What’s Old Is A New Release Again (2022) Roundup Featuring… Bing Crosby

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 Bing Crosby, whether they be on DVD, Blu-ray or 4K UHD. Short of something having been released that has escaped my notice (which is always possible), this post should essentially be completed now (outside of adding links if and when I do full reviews for any of these films). So, let’s dig into some of Bing’s films that have seen a new release in 2022. That list includes Here Is My Heart (1934), Holiday Inn (1942), Blue Skies (1946), Welcome Stranger (1947) and A Connecticut Yankee In King Arthur’s Court (1949)!

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Notes: Due to the fact that I had already added some comments on different shorts to my original reviews of Holiday Inn, Blue Skies and A Connecticut Yankee In King Arthur’s Court, I will not be adding any more to those posts or this one (except for two shorts to accompany the films not yet reviewed).

Table Of Contents

Coming Up Shorts! with… The Lucky Corner (1936)

(available on Blu-ray as part of The Little Rascals: The ClassicFlix Restorations, Volume 5 (1935-1936) from ClassicFlix)

(Length: 16 minutes, 21 seconds)

Scotty (Scotty Beckett) and his grandfather are selling lemonade, but a bully and his father (who have a store of their own) force them to move their stand when some potential customers go to them for lemonade. So, with Scotty and his grandfather now situated in a different spot where almost nobody goes, it’s up to the Gang to help them drum up some business! This one was an all-round entertaining entry in the series. I thought that the kids’ “parade” was fun to see, as were some of the performances as they got the crowd together. Of course, the rivalry between the bully and the kids added to the fun (especially when the bully’s attempts to steal away their customers backfired on him). This one was very enjoyable, and worth giving a chance (I certainly know that I want to keep coming back to it)!

Coming Up Shorts! with… Second Childhood (1936)

(available on Blu-ray as part of The Little Rascals: The ClassicFlix Restorations, Volume 5 (1935-1936) from ClassicFlix)

(Length: 19 minutes, 11 seconds)

A cranky old lady (Zeffie Tilbury) is miserable on her birthday (and making her servants miserable) until a toy airplane comes flying in and breaks her vase. Spanky (George McFarland) and the Gang volunteer to do some work around the yard for her when they can’t pay for the vase, and in the process, help her start to enjoy life again! This was yet another fun short. Zeffie Tilbury was fun as the grouchy old lady (even with her brief moments of happiness when she caused trouble for her servants), and her performance as she regains her joy for life helped make this short work! The scene with Spanky and Alfalfa (Carl Switzer) joining her in a rendition of “Oh, Susanna” was fun, especially with her learning to use Spanky’s slingshot after it accidentally hit her. Overall, this one was a lot of fun, even though it did use some obvious rear-screen projection when Zeffie Tilbury was on roller skates (but, at the same time, I can’t blame the filmmakers, since the actress was legally blind at the time she made this short, not that you can tell from her performance). Certainly one that I would gladly come back to again and again!

Here Is My Heart (1934)

  • Plot Synopses: Singer J. Paul Jones (Bing Crosby) has achieved some success, and is looking to fulfill many dreams that he couldn’t do when he was poor. One of those ambitions is to buy the two original pistols that belonged to Revolutionary War hero John Paul Jones, and present them to the Naval Academy. He’s got one already, but the other currently belongs to the Russian Princess Alexandra (Kitty Carlisle), who refuses to sell to him. In his attempts to buy the pistol, he is mistaken for her waiter, and makes use of the opportunity to spend some time with her and her associates. Will he achieve his dream and get the pistol, or will he find himself with a greater goal (love)?
  • Film Length: 1 hour, 17 minutes
  • Extras: None
  • Format: Blu-ray
  • Label: Universal Studios
  • My Rating: 7/10
  • Quick Comments
    • On The Movie Itself: Check overall impressions.
    • On The Transfer: The new Blu-ray appears to be making use of an HD scan. For the most part, it looks quite good. The opening credits look a bit rough, and there are some scratches present throughout (although nothing so terrible as to take away from the movie itself). It looks good enough for me, and is likely to be the best this movie will look for the near future.

Holiday Inn (1942)

  • Plot Synopses: A three person song-and-dance team splits up when one of their members, Jim Hardy (Bing Crosby) gets the urge to buy a farm where he can rest and retire from show business. Farming doesn’t prove to be as easy or as restful as he thinks, and he decides to turn the farm into an inn that is only open for holidays (fifteen days a year). Linda Mason (Marjorie Reynolds) is sent to the inn to audition, and she gets a job there. Jim falls for her, but one of his former partners, Ted Hanover (Fred Astaire), finds himself partnerless. Upon meeting Linda, Ted also falls in love with her and wants to dance with her. Will Linda stay at the inn with Jim, or will she become a big star with Ted?
  • Film Length: 1 hour, 40 minutes
  • Extras (on both the 4K disc and the included Blu-ray): “A Couple Of Song And Dance Men;” “All-Singing All-Dancing;” “Reassessing ‘Abraham;'” Theatrical Trailer; and Feature Commentary By Film Historian Ken Barnes, including Audio Comments From Fred Astaire, Bing Crosby And John Scott Trotter
  • Format: 4K UHD
  • Label: Universal Studios
  • My Rating: 8/10
  • Quick Comments
    • On The Movie Itself: Check overall impressions or see the full review here.
    • On The Transfer: Honestly, this is a bit of a disappointing release. The 4K disc looks terrible, with a picture that is darker at times and loses some of the detail, and grain tends to be very distracting here, as if they are working from elements (or an older transfer) that doesn’t have 4K worth of data, although there are some moments here and there where the 4K disc actually looks good. Frankly, the included Blu-ray (which appears to use the same transfer, or close enough) actually looks better throughout. The Blu-ray is lighter and the grain is nowhere near as prevalent as it is on the 4K. Also, depending on your feelings about this, the film starts with a vintage Universal logo preceding the film’s Paramount logo. I only mention this because the film was originally produced by Paramount, was part of a large group of films sold to Music Corporation Of America (MCA)/EMKA , Ltd. in the 1950s, before becoming part of Universal Studios’ library when MCA took over the studio in the 1960s. Realistically, this release is at best recommended to those who don’t have the Blu-ray already (and even then it is questionable). If you already have the Blu-ray, then don’t bother with this one. If you want either the Broadway show or the colorized version of the film (neither of which is included as extras with this release), then I would suggest going with one of the earlier Blu-ray releases.

Blue Skies (1946)

  • Plot Synopses: Dancer Jed Potter (Fred Astaire) likes chorus girl Mary O’Hara (Joan Caulfield), but he makes the mistake of taking her to a nightclub owned by his friend, Johnny Adams (Bing Crosby). Mary falls instantly for Johnny, and he for her, much to Jed’s regret. However, Mary takes a slight issue with Johnny not being too responsible, as he has a bad habit of constantly buying and selling his nightclubs. That’s not enough to stop them from getting married, but Johnny’s refusal to change his ways really comes between them after they have a child, and they divorce. With Jed’s love for Mary growing over time, will she give him a chance, or will things go sour between them, too?
  • Film Length: 1 hour, 44 minutes
  • Extras: Audio commentary by film critic and author Simon Abrams, Trailers for Road To Morocco (1942), Daddy Long Legs (1955), Love Me Tonight (1932) and Thoroughly Modern Millie (1967)
  • Format: Blu-ray
  • Label: Kino Lorber Studio Classics
  • My Rating: 10/10
  • Quick Comments
    • On The Movie Itself: Check overall impressions or see the full review here.
    • On The Transfer: According to the Blu-ray case, the transfer is coming from a new 2K master with newly remastered audio. In general, this release looks quite wonderful. It improves on Universal’s earlier DVD by fixing the previously windowboxed opening and closing credits, and the colors look quite good in general. It’s not quite as perfect as similar releases from Warner Archive, but it’s about as good as I can hope for with this film. The image has been cleaned up of scratches, dirt and debris. Quick note: on the initial pressing of this Blu-ray, there were some audio issues in which Fred Astaire’s taps were a lot more muffled. Kino Lorber Studio Classics looked into it and decided to fix the issue (it’s already been taken care of by this time). Customers are guaranteed to get the right copy at Kino’s own sites, but in case you get the incorrect copy from somewhere else, this link will take you to their replacement program.

