Subject: I have found a DVD that I think you would enjoy
|The Jeeves Collection |
Thank You, Jeeves! / Step Lively, Jeeves!
Actors: Arthur Treacher, David Niven
Disc 1 Side A - Thank You, Jeeves: **Full Frame Version **"Thank You, P.G: The Life of P.G Wodehouse" **Restoration Comparison Disc 1 Side B - Step Lively, Jeeves!: **Full Frame Version **The World of Wodehouse **Restor... more »
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Jeeves Sees It Through
Gord Wilson | Bellingham, WA USA | 06/16/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Twentieth Century Fox has gone all out in presenting these two restored films. Along with the two black and white films are two featurettes on Wodehouse. The slipcased jacket includes notes and four postcards of the theatrical lobby cards, with the films on one double- sided disc. Wodehouse fans will rejoice in this unprecedented opportunity to view these two little- seen movies. But how will they play for everyone else?
Quite well, as it turns out. Despite the title, Thank You, Jeeves has almost nothing in common with the 1934 novel, but it introduces David Niven as Bertie Wooster in his first feature film role. Whether or not he's believable as Bertie, he does a very good David Niven. Which was somewhat the problem. Daryl Zanuck borrowed him from Samuel Goldwyn for the film, which rocketed Niven to stardom, ensuring his nonavailability for future Wooster roles. Which made this film essentially a one- off.
Even if you'd scarcely heard of Jeeves, Arthur Treacher was already well- known for playing British butlers, so it was a mere step to a valet. For the same reason, he lacks the nuanced sense that Stephen Fry would later bring to Wooster and Jeeves. Step Lively, Jeeves takes nothing from Wodehouse's books, not even Bertie Wooster. That's of course because of the typically Wodehousian mix-up explained above so that David Niven was not available. However, Jeeves almost plays a Wooster without a Jeeves to extricate him from the soup. Given a free hand, Arthur Treacher shows himself a quite good actor. However, veering from the stereotypical butler is also in keeping with some of Jeeve's many sides as revealed in later novels. So odd as it may seem, Step Lively, Jeeves comes off as the better picture.
The two extras, "Thank You P.G.: The Life of P.G. Wodehouse", and "The World of Wodehouse" are both very recent and seem like two parts of the same documentary (which they probably were). How recent are they? So recent that all the books shown are the Overstreet hardback Collector's Wodehouse editions. That said, the documentaries are extremely good, consisting entirely of interview footage with members of the Wodehouse Society, authors, and actors. Having seen and heard Robert McCrum made me want to read his Wodehouse bio. Someone gives a shocking statistic, that 95 per cent of Woosters were killed in WW I, which throws a whole new light on Wodehouse's attempt to recreate a bygone Britain.
One difference between Bertie in the books and on film is that he narrates the books, as it were, while the film is in the standard Hollywood third person. Niven nevertheless has some brilliant Woosterian monologues. Step Lively, however, wins with a Wodehousian plot and, something nearly forgotten in modern day Tinseltown, very strong minor characters. This enables the film to use a very small roster of personnel, which yet seems like a cast of thousands. While the slightly better known 1937 Fred Astaire- Burns and Allen musical of A Damsel in Distress is lively and engaging, mostly due to the stellar cast, both of these films seem closer to the spirit of Wodehouse."
Arthur Treacher is no Stephen Fry, sorry to say-nor is Treac
Brian Taves | Washington, DC United States | 01/19/2008
(1 out of 5 stars)
"Why have these films been marketed on DVD? They attempt to coast on the popularity of the 1990s Stephen Fry / Hugh Laurie series, Jeeves and Wooster, rather than the intrinsic quality of these relics, and anyone buying this DVD will be sorely disappointed by the comparison.
At the end of 1935, 20th Century-Fox bought the film rights to Jeeves, looking for potentially prolific--and profitable--properties, and any character who seemed to have the potential to lure filmgoers to film after film. The series seems to have been launched on what was perceived as a sure bet, casting Arthur Treacher, known for playing butler roles, as the most famous literary gentleman's gentleman.
However, the Jeeves films revealed no sense of the situations and character patterns that had made him successful in and books. There is none of Jeeves's trademark Machiavellian cleverness in the Treacher characterization, simply an annoyingly starched and stuffy, standard-issue English butler. He is irritable and petulant, appalled by any breach of etiquette or improper behavior, lacking the adaptability of the Wodehouse creation. Wodehouse himself said that Treacher "pulled faces all the time. Awful," adding "That supercilious manner of his is all wrong for Jeeves."
There was scarcely a mistake that was not made in the 56 minute opening movie, THANK YOU, JEEVES. In dispensing with the plot of the novel, and any other Jeeves story, the screenwriters substituted a bizarre combination of incidents interspersed in an incredibly unlikely account of Bertie Wooster and Jeeves becoming involved with espionage. The attempts at humor were either forced, or, in the case of a few lines that might have been amusing, were presented in such a way so as to conceal any comedic potential. Racial comedy with Willie Best, typical of the time, only makes viewers cringe today.
David Niven made an acceptable Bertie, effectively capturing his comic perplexity, but he was then under contract to Samuel Goldwyn, who typically loaned Niven out only for a single picture. Hence, the script of THANK YOU, JEEVES married Bertie at the close, eliminating half of the Wodehouse team in adapting the stories to the screen, judging Bertie to be dispensable.
