Coming Up Shorts! with… The Little Rascals: The ClassicFlix Restorations, Volume 4

Welcome back for another full post of Coming Up Shorts! This time, I’m going with the Hal Roach theatrical shorts featuring The Little Rascals, and some of their shorts from 1933-1935 that have been released together on disc in The Little Rascals: The ClassicFlix Restorations, Volume 4.

Here’s a list and quick plot description for each of the shorts included in this set (for my comments on the individual shorts, click on the title to go to my previous reviews):

  1. The Kid From Borneo (1933) (Length: 18 minutes, 47 seconds)
    • Dorothy (Dorothy DeBorba), Dickie (Dickie Moore) and Spanky’s (George McFarland) mother has received a letter from her brother stating that he is in town with a carnival and wants to meet the kids. The kids go to the carnival, but they mistake the “Wild Man From Borneo” (their uncle’s “sideshow attraction”) as their uncle.
  2. Mush And Milk (1933) (Length: 18 minutes, 18 seconds)
    • The gang are all stuck at a boarding school run by a cranky old lady (Louise Emmons). Her husband, Cap (Gus Leonard) promises to give the kids a better life when his back pension comes through.
  3. Bedtime Worries (1933) (Length: 20 minutes, 23 seconds)
    • Spanky’s (George McFarland) father (Emerson Treacy) has just been promoted to head shipping clerk, and has decided that Spanky must now sleep on his own. However, Spanky has a lot of trouble getting to sleep on his first night alone.
  4. Wild Poses (1933) (Length: 18 minutes, 31 seconds)
    • Spanky’s (George McFarland) parents decide to have his picture taken. However, after listening to the other kids from the Gang who tag along, Spanky refuses to sit for a picture!
  5. Hi’-Neighbor! (1934) (Length: 17 minutes, 54 seconds)
    • Jerry (Jerry Tucker), the new kid in the neighborhood, has his own small fire engine (and the envy of the Gang). However, he doesn’t want to share it with them, leading them to put together their own fire engine.
  6. For Pete’s Sake! (1934) (Length: 18 minutes, 6 seconds)
    • Wally (Wally Albright) and the Gang try to fix up a doll for Marianne (Marianne Edwards), but a bully breaks her doll. So the Gang tries to get her a new doll, but they have to deal with the bully and his father to get it.
  7. The First Round-Up (1934) (Length: 18 minutes, 46 seconds)
    • The Gang all decide to go camping at the nearby Cherry Creek. However, when night falls, the kids all start to reconsider the idea.
  8. Honky-Donkey (1934) (Length: 16 minutes, 42 seconds)
    • Little rich boy Wally (Wally Albright) wants to play with some poor kids, and hangs out with the Gang. When they’re chased off the vacant lot that they’re playing on, Wally decides to bring them (and their pet donkey) to his home.
  9. Mike Fright (1934) (Length: 17 minutes, 26 seconds)
    • The “International Silver String Submarine Band” (that’s the Gang) auditions as part of an amateur radio talent contest against a bunch of other talented kids.
  10. Washee Ironee (1934) (Length: 16 minutes, 38 seconds)
    • Rich boy Waldo (Wally Albright) tries to get into a football game with the Gang, and ends up falling in the mud. His mother is throwing a society party (at which she expects him to play the violin), so the Gang tries to help wash out his clothes.
  11. Mama’s Little Pirate (1935) (Length: 18 minutes, 6 seconds)
    • Upon listening to his father read about the discovery of pirate treasure in a cave, Spanky (George McFarland) decides to lead the gang on a treasure hunt in a cave. However, his mother is opposed to the idea and orders him not to go.
  12. Shrimps For A Day (1935) (Length: 20 minutes, 42 seconds)
    • The Gang are taken to a party hosted by the sponsor for their orphanage, where an adult couple finds a lamp and wishes to be kids again. They are mistaken for being part of the group of orphans, and are brought back to the orphanage.

With thirty-three talkie shorts from the Our Gang/ The Little Rascals under their belts, the Hal Roach series continued to make changes as they kept plugging along. Longtime Our Gang director Robert McGowan (who had been with the series essentially since the beginning) had tired of doing the series and wanted to leave for a few years, but his departure kept getting delayed as the studio couldn’t come up with a replacement for him. The Hal Roach studio tried to change up the series, including shrinking the cast down to a small handful to appease McGowan (with Dickie Moore, Bobby “Wheezer” Hutchins and Dorothy DeBorba leaving after Mush And Milk), but McGowan finally had enough and left after directing Wild Poses. As a result, the series went on hiatus for four months. When they came back, they had a new director (Gus Meins) and several new cast members, including Wally Albright (who only lasted for a handful of shorts), Scotty Beckett and Billie Thomas (“Buckwheat”).

As I said in my previous reviews of Volume 1 ( which contained the shorts 1929’s Small Talk through 1930’s A Tough Winter), Volume 2 (1930’s Pups Is Pups through 1931’s Dogs Is Dogs) and Volume 3 (1932’s Readin’ And Writin’ through 1933’s Forgotten Babies), these shorts are still new to me. For me, the shorts included in this fourth volume continued to be as much fun (if not more!) as the earlier talkie shorts. George “Spanky” McFarland continues to be the main appeal here, and the two shorts that showcase him (Bedtime Worries and Wild Poses) left me laughing pretty steadily. Of course, the introduction of Scotty Beckett really added something as well, essentially making the two of them a comedy team that worked quite effectively (especially in The First Round-Up). Mike Fright, Mama’s Little Pirate and Shrimps For A Day also left me in stitches throughout, making them worth seeing again and again! Not every short in this set is perfect, as The Kid From Borneo and Washee Ironee in particular are both dated in some of their stereotyped depictions. Still, the rest of the set more than makes up for it, which makes this fourth volume of Our Gang shorts highly recommended in my book (and I certainly look forward to seeing more with the fifth volume)!

As I mentioned in my reviews of the earlier volumes, ClassicFlix announced (in late 2020) that they had licensed the Little Rascals shorts, and planned to restore the talkies (and the silents if the talkies sold well enough, which it sounds like they have). The film elements for many films and shorts originally produced by Hal Roach’s studio have changed hands a number of times over the years, and haven’t been as well preserved as most would hope. ClassicFlix tried a crowdfunding campaign to help fund the restorations for the Little Rascals series, but that ended up falling short. Still, they went through with their plans to restore the shorts, and, much like the first three sets, these shorts look fantastic (some minor damage is still present, but is BARELY noticeable)! This set doesn’t necessarily give any hints as to what film elements were used like the first one did (beyond the comment on the disc case about scanning from original Hal Roach 35mm film elements), but the results speak for themselves (and if you don’t believe me, I included some of the YouTube clips posted by ClassicFlix at the bottom of the post so that you can get a better idea)! Once again, the team at ClassicFlix have put a lot of hard work into restoring these, and I would certainly recommend this fourth volume (plus the first three as well, if you haven’t gotten them already)! With the fifth and sixth sets already released (thus completing all the talkies before MGM took over the series), we only await the arrival of the silents in 2023 (some of which will be on Blu-ray while others will be DVD-only due to the quality of the available elements)! In the meantime, there will also be The Little Rascals: The Complete Collection Centennial Edition on Blu-ray (or DVD) from ClassicFlix. This set will include all the talkie shorts included in the six volumes (although it will be condensed onto five discs instead of six) plus a bonus disc of extras (that bonus disc will also be available separately, and will come with a six-disc box for all those that previously bought the individual volumes, although it won’t be available through Amazon until after its release date).

The Little Rascals: The ClassicFlix Restorations, Volume 4 is available on Blu-ray from ClassicFlix. The whole set has a runtime of three hours, thirty-eight minutes.

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Film Legends Of Yesteryear: Screen Team & “Musical Screen Teams (September 2022)” featuring… Give A Girl A Break (1953)

We’re back for my second and final entry for my Musical Screen Teams blogathon! This time, we’ve got another film from 1953, Give A Girl A Break, starring Marge and Gower Champion, along with Debbie Reynolds!

Coming Up Shorts! with… Mama’s Little Pirate (1935)

(available on Blu-ray as part of The Little Rascals: The ClassicFlix Restorations, Volume 4 (1933-1935) from ClassicFlix)

(Length: 18 minutes, 6 seconds)

Upon listening to his father read about the discovery of pirate treasure in a cave, Spanky (George McFarland) decides to lead the gang on a treasure hunt in a cave. However, his mother is opposed to the idea and orders him not to go. This was yet another entertaining entry in the series. Most of the fun is in watching Spanky try to be smart about how they are exploring the cave, only to have things go completely wrong (with his friend Scotty there to tell him off ahead of time). The over-exaggerated giant (as played by R. E. “Tex” Madsen) adds to the fun when he encounters the kids. I know I enjoyed this one, and look forward to seeing it again!

And Now For The Main Feature…

Rehearsals for the show Give A Girl A Break have begun under director and choreographer Ted Sturgis (Gower Champion), but they’ve hit a snag. Their big star, Janet Hallson (Donna Martell), is angry with Ted for not fawning over her after she performed a number, and demands an apology. His half-hearted apology doesn’t convince her, and she decides to walk out on the show. Without a star, producer Felix Jordan (Larry Keating) suggests they go to Ted’s former dance partner, Madelyn Corlane (Marge Champion), but Ted dislikes the idea, since he is still mad at her for walking out on him. Instead, he suggests putting an ad in the paper, in an attempt to give somebody new a chance to make good. The next day, a great many young hopefuls show up, hoping to get the newly vacant part. Among that group are Suzy Doolittle (Debbie Reynolds), whom Ted’s assistant and gofer Bob Dowdy (Bob Fosse) quickly takes a shine to, and Joanna Moss (Helen Wood), who catches the eye of the show’s composer, Leo Belney (Kurt Kasznar) (since he had seen her dance before at a recital). Both of them are told to come back the next day to audition for the part. When Ted comes up to Felix’s office, he finds Madelyn there, who is also told to come back the next day to audition. That evening, Suzy rehearses at her mother’s insistence instead of going on a date with Bob (although he is understanding, and walks her home from the dance studio). Joanna goes back to her apartment to share the news with her husband, Burton Bradshaw (Richard Anderson), who also has his own news about a potential job that may take him elsewhere. Madelyn tells her boyfriend, Anson Pritchett (William Ching), about the audition, but he convinces her to withdraw. When Ted learns about Madelyn pulling out, he goes to see her and help her get past her fears. The next day, all three women audition, and Felix finds himself unsure as to which one to pick. With the other three men all equally adamant that their girl should get the role, who will win out in the end?

