Judge Patrick Naugle never reviews a film without first looking fabulous.
Fabulously yours in his first starring motion picture!
Tony Warrin (Liberace) is one of the most popular pianists around. With fame, success, and a shot at playing Carnegie Hall, the ivory tickler seems to have it all in spades. However, Tony faces his greatest challenge, when a disease takes away his sense of hearing, forcing the master musician to discover new ways to find beauty in the world around him. This includes helping people who need him most through lip reading, a kind heart, and the love of a beautiful woman. Can Tony find happiness despite his crippling disability?
There's been a big resurgence in the life and times of Mr. Showmanship, Liberace. With the new Steven Soderbergh HBO biopic Behind the Candelabra (starring Wall Street's Michael Douglas as the famed piano player), Liberace's decadent existence has been brought front and center once again. Although younger generations may not realize it, Liberace was once the most popular entertainer on the face of the planet. However, unlike Elvis and Buddy Holly, Liberace remains remembered more for his flamboyant lifestyle and closeted sexuality than his impressive musical talents.
In 1955, Warner Bros. attempted to make Liberace a bona fide movie star with Sincerely Yours, a semi-biographical yarn that did little for Lee's acting career. It would end up being the only film the entertainer would star in, and for good reason: it's terrible. Filled with performances that can only be described as mildly adequate, and a story that all but suffocates any dramatic possibilities, Sincerely Yours is far more a footnote to an exceptional career than a solid piece of filmmaking.
Liberace is Tony Warrin, a famous piano player with millions of fans. Tony is Liberace in all but name only; his style, humor, and demeanor are exactly what you'd expect from the real man. Sincerely Yours was released years before Lee honed his glitzy lavish persona, so instead of this being the Liberace we remember, we get one that wears nice suits and stifles a lisp. It's hard to rate his performance, since he's essentially playing himself. His Tony is likable enough, but it's clear he's just reciting lines, and not very well at that. And don't get me stared on Liberace's romancing two women—Basic Instinct's Dorothy Malone and She Wore a Yellow Ribbon's Joanne Dru—which is about as believable as Kim Kardashian playing an Amish virgin.
Sincerely Yours is filled with many musical numbers, none of which are all that memorable. Liberace plays mostly classical music, which is fine, but after a while the tunes all run together. Viewed through modern eyes, the film is as creaky and dramatically inert as it was when it was made in 1932 as The Man Who Played God starring Bette Davis. The plot about a pianist losing his hearing is about as clichéd as you can get. Will Tony be able to overcome his disability to find success again? Does a bear crap in the woods? As directed by Gordon Douglas (Them!), this has all the entertainment value of Liberace's worst recordings. Only one scene leaves an impression: Liberace woos some older ladies and has a ball spoofing his image as a "mature" ladies man. As amusing as those brief moments are, they aren't enough to recommend Sincerely Yours.
Presented in 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen, this is one of Warner Archive's shoddiest looking transfers ever. This transfer is absolutely abysmal, with visuals that are soft, fuzzy, and nearly out of focus. I realize these Made-On-Demand releases aren't given the same love as the big catalog titles, but this looks worse than VHS. The audio is presented in Dolby 1.0 Mono and there isn't much to report. Dialogue, music, and effects work are mostly clear and little else. Considering this is the only version of Sincerely Yours fans will ever see, it's what you'll have to be content with. Thankfully, there are no bonus features.
There's a very good reason why Sincerely Yours hasn't seen the light of day on DVD until now; it's an absolute chore to sit through. At nearly two hours, the film will test the patience of even the most diehard Liberace fans.
Guilty. The opposite of music to my ears.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Warner Bros.
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