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Blu-ray Review The Golden Year: 5 Classic Films from 1939 Blu-ray Review (1 Viewer)

Ken_McAlinden

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The Golden Year: 5 Classic Films from 1939 Blu-ray Review

1939 is often cited as the pinnacle of the Hollywood studio era due to the large number of enduring classic films released over the course of that single year. While one could argue that other years have had as many great movies, 1939 looms a bit larger than most since it produced not one, but two films that have gone on to become cultural touchstones: Gone with the Wind and The Wizard of Oz. Whether one accepts the premise of 1939 as the peak of the Hollywood studio era or not, any excuse to release more classic films on Blu-ray is a good excuse. The Golden Year collection from Warner Home Video offers up first time on Blu-ray presentations of Dark Victory, The Hunchback of Notre Dame, Ninotchka, and Dodge City and pairs them with that Gone with the Wind Blu-ray that you have probably had in your collection for six years. All releases are also available separately, but exclusive to this set is a bonus SD DVD with the 1939: Hollywood's Greatest Year documentary and some additional vintage shorts.



Studio: Warner Brothers

Distributed By: N/A

Video Resolution and Encode: 1080P/AVC, 1080P/VC-1

Aspect Ratio: 1.37:1

Audio: English 1.0 DD (Mono), English 5.1 Dolby TrueHD, Spanish 1.0 DD (Mono), French 1.0 DD (Mono), Other

Subtitles: English SDH, Spanish, French, Other

Rating: Not Rated, G

Run Time: 1 Hr. 44 Min. Dark Victory; 1 Hr. 57 Min. The Hunchback of Notre Dame; 1 Hr. 50 Min. Ninotchka; 1 Hr. 44 Min. Dodge City; 3 Hr. 53 Min. Gone with the Wind

Package Includes: Blu-ray, DVD

Book-style case with a sleeve page for each of the five Blu-ray and one SD DVD discs enclosed in a sturdy cardboard box

Disc Type: BD50 (dual layer), BD25 (single layer), DVD-9 (dual layer)

Region: A, 1

Release Date: 06/09/2015

MSRP: $69.96




The Production Rating: 5/5

Dark Victory (104 Minutes - Warner Bros.) ****

 

Directed by: Edmund Goulding

 

Starring: Bette Davis, George Brent, Humphrey Bogart, Geraldine Fitzgerald, Ronald Reagan, Henry Travers

 

In Dark Victory, Bette Davis plays wealthy socialite Judith Traherne who is shaken out of an idle life of parties and equestrian pursuits when she discovers that she has a brain tumor. George Brent plays Dr. Frederick Steele, the neurosurgeon who takes an interest in Judith’s case. Judith undergoes surgery and appears to make a complete recovery. Her post surgery tests, however, reveal that she will have a fatal recurrence in less than a year, preceded only shortly by a dimming of vision. Dr. Steele and Judith’s friend, Ann (Fitzgerald) do not initially tell her of the fatal diagnosis, but it weighs heavily on them, especially as Judith and Frederick fall in love and become engaged. Judith stumbles across her file and learns of her terminal diagnosis. Furious, she turns her back on Frederick and Ann and throws herself recklessly into her equestrian and night-life pursuits represented by stable hand Michael (Bogart) and party boy Alec (Reagan).

 

Dark Victory was Bette Davis' follow-up to her Oscar winning turn in Jezebel, and was produced during a period of personal turmoil while she was going through a messy divorce from her first husband. Whatever effect the professional highs and personal lows were having on her, she channeled them into an incredible performance that elevates what should have been an easy to dismiss cliched melodrama into a box-office smash and an enduring classic. Even a terribly miscast Humphrey Bogart exhibiting an Irish brogue that comes and goes from scene to scene somehow seems like less of a liability when he is sharing the screen with Davis. By sheer force of energy and movie star charisma, Davis carries the film on her shoulders and creates the necessary empathy between the audience and her spoiled socialite character to deliver the gut punch in the final reel that is telegraphed in the second.