Give A Girl A Break ended up being far different from its initial conception. Originally, the film was to potentially star the likes of Judy Garland, Fred Astaire, Gene Kelly and Ann Miller. However, much was changing in Hollywood at that time, as musicals were falling out of favor with audiences while television’s popularity continued to rise. As a result, the cast consisted of husband-and-wife dance team Marge and Gower Champion, Debbie Reynolds, and newcomer Bob Fosse. While there was still some big talent behind-the-scenes that had contributed to the film (such as composer Burton Lane and lyricist Ira Gerswhin, director Stanley Donen and screenwriters Frances Goodrich and Albert Hackett), they weren’t enough to save the film. The movie lost money at the box office, effectively ending whatever chance the Champions had of becoming big stars (and didn’t do Bob Fosse any good as a movie star, either).

I first saw the film most of a decade ago. At the time, I was coming off of discovering the dance team of Marge and Gower Champion via Lovely To Look At (1952) (to be fair, I had previously seen them in the 1951 Show Boat, but their appearance there didn’t have anywhere near the impact that Lovely To Look At did in my estimation). In Give A Girl A Break, they have two dance routines together, set to the songs “Challenge Dance” and “It Happens Every Time.” In general, their “Challenge Dance” seems to be what they are known for here, as it feels like the better promoted dance of the two. Personally, I don’t care for it that much, and prefer “It Happens Every Time.” Admittedly, the lyrics to “It Happens Every Time” are quite forgettable (not helped by the fact that Gower’s singing voice was VERY obviously dubbed for this song, in spite of him actually singing for an earlier song in the film). The music, however, is quite memorable, and sticks with me long after I finish watching the film. Their dance is equally enjoyable, with them swinging around on a set full of poles. The whole song makes me think of their dance to the instrumental version of “Smoke Gets In Your Eyes” from Lovely To Look At. I wouldn’t put “It Happens Every Time” on the same level as that one, but it certainly left an imprint on me.

As for the rest of the movie, I think it’s a lot of fun. Realistically, I think that Bob Fosse is what really makes this film. He has three songs and dances, “Nothing Is Impossible” with Gower Champion and Kurt Kasznar, and “In Our United State,” which is used for two different partnered routines with Debbie Reynolds (one a romantic duet in the park, and the other a dream dance sometimes referred to as the “Balloon Dance,” with them dancing “backwards and forwards”). Those three dances are some of the most fun and entertaining in the film, and easily make the movie worthwhile (alongside the previously mentioned “It Happens Every Time”). There are a few other tunes, but, apart from the “Puppet Master Dance” with Helen Wood and Kurt Kasznar, they don’t really stand out that much (and quite frankly, Helen Wood is fairly good as a dancer but very much underutilized compared to the other two leading ladies). It’s not an absolutely great film, as I think the Champions can’t really carry it in the acting department (they’re decent, just not great). Thankfully, Bob Fosse, despite being billed fifth, does a much better job (and is given nearly as much screentime as the Champions). While it certainly would have been fun to have seen what the film would have been like with its original conception, I do think that what we got is entertaining enough. I know I’ve certainly enjoyed seeing it a number of times over the last decade. So, as I have no hesitation about sticking it on when I feel like it, I would definitely have no qualms about giving it some of my highest recommendations!

This movie is available on DVD from Warner Archive Collection.

Film Length: 1 hour, 22 minutes

My Rating: 9/10

List Of Actor/Actress Filmographies/Collections

Lovely To Look At (1952) – Marge Champion

Lovely To Look At (1952) – Gower Champion

Singin’ In The Rain (1952) – Debbie Reynolds – Susan Slept Here (1954)

Kiss Me Kate (1953) – Bob Fosse – My Sister Eileen (1955)

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Film Legends Of Yesteryear: Screen Team & “Musical Screen Teams (September 2022)” featuring… Kiss Me Kate (1953)

Today, we’re here to get into my first entry for my own Musical Screen Teams blogathon! That would be the 1953 musical Kiss Me Kate, featuring the team of Kathryn Grayson and Howard Keel in their final film together!

Coming Up Shorts! with… Washee Ironee (1934)

(available on Blu-ray as part of The Little Rascals: The ClassicFlix Restorations, Volume 4 (1933-1935) from ClassicFlix)

(Length: 16 minutes, 38 seconds)

Rich boy Waldo (Wally Albright) tries to get into a football game with the Gang, and ends up falling in the mud. His mother is throwing a society party (at which she expects him to play the violin), so the Gang tries to help wash out his clothes. This one was decently entertaining. In particular, Spanky (George McFarland) going through town in his goat-led “ambulance” (complete with him imitating a siren) was one of the shorts’ more amusing bits, as was the kids making a mess of the society party. It does go a bit wrong when Spanky stops to get help from a Chinese kid at the laundry (the main problem being the way the other kids all treat him by attempting to speak “Chinese”). Apart from that, though, I enjoyed this one, and would gladly watch it again!

Coming Up Shorts! with… Barney’s Hungry Cousin (1953)

(Available as an extra on the Kiss Me Kate Blu-ray from Warner Home Video)

(Length: 6 minutes, 42 seconds)

Barney Bear has come to Jellystone National Park, hoping to enjoy a nice picnic. However, one of the bears living there keeps trying to steal his food! This one was quite fun. Admittedly, it is essentially the same joke over and over, as the one hungry bear keeps stealing Barney’s food, no matter what Barney does to get away from him or prevent it. Still, it serves its purpose in being funny, which makes it worth seeing!

And Now For The Main Feature…

Composer Cole Porter (Ron Randell) has put together a musical version of the Shakespearean play The Taming Of The Shrew, with plans to have it directed by Fred Graham (Howard Keel) with Fred also playing the lead role of “Petruchio.” They both want Fred’s ex-wife, Lilli Vanessi (Kathryn Grayson), to play the part of “Katherine,” and they invite her to Fred’s apartment to convince her to be a part of the show. She almost consents until Fred’s current girlfriend, nightclub performer Lois Lane (Ann Miller), shows up. Lilli decides to leave but quickly returns to accept the role when Fred and Cole decide to be sneaky and offer Lois the part of “Katherine.” During rehearsals, Fred and Lilli continue to argue, but start to reconcile right before the show’s opening night. However, Fred sends some flowers to Lois with a note (but his valet mistakenly delivers the flowers to Lilli), and Lilli (who believes the bouquet of flowers were meant for her) reads the note during a moment onstage. In a rage, she starts going off-script and hitting Fred hard. In retaliation, he spanks her onstage at the end of the first act. Having had enough, Lilli decides to leave the show immediately and go to be with her fiancé, Tex Callaway (Willard Parker). Fred at first has no clue how to convince her to stay and finish the show, but he quickly comes up with an idea. Fred learns that his castmate Bill Calhoun (Tommy Rall) (who is actually Lois’ boyfriend) had taken part in a crap game earlier, and lost a lot of money (but signed Fred’s name on the IOU). While he’s initially mad at Bill, due to the two thugs (Lippy, as played by Keenan Wynn, and Slug, as played by James Whitmore) hounding him about the money, Fred is able to make use of the situation by convincing the two men that he can only pay them back if the show is a hit (and it needs Lilli to stay for that to happen). So, the two men force Lilli to go through with the show for a while. However, between acts, the two men find out that their employer has been killed, thus negating Fred’s “IOU.” Without their help, can Fred convince Lilli to stay with him (and the show), or will she go off to live life with a millionaire?

The whole idea was the result of a 1935 performance of Shakespeare’s The Taming Of The Shrew in which then-stage manager Arnold Saint Subber watched the show’s stars, Alfred Lunt and Lynn Fontanne, fight backstage. Later on, as Arnold Saint Subber was becoming a Broadway producer, he decided to make use of the idea as a backstage musical. With the help of his new partner, Lemuel Ayres, he brought in Bella and Samuel Spewack to write the book along with composer Cole Porter to write the score. They were all hesitant about the project, but they were able to come up with a show that would be a big hit with audiences, one of the few to run more than one thousand performances at the time. MGM quickly bought the movie rights, but film production was delayed since they couldn’t start until the Broadway show’s run had ended. In making the transition from stage to screen, the musical kept most of its score (save for at least one song that ended up being spoken), and added the Cole Porter song “From This Moment On” (originally written for the Cole Porter show Out Of This World, even though it was dropped before its premiere). Of course, the song “From This Moment On” is famous here for the fact that Bob Fosse had the opportunity to choreograph a section of the dance for himself and his partner, Carol Haney, which helped him greatly on the path to becoming a famous choreographer.

I picked this film (which I’ve seen many times over the years) to go with my Musical Screen Teams blogathon, with my planned focus on Kathryn Grayson and Howard Keel, who had worked together previously in Show Boat (1951) and Lovely To Look At (1952). While I don’t quite think the film itself is the best of the three, I do think that their characters’ relationship works the best here. Unlike the other two films, we don’t see their original romance here. Instead, they’ve already been a married couple and gotten divorced. Yet, the seeds of love between them still exist somewhat despite the anger and hatred that Keel’s Fred keeps causing by his current relationship with Ann Miller’s Lois (even if Lois is just using him to help her own career and that of her boyfriend). On the musical side of things, Keel and Grayson only have two duets (the rest of the time, they are part of an ensemble), but those two songs, “So In Love” and “Wunderbar” are among some of the film’s best moments. “So In Love” is indeed, as it’s title suggests, a beautiful love song, used mainly as an audition for Grayson’s Lilli (and, even though Fred is using it to help manipulate her into doing the show, it still helps show enough of those seeds of attraction I already referred to). “Wunderbar” is just plain fun, as their characters recall a previous show they did together, with them even goofing around and trying to upstage each other, while also dancing together.

