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4.3 out of 5 stars
Penny Serenade
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97 of 101 people found the following review helpful
Directed by George Stevens and starring Cary Grant and Irene Dunne, PENNY SERENADE was among the most admired films of 1941. But it seems the film has now drifted into public domain, and the result is incredibly dire: a very muddy soundtrack coupled to a picture that shudders and shakes so that you can barely stand to look at it.

This a great pity, for PENNY SERENADE is a fine film that deserves much better. The concept is simple: as wife Julie (Irene Dunne) packs to leave her husband Roger (Cary Grant), she plays the various records the two have collected over the years. Each recording recalls the various phases of their lives: their chance meeting, their rather unexpected marriage, early years spent in the far east. But they are unhappy in their inability to have a child--and so they return to the United States to adopt. But their happiness ends in tragedy, a tragedy which neither seem able to surmount.

The story is sentimental melodrama, of course, but it transcends its own genre. George Stevens was one of the great directors of Hollywood's golden age--director of such diverse classics as A PLACE IN THE SUN, SHANE, and WOMAN OF THE YEAR. In lesser hands the film might have been reduced to pure soap, but he strikes the perfect balance between charm and tearfulness. The leads are equally perfect, with both Irene Dunne and Cary Grant (who were memorably teamed in such frantic screwball comedies MY FAVORITE WIFE and THE AWFUL TRUTH) discarding their broad comedic skills in favor of plausible humor and sincerity. The supporting cast, which sports nice performances by the likes of Beulah Bondi and Edgar Buchanan, is also very fine, the script is quite good, and the cinematography both functional and elegant.

But all this counts for nothing if you cannot actually stand to watch the truly awful DVD versions available. And they really are that bad. Over the years I've picked up several copies of this film released by several companies--Madacy, Laserlight, and most recently Front Row--and although the transfers vary a bit from company to company they are never more than extremely bad and quite often down-right unwatchable. This is a film in desperate need of restoration, and until it receives that you're better off looking for it on the late-late show--for I can almost guarantee that the print you will find there will be superior to virtually any home-market release you can lay hands on.

GFT, Amazon Reviewer
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36 of 36 people found the following review helpful
on March 18, 2010
When one considers how many poor or downright bad releases there are with this and other public domain movies, It is good to be able to report that no-one will be unhappy with the qaulity of the restoration offered by Digicom.
The Picture is sharp and clear with good contrast and resolution.They are obviously working with good raw materials and not the cruddy rehashed ancient video copies of copies that other companies have released.
The sound quality is clear if not a little over done in the equalization. There are no extras with the disc.
I grade this as 89/100 for restoration and 60/100 for the package / Price.However as there is no viable alternative, I would recommend this to anyone looking for a very good copy of this movie.
I can also recommend this company's release of LIFE WITH FATHER 1947 - equally as good and with good color restoration as well. Avoid any other releases of these two titles.
Mark Hood - writing from Germany
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26 of 27 people found the following review helpful
PENNY SERENADE is the story about a young woman who falls in love with a newspaper reporter. They get married. Move to Japan. Survive an Earthquake. Loose a child. Adopt another. Tragedy besets them, but in the end they are able to overcome it. The movie is mostly told through musical flashbacks thanks to rotating RPMs and is one of the first films to ever have used the soundtrack as an intrical part of the film. The movie is a notch above most other melodramatic tearjerkers and there's one big reason for that: Cary Grant.
Cary Grant is the man. What more does one need to say? Sure Irene Dunn does a good job in this melodramatic tale about a husband and wife who live through an earthquake in Japan, the loss of an unborn child, and the adoption of another. Of course, the actor who plays Applejack steals many scenes, serving as the wise fool in this Shakespearean-type romance as his character balances everything that occurs. Nevertheless, through all of Uncle Applejack's helpful advice and Irene Dunn's moving tears, it's Cary Grant who carries the picture. Grant nailed this performance of Roger and once again illustrated how great of an actor he truly was. A lot of actors would have been tempted to delve into melodramatic play-acting, but not Grant. Even though this is a tear-jerker melodrama and he has some really cheesy lines in some scenes, Grant makes the whole thing seem plausible and feel realistic. I admit that I am a huge fan of Cary Grant, but I keep digging up these old movies he made, hoping to find a film that he totally flops in. So far, I haven't found any. Grant was just a notch above the rest and could make any movie more enjoyable just by being in it. It's worth more than a penny to see his performance in this serenade.
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13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon September 7, 2010
George Stevens framed this entire film using flasbacks, an old phonograph playing the songs from various stages in the lives of two people who fall in love and are nearly torn apart by tragedy. The screenplay of Morrie Ryskind based on a story by Martha Cheavens is sentimental and heartwrenching. Cary Grant and Irene Dunne make it all seem real and director Stevens gives the film a romantic glow which makes this one of the most fondly remembered films of the 1940's.

