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Classic Comedies Collection (Bringing Up Baby / The Philadelphia Story Two-Disc Special Edition / Dinner at Eight / Libeled Lady / Stage Door / To Be or Not to Be)

4.7 out of 5 stars 27 customer reviews

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(Mar 01, 2005)
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Editorial Reviews

Product Description

No Description Available.
Genre: Feature Film-Comedy
Rating: NR
Release Date: 1-MAR-2005
Media Type: DVD

"The love impulse in man," says a psychiatrist in Bringing Up Baby, "frequently reveals itself in terms of conflict." That's for sure. For a primer on the rules and regulations of the classic screwball comedy, which throws love and conflict into close proximity, look no further. A straight-laced paleontologist (Cary Grant) loses a dinosaur bone to a dog belonging to free-spirited heiress Katharine Hepburn. In trying to retrieve said bone, Grant is drawn into the vortex surrounding the delicious Hepburn, which becomes a flirtatious pas de deux that will transform both of them. Director Howard Hawks plays the complications as a breathless escalation of their "love impulse," yet the movie is nonetheless romantic for all its speed. (Hawks's His Girl Friday, also with Grant, goes even faster.) Grant and Hepburn are a match made in movie heaven, in sync with each other throughout. Not a great box-office success when first released, Bringing Up Baby has since taken its place as a high-water mark of the screwball form, and it was used as a model for Peter Bogdanovich's What's Up, Doc?

Re-creating the role she originated in Philip Barry's wickedly witty Broadway play, Katharine Hepburn stars as the spoiled and snobby socialite Tracy Lord in The Philadelphia Story, one of the great romantic comedies from the golden age of MGM studios. Applying her impossibly high ideals to everyone but herself, Tracy is about to marry a stuffy executive when her congenial ex-husband (Cary Grant), arrives to protect his former father-in-law from a potentially scandalous tabloid exposé. In an Oscar-winning role, James Stewart is the scandal reporter who falls for Tracy as her wedding day arrives, throwing her into a dizzying state of premarital jitters. Who will join Tracy at the altar? Snappy dialogue flows like sparkling wine under the sophisticated direction of George Cukor in this film that turned the tide of Hepburn's career from "box-office poison" to glamorous Hollywood star.

MGM originally promoted Dinner at Eight by touting the "all-star cast," but this is no run-of-the-mill omnibus picture. On the contrary, rather than cramming as many big names as possible into a lumbering vehicle, the movie's impeccably crafted script (by Edna Ferber and Herman J. Mankiewicz) and direction (by George Cukor) gave some immortal screen luminaries a chance to shine. For sheer bravery, John Barrymore's achingly poignant performance as Larry Renault, a washed-up matinee idol who has "outlived everything but his vanity," is unmatched. Barrymore's brother, Lionel, is equally touching as shipping magnate Oliver Jordan. Oliver vainly tries to save his family's century-old firm, at the same time hiding his financial and health troubles from his wife, Millicent, played to hysterical perfection by Billie Burke. The Great Depression is presented in microcosm as Millicent frets about throwing the ultimate society dinner, oblivious to the world tumbling down around her. She is forced to invite to her precious party such undesirables as crass financier Dan Packard ("He smells Oklahoma!"). Even worse in Millicent's eyes than Packard (Wallace Beery, doing an impressive steamroller imitation) is his social-climbing wife, Kitty (Jean Harlow, never funnier). Be sure to watch for Harlow's brief encounter with Marie Dressler, who brings an extraordinary winking wisdom to the role of aging star Carlotta Vance. As the two enter the dining room in the film's final scene, Harlow makes an offhand remark that elicits from Dressler one of the great screen double takes of all time. Like so much of Dinner at Eight, the moment is priceless.