Welcome Stranger (1947)

  • Plot Synopses: Dr. Joseph McRory (Barry Fitzgerald) has served the town of Fallbridge, Maine faithfully for nearly thirty-five years, and is looking forward to a well-deserved vacation. However, his temporary replacement being sent by the medical board is the younger Dr. Jim Pearson (Bing Crosby), whom Dr. McRory takes an instant dislike to, and encourages him to leave (advice that the younger doctor ignores). Dr. McRory’s opinions are shared by many of the townspeople, including schoolteacher Trudy Mason (Joan Caulfield) (whom Dr. Pearson takes an immediate liking to). Things start to change when, upon trying to leave for his vacation, Dr. McRory suffers from appendicitis, with no choice but to have Dr. Pearson operate on him (an operation that goes successfully). However, Trudy’s boyfriend, Roy Chesley (Robert Shayne), REALLY doesn’t like Dr. Pearson, and tries to use his influence to take away Dr. McRory’s position at a new hospital in the process of being built. Can Dr. Pearson help Dr. McRory regain the town’s favor, or will they both leave town with their tails tucked between their legs?
  • Film Length: 1 hour, 47 minutes
  • Extras: None
  • Format: Blu-ray
  • Label: Universal Studios
  • My Rating: 8/10
  • Quick Comments
    • On The Movie Itself: Check overall impressions.
    • On The Transfer: This Blu-ray appears to be using an HD scan which looks pretty good for the most part. Most of the dust, dirt and other debris has been cleaned up. The opening credits are just a little shaky (but that’s the only part of the movie that has that problem), and there are a few (very) light scratches still present throughout the movie (but nothing that takes away from the movie itself). Overall, likely the best this movie will look, and it’s certainly the recommended way to see it!

A Connecticut Yankee In King Arthur’s Court (1949)

  • Plot Synopses: In the early twentieth century, blacksmith Hank Martin (Bing Crosby) tries to return a horse to his owner during a storm, but gets knocked out when he runs into a tree. When he awakens, Hank finds himself in the past, in the kingdom of Camelot under King Arthur (Sir Cedric Hardwicke). At first, Hank is mistaken for a monster, but quickly becomes popular with the people when he uses some basic tricks to make himself look like a powerful sorcerer. He falls for King Arthur’s niece, the Lady Alisande “Sandy” la Carteloise (Rhonda Fleming), but has to contend with her betrothed, Sir Lancelot (Henry Wilcoxon). Having also earned the ire of the wizard Merlin (Murvyn Vye), Hank finds himself in a lot of trouble. Will he be able to return to his own time, or gain the affections of Sandy if he stays?
  • Film Length: 1 hour, 47 minutes
  • Extras: None
  • Format: Blu-ray
  • Label: Universal Studios
  • My Rating: 9/10
  • Quick Comments
    • On The Movie Itself: Check overall impressions or see the full review here.
    • On The Transfer: This Blu-ray seems to be working with an HD scan that looks pretty good. Most (if not just about all) of the dust, dirt, and other artifacts have been cleaned up. For the most part, the color looks pretty good, similar to the recent Blu-ray release of Blue Skies (1946) from Kino Lorber Studio Classics. There are some minor sections where the color doesn’t look quite as vivid as it seems like it should, but it’s an overall good release of a wonderful film (and certainly as good as it is likely to get anytime soon).

My Overall Impressions

Like all of my previous “What’s Old Is A New Release Again” posts focusing on the stars or screen teams that I picked for my “Star/Screen Team Of The Month” in 2022, I have gone without comments on the individual films as I reflect on my Star (from way back in March), Bing Crosby. Here Is My Heart (1934) is the oddball of this bunch, as it’s a film from fairly early in Bing’s career (and as such, his singing style and voice are quite different from the later films). He really only has three songs in this film, with the tune “June In January” being the most memorable. He has some comedic moments, especially when he poses as an alternate “incompetent” waiter, and when he is drunk interacting with Roland Young’s Prince Nicholas near the end of the film. For the rest, we move into the 1940s, when his career had taken a different direction. Holiday Inn finds us early in the decade, when his star was on the rise after finding success through the Road series with Bob Hope and Dorothy Lamour. Holiday Inn follows a similar formula, with Bing and Fred Astaire competing for the affections of two different ladies. Of course, the biggest highlight for Bing is his introduction of the classic Irving Berlin song “White Christmas,” which became a major hit for both Bing and Irving. He also croons a few other big tunes, including “Easter Parade,” “Be Careful, It’s My Heart” (which was actually the initial hit song from the movie) and “Happy Holiday”, plus we have him singing (and “dancing” if you can call it that) with Fred Astaire to “I’ll Capture Your Heart Singing.” Moving ahead a few years, Blue Skies follows up his Oscar win for Going My Way (1944) and his nomination for The Bells Of St. Mary’s (1945). As such, his role in Blue Skies is more dramatic, even though his character still competes with Fred Astaire’s Jed Potter for the affections of Joan Caulfield’s Mary O’Hara. Bing’s main highlights are him singing the title tune and the Oscar nominated “You Keep Coming Back Like A Song,” as well as dancing with Fred Astaire to “A Couple Of Song and Dance Men.” Welcome Stranger (1947) reunites Bing with his Going My Way co-star Barry Fitzgerald in what almost feels like a remake of Going My Way (except this time with the two of them as doctors instead of Catholic priests). The music is decent (personally, I prefer the song “Country Style”), but the main fun is in watching the developing friendship between Bing’s Dr. Jim Pearson and Barry Fitzgerald’s Dr. Joseph McRory as they go from bickering to working together. A Connecticut Yankee In King Arthur’s Court (1949) was made during the same time period, when Bing’s popularity at the box office gave him enough clout to choose his directors and castmates. The movie has some comedic moments, including Bing’s character “modernizing” the music and dancing at a ball, and the jousting tournament. On the musical side, Bing’s romantic duet with Rhonda Fleming to “Once And For Always” and him singing along with William Bendix and Sir Cedric Hardwicke to “Busy Doing Nothing” are the film’s big highlights.

Well, now that I’ve commented on these films, I’ll give you my rankings on these releases, from highly recommended (1.) to least recommended (5.):

  1. (tie) Blue Skies (1946)
  1. (tie) A Connecticut Yankee In King Arthur’s Court (1949)
  1. Welcome Stranger (1947)
  1. Here Is My Heart (1934)
  1. Holiday Inn (1942)

I’ll admit, this is a slightly harder group to pick one film that I would solidly recommend. I’m not trashing any of the movies, as I think they are all good, and worth giving a chance. Transfer-wise, I think that Blue Skies (1946) and A Connecticut Yankee In King Arthur’s Court (1949) are pretty similar, and look the best. Here Is My Heart (1934) and Welcome Stranger (1947) look pretty good, although they have some minor issues that pull them down. Holiday Inn (1942)’s transfer is the weakest of the bunch (in spite of the fact that it is a 4K UHD and not a Blu-ray like the others). In a normal situation, my top pick would be easy: Blue Skies. I think the film looks just a hair better with this new release, it’s got some extras and I prefer the film itself overall. However, we’re discussing Bing Crosby here, and the things I like about that film are Fred Astaire, the Irving Berlin music and some of Fred’s dances. It’s not otherwise remembered as much for Bing’s presence. If it had a better transfer, I would be recommending the other Bing Crosby/Fred Astaire/Irving Berlin collaboration, Holiday Inn, since it features Bing introducing that classic song “White Christmas” (which became Bing’s best-selling song, and one of the biggest selling of all time), along with a few other fun tunes. But, again. the weak transfer leaves me not wanting to recommend the 4K UHD at all. A Connecticut Yankee In King Arthur’s Court is also very much Bing’s film, and he is what makes it fun (even if I don’t think the film itself is quite as good as Blue Skies). Thus, I would put Blue Skies and A Connecticut Yankee In King Arthur’s Court at a tie for the top recommendations if we are talking strictly about Bing’s films. Welcome Stranger (1947) mainly suffers from its similarity to the far better (in my opinion) Going My Way (1944), although it’s certainly still an entertaining film in its own right. Here Is My Heart (1934) is still a little too early in Bing’s career, without the music or story coming off quite as memorably. Still, I have enjoyed all of these films off and on for years, and the four Blu-ray releases are all worth it to me, and certainly worth a recommendation (again, ignore the 4K UHD for Holiday Inn)!

