In Boys Town (1938), Spencer Tracy won an Oscar for his portrayal of Father Flanagan, who dedicates himself to helping juvenile delinquents go straight. Mickey Rooney plays one of the tougher kids, figuring out early on th... more »at Flanagan is nobody's fool. Warmhearted and inspiring, the film's inevitable sentimentality is nicely cut by Tracy's performance and a smart script by Eleanore Griffin and Dore Schary (who also won Oscars). A good film for all ages, directed by Norman Taurog (Adventures of Tom Sawyer). Also included is the minor sequel, Men of Boys Town (1941), also starring Tracy and Rooney. The 1938 MGM version of the Dickens classic A Christmas Carol is not the most rewarding of the various adaptations (that honor goes to Biran Desmond Hurst's 1951 film, starring Alistair Sim), but it has a strong if narrow performance by Reginald Owen as the miser Ebenezer Scrooge. Directed by Edward L. Marin, the movie is stiffer and less imaginative than it ought to be, but there are some compensations in the supporting cast, including Leo G. Carroll, and the film debut of little June Lockhart. Christmas in Connecticut is a holiday film that plays 365 days of the year. Barbara Stanwyck gives a brilliant, sardonic performance as Elizabeth Lane, a columnist for Smart Housekeeping magazine, whose enticing descriptions of the exquisite meals she prepares for her husband and baby on their bucolic Connecticut farm earns her fame as "America's Best Cook." A writer, she is; a cook, she is not. As she types the words, "From my living room window, as I write, the good cedar logs cracking on the fire..." the view is of clothes flapping on the line outside her bachelorette Manhattan apartment. Cut to Jefferson Jones, a sailor adrift at sea for weeks after his destroyer is torpedoed. After his rescue, a marriage-minded nurse thinks she might nudge Jones to the altar if he could only be included in America's ultimate Christmas--the one to be held at the Lane family farm in Connecticut. Now, all Lane has to do is come up with a farm. And a husband. And let's not forget the baby. Christmas in Connecticut is classic screwball entertainment of the best kind, with its on-target skewering of social convention and house-of-cards-about-to-tumble tension: a perfect farcical vision of domestic blitz.« less
Schuyler V. Johnson | Lake Worth, FL USA | 11/23/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"To have these three classics for this low price is fantastic. One film is the 1938 version of the classic Christmas Carol this one starring Reginald Owen as a very respectable Scrooge. If you can refrain from comparing him to Alastair Sim, you will be better able to enjoy another interpretation of Scrooge, and it is a fine one. Owen is truly miserly and wretched, as befits Scrooge, and very believable. The overall production is wonderful, the only drawback was the casting of Terry Kilburn as Tiny Tim...WAY over the top, to the point where he is annoying. But all in all, a great version, and Ann Rutherford as the Ghost of Christmas Past is fascinating. Christmas in Connecticut is very satisfying; a real new England Christmas, with Barbara Stanwyck in one of her lighter roles. This is enjoyable for those who are alone over the Holidays and a great film to watch with family for those who will have a traditional Holiday, with family and friends. I saved the best for last...Boys Town. This is absolutely one of my all-time favorites, with Mickey Rooney in one of his definitve, cocky wise-guy roles. No one could touch a Mickey Rooney performance in this type of role; he cornered the brash market...as he proves in this movie. It is a real treat to watch him interact with Spencer Tracy, THE finest actor Hollywood has ever produced, IMO. He has dignity, he commands respect simply by virtue of his own quiet, firm presence. The other boys were great complements to the production; all very natural, and Bobs Watson particularly heart-breaking in his role; what a great actor he was! (If you can find a copy, see him with Cedric Hardwicke and Lionel Barrymore in "On Borrowed Time", a REAL tear-jerker.) I wish I could have been on the set of this one! They must have had a ball. When I saw it, as a child, I thought it was a movie, therefore fantasy, and not real; when I found out that Father Flanagan was indeed real, as was Boys Town, it gave the movie even more of a dimension and interest. His tenet, "There is no such thing as a bad boy", is touching in its simplicity and pure, simple faith. Father Flanagan's secret for success with even the most recalcitrant youth was this faith and his refusal to accept any boy's lack of self-esteem or belief in himself; with FF ALL things were possible. When Spencer Tracy was voted best Actor at the Academy Awards that year, he became the first actor to win the award two years in a row...the first was for his part as Manuel, in "Captains Courageous." Being the gracious, wonderful man he was, he accepted his award with extreme humility, and gave it to Father Flanagan, whom he highlighted in his acceptance speech. This movie has drama, excitement and some very funny moments and shows the amazing versatility of a very young Mickey Rooney. A truly great buy."
Great Holiday Films, Great Extras
MusicFilm Fan | Wash., DC | 12/22/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"The Classic Holiday Collection is a great one - "Boys Town," "A Christmas Carol," and, especially, the excellent "Christmas In Connecticut" are all movies that you can enjoy year after year.
I just wish they had also included "The Man Who Came To Dinner" (Bette Davis, Monty Wooley, Ann Sheridan) and "Holiday Affair" (Janet Leigh, Robert Mitchum), two other beloved holiday films that Warners owns. Throw in the great "Love Finds Andy Hardy," which has a holiday setting and is already out on DVD, and maybe a disc of Christmas cartoons, and Warners could issue a second holiday collection. (Please do!)
