Set during the depression, this is the granddaddy of backstage musicals in which the understudy finally gets a chance to shine. It may seem a little cliché now, but in 1933 this was hot stuff. All that behind-the-scenes at... more »mosphere feels very genuine, and the script is more acerbic than you might expect. A sickly Julian Marsh (Warner Baxter) puts his all into what may be his last show, only to face a disaster when leading lady Dorothy Brock (Bebe Daniels) sprains her ankle. Thank heavens for ingenue Peggy Sawyer (Ruby Keeler), who steps in at the last minute. The vivacious soundtrack includes "Shuffle off to Buffalo," and the still-catchy title tune. Best of all are those extravagant, kaleidoscopic dance numbers by Busby Berkeley, then in his prime. --Rochelle O'Gorman« less
agreggofsociety | Staten Island, New York USA | 01/07/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I am sure that I am one of many who are incredibly excited about the upcoming release of these brilliant Busby Berkeley musicals! Each of these films contain many of the big screen's most unforgettable moments, and all five merit inclusion in this fine DVD package.
For fans of musicals and for those who simply enjoy excellent cinema, these movies have it all! First and foremost, the artistry of Berkeley's musical sequences make these films a must-see! It doesn't matter if you are a musical maven or not. The inimitable Busby Berkeley production numbers will dazzle you, even with the sound turned down! In addition to being renowned musicals, these films are also some of the wittiest comedies from the 30's era. I don't think anybody can resist the well-written snappy dialogue and sly innuendo, particularly from the pre-code releases included here.
FOOTLIGHT PARADE -- Great pre-code dialogue, and a fantastic showcase for the comedic talents of both Joan Blondell and James Cagney, the latter demonstrating his incredible footwork that helped him score his Oscar winning role in Yankee Doodle Dandy!
GOLD DIGGERS OF 1933 -- My personal favorite of this collection. it features the famous Ginger Rogers number "We're In The Money", and the unforgettable "Forgotten Man" performed by Joan Blondell! Great production numbers and more entertaining pre-code comedy.
DAMES -- In addition to the great production number of the title song, it features an hilarious performance by Hugh Herbert, probably (though debatably) his best!
GOLD DIGGERS OF 1935 -- This one introduces the great production number, "The Lullaby Of Broadway" and also features a great comedic performance from Gloria Stuart (of "Titanic" fame).
42nd STREET -- This is the film that reinvented the movie musical! Nuff said, except that Ginger Rogers' chaffing is a wonderful highlight.
The extras look nice, though I'm sorry no commentaries seem to be included. I'm looking forward to seeing the new featurettes. All in all, this is a very reasonably priced package that is worth every penny. Enjoy!"
Turner Needs REAL experts but it's a great Collection
B. G. Carroll | Liverpool, England, UK | 04/08/2006
(4 out of 5 stars)
"BUSBY BERKELEY COLLECTION By Brendan G Carroll
While I was delighted that Warners & Turner have issued these great films on DVD at last in terrific quality (for the most part) and with wonderful extras, there were some opportunities missed here and one glaring omission which I hope I can set right.
The opportunities lost concern the archive material that might have been included and which would have been so worth the effort to acquire. As most Berkeley buffs know, he gave a very interesting and rare interview for a 1966 TV documentary called "The Movie Crazy Years" (about Warners) which also included a nice interview with Joan Blondell. It would have been good to see the relevant excerpts from this superb programme (which I think was made by David Wolper) included in the various featurettes on these DVDs, rather than the endless gushy on-camera posturings of the likes of John Landis. Do I really need to be told over and over in hyper-gushy language, that Buzz was a genius, by so-called celebrity fans? I really wish Turner would at least include either contemporary witnesses or film historians (like Bob Thomas or Rudy Behlmer) to add pertinent commentary to projects like this. WHAT has John Waters got to do with Busby Berkeley I ask you?
The second "missed opportunity" is the rarely (and barely) seen 96 minute documentary "Busby Berkeley" made by Russ Jones in 1974 to co-incide with the publication of Tony Thomas' superb biography of Buzz, which included rare interviews with Winifred Shaw (about the Lullaby of Broadway number) and Ruth Donnelly (about Footlight Parade) among other treasures.