Of course, Howard Keel and Kathryn Grayson are hardly the only things that make this movie wonderful. One thing this movie is noted for is the fact that it was made as part of the 3-D fad during the early 1950s (when Hollywood was trying to come up with ways to get people out to the theatres due to the rise of television). I personally can’t speak to how good the 3-D is, since I’ve never seen it on a big screen, and I haven’t had any of the technology to see it that way at home (since the Blu-ray came out while 3-D Blu-rays required a 3-D player and a 3-D TV, neither of which have I ever had). Still, one can get a sense of the 3-D aspects through many moments in the film, especially when they throw stuff at the camera during some of the dances. In general, Ann Miller (in some respects, the “third member” of the screen team, since she was also kind of the girlfriend briefly for Howard Keel’s character in Lovely To Look At) gets some of the best moments to show off her dance abilities. Her tap solo “auditioning” for the show to “Too Darn Hot” is one of the film’s highlights (regardless of whether you see it in 3-D or not). She also has “Why Can’t You Behave?” with Tommy Rall on the rooftop, and several routines with him, Bobby Van and Bob Fosse, all of which are fun! In my opinion, this is a very highly regarded musical for good reason, with great music by Cole Porter, great singers and dancers, wonderful comedy and Shakespeare! So, it’s certainly a film I would recommend very highly!

This movie is available on Blu-ray, either individually from Warner Archive Collection or as part of a four-film Musicals collection from Warner Home Video.

Film Length: 1 hour, 50 minutes

My Rating: 10/10

*ranked #5 in Top 10 Movies Watched In 2022

List Of Actor/Actress Filmographies/Collections

Lovely To Look At (1952) – Kathryn Grayson

Calamity Jane (1953) – Howard Keel – Seven Brides For Seven Brothers (1954)

Lovely To Look At (1952) – Ann Miller – Deep In My Heart (1954)

Good News (1947) – Tommy Rall – Seven Brides For Seven Brothers (1954)

Bob Fosse – Give A Girl A Break (1953)

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What’s Old Is A New Release Again (2022) Blu-ray Roundup #2

Welcome back to my new “Whats Old Is A New Release Again Roundup” series! This time around, I’m back to focusing on titles released on the Blu-ray format in 2022. Since it is focused on Blu-ray releases not related to any specific star or screen team (which means the rate of releases is much faster), I will not be updating this one (except to add links to full reviews if and when they are reviewed later on). So, let’s dig into the movies For Me And My Gal (1942), The Clock (1945), Adventures Of Don Juan (1948) and Jack And The Beanstalk (1952)!

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Note: Due to the fact that I’ve reviewed For Me And My Gal (1942) previously, I have added one of my “Coming Up Shorts!” comments to that review.

Table Of Contents

Coming Up Shorts! with… The First Round-Up (1934)

(available on Blu-ray as part of The Little Rascals: The ClassicFlix Restorations, Volume 4 (1933-1935) from ClassicFlix)

(Length: 18 minutes, 46 seconds)

The Gang all decide to go camping at the nearby Cherry Creek. However, when night falls, the kids all start to reconsider the idea. I’ve been enjoying some of the previous shorts from the Our Gang series, but this one was REALLY entertaining! Plain and simple, the highlights of this short all have to do with Spanky (George McFarland) and Scotty (Scotty Beckett), especially as they continually prove to be smarter than the older kids (who didn’t want them tagging along). They definitely brought the humor here, and made it one that I definitely want to return to frequently!

Coming Up Shorts! with… Honky-Donkey (1934)

(available on Blu-ray as part of The Little Rascals: The ClassicFlix Restorations, Volume 4 (1933-1935) from ClassicFlix)

(Length: 16 minutes, 42 seconds)

Little rich boy Wally (Wally Albright) wants to play with some poor kids, and hangs out with the Gang. When they’re chased off the vacant lot that they’re playing on, Wally decides to bring them (and their pet donkey) to his home. This was yet another entertaining short! Most of the fun centers around the donkey, who chases after anybody when they sneeze, but sits when they hear a bell. Of course, Spanky (George McFarland) and Scotty (Scotty Beckett) add to the fun, trying to help stop the donkey with an alarm clock while otherwise commenting on everything going on. It may be something of a one-joke short the way they use the donkey, but they keep it fresh enough that I certainly would willingly sit through this one again!

Coming Up Shorts! with… Mike Fright (1934)

(available on Blu-ray as part of The Little Rascals: The ClassicFlix Restorations, Volume 4 (1933-1935) from ClassicFlix)

(Length: 17 minutes, 26 seconds)

The “International Silver String Submarine Band” (that’s the Gang) auditions as part of an amateur radio talent contest against a bunch of other talented kids. Plain and simple, this one was VERY FUNNY!! Much of the humor was in the kids loudly carrying around all their instruments and all the mechanical trouble they caused with the microphone. Spanky (George McFarland) and Scotty (Scotty Beckett) still seem to be the funniest two of the bunch, and get a lot of one-liners that kept me in stitches. I would say that this is one of the best shorts from the fourth volume of Our Gang talkies, and I would readily recommend it!

For Me And My Gal (1942)

  • Plot Synopses: In the small town of Clifton Junction, Iowa, in 1916, two different vaudevillian acts meet at the same theatre. Dancer Harry Palmer (Gene Kelly) makes an offer to Jo Hayden (Judy Garland) (who is part of a troupe led by Jimmy Metcalfe, played by George Murphy) to work together as a song-and-dance team. She accepts, but their rise to fame is slow (much slower than Harry wanted). The two fall for each other, but they make the mutual decision to wait for marriage until they can make it to the top, the Palace Theater in New York City. When they are finally signed to appear there, Harry gets his draft notice. Will they be able to play the Palace (and be a married couple), or will the war put an end to their plans?
  • Film Length: 1 hour, 44 minutes
  • Extras: Commentary by historian John Fricke; MGM shorts La Fiesta De Santa Barbara (1935) and Every Sunday (1936); Outtake Musical numbers: Three Cheers For The Yanks and For Me And My Gal Deleted Finale; Screen Guild Players For Me And My Gal with Judy Garland, Gene Kelly and Dick Powell; Leo Is On The Air Radio Promo and Theatrical Trailer
  • Label: Warner Archive Collection
  • My Rating (after Blu-ray): 10/10 (previously 9/10)
  • Quick Comments
    • On The Movie Itself: I’ve seen this one many times, and always enjoy coming back to it! Judy Garland and Gene Kelly (in his film debut) prove that they have great chemistry in their first outing together. The film helps show the journey that some vaudevillians had to go through on their quest to get to the Palace Theater in New York City, helped by some authentic music of the era. The dances may not be on the level that Gene Kelly was later known for, but they’re still entertaining. I had a high enough opinion of the film to recommend it on DVD (see original review here), and it’s even more fun on Blu-ray!
    • On The Transfer: The transfer comes from a 4K scan of the best available preservation elements. Quite simply stated, it’s a typical (great looking) Warner Archive release. The detail is much improved over the previously available DVD, and the picture has been cleaned up of all scratches, dust and debris. Otherwise translated, the Blu-ray from Warner Archive Collection is the way to go when seeing this movie now!

The Clock (1945)

  • Plot Synopses: Corporal Joe Allen (Robert Walker) is on leave for two days and has just arrived in New York City via train. He knows nobody there, until he accidentally trips Alice Mayberry (Judy Garland), breaking her heel. He helps her get it repaired, and they spend some time together. Alice has to leave, but they agree to meet later for a date. As they spend more time together having various adventures, they start growing closer. With Joe’s leave quickly coming to an end, will they go their separate ways, or will they find a way to stay together?
  • Film Length: 1 hour, 30 minutes
  • Extras: Pete Smith Specialty Short: Hollywood Scout (1945), Classic Tex Avery Cartoon: The Screwy Truant (1945), Audio-only Lux Radio Theater Adaptation with John Hodiak and Judy Garland and Theatrical Trailer
  • Label: Warner Archive Collection
  • My Rating: 10/10
  • Quick Comments
    • On The Movie Itself: This was my first time seeing this Judy Garland film, and it’s one that I enjoyed! The film mainly focuses on the relationship between Judy’s Alice Mayberry and Robert Walker’s Corporal Joe Allen, and their chemistry together proves to be good enough to carry the film! We see them go from being complete strangers to falling in love as they have a whole bunch of adventures together over a period of two days. Some of those episodes are fun, some are romantic, and some are heartbreaking. This movie has it all (even if it is a non-musical role for Judy), which makes it well worth seeing!
    • On The Transfer: The transfer comes from a 4K scan of the best available preservation elements. It’s from Warner Archive, so you know it looks great! The picture has been cleaned up of scratches, dust and debris, and really shows off the detail. Highly recommended!

Adventures Of Don Juan (1948)

  • Plot Synopses: When he is caught one too many times by irate husbands/potential suitors, Don Juan de Maraña (Errol Flynn) is deported back to Spain. There, it is hoped that he will reform himself in the service of Queen Margaret (Vivica Lindfors), who is trying to avert a war between Spain and England. Trouble has arisen in Spain due to the Duke de Lorca (Robert Douglas), who has been trying to control the Spanish King Philip III (Romney Brent) and lead the countries into war. Much to the duke’s annoyance, Don Juan continues to get in his way. Eventually, it is discovered that the duke has kidnapped the Spanish ambassador and is trying to torture him to find out where the ambassador has hidden some money that he is holding for the queen. This forces the duke out of the shadows as he attempts to more openly usurp control. Can Don Juan stop him, or will the duke successfully take over the country?
  • Film Length: 1 hour, 51 minutes
  • Extras: Commentary by Director Vincent Sherman and Historian Rudy Behlmer; Warner Night At The Movies: Newsreel, Joe McDoakes Short So You Want To Be On The Radio (1948), Warner Bros. Short Calgary Stampede (1948), Warner Bros. Cartoon Hare Splitter (1948); Theatrical Trailer
  • Label: Warner Archive Collection
  • My Rating: 8/10
  • Quick Comments
    • On The Movie Itself: This was a new Errol Flynn film for me, and I very much enjoyed it! I can’t deny, the film does remind me strongly of the far superior The Adventures Of Robin Hood (1938) via a score that feels similar, and various plot points (not to mention some brief footage borrowed from that film and 1939’s The Private Lives Of Elizabeth And Essex). Errol Flynn is definitely showing his age here (especially since it was his first swashbuckler in nearly a decade), but he acquits himself very well in a very tailor-made role for him. The swordfights are still thrilling to see, especially the inevitable duel between Flynn’s Don Juan and Robert Douglas’ Duke de Lorca. It’s not Errol Flynn at his absolute best, but it’s still a very entertaining swashbuckler made better by his presence (and therefore recommended)!
    • On The Transfer: The transfer comes from a 4K scan of the nitrate Technicolor negatives. It’s from Warner Archive, and it’s a 3-strip Technicolor film. That pretty much says it all, as the transfer really brings out the color, and it’s been cleaned up of all scratches, dust and debris. So, if you like this film, the Blu-ray is indeed the way to go!