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… 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

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)

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!

What’s Old Is A New Release Again (2022) Roundup Featuring… Fred Astaire And Ginger Rogers

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 Fred Astaire or Ginger Rogers (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 Fred and Ginger’s films that have seen a new release in 2022. So far, that list includes Gold Diggers Of 1933 (1933) and Blue Skies (1946)!

Remember, 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!

Note: Due to the fact that I’ve reviewed both Gold Diggers Of 1933 (1933) and Blue Skies (1946) previously, I have added my “Coming Up Shorts!” comments to those reviews.

Update: On 11/16/2022, comments were added on the recent 4K UHD release of Holiday Inn (1942), which completes this post for the year. Due to there being a previously written review for that film, the “Coming Up Shorts!” comments were added to that review.

Table Of Contents

Gold Diggers Of 1933 (1933)

  • Plot Synopses: It’s the Great Depression, and while producer Barney Hopkins (Ned Sparks) has a great idea for a show, he doesn’t have the cash to put it on. However, Brad Roberts (Dick Powell), the composer boyfriend of one of Barney’s potential cast members, decides to offer Barney the money to put it on (in exchange for his girlfriend being given the lead). The show’s a hit, but when it comes out that Brad (who is part of a wealthy society family) intends to marry his girlfriend, Polly Parker (Ruby Keeler), Brad’s older brother, J. Lawrence Bradford (Warren William), threatens to have him cut off financially. Mistaking Polly’s roommate Carol (Joan Blondell) for Polly, Lawrence tries to buy her off, but Carol and her friend Trixie Lorraine (Aline MacMahon) decide to get back at him. Will Lawrence be able to break up his brother’s relationship, or will he find himself in love?
  • Film Length: 1 hour, 37 minutes
  • Extras: FDR’s New Deal… Broadway Bound, Warner Brothers cartoons We’re In The Money (1933), Pettin’ In The Park (1934), I’ve Got To Sing A Torch Song (1933), Warner Brothers Shorts Ramblin’ Round Radio Row #2 (1932), The 42nd Street Special (1933), Seasoned Greetings (1933), Theatrical Trailer
  • Format: Blu-ray
  • Label: Warner Archive Collection
  • My Rating: 10/10
  • Quick Comments
    • On The Movie Itself: Check overall impressions or see the full review here.
    • On The Transfer: The transfer comes from a scan of the best preservation elements, and it looks fantastic!  It’s an understatement to say that it shows off all the details of the sets and costumes, especially for the various musical numbers!  The image has been cleaned up of all scratches, dirt and debris.  As usual, this Warner Archive release really shines as an example of a great restoration.  The Blu-ray is highly recommended as the best way to see this movie, and goes quite well with their earlier Blu-rays for 42nd Street (1933) and Footlight Parade (1933)!

Holiday Inn (1942)

  • Plot Synopses: A three person song-and-dance team splits up when one of their members, Jim Hardy (Bing Crosby) gets the urge to buy a farm where he can rest and retire from show business. Farming doesn’t prove to be as easy or as restful as he thinks, and he decides to turn the farm into an inn that is only open for holidays (fifteen days a year). Linda Mason (Marjorie Reynolds) is sent to the inn to audition, and she gets a job there. Jim falls for her, but one of his former partners, Ted Hanover (Fred Astaire), finds himself partnerless. Upon meeting Linda, Ted also falls in love with her and wants to dance with her. Will Linda stay at the inn with Jim, or will she become a big star with Ted?
  • Film Length: 1 hour, 40 minutes
  • Extras (on both the 4K disc and the included Blu-ray): “A Couple Of Song And Dance Men;” “All-Singing All-Dancing;” “Reassessing ‘Abraham;'” Theatrical Trailer; and Feature Commentary By Film Historian Ken Barnes, including Audio Comments From Fred Astaire, Bing Crosby And John Scott Trotter
  • Format: 4K UHD
  • Label: Universal Studios
  • My Rating: 8/10
  • Quick Comments
    • On The Movie Itself: Check overall impressions or see the full review here.
    • On The Transfer: Honestly, this is a bit of a disappointing release. The 4K disc looks terrible, with a picture that is darker at times and loses some of the detail, and grain tends to be very distracting here, as if they are working from elements (or an older transfer) that doesn’t have 4K worth of data, although there are some moments here and there where the 4K disc actually looks good. Frankly, the included Blu-ray (which appears to use the same transfer, or close enough) actually looks better throughout. The Blu-ray is lighter and the grain is nowhere near as prevalent as it is on the 4K. Also, depending on your feelings about this, the film starts with a vintage Universal logo preceding the film’s Paramount logo. I only mention this because the film was originally produced by Paramount, was part of a large group of films sold to Music Corporation Of America (MCA)/EMKA , Ltd. in the 1950s, before becoming part of Universal Studios’ library when MCA took over the studio in the 1960s. Realistically, this release is at best recommended to those who don’t have the Blu-ray already (and even then it is questionable). If you already have the Blu-ray, then don’t bother with this one. If you want either the Broadway show or the colorized version of the film (neither of which is included as extras with this release), then I would suggest going with one of the earlier Blu-ray releases.

Blue Skies (1946)

  • Plot Synopses: Dancer Jed Potter (Fred Astaire) likes chorus girl Mary O’Hara (Joan Caulfield), but he makes the mistake of taking her to a nightclub owned by his friend, Johnny Adams (Bing Crosby). Mary falls instantly for Johnny, and he for her, much to Jed’s regret. However, Mary takes a slight issue with Johnny not being too responsible, as he has a bad habit of constantly buying and selling his nightclubs. That’s not enough to stop them from getting married, but Johnny’s refusal to change his ways really comes between them after they have a child, and they divorce. With Jed’s love for Mary growing over time, will she give him a chance, or will things go sour between them, too?
  • Film Length: 1 hour, 44 minutes
  • Extras: Audio commentary by film critic and author Simon Abrams, Trailers for Road To Morocco (1942), Daddy Long Legs (1955), Love Me Tonight (1932) and Thoroughly Modern Millie (1967)
  • Format: Blu-ray
  • Label: Kino Lorber Studio Classics
  • My Rating: 10/10
  • Quick Comments
    • On The Movie Itself: Check overall impressions or see the full review here.
    • On The Transfer: According to the Blu-ray case, the transfer is coming from a new 2K master with newly remastered audio. In general, this release looks quite wonderful. It improves on Universal’s earlier DVD by fixing the previously windowboxed opening and closing credits, and the colors look quite good in general. It’s not quite as perfect as similar releases from Warner Archive, but it’s about as good as I can hope for with this film. The image has been cleaned up of scratches, dirt and debris. Quick note: on the initial pressing of this Blu-ray, there were some audio issues in which Fred Astaire’s taps were a lot more muffled. Kino Lorber Studio Classics looked into it and decided to fix the issue (it’s already been taken care of by this time). Customers are guaranteed to get the right copy at Kino’s own sites, but in case you get the incorrect copy from somewhere else, this link will take you to their replacement program.

