"These are some of Berkeley's post production code works. My memory fails me on the details of these films since TCM hasn't broadcast them on a regular basis for some time now. They're not quite up to the quality of Berkeley's work in the pre-code era, but I do remember them as quality musicals from the 1930's. If you enjoy musicals from that era you're sure to enjoy these. One important thing to note: This package, like the three disc Jazz Singer release from last fall, is advertised to include the two remaining excerpts from the lost 1929 film Gold Diggers of Broadway. However, the Jazz Singer did not have the "Tiptoe Through the Tulips" number, as it was advertised to have. This set should finally give us that last excerpt. The following is the press release about the set, since my memory fails me on the precise details of the films:
Gold Diggers of 1937 (1936) Dick Powell plays an insurance agent with musical ambitions while Joan Blondell is a showgirl who becomes a secretary. But the plot is secondary as dance creator Busby Berkeley turns a garden party into a tap-happy romp, and Blondell leads leggy soldiers in a banner-waving, precision-formation rendition of "All's Fair in Love and War" that's Berkeley spectacle at its showy best. Berkeley received an Academy nod for Best Dance Direction. BONUS FEATURES: 1997 documentary Busby Berkeley: Going Through the Roof Technicolor historical short The Romance of Louisiana Classic cartoons Plenty of Money and You and Speaking of the Weather Two excerpts from 1929's Gold Diggers of Broadway Theatrical trailer
Hollywood Hotel (1937) The plot about a Hollywood newcomer (Dick Powell) caught between a spoiled star (Lola Lane) and her likeable look-alike (Lola's look-alike sister Rosemary Lane) is secondary to watching Busby Berkeley's ace direction. The film opens with the jubilant debut of Tinseltown's unofficial anthem Hooray for Hollywood. The jaunty "Let That Be a Lesson to You" shows off Berkeley's mastery of editing and camera angles. Benny Goodman and his Orchestra is also featured with Harry James on trumpet and Gene Krupa on drums are in the number "Sing, Sing, Sing". BONUS FEATURES: Technicolor historical short The Romance of Robert Burns Edgar Bergen/Charlie McCarthy comedy short Double Talk Classic cartoon Porky's Five & Ten Theatrical trailer
Varsity Show (1937) Broadway impresario Chuck Daly (Dick Powell) leads cast that includes film-debuting sisters Priscilla and Rosemary Lane and fluty-voiced comic character star Sterling Holloway, in this exuberant college musical. Oscar nominated for his dance direction in this film, Berkeley creates and directs a football-themed finale featuring high-style overhead shots, kinetic camerawork and hundreds of dancers on a 50 ft. by 60 ft. staircase. BONUS FEATURES: Musical short Flowers from the Sky Edgar Bergen/Charlie McCarthy comedy short A Neckin' Party Classic cartoon Have You Got Any Castles Theatrical trailer
Gold Diggers in Paris (1938) The Gold Diggers are headed for Paris, bringing their feathers, frills, and ballet shoes. A French diplomat has mistaken 43rd Street's Club Ballé for the American Academy Ballet, and the chorus isn't going to turn down a free trip to Paris over such a tiny misunderstanding. Rudy Vallee stars as the club's impresario and Busby Berkeley creates and directs the inventive musical numbers. Bridging the musical and comedy aspects of this film is an odd little group called the Schnickelfritz band. BONUS FEATURES: Two Broadway Brevities musical shorts: The Candid Kid and Little Me Classic cartoon Love and Curses Theatrical trailer
Now if only someone would put on DVD Berkeley's other works that hardly ever get shown: "In Caliente", "Palmy Days", "Flying High", "Wonder Bar", and "The Fashions of 1934". Believe me, there is a big market for these old musicals."