Jack And The Beanstalk (1952)

  • Plot Synopses: Jack (Lou Costello) has been tasked with babysitting an obnoxious little boy (David Stollery) and attempts to read him the story of Jack And The Beanstalk (although the kid ends up reading to him). As Jack imagines the story, he places himself in the role of the titular Jack, who sells his family cow to local butcher Mr. Dinklepuss (Bud Abbott) in exchange for some “magic beans.” When planted, the beans turn into a very tall beanstalk that reaches to the skies. Jack and Mr. Dinklepuss climb the beanstalk to go rescue the prince (James Alexander) and princess (Shaye Cogan) along with other objects of value that have been stolen by the giant (Buddy Baer). Will they succeed in their mission, or will the giant win out?
  • Film Length: 1 hour, 20 minutes
  • Extras: Newly Recorded Introduction By Lou’s Youngest Daughter, Chris Costello; Commentary by Abbott and Costello expert Ron Palumbo, with recollections from Jack And The Beanstalk co-star David Stollery; newly discovered footage of Abbott and Costello performing “Who’s on First” on December 2, 1940; Imperfect Spectrum: A Brief History of Cinecolor by Jack Theakston; Climbing The Scales: The Music Of Jack And The Beanstalk by Ray Fiola; Beanstalk Ballyhoo by Ron Palumbo; Cutting Down the Beanstalk by Ron Palumbo; Abbott And Costello Meet the Creature – Live TV Appearance from February, 1954; Rudy Vallee radio sketch (February, 1945) with photo gallery by Shane Fleming; Restoration Demo; Behind The Scenes photo gallery by Chip Ordway with 1952 children’s recording; Publicity Materials photo gallery by Chip Ordway; Abbott And Costello Trailer Rarities = 18 original “Coming Attraction” previews including Jack And The Beanstalk; Fireman Save My Child trailer and commentaries by 3-D expert Mike Ballew or Ron Palumbo; ClassicFlix Trailers for A Night In Casablanca (1946), Abbott And Costello TV Show: Mustard, The Little Rascals Vol. 4, Merrily We Live (1938), Zenobia (1939)
  • Label: ClassicFlix
  • My Rating: 7/10
  • Quick Comments
    • On The Movie Itself: I’ve seen Jack And The Beanstalk a number of times over the years, and, even though I consider it one of the lesser Abbott and Costello films, I still like to see it every now and then. My biggest problems with the film are with its less than memorable music (although the songs “I Fear Nothing” and the title song are at least decent), the less-than-polished dancing and the less-than-stellar performances of James Alexander and Shaye Cogan as the film’s central romance. Bud and Lou really don’t do any of their comedy routines here and instead try more to appeal to kids (and they do well enough that they still manage to be funny in the process). Of course, doing the film in a manner that evokes thoughts of the far superior The Wizard Of Oz (1939) with the opening and closing in sepia-tone while the rest of the film is in (SuperCine)color doesn’t exactly do it any favors either. Still, it’s fun for what it is, an Abbott and Costello movie in color (the only other one is the same year’s Abbott And Costello Meet Captain Kidd) and it’s worth giving a chance (especially now that it’s been restored)!
    • On The Transfer: This transfer comes from a 4K scan from 35mm SuperCinecolor elements. The 3-D Film Archive has painstakingly restored this film to get it looking as close to how it should, making the color look much better than it has in a long time, and allowing us to enjoy the opening and closing in its original sepia-tone. The vast majority of scratches, dust and other debris have been cleaned up here. It should be noted here that, for the color section of the film, it is a bit grainier than some might expect. This is due to the original film elements having disappeared when the film was sold off back in 1959 (long before it became public domain), and the best available elements are several generations away from that (meaning they are much grainier). As a result, we have the choice of a grainier picture that shows off the detail, or a picture with the grain removed (and the detail removed with it). I believe they made the right choice, making this the best release this film has seen in a long time (if you want the extras, don’t wait too long to get it, as it is a limited edition that will go out of print soon, although a barebones release may happen later on, depending on how this one sells)!

My Overall Impressions

Well, now that I’ve commented on these four films, I’ll give you my rankings on these releases, from highly recommended (1.) to least recommended (4.)

  1. (tie) For Me And My Gal (1942)
  1. (tie) The Clock (1945)
  1. Adventures Of Don Juan (1948)
  1. Jack And The Beanstalk (1952)

When you get down to it, this is a group of films in which I really have no hesitation in recommending each release, especially in terms of the transfer. I think that Jack And The Beanstalk (1952) has the weakest one, if only because the best available elements are several generations away from the original camera negative, which made it much grainier than some might like. I think the film itself is the weakest, but the release more than makes up for it with nearly two and a half hours of extras (making it the best release of this bunch from that perspective). Do keep in mind that, like I said before, it’s a limited edition which is likely to sell out soon, and if it comes back in print after that, it is very likely that it will only be a barebones release (so if you want those extras, get this one now). The other three releases really are on equal ground as far as their transfers go, as they all look exceptionally great. I think that, as a film, Adventures Of Don Juan (1948) is weaker than either of the two Judy Garland films, but it’s still an entertaining outing for Errol Flynn. And as for For Me And My Gal (1942) and The Clock (1945)? It really is a tie in my opinion, as both are absolutely wonderful films worth seeing. And that, my friends, is what I think of this group of new releases on Blu-ray!

Coming Up Shorts! with… The Woody Woodpecker Screwball Collection

Welcome back for another full post of Coming Up Shorts! This time, I’m going with theatrical shorts starring Woody Woodpecker, featuring various shorts from 1941 through 1961 that have been released together on disc in The Woody Woodpecker Screwball Collection.

Here’s a list and quick plot description for each of the cartoons included in this set (for my comments on the individual cartoons, click on the title to go to my previous reviews):

  1. Woody Woodpecker (1941) (Length: 6 minutes, 58 seconds)
    • The woodland animals think that Woody Woodpecker is crazy, and so he goes to see a psychiatrist.
  2. The Screwdriver (1941) (Length: 6 minutes, 48 seconds)
    • Woody is speeding through the countryside in his car, and decides to pick on a traffic cop watching for speeders.
  3. Pantry Panic (1941) (Length: 6 minutes, 57 seconds)
    • Woody Woodpecker ignores the advice of the weather groundhog, and a cold snap hits, leaving him without any food. Then a hungry cat comes a-calling, but finds himself fighting with an equally hungry Woodpecker!
  4. The Hollywood Matador (1942) (Length: 6 minutes, 58 seconds)
    • Woody Woodpecker takes on the bull Oxnar The Terribull in the bullring.
  5. Ace In The Hole (1942) (Length: 6 minutes, 48 seconds)
    • Stable boy Woody Woodpecker longs to fly in the planes, but the bulldog sergeant refuses to let him.
  6. The Loan Stranger (1942) (Length: 6 minutes, 50 seconds)
    • When Woody’s car breaks down, he gets a loan from a loan shark (or wolf in this case). After thirty days, the wolf comes to collect, but Woody won’t give him the money!
  7. The Screwball (1943) (Length: 6 minutes, 53 seconds)
    • Woody Woodpecker tries to watch a baseball game without paying, but has to deal with a policeman trying to stop him.
  8. Ration Bored (1943) (Length: 6 minutes, 51 seconds)
    • Disregarding the idea of conserving gas and tires, Woody Woodpecker goes out for a drive, only to run out of gas at the bottom of a hill. He and his car are then smacked into a junkyard, where he siphons gas from a few other vehicles, including a cop car (with the cop in it).
  9. The Barber Of Seville (1944) (Length: 6 minutes, 56 seconds)
    • Woody Woodpecker stops in at the Seville Barber Shop for a haircut, but the owner is out for his physical. When an Indian chief and a construction worker come in, Woody proceeds to wreak havoc on the two men.
  10. The Beach Nut (1944) (Length: 6 minutes, 50 seconds)
    • Wally Walrus has come to the beach to relax, but Woody Woodpecker keeps pestering him.
  11. Ski For Two (1944) (Length: 6 minutes, 48 seconds)
    • As he looks through various travel brochures, Woody Woodpecker finds one for the Swiss Chard Lodge which promises good food, so off he goes. When the proprietor, Wally Walrus, throws him out for not having a reservation, Woody decides he’s still going to get the food he wanted!
  12. Chew-Chew Baby (1945) (Length: 6 minutes, 57 seconds)
    • Wally Walrus kicks a very hungry Woody Woodpecker out of his boarding house (for nonpayment of rent). Looking in the newspaper, Woody finds a personal ad for Wally, and decides to answer it disguised as a woman.
  13. Woody Dines Out (1945) (Length: 6 minutes, 42 seconds)
    • Woody Woodpecker is hungry, but all the restaurants that he can find are closed. Finally, he discovers a place that specializes in stuffing birds, but it turns out to be the establishment of a taxidermist!
  14. The Loose Nut (1945) (Length: 6 minutes, 57 seconds)
    • Woody Woodpecker is out playing golf, but his ball goes into a wet patch of cement. He quickly gets into a fight with the city worker who was trying to smooth it out, and they keep fighting as the worker tries to get Woody to fix it.
  15. The Reckless Driver (1946) (Length: 6 minutes, 46 seconds)
    • While driving on the highway, Woody sees a billboard reminding him to renew his driver’s license. Going to the department of motor vehicles, he tries to renew it with officer Wally Walrus.
  16. Fair Weather Fiends (1946) (Length: 6 minutes, 46 seconds)
    • Everything is just fine for Woody Woodpecker and his friend, Wolfie Wolf, as they sail around on their boat, eating all day long. Then a storm leaves them stranded without food on an island, and hunger sets in.
  17. Woody The Giant Killer (1947) (Length: 6 minutes, 47 seconds)
    • With a housing shortage, Woody Woodpecker can’t find a place to stay. Buck Beaver gives him some magic beans, and a beanstalk takes him up to the giant’s castle in the clouds.
  18. Wet Blanket Policy (1948) (Length: 6 minutes, 25 seconds)
    • Woody Woodpecker is pushed by insurance salesman Buzz Buzzard into signing an insurance policy… with Buzz as the beneficiary!
  19. Wild And Woody! (1948) (Length: 6 minutes, 40 seconds)
    • In the town of Rigor Mortis, Arizona, outlaw Buzz Buzzard has a habit of killing off every sheriff. However, Woody Woodpecker decides to take the job, and gives Buzz a run for his money!
  20. The Woody Woodpecker Polka (1951) (Length: 6 minutes, 43 seconds)
    • Woody Woodpecker wants to get in to the barn dance for the free food, but Wally Walrus, the ticket taker, won’t let him in without paying. So, Woody decides to dress up as a lady to get in free!
  21. Born To Peck (1952) (Length: 6 minutes, 38 seconds)
    • An elderly Woody Woodpecker looks back on his life as a baby.
  22. Termites From Mars (1952) (Length: 6 minutes, 21 seconds)
    • The Earth is being invaded by the Martians! However, as Woody Woodpecker quickly finds out, these “Martians” are a bunch of termites out to eat up his home!
  23. Under The Counter Spy (1954) (Length: 6 minutes, 22 seconds)
    • A dangerous criminal called “The Bat” has stolen a secret formula, but has left the bottle in Woody Woodpecker’s house while evading the police. Woody mistakes the bottle for his tonic, and finds himself supercharged as he goes after “The Bat!”
  24. Niagara Fools (1956) (Length: 6 minutes, 12 seconds)
    • Woody decides to try going over Niagara Falls in a barrel, but a guide forbids him from doing so.
  25. The Bird Who Came To Dinner (1961) (Length: 6 minutes, 17 seconds)
    • Woody Woodpecker thinks he’s got it made when he poses as a toy woodpecker that a wealthy woman buys for her son. However, the son is very abusive towards all his toys, and intends to “play” the same way with his new toy!