 

The Hunchback of Notre Dame (117 Minutes - RKO) *****

 

Directed by William Dieterle

 

Starring: Charles Laughton, Cedric Hardwicke, Thomas Mitchell, Maureen O’Hara, Edmond O’Brien, Alan Marshall, Walter Hampden, and Harry Davenport

 

William Dieterle's The Hunchback of Notre Dame adapts Victor Hugo's classic novel Notre Dame de Paris. Set in 16th century Paris, it tells the story of the terribly deformed and almost completely deaf Quasimodo (Laughton). Found as a child by Magistrate Frollo (Hardwicke), Quasimodo is raised to be the bell-ringer in Notre Dame cathedral under the watchful eye of Frollo's brother, the Archdeacon (Hampden). Quasimodo's life is changed when the beautiful gypsy Esmeralda (O'Hara) arrives in Paris to petition King Louis XI for better treatment of her people. The free spirited Esmeralda inflames the passions of a young poet named Gringoire (O'Brien), the dashing Captain of the Guard Phoebus (Marshal), and, most dangerously, the decidedly anti-gypsy Frollo, leading to a deadly conflict with Quasimodo seemingly a pawn in the middle.

 

While Victor Hugo's story has been given a healthy serving of Hollywood augmentation, the pathos and empathy at its center are still conveyed by Dieterle's strong direction, by Joseph August's expressionistic cinematography, and by a heartbreaking central performance from Charles Laughton. Under heavy make-up and prosthetics, Laughton conveys the inner life and inherent decency of the crippled bell-ringer in a performance that is on-par with the previously considered definitive interpretation of the role by Lon Chaney in the 1926 silent version. It is a testament to RKO's lack of influence with the Academy that Laughton was not nominated for an Oscar. Also unjustly overlooked at the Oscars was the film's amazing production design which creates a credible illusion of the actual Notre Dame cathedral in Paris. RKO spared no expense in the design and construction of the film's sets, and every penny spent is visible on screen.

 

Laughton is ably supported by Cedric Hardwicke as the morally corrupt magistrate Frollo and Maureen O'Hara, in her Hollywood debut, as the beguiling Esmeralda. Hardwicke does a wonderful job of conveying a sea of suppressed rage and passion underneath a veneer of institutional authority. His performance is almost subversive in the way that he subtextually conveys thoughts that could not be expressed overtly under the Motion Picture Production Code. O'Hara, who admittedly does not resemble most people's idea of a 16th century gypsy woman, conveys Esmeralda's seductive beauty, her somewhat capricious
affections, and her increasing awareness of situations and motives while blending all of these potentially contradictory aspects into an improbably cohesive character.

 

Ninotchka (110 Minutes - MGM) *****

 

Director: Ernst Lubitsch

 

Starring: Greta Garbo, Melvyn Douglas, Ina Claire, Bela Lugosi, Sig Ruman, Felix Bressart, Alexander Granach, Gregory Gaye, Rolfe Sedan, Edwin Maxwell, Richard Carle

 

In Ninotchka, Melvyn Douglas plays Count Leon D'Algout, a Parisian playboy who learns of the plans of a trio of Bolsheviks (Ruman, Bressart, & Granach) to sell jewelry confiscated by the state from the exiled Grand Duchess Swana. When Leon introduces a legal challenge to the sale, the trio are forced to extend their stay in Paris, gradually becoming seduced by the glamorous and decidedly non-Soviet trappings of the city and the luxurious hotel in which they are lodged. After several weeks with no progress, the Soviets send Envoy Extraordinary Nina Ivanovna Yakushova (Garbo) to intervene and break the stalemate. The unstoppable force of Leon's seductive charm seemingly meets its match in the the immovable object of Nina's strict commitment to her Bolshevik ideology.

