Bing Crosby in top form; don't take the plots too seriously
Joe Sixpack -- Slipcue.com | ...in Middle America | 12/14/2002
(5 out of 5 stars)
"BIRTH OF THE BLUES (1946) is a somewhat skewed but nonetheless well-intentioned retelling of the history of jazz. Bing Crosby and Jack Teagarden lead the Basin Street Hot Shots, the (fictional) first all-white jazz band in New Orleans. Implicit in the plotline is the idea that it took an all-white band to really make jazz find a mainstream audience... Goofy and slow in parts, a bit stilted, but good clean fun, with Bing still looking pretty young. Lots of weird racial stuff -- buck-and-wing dancing, eye rolling and the like... Still, there are some great performances and it's worth it all just to hear Mary Martin say, "I want to learn to sing like the colored folk." Yikes.In BLUE SKIES (1946), Bing sings and Fred treads in this sketchily-plotted musical, which pits Astaire and Crosby against one another, rivals for the hand of the blonde, domestically-minded Joan Caulfield. This frothy postwar frolic has a wild Techncolor exuberance, with crazy explosions all over the pastel-lined spectrum (and an odd tilt towards purple). The sad thing, though, is that this isn't a very good movie -- the plot is razor thin, barely a hint of an excuse to stage a bunch of great (and lesser) Irving Berlin tunes. Some numbers fall flat (and Billy DeWolfe's interminable, painfully unfunny drag routine brings the movie to a screeching halt)... Still, Fred Astaire's killer performance on "Puttin' On The Ritz" is the stuff that legends are made of: as he's angelically hoofing his heart out, a curtain parts behind him, revealing a phalanx of distant, miniature Astaires, keeping time with the big guy. A technical and aesthetic triumph! This flick might be worth it for that routine alone, although Bing gets in some choice vocal performances as well. A dud scriptwise, but it still has two of the greatest performers of the 20th Century, both still at their peak."
Mart Sander | www.martsander.com | 06/22/2003
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I was a bit hesitant when ordering this item - it smelled pretty much of cheap production values and low quality. The happier I am to inform everybody that we are dealing with a double bill DVD that boosts high picture/sound quality. Sure, there are no extras, but two good and perfectly preserved films with about 50 good songs should be quite enough. Marvellously priced product, and I'm on my way to order more from the same series."
Nostalgic double feature--even if it is embarrassingly dated
Matthew G. Sherwin | last seen screaming at Amazon customer service | 04/03/2008
(4 out of 5 stars)
"This DVD gives us two musicals starring Bing Crosby; although there are no extras many Crosby fans will want this in their collections! Some of the material is embarrassingly dated; but still musical fans and Bing Crosby fans will like this anyway. Fred Astaire fans get to see him work with Bing in Blue Skies.
Birth Of The Blues is a musical vehicle for the great Bing Crosby. This plot may be fictionalized but you watch this film for the song and dance numbers. The convincing acting held my attention all the way; and the plot moves along at a good pace.
When the action starts, a young Jeff Lambert is getting the spanking of his life from his father--for being caught playing jazz. However, this has little effect on Jeff--he grows up to want to have the first all white Dixieland jazz band. He and his musician buddies soon meet a sharp coronet player named Memphis (Brian Donlevy) and by chance they bump into a young lady named Betty Lou Cobb (Mary Martin) who has a great singing voice.
Memphis and Betty Lou join the band and after a few flops things begin to take off for Jeff and his crew. They get their first big break at a club run by a thug boss named Blackie (J. Carrol Naish) who doesn't feel like letting them go to a more profitable job. Blackie has his "boys" trying as hard as they can to keep Jeff, Betty Lou and the gang all playing at his nightclub and his nightclub only.
Will Jeff and the gang ever get away from Blackie? What about Betty Lou--both Jeff and Memphis want her hand in marriage; but of course she can only marry one of them. Which man will Betty Lou choose?
The cinematography and choreography work well in crowd scenes like the nightclubs and the fight scenes.
Overall, Birth Of The Blues is good but far from the best from the golden age of Hollywood--the dialogue weighs it down a bit and there are offensive references to African-Americans.
