While I was at the TCM Classic Film Festival, the lovely folks from Warner Bros. let me chose one of their boxed sets to review. I chose their 20 Film Collection: Musical set because it had a lot of films that I hadn't seen yet.
The Best of Warner Bros.: 20 Film Collection - Musicals boxed set contains 20 musicals spanning just over 60 years of time from 1927 to 1988. The set has a slipcase and on the back is a list of all the movies inside. There are three sets within which break up the movies into three different time frames: 1927-1951, 1951-1964 and 1967-1988. It's obvious from looking at the discs that they were meant for other DVD packages. Some say "Disc One" so you know there is a Disc Two with extras that lives in another DVD set somewhere. Most of the DVDs in this set have extras anyways so I didn't count this as any great loss.
Inside the set there is also a full color booklet. Each page of the booklet is devoted to a movie and has an image from the film, the title, a paragraph about it and lists Academy Award nominations and/or wins wherever relevant. This is a nice added bonus to this set.
The Jazz Singer (1927) - This was my first time seeing The Jazz Singer and I was genuinely surprised by how much I enjoyed this film. I'm not sure why but I was expecting a creaky clunker with little or no entertainment value but instead I got something quite different. The Jazz Singer is considered to be the very first talkie. It's really a part talkie and was intended to only have synchronized singing but with Al Jolson's ad libs there was some dialogue too. It's based on Al Jolson's own life and follows his rise to become a great entertainer.
The Broadway Melody (1929) - I had seen this film before and enjoyed it but on this viewing I became frustrated with Anita Page's character Queenie and felt compelled to smack her on several occasions. It's not a perfect early musical but definitely one to watch if you are interested in the time period and in the history of early talkies.
42nd Street (1933) - I have seen 42nd Street a few times before and the title song always seems get stuck in my head when I do watch it. The cast is magnificent: Ruby Keeler, Dick Powell, Allen Jenkins, Una Merkel, Guy Kibbee, etc. It's notable especially for the Busby Berkeley choreographed/directed sequences and for the wonderful songs.
The Great Ziegfeld (1936) - Oh my, this was quite a long movie wasn't it? This was my first viewing and going in I didn't realize it would clock in at 3 hours! The film is about the life of producer Florenz Ziegfeld and stars the dapper William Powell. His wives are played by Luise Rainier (perhaps the only surviving cast member?) and Myrna Loy, who doesn't appear until half way through the movie. This was a very entertaining film but overly long. I loved seeing a very young Dennis Morgan singing in one of the musical numbers.
The Wizard of Oz (1939) - I have always thought this movie was just plain weird. However, I have had a change of heart and that is primarily because I recently read the L. Frank Baum's The Wonderful Wizard of Oz earlier this year and fell in love with it. What made me want to read the book? Anne Hathaway did a marvelous reading for an Audible audiobook series. I really wanted to listen to her narration so I ended up reading the book that way. Also, I have been curious about why Dorothy wanted to go back to dreary old Kansas ever since I heard Director John Waters question this in the documentary These Amazing Shadows (2011). You can read my book review and my thoughts on Dorothy's attachment to Kansas here.
Yankee Doodle Dandy (1942) - A new favorite! I can't believe I hadn't seen this film before. Another biopic musical, this time about the life of entertainer, playwright and songwriter George M. Cohan.
This film reminded me how much I adore both James Cagney and Joan Leslie. Cagney's sister plays the Cohan sister and I found it very amusing that Walter Huston plays the patriarch of the Cohan family. Great film, wonderful musical numbers, great cast, entertaining all around. Will definitely be watching this one again.
An American in Paris (1951) - This movie has always felt a bit flat to me. My opinion didn't really change with this viewing. The visuals are great, Gene Kelly's dance numbers are divine and it is an amusing movie to watch but the story is a bit of a bore and I have little interest in the characters.
Show Boat (1951) - I had never seen this one before and it wasn't high on my list of films to watch. I tried to keep an open mind and watched it. It was meh. I found the musical numbers in the beginning to be entertaining but I found the film to be tiring. I enjoyed Joe E. Brown's performance and I thought Ava Gardner's character was the most interesting part of the film!
Singin' in the Rain (1952) - Pink. That's all I could think of during this viewing. PINK! I was watching a YouTube video in which a popular athlete says that he thought some bridesmaid's dresses his wife was going to chose for their wedding was too 1920s because they were Pepto Bismol pink. Well clearly he was a fan of Singin' in the Rain because there is a lot of pink worn in the film. Debbie Reynolds, Jean Hagen, even Gene Kelly all wear pink in one scene or another. Repeat viewings of favorites always bring something new to the table.
Seven Brides for Seven Brothers (1954) - This musical is one of my top favorite films so I'm glad to finally own a copy. I think it will look spectacular if it ever gets release on Blu-Ray. On this viewing I paid special attention to the choreography. The barn-raising dance scene is one of the most exquisitely choreographed and well-executed dance numbers ever. The impressive acrobatics just add to the entertainment. Every time I watch this movie I am reminded why I should never watch a wide-screen movie in pan-and-scan. Thanks for that TCM!
Camelot (1967) - Oh boy. I was majorly disappointed in this film and it's hard for me to articulate why It never captivated my imagination or attention and I didn't care for the songs. I was more fascinated by the on-screen and real-life affair between Vanessa Redgrave and Franco Nero.
Cabaret (1972) - This was my first viewing and I was oddly fascinated by this film.This was my first viewing and while I was oddly fascinated by this film at the end I felt dissatisfied. I didn’t care for the vision of the 1930s through 1970s lenses and found myself annoyed by most of the characters. It was an entertaining movie, great plot and wonderfully raunchy musical numbers.
That's Entertainment! (1974) - Let’s just get one thing straight. This is a documentary type film that celebrates MGM. And it’s in a set celebrating Warner Bros. This confused me immensely and while it’s a great addition to a musical boxed set I thought it stuck out like a sore thumb in this set in particular. Lots of folks rave about That’s Entertainment and I had never seen it before. It was a bittersweet experience watching all those stars (Fred Astaire, Frank Sinatra, Elizabeth Taylor, Mickey Rooney, Jimmy Stewart, James Cagney, etc.) walking around the decrepit and abandoned MGM lot, talking about their glory days. However, even with my MGM-Warner Bros. objection, I think this is a great introduction for people who are not familiar with earlier musicals. I laughed when Frank Sinatra called the show girls from Broadway Melody of 1929 “overweight”. Yeah, okay buddy.
Victor Victoria (1982) - I don’t know why I compare Victor Victoria with Cabaret but I did and I found myself loving the former much more than the latter. Maybe because they were both nostalgic, featured Americans abroad and had gay characters. I have a new appreciation for the divine Julie Andrews after watching this film. The film is only a little campy, has loveable characters and great musical numbers. Enjoyable all around and I can’t wait to watch it again.
Little Shop of Horrors (1986) - I had seen this before but my husband hadn't so I decided we could watch this together. This film is the stuff of nightmares. I think I enjoyed it much more on my second viewing. The songs are wonderful, it's quite a unique story and I do enjoy a good Greek Chorus! Also, certain Family Guy episodes make much more sense after you've seen this film.
Hairspray (1988) - I knew almost nothing about this film when I sat down to watch it which I think was the best way to experience it. Hairspray is more a film with music rather than a musical film. It has John Water's signature touch: it's both bizarre and fun. I love the 1960s nostalgia but my favorite thing about the movie is it's message: don't ever be afraid to be who you are. That alone makes this film a winner.
The Best of Warner Bros.: 20 Film Collection - Musicals
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