Newspaper comedy doesn't seem like an MGM genre--ink-stained wretches don't go with Adrian gowns and white deco furniture--but Jack Conway, the designated bull in the Metro china shop (Boom Town, Too Hot to Handle) does what he can to bring some dash and flair to Libeled Lady's wildly complicated script. Spencer Tracy is the tough city editor who goes to some spectacular extremes when socialite Myrna Loy files a $5 million libel suit against his paper for calling her a notorious home-wrecker; he hires celebrated ladies' man William Powell to seduce Loy and asks his long-suffering fiancée, Jean Harlow, to marry Powell temporarily so she can play the wronged wife when Loy and Powell are discovered together. The couples crisscross, with frenetic and not entirely unpredictable results, but much of the pleasure here lies in seeing these iconic stars being so thoroughly themselves. The dialogue strains for champagne wit, but the movie's most memorable moment is pure, rotgut slapstick--Powell's bout with an unruly fly-fishing rod.

This one's all about the ladies. In Stage Door, an absolutely terrific 1937 gem, a Manhattan boardinghouse for aspiring actresses houses an amazing roster of golden-era performers--some of whom, like their characters, were just breaking in. It's hard to say who's in best form here: Katharine Hepburn in blueblood mode, Ginger Rogers streetwise, Andrea Leeds suffering, Lucille Ball and Ann Miller impossibly young, and Eve Arden being, well, splendidly Eve Ardenish. The sassy comedy and sober life lessons are wonderfully mixed by the underrated director Gregory La Cava (My Man Godfrey), who captures the brashness of '30s female chatter in a much pleasanter way than the more famous The Women. Hepburn's sublime attempts to wrestle with the line about calla lilies being in bloom will make you smile long after the movie's over.

Special Features

  • Includes:
  • Bringing Up Baby (Two-Disc Special Edition)
  • Commentary by director/writer Peter Bogdanovich
  • Two documentaries about the star and director: Feature-Length "Cary Grant: A Class Apart" and "The Men Who Made the Movies: Howard Hawks"
  • Comedy short "Campus Cinderella" and the cartoon "A Star Is Hatched"
  • The Philadelphia Story (Two-Disc Special Edition)
  • Commentary by film historian Jeannine Basinger
  • Two documentaries about the star and director: "Katharine Hepburn: All About Me - A Self-Portrait" and "The Men Who Made the Movies: George Cukor"
  • Robert Benchley Short: That Inferior Feeling
  • Cartoon: The Homeless Flea
  • Audio-only bonus: Two radio adaptations featuring the movie's three stars.
  • Dinner at Eight
  • Documentary profile: "Harlow: The Blonde Bombshell," hosted by Sharon Stone
  • Libeled Lady
  • Stage Door
  • To Be or Not to Be
  • Other shorts, theatrical trailers, and audio-only bonuses

Product Details

  • Actors: Carole Lombard, Jack Benny, Katharine Hepburn, Ginger Rogers, Marie Dressler
  • Directors: Ernst Lubitsch, George Cukor, Gregory La Cava, Howard Hawks, Jack Conway
  • Writers: Anthony Veiller, Donald Ogden Stewart, Dudley Nichols
  • Format: Black & White, NTSC
  • Language: English (Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono)
  • Subtitles: English, Spanish, French
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
  • Number of discs: 6
  • Rated:
    Not Rated
  • Studio: Warner Home Video
  • DVD Release Date: March 1, 2005
  • Run Time: 613 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (27 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B0006Z2KXY
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #120,688 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
  • Learn more about "Classic Comedies Collection (Bringing Up Baby / The Philadelphia Story Two-Disc Special Edition / Dinner at Eight / Libeled Lady / Stage Door / To Be or Not to Be)" on IMDb

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

This is truly amazing!

A friend of mine is a major reviewer for an L.A. periodical and received an early copy of this 6-movie, 8 Disc, boxed set.

It is nothing short of a miracle....

At last BRINGING UP BABY on DVD. Looking gorgeous, for the first time ever. Well worth the wait. Grant and Hepburn's genius never shown more brightly. The bonus features are as exciting as the feature.

You get THE MEN WHO MADE THE MOVIES: Howard Hawks, Richard Schickel's great docu from the '70s as updated a few years ago.

Even better is filmmaker Robert Trachtenberg's magnificent Cary Grant profile called CARY GRANT: A CLASS APART. It's so brilliantly done, that it shows how dumbed-down we've been by the endless barrage of rotten, paint-by-numbers A&E shows.

Last, but not least, is a feature commentary by the genius Peter Bogdanovich, who knew Hawks and Grant, and loves the movie, and has great things to say.