Mediocre films in neat package
Douglas M | 11/11/2008
(3 out of 5 stars)
"This collection, marketed under the name of Busby Berkeley, is not one of Warner Brother's better releases. The Berkeley name may draw the unfamiliar but it is misleading since in at least one of the films, he was brought in merely to stage the finale and as a director, except for a certain visual flair with the camera boom, there was nothing really to distinguish him from any other contract director of the time. The Warner's musicals weakened when the Hays Code censorship removed their sting in 1934. All these films are post code. Berkeley lost too since many of his best numbers revolved around sex. Also the budgets were curtailed.
The first film and maybe the best is "Golddiggers of 1937", a cynical and not very likeable farce set around insurance salesmen. Berkeley regulars, Dick Powell and Joan Blondell, married at the time, are the leads and since Blondell is neither a singer nor dancer of any note, if at all, there is a hole in the accompanying musical numbers. The climax is the battle of the sexes number "All's fair in love and war" and Berkeley's penchant for precision marching and formations is prevalent and dreary.
"Hollywood Hotel" directed entirely by Berkeley, is overlong but the musical numbers, particularly the title number and "Let that be a lesson to You" have real visual flair, infectious orchestrations and the vocals tossed around the cast and extras. They bounce and jump off the screen. Benny Goodman and Francis Langford bring a touch of class and Harry James can be seen in Goodman's band. The screenplay is a reasonably entertaining spoof on stardom with Lola Lane playing a temperamental star and Alan Mowbray giving an hilarious spoof of a ham actor. There are lots of then topical references to Hollywood, Ronald Reagan is visible as a radio announcer and starlet Carole Landis has a bit as a hat check girl. Louella Parsons, the famous and lethal gossip columnist appears, grinning her role and sure determined to convince that she was a nice person, which she wasn't!
The remaining films are busy musical comedies populated by second string musical performers. Here are some points to note: * Rosemary Lane, with charm to spare, has a trained operetta voice which sounds dreadful with pop numbers * Rudy Vallee plays a very sophisticated lead in "Goldiggers in Paris" and while he is more relaxed than usual, he is no substitute for the appealing and energetic Powell. * Ted Healy, of 3 Stooges fame, has a really sleazy screen presence. He is horrible. * "Varsity Show" suffers from an edited print. The film's continuity is adversely effected and at least 2 numbers from Powell and the Lane sisters are missing. This is a giant "college" musical and the finale, a tribute to Ivy league is fantastic, maybe the best number of all in the set.
The prints of the films are in great condition and the extras contain lots of pleasant cartoons, usually attached to songs from the films, all the theatrical trailers and some shorts, most of which are awful. "Goldiggers of '37" also contains the only remaining footage from "Goldiggers of Broadway", a lost 1929 early talkie and filmed in 2 strip technicolour. The footage will be of interest if you would like to see what a Broadway finale was like in the twenties, but otherwise, it is crude and stilted. A parade of performers appear, rushing on, doing their bit (maybe a dance or acrobatics or a chorus or 2), then rush off. Some are very good but the overall affect is merely busy and all the acts are anonymous.
The set is not really expensive and it has been nicely packaged but unless you are particularly interested in the music or a catalogue of Berkeley's work, I wouldn't bother."
Busby's Lesser Known Films
Samantha Kelley | USA | 09/23/2008
(4 out of 5 stars)
"It is so nice to see that some of the rarer films of early Hollywood are being released on DVD. This set features four never before released movies with some great musical numbers and some underrated stars.
Gold Diggers of 1937 doesn't have the best plot in the world, but it makes up for what it lacks with the great musical numbers. Dick Powell stars as an insurance salesman who can't seem to sell a policy. On a train he finds himself face to face with Joan Blondell; it is love at first sight. Love does wonders for him and he soon finds a client. Victor Moore might not be a great candidate for life insurance; he isn't very young and he isn't very healthy, but he is interested in a million dollar policy.
