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Rose Marie  [Remaster]
Rose Marie [Remaster]
DVD ~ Ann Blyth
Price: $12.99
22 used & new from $8.49

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Ann Blyth and Howard Keel sing up a storm in "Rose Marie", September 14, 2014
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
This review is from: Rose Marie [Remaster] (DVD)
Lovely Ann Blyth starred in two MGM musicals in 1954. One was "The Student Prince", and the other was ROSE MARIE, which has the distinction of being the first MGM musical filmed in the CinemaScope process. It plays fast and loose with the original operetta, but is a fantastically fun time all the same.

Blyth plays the title role, Rose Marie Lemaitre, a tomboyish orphan who has been left in the care of Mike Malone (Howard Keel), captain of the Royal Canadian Mounties. After it becomes apparent that Rose Marie needs to be schooled in the art of being a lady, Mike installs her with saloon owner Lady Jane Dunstock (Marjorie Main). Rose Marie happily swaps her coonskin cap for hair-ribbons and her buckskins for dresses. In the meantime, Rose Marie's head is turned by trapper Jim Duval (Fernando Lamas), the local "bad boy" who soon is implicated in a murder involving local Indian chief, Black Eagle.

ROSE MARIE had been filmed twice before - first in 1928 as a silent starring Joan Crawford (Blyth's screen mother in "Mildred Pierce") and most famously in 1936 with Jeanette MacDonald and Nelson Eddy. This 1954 screen version was filmed on location in Mammoth, California (doubling for the Canadian Rockies), and the results show on the screen.

Ann Blyth had been singing since she was a child, but film producers curiously only started showcasing her in full-length musical roles quite late into her screen career. She had co-starred with Mario Lanza in 1951's "The Great Caruso", and following ROSE MARIE was meant to reunite with him in MGM's 'Scope production of "The Student Prince" (Lanza was later replaced by Edmund Purdom). "Kismet" would follow in 1955, but musicals were fast becoming a dying breed, as MGM's studio system began to implode. She went back to dramatic roles, but Warner Brothers' 1957 production "The Helen Morgan Story" (which turned out to be her last film) saw her once again in a musical setting; although her singing was doubled by Gogi Grant.

Blyth is surrounded by a dream cast in ROSE MARIE, including Howard Keel, who gives Mike a lovely gravitating quality. In contrast, Fernando Lamas plays Duval with a sexy, devil-may-care edge, and he makes the most of his "Indian Love Call" duet with Ms Blyth. Playing the requisite comedic subplot, Marjorie Main and Bert Lahr (as Mountie Barney McCorkle) are just what is called for, although their big duet "Love and Kisses" wound up on the cutting-room floor.

This 1954 screen version of ROSE MARIE only used a handful of songs from the original operetta ("Indian Love Call", "The Mounties", "Totem Tom-Tom" and the Title Song). Added to the tunestack were several new numbers including "Free to Be Free" for Rose Marie. It's a shame that Rose Marie's two big solos from the operetta, "Pretty Things" and "The Door of My Dreams", couldn't have been retained for Ms Blyth here.

Warner Archive's DVD-R presents the film in a good 'Scope print, although there are some intermittent colour fluctuations. This is mainly due to the film being originally printed on Eastman Color film stock, a cheaper colour process which has the reputation for fading over time. The original trailer is included as a bonus, along with the cut number "Love and Kisses", giving us another look at Marjorie Main and Bert Lahr's comedic stylings. A sweet film.
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Oct 23, 2014 5:38 PM PDT


The Student Prince (1954)
The Student Prince (1954)
DVD ~ Edmund Purdom, John Ericson, Louis Calhern, Edmund Gwenn, S.Z. "Cuddles" Sakall, Betta St. John, John Williams, Evelyn Varden Ann Blyth
Price: $12.99
30 used & new from $11.47

4.0 out of 5 stars Ann Blyth sparkles and Edmund Purdom romances in MGM's dreamy "Student Prince", August 23, 2014
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
This review is from: The Student Prince (1954) (DVD)
MGM's 1954 CinemaScope production of THE STUDENT PRINCE (first filmed as a silent in 1928 starring Norma Shearer) was originally slated to be a reunion for Mario Lanza and his "Great Caruso" leading lady Ann Blyth. What finally reached the screen was a disappointment for Lanza's fans, with his part taken by non-singer Edmund Purdom, but the production as a whole is lushly put-together and one of the best from MGM's musical pantheon.

