The Warner Archive Blu-ray release of the 1942 George M. Cohan bio-musical "Yankee Doodle Dandy" starring James Cagney as the titular patriot is a recent edition to the impressive Archive BD library of classic musicals.
Unreal TV has reviewed the release of the 1962 Doris Day musical "Billy Rose's Jumbo"and shared thoughts regarding "Hit the Deck." A review of the BD release of "Pete Kelly's Blues" starring Jack Webb is scheduled for the week of December 15, 2014."
"Dandy," which covers the life of song-and-dance/composer Cohan literally from his birth on July 4 (though records indicate that he was born the day before), 1878 until just before his 1942 death, is one of the more macho musicals ever made. Seeing the chorus boys in the plethora of recreations of the grand numbers for which Cohan is famous look more like chorus men is amusing from a 2014 perspective.
The following clip, courtesy of YouTube, of the original trailer for "Dandy" shows all that is special about the film. Further, the portion devoted to promoting the musical numbers is awesomely reminiscent of the cheesy (often greatest hits) records that '70s television advertised.
The film opens on a 1942 evening with Cohan being called from the theater where he is depicting FDR to meet with the real big deal in the White House. The next roughly 100 minutes consists of Cagney-introduced flashbacks telling POTUS the story of the entire life of arguably the most patriotic performer of the early 20th century.
One underlying theme in "Dandy" is "the family that plays together stays together." Young actors portray Cohan traveling and performing with his parents and sister from Cohan being a toddler right through adulthood. This includes a scene with the entire family doing a number in blackface that is unfortunate by today's standards.
A highlight from that era of Cohan's life (and from the film itself) is seeing the already large ego of a roughly 10 year-old Cohan swelling even more on starring in play called "Peck's Bad Boy." The series of comeuppances that immediately follow a performance truly are must-see.
The audience also learns of the circumstances of the breakup of the family troupe and the subsequent rise to fame that Cohan experiences. Discovering that some genuine chestnuts such as "Give My Regards to Broadway" are Cohan compositions is as fun as seeing spectacular stagings of songs, such as "Dandy" and "You're A Grand Old Flag" that modern audiences more closely associate with Cohan.
Other highlights include a 39 year-old Cohan trying to enlist in the Army to fight in The Great War (a.k.a. World War I) and an older Cohan contending with sassy teens who are unaware of his work.
Archive facilitates describing the awesome job that Cagney does with his role by quoting the statement in a Pauline Kael review that "Cagney is so cocky and sure a dancer that you feel yourself grinning with pleasure at his movements." The same is true regarding his entire performance.
The aptly described "Star-Spangled Extras" include (and go way beyond) a documentary on making "Dandy" and a Leonard Maltin-hosted recreation of a night at the movies in 1942. The latter includes the trailer for "Casablanca," a newsreel consisting entirely of WWII propaganda, a short, and a hilarious Bugs Bunny cartoon.
Not only do they not make 'em like "Dandy" anymore, not many home-video companies invest the care and love that Archive devotes to making the BD such a spectacular tribute. "Dandy," Cohan, and Cagney truly deserve no less.
Anyone with questions or comments regarding "Dandy" is welcome to email me. You can also connect on Twitter via @tvdvdguy.
Jekyll and Hyde (1941) DVD: Spencer Tracy, Ingrid Bergman, and Lana Turner Do a Remake of a Classic Horror Tale Justice
Warner Archive follows its grand tradition of not making cinephiles (or couch potatoes) wait long for "the rest of the story" by releasing the 1941 Spencer Tracy/Ingrid Begrman/Lana Turner version of "Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde" roughly two months after the release of the (reviewed) 1932 version with Frederic March. The only thing better than these separate releases would have been a two-disc set in the equally grand tradition of Archive providing these collections.
The most cool thing about watching the Tracy version after the March one is comparing the overall tones of the movies in the nine years in which time marches (of course pun intended) on in the film industry. The much more melodramatic and grotesque tone of the earlier version reflects early talkies being one step above silents on the evolutionary ladder. For their part, those intertitle wonders have the same exaggerated gestures and enunciation as the stage plays that precede them.
The best way to think about the contrast is that the Hyde of March largely is a combination of The Wolfman and The Phantom of the Opera; the evil persona that Tracy portrays is more of a Norman Bates style monster.
The Tracy version, which is 15 minutes longer than the March one, also is slower paced than the earlier film. Conversely, this later movie favors getting right to the action over exposition more than the 1932 film. This is in the form of the opening scene being in a (presumably Episcopalian) church service at which the priest is lauding Queen Victoria for elevating the British Empire to an enviable level of propriety following an apparent period of debauchery, This is in contrast to the March "Hyde" beginning with Jekyll preparing to attend a lecture of medical students at which he delivers his speech about the yin and yang of the nature of man that he presents at a dinner early in the remake.