"Speaking of the Weather" is a catchy and sweet little tune played beautifully by Powell and Blondell, by this time married and in the throes of love. There is a great tap routine in the second rendition of the song. "All is Fair in Love and War," the big finale, features a bevy of beautiful girls rocking in rocking chairs and bombing their beaus from across a largely black screen. It isn't as impressive as one might expect. The blank background seems a little too simple as the song isn't so great. Still, since Busby Berkeley had a hand in it, it comes off better than it would have without his guidance.
Also included on this DVD are two clips from the lost film Gold Diggers of Broadway, a film considered to be the first of the Gold Diggers movies. It was filmed in two strip technicolor, so it is a curiosity to early film lovers. "Tiptoe Through the Tulips" is a straightforward musical number, but the grand finale is quite impressive with a gorgeous skyscraper background and intricate dance routines. Unfortunately, not all of the film from this scene has been salvaged so for the very end we can only hear what is going on.
Gold Diggers in Paris follows the exploits of the Club Balle, which features plenty of beautiful hoofers and swinging musical acts. It is a real slice of America and a swell place to be. Maurice Giraud (Hugh Herbert) is a representative of France sent to the United States to enlist the American Ballet Company to perform at the Paris Exposition. Unfortuantely, his cab driver cannot understand his awful accent, so he takes him to Club Balle. He is none the wiser and hires the troupe, who accepts because of their desperate need for money. Off to Paris they go, but with the real (and angry) Ballet Company behind them.
A fun film filled with entertaining moments but nothing too substantial, Gold Diggers in Paris has a lesser known cast that does the job. Rudy Vallee is a wooden actor, but his voice is undeniably good. Rosemary Lane's beauty and skilled vocals make her a good match for him. Also featured are many of the Warner Brothers stock cast including Allen Jenkins and Mabel Todd who evoke a lot of laughter.
In Hollywood Hotel, Ronnie Bowers (Powell) is a saxophone player in Benny Goodman's band, but Hollywood is calling. He has just been signed to a short term trial contract there, so off he goes to a world of luxury and extravagance. He checks in at the Hollywood Hotel where the famous Mona Marshall (Lola Lane) is staying. He is even selected to escort her to a premiere, but trouble arises when Mona's temperament prevents her from attending. At the last minute, a lookalike named Virginia (Lane) steps in and no one is the wiser. Ronnie quickly falls for his date, unaware that she is simply a waitress with a beautiful voice. And is Mona mad when she finds out her doppleganger is running around town!
The story is silly and the music isn't overly memorable, but there is something about this film that is truly enjoyable. The sets are fabulous and so very art deco. The cast abounds with notable faces from gossip columnist Louella Parsons to vaudeville talent Ted Healy to big band icon Benny Goodman to fast talking Glenda Farrell. Songs like "I'm a Fish Out of Water" and "I've Hitched My Wagon to a Star" are sweet and light, just like the film. "Horray for Hollywood" is the obvious standout, a good commentary on the ways of Hollywood.
Hollywood Hotel began as a radio show. In the mid 1930s, Parsons used her influence on many top notch stars and coerced them to appear on the radio program. Powell was the master of ceremonies and all of the action took place in the Orchid Room which is also featured here. In reality, no such place existed, but Hollywood constantly got calls from tourists hoping to reserve seating there. Unfortunately, only four episodes are known to exist today and of those four only two are in circulation among collectors. This film is not an accurate representative of the radio show, but it is the closest that most people will get to it.
Varsity Show concerns college life. Winfield College is putting on their annual production, but this year their director is really bringing them down. Instead of a fun, modern show, he is forcing them to perform in a play with no laughs and outdated music. A group of kids decide to enlist the help of a former student who has made it big on the Great White Way. Chuck Daly (Dick Powell) has fallen on hard times, and his partner (Ted Healy) forces him to accept the $1000 offered him to fix the college musical. Once there, he realizes usurping the faculty will be much harder than he expected. But that suits him just fine; there is a pretty girl (Rosemary Lane) occupying his time.