THANK YOU, JEEVES, a 1936 release, was followed the next year by STEP LIVELY, JEEVES, which this time is not ostensibly based on any Wodehouse work, but admits to being an original creation. The first picture in the series had been so bad that ironically there was nowhere to go but up. Although STEP LIVELY, JEEVES is a screwball comedy far from the Wodehouse tone, it at least remains predominantly humorous, unlike the mix with spies that had marred THANK YOU, JEEVES.
There is no consistency in characterization between the two movies. The 69 minute STEP LIVELY, JEEVES reflects a new concept of the whole idea of a Jeeves series. Jeeves now has the Bertie Wooster brain, perpetually befuddled and confused. Yet the result is a pleasant, if thoroughly undistinguished movie that does contain a few mild, brief laughs--modest achievements, but significant improvements over THANK YOU, JEEVES. However, STEP LIVELY, JEEVES was still far from the necessary quality to sustain a series, and it was canceled at 20th Century-Fox over the summer of 1937. (Simultaneously, Wodehouse was scripting his own novel A DAMSEL IN DISTRESS at RKO, a vastly superior rendering of his comedy to the screen.)
American audiences were likely regarded as unlikely to accept a series positing a truly sagacious English butler, as in the Wodehouse stories, instead seeing such a figure purely as a source of comedy, meaning that the rights to Jeeves were bought for the name only, not the narratives. As it happened however, the Jeeves series became one of the worst executed ideas under Sol Wurtzel's Fox "B" unit, one which fully justified the aphorism about Fox "Bs", "from bad to Wurtzel." Probably the ultimate epitaph occurred when, in a 1937 radio broadcast, Hedda Hopper interviewed P.G. Wodehouse, and they spoke as if the Fox Jeeves movies had never been made.
Ironically, both Treacher and Niven starred separately in later television films of Wodehouse stories, Treacher in The Philco Television Playhouse: Uncle Dynamite (1950) and Niven in two versions of "Uncle Fred Flits By" for Hollywood Opening Night (1953) and Four Star Playhouse (1955). Of these three, at least the latter survives, and is one of the most successful transpositions of Wodehouse. Niven produced this half-hour show that fully captures the zaniness of the original while maintaining fidelity to the source. This example of one of the same actors in a worthwhile adaptation would have offered an interesting comparison to give real value to this DVD, proving the possibility of bringing Wodehouse successfully to the screen in a manner that put the Fox Jeeves films to shame.
The DVD bonuses, two documentaries about Wodehouse, are well-done but not sufficiently memorable for most viewers to justify the purchase. Some idea of the lack of thought given to the overall production of this package is that the documentaries, and the accompanying DVD brochure, give entirely divergent and contradictory accounts of the making of the movies.
The point of buying a video is to enable the purchaser to enjoy a work of quality again and again, like a favorite book. I doubt few who buy this DVD will ever look at it again, assuming, of course, they manage to watch it all the way through at all. Instead, the purchaser is better advised to spend on videos of WODEHOUSE PLAYHOUSE, JEEVES AND WOOSTER, or A DAMSEL IN DISTRESS.
A Mixed Bag, Jeeves.
David Baldwin | Philadelphia,PA USA | 06/22/2007
(3 out of 5 stars)
"Of the two films in the package you would think the better of the two would be the film actually based on a P.G. Woodhouse story and not the one without a basis in Woodhouse's work. You would think. "Thank You, Jeeves!" employs Arthur Treacher and David Niven as Jeeves and Bertie and they are ideal in their roles. Too bad their saddled with a lame espionage story that leaves you with little interest. What negates the film completely is it contains a Stepin Fetchit type that would offend any sensibility. This character left such a bad taste in my mouth that it made whatever few redeeming qualities the film had negligible. "Step Lively, Jeeves!", however more than makes up for the wit that was lacking in it's predecessor. The engaging premise here is that Jeeves is ensnared by two second-rate confidence men who convince him he's an heir to Sir Francis Drake. They go to America for a pyramid scheme where they hook up with a "reformed" gangster and his socially ambitious spouse. The film is consistently clever and Treacher is given a vehicle that's deserving of his talents. The verdict-1 star for "Thank You, Jeeves!" and 5 stars for "Step Lively, Jeeves!"."
Evan Getz | Waco, TX USA | 09/17/2007
(1 out of 5 stars)
"If you are familiar with the excellent adaptions of the Jeeves and Wooster novels in the recent series, featuring Stephen Fry and Hugh Laurie, you will be sorely disappointed with these feature films. The problem with the adaptation of "Thank you, Jeeves!" is that it revolves entirely around the plot and backgrounds the characters. Wodehouse's plots are never the primary interest (they are all pretty similar--Bertie hatches plan, plan is ill-fated, Jeeves bails him out, Bertie and/or his friends are saved, but Bertie's ego is tarnished.). For example, "Thank you, Jeeves!" wastes several minutes on a car chase and a fight scene. Instead, the focus should be on Wodehouse's memorable characters (and yes, as the last reviewer observed, the Stepin Fetchit character, whom Niven refers to as "it," is unforgivable).
The second story, which features a Russian character with a horrible fake accent, is only slightly better and is not by Wodehouse! Terrible disappointment. I'm kind of glad that Niven never made another Jeeves and Wooster movie and thus prematurely ended what likely would have been a series of movies--such masterfully written stories deserve better. Save your money."