My Overall Impressions

Since this post is in reference to Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers, my Screen Team Of The Month for July 2022, then, as you have noticed, I am foregoing my usual quick comments on these movies in favor of some reflection on the films regarding Fred and Ginger (especially since I have otherwise reviewed these two films previously). Neither Gold Diggers Of 1933 (1933) nor Blue Skies (1946) were substantial roles for Fred or Ginger, since neither of them were at the peak of their careers. Ginger’s star was on the rise after she played the part of Anytime Annie in 42nd Street (1933), which is when she was starting to really get noticed. For Gold Diggers Of 1933 (1933), her big moment is the opening number, “We’re In The Money,” which she sings normally first, and then sings again in pig Latin (and this opening number is indeed worth the price of admission). Otherwise, she has a relatively minor part, mainly as one of the girls hoping to get a part in Barney Hopkins’ new show in the first half of the movie, and then she is relegated to two very quick appearances as she tries to get in on the gold digging that two of her friends are doing (before being quickly booted by them both times). On the other hand, Fred’s career was on the outs by the time of Blue Skies (1946). He was feeling burnt out, especially after Yolanda And The Thief (1945) bombed, and announced his retirement, effective after doing Blue Skies (although his retirement was short-lived, as he came back two years later for Easter Parade). With him playing second fiddle to Bing Crosby, he doesn’t really have as much to do, but he does get four musical numbers. They are “A Pretty Girl Is Like A Melody” (partnered with leading lady Joan Caulfield, and this routine is only decent when he is dancing alone), “A Couple Of Song And Dance Men” with Bing Crosby (in a similar comedic vein to “I’ll Capture Your Heart” from Holiday Inn), “Heat Wave” with Olga San Juan and “Puttin’ On The Ritz.” The latter three songs are some of the film’s best moments, with “Puttin’ On The Ritz” being the film’s standout routine, as Fred utilizes special effects to make his cane fly up from the ground into his hand several times before finishing out with a chorus of Fred Astaires (one of the few times we could directly see just how well-rehearsed he was as we see that chorus so very in-sync with each other and the “lead” dancer). Fred’s earlier team-up with Bing Crosby, Holiday Inn (1942) is a different story from these other two films. While he was past both his partnership with Ginger (save for their reunion film The Barkleys Of Broadway from 1949) and his status as box office poison, Fred’s career was still on a bit of a downhill slope (admittedly not as steep as it would be within the next few years). Holiday Inn marked the first time since very early in his film career where Fred wasn’t the highest-billed male star of the movie, with him in some respects playing the film’s “villain” (a bit of a rarity in and of itself). He does get several song-and-dance numbers in the film, including the aforementioned “I’ll Capture Your Heart” with Bing Crosby; “You’re Easy To Dance With” with Virginia Dale; his “drunk dance,” “Be Careful, It’s My Heart,” “I Can’t Tell A Lie” and the Hollywood medley with Marjorie Reynolds; and his solo (with firecrackers!) to “Let’s Say It With Firecrackers.”

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 (3.):

  1. Blue Skies (1946)
  2. Gold Diggers Of 1933 (1933)
  3. Holiday Inn (1942)

I admit, my personal preference definitely comes into play here, as I have long preferred Blue Skies over Gold Diggers Of 1933 or Holiday Inn. I very much enjoy listening to the music and Fred’s dancing in Blue Skies (always have preferred Fred’s way of filming dance over Busby Berkeley’s). The story is probably better in Gold Diggers Of 1933, and it has some fun music as well (again, Ginger’s “We’re In The Money” is one of the film’s biggest highlights). Fred has a few good moments in Holiday Inn, but, in spite of the fact that his role was larger in that film than in Blue Skies, I actually prefer him in the later Blue Skies. As to which film has the better transfer, that’s easy: Gold Diggers Of 1933. As I said, Blue Skies looks very good, and is definitely a nice improvement over the DVD. But, the color isn’t quite as good as what I’ve seen from three-strip Technicolor films released by Warner Archive, and Gold Diggers, while a black-and-white film, looks very, VERY good. The 4K UHD for Holiday Inn, however, is a disappointment with a lackluster transfer that really shouldn’t have been released. The Blu-rays for Blue Skies and Gold Diggers Of 1933 are both releases that are easy to recommend (especially since I think they are both good films with pretty good transfers). Holiday Inn is a tougher recommendation, since I not only can’t quite recommend the 4K UHD but also don’t think *quite* as highly of the film itself in comparison, but I certainly would recommend it at least from any of the previously available Blu-rays.

“Star Of The Month (March 2022)” Featuring Bing Crosby in… Rhythm On The Range (1936)

We’re back for our third Bing Crosby film as we celebrate him as the Star Of The Month! This time, it’s his 1936 film Rhythm On The Range, also starring Frances Farmer, Bob Burns and Martha Raye!

Coming Up Shorts! with… The Loose Nut (1945)

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

(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. This one was quite entertaining, with Woody being pushed into helping out (until the city worker makes fun of him, and then it’s every man and bird for himself). I enjoyed the gags, which came fast and furious (and certainly kept me laughing). While the story itself might be getting old for Woody Woodpecker, this one was still entertaining enough that I look forward to coming back around to it again in the future!

And Now For The Main Feature…

Heiress Doris Halloway (Frances Farmer) is currently getting ready to get married to a man she doesn’t love. However, her visiting aunt, Penelope “Penny” Ryland (Lucile Gleason), advises her against the idea. Upon listening to her aunt’s speech at Madison Square Garden (where a rodeo is being held), Doris agrees with her, and makes plans to join her aunt on her return trip out west. Meanwhile, at the rodeo, two of Penny’s ranch hands, Jeff Larabee (Bing Crosby) and Buck Eaton (Bob Burns), attempt to win enough money to buy a bull that Jeff wants (and they win just enough). Jeff and the bull get in Penny’s boxcar, where Doris is hiding out. Penny and Buck are delayed, which causes them to miss the train. When Jeff finally discovers Doris, she pretends to be a cook named Lois. He’s more concerned with his bull (much to her annoyance) and tries to get her to leave when the train stops. She sticks it out with him, and gives Shorty (George E. Stone) (one of a group of three hoboes traveling on the train) a telegram to send to her father. Upon returning to the boxcar, she accidentally agitates the bull with her red scarf, and he chases her off the train. Jeff comes to save her from the bull, but the train pulls away in the process. Shorty’s two hobo buddies, Big Brain (Warren Hymer) and Wabash (James Burke) realize (from reading her telegram) that she is an heiress that had run away, and hightail it after her in the hopes of getting a reward. Jeff and Doris have a few adventures together as they continue to make their way towards Penny’s ranch (including briefly being locked up in a barn by the three hoboes before the bull helps them escape). Meanwhile, Penny gets Buck on a passenger train while opting to stay behind and help find the missing Doris. On the train ride, Buck keeps running into Emma Mazda (Martha Raye), and finds out (when the train reaches his destination) that Emma is also bound for Penny’s ranch, as she is going to see her brother who works there. Jeff, Doris, Buck and Emma all meet up at Jeff and Buck’s cabin, before they finish the trek to Penny’s ranch. With Doris falling hard for Jeff, will she be able to tell him the truth about herself (and if she does, will he stay with her or leave)?

Rhythm On The Range is one of those movies that I’ve seen many a time over the last nearly two decades (so you can tell that I like it). Bing Crosby has long been one of the reasons that I’ve enjoyed the film so much. “I’m An Old Cowhand (From The Rio Grande),” one of the film’s biggest hit songs, has long been the most fun to see over and over again (and is more enjoyable considering the Sons Of The Pioneers appear during it, with Roy Rogers making an early appearance here). I would also say that I enjoy some of Bing’s solo songs, like “I Can’t Escape From You,” “Empty Saddles” and “Roundup Lullaby.” I’ll admit, as time has gone on, I can also in some respects see that he is also some of the movie’s problems as well. He does seem miscast here as a cowboy, and that seems to have been the general opinion, as, outside of a few cameo appearances, he didn’t really do any more Westerns, outside of his final theatrical film, Stagecoach (1966) (and even then, he wasn’t a cowboy). But that’s not enough to take away my enjoyment of his performance in this movie.