Based on the tried and true Sigmund Romberg operetta, THE STUDENT PRINCE is the story of Karl Franz, the prince of Karlsberg. Betrothed to a lovely princess (Betta St. John), Karl is nevertheless something of a "Prussian pickle" - that is, quite dull and reserved - so his grandparents (Louis Calhern and Evelyn Varden) pack him off to school in Heidelberg, where it's hoped that he'll loosen up and become a more fully-rounded individual.

In Heidelberg, Karl falls head over heels for Kathie Ruder (Ann Blyth), the most popular and beloved barmaid at the tavern where all the students converge daily. After a few humorous mishaps, Kathie cannot deny her own feelings either, and the two decide to elope. Their plans are halted when Karl is ordered to return to Karlsberg, where his grandfather is on his deathbed.

There are several conflicting stories as to why Mario Lanza walked off the film - and subsequently fired by MGM. The most famous story is that Lanza was piling on the weight, making life very difficult for the costumiers who were, as a consequence, constantly having to tweak his wardrobe. There is another story, given credence by several biographers, which insist that a fight between Lanza and the film's initial director Curtis Bernhardt was the catalyst for Lanza leaving the film. Lanza wanted MGM to give him his "Great Caruso" director Richard Thorpe instead - and indeed, after Lanza was fired, Thorpe wound up replacing Bernhardt!

I tend to believe it must have been a mixture of both stories. Lanza's rise to fame was so fast - he clearly wasn't prepared for it, and of course, it had to have gone to his head. He indulged in wine and food, and made demands, naturally, but I think he just needed people who he knew would get the best possible work out of him, to support and encourage him in every way. Evidently he held his "Great Caruso" director Richard Thorpe in such high esteem.

As part of the legal settlement, MGM was awarded ownership of Lanza's "Student Prince" recordings, which he had laid down before filming started. The score of THE STUDENT PRINCE had been augmented with three extra songs for Lanza - "I'll Walk with God", "Beloved" and "Summertime in Heidelberg". MGM brought in British actor Edmund Purdom to replace Lanza and he mouths quite well to Lanza's vocals, bringing off the role of Karl accordingly with a lot of dash.

It's quite surprising to note that this was Ann Blyth's first full-length movie musical role. After a career spent mainly at Universal (where she made such films as "Mr Peabody and the Mermaid" and "The World in His Arms") to a spell at Warner Brothers, earning an Academy Award nomination for her role as Veda in "Mildred Pierce", Blyth moved to MGM where she made a big musical splash in this film and 2 other gargantuan 'Scope musical productions, namely "Rose Marie" and "Kismet". Here in THE STUDENT PRINCE, Ms Blyth is utterly enchanting as Kathie. When all is said and done, this film really does belong to her, and I think it's one of her best.

The supporting cast is also first-rate, including S.Z. "Cuddles" Sakall as Kathie's uncle, and John Ericson as Count Von Asterburg - his subplot, playing a fellow aristocratic student in a rivalry with Karl, builds up to a payoff which fizzles away, never really paying off in the way it should.

Warner Archive's DVD-R of the film looks quite remarkable, to these eyes at least. STUDENT PRINCE was filmed in the Ansco-Color process - cheaper color film which faded horribly over time. Technicians at Warner Archive have worked wonders with this print and the colours look vivid and lush. There is a lot of print damage but that is to be expected. The only extra is the theatrical trailer which runs for close to 5 minutes.


TCM Greatest Classic Films: Legends - Esther Williams Vol. 1 (4FE)
TCM Greatest Classic Films: Legends - Esther Williams Vol. 1 (4FE)
DVD ~ Various
Price: $14.99
12 used & new from $14.95

9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Classic Esther Williams for a bargain price, July 25, 2014
This is essentially the same as Warner's larger "Esther Williams TCM Spotlight Volume 1" boxset, but minus 1 film ("Easy to Wed"). If you are a fan of Ms Williams or looking to get your feet wet for the very first time - pardon the pun - you'll enjoy these 4 delights which capture Williams at several crucial points in her film career.

