Top 10 Disc Releases Of 2021

By now, I think it’s safe to say that most of you know that I enjoy watching classic movies via physical media like Blu-ray and DVD (I’m not trying to knock streaming necessarily, it’s just that most of what I like is more readily available on disc).  2021 has been another really good year for seeing fantastic movies given the bump up to Blu-ray, so here’s my list of what I personally think are the best releases of the year!  As usual, I must remind everyone that I do NOT receive screeners of any kind (nor, quite frankly, would I want to, as I prefer to support the movies I like in the hopes of more of them being made available), so I can only work with what I have seen.  I am making this list from all the 2021 releases I have seen as of 12/1/2021.  Much like my list for 2020, I am working mainly from movies released on disc through October 2021 (due to my own constraints of budget and time, plus the fact that, without being given screeners, I have no way to comment on December releases ahead of time). So, this list is what it is (but, I will give a shout-out to some other releases afterwards).  I’m experimenting by changing the format a little this year, so if any of these appeal to you, be sure to click on the movie on the left side to use my affiliate links to go to Amazon and buy them (or, if you want to read the reviews, click on the movie titles to go there)!!

  1. Broadway Melody Of 1940 (1940) (Warner Archive Collection, Blu-ray, My Rating: 10/10)
    • Fred Astaire, Eleanor Powell and George Murphy star in this last entry of the Broadway Melody series. A case of mistaken identity results in the wrong member of a dance team getting his big chance on the Broadway stage (but, when the team is two men and Fred Astaire was the other partner, you KNOW that he’ll get his chance as well). Working from a 4K scan of nitrate preservation elements, the good people at Warner Archive have given us a new and improved transfer that shows off this film’s detail and really allows us to enjoy these spectacular dancers looking better than they have in a long time! Great movie, great transfer!
  1. San Francisco (1936) (Warner Archive Collection, Blu-ray, My Rating: 10/10)
    • In this film that teams up Clark Gable, Jeanette MacDonald and Spencer Tracy, we have a nightclub owner (Gable) who runs for town supervisor to help the people on the Barbary Coast, while falling for his new singer (MacDonald) (and all ahead of the infamous 1906 San Francisco earthquake). Another Warner Archive release, making use of a French-dubbed nitrate fine grain second generation element (and some domestic elements as well), which amounts to this movie looking better than it has in a long time! Throw in the original 1936 ending (with the 1948 reissue ending as an extra), and this is one release that is well worth it!
  1. Show Boat (1951) (Warner Archive Collection, Blu-ray, My Rating: 10/10)
    • In 2020, we got the 1936 version of Show Boat (from Criterion Collection). For 2021, we got the 1951 version with Kathryn Grayson, Ava Gardner and Howard Keel. Kathryn Grayson stars as the daughter of showboat owner Cap’n Andy (Joe E. Brown), who falls for riverboat gambler Gaylord Ravenal (Howard Keel). Long in need of restoration (as much as the film relies on its Technicolor imagery), Warner Archive created a new 4K master from the original three-strip Technicolor negatives, and it looks SUPERB!! Compared to how it has looked before, I still think this is the restoration of the year, making the Blu-ray well worth it for fans of the film!
  1. Take Me Out To The Ball Game (1949) (Warner Archive Collection, Blu-ray, My Rating: 10/10)
    • Frank Sinatra, Esther Williams and Gene Kelly star in this classic musical! The returning baseball champs find themselves with a new owner (Williams), with two of the players falling for her. Warner Archive has given this movie a new restoration, and it looks to be one of the best-looking examples of the three-strip Technicolor process, as the color just pops, revealing all the wonderful details of the picture!
  1. A Night At The Opera (1935) (Warner Archive Collection, Blu-ray, My Rating: 10/10)