Blue Skies is a fantastic cavalcade of song and dance numbers--even if it is held together by the thinnest plot I've ever seen in any movie! The musical numbers are sublime! We get Bing Crosby and Fred Astaire singing and dancing up a storm. The plot (or action, since the plot is so thin) moves along at a good pace.
The action when Jed Potter (Fred Astaire) has his eyes on a beautiful chorus girl named Mary O'Hara (Joan Caulfield). However, Joan isn't truly all that interested in Jed--she much prefers the company the Jed's buddy Johnny Adams (Bing Crosby). The two men vie for Joan's attention and her hand in marriage; and along the way we are treated to upwards of two dozen magnificent musical numbers.
Over time, Mary and Johnny do finally wed--much to the chagrin of Jed Potter. Nevertheless, there's still one major fly in the ointment for Johnny and Mary: Johnny isn't very "stabile;" he likes to bet on the horses and he always winds up having to sell his nightclub business to pay debts and then he starts over in a new city--dragging Mary along with him. Mary tolerates this until a child is born. Now their marriage is in considerable trouble.
What happens between Mary and Johnny--will they be able to stay together or will they divorce? Even if they split up, will it be forever--or will Mary finally break down and marry Jed who still loves her after all?
Blue Skies is one movie you watch for the musical numbers. It's fantastic to see Fred Astaire dance--especially in the scene that has miniature Fred Astaires on the screen dancing behind him! Bing sings beautiful number after number.
Blue Skies is best viewed as a musical with just enough of a plot to get the musical numbers on the screen. I highly recommend this classic movie musical; and people who like Bing Crosby and Fred Astaire will never be disappointed. "
THE BEST AT THEIR BEST!
F. M. Sevekow Jr. | La Quinta, CA USA | 10/31/2003
(5 out of 5 stars)
"BLUE SKIES: Bing Crosby and Fred Astaire at their musical and "glorious technicolor" best, singing and dancing to a plethora of Irving Berlin classics. What could be better? Certainly not the insipid copycat F. Sinatra and G. Kelly MGM musicals made a few years later! The "originals" are usually better, and this is surely true in this case. Astaire's dancing to "Puttin On the Ritz" is sublime, and Bing's crooning of "All By Myself" and "You Keep Coming Back Like A Song" to Joan Caufield has, if you look closely, an added debt of feeling for a usual more stoic Bing. Why? It has recently been revealed that Bing and Joan Caufield were having an affair when the movie was made! A must for and any movie musical fan's collection.
BIRTH OF THE BLUES: Although a somewhat standard black & white movie musical typical of the late 1930s, the movie contains a bevy of standard songs and jazz numbers performed by a top notch cast. Moreover, the movie is "spiced" by a young Mary Martin. Bing and Mary's duet to "Wait Til The Sun Shines Nelly" is the highlight of the movie.
IN CONCLUSION, A GREAT AND A BONUS GOOD MOVIE FOR A LOW BARGAIN PRICE. A GREAT AND MUST BUY!"
Really blue "Blue Skies"
Vincent T. Lynch | Colorado Springs, Colorado | 08/03/2003
(4 out of 5 stars)
"I, too, was hesitant to purchase this DVD (or any in the Universal series), both due to the low price and that it's a double feature. However, the quality of both the picture and sound is superb."Blue Skies" is a wonderful movie musical. While the plot may not glue you to the screen, it's not a bad story of boy meets girl, boy wins girl, boy loses girl, and boy wins girl back again. The Irving Berlin tunes selected are top notch, and actually enhanced my appreciation of a few of the songs. "A Couple Of Song & Dance Men" is great fun with Fred Astaire and Bing Crosby, and once again demonstrates that Crosby could succeed in dance numbers, as long as you aren't expecting perfection. "Puttin' On The Ritz" really led me to respecting Astaire's dancing far more than I did when I was young. He really could out-dance Gene Kelly! Billy DeWolfe really isn't so bad, in fact he has his moments as a second banana. If you like musicals and the technicolor look, it will be difficult for you not to enjoy this film!"Birth of The Blues"...well, I'm glad it was part of a double bill and not the sole reason for the DVD. There are some mildly entertaining musical numbers and a few laughs."