 

In Ninotchka, Greta Garbo ventures into the realm of film comedy for the first time and the result is perfect beyond anyone's reasonable expectations. It certainly does not hurt to have a screenplay by the team of Billy Wilder, Charles Brackett, and Walter Reisch with Director Ernst Lubitsch ultimately stirring the soufflé. The film is an East meets West romantic comedy satirizing Bolshevik ideology and aristocratic excess with equal enthusiasm (but understandably unequal affection). It would probably be considered among Hollywood's greatest Cold War comedies if it did not pre-date the actual Cold War by 7-8 years. Garbo is magnificent in her role, and, as is par for the course in a Lubitsch film, the rest of the cast are no less impressive in roles both large and small. Melvyn Douglas, who does not fit the mold of a conventional matinee idol, is the kind of skilled and generous actor that not only convinces the viewer that he is his character, but also seems to elevate the performances of everyone with whom he shares the screen. The more I discuss the film the more risk there is that I will give in to the urge to spoil one of its great dialog exchanges by quoting it, so suffice it to say that it is great and you should watch it ... at least twice.

 

Dodge City (104 Minutes - Warner Bros.) ****

 

Directed by: Michael Curtiz

 

Starring: Errol Flynn, Olivia de Havilland, Ann Sheridan, Bruce Cabot, Frank McHugh, Alan Hale, John Litel, Henry Travers, Henry O'Neill, Victor Jory, William Lundigan, and Guinn 'Big Boy' Williams

 

In Dodge City, Errol Flynn plays Wade Hatton, a Texas cattle driver and former soldier of fortune originally from Ireland. Familiar with Dodge City, Kansas from his days hunting buffalo to feed the railroad workers who helped found it, Wade returns to it at the end of a cattle drive to find that it has been overrun by corrupt and murderous cattle broker Jeff Surrett (Cabot) who also runs the local saloon. As the only person in town with the wherewithal to stand up to Surrett and his gang of outlaws, Wade is encouraged to take the role of Sheriff, but resists until tragedy forces his hand.

 

For Errol Flynn's first western, Warner Bros. pulled out all of the stops. The commercial success of Stagecoach convinced Warner that there was enough audience interest in the genre to finance a big budget Technicolor western extravaganza featuring their biggest action star and one of their top directors. While Dodge City may not have quite the prestige of some of the iconic films that were released in 1939, like Dark Victory, it was extremely successful with audiences of the time and holds up as a consistently entertaining example of its genre.

 

The film is almost constructed like a western theme park with every western trope one could hope for incorporated on a grand scale (railroads, barroom brawls, cattle, stampedes, gunfights, saloon singers, buffalo hunting, etc.). The producer's could not come up with a narrative excuse to put the characters in a fort to withstand a siege of Native American Indians, but they did check most of the other boxes. This results in a fast paced film with very high entertainment value for money that occasionally gives short shrift to certain specific elements. One such element is the romantic subplot between Flynn and de Havilland's characters which is not given quite enough screen time to convey the emotional distance De Havilland's character must travel to make it convincing.

 

The conceit of making Flynn's character Irish seems a bit strange as he makes no real effort to sound Irish, but producers were apparently convinced that the pretense was necessary for audiences to plausibly accept Flynn as a nineteenth century western figure. Whether or not the "Irish" angle worked for viewers, surrounding Flynn with sidekicks such as Alan Hale and Guinn 'Big Boy' Williams went a long way to making Flynn seem suitable for the genre.

 

Gone with the Wind (238 Minutes - Selznick International Pictures/MGM) *****

 

Directed by: Victor Fleming

 

Starring: Clark Gable, Vivien Leigh, Leslie Howard, Olivia de Havilland, Hattie McDaniel, Alicia Rhett, Barbara O'Neil, Thomas Mitchell, Cammie King, Butterfly McQueen

 

Vivien Leigh plays Scarlett O'Hara, a daughter of a wealthy plantation owner in the Civil War era American South. Scarlett is infatuated with Ashley (Howard) who she learns is engaged to his cousin Melanie (de Havilland). Scarlett also develops a love hate relationship with the roguish Rhett Butler (Gable). All of this seems pretty trivial once Northern armies come smashing through Georgia. OK, not by best synopsis, but I assume anybody interested in this set is probably already pretty familiar with the film's story.

