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Broadway Melody of 1940
     

Broadway Melody of 1940

Director: Norman Taurog

Cast: Fred Astaire, Eleanor Powell, George Murphy

 

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Norman Taurog's Broadway Melody of 1940 comes to DVD with a sparkling new transfer and several extras, putting the old laserdisc edition as well as all videocassette versions to shame. The best of the extras is "Cole Porter in Hollywood: "Begin the Beguine," produced by Peter Fitzgerald and hosted by Ann Miller, a ten-minute short, liberally spiced with clips

Overview

Norman Taurog's Broadway Melody of 1940 comes to DVD with a sparkling new transfer and several extras, putting the old laserdisc edition as well as all videocassette versions to shame. The best of the extras is "Cole Porter in Hollywood: "Begin the Beguine," produced by Peter Fitzgerald and hosted by Ann Miller, a ten-minute short, liberally spiced with clips of Fred Astaire and Eleanor Powell in the background history leading up to the movie. The two careers are nicely interwoven into the history of the production although, as with most of the other MGM musicals of this era, there aren't any direct participants left to comment on the production itself. The most interesting part of the short is the background on the "Begin the Beguine" number, from the song's origins to its subsequent hit status (complete with a clip of Artie Shaw) and the design of the set for the production number in the film. Less relevant and far less satisfying is the other "bonus" feature, the Our Gang short "The Big Premiere" -- it doesn't have much to do with anything else on this disc, apart from being released in 1940, and quickly breaks down into tedium, as did most of the Our Gang shorts of this era; on a bizarre note for current audiences, it does feature in its cast a seven-year-old Mickey Gubitosi (better known today as Robert Blake), who mugs mercilessly for the camera throughout the short. As to the main feature, Broadway Melody of 1940 does glitter in a way that not even the laserdisc edition ever did. Indeed, even the trailer here looks and sounds at least as good as the laserdisc of the complete movie did. The scenes of Powell on-stage in her first two performance sequences, "I Am The Captain" and "Between You And Me," are gorgeous in their contrast, detail, and sharpness, and a feast for the eye. Not all of the film looks perfect -- there are signs of wear and a missing frame or two in evidence in a couple of shots, and the section around 42 minutes in, between Astaire and George Murphy, loses some resolution and a considerable amount of detail; yet the adjoining section depicting Powell in her home does have a glittering texture. The last reel is in pristine condition, and when it gets to "I Concentrate on You," the whole screen comes to life in images that look like silver sprayed on black velvet and set into motion. And then there's "Begin the Beguine" and "I've Got My Eyes On You," both danced on that legendary mirrored floor -- this is the kind of sequence that is of demonstration quality on big-screen monitors (or would be, if the kind of people who buy, and for that matter sell, big-screen monitors weren't mostly macho guys who wouldn't want to show too much enjoyment of musicals in public). At its weakest moments, the movie is never less than satisfying to watch, and the audio is mastered very cleanly if at a slightly low volume giving the melodious underscore better play than it's had in some 60 years. The film has been given a nicely generous 26 chapters, designating all of the musical numbers separately, although, as with other 2003-vintage DVDs from Warner Bros., the numbers don't actually begin with the chapter openings. The menu opens automatically on start-up and goes down three layers deep with a French-language track and French and Spanish subtitles available.

Editorial Reviews

All Movie Guide - Craig Butler
Broadway Melody of 1940 proves that a musical can be first-rate entertainment even with a script that is, to put it politely, "familiar." Ideally, of course, one wishes to have a story that is fresh, a screenplay that is literate and witty, and characters that surprise one with their doings. Melody offers none of this, and by all rights should be consigned to the ranks of the moderately entertaining but not memorable. And yet Melody is memorable, if for nothing else than for the firecracker pairing of the irreplaceable Fred Astaire with the indomitable Eleanor Powell. The two are not a natural match, as Astaire and Rogers were; their styles don't mesh to form one whole, but at the same time they don't clash. What one gets are two forces of nature enjoying a friendly competition with each other, with the audience the clear winner. Melody's most famous set piece is the incredible "Begin the Beguine" sequence, and it is definitely huge and inescapably impressive -- just take a gander at that floor, glimmering like the sheerest black ice. Yet the best number is arguably the quieter but simply captivating jukebox dance sequence, which grows more powerful with each repeated viewing. Cole Porter's scrumptious score also includes the delicious "I Concentrate on You," as well as the infectious "Don't Monkey Around with Broadway" and several others. George Murphy is also on hand to offer bland support, along with some hoofing that is far from bland, and there's also an able assist from the likes of Frank Morgan. Melody sags a bit in between songs, but when it's singing and dancing, it's a doozy.

