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Case Number 13507

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Classic Musicals From The Dream Factory: Volume 3

Broadway Melody Of 1936
1935 // 101 Minutes // Not Rated
Born To Dance
1936 // 105 Minutes // Not Rated
Broadway Melody Of 1938
1937 // 110 Minutes // Not Rated
Lady Be Good
1941 // 111 Minutes // Not Rated
Nancy Goes To Rio
1950 // 99 Minutes // Not Rated
Two Weeks With Love
1950 // 92 Minutes // Not Rated
Deep In My Heart
1954 // 132 Minutes // Not Rated
Hit The Deck
1955 // 112 Minutes // Not Rated
Kismet
1955 // 113 Minutes // Not Rated
Released by Warner Bros.
Reviewed by Judge Clark Douglas // April 28th, 2008

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All Rise...

If these classic musicals are from the dream factory, Judge Clark Douglas thinks the folks who produced them must have a lot of nightmares.

The Charge

A Gallery of Musical Greatness.

Opening Statement

Your honor, the SINGANDDANCE (Singing Independent Nonsensical Goats Always Naughty During Dinner And Never Clever Ever) Commission has put together a report on the contents of the nine-disc box set Classic Musicals From the Dream Factory: Volume 3. The set features nine Warner Brothers musicals from the 1930s, 1940s, and 1950s. As the report itself is no less that 900 pages long and contains at least 200 pages on various types of edible shoes, the commission has agreed to condense it for the sake of efficiency and coherence. The primary question posed to the commission is whether or not this set is worthwhile for anyone other than diehard genre buffs.

Facts of the Case

SINGANDDANCE has determined that there is a total of nine films spread over nine discs. Hit the Deck, Deep in My Heart, and Kismet are each given their own slim DVD case, while the other three slim DVD cases each house two films. All of the cases are included in a cardboard box.

Hit the Deck is a film about three sailors (Vic Damone, Tony Martin, and Russ Tamblyn) who fall in love with three women (Jane Powell, Debbie Reynolds, and Ann Miller). At first it looks like everyone might not get married and live happily ever after, but then everything…well, I won't spoil the ending. Meanwhile, everybody sings and dances!

Deep in my Heart stars Jose Ferrer (Lawrence of Arabia) as Sigmund Romberg, the famous Broadway composer. Romberg is just an ordinary piano player, but he soon achieves fame as a composer and goes through the usual ups and downs of that profession. Meanwhile, everybody sings and dances!

Kismet stars Howard Keel (Seven Brides for Seven Brothers) as an Arabian thief who gets himself into a sticky situation. The thief is mistaken for a magician, and he's got to make a few powerful people's wishes come true or his head is going to be lopped off. Meanwhile, everybody sings and dances!

Nancy Goes to Rio stars Jane Powell (Royal Wedding) as Nancy, a young girl who goes to Rio de Janeiro for vacation while learning lines for a new play. A few words are misunderstood, and suddenly everyone on the cruise ship thinks Nancy is pregnant! That's only the first of many misunderstandings that take place on this adventure, though. Meanwhile, everybody sings and dances!

Two Weeks With Love also stars Jane Powell, this time as a girl who goes on vacation and falls in love with the suave Ricardo Montalban (Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan). She desperately wants love, but Ricardo doesn't even seem to notice. Something spicy ought to do the trick…a corset! Meanwhile, everybody sings and dances!

Broadway Melody of 1936 stars Jack Benny (To Be or Not to Be) as a radio tabloid reporter who loves reporting on who is having a baby. His editor wants more and demands that Benny start delivering some really nasty news. Meanwhile, everybody sings and dances!

Broadway Melody of 1938 features Eleanor Powell (Ship Ahoy) as a horse trainer with a penchant for dancing. Showbiz fun, horse racing, and goofball comedy all mix together in this musical melting pot that also stars Judy Garland (The Wizard of Oz) and Buddy Ebsen (The Beverly Hillbillies). Meanwhile, everybody sings and dances!

Born to Dance stars Eleanor Powell as a young dancer who falls in love with a sailor (Jimmy Stewart, Vertigo). Romantic misunderstandings, military mishaps and showbiz glamour all threaten to interfere, but nothing can prevent the romance of this pair. Meanwhile, everybody sings and dances!