Woody Woodpecker made his debut in the Walter Lantz Studio Andy Panda cartoon Knock Knock (1940). With audiences reacting strongly to the character, the animation studio quickly spun him off with his own series starting with the cartoon Woody Woodpecker (1941). For his first three appearances, the character was voiced by Mel Blanc, but Mel signed a loyalty contract with Warner’s Leon Schlesinger Productions, which ended his run in the Woody Woodpecker theatrical shorts (although the character’s laugh that he did was used as a stock sound effect for most of a decade). As time went on, Woody underwent several changes, both in terms of design and voice actors. Many potential foils, such as Wally Walrus and Buzz Buzzard were introduced to the series as well. For most of the 40s, the Woody cartoons were distributed by Universal Studios, but in the latter part of the decade, United Artists briefly took over when Walter Lantz and Universal couldn’t come to an agreement. During that time, George Tibbles and Ramey Idriss wrote “The Woody Woodpecker Song,” which became the series’ theme song. Going into the 1950s, Walter Lantz signed with Universal again, and his wife Grace Stafford started providing the voice of Woody. The latter part of the decade saw Woody make the jump to television, where his shorts were syndicated as part of The Woody Woodpecker Show. New shorts were still being produced for theatres, but that came to an end in 1972 when Walter Lantz had to shut down his studio as a result of production costs getting too high. Eventually, Walter Lantz sold all his shorts to Universal Studios, who later produced more Woody Woodpecker TV series.

For the most part, I really did not grow up with Woody Woodpecker cartoons (although I at least had something of an idea of who he was), so all the cartoons in The Woody Woodpecker Screwball Collection were new to me. Suffice to say, I enjoyed many of the cartoons in this set, with several that really stood out for me (in a good way). Outside of its treatment of a Native American chief, The Barber Of Seville (1944) really managed to be fun, especially with its music. Some of the shorts that featured Wally Walrus as his nemesis left me in stitches, especially Ski For Two (1944), Chew-Chew Baby (1945) and The Reckless Driver (1946). There were only two cartoons in this set that featured Woody dealing with Buzz Buzzard, but they left a strong impression on me. Admittedly, of the two with Buzz, Wet Blanket Policy was slightly weaker, but mainly because of “The Woody Woodpecker Song” carrying over beyond the opening credits, which obscured some of the opening dialogue (I have no idea whether the short has always been that way or if it was a mistake on this set). I did think that (as far as the cartoons included in this set are concerned) the series got a bit weaker as it went on, but the later Niagara Fools managed to be enough of a return to form that kept me laughing from start to finish! I wouldn’t call all of the shorts in this set memorable, but it was a fun introduction to the character of Woody Woodpecker. The biggest complaint is that this set doesn’t contain a large number of Woody Woodpecker shorts, including his first appearance (although everything included is at least put in order of original release). I certainly would enjoy looking into more if they are ever released (so yes, I do recommend this set)!

As far as how these shorts look on Blu-ray, I would say that this set has mixed results. To me, most of the earlier shorts included look really good, with nice, vivid colors. To me, one of the weakest looking shorts is The Beach Nut, which seems a bit fuzzier than others. The opening credits on a number of the latter shorts also don’t look as crisp, but, apart from that, the rest of the shorts look much better. Overall, this set certainly isn’t up to the quality that I would find in a Warner Archive release, but, for all intents and purposes, this is likely to be as good as we might get for Woody Woodpecker in the meantime.

The Woody Woodpecker Screwball Collection is available on Blu-ray from Universal Studios. The whole set has a runtime of two hours, fifty-five minutes.

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“Star Of The Month (August 2022)” Featuring Audrey Hepburn in… Paris When It Sizzles (1964)

We’re back for the second and final post on an Audrey Hepburn film (my Star Of The Month for August 2022). This time, it’s her 1964 film Paris When It Sizzles, also starring William Holden!

Coming Up Shorts! with… The Bird Who Came To Dinner (1961)

(available on Blu-ray as part of The Woody Woodpecker Screwball Collection from Universal Studios)

(Length: 6 minutes, 17 seconds)

Woody Woodpecker thinks he’s got it made when he poses as a toy woodpecker that a wealthy woman buys for her son. However, the son is very abusive towards all his toys, and intends to “play” the same way with his new toy! This one was entertaining, giving Woody a villain to fight against (one that seems very much to be the predecessor to Sid from the first Toy Story). It takes a moment for Woody to start fighting back, but it feels worthwhile watching the son get what’s coming to him. Not one of the best Woody Woodpecker cartoons, but it certainly did its job in providing a few good laughs.

And Now For The Main Feature…

Movie producer Alexander Meyerheim (Noël Coward) is currently awaiting the screenplay for his next movie. His screenwriter, Richard Benson (William Holden) has assured him that the script for the movie, currently titled The Girl Who Stole The Eiffel Tower, is almost finished. Alexander is suspicious of that claim, and has decided to visit Richard in Paris to see for himself. Since Richard hasn’t really written it yet (and only has two days to get it done), he hires a secretary, Gabrielle Simpson (Audrey Hepburn), to move in for those two days and help him finish it. On the first day, there are several starts and stops as Richard tries to piece together his ideas, but things go out of control when Gabrielle gets a little drunk and has to call it a night. Inspired by Gabrielle, Richard writes up most of a screenplay, and shares it with her the next day. The two then figure out where to go from there. As they write the screenplay, Richard and Gabrielle fall for each other, but he resists the idea strongly, having been through several failed marriages already. Will the two end up together movie-style when they finish, or will his past (and current issues) come between them?

There was a lot of behind-the-scenes drama in the making of Paris When It Sizzles (which was based on an earlier 1952 French film called La fête à Henriette), with some of those problems being started nearly a decade earlier. After enjoying some early success in her film career with Roman Holiday (1953), Audrey Hepburn had followed that up with the 1954 film Sabrina. During the making of that film, Audrey had an affair with her co-star, William Holden. The affair ended after the film wrapped, although it’s reported that the married William still carried a torch for Audrey. He also had a bit of a drinking problem that had been hurting his career for some time, and it really worsened during Paris When It Sizzles (which was indeed filmed in Paris). It got so bad that director Richard Quine rented a place next to William to help keep him in check. That wasn’t quite enough, and the director had to convince William to undergo treatment for one week. During that time, Tony Curtis was brought in for a quick appearance. Audrey herself was even guilty of causing some trouble, getting the original cinematographer Claude Renoir fired when she didn’t like how the dailies were turning out. In spite of that, Claude was helpful in getting Charles Lang (who had done Sabrina) to be his replacement. Filming was completed in late 1962, but when the Paramount executives saw it, they felt it was unreleasable and held it back until 1964 (which still wasn’t enough for audiences or critics, as the film didn’t do as well as originally hoped).

This does seem to be one of those films that you either love or you hate, and, after finally seeing it for the first time, I would say that I fall into the “love it!” group. The movie is quite enjoyable! Sure, it relies on a lot of romantic comedy clichés, but at the same time, it knows that, which is part of the fun! I know I enjoyed the various “false starts” in them writing the script, and I particularly had a few good laughs out of when the story got derailed completely at the end of the first day, with Richard Benson’s (William Holden) alter ego all of a sudden becoming Dracula and engaging in a madcap chase after Gabrielle’s (Audrey Hepburn) alter ego, in a sequence that was originally intended to be longer but had to be cut short when William Holden got injured in a car crash with one week left to film (although I personally think the shorter length made it better). Tony Curtis’ appearance in the “film-within-a-film” is also entertaining, especially the way that his character is talked about like he was actually a minor character in a movie. And the film’s ending (of Paris When It Sizzles, not the “film-within-a-film”), with all the requisite tropes being discussed by the characters as they engage in them was quite entertaining! And, the movie even threw in a few Easter Eggs referencing Audrey’s films, like Breakfast At Tiffany’s (1961) and My Fair Lady (1964) (although, to be fair, I don’t know how much the reference to My Fair Lady was intentional, since Paris When It Sizzles was filmed BEFORE she filmed Charade but released after it, and I don’t know when she was cast in My Fair Lady, but it’s still fun just the same). I know not everybody will enjoy this movie, but I did! So, I definitely would suggest giving this meta-comedy a chance!