Following several small roles, Williams made her starring debut in 1944's "Bathing Beauty", which set the template for most of her films at MGM. Williams co-stars with comedian Red Skelton. The 2 stars reunited for "Neptune's Daughter" in 1949, which introduced the classic Academy Award-nominated song "Baby It's Cold Outside".

In "On An Island With You" (1948), Williams co-stars with Peter Lawford and Cyd Charisse. 1953's "Dangerous When Wet" is arguably the best title in this collection, with Williams absolutely riding high, and includes Williams' legendary swimming sequence with Tom & Jerry. Fernando Lamas, later Williams' real-life husband, and Barbara Whiting co-star.

Extras on these TCM sets are routinely recycled from previous discs, so there's nothing new to entice those who already own these films in the first "TCM Spotlight" volume. The "Bathing Beauty" disc includes Ms Williams' TCM 'Private Screenings' episode, which is quite illuminating. We are very lucky that most (if not all) of Williams' work is now on DVD for a whole new generation to enjoy. These 4 films provide a perfect introduction.


Roaring Twenties - Songs From TV Series
Roaring Twenties - Songs From TV Series
Price: $6.33
11 used & new from $4.50

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Perky Ms Provine vamps Roaring 20's standards, February 25, 2014
The 1960's TV series "The Roaring 20's" was an unexpected hit with audiences all over the world, tapping into a nostalgic vein for viewers of a 'certain age' many of whom probably still had strong first-hand memories of the decade, and introduced a whole new generation to the often wacky and wild musical stylings of the period.

Dorothy Provine starred on the programme as Pinky Pinkham, the resident nightclub chanteuse, and sang a hefty stack of Twenties standards throughout the run of the series. This album covers no less than thirty of them, all performed with considerable fidelity to their original versions by Provine and a snappy combo. Ms Provine is often backed by a chorus of squeaky-voiced girl singers which merely adds to the charm.

It's in the quieter numbers where we can most enjoy Ms Provine's rather effective vocal style - pieces like "Someone to Watch Over Me", "Am I Blue?" and "It Had to Be You" emphasize Provine's deft way with a lyric and her extremely heartfelt delivery. I adore the tongue-twisting "Nagasaki" and "Crazy Words, Crazy Tune" as well. The entire album is such fun.

Decent sound quality as well on this budget-priced Hallmark disc. Recommended.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Sep 27, 2014 8:58 AM PDT


Original Piano Artistry Of Jonathan Edwards
Original Piano Artistry Of Jonathan Edwards
Price: $7.00
17 used & new from $1.72

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Jo Stafford and Paul Weston slaughter the Great American Songbook, February 23, 2014
"Jonathan and Darlene Edwards" were actually Jo Stafford and her husband, Paul Weston. They initially created these musically-inept alter-egos for private parties and conventions, before being invited into the recording studio, where they cut several albums to terrorize music-lovers all over the world.

Paul Weston's "Jonathan Edwards" bashes away at the keys, preferring quantity over quality. Just listen to his treatment of "Poor Butterfly" with its outrageous Oriental flashes and motifs. He oversteps tempos, goes off into melodies from other songs and generally sounds like he's had one too many Jack Daniels.

It takes a top-notch singer, impeccably trained, to turn around and impersonate somebody who cannot sing to save themselves. Such is the case with Jo Stafford's oh-so-delightfully inept "Darlene Edwards". Always landing just above or below the desired note, Stafford herself completely disappears. In her place, the enthusiastic "Darlene" slaughters "It's Magic" (Doris Day can be assured of a solid night's sleep), "Cocktails for Two", and "You're Blase".

Unless you get the joke you'll probably ask yourselves how on earth Jonathan and Darlene Edwards ever managed to finagle an album, but as a testament to the sheer artistry of creators Jo Stafford and Paul Weston, its an absolute delight.
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Sep 27, 2014 9:02 AM PDT


Original Soundtrack
Original Soundtrack
Price: $24.41
10 used & new from $9.77

4.0 out of 5 stars Budget double-release for 2 indispensable cast albums, February 16, 2014
This review is from: Original Soundtrack (Audio CD)
The "Highlights" packages of Andrew Lloyd Webber's CATS and THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA have been paired together in this budget UK re-release, in a cardboard sleeve-case with no frills, booklets, libretto, or photos. Just the music. If you want all the extras you'll probably do better to buy the individual discs. If you just want the music this is a smart purchase.