Lady Be Good opens in a courtroom, with an upset woman (Ann Sothern, My Mother the Car) trying to get a divorce from her husband (Robert Young, Crossfire). The only trouble is, the pair is one of the great songwriting teams, and if they split, no more classic tunes. Meanwhile, everybody sings and dances!

The Evidence

Here are some of the key highlighted points from pages 607-859, the section entitled "Things Large and Small That SINGANDDANCE Disliked About Classic Musicals from the Dream Factory: Volume 3.

• There are too many dancing sailors here. While SINGANDDANCE recognizes that this will go in the plus column for some viewers, the commission thinks that other branches of the military don't get enough time on the dance floor. Perhaps this is because bombers and bunkers aren't as well-equipped for lavish musical numbers as aircraft carriers.
• Vic Damone (Hell to Eternity) in both Kismet and Hit the Deck. He's about as charismatic as a piece of living room furniture. Both movies die a little every time he steps onscreen.
• Kismet, from the American crooners wearing brownface to the sluggish plot to the dense supporting characters.
• Those odd facial expressions that Eleanor Powell seems so fond of making while she is dancing. They are just so annoying, for reasons the commission can't seem to describe. Thankfully, she doesn't make them when she isn't dancing.
• Broadway Melody of 1938, almost the whole thing. It's the same in tone and style as Broadway Melody of 1938, but without Jack Benny to keep things snappy, it's mostly a long and boring slog.
• Robert Taylor (Quo Vadis) in both Broadway Melody of 1936 and Broadway Melody of 1938. It's hard to imagine a duller leading man.
• The way that Jane Powell's high-pitched soprano voice sounds with a mix of too-hot microphones and mono sound. Ouch.
• Sorry, but I have to mention Jane Powell again. In these films, she plays characters that are either irritatingly dense or obnoxiously bitchy…sometimes both. Consider a moment when she hurls an ugly racial epithet at Vic Damone in Hit the Deck and then complains because he doesn't do enough to care for her when she hurts her ankle.
• The entire plot of Nancy Goes to Rio, one of the more exasperating examples of what Roger Ebert calls an "Idiot Plot" that I have ever seen. The whole movie depends on every character being unrelentingly stupid.
• Ricardo Montalban in Two Weeks with Love, wherein he seems to be out of his element.
• The entire plot of Two Weeks with Love, which isn't as dumb as Nancy Goes to Rio, but twice as dull.
• The fact that most of these musicals simply aren't very good.
• The fact that the plotlines of these musicals are generally nothing more than bland filler between musical numbers.
• That "Lady Be Good" is performed oh-so-many times over the course of Lady Be Good.
• Did we go backwards in this country for a while or what? While the musicals of the 1930s and 1940s often exhibit some Code-friendly yet saucy wit, the musicals of the 1950s are often gratingly squeaky-clean and unimaginative.
• The flat mono audio on all of the films except Kismet, Hit the Deck, and Deep in My Heart. While it is noted that this is the standard audio treatment for films of this era, the rather poor sound is a liability in movies that primarily rely on musical numbers for entertainment.
• The rather heavy levels of grain, scratches, and flecks on the early films in the collection. Nonetheless, it is noted once again that this is more or less normal for films of the period.
• The extras included in this release. While there are several hours of extras, none of them (aside from theatrical trailers) has anything to do with the films themselves. Instead, we're treated to a variety of shorts, cartoons, newsreels, and radio programs. While these range from uninteresting to entertaining, featurettes offering information about the films or commentaries on the films themselves would have made far superior replacements.

The Rebuttal Witnesses

Here are some of key highlighted points from pages 119-407, the section entitled "Things Large and Small That SINGANDDANCE Liked about Classic Musicals from the Dream Factory: Volume 3.