What’s Old Is A New Release Again (2021) with… Paris When It Sizzles (1964)

This movie is available on Blu-ray either individually or as part of the Audrey Hepburn 7-Movie Collection from Paramount Pictures. My best guess is that it uses the same transfer from the earlier DVD. As a result, the picture looks pretty decent (although probably not *quite* as good on bigger and better screens). There really isn’t much in the way of visible damage, so, while this doesn’t look as good as it could, it’s still probably the best that can be hoped for at the moment (short of a HUGE surge in popularity that would result in them doing right by it).

Film Length: 1 hour, 50 minutes

My Rating: 9/10

List Of Actor/Actress Filmographies/Collections

Forever Female (1953) – William Holden

Charade (1963)Audrey HepburnMy Fair Lady (1964)

Operation Petticoat (1959) – Tony Curtis

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“Star Of The Month (August 2022)” Featuring Audrey Hepburn in… Charade (1963)

Well, now that we’ve gotten into the month of August with my focus on Audrey Hepburn as my Star Of The Month, it’s time to take a look at one of her films! So, we’re going to start off with her 1963 classic Charade, which also stars Cary Grant!

Coming Up Shorts! with… Niagara Fools (1956)

(available on Blu-ray as part of The Woody Woodpecker Screwball Collection from Universal Studios)

(Length: 6 minutes, 12 seconds)

Woody decides to try going over Niagara Falls in a barrel, but a guide forbids him from doing so. This one was VERY funny! Most of the time, the guide’s attempts to stop Woody from going over result in HIM going over instead! I know I got a good chuckle over seeing the guide’s reactions (especially once he was resigned to going over after several failures), and it was even funnier when he accidentally dragged over many other guides! Plus, there’s the guide’s nonsensical trip back to the falls (after getting accidentally sent to the North Pole) as he travels through many different sections of the world (all while yelling “Mush!”). I had a lot of fun with this one, and I certainly know I would gladly come back to it again and again!

And Now For The Main Feature…

Regina Lampert (Audrey Hepburn) has just returned to Paris following a holiday in the French Alps with her friend Sylvie Gaudet (Dominique Minot). On the trip, Regina had told Sylvie that she was planning to divorce her husband Charles, but, upon returning to her apartment, she learns that he had been murdered, and had sold off all their furniture. She is quickly summoned by the police inspector, Edouard Grandpierre (Jacques Marin), who questions her about her husband (and in the process, she learns that he had been living something of a double life, with multiple passports under different names). At her husband’s funeral, three men show up, all of whom act strangely. Regina is later summoned to meet with Hamilton Bartholomew (Walter Matthau) at the U.S. embassy, who reveals that her husband was part of a group of men (which included the three strangers at the funeral) that had stolen a quarter of a million dollars during the war and hidden it. Apparently, her husband had gotten back to it before the others and took it, leaving them to go chasing after him. Mr. Bartholomew tasks her with trying to find the money and return it to the government before the men can do anything to her. With the three men, Tex Panthollow (James Coburn), Herman Scobie (George Kennedy) and Leopold W. Gideon (Ned Glass) threatening her over the money, Regina turns for help to a man she had met in the French Alps, Peter Joshua (Cary Grant), but he doesn’t seem to be who he says he is either. As a result, she keeps calling Mr. Bartholomew for advice about what to do. Mysteriously, the three men are murdered, and it’s up to Regina to keep herself safe while trying to figure out what her husband had done with the money. But can she do it and stay alive?

Peter Stone and Marc Behm originally wrote a script with the title The Unsuspecting Wife, and they tried to peddle it to the various movie studios (who all turned them down). It took Peter Stone turning into a novel (which was serialized in Redbook magazine) under the new title Charade before the studios gave it a second look. Director Stanley Donen, who had wanted a property that he could use to make an homage to director Alfred Hitchcock with, got the film rights, intending to make it at Columbia Pictures. He wanted Cary Grant for the film, but Cary was looking to make Man’s Favorite Sport (1964) with Howard Hawks and was thus unavailable. They tried several other big stars, but they were too expensive, and Columbia gave up on the picture (so it was sold to Universal Studios). Since he had decided that he didn’t like the script for Howard Hawk’s film, Cary Grant was once again back in the running for doing Charade. However, he was faced with being cast opposite the much younger Audrey Hepburn (he was nearly sixty, and she was in her early thirties at the time), an age gap that bothered him (and had been the reason why he had declined roles in Audrey Hepburn’s earlier films Roman Holiday from 1953, Sabrina from 1954 and Love In The Afternoon from 1957). The writers were able to circumvent his worries by giving all the romantically aggressive lines to Audrey Hepburn. Filming took place in Paris, France (where Audrey had just finished filming Paris When It Sizzles, which would actually be released after Charade) as well as Megève and the French Alps. The end result was a hit with audiences, becoming the fifth most profitable film from that year. In spite of that, it ended up being the only film that Cary Grant and Audrey Hepburn would make together (technically, he tried to get her for Father Goose, but she was unavailable because she was doing My Fair Lady).

I’l admit quite freely, that once I made the choice to pick Audrey Hepburn as one of my “Stars Of The Month”, Charade was one of her films that I absolutely HAD to get in! I’ve seen the film several times over the years, and I’ve enjoyed it very much! It’s been said many times that this film is considered “the best Hitchcock movie Hitchcock never made,” and it’s very hard to disagree with that sentiment! As those who read my review of Notorious (1946) can tell you, I’m not exactly fond of Hitchcock’s films beyond the four he did with Cary Grant (although one of these days, I hope to see Hitchcock’s lone screwball comedy, the 1942 film Mr. And Mrs. Smith). Of course, this is Cary Grant’s “fifth Hitchcock film,” which is certainly part of the appeal. The other two factors that, in my mind, make this one Cary Grant’s best “Hitchcock movie” are the film’s score by Henry Mancini, and Audrey Hepburn. Henry Mancini’s music really works well for all the various situations that occur throughout the movie, and the title tune is a bit of an earworm (and you certainly won’t find me complaining about that). But it’s the chemistry between Audrey and Cary that makes this film work so well (and makes you wish they had been able to do more movies together). Their relationship proves to be humorous and loving, while also being potentially dangerous (since he seems to be such a mysterious character). To me, it speaks volumes about their performances that I’ve seen this film multiple times, and yet, in spite of knowing what the truth is, I always fear for her character’s safety during the final moments of the film when she is on the run. The movie even has a fun little Easter egg when Cary Grant references a song title from My Fair Lady, which Audrey would start filming after this one was done. I know I love to come back to this film every now and then, and it’s one that I can recommend with perfect ease!

This movie is available on Blu-ray and DVD from Criterion Collection or Universal Studios.

Film Length: 1 hour, 54 minutes

My Rating: 10/10

*ranked #7 in Top 10 Movies Watched In 2022

List Of Actor/Actress Filmographies/Collections

Operation Petticoat (1959)Cary GrantFather Goose (1964)

Love In The Afternoon (1957)Audrey HepburnParis When It Sizzles (1964)

Walter Matthau – Hello, Dolly! (1969)

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What’s Old Is A New Release Again (2022) Roundup Featuring… Bob Hope And Dorothy Lamour

Welcome back to my new “Whats Old Is A New Release Again Roundup” series! This time around, I’m focusing on titles released in 2022 featuring either Bob Hope or Dorothy Lamour (or both), whether they be on DVD, Blu-ray or 4K UHD. Due to the slower pace of releases, I will be starting out with two films, and updating this post as I see more (with the updates showing up on the 2022 Releases page). This post will be completed when I have seen all of the titles released in 2022, or at the tail end of March 2023 (whichever happens first). So, let’s dig into some of Bob and Dorothy’s films that have seen a new release in 2022, which so far includes Monsieur Beaucaire (1946) and Where There’s Life (1947)!

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Table Of Contents

Coming Up Shorts! with… Wild Poses (1933)

(available on Blu-ray as part of The Little Rascals: The ClassicFlix Restorations, Volume 4 (1933-1935) from ClassicFlix)

(Length: 18 minutes, 31 seconds)

Spanky’s (George McFarland) parents decide to have his picture taken. However, after listening to the other kids from the Gang who tag along, Spanky refuses to sit for a picture! This was yet another hilarious short, particularly with Franklin Pangborn playing the photographer (who frequently gets a punch in the nose from Spanky). Of course, as an audience member seeing the other kids messing with the photographer’s equipment, I can’t blame Spanky for not wanting his picture taken. There’s some humor to be found with Emerson Treacy and Gay Seabrook returning to play Spanky’s parents, although Gay Seabrook wears out her welcome a bit with her attempts at humor. Still, this was a fun one, and one that I wouldn’t mind revisiting with some frequency!

Coming Up Shorts! with… Hi’-Neighbor! (1934)

(available on Blu-ray as part of The Little Rascals: The ClassicFlix Restorations, Volume 4 (1933-1935) from ClassicFlix)

(Length: 17 minutes, 54 seconds)

Jerry (Jerry Tucker), the new kid in the neighborhood, has his own small fire engine (and the envy of the Gang). However, he doesn’t want to share it with them, leading them to put together their own fire engine. Hi’-Neighbor proved to be a fun one! Jerry Tucker shows himself to be a good foil to the rest of the Gang, as he inadvertently pushes them to use their ingenuity to make their own fire engine! Of course, watching Spanky (George McFarland) try to help Stymie by “passing him a wheel” is one of the most amusing moments, as are the instances of Jerry getting his comeuppance. The only problem is the use of rear-screen projection during their final race, which takes away from the sense of speed and danger needed. Other than that, this one was fun, and worth seeing!

