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Tcm Greatest Classic Films: Legends - Esther 1
Tcm Greatest Classic Films: Legends - Esther 1
DVD ~ Various
Price: $25.13

1 of 1 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: $6.81
19 used & new from $1.81

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.

Original Piano Artistry Of Jonathan Edwards
Original Piano Artistry Of Jonathan Edwards
Price: $6.86
15 used & new from $1.78

1 of 2 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 Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Feb 28, 2014 6:38 AM PST

Original Soundtrack
Original Soundtrack
Price: $24.17
9 used & new from $14.27

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: $10.19
30 used & new from $6.19

1 of 1 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: $16.58
26 used & new from $12.38

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.

Price: $12.59
31 used & new from $5.87

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: $7.25
22 used & new from $1.77

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.

Mama's Family: Mama's Favorites: Season 1
Mama's Family: Mama's Favorites: Season 1
DVD ~ Vicki Lawrence
Price: $9.96
39 used & new from $5.41

7 of 10 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Budget-priced "Mama's Family" for the casual fans, September 6, 2013
An unexpected spin-off from the 'Family' skits on "The Carol Burnett Show", MAMA'S FAMILY reunited audiences with Vicki Lawrence's sharp-tongued Thelma Harper and introduced her extended brood of wacky family members. As the show opens, Mama isn't too pleased about the arrival of her son Vint (Ken Berry) and his two teenaged kids Buzz and Sonja (Eric Brown and Karin Argoud), who've decided to stay indefinitely following Vint's wife's departure to become a Las Vegas, cocktail waitress. Vint later hooks up with Thelma's floozy neighbour Naomi (Dorothy Lyman). Also living in the house is Thelma's spinster sister Fran (Rue McClanahan); frequent visitors include Thelma's squabbling daughters Ellen (Betty White) and Eunice (Carol Burnett).

MAMA'S FAMILY originally debuted on NBC in early 1983. It was cancelled in 1985 but brought back in first-run syndication the following year; finally wrapping in 1990. "Golden Girls" fans will get a kick out of seeing Betty and Rue together here; Carol Burnett's guest appearances in several of the better episodes (including the two-part "Wedding" and "Cellmates", arguably the best episode in the first year) are to be savoured.

This "Best Of Season 1" collection includes the following episodes:

"Vint and the Kids Move In" - Vint's chinchilla business has gone belly-up, leaving him and the kids homeless... but Thelma had promised the spare room for Fran to use as a writing studio...

"The Wedding" (Parts 1 & 2) - The day has arrived. Vint and Buzz head off for the buck's party, leaving the girls at home to amuse themselves. Cheap wine from Food Circus soon livens up the proceedings but Ellen still has a secret involving her husband's secretary. Eunice wants to sing "Oh Promise Me" at the ceremony, but not even a tray of chilli dogs will sway Thelma.

"Cellmates" - Ed (Harvey Korman) and Thelma surprise Eunice with a birthday celebration at the Bigger Jigger... which soon dissolves into a fiasco when Eunice uncovers the reason why a childhood boyfriend left and never called on her again.

"Family Feud" - Vint arranges for the Harper clan to appear on "Family Feud"... will it all end in tears?

"Positive Thinking" - A new Eunice? That seems to be the case when she starts a regime of positive thinking cassettes, and lands a small role at the Pepper Pot Playhouse. Guest stars Gloria DeHaven.

"Mama's Boyfriend" - Thelma has a date... The Harper clan don't know what to make of this unusual occurrence.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Mar 17, 2014 8:50 AM PDT

Neptune's Daughter [VHS]
Neptune's Daughter [VHS]
Offered by VHS movies for your VCR
Price: $24.78
47 used & new from $1.49

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Esther delights in frisky Frank Loesser tune-fest, August 9, 2013
One of Esther Williams' early starring vehicles is still one of her most delightful and well-remembered. The plot of 1949's NEPTUNE'S DAUGHTER may be slight in the extreme, but it is the performances and songs underpinning it which give the film its giddy, fun-filled spirit.

Esther plays Eve Barrett, a swimmer-turned swimsuit designer, happily married to her career, until her boy-crazy younger sister Betty (Betty Garrett) drags them both headlong into a dizzying romance of confused identities. As Betty pursues the handsome star player of a visiting South American polo club, she instead mistakenly encounters masseuse Jack Spratt (Red Skelton). In a bid to quash her sister's foolhardy romantic notions, Eve goes after the REAL polo player, one Jose O'Rourke (Ricardo Montalban), who of course promptly falls for the beautiful career-gal. Watching from the sideline is Eve's swimsuit partner Joe Backett (Keenan Wynn), who carries his own yen for the oblivious Eve.

The plot is as featherlight as tissue paper, but NEPTUNE'S DAUGHTER sparkles like you'd never believe, thanks to composer/lyricist Frank Loesser's unexpected, Academy Award-winning song, "Baby It's Cold Outside", the coy duet sung by Esther Williams and Ricardo Montalban. The performances are all very tight and well-matched. Happily, Esther had already worked with her co-stars in several films - Red Skelton played her leading man in her very first starring vehicle (1944's "Bathing Beauty"), whilst Esther had played the twin sister of Ricardo Montalban (1947's "Fiesta"), starred opposite Keenan Wynn (1946's "Easy to Wed"); and, in the same year as this film, co-starred with Betty Garrett in "Take Me Out to the Ball Game".

In one of those cute twists, life later imitated art when Esther Williams branched out into her own line of swimwear which is still going strong today. Surrender to the sweet charm and sunny, funny spirit of this delightful film.

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