• Jose Ferrer in Deep in My Heart, he's quite a compelling leading man.
• The fact that Deep in My Heart actually manages to deliver the kind of lightweight fun and enjoyable songs that so many films in the set fail to provide.
• The rambunctious, engaging performance of Howard Keel in Kismet. The movie is pretty crummy, but Keel is in top form.
• The goofy, low-key performance of Buddy Ebsen in Born to Dance. Ebsen offers a strangely off-kilter musical number late in the film that is a highlight.
• The relaxed, easygoing performance of one of cinema's most likable actors, Jimmy Stewart, in Born to Dance.
• The clever and well-timed musical numbers provided by the legendary Cole Porter for Born to Dance.
• The cantankerous performance by the perpetually grumpy Lionel Barrymore (It's a Wonderful Life) in Lady Be Good.
• The goofball antics of the perpetually loopy Red Skelton (I Dood It) in Lady Be Good.
• All the lovely shout-outs to the likes of Oscar Hammerstein, George Gershwin, and Jerome Kearns in Lady Be Good.
• The fact that Lady Be Good is actually pretty clever and funny during a number of its non-musical sequences.
• Eleanor Powell's gigantic show-stopping dance number at the end of Lady Be Good.
• Jack Benny in Broadway Melody of 1936. How can anyone not love Jack Benny? He's one of the great comedians, with a unique style that no one can quite mimic.
• Buddy Ebsen again, in both Broadway Melody of 1936 and Broadway Melody of 1938. In the former, he does an incredibly awkward dance while wearing a Mickey Mouse sweater. In the latter, he does the same dance while wearing a Donald Duck shirt. Nice.
• Judy Garland in Broadway Melody of 1938, performing a couple of knockout musical numbers (including a tribute to Clark Gable).
• Carmen Miranda in Nancy Goes to Rio, one of the only individuals to bring some real flavor to that generic film.
• The charming Louis Calhern as Jane Powell's father in both Nancy Goes to Rio and Two Weeks with Love.
• The Dolby Digital 5.1 sound mix added to the releases of Kismet, Hit the Deck, and Deep in My Heart.
• A very high level of camp value in most of the films, so they're good for providing unintentional giggles. For instance, one scene in Two Weeks with Love shows a character supposedly playing a tuba and piano. The things she is actually doing to those instruments would undoubtedly make some ungodly noises, but we hear sweet melodies. She also stomps on those piano pedals as if she were riding a bike. A large note for a small point, but the committee particularly enjoyed this bit.

Closing Statement

Sadly, it does indeed seem that Classic Musicals From the Dream Factory: Volume 3 is for the diehard musical fan only. There are laughs and moments of genuine entertainment here, but you have to dig through a lot of very uninteresting plotting and dull filler in order to get to those. Still, the commission is pleased that those who do want to own these musicals now have the opportunity to do so.

The Verdict

Warner Brothers is guilty of failing to provide enough film-specific special features, and the films themselves are guilty of thinking that hearing Jane Powell and friends sing is enough to make us forget about the flimsy plots.

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Genres

• Classic
• Comedy
• Concerts and Musicals

Scales of Justice, Broadway Melody Of 1936

Video: 80
Audio: 80
Extras: 30
Acting: 85
Story: 75
Judgment: 80

Perp Profile, Broadway Melody Of 1936

Studio: Warner Bros.
Video Formats:
• Full Frame
Audio Formats:
• Dolby Digital 1.0 Mono (English)
• Dolby Digital 1.0 Mono (French)
Subtitles:
• English
• French
Running Time: 101 Minutes
Release Year: 1935
MPAA Rating: Not Rated

Distinguishing Marks, Broadway Melody Of 1936

• "Sunkist Stars at Palm Springs" short
• "To Spring" cartoon
• "Leo Is on the Air" radio promo
• Trailer

Scales of Justice, Born To Dance

Video: 75
Audio: 70
Extras: 30
Acting: 77
Story: 65
Judgment: 70

Perp Profile, Born To Dance

Studio: Warner Bros.
Video Formats:
• Full Frame
Audio Formats:
• Dolby Digital 1.0 Mono (English)
• Dolby Digital 1.0 Mono (French)
Subtitles:
• English
• French
Running Time: 105 Minutes
Release Year: 1936
MPAA Rating: Not Rated

Distinguishing Marks, Born To Dance

• Vintage Short: "Hollywood: The Second Step"
• Cartoon "The Old Mill Pond"
• Audio-Only Outtake Version of "Easy to Love"
• "Hollywood Hotel" radio program
• Trailer

Scales of Justice, Broadway Melody Of 1938

Video: 80
Audio: 80
Extras: 30
Acting: 60
Story: 50
Judgment: 60

Perp Profile, Broadway Melody Of 1938

Studio: Warner Bros.
Video Formats:
• Full Frame
Audio Formats:
• Dolby Digital 1.0 Mono (English)
Subtitles:
• English
• French
Running Time: 110 Minutes
Release Year: 1937
MPAA Rating: Not Rated