 

David O Selznick's Gone with the Wind is generally acknowledged as the ultimate Hollywood epic of the talking picture era, ambitiously adapting Margaret Mitchell's phenomenally successful novel that sets a soap opera plot against a massive historical backdrop. It includes a little something for everyone during its near four-hour running time, and while aspects of the production such as its depictions of non-white characters will no doubt seem dated to modern viewers, the combination of romance, violence, spectacle, and style has remained potent across generations. Vivien Leigh was a revelation as the film's central character, not holding back one bit in her portrayal of Scarlett's obvious character flaws, but also modulating her performance throughout the film as she is tempered by the crucible of war and reconstruction into a supreme survivor. Gable, portraying what feels like the only pragmatic human in a cast of thousands, delivered on every expectation of the movie-going public who were clamoring for him to land the role as the rugged and roguish Rhett.


The Golden Year of Movies 1939 Playlist


Video Rating: 4/5  3D Rating: NA

All films in the Golden Year collection are presented in AVC encoded 1080p encodings "pillarboxed" to their original 4:3 theatrical aspect ratios except for Gone with the Wind which is a VC-1 encoding.

 

Dark Victory ****

 

The video presentation of Dark Victory exhibits pleasingly consistent levels of contrast and detail. Grain is ever-present, but looks natural and appropriate. There are no obvious signs of digital processing or softening to fit the film on a single layer BD25.

 

The Hunchback of Notre Dame *****

 

Of all of the titles in this collection, The Hunchback of Notre Dame shows the greatest improvement from any previous home video presentation of the film. Other than a few instances of light contrast wavering on specific shots, it looks absolutely immaculate. The moody Geman expressionist influenced cinematography is rendered beautifully throughout for a magnificently cinematic experience. It is presented on a dual-layered BD50 to great effect.

 

Ninotchka ****

 

Ninotchka is comparable to Dark Victory in its high definition rendering with unwaveringly solid contrast and detail throughout and modest natural looking film grain with no obvious signs of filtering to fit it onto a single layered BD25.

 

Dodge City ****

 

Dodge City is about as impressive a rendering of a vintage three-strip Technicolor film as I have seen on disc without the use of Warner's "Ultra Resolution" process or something comparable to it. Grain levels are barely more than those on the Ultra Resolution Gone with the Wind also included in this set. Contrast is a bit high, but not to the point of crushed black or blooming whites. Colors are consistent and impressive. Registration is typically spot-on, indicative of a near perfect source element used for transfer. Everything that was done wrong with Warner's recent Blu-ray released of On the Town is done exactly right for this release. As with Dark Victory and Ninotchka there is no obvious evidence of the presentation becoming bit-starved due to being authored onto a single-layered BD25.

 

Gone with the Wind ****1/2

 

As mentioned above, if this transfer looks familiar to you, it's probably because you have already owned it for a half dozen years or so. In the event that you have not revisited it since then, you will be happy to know that it still holds up. Other than Warner's typical slightly yellow tilted color timing (also present on Dodge City), and select shots that are noticeably softer than the rest of the film (opticals, dupes, and possibly a field enlargement zoom or two) the film looks remarkable throughout this Ultra Resolution encoded to Blu-ray transfer. Some very slight interaction between the compression and grain patterns can occasionally be noticed that one does not see in more recent Warner AVC encodes, but this requires very active critical viewing on a very large screen to even notice.



Audio Rating: 3/5

All films are presented with lossless DTS-HD MA mono renderings of their original soundtracks with the exception of Gone with the Wind which is presented via a Dolby TrueHD lossless 5.1 remix from original dialog, effects, and directional orchestra stem tracks. A restored mono track for Gone with the Wind is also present on the disc as 192kbps Dolby Digital 1.0 track accessible not from the audio and captions menu but from the "Special Features" menu.

 

The 5.1 mix of Gone with the Wind is a hit and miss affair that sometimes creates a nice fullness to Max Steiner's famous orchestral score, and at other times seems to throw the music mix a little out of focus. Occasional sequences such as the artillery fire preceding the (150+ year spoiler alert) burning of Atlanta are enhanced by directional and LFE effects, but other than those moments, it maintains the essential character of the original mono mix.

 

The DTS HD-MA mono tracks are very good considering the ages of the film's involved with the folks handling the audio showing a gentle hand with noise reduction, leaving a bit of the original hiss on the track so as not to compromise fidelity or create audible artifacts. Dodge City's mono mix is a little harsher and more dynamically compressed than the tracks for the other films in this collection.