Product Details

Release Date:
04/22/2003
UPC:
0012569570825
Original Release:
1940
Rating:
NR
Source:
Warner Home Video
Region Code:
1
Presentation:
[B&W]
Sound:
[Dolby Digital Mono]
Time:
1:42:00

Special Features

Closed Caption; All-new digital transfer; Ann Miller hosts Cole Porter in Hollywood: Begin the Beguine; Our Gang short The Big Premiere; Interactive menus; Theatrical trailer; Behind-the-scenes notes; Scene access; Languages: English & Français; Subtitles: English, Français & Español

Cast & Crew

Performance Credits
Fred Astaire Johnny Brett
Eleanor Powell Clara Bennett
George Murphy King Shaw
Frank Morgan Bob Casey
Ian Hunter Bert C. Matthews
Florence Rice Amy Blake
Lynne Carver Emmy Lou Lee
Ann Morriss Pearl
Trixie Firschke Juggler
Douglas McPhail Masked Singer
Barbara Jo Allen Receptionist [uncredited]
Irving Bacon Soda Jerk
Herman Bing Silhouettist
Gladys Blake Miss Martin
George Chandler Mr. Jones
Chick Collins Sailor
Joseph Crehan Ballroom Manager
Carmen D'Antonio Soprano
Hal K. Dawson O'Grady
Mary Field Bride
James Flavin Ballroom Worker
Jack Mulhall George
William Tannen Emmy Lou's Friend
Libby Taylor Angel
E. Alyn Warren Pop
Joe Yule Dan

Technical Credits
Norman Taurog Director
Adrian Costumes/Costume Designer
Bobby Connolly Choreography
Jack Cummings Producer
Walter de Leon Screenwriter
John S. Detlie Art Director
Roger Edens Score Composer
Cedric Gibbons Art Director
Leon Gordon Screenwriter
Vincent Lawrence Screenwriter
Albert Mannheimer Screenwriter
Oliver Marsh Cinematographer
Jack McGowan Original Story
Eddie Moran Screenwriter
Alfred Newman Musical Direction/Supervision
George Oppenheimer Screenwriter
Cole Porter Score Composer
Walter Ruick Score Composer
Joseph Ruttenberg Cinematographer
Dore Schary Original Story
Blanche Sewell Editor
Douglas Shearer Sound/Sound Designer
Sid Silvers Screenwriter
Preston Sturges Screenwriter
Irene Valles Costumes/Costume Designer
Edwin B. Willis Set Decoration/Design

Scene Index

Side #1 --
1. Credits [1:47]
2. Dawnland Duos [3:06]
3. Please Don't Monkey With Broadway [3:39]
4. Name Game [2:49]
5. I Am the Captain [5:15]
6. Unready to Wear [3:59]
7. Wakeup Call [3:18]
8. Trixie the Juggler [3:58]
9. Solo Offer [3:16]
10. Breaking the News [3:34]
11. Between You and Me [4:41]
12. Mixup Fixup? [3:33]
13. Headaches Aplenty [5:27]
14. Cape Escape [2:19]
15. Screwball Soprano (Il Bacio) [3:03]
16. Out of Step and Favor [4:40]
17. I've Got My Eyes on You [6:05]
18. Jukebox Dance [4:42]
19. Yes Man Says No [3:56]
20. Leading Man Down [4:01]
21. I Concentrate on You [6:39]
22. They've Seen Enough [3:06]
23. Runaway Groom [3:07]
24. Begin the Beguine [5:53]
25. Begin the Beguine (II) [3:48]
26. I've Got My Eyes on You [1:18]
27. Cast List [:27]

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