The story opens as Julie (Dunne) is getting ready to leave Roger (Grant) because of the pain caused by a tragedy in their lives he can not talk about so that they can begin to heal. She laments that they simply don't need each other anymore. When she finds an old stack of records she begins to trace the various stages of their love through the memories recalled by each song.

Roger sees Julie through the window of the record store where she works, and though he doesn't have a phonograph player, he ends up buying a big package of songs just so he can spend time with her. He pretends he is going her way after work and it isn't long before she becomes "his funny little redhead." There are some wonderful scenes like Julie and Roger sitting in a cabana by the beach reading fortune cookies which gives the story a very romantic atmosphere.

When Roger, who is a reporter, has a chance to go to Tokyo for a few years, the two get married and have a truncated honeymoon on a train which results in them becoming prospective parents. But an earthquake takes their happiness away and prevents them from having another child. Only when Roger gets an inheritance do they move back to the states and consider adoption while he starts the small town paper he has always dreamed of. What follows is warm, sweet and heartbreaking, and will result in Julie standing at the phonograph as she recalls their lives together before leaving.

Whether their love and marriage can be saved is only resolved in the last few moments of this beautiful film. Edgar Buchanan as Apple Jack is absolutely wonderful as he lends both support and humor to this true screen classic. Beulah Bondi is also memorable as the kind Miss Oliver, going out of her way to create a family for two people who love each other. A warm and sentimental film every film lover needs to own.
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17 of 18 people found the following review helpful
on April 6, 2010
This is without doubt the best quality version of Penny Serenade I have come accross. It is sharp and clear with good sound and good quality resolution. I am pleased to finally get hold of an excellent version from DigiComTV. I highly recommend this.
Jacky Day UK
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19 of 21 people found the following review helpful
on October 29, 1999
If, like me, you are looking for classic movies on dvd BEWARE! Mandacy Entertainment are producing sub-standard dvds at a seemingly bargain price. They use movies whose copyrights have run out and slap them on a dics to cash in on the growing popularity of dvd. Do not waste your money!! The transfers are worse than awful. It makes VHS look vastly superior - in fact, it even makes daguerreotypes look superior!
As for the movie - it's a sweet sentimental story that's definately worth watching, especially if you are a Cary Grant fan. 4 stars for the movie. 0 stars for the dvd.
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18 of 20 people found the following review helpful
on June 30, 2007
The other reviews describe the film quite well. Irene Dunn and Cary Grant are entertaining and excellent actors. Edgar Buchanan is great. However, there are a few annoying things about the DVD. There are several places where it skips and jumps. Also, RE has placed their logo in the lower right hand corner of the entire film. I am sure that this will not bother some people, however, I find it quite annoying. I will probably watch this on an old VHS rather than the DVD in the future.
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
on March 3, 2011
Despite the improved quality of the mastering, this is still not the entire film as released by Columbia Pictures in 1941. This DVD is mastered from a reissue print, and lacks 2 1/2 to 3 minutes of film from the initial release.

While those who love the movie regardless of its content or completeness may not be that put-out, purist (like myself) should be warned that this is NOT the entire 120 minute version.

SONY needs to pony up and release the consumate version!
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
This is a wonderfully sentimental melodrama, which is deftly directed by the venerable George Stevens. With its stellar cast, the film delivers a heartwarming story.

The film opens onto a scene of a woman, Julie Adams (Irene Dunne), who is in the process of leaving her beloved husband, Roger (Cary Grant). It seems that they are no longer able to communicate with one another, and their marriage has headed south in the wake of tragedy. Before she leaves, Julie puts a record album on the victrola, and suddenly memories of the marriage come flooding back.

The viewer sees vignettes from the marriage in flashback, as Julie plays one old record after another. The memories allow the viewer to see how the formerly happy couple met. Fittingly, they met in a record store where Julie worked. Roger was a newspaper reporter at the time. Their meeting was quite romantic, and, of course, inevitably, they marry.

When Roger is sent on assignment to Japan, Julie follows but so does tragedy. They return to the states and settle in the small town of Rosalia, California, where Roger tries his hand at publishing a small hometown newspaper. As a result of what happened in Japan, however, they are unable to have children. Consequently, a small cloud looms on their marital horizon, only to be righted by their long time friend with the improbable name of Applejack Carney (Edgar Buchanan).