Monsieur Beaucaire (1946)

  • Plot Synopses: There are some forces pushing for war between France and Spain (led by Spanish General Don Francisco, as played by Joseph Schildkraut, who seeks to usurp the Spanish throne during wartime). However, the kings of the respective countries are trying to avoid war, and agree to an alliance via royal marriage of Princess Maria of Spain (Marjorie Reynolds) to the French Duke de Chandre (Patric Knowles). In leaving France, de Chandre lets the ex-royal barber Monsieur Beaucaire (Bob Hope) pose as the duke in order to escape being executed. Under this charade, the real duke meets the princess and falls for her (without knowing who she is), while Beaucaire has to deal with the Spanish general’s attempts to assassinate him and prevent the alliance. Can Beaucaire maintain this masquerade and convince his ex-girlfriend Mimi (Joan Caulfield) to come back to him, or will war break out between the two countries?
  • Film Length: 1 hour, 33 minutes
  • Extras: KLSC Bob Hope Promo, Trailers for The Cat And The Canary (1939), Road To Singapore (1940), The Ghost Breakers (1940), Road To Zanzibar (1941), Caught In The Draft (1941), Nothing But The Truth (1941), My Favorite Blonde (1942), Road To Morocco (1942), Road To Utopia (1946), Where There’s Life (1947), The Paleface (1948), Alias Jesse James (1959) and Murder, He Says (1945)
  • Format: Blu-ray
  • Label: Kino Lorber Studio Classics
  • My Rating: 9/10
  • Quick Comments
    • On The Movie Itself: Check overall impressions.
    • On The Transfer: According to the Blu-ray case, this transfer comes from a new 2K master. Apparently, there must not have been great elements to work with, as this has been one of the more disappointing transfers of a Universal-owned Bob Hope film to come from Kino Lorber Studio Classics. There’s still a fair amount of scratches, dust and dirt still present (although it’s only really egregious during the opening credits, and improves somewhat afterward). The image is also a bit darker in a lot of places than it seems like it should be. In spite of these issues, it’s not completely unwatchable, and likely to be as good as we can expect for now.

Where There’s Life (1947)

  • Plot Synopses: With the recent end of World War II, the small country of Barovia is looking forward to its first democratic election to replace the monarchy, but a secret society called the Mordia (who hopes to gain power) has attempted to kill Barovian King Hubertus II (William Edmunds). With him dying, the country’s only hope of preventing the Mordia from rising to power before the election is to find the son he had years earlier when he married an American woman (a marriage he was later forced to have annulled). Now, his son is radio announcer Michael Valentine (Bob Hope), who is about to marry Hazel O’Brien (Vera Marshe). A group of Barovian delegates, led by General Katrina Grimovitch (Signe Hasso), attempt to keep Michael alive and bring him to Barovia. But with the Mordia constantly trying to kill Michael, and Hazel’s cop family chasing after him when he misses the wedding, will he be able to survive and help Barovia in their time of need?
  • Film Length: 1 hour, 15 minutes
  • Extras: KLSC Bob Hope Promo, Trailers for Where There’s Life (1947), The Cat And The Canary (1939), Road To Singapore (1940), The Ghost Breakers (1940), Road To Zanzibar (1941), Caught In The Draft (1941), Nothing But The Truth (1941), My Favorite Blonde (1942), Road To Morocco (1942), Road To Utopia (1946), The Paleface (1948) and Alias Jesse James (1959)
  • Format: Blu-ray
  • Label: Kino Lorber Studio Classics
  • My Rating: 9/10
  • Quick Comments
    • On The Movie Itself: Check overall impressions.
    • On The Transfer: When Kino Lorber Studio Classics originally announced that they had licensed this film (before they had a street date), it was said that this transfer was going to be from a 4K scan of the best available elements done by Universal. While that comment was later dropped for the official press release (and the back of the Blu-ray case), I can confirm that this film looks quite good! The picture is highly detailed, and most of the scratches, dirt and debris have been cleaned up (and what remains really isn’t that distracting). So, this release is indeed the best way to see this movie!

My Overall Impressions

Like my post in this series for Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers, I have eschewed individual comments on these films to reflect on Bob Hope and Dorothy Lamour’s presence in these films. At this point in time, I can only claim to look at two films for Bob Hope. Both Monsieur Beaucaire and Where There’s Life feature Bob Hope with his usual screen persona, that of a coward who keeps dishing out quips but manages to be a hero when the chips are down. While neither film has any “Bing-Crosby-cameo-in-a-Bob-Hope-film” appearances, Bing is referenced in both films (okay, it might be pushing it a bit to say that he’s referenced in Monsieur Beaucaire, but who says “bing” instead of “bang” when talking about someone being shot, especially in a Bob Hope film?). For Monsieur Beaucaire, Bob’s big comedic moments (apart from his quips) are his obsession with his girlfriend Mimi due to his worries about the other lotharios in the French court (which actually leads to them gaining an interest) and the final swordfight between him and Joseph Schildkraut’s General Don Francisco. As to Where There’s Life, some of his best moments come when dealing with William Bendix’s Victor O’Brien, the cop brother of Vera Marshe’s Hazel, especially when Bob’s Michael Valentine tries to explain the ridiculous situation that he finds himself in. There are certainly other fun bits in either of these films, but those are among the standouts.

Well, now that I’ve commented on both of these films, I’ll give you my rankings on these releases, from highly recommended (1.) to least recommended (2.):

  1. Where There’s Life (1947)
  2. Monsieur Beaucaire (1946)

When it comes to which of these releases are recommended, this is a slightly tougher decision. For me, both of these films are entertaining and manage to make me laugh and want to come back to them. So, realistically, my recommendation has as much to do with how the transfers for either of these look. And, for that, I easily recommend Where There’s Life. I don’t know whether it boils down to what film elements still exist for either of these two films or just who did the work on these, but Where There’s Life came out looking a lot better, both in terms of detail and being cleaned up. Monsieur Beaucaire just came out looking a lot darker, and therefore not as detailed, making it the harder release to recommend (but I still maintain that the film itself is good enough to overcome the deficits with its transfer).

Other 2022 Release Roundups

Blu-ray Roundup #1

Blu-ray Roundup #2

4K UHD Roundup

Fred Astaire And Ginger Rogers Roundup

W. C. Fields Roundup

Bing Crosby Roundup

Film Legends Of Yesteryear: Screen Team & “Screen Team Of The Month (July 2022)” Featuring Fred Astaire And Ginger Rogers in… Top Hat (1935)

Well, we’ve had one solo film each for July’s Screen Team Of The Month (Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers), so that means that we need to finish the month off with one of their team ups! In this case, we’re going with their 1935 classic Top Hat!

Coming Up Shorts! with… Under The Counter Spy (1954)

(available on Blu-ray as part of The Woody Woodpecker Screwball Collection from Universal Studios)

(Length: 6 minutes, 22 seconds)

A dangerous criminal called “The Bat” has stolen a secret formula, but has left the bottle in Woody Woodpecker’s house while evading the police. Woody mistakes the bottle for his tonic, and finds himself supercharged as he goes after “The Bat!” This one was apparently a spoof of Dragnet (which I’ve never seen but at least have some knowledge of), which makes it somewhat entertaining (probably even more so if you know the source material). Much of the humor is derived from the drained Woody drinking the tonic and then destroying everything with a mere touch. Of course, when “The Bat” goes after Woody while he is supercharged, “The Bat’s” foul deeds backfire on him! And I can’t deny that the final joke really makes this one! After being slightly disappointed with the previous few Woody Woodpecker cartoons included in the Woody Woodpecker Screwball Collection, this one was a nice and hilarious return to form (without Woody having to be an obnoxious character) that I wouldn’t mind revisiting!

Coming Up Shorts! with… Watch The Birdie (1935)

(Available as an extra on the Top Hat DVD from Warner Home Video)

(Length: 18 minutes, 16 seconds)

Practical joker Bob (Bob Hope) wants to marry Dorothy Ripley (Nell O’Day). However, he goes too far with one of his jokes, and her father (George Watts) refuses to let them marry. This one is fairly entertaining, mainly as an early Bob Hope appearance. The various pranks he plays (and those played on him) are certainly a lot of this short’s humor (but, of course, Bob still has a few quips of his own). There’s also some extra fun with a quick appearance of Pete the Dog (of The Little Rascals fame). It’s not great, but I enjoy it enough that I don’t mind seeing it periodically.

Coming Up Shorts! with… Page Miss Glory (1936)

(Available as an extra on the Top Hat DVD from Warner Home Video)

(Length: 7 minutes, 43 seconds)

A bellhop at a hotel in a small country town awaits the arrival of a big star, Miss Glory. While he waits, he falls asleep and dreams of being a bellhop in a big city hotel, where he has to page Miss Glory. This one was admittedly entertaining. There’s not much story to it, but who needs it when there’s some fun music written by Harry Warren and Al Dubin. It’s an early Tex Avery cartoon, and while it’s not quite as wild as some of his later stuff, it’s good enough to be memorable. I certainly know I wouldn’t mind seeing it again and again!

And Now For The Main Feature…

Horace Hardwick (Edward Everett Horton) is producing a show in London featuring the American star Jerry Travers (Fred Astaire). One time, when Horace asks Jerry to stay overnight at his hotel room to help keep the peace between Horace and his valet, Bates (Eric Blore), Jerry starts madly dancing around the room. His dancing disturbs the sleep of Dale Tremont (Ginger Rogers), who is occupying the room beneath them. When she comes up to complain (while Horace is away), Jerry becomes instantly smitten with her, and tries to go out with her. At first, she resists him, but she starts coming around to him. Their mutual attraction is short-lived, however, as various circumstances lead Dale to believe that Jerry (who had never introduced himself to her) is Horace Hardwick, who is married to her friend Madge (Helen Broderick)! Stunned and angry, Dale decides to leave London with her dressmaker, Alberto Beddini (Erik Rhodes), and go to Venice, Italy, where Madge is currently staying in order to warn her about “Horace’s” flirtations. Saddened by Dale’s departure, Jerry goes on with the show. When he learns from Horace backstage via telegram that Madge had invited them to go to Italy to meet her friend, Dale Tremont (since she was trying to set up Jerry and Dale as a couple), Jerry tells Horace to charter them a plane to Italy immediately. Meanwhile, in Italy, Dale tells Madge about “Horace” flirting with her, but Madge seems to take it in stride as being something in the norm for her husband. When Jerry and Horace arrive, Jerry keeps trying to see Dale, but is mystified as to why she is being so standoffish. At the same time, Horace is threatened by Alberto and is dealing with his wife being suspicious of him (but he assumes it’s because she heard about another accidental affair of his). When Jerry tries to propose to Dale, she slaps him, and later agrees to marry Alberto in the hopes that “Horace” will finally leave her alone. Will they be able to figure out the truth of what is going on, or will Dale be stuck married to a man that she doesn’t love?