 

Alternate language audio and subtitle options are as follows:

 

Dark Victory

 

Audio: Dolby Digital 1.0 Spanish (Latin) and Spanish (Castilian)
Subtitles: English SDH, French, Spanish (Latin), Spanish (Castilian)

 

The Hunchback of Notre Dame

 

Audio: Dolby Digital 1.0 German and Spanish (Latin)
Subtitles: English SDH, French, German SDH, Spanish (Castilian), Spanish (Latin)

 

Ninotchka

 

Audio: Dolby Digital 1.0 French, Spanish (Castilian), Spanish (Latin), Portuguese
Subtitles: English SDH, French, Spanish (Castilian), Spanish (Latin), Portuguese

 

Dodge City

 

Audio: Dolby Digital 1.0 French, Spanish (Latin), Spanish (Castilian)
Subtitles: English SDH, French, Spanish (Latin), Spanish (Castilian)

 

Gone with the Wind

 

Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1 French, German, Italian, and Spanish (Castilian). Dolby Digital 1.0 English (Accessible through "Special Features" Menu), Spanish (Latin), and Portuguese

 

Subtitles: English SDH, French, German, Italian, Italian SDH, Spanish (Castilian), Dutch, Spanish (Latin), Portuguese, Danish, Finnish, Norwegian, and Swedish



Special Features Rating: 3.5/5

Special Features appear on each of the five Blu-ray discs as well as the entire bonus SD DVD included in this package.

 

Dark Victory

 

Commentary by James Ursini and Paul Clinton

 

Warner Night at the Movies (30:14 w/Play All)

  • “The Roaring Twenties” Theatrical Trailer (3:31) is a lengthy promo for the 1939 James Cagney gangster film including a narrated introduction from a newspaper columnist
  • Newsreel (2:05) King George and Queen Elizabeth tour Canada and the USA including a visit with the Roosevelts
  • Old Hickory (16:50) is a Technicolor 2-reeler that dramatizes events in the life and presidency of Andrew Jackson (Hugh Sothern).
  • Robinhood Makes Good (7:47) is a vintage Warner Bros. Cartoon from 1939. Directed by Chuck Jones when he was in his cute and cuddly Disney-influenced phase. It features a group of three squirrels who decide to play Robin Hood and a Fox who decides to take advantage of the situation. The runty squirrel who proves to be the hero is voiced by Margaret Hill-Talbot who also voiced the title character in Jones’ series of “Sniffles” shorts and also voiced “Andy Panda” for Walter Lantz.
1939: Tough Competition for Dark Victory (9:33) is a 2005 featurette focusing on Dark Victory. After some initial discussion of how Dark Victory, though very successful at the time, has become somewhat diminished in the context of other films released in 1939, it moves on to become a solid and efficient overview of the film’s production, cast, and crew. Comments are provided by Newsday Film Critic John Anderson, Film Critic Paul Clinton, Film Historian & Critic, Author and Film Historian Rudy Behlmer.

 

1/8/1940 Lux Radio Theater Broadcast (59:12) Hosted and narrated by Cecil B. DeMille, this is a radio adaptation of Dark Victory with Bette Davis reprising her role of Judith with Spencer Tracy performing the role of Dr. Frederick Steele. It is presented in three acts with the original promos for Lux soap in between them.

 

Theatrical Trailer (3:18) is a lengthy promo that heavily focused on Davis and her character of Judith.

 

The Hunchback of Notre Dame

 

Interview with Maureen O’Hara (12:09) is an overview of the film’s production interspersed with first hand accounts from Ms. O’Hara sharing recollections of her Hollywood debut. It appears to have been produced around the mid 1990s. It provides an efficient
over v

 

Drunk Driving (21:27) is a 1939 two-reeler from the MGM “Crime Does Not Pay” series that dramatizes the horrific potential consequences of driving while intoxicated. Dick Purcell (who would go on to play “Captain America” in the Republic serial a few years later), plays the ill-fated “John Jones” who ignores every warning sign leading up to a terrible accident.