    • In the first Marx Brothers film from MGM, the trio find themselves helping a couple of operatic singers to make it big in America. The film was cut for re-release during World War II (removing references to Italy), with the deleted scenes supposedly destroyed. Warner Archive haven’t located any of those deleted scenes, but they’ve given us a 4K scan of the best surviving preservation elements, and this film looks great! Until any of the deleted scenes are found in any usable form (if that ever happens), this is the best release one can hope for on this film!
  1. In The Good Old Summertime (1949) (Warner Archive Collection, Blu-ray, My Rating: 10/10)
    • Judy Garland and Van Johnson star in this musical remake of The Shop Around The Corner. They play the bickering co-workers who are unknowingly falling for each other as pen pals. Another Yuletide classic featuring Judy singing the holiday tune “Merry Christmas!” Working from 4K scans of the original nitrate Technicolor negatives and preservation separations, this film looks great, and is a wonderful movie to watch around the holidays (or during the summer, too, I suppose 😉 )!
  1. Annie Get Your Gun (1950) (Warner Archive Collection, Blu-ray, My Rating: 10/10)
    • Betty Hutton and Howard Keel star in this film version of the Broadway show (with music by Irving Berlin)! In this movie, Annie Oakley (Hutton) rises from a nobody to being an internationally renowned sharpshooter! This release features a 4K scan of most of the original nitrate Technicolor negatives (with two reels’ worth coming from positive safety separations due to those reels being burned in the infamous Eastman house fire), which brings out the color and detail!
  1. Bringing Up Baby (1938) (Criterion Collection, Blu-ray, My Rating: 10/10)
    • In 2021, one of the biggest and best-known screwball comedies FINALLY made it to Blu-ray! In this movie, Cary Grant is an engaged paleontologist who accidentally gets mixed up with a flighty young woman (Katharine Hepburn). Madcap adventures ensue, including panthers, buried dinosaur bones, and jail time! The original camera negative may be long gone, but this transfer came from 4K scans of a 35 mm nitrate duplicate negative (from the British Film Institute) and a 35 mm safety fine-grain positive, resulting in a better transfer than what’s been available for a long time (and is certainly worth recommending)!
  1. Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House (1948) (Warner Archive Collection, Blu-ray, My Rating: 10/10)
    • Screen legends Cary Grant and Myrna Loy are paired up for the third and final time, with Melvyn Douglas joining. Grant plays an advertising executive who wants a full-sized house for his family (instead of a cramped apartment), but when he remodels his new place, the costs start to skyrocket! Working from a 4K scan of the original camera negative, Warner Archive has another superlative release on their hands with a fantastic transfer!
  1. After The Thin Man (1936) (Warner Archive Collection, Blu-ray, My Rating: 10/10)
    • After releasing the first film in the Thin Man series on Blu-ray in 2019, Warner Archive has finally continued the series, starting with that film’s (kinda-sorta) direct sequel! William Powell and Myrna Loy return as Nick and Nora Charles, who have arrived in San Francisco, only to find themselves trying to solve the murder of Nora’s cousin’s husband! Warner Archive made use of a 4K scan of safety fine grain film elements for this transfer, and it looks quite good! Certainly a worthy follow-up release after the first film was treated so well on Blu-ray!

Special Honorable Mention:

  • The Little Rascals: The ClassicFlix Restorations, Volume 1, Volume 2, Volume 3
    • For the most part, my list tends towards movie releases, as those are the vast majority of what I buy. However, as you may have seen, I also enjoy looking into various theatrical short collections. In 2020, ClassicFlix announced (via crowdfunding campaign) their desire to restore the Hal Roach-owned Little Rascals shorts. While their campaign fell short, they went through with their plans anyway. They now have three volumes of Little Rascals shorts available on Blu-ray, uncut and fully restored. I’ve seen the first two volumes, which each contain eleven shorts starting with their first talkie, and continuing on from there. The shorts in these first two volumes look absolutely fantastic, and while I haven’t gotten around to the third volume yet, I’ve heard it looks just as good (if not even better)! With more on the way, I have a hard time not wanting to call these sets the releases of the year!

