his delivery is enthusiastically engaging. Great job. Duration: 34:20 minutes.
    [*] American Masters: Judy Garland – By Myself is a magnificent full length documentary on the legendary star. Although Garland made numerous attempts at an autobiography, it was a project that would never see completion. She did however make many notes and audio recordings which are the focus of this special feature. As the feature starts it's rather funny as Judy states, "I don't know if anyone is interested, but I am..." It's also uncanny (to a point of being eerie) how much Liza wound up sounding like her mother. A number of Judy's films are highlighted and the entire career and personal life of the troubled actor/singer is discussed in great detail. **As noted earlier in the review, this feature does not appear on the single disc of the Canadian version so if you're interested in this feature (and you should be), you'll need to seek this out from the U.S.** An incredibly informative special feature. Duration: 116:05 minutes.
    [*] Mr. Monotony – Outtake is an interesting little feature which contains a number of takes of the musical number from varying starting points and variations of Judy’s moves as well a differing camera angles. At the end of their day, I could see why some of these performers would have loathed certain numbers after doing them over and over and… Great stuff. Duration: 21:16 minutes.
    [*] And finally, the Audio Vault feature is comprised of two sections. The first, is a "Radio Promo" (4:25) for the film which features Fred Astaire who talks about his proposed retirement as well as his new project of dancing schools. The second is a "Screen Guild Radio Broadcast" which aired 3/11/1951 (53:57).

    Special Features: 5/5
    [​IMG][​IMG][​IMG][​IMG][​IMG]

    **Special Features rated for the quality of supplements, not the quantity**



    Final Thoughts:
    Unlike many of the lavish musicals of the period, Easter Parade is different in that it veers into somewhat uncharted territory focusing on the relationships of four of its stars. There are a number of magnificent and memorable musical and dance numbers, none greater than Fred's brilliant solo in the "Drum Crazy" number and his "Steppin’ Out With My Baby" number is also a notable must with its accomplished slow-motion effects. The infamous comedy duet with Judy and Fred in "A Couple of Swells", which they play a couple of disheveled tramps, is also instantly recognizable. Ann Miller's lightning tap-dancing is also magnificently showcased in her solo "Shakin' the Blues Away", arguably the finest performance of her career. Finally (and perhaps my favorite), watch for Jules Munshin’s cameo as Francois, the Head Waiter and his tossed salad routine – it is priceless.

    Needless to say the presentation on this disc is astounding and I enjoyed the video portion even slightly better than The Band Wagon. Not only is the presentation top notch, but the special features are highly informative. The Garland documentary is a must-have and fans really should seek this out from a U.S. retailer. This is a must, not only for fans of musicals, but for fans of classic film in general.

    Overall Rating: 4.5/5 (not an average)
    [​IMG][​IMG][​IMG][​IMG][​IMG]

    Highly Recommended…!!!



    Release Date: March 15th, 2005
     
  2. Dane Marvin

    Dane Marvin Screenwriter

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    Awesome review again, Herb. You've certainly convinced me to pick up both this and The Band Wagon on Tuesday. I'm a sucker for Technicolor films (especially with the UR treatment) and for these extras-heavy discs from the best studio around. Both will be blind buys, I'm happy to say!
     
  3. Robert Crawford

    Robert Crawford Moderator
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    [​IMG] I concur with your review, what a great dvd.





    Crawdaddy
     
  4. ScottR

    ScottR Cinematographer

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    This is one of my Top Ten favorite films....I can't wait!
     
  5. Brendon

    Brendon Second Unit

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    Another excellent review Herb!
     
  6. Andrew Budgell

    Andrew Budgell Screenwriter

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    Great review as usual, Herb! Along with Brigadoon, I have ordered this DVD from an American retailer, and look forward to watching it on Easter!

    Andy
     
  7. Jeffrey Nelson

    Jeffrey Nelson Screenwriter

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    Great review of an apparently flawless DVD of (IMNSHO) the finest Hollywood musical in film history. I absolutely can't wait to pick this up. I've seen this zillions of times over the years; I first saw it as a lad of 13 back in 1981, when we picked it up on RCA Selectavision CED Videodisc. My favorite musical number of all time is Drum Crazy.

    One story hole that I've noticed (minor spoiler):


    When Johnny runs into Esther for the second time and sets up a date for that night, he tells her he'll fix it with Don, as, according to Esther, she and Don already had plans for the evening. Later, when Johnny shows up to get Esther, Don doesn't know anything about it, is surprised, visibly disappointed, and tells them to go ahead. Johnny never says anything regarding his forgetting to tell Don. Oops!
     