So that's just movie #1....

Onward to special movie # 2...a Two-Disc remastering (significantly better than the old DVD) of the Cukor masterpiece that re-teamed Grant and Hepburn and joined them with Jimmy Stewart, the classic PHILADELPHIA STORY. It's a treasure, with a wonderful commentary by Jeanine Basinger, another Schickel MEN WHO MADE THE MOVIES about Cukor, and the unforgettable Hepburn cinematic self-portrait KATHARINE HEPBURN: ALL ABOUT ME.

But that's not all...

There's Kate and Ginger and EVe Arden and Ann Miller and Lucy and Adolph Menjou in Gregory La Cava's STAGE DOOR looking truly magnificent.

Moving on is master Ernst Lubitsch with Carole Lombard's final performance with the legendary Jack Benny in TO BE OR NOT TO BE, again looking better than one could hope for.
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Warner Brother's unleashes a galaxy of stars in its new Comedy Collection box set. Six films of impeccible pedigree - two in deluxe special editions, flesh out this collection; "The Philadelphia Story" and "Bringing Up Baby". In addition there's much to admire from "Stage Door", "Dinner At Eight" and "Libeled Lady." Only Lubtisch's "To Be Or Not To Be" falls somewhat short of expectations - though it too is a welcomed sight on DVD.

Plots in totem:

"Dinner At Eight" (1933) is the tale of a society matron, Millicent Jordon (Billie Burke)who is so enraptured at the prospect of throwing the society party of the decade that she eschews all other concerns in favor of the frivolities associated with such a swank soiree. Her roster of guests include the boorish social climber, Dan Packard (Wallace Beery) and his much younger wife of hot body but low class, Kitty (Jean Harlow), aging grand dame of the theater, Carlotta Vance (Marie Dressler), family physician, Dr. Wayne Talbot (Edmund Lowe) and desperate has-been movie actor, Larry Renault (John Barrymore). Millicent's husband, the kind-hearted, good natured Oliver (Lionel Barrymore) has just discovered that he is fatally ill. However, acknowledging his wife's lack of feeling for anyone but herself, Oliver decides to forego divulging his diagnosis, presumably until after the party.

"Bringing Up Baby"(1938) is the adventageous screwball comedy about a madcap New England heiress, Susan Vance (Katharine Hepburn) who, after accidentally running into stuffy zoologist, David Huxley (Cary Grant) is determined to land him as her husband. Not that David would notice. He's too concerned with acquiring a bone for his museum collection - go figure.
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This is a tremendous collection of six black-and-white comedies from Hollywood's "Golden Age" (early 1930s-early 1940s), and there's not a runt in the whole litter.

In chronological order from release date, the first is MGM's all-star DINNER AT EIGHT (1933), in which two Barrymores, Marie Dressler, Wallace Beery, the incomparable Jean Harlow and others cross paths and unwittingly do their best to mess up a formal "dinner at eight" hosted by a ditsy society type (Billie Burke, a/k/a "Glenda the Good Witch" from THE WIZARD OF OZ). Speedy, occasionally manic acting, good lines, and social insecurities of all kind mark this bright offering from the trough of the Great Depression. Also included is a background bio of Jean Harlow, hosted by Sharon Stone. Turns out that Harlow was hardly the street-wise guttersnip the most of her screen roles portrayed. Highly recommended all around. Based on a hit Broadway show by Edna Ferber and George S. Kaufman.

Nineteen thirty-six gave us LIBELLED LADY, a story of a rich heiress (Myrna Loy), her reluctant suitor (William Powell), who is in the pay of a ruthless newspaper editor (Spencer Tracy), who has his fiancee (amazing Jean Harlow)marry Powell's character because--well, it doesn't really make sense but this film is so consistently sharp and funny that it doesn't matter. It's a pity more people don't know about this one!

Another Ferber/Kaufman original ultimately led to 1937's amazing STAGE DOOR, in which the near-impossiblity of finding acting jobs during the Depression is plumbed with both pathos and humor. An incredible, and (except for Adolphe Menjou as a womanizing B'way producer) all girl-cast includes Lucille Ball, Ginger Rogers, Eve Arden, Katharine Hepburn and a very young Ann Miller.
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