Honorable Mentions: Another Thin Man (1939) (Warner Archive, Blu-ray), Dinner At Eight (1933) (Warner Archive, Blu-ray), (tie) Mad About Music (1938) (Universal Studios, Blu-ray), (tie) Nice Girl? (1941) (Universal Studios, Blu-ray)

While the pandemic has still been raging on in places throughout 2021, physical media enthusiasts have had quite a good year! I would have to say that, once again, Warner Archive has won the year amongst the various labels. They continued to release a slew of musicals (with actress Doris Day getting well-represented), three-strip Technicolor films and various other classics, finally digging into more of Errol Flynn’s filmography (including the public domain Santa Fe Trail from 1940) and continuing the Thin Man series! Like I already said, I haven’t gotten any farther than their October releases, but November releases include the second-to-last film in the Thin Man series (The Thin Man Goes Home), another Doris Day musical (Lullaby Of Broadway), a Barbara Stanwyck pre-Code (Ladies They Talk About), a Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin film (Some Came Running), National Velvet and several others, with December seeing the long-awaited Angels With Dirty Faces (previously held back from being released because of right issues that popped up within the last decade) and Ivanhoe. Personally, I’m thrilled with their musical output for the year (especially with TWO Fred Astaire musicals represented). Honestly, the only complaint I have is that there was a rumor that at least one of the Astaire-Rogers films would be coming (but nothing showed up). I know, I know, internet rumors and all that, but when the source of that rumor claimed that there would be some Arthur Freed musicals (there were), some Val Lewtons (again, there were) and some Marx Brothers (and we got one), it’s disappointing that what I wanted most of the bunch was what DIDN’T come out (but, hopefully 2022 will bring at least one of them out on Blu-ray). Like last year, I want to throw in a plug for a film that, while I personally am not interested in it due to its genre, certainly is appealing for others: the 1932 horror film Dr. X, which, like 2020’s release of The Mystery Of The Wax Museum, was filmed in the Two-Color Technicolor process, with those elements nearly gone. But, in collaboration with UCLA Film & Television Archive and the Film Foundation, the film has been restored in the process (and the black-and-white version is included as well) for the Blu-ray release, which, from what I have heard, is highly recommended for those interested in that aspect of film history!

Personally, I would say that, apart from Warner Archives, I have mixed feelings about this year. Kino Lorber has been continuing to make deals with Universal and MGM, bringing out a lot of films (some of which they have remastered/restored themselves). I’m thrilled to see more W. C. Fields movies (four this year) that came from them (especially after having seen their Insider talking on multiple forums in the past about how their previous W. C. Field releases weren’t great sellers), with three more being worked on for next year (plus a few other non-W. C. Fields titles that were announced but are getting new 2K or 4K remasters that have pushed them into next year). We also got more Bob Hope from Kino, although I’m disappointed that their release of Nothing But The Truth was missing some of the film’s footage that had previously been included on Universal’s DVD, and the missing stereo sound on Thoroughly Modern Millie (for its overture, entr’acte and exit music) is also disappointing (and there have been a handful of other releases from them with a few mistakes this year as far as I’ve heard). And while I’m disappointed that Kino’s three-film set of Deanna Durbin films from the previous year was a poor seller (enough so that they dropped the other six films of hers that they had licensed, which I can’t say as I blame them for doing), I was thrilled to see Universal step up with their own MOD Blu-ray releases and release all six of those films (plus one more that I didn’t see coming!), along with the likes of State Of The Union and a Woody Woodpecker Screwball Collection in what was their most appealing lineup (to me) since their first year of releasing anything on Blu-ray via that line! Criterion has finally gotten into the UHD game, but (since I haven’t upgraded to that technology yet), they’ve really only had two releases this year that appealed to me (Bringing Up Baby and High Sierra). To be fair, with their higher prices, I don’t mind, given how much Warner Archive and others have been releasing. ClassicFlix has mainly been focusing a lot of their time, money and effort in their restorations of the Our Gang/Little Rascals shorts, but they’ve also finished out their DVD-only run of Hal Roach streamliners, along with a few other DVD-only films (due to lack of decent film elements), along with their Blu-ray and DVD of International Lady (they also announced a Blu-ray and DVD release for the 1949 Black Magic that was originally scheduled to come out this fall, but has since been delayed into next year). Overall, I think that 2021 has been filled with a great many releases on disc (too many in my book, both in terms of budget and time to watch everything), and what I’m hearing/seeing coming in 2022 looks to be just as good (if not better)!