As for the rest of the cast, it’s a somewhat mixed bag. Bing’s leading lady, Frances Farmer, is the biggest strike against the film, as I find her performance as a whole very unbelievable, particularly where her line readings are concerned (but she’s not so terrible as to stop me from ever watching the movie again). VERY much in this film’s favor are Bob Burns as Buck Eaton and Martha Raye (who made her film debut here) as Emma Mazda. Their characters’ relationship provides much of the humor here, especially when the two are eating together in the train’s dining car (complete with jolts that add to the humor), and when they are explaining their relationship to Emma’s brother “Gopher” Mazda (as played by Charles Williams). Those two moments alone keep me laughing, and wanting to come back! As a whole, the movie feels like Paramount’s answer to the then-recent It Happened One Night (1934). Personally, I think that Rhythm pales in comparison to that or the similar also Western-ized version Can’t Help Singing (1944). Still, for me, it’s good comfort cinema that I like to come back to periodically, and therefore, I have no problems in recommending it!

This movie is available on DVD from Universal Studios, either individually, as part of a double-feature with Rhythm On The River (1940) or as part of the twenty-four film set Bing Crosby: The Silver Screen Collection.

Film Length: 1 hour, 28 minutes

My Rating: 7/10

List Of Actor/Actress Filmographies/Collections

Mississippi (1935)Bing CrosbyPennies From Heaven (1936)

Martha Raye – Waikiki Wedding (1937)

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!

“Star Of The Month (March 2022)” Featuring Bing Crosby in… Mississippi (1935)

We’re back for another film featuring this month’s Star, Bing Crosby! This time, it’s his 1935 musical comedy Mississippi (based on Magnolia, a 1923 play by Booth Tarkington), co-starring W. C. Fields and Joan Bennett!

Coming Up Shorts! with… Woody Dines Out (1945)

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

(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! This cartoon was fun, but it was only so-so. There was too much set-up going on, and the actual interplay between Woody and the taxidermist was virtually non-existent. There was barely any “battle” between them, which takes away from the fun. It was still enjoyable, just not the Woody Woodpecker series at its best.

And Now For The Main Feature…

Southern plantation owner General Rumford (Claude Gillingwater) is throwing a party to celebrate the engagement of his daughter, Elvira (Gail Patrick), to his ward, Tom Grayson (Bing Crosby), and he has invited a nearby showboat troupe, under the leadership of Commodore Jackson (W. C. Fields), to perform at the party. However, the festivities are interrupted when Elvira’s former beau, Major Patterson (John Miljan), arrives and challenges Tom to a duel for Elvira’s hand. When the pacifist Tom declines the duel, Elvira turns him down and he is ostracized by everyone. Well, everyone but Elvira’s younger sister, Lucy (Joan Bennett), who admires him for sticking to his convictions, and reveals to Tom as he is leaving that she has had a bit of a crush on him. He thinks that she is too young (since she is getting ready to go back to school), so he doesn’t make much of her confession. The commodore had offered Tom a job with his troupe, so Tom takes him up on the offer. When Tom saves the commodore’s life during a game of poker, the commodore responds in kind by trying to help Tom out. The commodore suggests the stage name of “the notorious Colonel Steele,” and builds him up as a singing killer, which is made much easier when Tom accidentally kills tough guy Captain Blackie (Fred Kohler, Sr.) in a brawl. The commodore continues to build up Colonel Steele’s reputation, by adding more “victims” (including a cousin of Lucy’s), regardless of whether anything actually happened. On a trip with her school, Lucy runs into Tom, and they fall for each other. However, when she learns that he is the notorious Colonel Steele, she rejects him. When Tom later learns that Lucy is engaged to Major Patterson’s brother, Joe (Ed Pawley), he must decide whether he will fight back this time or not. But will he be able to win out (and win back Lucy’s heart in the process)?

The role of Tom Grayson was actually planned for actor Lanny Ross, but Bing Crosby (a much more popular star at the time) was cast instead. My own opinion is that, nearly two years after doing College Humor (in which, as I stated last week, I thought his acting wasn’t quite natural yet), his performing skills had much improved (although I think he looks a little odd with the sideburns he is sporting, as well as the mustache he wears for the last part of the movie). I think he works much more effectively here (although there are some obvious moments with some of the stunts where the camerawork and editing don’t work as well to hide the fact that it wasn’t him doing the stunts), in a manner similar to most of his other thirties output (but still different from the persona he finally established going into the forties). Obviously, he’s in good voice here, crooning a few songs from Richard Rodgers and Lorenz Hart (including the song “It’s Easy To Remember,” which was written for the film at Bing’s request after the two songwriters had returned to New York), plus “Swanee River.” As I had said in my review of Nice Girl? (1941), Bing’s version of “Swanee” was for a time my favorite for that tune (at least, until I saw that Deanna Durbin film). “It’s Easy To Remember” is honestly the only other song in the film that is that memorable. I would also say that his comedic skills were improving a little, helped by working with comedy legend W. C. Fields.

Speaking of W. C. Fields, he is one of the reasons that I’ve come to enjoy this movie as much as I have. It was the second film of his that I had seen (following The Big Broadcast Of 1938), and I particularly enjoyed his poker game, as he played with some men who claimed to hate cheaters (and yet, they were cheating themselves), all the while he kept drawing (and trying to get rid of) a fifth ace! Fields also gets some humor out of the song “Swanee River,” as it dates the film’s events as being around the time the song was written (since he is told that it is a new song), and then he claims that nobody will remember it (and then he keeps humming it throughout the rest of the movie)! It’s not a perfect film, as it struggles with some of the old stereotypes for blacks (since it is set in the Old South), as well as the way that Native Americans are treated (none really show up, it’s just Fields’ constant story of fighting off some Shug Indians). Still, it’s an entertaining film that I enjoy coming back to every now and then, and I think it’s worth trying (especially if it’s included as part of a set of Bing Crosby films)!

This movie is available on DVD from Universal Studios, either as part of the six film The Bing Crosby Collection or as part of the twenty-four film set Bing Crosby: The Silver Screen Collection.

Film Length: 1 hour, 14 minutes

My Rating: 7/10

List Of Actor/Actress Filmographies/Collections

We’re Not Dressing (1934)Bing CrosbyRhythm On The Range (1936)

The Old-Fashioned Way (1934)W. C. FieldsMy Little Chickadee (1940)

Joan Bennett – Big Brown Eyes (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!

“Star Of The Month (March 2022)” Featuring Bing Crosby in… College Humor (1933)

We’re here to start off the month of March with an early film from this month’s Star, Bing Crosby!  That film, of course, would be the 1933 movie College Humor, also starring Jack Oakie, Richard Arlen, Mary Carlisle, George Burns and Gracie Allen!

Coming Up Shorts! with… Chew-Chew Baby (1945)

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

(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.  This one was fun, as we had more back-and-forth between Woody and Wally!  Woody’s antics in disguise were quite funny, but things were even funnier once Woody was no longer in disguise, and we got a quick series of gags as Wally tries to get rid of Woody!  I know I had fun with this one, and certainly look forward to revisiting it in the future!