Surely Turner could have acquired both of these archive resources (at little cost!) for this definitive DVD set? It would have added such tremendous historic value to the collection and genuine insight. I really felt we never got to know much about Berkeley as a man from any of the short documentaries or how he achieved his amazing effects. In fact, I realised that I knew more about him and his techniques, than I learned from any of the featurettes.
Much worse though, is the total absence of any comment about Ray Heindorf, the genius arranger and orchestrator at Warners, from 1931 on, who was responsible for the entire musical style of these films and especially the superb job he turned in for the big numbers - creating seamless 10-15 minute arrangements of Harry Warren's great songs (and those of Kahal & Fain - they wrote `By A Waterfall' by the way, not that you would know it from watching the short documentary on Footlight Parade!!).
Heindorf was also responsible for the marvellous, brassy orchestrations throughout - yet he never even gets a mention. He was a genius - in fact, according to Erich Wolfgang Korngold, (as told me by Eleanor Aller & Harry Warren himself) he was the best and fastest orchestrator Korngold had ever encountered, high praise indeed from maybe the one man in Hollywod who would know - and it was Heindorf's ability to provide an endlessly varied treatment of each song that allowed Berkeley to get away with making a number lasting a quarter of an hour without we, the viewer (and listener) ever getting bored with the tune!
Well, in spite of these shortcomings, it is wonderful to have these at last in better than average prints (and in the case of 42nd Street, amazing prints!) and of course, the historic trailers & shorts are all marvellous to have at last, rescued from the vaults.
However, I hope next time Turner puts out a major collection, somebody will take the trouble to produce a tribute to Ray Heindorf. It's long overdue.
Come and meet those dancin' feet
E. D. DORSOGNA | williamsburg, virginia | 02/05/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Hooray for Warner Home Video! Just before the turn of last year - about a week before I learned of the release of this mouth watering set - I said to my wife "wouldn't it be great if Warners did a Berkeley collection?" and I went on to tick off the names of the exact titles included in this set. I first saw FOOTLIGHT PARADE when I was in college in the late 60s; saw it on a big screen in a real movie palace in Minneapolis. It was a revelatory moment and I have been a committed "Berkeleyite" ever since. There is no one during the 30s or after who did such audacious and astounding things with movie musicals. I look forward to having the DVD set which I know will be a vast improvement over the VHS copies I have mouldering in our attic. Anyone who has a yen for musicals will want to own this set. Not only did Berkeley have the full support (for a while) of Jack Warner in the making of these extravagant films he also had the pick of the Warner stock company of actors. Think of it:Cagney, Blondell, Kibbee, Powell, and lastly but foremeost the Beautiful Ruby Keeler (for who I still harbor a schoolboy crush!). I can only hope that the bonus disc will have numbers from the(lesser)films not included in the set; numbers such as DREAM A LITTLE DREAM from FASHIONS and the numbers from WONDER BAR (even the jaw-dropping GOIN' TO HEAVEN ON A MULE number). Now if someone (Warners or whoever owns the rights) will release Eddie Cantor's films for Goldwyn - which contain some prime Berkeley work - and also issue a set of Jolson films (which would have to include GO INTO YOUR DANCE - no Berkeley work but great music and (hubba-hubba)Ruby Keeler - everything would truly be right with the world!"
