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Astaire & Rogers Ultimate Collector's Edition (11-Pack)

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ASTAIRE & ROGERS ULTIMATE(11DI

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The Astaire-Rogers films mix light romantic comedy (usually centered around mistaken identities and ending, inevitably, in blissful wedding promises) with elegant dinner wear and surreal sets intended to transport '30s audiences away from the Depression to such locales as Rio, Paris, and Venice. The two stars are also aided by a recurring stable of RKO players such as Edward Everett Horton (master of the double-take), Eric Blore, and Helen Broderick. And then there's that sensational dancing set to great songs by the likes of Irving Berlin, George and Ira Gershwin, and Jerome Kern, numbers that are not merely entertaining but also innovative for their time in that they reveal character and advance the plot. Add it all up, and you have a recipe for an irrepressible joie de vivre that practically defines the movie musical.

Flying Down to Rio (1933) headlined Dolores Del Rio and Gene Raymond, but it was the fourth- and fifth-billed stars who would rewrite cinematic history. Astaire and Rogers had limited screen time, but were still able to establish many of the trademarks of their later films. The heart of the film is "The Carioca," a company dance extravaganza in which they take the floor together for the first time; their eyes meet and their foreheads touch. Their dance lasts only a few minutes, but it was the highlight of the film and audiences wanted more. The Gay Divorcee (1934) is their best early picture, a loose adaptation of Astaire's stage show, 'The Gay Divorce.' The only song retained for the movie is Cole Porter's smash hit "Night and Day," which is the setting for a sublime pas de deux between Fred and Ginger. The closer is the sprawling 17-minute ensemble number "The Continental." Roberta (1935) was a step backward, with too much time spent on 1930s Parisian fashion and the romance between top-billed Irene Dunne (who gets the best Jerome Kern ballads, "Yesterdays" and "Smoke Gets in Your Eyes") and Randolph Scott. But as the second-banana couple Astaire and Rogers still get a tap battle, a romantic duet, and plenty of comic banter.

With a score by Irving Berlin, Top Hat (1935) is most famous for two numbers, Astaire's definitive tuxedo setting "Top Hat, White Tie, and Tails" and the feathery duet "Cheek to Cheek." But other joys include Astaire's "Fancy Free" declaration, "Isn't It a Lovely Day," and the grand finale "The Piccolino." Follow the Fleet (1936) changes the pace a bit, with Astaire playing a sailor, and it suffers from making him and Rogers the second-banana couple to the dull Randolph Scott and Harriet Hilliard. But it still has plenty of laughs and some classic Irving Berlin numbers, including "Let Yourself Go," which Rogers sings before she and Astaire compete in a dance contest; a Rogers solo tap number; "I'm Putting All My Eggs in One Basket," their best comic dance. The pièce de résistance is "Let's Face the Music and Dance," a show within a show in which the pair dons their customary evening formals. Effortlessly flowing from pantomime to song to dance, this sublime piece of storytelling is one of the series' defining moments. Maybe their most enjoyable picture, Swing Time (1936) features the set-piece "Pick Yourself Up," in which Rogers "teaches" Astaire to dance before they break into a spectacular number; the farewell ode "Never Gonna Dance," and the Oscar-winning "Just the Way You Look Tonight," from the team of Jerome Kern and Dorothy Fields.

Shall We Dance (1937) has a complex plot that has Astaire and Rogers actually getting married before the final credits roll, and turns George and Ira Gershwin's brilliant "They Can't Take That Away from Me" into a heartbreaking ode. Other great songs include "Slap That Bass," "They All Laughed," and "Let's Call the Whole Thing Off," unforgettably performed on roller skates. The eighth and ninth entries in the series tried some different approaches, with the underrated Carefree (1938) more of a comedy vehicle for Ginger (yet still including some fine dances and Irving Berlin songs as well as their first onscreen kiss) and The Story of Vernon and Irene Castle (1939) portraying the pair as historical dancing stars and using a score of turn-of-the-century standards. The Barkleys of Broadway (1949) is the oddity, reuniting the stars 10 years after their last RKO picture when Judy Garland had to be replaced due to health problems. It's trademark MGM: splashy colors, Fred in a gimmicky solo number (playing sorcerer's apprentice to a line of unoccupied shoes), Oscar Levant providing his usual dynamic pianism and acerbic personality, and a score that is at its best when it borrows songs from a previous generation (including the big ballroom number set to "They Can't Take That Away from Me"). The film falls short of their best work, but serves as a fond remembrance of the most glorious partnership in film history. --David Horiuchi


Special Features

None.

Product Details

  • Format: Box set, Black & White, NTSC, Original recording remastered, Restored, Subtitled
  • Language: English
  • Subtitles: English, French, Spanish
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Number of discs: 11
  • Rated: NR (Not Rated)
  • Studio: Warner Home Video
  • DVD Release Date: October 12, 2010
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (109 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B004132I3O
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #82,139 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

206 of 207 people found the following review helpful By N. Lim on October 31, 2006
Format: DVD
The box set is made up of clear plastic thin cases and measures 3 7/8" wide x 7 7/8" high x 5½" deep, which is a real space saver for 12 discs (10 movie DVDs, 1 bonus DVD, and 1 audio CD). Each DVD comes with the feature film, a comedy/musical/vintage short, and a classic cartoon. Seven have a theatrical trailer; five have a featurette; three have a running commentary; two have a radio promo. The Gay Divorcee DVD comes with two vintage shorts, so you get eleven shorts on ten discs. Below are brief reviews/descriptions of the feature films, featurettes, vintage shorts, radio promos, classic cartoons, bonus material, and run times for each.