And Now For The Main Feature…

Star high school football player Barney Shirrel (Jack Oakie) has come to Mid-West University, where he plans to study engineering (instead of going to work at his father’s big creamery).  He quickly becomes friends with his new football teammates/roommates Mondrake (Richard Arlen) and Tex Roust (Joseph Sauers), who invite him to join the Omicron fraternity.   Tex ends up leaving the college before the end of the term to get married.  As a parting gift, he gives Barney his helmet, and advises him to keep Mondrake away from booze and women.  When the next term begins, Barney has changed his focus to law, and is joined at Mid-West by his younger sister, Barbara (Mary Carlisle).  She quickly becomes Mondrake’s girlfriend, but she also catches the eye of the drama teacher, Professor Danvers (Bing Crosby).  With her spending a lot of time with Danvers, Mondrake becomes jealous and starts drinking heavily.  On the day of the big game against Nebraska, Mondrake gets so drunk that he ends up in jail.  At Barbara’s insistence, Professor Danvers helps get him out to play in the game (which they win). Even though the win nets the college a big game with another big college, Mondrake gets expelled and Danvers is forced to resign. When the big game finally arrives, Barney is nervous at having to lead the team without the aid of either of his friends. Will he be able to pull himself together in time to help the team, or will he fall completely apart?

College Humor was Bing Crosby’s second starring role in a full-length movie, following The Big Broadcast (1932) (alongside his appearances with the Rhythm Boys in various films, plus some of the two-reelers he did for Mack Sennett). And, quite frankly, it feels like it. Compared to some of his later films, he really isn’t quite a natural fit as an actor yet in this film (and it seems like the filmmakers thought the same, for, although he was the top-billed star, it feels more like he is a secondary character to Jack Oakie’s Barney Shirrel). While I don’t think his acting was as strong here as it would later become (at least, in my opinion), he still handles the singing chores well, singing along as part of the group for the sexual innuendo-filled “Down The Old Ox Road,” as well as handling the songs “Moonstruck” and “Learn To Croon.” Of course, “Learn To Croon” comes out as the song with the most lasting impact here, as it seems to be fairly well-associated with him (although, if you don’t care for the song, it will be that much harder to like the movie, as he sings it several times, and the music itself can be heard in the background throughout the movie). Now, I first saw this movie about ten years ago. I had previously seen the same year’s Going Hollywood for a number of years before that, and I had heard Bing sing part of the song “Just An Echo In The Valley” as part of the big “Going Hollywood” number in that (but I had thought it was part of THAT song, as opposed to being part of a different song entirely). When I first saw College Humor, I recognized the lyrics (when it was used as part of a medley when he is “teaching” his students), and figured that it must have been a hit song for him (which then-modern audiences would have recognized). In reading up on it for this post, I found out that “Just An Echo In The Valley” was apparently the closing theme for a radio show he was working on for the period of January to March 1933, which makes it that much more interesting and enjoyable to me! Like I said, though, Bing is not a great actor here yet, but he is still one of the film’s biggest strengths.

Now, I more or less commented briefly on this film a few years back when talking about the screen team of George Burns and Gracie Allen, in which I more or less stated it was not that great of a film (and that was originally all I had intended to do as far as commenting on the movie). I decided, in planning to feature Bing Crosby as my Star Of The Month for March 2022, that I should at least try to revisit it and elaborate a bit further. I will admit, this time around, my opinion of the film did improve a little bit, but most of my prior assessment is still the same. I think the biggest problem for me is Jack Oakie. As I commented when I reviewed The Eagle And The Hawk (1933), I just don’t care for the actor at all, and with him essentially in the lead role here, that is a big strike against the movie. What’s worse, I don’t think his character’s relationship with Amber (Mary Kornman) works very well, as very little screen time is devoted to it. They meet at a party and go out (although, when he drops her off back at her place, he ends up chasing another girl). The rest of the time, he seems to neglect her for football and his studies (and yet he needs her support for the big game several years later). As I mentioned in my post about George and Gracie, their presence here is little more than a couple of quick appearances (they’re funny for what screen time they do get, but it’s just not enough). Plain and simple, I think the bad stuff is represented too much here, and the good not enough. My opinion of this movie has improved a little with time, but I’ll still go on record stating that this film is still mainly for completists for any of the cast and crew involved. In short, I still can’t bring myself to recommend it.

This movie is available on DVD from Universal Studios, either as part of the six film set The Bing Crosby Collection or as part of the twenty-four film set Bing Crosby: The Silver Screen Collection.

Film Length: 1 hour, 21 minutes

My Rating: 5/10

List Of Actor/Actress Filmographies/Collections

King Of Jazz (1930)Bing CrosbyGoing Hollywood (1933)

Mary Carlisle – Kentucky Kernels (1934)

George Burns/Gracie Allen (screen team) – We’re Not Dressing (1934)

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!

“Star Of The Month (February 2022)” Featuring Deanna Durbin in… For The Love Of Mary (1948)

We’re here to finish up our celebration of actress Deanna Durbin as the Star Of The Month, and what better way to do it than with her 1948 film For The Love Of Mary, co-starring Edmond O’Brien, Don Taylor and Jeffrey Lynn!

Coming Up Shorts! with… Ski For Two (1944)

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

(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! This was another fun one, due to the adversarial relationship of Woody and Wally! Woody also had another song as he skied through the snow, which added to the fun. I’ll admit, for my first time seeing it, I’m mad at myself for my timing in watching it, as Woody dressed himself up as Santa Claus in one of his attempts to get at the food (and I had made the choice to briefly stop watching through the set after The Beach Nut right before Christmas itself, so I saw this one a few weeks after the fact). As much as I enjoyed it, though, I know I have another fun short to watch around Christmastime when it comes around again!

And Now For The Main Feature…

Mary Peppertree (Deanna Durbin) has recently left her job with the Supreme Court, and started working as a telephone operator at the White House, where her father Timothy Peppertree (Griff Barnett) works as a guard. Her first day is spent fielding calls from marine biologist David Paxton (Don Taylor), who is trying to talk to the President (but she and the other girls at the switchboard have been told not to let his call through), as well as calls from her ex, Justice Department attorney Phillip Manning (Jeffrey Lynn) and from several Supreme Court justices trying to help the couple reconcile. When they all meet at a restaurant owned by immigrant Gustav Heindel (Hugo Haas), Mary explains to Phillip that she broke up with him because, when he was caught out with another woman (for his job), she wasn’t the least bit jealous about it, and felt that, for them to be an actual couple, she should have been at least a little jealous. In discussing her first day at the White House, they are overheard by David in the next booth, who promises Mary that he will get through to the President despite her interference. The next morning, David shows up just outside the gate to her job, where he tries to apologize to Mary. She quickly realizes that he is insincere, and leaves him there. The incident causes her to have the hiccups, and when the President talks to her at the switchboard, they get real chummy with each other as he helps her get over the hiccups. Phillip calls Mary at the switchboard to make sure that she is going with him to Supreme Court Justice Peabody’s (Harry Davenport) party that night, but she decides to stay home. As she is leaving work, she sees David trying to get in, and the guard, who sees that they know each other, asks her to drive him away (otherwise, David will be arrested). They drive a short distance before they decide to part ways, but not before Mary offers him a chance to talk to the President’s executive secretary, Harvey Elwood (Ray Collins), if he will take her to Justice Peabody’s party that night (which he agrees to do). However, she is picked up that night by Lieutenant Tom Farrington (Edmond O’Brien), who was sent to take her to the party on the President’s orders (since she hadn’t unplugged from his phone when she was talking with Phillip). She has fun with Tom at the party, as his presence makes Phillip boil over with jealousy. When Tom takes her home, they are greeted by David, who was waiting there to keep his end of the bargain. The next day, Mary has lunch with David, and promises him that her ex, Phillip, can help him with his problem. However, Tom again shows up for Mary that evening to take her to a movie at the White House (again, on the President’s orders, but this time to stop her from seeing the one-track minded David). David meets with Phillip at the same time, but Phillip is completely distracted by the idea of Mary going on another date with Tom, prompting David to consider leaving town since everybody there only seems to be concerned with Mary’s affairs. Meanwhile, newspaper publisher Samuel Litchfield (Frank Conroy) complains about the situation to Elwood (since the publisher’s daughter was dating Tom until the President ordered him to start going out with Mary), which forces Elwood to consider helping David out with his problem (and convince him to go out with Mary). With all this attention, will Mary be able to figure out which guy she likes? And will any of the troubles that the men are facing be dealt with successfully?