 

The Lone Stranger and Porky (7:26) is a vintage Bob Clampett Looney Tunes cartoon that parodies the Lone Ranger. After a humorous introduction to “The Lone Stranger”, he is called upon to rescue Porky Pig when he is waylaid by an outlaw. It is presented with a non-skippable 45 second title card warning of the depictions of ethnic and racial prejudices and stating that while these do not represent Warner Bros.’ view of today’s society, “...this cartoon is being presented as it was originally created”. Ironically, the subsequent cartoon, originally produced in black and white, is presented here in a colorized version created in 1992.

 

Theatrical Trailer (1:50) is a straightforward relatively quick-cut promo that emphasizes action and spectacle.

 

Ninotchka

 

Prophet without Honor (10:49) is a vintage one reeler MGM “Miniature” narrated by Carey Wilson about 19th century Naval Officer Matthew Fontaine Maury who, after a crippling accident, went on to innovate the charting of ocean winds and currents. A native Virginian, he is later branded a deserter and traitor when he resigns his Naval office during the Civil War before ultimating earning a pardon while exiled in Europe.

 

The Blue Danube (7:18) is a vintage technicolor cartoon from Producer Hugh Harman set to the music of Johan Strauss II’s “Blue Danube Waltz” featuring placid scenes of nature with animals, sprites and fairies interacting with various flora and fauna around a river. It feels like Harman is definitely playing in Disney’s Fantasia sand box, and while the animation is not quite at that level, the backgrounds and overall production design are quite beautiful. There are a couple of brief but very jarring audio glitches as presented here.

 

Theatrical Trailer (2:19) features the famous “Garbo laughs” promotional hook and even features brief footage of Director Ernst Lubitsch, who, like Garbo, is treated as a star for whom only a last name is necessary to identify.

 

Dodge City

 

Warner Night at the Movies (36:48 w/Play All)

  • Introduction by Leonard Maltin (3:33) features Maltin explaining the simulation of a 1939 theatrical experience represented by the Night at the Movies feature with a short description of each element to come.
  • The Oklahoma Kid Theatrical Trailer (2:47) is a promo for the somewhat ill conceived James Cagney/Humphrey Bogart western.
  • Newsreel (1:56) include “Movietone” clips of the then current war in Poland and France. as well as footage of US soldiers sailing to Puerto Rico.
  • Sons of Liberty (20:37) is a vintage Warner Bros. Technicolor 2-reeler directed by Michael Curtiz and starring Claude Rains as revolutionary-era Jewish emigrant Haym Salomon who became a spy and ultimately a prime financier for the Continental Army.
  • Dangerous Dan McFoo (7:54) is a vintage Technicolor Tex Avery cartoon from the Merrie Melodies series that sends up the poem “Dangerous Dan McGrew” in a saloon setting. The title character is voiced by Arthur Q. Bryan of “Elmer Fudd” fame
Dodge City: Go West, Errol Flynn (8:36) Efficiently covers the film’s production starting with discussion of the popularity of westerns in the late 30s setting the context for Warner’s casting of their top action star in his first western. It goes on to cover biographical details about key members of the cast and crew of the film as well as some background on the film's unique premiere in the actual Dodge City. Comments are provided by UC Davis Professor of Film Lincoln D. Hurst, Film Historian Robert Osborne, Author Bob Thomas, Author/Film Historian Rudy Behlmer.

 

Theatrical Trailer (3:17) is a promo that consists primarily of color footage of the film’s premiere with only a few seconds of clips from the film.

 

Gone with the Wind

 

Commentary by Rudy Behlmer runs the length of the film. While Behlmer does not fill every second of the near four hour running time, he does present an impressively thorough and well researched overview of the film’s production as well as the backgrounds of just about all of the key cast and crew members. He only occasionally lapses into narration, but almost always does so while transitioning into a significant point about the film’s structure or production. Behlmer also has that underrated quality that elevates well researched commentaries into superior commentaries: a pleasant voice to which you can comfortably listen for four hours.

 

Bonus Disc

 

The Dual-layered SD DVD bonus disc includes a documentary as well as vintage shorts, cartoons, and trailers from 1939.