Elaine Paige leads the original London cast of CATS. All the hits are here - "Memory", "Macavity the Mystery Cat", "The Jellicle Ball", etc. Michael Crawford and Sarah Brightman dazzle in the highlights from the original London cast of THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA, with all of the main numbers accounted for, including "Think of Me", "All I Ask of You", "Masquerade" and the Title Song. Original pressings of the "Highlights" PHANTOM package had everything contained on a single track (which was a bit of a pain if one wanted to skip ahead to a certain song), but this latest pressing has finally fixed that problem with each song on its own track.

A wise purchase for the price.


Damn Yankees
Damn Yankees
Price: $8.99
28 used & new from $6.50

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Gwen Verdon in her first signature show, January 29, 2014
This review is from: Damn Yankees (Audio CD)
What could be better than Gwen Verdon, the impish red-headed Terpsichore, belting out one of the seminal Broadway scores of the 1950s? The role of Lola, a temptress guided by devilish Mr Applegate (Ray Walston) to lure a would-be basebell hero (Stephen Douglass) catapulted Ms Verdon to the upper-echelon of Broadway royalty.

"Damn Yankees" was the second of two major scores from the team of Richard Adler and Jerry Ross; with choreography from an up-and-coming Bob Fosse, shaping and working his way up the ladder to his eventual directing success in the decades to follow. The score is still something to marvel about - songs which became standards and oft-recorded staples like "Heart", and "Whatever Lola Wants". The show ran for 1,019 performances at the 46th Street and Adelphi Theatres, and swept the 1956 Tony Awards. Ray Walston, Gwen Verdon and Shannon Bolin all reprised their roles in the subsequent film version.

This reissue of the Broadway cast album of "Damn Yankees" is very significant, as it features the original green cover art of Ms Verdon in the baseball jersey. Ticket sales (and RCA cast album sales) of the show weren't exactly earth-shattering, so producers re-worked the publicity to feature Verdon in her sexy 'merry-widow' corset and tights, with her legs splayed in typical "Whatever Lola Wants" pose. The revised posters and album cover - in vivid red - were the ones used for most of the show's successful run, and the RCA CD reissue in 1988 also used the red artwork. Content and soundwise this disc is exactly the same as the 1988 edition. I'm just happy to see the original album artwork back in circulation.


Mad About Men
Mad About Men
DVD ~ Glynis Johns
Offered by ClassicFlix
Price: $13.87
21 used & new from $11.80

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Glynis Johns returns as 'Miranda', January 27, 2014
This review is from: Mad About Men (DVD)
A sequel to the unexpected smash hit "Miranda" (1948), 1954's "Mad About Men" reunites us with Glynis Johns as Miranda Trewella, the beautiful mermaid with an insatiable appetite for fun... and romance. There is an additional twist this time around, however, with Ms Johns taking on a second role - Miranda's distant relation, Caroline Trewella.

When Caroline inherits an old house perched on the windswept Cornish coast, she meets Miranda, a long-lost relative from the 'underwater branch' of the Trewella clan. Desperate for some more exciting adventures on dry land, Miranda concocts a plan to assume Caroline's identity for several weeks. This suits Caroline to a tee, who heads off on a biking holiday. Nurse Carey (Margaret Rutherford) is brought back into service to assist as the 'invalid' Miranda causes mayhem and confusion for some of her wildest hijinks yet.

"Mad About Men", filmed in full glorious colour, is arguably even more enjoyable than the original "Miranda". Johns playing not only Miranda but also a look-alike cousin adds an extra dash of fun to the film. Ms Johns even gets to sing! Margaret Rutherford, again, is a delight as the nurse and has some great scenes with Dora Bryan, who plays Miranda's fellow mermaid friend Berengaria, a somewhat slow-witted soul who takes a fancy to wearing human clothes. The cast also includes Donald Sinden, Anne Crawford, Peter Martyn and Nicholas Phipps. I would have loved to have seen the Miranda story continue in at least one more film - just like the first story, things end on a rather bittersweet note for the fishy heroine - but "Mad About Men" is a delight just the same.