Powell and Lane do not have great chemistry together so the love story is quite thin. The plot leaves something to be desired as well, but it isn't the story that makes this film enjoyable; it's the music. The romantic melody "You've Got Something There" is staged simply, but with the lovely lyrics, this is appropriate. "We're Working Our Way Through College" is done simply as well, although the moving camera makes it seem more complex than it actually is. The song is peppy and funny, the perfect college song. "Have You Got Any Castles, Baby" is a very dancable tune which was made into a Merry Melodies short included on this disk. The real showstopper of the film, though, is the grand finale which features several different school songs the formations of the college letters. This number is simultaneously impressive and timeless.
Unfortunately, this print is considerably shorter than the original film which runs for two hours. Perhaps this version of the film was too deteriorated to be considered appropriate for release. There are several spots in this film that appear to have been neglected, so the film quality is not entirely consistent. Still, it is in much better condition than some films of the early 30s, so perhaps it is best not to complain too much. After all, it could be worse; at least the film is available now for viewing. This DVD features Have You Got Any Castles, Baby?, a cute Merry Melodies short with several movie references. Unfortunately, some of these cartoons come with a warning about their "racist" content that you cannot fast forward through. Who decided it was mandatory to get a public service announcement everytime you wanted to see this toon?"
Busby Berkeley on a Budget!
Robert Badgley | London,Ontario,Canada | 09/28/2008
(4 out of 5 stars)
"I wasn't expecting the release of this set and was taken by surprise by Volume#2 of four more movies from Busbys' Warner period.These movies however are not,for the most part, the Busby we would like to remember.This is basically Busby,on a budget!The extravagance,endless money,time and the "do whatever it takes to make it work" ethic he worked with in years past, had now pretty much dried up.He was now just another director that had to bring his movie in on time and within the usual financial constrictions. Let's look at each film.And these tell the tale,in spades...in the plots and the execution. "Varsity Show"-1937 Dick Powell stars as a Broadway producer down on his luck with a string of flops.His old alma mater comes a calling asking for his help to put on a show there.Dick butts heads with the college staff and ends up leaving.The hepped up collegians follow him to New York and stage a sit-in in the last theatre Dick played out of.As each contingent of police,national guard and finally the mayor arrive to oust the students,each becomes an audience member to their show and the finale to the movie.The number is replete with reverse shots and cuts and over all nothing too memorable Berkeley wise.Dick Powell seems to just glide through this picture without his typical energy.His manager Ted Healy,as in all the pictures he is in in this set,goes around with a look on his face that suggests there is something rotten in the air.There is a talented Black act included here called Buck and Bubbles,a song and dance duo.Jack Bubbles' work dates back years and he was quite a famous dancer in Vaudeville.In fact he would teach a very young Fred Astaire some dance moves!Watch for Ed Brophy as the apoplectic theatre owner.Buster Keaton fans will remember Brophy in "The Camerman" in that dressing room sequence. Golddiggers in Paris-1938 This pic stars Rudy Vallee who runs the Bali Nightclub,which is not doing so well.Hugh Herbert is a French diplomat who comes to the States and mistakingly takes Vallees' club dancers to Paris under the impression they are the Amercian Ballet Academy.When they arrive in Paris they are eventually found out and are pursued by the authorities.There are alot more twists and turns in this picture with an ex-wife and a "killer" of a patron to the Ballet company(Ed Brophy),which make it a bit more enjoyable than most of the other entries in this box set.The musical finale is really nothing of import and is again definitely not Berkeley quality.Watch for a brief glimpse of a Black doorman who is none other than Eddie"Rochester" Anderson,who many recall as Jack Benny's lovable valet.Also a wonderful musical addition is the appearance of the novelty "Schnickelfritz Band".These five guys were the forerunners to Spike Jones and they are seen to great effect in this movie.In fact it was Vallee who saw them play and brought them out to Hollywood especially for this picture.Vallee