Jones and Barry are doing a show
Steven Hellerstedt | 07/03/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"42ND STREET has everything I could ask for in a movie. Set in the present day (1933) it's a Depression-era behind-the-scenes story of the making of a Broadway musical. An ensemble piece, it tracks a number of story lines at once - Broadway star `Dot' Brock (the beautiful Bebe Daniels) and her ever-present sugar daddy, the production's angel. wonderfully played by Guy Kibbee. The down-but-not-out director Julian Marsh (Warner Baxter), for whom this play is a lifeline (`You guys ever hear of Wall Street?' Marsh asks when queried about his desire to direct this play, that being `nuff said in those days.) The sweet ingénue Peggy Sawyer and her numerous beaux and faux beaux. Peggy Sawyer is played by Ruby Keeler, who was a wonderful dancer and an acceptable singer, but an enormously untalented actress. There are, as well, various and sundry chorus girls, singers, and hangers-on. How good is this movie? Baxter and Daniels are incredibly good and more than cancel out Keeler's performance. The last twenty-minutes or so are devoted to Busby Berkeley dance numbers, and they don't rise above the movie. The dialogue is great, ranging from the slightly risqué - said of Anytime Annie (Ginger Rogers as a veteran chorus girl) when she's first introduced, "She only said `No' once, and then she didn't hear the question", to the self-deprecating - when the lead singer played by Dick Powell introduces himself to the Ruby Keeler character, he says "I'm Billy Lawler, one of Broadway's better juveniles", to the surreal - an observation by slightly tipsy co-producer Thomas Barry (Ned Sparks) on Angel Abner Dillon (Kibbee), "He looks like a Bulgarian boll-weevil mourning his first born." And it has some great songs by Harry Warren, not only the title song, but other hits such as `Shuffle Off to Buffalo' and `You're Getting to Be a Habit With Me.' From its touches of gritty realism to its bubbly song-and-dance routines to its near tragic final shot of an exhausted and spent Warren Baxter `celebrating' his success, I loved every minute of 42ND STREET. My favorite scene was when the best actor in the movie - Baxter - has to coax, shake, or kiss a passable performance out of the worst actor in the movie - Keeler in `the understudy's big chance' scene in act three. It was terribly self-referential, but at least the two kept a straight face throughout. The transfer print was in very good shape and easy to watch. There's no commentary track but there are plenty of extras - A text only cast and crew listing, with an a open out page on the Career Highlights of Busby Berkeley; a nine-minute, 1933 Vitaphone short entitled `Harry Warner: America's Foremost Composer' with Warner at the piano surround by gowns and tuxedoes, the short features a medley of Warner hits circa 1933, including a '`42nd Street' production number; a ten minute short titled `Trip Through a Hollywood Studio,' standard behind-the-scenes stuff, "Allow us to bring Hollywood to you..."; a 9-minute Hollywood newsreel of the period featuring a lot of Hollywood stars, and plenty of their pets, too; and a theatrical trailer. The highest recommendation for this essential video. "
The essential Busby Berkeley, now gorgeously restored with l
Eric | Columbus, OH | 03/16/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)
"The rave reviews are flowing in...from THE NEW YORKER...to PLAYBOY MAGAZINE...to DVD websites by the score, everyone's saying this is already a contender for Best DVD of 2006.
Two kinds of films defined Warner Bros. in the 1930s...their fast-paced gangster films, and their Busby Berkeley musical spetaculars. Others tried to imitate the Warner gangster formula and failed. Others tried to imitate the Berkeley formula, but they were missing the essential ingredients: The Warner stock company, great songs by Harry Warren and Al Dubin, and most important, the incomparable imagination of Busby Berkeley.
A few years ago, Warner Bros. released a great disc of 42nd STREET, the film that made Berkeley a household name. The film had been lovingly restored, and had never looked so good. However, the rest of his great classics awaited the same kind of painstaking restoration, and the day has finally arrived when we can rejoice in owning these sensational, delightful, and mind-boggling fantasy-fests of delight.
Best of all, there are HOURS of extra features, including a bonus disc of more than 20 of Berkeley's musical spectaculars. If all you want is music and dance, without plot, this is like a 1930s, three-hour music video beyond compare!
There are engaging mini-documentaries that illuminate various aspects of these films, which help put each film in historical context. While die-hard buffs would lament the fact that certain ancient documentaries they recall aren't included, it's obvious that such items probably have legal or ownership barriers which could preclude WB's access to those pieces. However, this is not really a concern, for what has been provided here beyond comprehensive, with great quality, and with the same kind of smarts that sets Warner Home Video's product heads and tails above all the other studios when it comes to classics.
So, here's to Busby! To Ruby Keeler and Dick Powell! To an amazing song-and-dance Jimmy Cagney and the always wonderful Joan Blondell....not to mention folks like Guy Kibbee, Ned Sparks and so many Warner regulars. You can't pass this up and call yourself a movie lover!