This time around, we’re getting into the 1934 movie Stingaree, starring Irene Dunne and Richard Dix.
In this movie, Irene Dunne plays Hilda Bouverie, a maid to the vain, wannabe singer Mrs. Clarkson (Mary Boland) in Australia. Mrs. Clarkson has invited Sir Julian Kent (Conway Tearle), a man of some importance in the world of opera, to her home for a party (where she plans to sing for him). Hilda, however, is the one who can actually sing, but Mrs. Clarkson decides to send her elsewhere during the party. Sir Julian is, however, kidnapped by the notorious bandit Stingaree (Richard Dix), and Stingaree takes his place. At Mrs. Clarkson’s home, he hears Hilda sing, and, while falling in love with her, decides that he must have Sir Julian hear her sing.
This movie is considered to be a hybrid of musical and Western (even though it takes place in Australia). I think it is a fun movie, although I would say that the music is rather forgettable. From what I have read, this is the movie that established Irene Dunne as a singer in the movies, and she would follow it up with Roberta and the 1936 Show Boat, among others. In reading about this movie, I found out that the studio, RKO, had tried to sign actress Jeanette MacDonald for the part. I can believe it, as the film seems similar to some of Jeanette’s movies, especially some of the ones she made with Nelson Eddy. However, I do like Irene Dunne in the role, and I think it works for her.
Apparently, this movie has had a bit of a rough life. In the mid-forties, it was given to its original producer, Merian C. Cooper, as part of a legal settlement with RKO (along with five other movies). Outside of one time it was aired back in the fifties (from what I’ve read), it hadn’t really been seen until Turner Classic Movies was able to get the rights and show it again in 2007. Apparently, though, the movie seems to have fallen into the public domain, as Kino Lorber was able to release it on Blu-ray and DVD without having to license it from Warner Brothers, whom I would have assumed had the rights. The disc case claims it is a new restoration. I’m not completely sure that “restoration” is the right word for it. It has been given an HD transfer, but it certainly could have done with some more cleaning up. Personally, I think it looks good enough I can live with it. My problem with the release has more to do with the audio. The dialogue is not always as clear as I would prefer (although I don’t know enough about restoration techniques to know what, if anything, could be done about it). However, I could have lived with the audio IF ONLY THERE COULD HAVE BEEN SUBTITLES ON THIS RELEASE. While I understand that to do subtitles costs money (especially if they have to do it themselves instead of having the studio provide them), it still would have been nicer if they were there. In my opinion, if the audio could have been improved so that the dialogue could have been clearer, and/or there had been subtitles, I could have enjoyed the movie much better. So, I would recommend the movie itself, as it is a wonderful movie, but I have a hard time recommending this recent disc release at full price.
This movie is available on Blu-ray and DVD from Kino Lorber, and is about one hour, seventeen minutes in length.
My Rating: 7/10