sings very well and does some wonderful musical imitations,which he was well known for. Hollywood Hotel-1937 This movie is the one whose plot is practically non existant.Dick Powell is a sax player off to seek his fame and fortune in Hollywood.It doesn't take long before he loses his contract and is forced to get a job in a drive in.The drive in is run by none other than Edgar Kennedy,old Laurel and Hardy's nemesis in many of their films,who shows off his "slow burn" to great effect.There is a singing/staged number that occurs here"Let that be a lesson to You",that enables Powell to get re-signed to the picture studio.There is a plot twist involving the mix up of a spoiled star and her indentical lool alike,but sadly overall the story is totally uninspiring.Hugh Herbert plays the spoiled stars' befuddled(as usual for his charcater)father who goes "woo-wooing" his way throughout the picture.Sour puss Ted Healy is again there as Dicks' manager.Watch for famous gossip columnist Louella Parsons in the picture...enough said. By far the BEST thing about this picture is the appearance of the Benny Goodman Band,in its' prime.The highlights are the band playing the 2nd portion of "Sing,Sing,Sing" and a number with only the Benny Goodman quartet featuring Goodman,Krupa,Teddy Powell and Lionel Hampton.To watch frenetic Gene Krupa on the skins with trumpet wonderkind Harry James standing beside him gives one goose pimples;they are so extraordinarily good!And the quality of the transfer makes it all the more exciting. Golddiggers of 1937-1937 This by far the best of the set.The plot however is a very cynical one.In the past the term "gold digging" was usually used in a broader sense,looking for better times and circumstance.This time around it's a group of money grubing ladies out to get any guy with some kind of income they can can get,and the richer the better.Victor Moore stars as the head of a company who is a hypocondriac.His two assistants wrangle him into buying a million dollar insurance policy from a reluctant and novice Dick Powell.It's now up to Powell to keep Moore alive as long as he can(his meal ticket for an assured income) as opposed to Moores' conniving assistants who would prefer him six feet under to collect on his policy.Moore's company usually puts on an annual play but due to his assitants' bad investments they are broke,unbeknownst to him.Moore plays his befuddled character to a tee and Powell gives lots of energy to his part.In the end the show goes on due to Powell's usual diligence in these matters.And this finale is the best one in the box set and the most typical of what we think of when we think of Busby Berkeley."All's Fair in Love and War" is the big number and it's on the grand scale with all those high shots we're used to seeing.Joan Blondell(his wife in real life)is Powells' love interest here,but with not much to do. To wrap this all up,most of the musical numbers in the movies in this set could have been directed by anyone,with the exception of "Gold diggers of 1937".This is the only movie out of the four with that typical Berkeley finale flair.But you'll notice I only said "finale".In his heyday he'd have four or five big numbers in a picture,which shows the changes that had occured in a few short years within the studio,limiting what he could do.However all these films are transferred wonderfully and all have accompanying shorts and cartoons from the same year the main picture is from,which are nice to have. As I said this isn't typical classic Berkeley so don't go looking for him to any great extent here.There are some great non-Berkeley musical moments that come from other acts throughout these films as I have noted which will surprise and delight many.So even though the films themselves deserve maybe a three star rating entertainment wise,I am giving it a four star rating for what musical kicks do occur,for the transfers and for their historical importance overall."
4 DVDs in a Box; Can I Get an Insert?
Paul Bilpuch | 12/08/2009
(3 out of 5 stars)
"Real movie fans appreciate the effort put into restoration of classic films, even the lesser glowing gems. Warner Brothers was right on the mark with remastering, inclusion of classic cartoons and historical shorts. The failure of this set is that it is literally four DVDs in a box; not one liner note is present. Where are the essays, historical facts about the films, pictures? I'm sure that plenty of film critics, historians and others on the film industry have lots to sa about the era, films, songs, choreography and even teh effects of the Hayes Code on these types of musicals. Another sad example of film companies lazy way of going half-way to provide us part of their best."