Distinguishing Marks, Broadway Melody Of 1938

• "That Mothers Might Live" short
• "Pipe Dreams" cartoon
• Audio-Only Radio Bonuses
• Trailer

Scales of Justice, Lady Be Good

Video: 80
Audio: 78
Extras: 30
Acting: 85
Story: 77
Judgment: 80

Perp Profile, Lady Be Good

Studio: Warner Bros.
Video Formats:
• Full Frame
Audio Formats:
• Dolby Digital 1.0 Mono (English)
Subtitles:
• English
• French
Running Time: 111 Minutes
Release Year: 1941
MPAA Rating: Not Rated

Distinguishing Marks, Lady Be Good

• "Glimpses of Florida" short
• "The Rookie Bear" cartoon
• "I'd Rather Dance" Audio Outtake
• "Leo Is on the Air" Radio Trailer
• Trailer

Scales of Justice, Nancy Goes To Rio

Video: 85
Audio: 70
Extras: 30
Acting: 75
Story: 30
Judgment: 50

Perp Profile, Nancy Goes To Rio

Studio: Warner Bros.
Video Formats:
• Full Frame
Audio Formats:
• Dolby Digital 1.0 Mono (English)
• Dolby Digital 1.0 Mono (French)
Subtitles:
• English
• French
Running Time: 99 Minutes
Release Year: 1950
MPAA Rating: Not Rated

Distinguishing Marks, Nancy Goes To Rio

• "Wrong Way Butch" comedy short
• "The Peachy Cobbler" cartoon
• Trailer

Scales of Justice, Two Weeks With Love

Video: 80
Audio: 80
Extras: 30
Acting: 65
Story: 60
Judgment: 60

Perp Profile, Two Weeks With Love

Studio: Warner Bros.
Video Formats:
• Full Frame
Audio Formats:
• Dolby Digital 1.0 Mono (English)
Subtitles:
• English
• French
Running Time: 92 Minutes
Release Year: 1950
MPAA Rating: Not Rated

Distinguishing Marks, Two Weeks With Love

• "Private Screenings with Jane Powell"
• "Crashing the Movies" short
• "Garden Gopher" cartoon
• Trailer

Scales of Justice, Deep In My Heart

Video: 90
Audio: 90
Extras: 30
Acting: 80
Story: 70
Judgment: 80

Perp Profile, Deep In My Heart

Studio: Warner Bros.
Video Formats:
• 1.78:1 Anamorphic
Audio Formats:
• Dolby Digital 5.0 Surround (English)
• Dolby Digital 1.0 Mono (French)
Subtitles:
• English
• French
Running Time: 132 Minutes
Release Year: 1954
MPAA Rating: Not Rated

Distinguishing Marks, Deep In My Heart

• "The Strauss Fantasy" short
• "Farm of Tomorrow" cartoon
• Outtake Songs
• Audio-Only Outtake song
• Trailer

Scales of Justice, Hit The Deck

Video: 90
Audio: 90
Extras: 30
Acting: 50
Story: 60
Judgment: 60

Perp Profile, Hit The Deck

Studio: Warner Bros.
Video Formats:
• 2.55:1 Anamorphic
Audio Formats:
• Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
• Dolby Digital 5.0 Surround (English)
• Dolby Digital 1.0 Mono (French)
Subtitles:
• English
• French
Running Time: 112 Minutes
Release Year: 1955
MPAA Rating: Not Rated

Distinguishing Marks, Hit The Deck

• "The Fall Guy" comedy short
• "Field and Scream" cartoon
• Audio-only outtakes
• Trailer

Scales of Justice, Kismet

Video: 90
Audio: 80
Extras: 30
Acting: 70
Story: 40
Judgment: 55

Perp Profile, Kismet

Studio: Warner Bros.
Video Formats:
• 2.35:1 Anamorphic
Audio Formats:
• Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
• Dolby Digital 5.0 Surround (English)
• Dolby Digital 1.0 Mono (Portuguese)
Subtitles:
• English
• Portuguese
Running Time: 113 Minutes
Release Year: 1955
MPAA Rating: Not Rated

Distinguishing Marks, Kismet

• "The Battle of Gettysburg" short
• "The First Bad Man" cartoon
• 2 Excerpts from the "MGM Parade" series
• Outtake songs
• Trailers from the 1944 and 1955 versions of "Kismet"








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