 

1939: Hollywood’s Greatest Year (68 minutes) is a documentary narrated by Kennth Branagh focusing on the remarkable achievements of Hollywood film producers in the year 1939. It is organized by each of the major film production studios with a segment devoted to the 1939 films of each one. In order, the films are reviewed of MGM, Warner Bros., Paramount, Universal, Columbia, RKO, 20th Century Fox, and independent producers such as Walter Wanger, Hal Roach, Samuel Goldwyn, and David O. Selznick. In addition to Branagh's narration, comments are also provided by Film Critic and Historian Leonard Maltin, Author of 'The Genius of the System' Thomas Schatzm, Film Critic and Historian F.X. Feeney, Author of 'Lion of Hollywood: The Life and Legend of Louis B. Mayer' Scott Eyman, Author of 'The Star Machine' Jeanine Basinger, Author of 'The Films of Twentieth Century-Fox', Aubrey Solomon, Author of 'Frankly, My Dear' Molly Haskell, Author of 'Inside Warner Bros., Rudy Behlmer, Author of 'Frank Capra: The Catastrophe of Success' Joseph McBride, and Author of 'The RKO Story' Richard Jewell. It also includes archival interviews with filmmakers and actors including George Cukor, Francis Lederer, A.C. Lyles, Frank Capra, Howard Hawks, Douglas Fairbanks Jr, Maureen O'Hara, Claire Trevor, Daniel Selznick (Son of David O. Selznick) Daniel Selznick, and Ann Rutherford.

 

Shorts (1:17:18 w/ “Play All”)

  • Breakdowns of 1939 (14:36) is the 1939 entry in the annual series of blooper reels that were assembled for Warner Bros. employees. It’s a wonderful piece of vintage silliness and modest vulgarity for fans of classic Hollywood. Porky Pig’s outtake is by far the most famous in this collection.
  • Sons of Liberty (20:35) Same as appearing on the Dodge City disc
  • Drunk Driving (21:28) Same as appearing on the Hunchback of Notre Dame disc
  • Prophet Without Honor (10:49) Same as appearing on the Ninotchka disc
  • Sword Fishing (9:49) is a vintage Warner Bros. 1-reeler in the “Bow and Arrow Adventures” series narrated by Ronald Reagan that documents an unusual ocean fishing expedition in which “World’s Greatest Archer” Howard Hill incorporates his bow and arrow skills into the efforts to catch a blue marlin.
Cartoons (16:48 w/”Play All”)
  • Detouring America (7:58) is a vintage Tex Avery Technicolor cartoon from the “Merrie Melodies” series. It consists of a series of spot gags set around various US landmarks and locations.
  • Peace on Earth (8:49) is a vintage Hugh Harman Technicolor MGM cartoon in which, on Christmas Day, the patriarch of a family of squirrels relates the story of how men caused their own extinction. It is safe to say that this is the best Oscar-winning post apocalyptic Christmas cartoon ever made by a major Hollywood studio.
Trailers (14:41 w/”Play All”)
  • Gone with the Wind (1:35) (a coming soon to this theater teaser)
  • Dark Victory (3:15)
  • Goodbye, Mr. Chips (4:05) (features Alexander Woolcott “Town Crying” the film’s praises)
  • Ninotchka (2:17)
  • The Wizard of Oz (1:31) (Teaser with even the Technicolor scenes in black and white
  • Wuthering Heights (1:57)



Overall Rating: 5/5

Despite the curious inclusion of Gone with the Wind, a title most fans interested in this set have likely had in their collection for more than five years, The Golden Year Collection proves to be an excellent value. The four new-to Blu-ray titles are all presented with excellent video and solid to very good audio. Extras consist primarily of a generous selection of vintage 1939 shorts and cartoons with some brief but informative featurettes on Dark Victory, The Hunchback of Notre Dame, and Dodge City, and an impressively comprehensive commentary from Rudy Behlmer on Gone with the Wind. A bonus standard definition DVD disc exclusive to this collection includes the feature length documentary 1939: Hollywood’s Greatest Year as well as some additional vintage 1939 Warner Bros. and MGM shorts, cartoons, and trailers.