Roger and Julie decide to adopt and do so with the help of a Ms. Oliver (Beulah Bondi), a kindly woman who is able to see the love that Julie and Roger would bring to a child in need of a home. So, five week old Trina comes into their lives and burrows into their hearts. There, she stays until tragedy, once again, strikes the household years later. This tragedy serves to bring the now unhappy couple to this impasse in their lives.

Irene Dunne is simply sensational in the role of Julie, the woman who is the mainstay in the lives of those around her. She imbues the role with such warmth and emotion that the viewer can feel those emotions with her. Trust me when I tell you that you will need a box of tissues handy. It is definitely a five hanky tearjerker. Cary Grant, looking impossibly handsome, is wonderfully cast as the impulsive, easygoing, and impecunious Roger, who is brought down to terra firma by his well grounded wife, Julie, and finds happiness that he never thought possible when he became Trina's father.

Edgar Buchanan is heartwarming as the friend and general factotum who is always around to pick up the pieces and help right what has gone wrong. Beulah Bondi is terrific as the well-meaning Ms. Oliver, who helps the Adams family achieve their dream. There are several children who play Trina at different stages in her life. All are wonderful, but the most adorable one is the one who plays the role of one year old Trina (Baby Jane Biffle). The viewer will understand fully why her adoptive parents are so besotted by her. This is a wonderful melodrama that will tug at one's heartstrings. Beautifully acted and well-directed, this film is a gem.

It is, however, a shame that the film has not been restored. Since other reviewers have decried the DVD transfer, I bought the film on VHS tape, only to have the print fare no better. The print itself is dreadful. Uneven in its quality, it is faded at certain points in the film. The grainy print is also rife with blips, blots, and streaks. It is also noisy with a crackling and humming sound throughout. At first, one believes that the film is unviewable in this state, but the film itself so quickly grabs the interest of the viewer that one finds oneself absorbed, despite the deficiencies of the print. I would only hope, however, that this film will be restored at sometime in the future, before it is too late.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
This is a wonderfully sentimental melodrama, which is deftly directed by the venerable George Stevens. With its stellar cast, the film delivers a heartwarming story.

The film opens onto a scene of a woman, Julie Adams (Irene Dunne), who is in the process of leaving her beloved husband, Roger (Cary Grant). It seems that they are no longer able to communicate with one another, and their marriage has headed south in the wake of tragedy. Before she leaves, Julie puts a record album on the victrola, and suddenly memories of the marriage come flooding back.

The viewer sees vignettes from the marriage in flashback, as Julie plays one old record after another. The memories allow the viewer to see how the formerly happy couple met. Fittingly, they met in a record store where Julie worked. Roger was a newspaper reporter at the time. Their meeting was quite romantic, and, of course, inevitably, they marry.

When Roger is sent on assignment to Japan, Julie follows but so does tragedy. They return to the states and settle in the small town of Rosalia, California, where Roger tries his hand at publishing a small hometown newspaper. As a result of what happened in Japan, however, they are unable to have children. Consequently, a small cloud looms on their marital horizon, only to be righted by their long time friend with the improbable name of Applejack Carney (Edgar Buchanan).

Roger and Julie decide to adopt and do so with the help of a Ms. Oliver (Beulah Bondi), a kindly woman who is able to see the love that Julie and Roger would bring to a child in need of a home. So, five week old Trina comes into their lives and burrows into their hearts. There, she stays until tragedy, once again, strikes the household years later. This tragedy serves to bring the now unhappy couple to this impasse in their lives.

Irene Dunne is simply sensational in the role of Julie, the woman who is the mainstay in the lives of those around her. She imbues the role with such warmth and emotion that the viewer can feel those emotions with her. Trust me when I tell you that you will need a box of tissues handy. It is definitely a five hanky tearjerker. Cary Grant, looking impossibly handsome, is wonderfully cast as the impulsive, easygoing, and impecunious Roger, who is brought down to terra firma by his well grounded wife, Julie, and finds happiness that he never thought possible when he became Trina's father.

Edgar Buchanan is heartwarming as the friend and general factotum who is always around to pick up the pieces and help right what has gone wrong. Beulah Bondi is terrific as the well-meaning Ms. Oliver, who helps the Adams family achieve their dream. There are several children who play Trina at different stages in her life. All are wonderful, but the most adorable one is the one who plays the role of one year old Trina (Baby Jane Biffle). The viewer will understand fully why her adoptive parents are so besotted by her. This is a wonderful melodrama that will tug at one's heartstrings. Beautifully acted and well-directed, this film is a gem.
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