When he made his move to MGM around 1941, producer Joe Pasternak (who was a producer for many of Deanna Durbin’s earliest films at Universal Pictures) had plans to make a movie called Washington Girl, which was based on a story by Ruth Finney. That never happened, and Universal ended up buying the rights to the story from MGM as a film for Deanna Durbin. At first, it was to be produced by Karl Tunberg, directed by William A. Seiter and would also co-star Donald O’Connor, but the producer and director ended up doing Up In Central Park with Deanna (and Donald O’Connor was assigned to a different movie). The film title was changed to For The Love Of Mary (which was originally supposed to be the title of the previous year’s Something In The Wind). The film had mediocre results at the box office, and Universal sued Deanna for money they had advanced her. After negotiations, she agreed to do three more films for them, but they let her contract expire, and so she left Hollywood for good.

While she apparently didn’t like this film, I will happily admit that I enjoyed it! For me, the comedy here was very much what made this movie so much fun, as we see her various suitors drive each other nuts, helped along by various government officials! It’s an overall ridiculous idea as to how the government officials (including the U.S. President) get themselves all worked up about one girl’s love life (or at least, humorous compared to what most would complain about the government trying to do nowadays). The music is nothing major, although it’s still fun to listen to Deanna sing, including the song “Moonlight Bay” and particularly “Largo Al Factotum” (from The Barber Of Seville). It may not be anywhere near as good as some of Deanna’s earliest films, but it’s an entertaining film just the same (and certainly better in my eyes than what she thought of it)! So, yes, I definitely recommend this one!

What’s Old Is A New Release Again (2021) with… For The Love Of Mary (1948)

This movie is available on Blu-ray and DVD from Universal Studios. This one seems to have an HD scan, which looks pretty good with the vast majority of dust and dirt cleaned up. This was another one of the nine Deanna Durbin films that Kino Lorber had licensed (and one of the six they later dropped when their first three-film set bombed). I know I’m a broken record about that bit of information, but, as a new fan of Deanna Durbin trying to appeal to her fans both new and old, releases like this need to sell, especially if we want more, including at least one or two that seem to have legal clearance issues preventing release on home media (and I have no idea whether those issues are also keeping those films off TV or streaming, either). I think this film, like all of the other Deanna Durbin films that have made it to Blu-ray, looks as good as one could hope for, and I certainly hope more are coming!

Film Length: 1 hour, 31 minutes

My Rating: 9/10

List Of Actor/Actress Filmographies/Collections

Something In The Wind (1947)Deanna Durbin

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!

“Star Of The Month (February 2022)” Featuring Deanna Durbin in… Something In The Wind (1947)

We’re back again today for another film featuring this month’s Star, Deanna Durbin!  This time, it’s her 1947 film Something In The Wind. The film itself was based on a story by Fritz Rotter and Charles O’Neal called For the Love of Mary. That was originally planned as this film’s title, until they changed it to its current title, and saved that one for what ended up being her final film a year later. This movie also stars Donald O’Connor and John Dall!

Coming Up Shorts! with… The Beach Nut (1944)

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

(Length: 6 minutes, 50 seconds)

Wally Walrus has come to the beach to relax, but Woody Woodpecker keeps pestering him. This one was quite entertaining! It was Wally Walrus’ first appearance in the series, and he seems to be a worthy foe to Woody! It’s hard not to feel sorry for Wally, who was continually attacked by Woody without provocation (at first), and kept losing no matter what he did. Still, Woody’s antics were quite hilarious, and I look forward to further pairings for these two!

And Now For The Main Feature…

Mary Collins (Deanna Durbin) is a singing DJ on the radio, and has been trying to find a sponsor for her show.  One day, she is told that somebody wants to meet with her, and, assuming that the man is a potential sponsor, she agrees to the meeting.  However, it turns out to be the wealthy Donald Read (John Dall), who essentially accuses her of being his late grandfather Henry’s mistress, and he offers her a cash settlement so that she would make no claims to the family estate.  She tells him that she has no idea who he is (or who his grandfather was), and storms out of there.  At home, she finds out from her Aunt Mary Collins (Jean Adair) that her aunt had been a governess for the family, and loved Henry.  However, the Read family didn’t approve, and she was fired.  When she had to start taking care of her niece Mary (after the younger Mary’s parents died), the aunt had turned to Henry for financial help, which he gave her.  Meanwhile, Donald reported the younger Mary’s refusal to settle to his Grandma Read (Margaret Wycherly), who then demands that he and his cousin Charlie Read (Donald O’Connor) bring Mary to her the next day.  At the radio station, the two kidnap her, and bring her to the Read estate.  She still refuses to settle, and tries to tell them the truth, but they won’t listen, as they’re worried about the potential of a scandal derailing Donald’s planned marriage to Clarissa Prentice (Helena Carter).  Since they won’t listen, she demands a million dollars to help support her and her “baby.”  The Reads reluctantly agree, but want Mary to stay at the estate until their lawyers can draw up the legal papers.  When Clarissa shows up unexpectedly, Mary is sent off with cousin Charlie, who reveals that he knows that Mary is a fake. Instead of revealing that to the rest of the family, Charlie asks for Mary’s help in breaking up Donald’s engagement to Clarissa (since he is in love with Clarissa himself), and Mary agrees to help him. Under Charlie’s advice, Mary flirts with Donald at a fashion show (that Clarissa and her father are also attending). In between Mary’s attempts to ruin his relationship with Clarissa and Mary’s indecisiveness about actually accepting the cash settlement, Donald is getting quite frustrated. As a result, Charlie puts forth a different idea, suggesting that Donald try romancing Mary instead to get her to agree. Donald tries all right, and it works too well, as he and Mary find themselves falling for each other. Grandma Read sees this, and decides to have a talk with Mary. She threatens to disinherit Donald (which doesn’t bother Mary, since she really doesn’t want the money, anyways), and questions whether Donald himself would be happy that way. That’s enough for Mary to reconsider her relationship with Donald, and she decides to leave. Donald’s opportunistic uncle, Chester Read (Charles Winninger), has Mary thrown in jail for extortion, and offers to help get her out in exchange for half the check from his family (an offer which Mary turns down). She tries turning to Donald for help, but the Read family attorneys get there first with the check, and Mary accepts it, if only to break up with Donald by convincing him that she was only after the money. Will Donald and Mary get together yet, or will Grandma Read get her way?

It’s been said that Deanna Durbin hated the last three films she made (a group that includes Something In The Wind), but I found this one to be quite fun! Deanna is still in good voice here, and I think that she had at least three good songs here, including “The Turntable Song,” “Miserere” and the title tune. From a comedic standpoint, “Miserere” was fun, as she sings with the guard at the jail (all the while trying to get the key to her cell off of him so that she could make a phone call), and, when all is said and done, the guard knew what she was trying to do! The rest of the fun is in watching her pick on John Dall’s Donald Read (since he comes across as very annoying right from the start, and arguably quite deserving of everything that she dishes out to him). I will agree that it’s not one of her best movies, but I still think she is good enough to make it worthwhile.

That being said, I think Donald O’Connor steals the movie (in what was his first film back after serving in the army). His biggest moment is the “Make ‘Em Laugh”-esque “I Love A Mystery” song, with him doing some of his stunts and pratfalls, showing what some of the heroes in mystery stories go through! I certainly enjoyed that song quite a bit (and he even brought in Deanna for a little bit of dancing)! He also gets to do some comedic stuff for the song “Happy Go Lucky And Free” as well, but that’s not quite as much fun. The only complaint I have is that the film tells us that he likes Helena Carter’s Clarissa, but we never see much of a relationship between them (and, quite frankly, I would have much preferred to see him end up with Deanna Durbin’s Mary, especially since he was the male lead of the film, billing-wise). It’s not a perfect film by any means, but I enjoyed it like I have with all the Deanna Durbin films that I’ve seen so far (so, yes, I do recommend it)!