Reviewed By: Ken_McAlinden


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Robin9

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"Melvyn Douglas, who does not fit the mold of a conventional matinee idol, is the kind of skilled and generous actor that not only convinces the viewer that he is his character, but also seems to elevate the performances of everyone with whom he shares the screen."


Correct, and thank you. That has always been my opinion.


When I was in my twenties, Garbo fanatics were still numerous and arrogant. They insisted she displayed brilliant comedy skills in Ninotchka and would tolerate no alternative opinion. I always argued that her comedy playing was nothing special, and that it was Melvyn Douglas who made her seem funny. The Garbo fanatics didn't like me! Mind you, I didn't like them much either!
 

classicmovieguy

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Melvyn Douglas was highly underrated as a leading man... I think he's slowly being rediscovered though, which is wonderful. Apart from "Ninotchka", he is wonderful in "Angel" (with Dietrich), and "Theodora Goes Wild" (with Irene Dunne).
 

Robin9

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classicmovieguy said:
Melvyn Douglas was highly underrated as a leading man... I think he's slowly being rediscovered though, which is wonderful. Apart from "Ninotchka", he is wonderful in "Angel" (with Dietrich), and "Theodora Goes Wild" (with Irene Dunne).

He's pretty good playing an upper-class cad in My Forbidden Past and a conventional leading man in A Woman's Secret.
 

Hollywodland

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Ahhh, God Damn It... I dont quite agree with the review of DODGE CITY about how ˝there is no obvious evidence of the presentation becoming bit-starved due to being authored onto a single-layered BD25.˝ BLU-RAY.COM says that ˝Warner has mastered Dodge City on a BD-25 with an average bitrate of 23.21 Mbps, which doesn't seem to be enough space or bandwidth for a film with this much action and complexity... Minor artifacting appears from time to time, typically in solid backgrounds where the eye is likely to overlook it (or, on smaller screens, to mistake it for grain).˝ And Blu-ray.com is right, there are some artifacts... Is the Dodge City great transfer? Sure... BUT THE POINT IS IT COULD BE EVEN BETTER, WB DIDNT DO EVERYTHING TO MAKE THIS BD AS GOOD AS POSSIBLE... Would it FUCKING kill them to do the same with Dodge C. as they did with Huncback (BD-50, 30-ish Mbps) ??????... I think we, and HTF, shouldnt support this or let them get away with less then it could be, or they will continue to do so, despite the constant reports of ˝changes at WHV˝---seing is believing and Dodge city belongs on a BD-50, Warnerr Brothers!!!!
 

benbess

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Ben
I hadn't seen Dodge City until last night, and I would call it a fascinating and epic mis-fire of a Western. First, the Technicolor photography (by Warner cinematographer Sol Polito) is nothing short of spectacular, and in this luminous restoration is worth the price of admission right there. And the sets and action set-pieces are huge and well-done. The brawl in the saloon is so gigantic it becomes a jaw-dropping comic parody. I think I saw this scene as a kid re-used in a Bugs Bunny cartoon. The supporting players are all strong imho, including Alan Hale (you can see where Alan Hale Jr. of Gilligan's Island got his face and comic style), and Olivia de Havilland, who is always wonderful imho. Errol Flynn, however, seems miscast and to not really understand the genre. And the movie as a whole is too much of a "Disney"-like version of a Western. On those terms, however, it does work in a way, and the set-pieces like the fight on the burning train are still exciting and even amazing. I'm glad I saw it since it was like trip back in time to the cinema of 1939. But for Westerns from that year, Stagecoach is clearly first, and this one a bit down on
the list....

dodge-city-poster-1.jpg
 
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benbess

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Sep 8, 2009
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Real Name
Ben
Hadn't seen Ninotchka before, aside from a few clips. Very funny! It made perfect sense when I learned from the review that starts this thread that Billy Wilder contributed to the screenplay. Nice bonus features throughout this set.

I'll risk one quote to show the edge that's also in this film: "The last mass trials have been a great success. There are going to be fewer but better Russians."

!

MPW-107198
 
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