Supposedly, the film was based on the 1911 play The Girl Who Dared by Alexander Faragó and Aladar Laszlo, but, from what I’ve read, the only aspect of the play retained for the film was the moment when Fred Astaire’s Jerry had to carry Horace’s (Edward Everett Horton) briefcase (which was one of the central moments that helped with the mistaken identity plot). More comparisons are generally made to the previous year’s The Gay Divorcee, in between the similar plot and (almost) identical cast (with Helen Broderick in Top Hat instead of Alice Brady). And it’s hard not to make that comparison, especially since Dwight Taylor, the author of the original play The Gay Divorce, was brought in to develop the story for Top Hat. However, Fred Astaire had some complaints about the initial script, including the idea that it too closely resembled The Gay Divorcee, and Allan Scott was brought in to do some rewrites (and yet, all these years later, the final film still resembles The Gay Divorcee in the minds of many). Irving Berlin was brought in to write the score, with the five songs that stayed in becoming hits at one time or another. Since Fred Astaire was mainly devoting all his time to the movies he was making with Ginger, he worked on most of the choreography with Hermes Pan (with Hermes Pan usually playing Ginger’s part), and they would show Ginger (who was still doing other films besides those with Fred) the choreography when they had it done. Top Hat would end up being a big hit with audiences, becoming the second highest grossing film of 1935 (behind Mutiny On The Bounty), and the highest grossing film in the Astaire/Rogers series. It would also be nominated for several Oscars, including Best Picture, Best Original Song (Irving Berlin for “Cheek to Cheek”), Dance Direction (Hermes Pan for “Piccolino” and “Top Hat”) and Best Art Direction (Carroll Clark and Van Nest Polglase) (and regretfully losing them all).

Top Hat was the second Astaire-Rogers film that I saw (following 1949’s The Barkley’s Of Broadway, which I didn’t take to immediately), and it’s since become my favorite film in the series! Personally, Irving Berlin’s music is part of the film’s appeal for me, and I consider the score to be his best (I think some of the other musicals that used his music were better, but I like this score the best). All five songs are great fun (and easily get stuck in my head whenever I watch this movie)! I’d certainly give the edge to the songs “Top Hat, White Tie And Tails” (which I’ll admit to having done a tap solo to years ago, with the outfit becoming my go-to dance costume whenever I could use it for various specialty routines at dance recitals) and “Cheek To Cheek” (which is the song and dance that most defines the partnership of Fred and Ginger to me, and which I have also danced to, although it loses some of its meaning in the process since, at 6’4″, I’ve towered over most of my dance partners). But “No Strings (I’m Fancy Free),” “Isn’t This A Lovely Day (To Be Caught In The Rain)” and especially “The Piccolino” are all very delightful songs (and dances!).

The music (and dancing) are a big part of what makes the film a classic, but the comedy is right up there, too! Fred and Ginger certainly have some wonderful comedic moments together, and lines that stick with me, including this fabulous exchange:

-Dale Tremont (Ginger Rogers): “What is this strange power you have over horses?”

-Jerry Travers (Fred Astaire): “Horse power.”

Of course, Fred and Ginger are hardly the only ones with comedic abilities here, as the rest of the cast handle it quite well, too. But it’s Edward Everett Horton (with his hilarious double-takes) and Eric Blore who steal the show, especially when together. Of course, Eric Blore’s Bates insulting the Italian policeman (who supposedly doesn’t understand a word of English) is one of the film’s most laugh-out-loud moments for me! Sure, the film’s plot is ridiculous, but with Fred and Ginger (and all the rest of the cast) to carry the film, who needs a good plot? I have no hesitation whatsoever in recommending this film quite highly (seriously, go find a way to watch it now)!

This movie is available on DVD from Warner Home Video.

Film Length: 1 hour, 40 minutes

My Rating: 10/10

*ranked #1 in Top 10 Movies Watched In 2022

List Of Actor/Actress Filmographies/Collections

Dancing Lady (1933)Fred AstaireFollow The Fleet (1936)

Star Of Midnight (1935)Ginger RogersIn Person (1935)

The Devil Is A Woman (1935) – Edward Everett Horton – Bluebeard’s Eighth Wife (1938)

Helen Broderick – Swing Time (1936)

The Good Fairy (1935) – Eric Blore – Swing Time (1936)

Lucille Ball – Follow The Fleet (1936)

Fred Astaire/Ginger Rogers (screen team) – Follow The Fleet (1936)

As an Amazon Affiliate, this site gets a small percentage for every purchase made upon using one of the Amazon links, even if it’s not the movie I linked to (and it’s at no extra cost to you). If you like what I’m doing with the blog, please consider using them so that I can continue to do more!

“Screen Team (Fred Astaire And Ginger Rogers) Of The Month (July 2022)” Featuring Fred Astaire in… Funny Face (1957)

Well, a few weeks back, we looked at one of Ginger Rogers’ solo films, so now we need to look at a solo film for the other half of this month’s featured Screen Team, Fred Astaire!  In this case, we’re going with his 1957 musical Funny Face, also starring Audrey Hepburn!

Coming Up Shorts! with… Termites From Mars (1952)

(available on Blu-ray as part of The Woody Woodpecker Screwball Collection from Universal Studios)

(Length: 6 minutes, 21 seconds)

The Earth is being invaded by the Martians!  However, as Woody Woodpecker quickly finds out, these “Martians” are a bunch of termites out to eat up his home!  This one was a bit of a departure from some of the other cartoons in the series.  It’s different seeing Woody be the one getting picked on almost throughout the entire short (until he finally manages to turn the tables).  It has its moments, particularly when the “Martian” invasion is being announced.  It’s not the most original (since, as you can expect, the termites eat up almost everything wooden in sight).  I can’t say as I like this deviation from the regular series that much, but it at least breaks up the monotony (and keeps Woody from becoming too obnoxious).

And Now For The Main Feature…

Quality Magazine editor Maggie Prescott (Kay Thompson) is always in search of starting the next big fashion trend, whether it be everyone wearing pink, or clothing for intellectual women, or finding one woman to represent Quality Magazine itself.  It’s while in search of the second one (clothing for intellectual women) that Maggie and her crew invade a Greenwich Village bookstore to take some photos with their model.  They immediately get on the nerves of the shop owner’s assistant Jo Stockton (Audrey Hepburn), who complains about how they just take over the shop.  When they are finally done, the place is a mess, and Maggie’s head photographer, Dick Avery (Fred Astaire), stays behind to help Jo clean up.  In doing so, he learns of her desire to go to Paris, France and talk to some of the philosophers there.  Later on, when Maggie starts planning out a campaign for the “Quality woman,” Dick suggests using Jo.  Maggie at first dislikes the idea, as does Jo when she is dragged into the Quality offices.  However, when Dick explains to Jo that doing the modeling would result in a trip to Paris, she comes around to the idea.  It’s not smooth sailing at the start, though. Without realizing that she needs to meet with French designer Paul Duval (Robert Flemyng) (who is designing her outfits), Jo goes to a local bohemian café to talk with some of the philosophers there, which prompts Dick to go looking for her.  He helps her to realize her responsibilities, and she shows up for work the next day.  Duval successfully designs a series of outfits for her, and so Dick spends the next week photographing her in those dresses throughout Paris.  However, when they take pictures of her in a wedding gown outside a small country church, she is overwhelmed, and reveals to Dick that she loves him (and he responds in kind).  On the night she is to be presented to the press, she learns that Professor Émile Flostre (Michel Auclair), whom she had come to Paris in hopes of seeing, is speaking at the café, so she stops by to see him.  When Dick comes around to pick her up, he quickly becomes suspicious of Flostre’s intentions and drags her away.  With the two of them arguing, her presentation to the press is a disaster.  Jo decides to not come to the fashion show, and instead goes to a party that Flostre is hosting at his home.  Trying to get her to come to the fashion show, Dick and Maggie go to Flostre’s home in disguise.  But will their efforts work, or will Dick continue to drive a wedge between Jo and himself with his suspicions?

While they may share the same name, the movie is NOT based on the 1927 Broadway show Funny Face that had originally starred Fred Astaire and his sister Adele (although several songs from that show’s score were included in the film).  Instead, the movie was based on an unproduced Leonard Gershe play called Wedding Day.  Producer Roger Edens, working at MGM under famous musical producer Arthur Freed, had bought the rights to the play, intending it as a vehicle for Fred Astaire and then-popular star Audrey Hepburn.  Both Astaire and Hepburn wanted to do the film, but there was one major problem: she was under contract to Paramount Pictures, and they had absolutely no intention of loaning her out to MGM.  So, Arthur Freed let Roger Edens take the project to Paramount, and he brought with him director Stanley Donen and some other MGM talent.  They did some of the location filming in Paris, but the weather caused a number of delays, forcing them to make some adjustments.  Reviews were positive, but the film didn’t do too well at the box office initially.  It wasn’t until the film was reissued in 1964, alongside Audrey’s next big musical, My Fair Lady, that Funny Face was able to become profitable.

I’ve seen Funny Face many times over the years, and it’s a movie that I always love finding an excuse to come back around to!  Fred Astaire’s presence was indeed my original reason for seeing this movie, and he has indeed remained one of the film’s main attractions for me.  And, to be fair, I would say that seeing this film time and time again helped me grow to love Audrey Hepburn as well.  Their three dance duets together (“Funny Face,” “He Loves And She Loves” and “‘S Wonderful”) are definitely the highlights of the film, with the romantic “He Loves And She Loves” being my favorite of the bunch.  Fred and Audrey also get some fun solo routines in the forms of “Let’s Kiss And Make Up” and “Basal Metabolism” (I’ll admit, “Basal Metabolism” took me a while to come around to, since the music and style of dance are so far out of my normal preferences, but it’s grown on me with time).  Kay Thompson adds to the fun in a rare onscreen performance as the no-nonsense magazine editor who usually runs roughshod over everybody to get what she wants (and I wish she had done more work onscreen, she’s so much fun).  All in all, Funny Face is a movie that I love to see again and again, and I certainly recommend it highly!

This movie is available on Blu-ray and DVD either individually or as part of the Audrey Hepburn 7-Movie Collection from Paramount Pictures

Film Length: 1 hour, 43 minutes

My Rating: 10/10

*ranked #2 in Top 10 Movies Watched In 2022

List Of Actor/Actress Filmographies/Collections

Roman Holiday (1953)Audrey HepburnLove In The Afternoon (1957)

The Band Wagon (1953)Fred AstaireSilk Stockings (1957)

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