The literal voice from the pulpit in the 1941 version increasingly agitates a clearly flocked up member of the congregation to the point that he erupts in a maniacal laugh that makes the audience believe that Jekyll has released his dark side. Jekyll quickly coming to the aid of his fellow child of Christ shows that that physician is not the only character who goes a little mad sometimes.
Jekyll getting the tortured soul comfortably settled in a padded cell leads to the aforementioned gathering at which he discusses his theory regarding the ability to separate the good and the evil sides in everyone. This event also introduces the audience to Jekyll fiancee Beatrix Emery (Turner) and her very proper father Sir Charles Emery (Donald Crisp). Other guests include Jekyll BFF Dr. John Lanyon (Ian Hunter).
Jekyll and Lanyon heading home sets the stage for the remainder of the film. Working-class barmaid Ivy Peterson having a date turn sour prompts Jekyll to rescue that damsel in distress. He then takes her home primarily to provide medical treatment.
It is believed that this version suggests things to come in a manner that the 1932 film does not. The subsequent scene in the remake has Jekyll confide to Lanyon that the presence of the latter is the only reason that the former turns down an offer by Ivy for payment-in-kind regarding the hovel call.
The encounters with the lunatic and with Ivy prompt Jekyll to take things to the next level by using himself as a lab rat to test his formula that is designed to separate the two extremes of our make up. This, of course, gives birth to Hyde.
Hyde soon reconnects with Ivy in a less violent and graphic nature than in the March version, This coincides with increasing alienation from Beatrix.
All of this leads to the dark passenger of Jekyll coming out to play even uninvited. Once again, the Tracy version of the resulting pursuit and taming of the beast is more sophisticated literature than pulp fiction.
The mixed news regarding which version of "Hyde" is better is that they both have their merits and room for improvement. March plays a member of the gentry and his rural cousin better than Tracy; the overall production values of the 1941 version understandably are better than the 1932 one, and Bergman seems born to play Ivy. At the same time, the faster pace of the earlier film provides stronger entertainment; The best solution is to purchase both DVDs and watch the March one when your inner Hyde is asserting himself (or herself).
Mentioning the differences in the DVD bonus features is mandatory. The release of the 1932 version includes a classic "Jekyll" themed Bugs Bunny cartoon and the trailer for the 1941 film. The Tracy film lacks any extras.
The Warner Archive June 12, 2018 Blu-ray release of the 1957 Gregory Peck and Lauren Bacall (a.k.a. Mrs. Bogart) screwball comedy "Designing Woman" directed by Vincente Minnelli (a.k.a. Mr. Garland) is a prime example of Hollywood royalty transitioning to these charmers as their still bright stars begin fading. Another awesome thing about this Oscar winner for Best Writing is that it shows that Spencer Tracy and Katherine Hepburn do not hold the monopoly on playing deeply in love odd couples whose witty bickering reflects their passion.
Bacall plays titular fashion designer Marilla Brown, who meets quasi-confirmed middle-aged bachelor sportswriter Mike Hagen (Peck) in Los Angeles, The paths of these Manhattanites cross at their hotel where she is vacationing and this guy on a business trip is enjoying a bender in the wake of a windfall.
The next morning finds Mike with a hangover that the audience gets to share, and a refreshed Marilla reuniting with him poolside. This leads to a whirlwind courtship and equally rapid wedding.
The first sign that the honeymoon is over occurs when Marilla changes from comfortable chic to haute couture elegant on the flight east. The rude awakening continues on Marilla seeing the "cozy" bachelor pad of Mike that looks like the abode of fellow fictional New York sportswriter Oscar Madison on its best day. The resolve of Marilla to be a good sport and downgrade to this "shoebox" does not last long.
The hilarity continues with Mike having lunch with soon-to-be-jilted girlfriend stage actress Lori Shanon (Dolores Gray) , who does not take the news well. Suffice it to say that the pants of Mike get soiled to the extent that he must borrow a fresher pair.
One lesson here is that breaking up in an upscale restaurant does not always provide immunity against a scene., This incident also sets the stage for Mike to begin his campaign of preventing his new wife from learning about his very recently extinguished flame.
The introduction of Mike to the luxurious apartment of Marilla and almost immediate meeting of her sophisticated friends from the artistic community is another rude awakening and a step closer to divorce court. The new acquaintances include close friend and Broadway producer Zachery Wilde. Suffice it to say this time that the poker buddies of Mike do not bond with the theatrical folks in the world of Marilla.
The work of Mike literally comes home with him when hilarious wiseguy Johnnie "O" (Chuck Connors) and two of his business associates come for a visit in an increasing aggressive campaign to persuade Mike to abandon a series of articles on corruption related to boxing. A relevant scene has Bacall particularly shine while attending her first boxing match. A spoiler is that Mike fares better at his first fashion show.
The worlds of our leads collide when Zachary hires Lori to star in a show for which a suspicious but still unknowing Marilla is the costume designer. This understandably puts Mike on edge and leads to a predicted scene in which he seemingly is caught with his (currently unsoiled) pants down.