"Christmas In Connecticut" has been a favorite holiday movie of mine since the early `80s, when I caught it by chance for the first time on a local station while relaxing during a holiday visit to my parents' house. Although my mom, brother, and I hadn't really planned to watch a whole movie right then, we all stayed with this great movie until the end, and really enjoyed it. The wry humor, the great actors (Barbara Stanwyck, Sydney Greenstreet, S.Z. Sakall, Dennis Morgan, Reginald Gardner, Una O'Connor), and the warm country setting make it a movie you'll want to see over and over. Since that first viewing almost 25 years ago, I probably haven't missed seeing it during the holiday season. I've been waiting for this to appear on DVD, and am glad it's finally here!
"Boys Town" stars two of the greatest actors of the golden era of Hollywood, Mickey Rooney and Spencer Tracy, and their parts in this movie are among their best roles. "Boys Town" doesn't have quite as close a connection to Christmas as the other two titles in this collection (there's one scene set on the holiday), but this true story of a priest who builds a boarding school for troubled youth is one that will warm your heart. Tracy plays Father Flanagan, a kind, socially conscious priest who can be tough when he needs to be, and Mickey Rooney displays his wide-ranging acting talent (from tough talk to tears) as one of the neglected boys whom Flanagan sets on the right path.
The 1938 version of "A Christmas Carol" is full of colorful renderings (even though it's in black-and-white) of very familiar Dickens characters, Scrooge, Bob Cratchit, and Tiny Tim among them. Reginald Owen does a good job as Scrooge - showing both his stingy ill-humor and his awakening as a human being -- although one wonders how much better the movie might have been if Lionel Barrymore had reprised his regular radio role as Scrooge here. (This was apparently the original intention of MGM, but Barrymore had health problems that prevented this participation. And he eventually played his own version of Scrooge in "It's a Wonderful Life," of course.) Well-known character actor Gene Lockhart is a bit more portly as Bob Cratchit than I had imagined that character, but he does his usual great job of portraying the downtrodden Cratchit who maintains a good humor while enduring Scrooge's abuse. Lockhart's real-life wife and kids, including young June Lockhart, are featured as other members of the Cratchit family, with the exception of Tiny Tim, who is played by Terry Kilburn. Kilburn is a bit too cute for my taste, but I have to admit that Dickens seems to have intended Tim to be cute. Ann Rutherford, often seen as Andy Hardy's girlfriend Polly Benedict, does a fine job as the ghost of Christmas past (although the blonde hair gives her a very different look). Others have pointed out that MGM cut and changed the story a good bit, but if you can overlook that, this is a nice, brisk telling of a great tale.
The extras on these discs are outstanding, although perhaps not as numerous as those for some modern movies. All include the movie trailers; the "Christmas Carol" trailer is especially interesting, because Lionel Barrymore appears to tout his friend Reginald Owen as Scrooge, apparently to help audiences get over their disappointment that Barrymore himself wasn't playing the role himself after appearing in it famously on radio.
The "Christmas In Connecticut" disc includes the outstanding Oscar-winning short film "Star In The Night," which brings the Nativity story to a 1940s diner/motel in the desert. Within a compelling re-telling of that old story, this film helps the viewer understand how the spirit of Christmas applies in the modern era - easily one of the best short films I've ever seen.
The "Christmas Carol" disc includes "Jackie Cooper's Christmas Party," in which the child star ("The Champ," "Treasure Island") hosts a party for his friends on an MGM soundstage, with Clark Gable, Marie Dressler, Wallace Beery, and other stars serving dinner for the kids. (Look for a very amusing Santa Claus played by - well, I won't ruin the surprise.) The disc also has a short film of young Judy Garland singing "Silent Night" with a choir, and the Oscar-nominated cartoon "Peace on Earth" (1939), which laments man's self-destructive warring instinct (and which was remade in the 50s as "Good Will To Men" - both with a message that's still directly relevant).
"Boys Town" is accompanied by its own less-famous sequel, "Men Of Boys Town," so you're getting two features on one disc. You also get a featurette about the real Boys Town (which still exists and has expanded beyond its original Nebraska location), as well as a 1939 radio program promoting the movie with Tracy and Rooney.
The Classic Holiday Collection, as its name suggests, is one that will please anyone who loves classic movies or the holiday season. To follow up on this Christmas gift to us, Warners should put out a second volume with some of its other holiday classics! "
Glad to see this collection!
M. Feucht | Waverly, Ohio | 11/19/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I was so glad to see a box set with the best (as far as I'm concerned) version of "A Christmas Carol" and the all time favorite "Christmas in Connecticut" on DVD. Plus they added "Boys Town" for a third movie. What a deal. I hope more like this comes available soon."
SKIPPING "IT'S A WONDERFUL LIFE" THIS YEAR? TRY THIS
Robin Simmons | Palm Springs area, CA United States | 09/19/2006
(3 out of 5 stars)
"Skip "It's A Wonderful Life" this year. Dare to break that ubiquitous quasi-religious American ritual and consider the Classic Holiday Collection.