  8. Jefferson

    Jefferson Supporting Actor

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    Mine is on its way to me now.
    I cant wait to see the extras.

    As always, it is a treat when the classics are given such
    care and lavish treatment.

    This is a fun film through and through...perhaps not the total classic that MEET ME IN ST LOUIS is script-wise, but most enjoyable, and the musical numbers are incredible.

    "happy easter to you", indeed.
    [​IMG]
     
  9. DaveK

    DaveK Second Unit

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    Did the Mr. Monotony number go through Ultra Resolution treatment, because it looks fantastic.
     
  10. Mike Frezon

    Mike Frezon Moderator
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    Thanks, Herb! Picked mine up at Target last night! $15.99!!! What a great price! Would've picked up Band Wagon if it was the saem price.

    Funny, but I went through the same thing with Bringing Up Baby & Philadelphia Story. Wanted both...but also would have passed on both. But picked up Bringing Up Baby because of a $15.99 price at Target but left Philadelphia Story on the shelf at $19.99 I hope to run into both PA Story and Band Wagon on a sale some time.

    It really is stunning that these great flicks are being restored so beautifully and sold so cheaply. [​IMG] WB!
     
  11. DaveK

    DaveK Second Unit

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    Frank Sinatra, Kathryn Grayson, and Red Skelton???

    Herb, where did you get this information, and what made MGM change their minds to not star them in the movie?

    Kathryn Grayson huh??? LOL
     
  12. DaViD Boulet

    DaViD Boulet Lead Actor

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    Can't wait to pick this up. Great review as usual Herb. And WOW...what gorgeous screen-captures!!!

    Where are you hosting? Room for any more images...maybe from a fellow reviewer (grin)?

    -dave [​IMG]
     
  13. David Von Pein

    David Von Pein Producer

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    Holy cow! This PQ is incredible!
    You can almost reach out and touch Judy. Amazing! [​IMG]

    [​IMG]
     
  14. DaveK

    DaveK Second Unit

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    I know.....when I saw the pic, I knew it would be worth the money to buy this. It's one of my favorite movies of all time, and I received it....before Easter...lol
     
  15. Herb Kane

    Herb Kane Screenwriter

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    Dave,

    I'm allotted so much with my cable provider - I've got a bunch of caps posted now, so I'm waiting for my next cable bill to make sure I haven't gone over. I plan to go back after a couple of months and remove the caps from the archived reviews so I can use the space for newer reviews - just to recycle the space. Give me a couple of weeks to see what I have leftover (if any) - I'll let you know.


    DaveK... I've got a number of old books, many of which I use for my history info etc... but it was in one of them. I included it just to emphasize how many casting changes that were actually made - pretty amazing, really.
     
  16. Robert Crawford

    Robert Crawford Moderator
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    Herb,
    I don't know which book you read about those casting changes, but that same information was noted in a book called "500 Best American Films to Buy, Rent or Videotape". The films were chosen by the "National Board of Review of Motion Pictures" and the Editors of "Films in Review". The book was published in 1985.





    Crawdaddy
     
  17. Jefferson

    Jefferson Supporting Actor

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    I have watched the movie with the commentary...and will watch it again on Easter, just for fun.
    Wonderful film.

    One weird thing about the audio extras:
    The radio version is in horrific condition,
    almost unlistenable.
    While i understand the historical value of including it,
    it is very tough on the ears.
    [​IMG]
     
  18. Roger Rollins

    Roger Rollins Supporting Actor

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    The radio version of EASTER PARADE is kind of like a holy grail among radio show collectors. I always thought it didn't exist. No radio show dealers sell it, and I know no Garland or Astaire fans who have it.

    Obviously it sounds pretty bad in spots, but you can't really fix WOW, and we're just lucky to have it there as a historical reference.
     
  19. ScottR

    ScottR Cinematographer

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    I was kinda disappointed in the video quality of this release. It seemed that the contrast was a bit blown out (unless this was Charles Walter's artistic decision.) Also, the final fade out is very abrupt, and it sounds as if the music is cut off at the end. The previous vhs release is not like this. The fade out is slower and the music comes to a natural sounding end.
     
  20. DaveK

    DaveK Second Unit

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    I didn't notice that Scott (I'll have to check this out myself), but I did notice after the opening credits faded out(with Charles Walters' name), the opening with Fred Astaire just popped up.

    Did this happen on the VHS version (and/or the version shown on Turner Classic Movies), or is this something never seen before?
     

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