The climax comes as worlds collide again on the New York mob looking to use Marilla as a bargaining chip in their conflict with Mike; This time the action occurs at the office of Marilla. The resulting Minnelli choreographed fight is as epic and exciting as any number in one of his musicals. This scene also reinforces a point about not judging a "chick lit" book by his cover. Suffice it to say this that Patrick Swayze is not the only one qualified to be a roadhosue bouncer.
This always amusing and frequently hilarious film either concludes with Marilla and Mike deciding that love conquers all and live happily ever after or parting as friends with benefits who understand that "Lady and the Tramp" is no more than a Disney cartoon.
The Blu-ray special feature is a highlight. it is a five-minute publicity piece in which real-life MGM costume designer Helen Rose sits at her desk answering questions that the audience cannot hear.
'Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde' DVD: Oscar-Winning Classic Early Talkie of Timeless Horror Tale of the Beast Within Everyone
Warner Archive continues giving Golden Age fans a chance to "catch 'em all" regarding the 1,000s of "Must See" films of that era with the aptly March 27, 2018 DVD release of the 1932 Frederic March version of "Dr. Jekyll and Mr, Hyde." As the DVD liner notes remind us, the Patty Dukeesque acting of March earns him a Best Actor award for that role.
This tale has the same substantial depth as fellow classic horror films "Frankenstein" and "Dracula" of the era. This one centers around the fact that dressing man in finery and developing him to a level of refinement that makes Emily Post seem like a literal two-bit whore does not change that we all have a savage nature that includes carnal desires. The credible speculation regarding the real-life Jack the Ripper being an outwardly respectable London gentlemen (perhaps an actual royal) supports the theory of the fictional Dr. Jekyll.
The related live-stage and melodramatic vibes of "Jekyll" are very apt both for this early period in the film industry and the nature of the story. The aforementioned award-winning portrayal of Hyde as a combination of Neanderthal Man and the Wolf Man strongly contributes to this theatrical sense.
The film opens with a busy day for respected Dr. Jekyll. He is off to deliver a lecture on his theory that man (and woman) has two distinct parts. They essentially are the respectable socially acceptable portion of ourselves that we present to the world and our "dark passenger" that represents the savage nature that remains despite our lengthy evolution. The rest of the story is that Jekyll believes that he can separate these aspects of us so that we essentially have the "good" one and the evil twin with the figurative goatee.
This medical practitioner then goes to the hospital where he first helps a young girl recover the use of her legs and then works overtime to personally operate on a scared old woman. The latter humanitarian gesture makes him late for a formal dinner at the home of his fiancee Muriel Carew and her strict and humorless father Brig. Gen. Danvers Carew (ret.).
Jekyll being late already incurs the wrath of Daddy; politely but firmly resisting a demand to postpone Muriel's wedding adds fuel to the fire.
Jekyll wraps up his day by coming to the aid of damsel-in-distress/dance hall girl Ivy Pearson. This loose woman seems to be one bad performance away from working a street corner and offers our hero tit for tat regarding both his medical services and his kindness.
The hardest working man in medicine next goes to his home office/man cave to work on his formula to separate the beauty from the beast. As the film title suggests, he succeeds. Surprisingly, the transformation is one of the least melodramatic moments of the film and does not even involve smashing test tubes or beakers.
The newly born Hyde then goes on the town in search of Ivy; he soon finds her and follows the still modern tradition of having the bartender summon the object of his affliction to his table. These leads to a situation in which Hyde provides tat in the form of a love nest that is a step up for our fallen woman.
Jekyll sowing his wild oats in the guise of Hyde predictably threatens his engagement and lowers his already not great status in the eyes of The General. The Carews leaving for an extended trip to Boston is an additional complication.
Meanwhile, the Hyde side exerts himself even stronger to the extent that his behavior deteriorates and takes control even when Jekyll does not drink the transformation formula. The clear moral is to not let the genie out of the bottle.
This all culminates with a variation of the villagers storming the castle of the monster. The twists at the end that purport to deliver justice are interesting and almost definitely influence the outcome in the Hitchcock Jekyll and Hyde film "Psycho." Both films clearly show that we all go a little mad sometimes.
The most fun special feature is the 1955 Bugs Bunny cartoon "Hyde and Hare" in which the titular wascally wabbit learns the lesson about being careful about the things for which you wish. In this case, it relates to convincing kindly Dr. Jekyll to adopt him as a pet. A particularly cute scene has Bugs adopting the guise of a cute little rabbit as opposed to the stinker whom we all know and love.
Archive additionally provides the highly atmospheric and clever theatrical trailer for the 1941 Spencer Tracy version of "Jekyll."
Anyone with questions or comments regarding "Jekyll" is strongly encouraged either to email me or to connect on Twitter via @tvdvdguy.
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