FEATURE FILMS

Their first film together, FLYING DOWN TO RIO is the only Fred and Ginger (F&G) movie where they play supporting roles. The studio executives and the public did not yet know this couple's dance potential and powerhouse future. They only dance together once 43 minutes into the film (The Carioca). The movie is filled with several post-card quality shots of Rio de Janeiro and has more choreographed group dance routines and vocalists than you can shake a stick at. My favorite is all those girls dancing on biplanes while in flight, which is very creative. The romantic plot of the main characters, Belhina De Rezende (Dolores del Rio) and Roger Bond (Gene Raymond) and the subplot of the Greek investors are a little light but still held my interest.

F&G's second film and their first as leading characters together, THE GAY DIVORCEE is the initial series of boy-chases-girl movies with comic misunderstandings, misgivings, and mistaken identity. F&G do the dancing, but Rodolfo Tonetti (Erik Rhodes) with his accent has the best one liners and password mispronunciations. The forgetful Hortense Ditherwell (Alice Brady) is a hoot.
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83 of 86 people found the following review helpful By Robert Moore HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on September 10, 2006
Format: DVD
Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers comprised what is without compare the greatest dance team in the history of cinema. Even today the pair represents the height of romantic elegance, and their dancing together still generates an onscreen excitement that has been seen since. Tragically, the Astaire-Rogers films have not previously been available on DVD, but this first of two sets will make all of their films available to the public.

The success of Fred and Ginger was both unlikely and unanticipated. In the early 1930s, as advances in recording technology made the production of musicals more possible, studios that had not previously been in the business of producing musicals tried their hand at it. RKO was rather late in attempting to make musicals, and worked hard in 1932-1933 to acquire musical talent. Two of their first acquisitions were Astaire and Rogers. Fred Astaire was a famous stage performer, but unfortunately as the "straight" man of a brilliant comic dance team consisting of Adele and Fred Astaire. The center of the act was Adele, and many wonder how second fiddle Fred would fare following Adele's retirement to marry into British royalty. Happily, Fred found success on Broadway in the Cole Porter musical THE GAY DIVORCE (when it became a film the title was changed to THE GAY DIVORCEE when the Hays Office declared that divorcees could be gay, but divorces were always tragic), and it led to his signing by RKO (his famous screen test results--"Can't sing, can't act, balding, can dance a little"--are unfortunately mythical). RKO lent him out briefly to MGM for THE DANCING LADY (with a leaden footed Joan Crawford as his partner) while they were assembling the crew to make FLYING DOWN TO RIO, into which they threw him along with their other new musical talent.
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50 of 54 people found the following review helpful By D. James on August 14, 2006
Format: DVD
WB has done a great thing in releasing Volume Two of these sets with Volume One as an alternative for those who don't yet own the first. Hope it sets a trend so that they consider doing the same in future with sets like the Signature Collections that now have more than one volume eg. Bette Davis, Humphrey Bogart etc. The films included in this set are:

FLYING DOWN TO RIO:

This is the first of the famous Astaire-Rogers musicals, about an American bandleader who romances a pretty South American socialite on two continents. The highlights are a production number on the wings of a moving airplane, and, of course, the overall chemistry between the two stars, which we were soon to see much, much more of.

THE GAY DIVORCEE:

A lively adaptation of the stage musical, which featured Astaire and his sister, Adele and the first film in which Astaire and Rogers actually received star billing. While vacationing at an English seaside resort, a soon-to-be-divorced woman mistakes a lovestruck song-and-dance man for her paid co-respondent. As usual, the plot's not important when you see these two and hear classics like Cole Porter's Night and Day. Academy Award Nominations: 5, including Best Picture.

ROBERTA:

This elegant adaptation of the Jerome Kern/Otto Harbach stage play stars Irene Dunne as an aristocratic Russian emigrée in Paris, and Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers as Americans abroad. Huck Haines sails all the way to the City of Lights with his friend John, whose jazz band has a couple of gigs lined up at a local club.

TOP HAT:

This elegant adaptation of the Jerome Kern/Otto Harbach stage play stars Irene Dunne as an aristocratic Russian emigrée in Paris, and Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers as Americans abroad.
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Ultimate Astaire Rogers collector's edition release in October 2010
I just received mine and all 11 discs are there.
Jun 3, 2011 by Warren J. Dew |  See all 2 posts
Ultimate Collection minus five
Sounds great .. I've ordered. I think your listing though could also make it clear that this partial collection includes the bonus doco disc .. so far that's unlisted.
Aug 10, 2006 by Anthony Clarke |  See all 6 posts
ultimate collection for europe?
I would like to know this too. Even though my DVD player will play NTSC DVD's, I would rather wait before buying the American version if they are releasing it in Europe.
Oct 24, 2006 by Nicola |  See all 2 posts
collector's edition pack
It's not in the Amazon catalog for pre-order yet, but it should be in a short while. I'll post an update in this space when it is.
Jul 30, 2006 by David Horiuchi |  See all 3 posts
astaire-rogers ultimate collection
Sorry George, but 'Vol 2' is just the final five movies to make up the compilation. It's not the special 'Ultimate' pack Warners promised, with blank spaces, for people who had bought 'Vol 1'. We still await more news on that one.
Aug 8, 2006 by Anthony Clarke |  See all 2 posts
Is there Italian audio? Be the first to reply
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