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The Matinee Idol (1928) / Frank Capra's American Dream (1997)

9 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Matinee Idol
Silent film with newly recorded stereo score
Digitally restored from the sole surviving print
Scene selections
Full screen format
Restoration liner notes

When Ginger Bolivar's amateur stock company is invited to join superstar Don Wilson's Broadway review, little does Ginger (Bessie Love) know that recently hired bit-part actor Harry Mann (Johnnie Walker) and Don are one and the same. Don, you see, believes the oh-so-serious Bolivar Players are oh-so-unintentionally funny, and has brought them to the Big Apple as a comedy act. But when "Harry" falls for Ginger, Don soon learns that humiliating the woman he loves is no laughing matter!

Frank Capra's American Dream
Digitally Mastered
Subtitles: English (stereo), Spanish
Scene selections
Full screen format

Go behind the scenes into Hollywood legend Frank Capra's professional and family life with rare footage, stills and sequences from many of his films and an exclusive look into his personal home movie collection. Narrated by Ron Howard, FRANK CAPRA'S AMERICAN DREAM features interviews with Robert Altman, Richard Dreyfuss, Peter Falk, Michael Keaton, Angela Lansbury, Martin Scorsese, Oliver Stone and more.

Special Features

  • Contains The Matinee Idol (1928, 56 min., Silent Comedy) & Frank Capra's American Dream (1997, 109 min., Documentary)
  • Restoration liner notes

Product Details

  • Actors: Bessie Love, Johnnie Walker, Ron Howard
  • Directors: Frank Capra, Kenneth Bowser
  • Format: Closed-captioned, Color, Full Screen, NTSC, Subtitled
  • Language: English (Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo)
  • Subtitles: English, Spanish
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated: PG (Parental Guidance Suggested)
  • Studio: Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
  • DVD Release Date: February 5, 2013
  • Run Time: 165 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B00000J11G
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #115,228 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
  • Learn more about "The Matinee Idol (1928) / Frank Capra's American Dream (1997)" on IMDb

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

22 of 24 people found the following review helpful By Chip Kaufmann on December 23, 2001
Verified Purchase
THE MATINEE IDOL is a minor Frank Capra comedy made shortly after he came to Columbia in 1928. While certainly not top drawer it already deals with many themes which Capra would expand on as his career progressed. Comic bits, sentiment, and the determination of "the little guy" to succeed are well blended in this short but entertaining feature about a top Broadway star and the country acting troupe he brings to New York as a joke until he falls for their leading lady. The performances by Bessie Love and the now forgotten Johnnie Walker are quite good while Lionel Belmore (the Burgomaster in FRANKENSTEIN and subsequent films) steals the show as the troupe leader. Unfortunately the dated nature of some of the material in which the star performs in blackface (to cash in on the success of THE JAZZ SINGER the year before) does not play well with today's audiences. Although it's tastefully done (what Capra film isn't), it remains a product of its time and should be viewed as such.

The real story here is the rediscovery and digital restoration of the film. It is beyond remarkable. The DVD comes with an insert which chronicles the extensive work necessary to bring this film back to life. Whether the film was worth it is debatable, the time and techniques used are not. This will be the future of old movies on video. The added bonus on this disc is the real reason to purchase it. FRANK CAPRA'S AMERICAN DREAM is a superb documentary that no student of film or fan of Capra should be without. An important release for the documentary and the restoration job rather than the film itself. If you are a film lover then it is definitely worth having.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By DJ Joe Sixpack HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWER on December 2, 2002
God Bless the French, for salvaging "The Matinee Idol," a "lost" Frank Capra movie uncovered in the archives of the Cinematheque Francaise, bringing one of Capra's last silent films back into the world of the living. Johnnie Walker stars as a Broadway star who accidentally falls in with an earnest but untalented regional theater company, the Bolivar Players. His big city pals see the show and it leaves them in stitches, so they invite the hapless rubes to a run on Broadway -- as a comedy act, unbeknownst to the actors themselves. The end of the film is rather abrupt: Walker seeks to make amends for the cruel joke, and to patch things up with the gal who runs the troupe, but doesn't go through the type of elaborate manouevers we'd expect to see a few years later, in a classic screwball comedy. (One imagines the script was clipped and the movie kept shorter than Capra might have liked...) Actress Bessie Love is a really interesting onscreen presence, and the scenes in which she and her fellow actors are jeered at by the audiences in New York are absolutely heartbreaking, in the classic Capra style. Not a stunning movie in artistic terms, though invaluable for any fans of Capra to see him in his work in his early years. (The accompanying biographical documentary, narrated by Ron Howard, is also available separately as a VHS tape, without "The Matinee Idol" as a backup feature.)
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Samantha Glasser VINE VOICE on July 1, 2006
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The Matinee Idol is one of those silent film treasures because it was considered lost for such a long time. When it was discovered, it was not complete and had been altered not only for a different language but for time it seems. The restoration on this disk looks beautiful. One would never know by looking at it that it was such a find; there is practically no deterioration and the picture is gorgeous. The only giveaway are the skips in the film which account for five minutes of lost footage. You don't need it to enjoy the film though.

The Matinee Idol is about a Broadway blackface star (Johnnie Walker). He goes to a small town with some big shot friends who decide to waste time by seeing a show. The blackface star winds up in the show and hams it up for his friends in the audience. The show is a trite melodrama taken very seriously by the small town folks in it, especially the female lead (Bessie Love). When she fires the Broadway actor, he retaliates by having his friends take the show to New York so he can make fun of them. As the story often goes, the two begin to fall for each other, but he still goes through with his plan. The Broadway show is bittersweet; it is both funny and sad as the crowd laughs like hyenas but the players realize the extent of their talents.

Also included on this disk is a wonderful documentary about Frank Capra, the director of the film. It covers the many famous Capra films as well as some that are lesser known, his relationships with stars like Harry Langdon and Barbara Stanwyck, and his life outside of Hollywood. There are interviews with his sons and other directors like Martin Scorcese and actors like Peter Falk and Fay Wray. The opening is beautiful and makes one feel that the film is important. It ends by giving the viewer a new perspective on Capra's messages and moods in his work to help one appreciate it more.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By calvinnme HALL OF FAMETOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on October 4, 2009
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This DVD has lost quite a bit of its original value since the excellent documentary on Frank Capra's life and career is also in The Premiere Frank Capra Collection (Mr. Smith Goes to Washington / It Happened One Night / You Can't Take It with You / Mr. Deeds Goes to Town / American Madness / Frank Capra's American Dream). Every fan of classic film should have this one. The documentary itself is very complete, talking about the entirety of Capra's life from the emigration of his family from Italy and his childhood up until his retirement from the film industry in 1961. The reason for Capra's retirement was that he felt that the industry had changed and that the director was not so much a creative force as he was just an employee under the direction of whomever the star of the film happened to be.

The accompanying film is "The Matinee Idol", and it is an unremembered gem of a silent film. Columbia was still a poverty row studio in 1928, but this production is every bit as polished as anything that MGM or Paramount would have put out at the time. The story revolves around the star of a Broadway Revue, Don Wilson (Johnnie Walker), who is a black-face comic. The management of the theater thinks that Don has been working too hard, so they advise a rest in the country. The group drives out to a small town where their car breaks down. The whole town - including the mechanic - are all at the "show" - the most recent play by the Bolivar players, the star of which is Ginger Bolivar (Bessie Love). Don is just looking for the mechanic when he stumbles into an audition for a bit part involving a love scene with Ginger. He gets the part because the other applicants are just so bad.
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