What’s Old Is A New Release Again (2021) with… Something In The Wind (1947)

This movie is available on Blu-ray and DVD from Universal Studios.  The Blu-ray seems to be using an HD scan that looks pretty good.  There are some semi-frequent appearances of spots and dirt (more so than there has been on some of the other Deanna Durbin films that I’ve seen up to this point), but nothing so terrible or egregious as to make the film unwatchable.  Certainly as good as one can hope for in this case (since it was one of the nine films Kino Lorber Studio Classics had originally licensed and then was one of the six dropped after disappointing sales on their first three-film set of Deanna Durbin films), and certainly recommended for fans of the movie!

Film Length: 1 hour, 29 minutes

My Rating: 9/10

List Of Actor/Actress Filmographies/Collections

Because Of Him (1946)Deanna DurbinFor The Love Of Mary (1948)

Donald O’Connor – Singin’ In The Rain (1952)

John Dall – Gun Crazy (1950)

Little Nellie Kelly (1940) – Charles Winninger

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!

“Star Of The Month (February 2022)” Featuring Deanna Durbin in… Because Of Him (1946)

We’re back for another film featuring this month’s Star, Deanna Durbin! This time, it’s her 1946 film Because Of Him, also starring Charles Laughton and Franchot Tone!

Coming Up Shorts! with… The Barber Of Seville (1944)

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

(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. This was another fun one! I’ll admit, it quickly brings to mind the later Rabbit Of Seville Bugs Bunny cartoon, given its references to the Barber Of Seville opera, and is not quite as much fun as that Looney Tunes cartoon. The biggest problem here is the series of stereotyped gags revolving around the Native American customer. Take away that, and this one is a lot of fun, especially once Woody starts in singing “The Barber Of Seville Overture” while working on the construction worker. That sequence alone is well worth it (and, compared to some of the previous shorts, Woody Woodpecker is now sporting the look that he seems to be best known for)!

And Now For The Main Feature…

Lead stage actor John Sheridan (Charles Laughton) has just finished a successful run in the play Cyrano De Bergerac, and is looking forward to enjoying his vacation doing nothing but fishing. However, his producer, Charlie Gilbert (Stanley Ridges), is trying to line up the cast for John’s next show, Strange Laughter, currently being written by Paul Taylor (Franchot Tone). The playwright and producer both have an actress in mind for the lead, but John wants somebody else (but doesn’t say who before leaving). On his way to his fishing spot, John stops at a diner, where he gives an autograph to his waitress, Kim Walker (Deanna Durbin). What he doesn’t know is that the piece of paper that she had him sign was a typed letter of introduction to Charlie Gilbert endorsing her for the role! With the encouragement of her friend and roommate Nora Bartlett (Helen Broderick), Kim takes the letter to Charlie’s office. Charlie (who was unable to get ahold of John since John had given him false information as to where he would be going fishing) takes the letter at face value and decides to give her the part. When he comes into Charlie’s office, Paul (who had met her on the street and tried to flirt with her) questions her about her stage experience. When he finds out that she has none, his attitude toward her changes, and he decides that she cannot have the part. Choosing to go with “John’s” advice, Charlie decides to ignore Paul, and throws a party at John’s apartment to announce her for the role. John arrives at his apartment while the party is going on (having ended his vacation early due to frequent rain preventing him from doing any fishing), and quickly finds out what is going on from his butler, Martin (Donald Meek). He allows Kim to keep her deception going, but tries to walk her home as soon as possible. Once they arrive, he admits that he does like her, but advises her to return to her hometown. Seeing how devastated Kim is over his words, Nora decides to call up the newspapers and tell them that Kim attempted suicide because of John’s rejection. The next day, after seeing the news, John decides to go “reconcile” with her and take her out to a nightclub (merely for the sake of appearances). Afterwards, he still believes she should abandon her hope of acting. That is, until he hears her sing, and then he decides to give her the part in the play. When she arrives back at her apartment, she runs into Paul, who had seen the paper and thought that she had tried to commit suicide because of him. They start to fall for each other, and he offers her the part. Then he sees the script that John had given her, and, although she tries to tell him the truth, he refuses to believe her. In rehearsals, he really picks on her acting, which results in John threatening to leave the show if Paul doesn’t stop. So, Paul leaves, with John now directing the show. As the show opening gets closer, Paul sues to have his name removed from the play. Kim tries to convince him to come see the final rehearsals, but he won’t budge. Will the play be a success? Will Paul come to his senses about Kim?

After It Started With Eve, Deanna Durbin had tried to branch out with different types of roles under producer Felix Jackson (who became her second husband in 1945). She tried tackling some more dramatic roles, but her fans much preferred her in the musical comedies that she was known for. So, Universal made plans for her to work with her It Started With Eve co-star and friend Charles Laughton (although the film was originally to be titled Catherine The Last). When Franchot Tone (who had co-starred with her in Nice Girl? and His Butler’s Sister) was brought in, the title became Because Of Him. When released, the film received mixed to bad reviews, which certainly didn’t help Deanna Durbin out any as her career was now winding down.

Quite simply stated, another Deanna Durbin film, another new one to me, and another one that I liked! Overall, it was quite a fun film, and kept me laughing throughout! Deanna is fun as a wannabe actress trying to find an inroads into the profession (even if she really doesn’t know much about acting), and Charles Laughton’s John Sheridan is also a hoot! I thoroughly enjoyed watching him ham things up as an actor constantly borrowing lines from his plays and making everything more dramatic (and teaching her a thing or two in the process). Plain and simple, their relationship is the heart of the film, and makes it quite entertaining!

In spite of that, though, I will readily admit, it’s one of the weaker Deanna Durbin films I’ve seen so far. The main issue I have with the film is the relationship between Deanna’s Kim and Franchot Tone’s Paul, as they spend most of the film at odds with each other. It starts out innocently (and humorously) enough, as he flirts with her when he meets her on the street (even if she doesn’t give him her phone number). Then, when he realizes that she is an amateur trying to make it into his play, he soundly rejects her for the part, and never lets up (except when he briefly believes that she attempted suicide “because of him”). The idea that they are “in love” just doesn’t work too well for me. I’m also not too crazy about the music in the film, although I will say that I enjoyed how it was staged (with Deanna singing “Good Bye” standing out quite a bit, as she tries to pester Paul throughout his hotel in an attempt to get him to come to the final dress rehearsal). With regards to Deanna’s co-stars here, I don’t think this film is as good as It Started With Eve or Nice Girl? (can’t speak to His Butler’s Sister, as I haven’t seen that one yet). It was still an entertaining one that I look forward to seeing again and again (whether on its own merits or in watching any of Deanna’s filmography)! Certainly one that I would recommend!

What’s Old Is A New Release Again (2021) with… Because Of Him (1946)

This movie is available on Blu-ray and DVD from Universal Studios. The Blu-ray release appear to be an HD scan that overall looks very good, with little to no damage evident. I’ll admit, I was surprised to see this one released on Blu-ray, since it was NOT one of the nine Deanna Durbin films that Kino Lorber had licensed (with six of them getting dropped when the first three-film set bombed). I didn’t expect this release, but it looks quite good, and is probably the best way to see this very fun film!

Film Length: 1 hour, 28 minutes

My Rating: 9/10

List Of Actor/Actress Filmographies/Collections

Can’t Help Singing (1944)Deanna DurbinSomething In The Wind (1947)

It Started With Eve (1941) – Charles Laughton – Abbott And Costello Meet Captain Kidd (1952)

Nice Girl? (1941) – Franchot Tone – Here Come The Groom (1951)

Nice Girl? (1941) – Helen Broderick

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!