Previous years:

2020

2019

2018

Original Vs. Remake: Show Boat (1936 Vs. 1951)

I’m back again for another round of “Original Vs. Remake!”  This time, I am back to doing two versions of the same film (although, considering the story, it’s more like “Remake Vs. Remake”).  The story?  Show Boat.  The films? The 1936 and 1951 versions (I haven’t seen the 1929 film and, given the excerpts included on the 1936 film’s Blu-ray that I did watch, I’m unlikely to want to see it anytime soon).  Of course, these two films aren’t exactly the same, so I’ll borrow the plot synopses from each film.

Show Boat (1936): Captain Andy Hawks (Charles Winninger) runs the show boat The Cotton Palace with his family and his theatrical troupe, which includes leading man Steve Baker (Donald Cook) and his leading lady Julie LaVerne (Helen Morgan), plus comedic dance team Frank Schultz (Sammy White) and Elly (Queenie Smith). Trouble comes, though, when it is revealed that Julie, who had one black parent, was married to Steve, a white man, which was illegal in that area. While they got out of that trouble, Steve and Julie were forced to leave the Cotton Palace just the same. Captain Hawks decided to promote his daughter, Magnolia Hawks (Irene Dunne), to the leading lady, and brought in river gambler Gaylord Ravenal (Allan Jones) to be the leading man, since he was seeking passage elsewhere anyways. Magnolia and Gaylord fall for each other, much to the dismay of her mother Parthy Ann Hawks (Helen Westley). Soon, they get married in spite of Parthy’s objections. A year later, Magnolia gives birth to their daughter, Kim, and Gaylord decides the three of them should move to Chicago. At first, all seems to go well, but then Gaylord gambles and spends all their money. Frank and Elly come to Chicago looking for a cheap place to stay since they got a job at a local nightclub, and they find the apartment they are looking at is being rented by none other than Magnolia and Gaylord! Of course, their timing couldn’t be worse, as Magnolia and Gaylord are being evicted and Gaylord decides to leave her, so she must find a job to survive. She auditions at the club where Frank and Elly are working, but it is only after the club’s current singer (which turns out to be Julie LaVerne) leaves that Magnolia is given the job. Magnolia’s parents have come to town in time for New Year’s Eve to see her, but it is her father who comes across her singing at the nightclub. When he sees her start to falter, he tries to support her, giving her the needed confidence that allows her to become a star on stage and make a comeback.

Show Boat (1951): The Cotton Blossom is in town!  Everybody is looking forward to seeing what show Cap’n Andy Hawks (Joe E. Brown) and his troupe are putting on!  His current troupe includes popular leading man Steve Baker (Robert Sterling), his equally popular leading lady (and wife offstage) Julie LaVerne (Ava Gardner), and dancers Ellie May Shipley (Marge Champion) and Frank Schultz (Gower Champion).  However, the boat’s engineer, Pete (Leif Erickson), who has been trying to flirt with Julie, gets into a fight with Steve (and loses).  Out for revenge, Pete goes to the local sheriff with some information about Julie.  Meanwhile, Cap’n Andy’s daughter, Magnolia (Kathryn Grayson), meets gambler Gaylord Ravenal (Howard Keel) while she is trying to air out the costumes, and they quickly fall for each other.  That night, the sheriff comes during the show, threatening to arrest Julie, a mulatto, for being married to a white man.  They are able to avoid arrest, but they are forced to leave the Cotton Blossom, much to everybody’s regret (well, everybody except Cap’n Andy’s wife Parthy, played by Agnes Moorehead).  But, Cap’n Andy is a quick thinker, and secures Gaylord’s services as a leading man, while giving his daughter Magnolia a chance as the leading lady.  Audiences take to them, and the two become quite popular.  Offstage, they fall in love, and decide to get married.  They leave the show boat, and move to Chicago.  Things are fine for a while, as Gaylord’s gambling is successful.  However, his luck starts to run out, and they have to give up their lavish lifestyle.  When they hit rock bottom and Magnolia calls him out for his obsession with gambling, he leaves her.  Just in the nick of time, Magnolia runs into Frank and Elly, who help her get a job at a local nightclub for New Year’s.  That night, Cap’n Andy goes out to see Frank and Elly perform, hoping to learn where his daughter is, only to find her faltering in her first performance.  With her father’s support, Magnolia pulls herself together and wins over the audience.  Afterwards, she tells her father what happened (including the fact that she is now pregnant), and asks if she can return home to the show boat (which obviously thrills Cap’n Andy).  As time goes on, both Gaylord and Magnolia continue to go their separate ways.  Will they ever be reunited, or will time forever keep them apart?

