- Apr 24, 2006
- Charlotte, NC
- Real Name
- Matt Hough
What would one of Twentieth Century Fox’s flimsy backstage Betty Grable musicals be like with a completely African-American cast? We get the answer with Andrew L. Stone’s Stormy Weather. As with Grable’s vehicles, the movie with its mega-thin plot is merely an excuse to string together a series of musical numbers with the leading talent of the era, and what musical numbers they are! With Lena Horne leading the way (and doing more versatile performing here than she was ever allowed during most of her MGM years), Stormy Weather holds up well today as superlative entertainment.
Distributed By: Twilight Time
Video Resolution and Encode: 1080P/AVC
Aspect Ratio: 1.37:1
Audio: English 1.0 DTS-HDMA (Mono)
Subtitles: English SDH
Rating: Not Rated
Run Time: 1 Hr. 18 Min.
Package Includes: Blu-raykeep case
Disc Type: BD50 (dual layer)
Release Date: 02/10/2015
After World War I, returning soldier Bill Williamson (Bill Robinson) plans on getting back into the entertainment business, and he meets the beautiful Selina Rogers (Lena Horne) on the night of his return and is smitten. She’s getting ready to go into a show produced by and starring Chick Wallace (Emmett 'Babe' Wallace) and while enjoying his company, doesn’t make a connection until they meet again some time later in New Orleans when Bill is working for Fats Waller. Selina gets Chick to offer Bill a role in his new show which he does to placate her, but it’s an unfeatured ensemble role. When Bill takes matters into his own hands and steals Chick’s thunder during one of his ballads, he’s fired but rescued by Selina and later whisked off to make films in Hollywood where he offers to build a home for Selina and him if only she’ll leave the business and be his wife. She’s has dreams, too, however, and they part when she’s offered lucrative jobs in Europe.
The Production Rating: 4/5
The Frederick Jackson-Ted Koehler screenplay is the same kind of fluff plot that Betty Grable or Alice Faye would have typically been plopped into: on again-off again romantic entanglements and love triangles surrounded by more than a dozen musical numbers. Though some of the amazing talent on display remained headliners for many decades and are thus easy to recognize today (Cab Calloway, Fats Waller, the Nicholas Brothers), others like Ada Brown who does a scrumptious blues version of “That Ain’t Right” and Mae E. Johnson who delights with “I Lost My Sugar in Salt Lake City” aren’t nearly as well known and certainly deserve to be. The focus, of course, is on the two main stars: Lena Horne and Bill “Bojangles” Robinson. Horne burns up the screen with a number of solo moments: the legendary title song, of course, but also “There’s No Two Ways About Love” (which bookends the movie), and “Diga, Diga, Doo” with Horne exquisitely outfitted for a jungle cat number while sharing “The Cakewalk” and “I Can’t Give You Anything but Love” with Bill Robinson.
Newcomers to the movie will be surprised to see Lena Horne doing a fair amount of dancing in a couple of production numbers (she almost always was a stationary singer in her MGM movies and rarely had any dance steps to perform), and with her gorgeous face and figure, she for the first time proves herself to be a true triple threat artist to rank right alongside Faye and Grable in the talent department (more’s the pity that Cabin the Sky was the only other film musical which gave her a real chance at virtuoso performing, and she’s decidedly playing second fiddle to Ethel Waters in that). As for Robinson, he gets at least three solo tap and soft shoe routines where his famous stairstep tapping and easygoing movements endear him instantly to audiences (and his scene-stealing sequence during Wallace’s “Tom Tom” routine might have been even more impressive with more fluid camerawork). Cab Calloway in all of his zoot suited glory makes his own solid impressions with “Geechy Joe” and “Jumpin’ Jive,” the latter also featuring the astounding acrobatic tapping and leaping by the Nicholas Brothers. Sadly, Dooley Wilson, the actor who memorialized “As Time Goes By” in Casablanca, doesn‘t get to sing a single note in the film while playing Bill’s best friend Gabe Tucker.
The film’s 1.37:1 theatrical aspect ratio is presented intact here in a 1080p transfer using the AVC codec. Sharpness is superb throughout, and contrast has been magnificently applied to keep images consistent (except in moments where smoke or fog are intentional). The grayscale is quite impressive with rich black levels and whites of stunning purity. The movie has been divided into 24 chapters.
Video Rating: 5/5 3D Rating: NA
The DTS-HD Master Audio 1.0 sound mix offers mostly robust fidelity in presenting these jazz and blues greats singing and dancing their hearts out from the early-to-mid period of the twentieth century. Dialogue is always easily discernible, and the background music and sound effects blend nicely to present a fine mono sound experience.
Audio Rating: 4.5/5
Audio Commentary: Dr. Todd Boyd offers a particularly unsatisfying off-the-cuff commentary on the film stressing more sociological criticisms of the African-American cinema experience rather than providing viewers with much needed information on the production of the movie and detailed information on the personnel involved, particularly those artists who have faded into history and who Dr. Boyd fails himself to identify. Obviously speaking extemporaneously (judging by the irritating number of “uh’s” that punctuate his comments), Dr. Boyd’s agenda in decrying the treatment of the race in Hollywood instead of celebrating this rare, great opportunity at an A-film production budget to present these master performers is fairly off-putting.
Special Features Rating: 2.5/5
Isolated Score Track: presented in DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 stereo.
Six-Page Booklet: offers a rich selection of black and white stills, original poster art on the back cover, and film historian Julie Kirgo’s enthusiastic overview of the film.
Stormy Weather is a must for film musical aficionados. It features singular performance moments from some of the greatest talents of the twentieth century: Lena Horne, Bill Robinson, Fats Waller, Cab Calloway, and the Nicholas Brothers, among many others in a sensational video and audio transfer that offers innumerable pleasures. There are only 3,000 copies of this Blu-ray available. Those interested should go to www.screenarchives.com to see if product is still in stock. Information about the movie can also be found via Facebook at www.facebook.com/twilighttimemovies.
Overall Rating: 4/5
Reviewed By: Matt Hough
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