Finest
Finest
Offered by OopsOutlets
Price: $11.87
26 used & new from $6.14

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Early Liza - a must-own for the fans, January 26, 2014
This review is from: Finest (Audio CD)
Liza Minnelli's first three albums for the Capitol label are beautifully remastered on this nicely-priced double disc from the UK. "Liza! Liza!" (64), "It Amazes Me" (65) and "There is a Time" (66) track the early evolution of this singer, as she emerged from the shadow of her famous mother - Judy Garland in case you've lived under a rock for the last few decades - and shape the sound we've come to expect from this consummate entertainer.

On "Liza! Liza!", Minnelli sings the kind of brisk, brassy musical theater material that had first brought her to the attention of the greater public. The previous year, Minnelli had taken a starring role in a small Off-Broadway revival of "Best Foot Forward"; and later conquered the Great White Way in "Flora the Red Menace", winning a Tony Award for her debut Broadway role. "Liza! Liza!" reflects Minnelli's keen sensibility with a good old-fashioned belty showtune.

Things mellow some with "It Amazes Me". The showtunes are still out in force but the selection is far more subdued - the tender "I Never Has Seen Snow" (from "House of Flowers"), "My Shining Hour", etc. It's in 1966's "There is a Time" where Minnelli started breaking away from her established style, tackling the works of Charles Aznavour ("There is a Time", "Love at Last You Have Found Me"), Jacques Brel ("Days of the Waltz"), and Michel Legrand ("Watch What Happens"). There is a cute little tribute to her father, Vincente Minnelli, with "The Parisians" from "Gigi" (he directed that film to Oscar-winning effect).

As bonuses EMI have included some selections from the 1965 London Palladium concert Minnelli headlined alongside Judy Garland - to hear them together was and remains something truly exciting. The '65 Palladium concert was where Minnelli really began to come into her own. In the Palladium concert, Garland was not in the best shape vocally, and as a consequence it fell to Minnelli to shoulder a lot of the material. Included here is her sprightly "How Could You Believe Me?..." from the MGM film "Royal Wedding" (a song which very well may have been introduced by Garland herself, originally poised to star in the film before being replaced by Jane Powell).

Finally we have three songs from the 1977 film soundtrack of "New York, New York". By this point the rough patches had been varnished away, the years of experience, honing her craft had all clicked into place. The voice is assured, nuanced, limitless in its power. Just listen to her mesmerise with "But the World Goes 'Round" and "The Man I Love", not to mention the iconoclastic Title Song. Finally, Minnelli the Legend.

Classic Liza for an absolute bargain price. A no-brainer purchase.


At The Waldorf Astoria
At The Waldorf Astoria
Price: $6.37
20 used & new from $2.11

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Lena at the top of her game, January 19, 2014
This review is from: At The Waldorf Astoria (Audio CD)
Lena Horne's 1957 live album, "At the Waldorf-Astoria", is arguably her greatest solo platter, certainly one of her most enjoyable. The album became RCA's all-time highest-selling title by a female artist. It captures Ms Horne at the top of her game, solidly supported by her husband, musical director Lennie Hayton who drills the Nat Brandwynne Orchestra.

Ms Horne's tunestack for this concert engagement included regular suspects like "Honeysuckle Rose" and "From this Moment On", but also some surprising comedy numbers like "New-Fangled Tango" (from the Broadway musical "Happy Hunting"), plus a medley of four Cole Porter songs that, you can tell, she absolutely adores.

The best live recordings are ones where you can 'feel' the singer is actually in the room with you. I can picture Lena Horne exactly whenever I play this album. You can definitely sense the joy and unabashed devotion - both from the audience and singer - that synchronised at the Waldorf-Astoria on that February evening back in 1957.

This album is available on several different labels at the moment. Collectables features it on a 'twofer' CD with her live "Sands" album, Real Gone Music has released it on an "Eight Classic Albums" Lena Horne package, Jasmine Music has it in their "Unforgettable" Lena Horne 2-disc compilation; and Avid has released it in a "Four Classic Albums" package, along with her rare "Cocoanut Grove" recording.


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