As I’ve admitted previously, I’ve seen the 1951 version many a time over the years, whereas I’ve only had the chance to see the 1936 film a few times.  I had actually planned to write my review of the 1951 film and compare the two last year (2020), after the 1936 version got released on Blu-ray and I finally got the chance to see it.  Had I done so, my opinions would have been different, with the 1936 version newly restored, and the 1951 film working from a pitiful transfer, which, to be fair, was the only way I had known the movie.  But, my gut was telling me that the 1951 film was likely to get restored soon (and I had a bunch of other stuff to review anyway), so I decided to delay.  After a year, my gut feeling was proven correct, and so now I have the two restored films to work with in commenting.

Warning to everyone: it’s hard to write about the differences between the two films without getting into how the stories turn out, so consider this your spoiler warning.

Story-wise, both films start out more or less telling the same story.  Sure, you get some differences like different songs or “Ol’ Man River” in different spots, but they are essentially the same.  The differences start to occur when the characters Magnolia and Gaylord get married.  In the ’36 film, they stay on the show boat until after Magnolia gives birth to their daughter, Kim.  Then they leave, enjoy some success, and things go downhill, with Gaylord leaving them.  Magnolia recovers, has a career of her own, before retiring and helping daughter Kim prepare (with Magnolia and Gaylord being reunited on their daughter’s first success).  In the ’51 movie, Magnolia and Gaylord leave the show boat when they marry, and after some ups and downs, they separate when Gaylord realizes how much Magnolia wasn’t ready for his constant failures.  Of course, he leaves before she can tell him she’s pregnant.  She tries to go on stage, but when her father finds her, she decides to return home (where she still has a small career), with Gaylord returning when he is told about their daughter, Kim.

Of course, there are more than just a few changes in story to differentiate the two movies.  The 1936 version was made while composer Jerome Kern was still alive.  As such, there were three new songs written specifically for the film (to take advantage of the cast’s abilities): “I Have The Room Above Her,” “Gallivantin’ Around” and “Ah Still Suits Me.” By the time the ’51 version rolled around, Jerome Kern had passed away (in 1945 at the age of 60), and the three newer songs weren’t included. It made up for it, though, by putting “Life Upon The Wicked Stage” back in as a full musical number (as opposed to background music in the ’36 film), as well as “I Might Fall Back On You.”

When you get down to it, though, there are a number of trade-offs between the two films, and how you feel about them will certainly affect how you like the movies. For instance, one difference between the two films are the characters of Frank and Ellie (played by Sammy White and Queenie Smith in the ’36 film, and Marge and Gower Champion in the ’51 version). In the ’36 film, they are mostly a comedy act, who play the secondary characters in the show. In the 51 version, they’re more of a song-and-dance team (who also do stuff in the actual play, but we don’t see it). I personally prefer Marge and Gower Champion, as I enjoy watching them dance (and the earlier pair really don’t do much of it). The trade-off, though, is that they don’t have as much to do with the story, and I wonder how much of that is their acting ability, or lack thereof (since it sounds like Joe E. Brown played the part of Cap’n Andy on the stage after this, and did the whole bit of telling the end of the story for the play). Sammy White and Queenie Smith are the better actors in the roles, but, as I said, I like Marge and Gower’s dancing better.

Another trade-off is how the black characters are portrayed. In the ’36 film, we have Paul Robeson playing Joe, and Hattie McDaniel playing Queenie, both fairly prominent characters but also close enough to being the stereotypical blacks that their portrayals haven’t aged well. And a number of the other blacks that appear in the film are also troublesome stereotypes. The ’51 film removes a lot of those stereotypes, but, in the process, essentially removes the characters, too. Queenie, played by Frances Williams, has a few brief lines at the very start of the film, and is otherwise relegated to being a background character. Joe, played by William Warfield, fares better (as far as presence is concerned), and is less of a stereotype than in the earlier film (although he’s still not there as much). The worst part of it is that neither way is great, considering you get representation in the ’36 film (but heavily stereotyped), and no stereotypes in the ’51 film (but also no representation).

When it comes to which film I prefer, it’s the ’36 film, but only by a hair. I think the overall film is better, but there are individual elements that, in my mind, make the ’51 more enjoyable. I much prefer Howard Keel as Gaylord Ravenal (who, with his bass-baritone voice, was different than the usual tenors in the role, like Allan Jones from the ’36 film). As I said, I also prefer the husband-and-wife dance team of Marge and Gower Champion, as much as I enjoy their dancing. Of course, one of the most famous songs from the show is “Ol’ Man River,” and, in this, I also prefer the ’51 film. Visually, the song is more appealing in the earlier film, but I just like the orchestration and William Warfield’s singing in the latter film. It gives me chills every time I hear it. But, as a whole, the ’36 film is far, far better. Regardless, I could easily sit down and watch either of them, and, for that reason, I would certainly recommend either version!

My own opinion:

Show Boat (1936)

Film Length: 1 hour, 54 minutes

My Rating: 10/10

Show Boat (1951)

Film Length: 1 hour, 48 minutes

My Rating: 10/10

The Winner (in my opinion): Show Boat (1936)

What’s Old Is A New Release Again (2021) with… Show Boat (1951)

I’ve got a fun musical today, as I revisit the Show Boat story (although this time, it’s the 1951 version starring Kathryn Grayson, Ava Gardner and Howard Keel)!

The Cotton Blossom is in town!  Everybody is looking forward to seeing what show Cap’n Andy Hawks (Joe E. Brown) and his troupe are putting on!  His current troupe includes popular leading man Steve Baker (Robert Sterling), his equally popular leading lady (and wife offstage) Julie LaVerne (Ava Gardner), and dancers Ellie May Shipley (Marge Champion) and Frank Schultz (Gower Champion).  However, the boat’s engineer, Pete (Leif Erickson), who has been trying to flirt with Julie, gets into a fight with Steve (and loses).  Out for revenge, Pete goes to the local sheriff with some information about Julie.  Meanwhile, Cap’n Andy’s daughter, Magnolia (Kathryn Grayson), meets gambler Gaylord Ravenal (Howard Keel) while she is trying to air out the costumes, and they quickly fall for each other.  That night, the sheriff comes during the show, threatening to arrest Julie, a mulatto, for being married to a white man.  They are able to avoid arrest, but they are forced to leave the Cotton Blossom, much to everybody’s regret (well, everybody except Cap’n Andy’s wife Parthy, played by Agnes Moorehead).  But, Cap’n Andy is a quick thinker, and secures Gaylord’s services as a leading man, while giving his daughter Magnolia a chance as the leading lady.  Audiences take to them, and the two become quite popular.  Offstage, they fall in love, and decide to get married.  They leave the show boat, and move to Chicago.  Things are fine for a while, as Gaylord’s gambling is successful.  However, his luck starts to run out, and they have to give up their lavish lifestyle.  When they hit rock bottom and Magnolia calls him out for his obsession with gambling, he leaves her.  Just in the nick of time, Magnolia runs into Frank and Elly, who help her get a job at a local nightclub for New Year’s.  That night, Cap’n Andy goes out to see Frank and Elly perform, hoping to learn where his daughter is, only to find her faltering in her first performance.  With her father’s support, Magnolia pulls herself together and wins over the audience.  Afterwards, she tells her father what happened (including the fact that she is now pregnant), and asks if she can return home to the show boat (which obviously thrills Cap’n Andy).  As time goes on, both Gaylord and Magnolia continue to go their separate ways.  Will they ever be reunited, or will time forever keep them apart?

MGM bought the film rights to Show Boat a few years after Universal Studios released their 1936 version.  The plan was to feature Jeanette MacDonald and Nelson Eddy, but by then their box office appeal was on the decline.  Still, producer Arthur Freed wanted to do something with the property, and ended up doing so when MGM produced their musical biopic on composer Jerome Kern, Till The Clouds Roll By.  In that film, they borrowed some of the score from Show Boat as they presented a highly shortened version (including actress Kathryn Grayson playing Magnolia Hawks several years before the 1951 film).  At one point, it was also planned to have Lena Horne play the role of Julie (since she had done the part in Till The Clouds Roll By), but a combination of the Code and her stuff being cut in some Southern states prevented her from getting the part.  Ava Gardner got the role, practicing singing to Lena Horne’s recordings, but then she got dubbed by Annette Warren (although her recordings are still extant, and included as extras on the recent Blu-ray release).  The movie proved to be fairly popular with audiences, and they got the gang back together (Kathryn Grayson, Howard Keel and the Champions) the next year for another remake of a Jerome Kern musical, Lovely To Look At.

This is a movie that I’ve seen for years, and was first introduced to it by my late grandmother.  It’s one that I’ve come to appreciate more each time I get the chance to see it.  From the first time I saw it, I will readily admit that the moment that has stuck with me the most is William Warfield’s rendition of the classic “Ol’ Man River.”  He does such a WONDERFUL, fantastic job singing it.  It’s always guaranteed to give me goosebumps, it’s so powerful.  Howard Keel is, in my mind, perfectly cast here, and is very enjoyable to listen to.  I will admit, it took me a while to come around to the husband-and-wife dance team Marge and Gower Champion, but after I saw them in Lovely To Look At (and really took to that film), I’ve come to appreciate their dancing here as well.  While I do wish that Lena Horne could have been cast as Julie, I will readily admit that I like Ava Gardner’s performance here, as I have yet to see anything else she did that moves me as much as she did here, as somebody whose life is going downhill, and yet still tries to take care of a friend that tried to defend her.  It’s not a perfect movie, but it’s one I will quite readily admit to wanting to watch with some frequency!  So I would certainly give it some of my highest recommendations!

This movie is available on Blu-ray from Warner Archive Collection, featuring a new master from a 4K Scan of the original Technicolor negatives. One thing that has long been in this particular version of Show Boat‘s favor has been its three-strip Technicolor look. However, that hasn’t been the case for some time, as the film has had less-than-stellar transfers that have robbed it of that look. Finally, FINALLY, this movie has been given a new restoration that has returned it to its former glory! The colors are so fantastically vivid, and the detail is much improved! I know this Blu-ray was only just released in February 2021, but, honestly, I’d be surprised if this isn’t considered one of the best (if not THE best) restorations of the year! So, if you’ve never seen this movie and want to try it (or have seen it, but only through its previous terrible transfers), don’t stop, don’t hesitate, get this one! You won’t regret it!

Film Length: 1 hour, 48 minutes

My Rating: 9/10

My Rating (after the Blu-ray): 10/10

*ranked #3 in Top 10 Disc Releases Of 2021

List Of Actor/Actress Filmographies/Collections

Ziegfeld Follies (1945) – Kathryn Grayson – Lovely To Look At (1952)

Ava Gardner – Mogambo (1953)

Annie Get Your Gun (1950) – Howard Keel – Lovely To Look At (1952)

You Said A Mouthful (1932) – Joe E. Brown

The Story Of Vernon And Irene Castle (1939) – Marge Champion – Lovely To Look At (1952)

Gower Champion – Lovely To Look At (1952)

Dark Passage (1947) – Agnes Moorehead – The Opposite Sex (1956)

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