50 Movie Pack Classic Musicals, Disc 8

A quick note about some IMDB reviews, particularly of the second and third movies: I don’t know how to write down a razzberry, but that and some unprintable language constitute my comment. And calling Hi-De-Ho a “race film,” while possibly accurate in terms of original distribution, says more about the commenter than about the first-rate universal talent of Cab Calloway and his band.

Till the Clouds Roll By, 1946, Color, Richard Whorf (dir.), June Allyson, Judy Garland, Van Heflin, Lena Horne, Van Johnson, Dinah Shore, Frank Sinatra, Gower Champion, Cyd Charisse, Angela Lansbury. 2:15

[Note: This movie was also in Family Classics Movie Pack. I did not re-review it except to check for picture and sound quality. This is the review from the early viewing, unchanged except to change “$4” to “$2” in light of changing DVD prices.] Astonishingly, MGM failed to renew copyright on this biopic of Jerome Kern, so it’s in the public domain. The bio part is so-so, but the musical numbers are great and the print nearly flawless. The picture is good enough that I tried it on our big TV to verify quality, which turns out to be VHS quality: Soft for a DVD, and the Pause key shows the difference, but still remarkable for the price. And what a lineup of stars, all singing Jerome Kern’s music. $2, easy.

All-American Co-Ed, 1941, b&w, LeRoy Prinz (dir.), Frances Langford, Johnny Downs, Marjorie Woodworth, Noah Beery Jr., Harry Langdon, Alan Hale Jr. 0:53 [0:48].

It’s short for a feature but it’s a charming musical comedy beginning with a drag song-and-dance number (with frat boys from “Quinceton”) and continuing through a simple but well-done plot with enough humor and plenty of music. The print is excellent. Nominated for two Oscars. It’s a Hal Roach film, and I think it’s a keeper. $2.

Hi-de-Ho, 1947, b&w, Josh Binney (dir.), Cab Calloway, Ida James, Jeni Le Gon, the Millers. 1:12 [1:03].

Let’s get the bad parts out of the way first. The plot is minor at best. The acting in the plot portion of the movie isn’t wonderful. One song that does not appear is Minnie the Moocher (but there’s one heck of a Saint James Infirmary). The print, while very good, is not entirely flawless (and apparently missing nine minutes). Then there’s the good news: The plot doesn’t matter, since the bulk of the movie is head-on numbers by Cab Calloway and his remarkable band—although the band isn’t as remarkable as Calloway himself. There are a few other numbers (great tapdancing by the Millers, one or two songs by an unremarkable trio), but mostly there’s a lot of Cab Calloway, and I can’t see asking for much more. What an entertainer! Singing, moving, getting down, scatting… One good Cab Calloway number is worth a quarter extra in almost any film—as with Nat King Cole, Lionel Hampton and Count Basie. A film that’s almost entirely Cab Calloway and band—well, I’m torn between $2 and $2.25. (Hey, with Minnie the Moocher it might get the maximum $2.50.)

Breakfast in Hollywood, 1946, b&w, Harold D. Schuster (dir.), Tom Breneman, Bonita Granville, Billie Burke, Ray Walburn, Zasu Pitts, Hedda Hopper, Spike Jones, Nat ‘King’ Cole. 1:30 [1:27].

The weakest flick on this disc, but that says more about the strength of the first three. “Breakfast in Hollywood” was Tom Breneman’s radio show at his Hollywood restaurant; portions of a supposed episode of the show (and dinnertime entertainment at the restaurant) form the heart of the movie and pretty much all the music. The main plot involves a girl out from Minneapolis on a bus to meet her fiancé, just out of the armed forces—but he’s not there and she runs into another just-released kid at the show, from the same city. Turns out her fiancé got married. The kid falls head over heels for her. She leaves to go back home. Breneman gets involved. There are secondary plots involving Hedda Hopper’s silly hats and a woman who really wants to have the oddest hat at the show because Breneman tries one on and kisses the woman wearing it. There’s more, of course. Well played. Spike Jones, Nat ‘King’ Cole, and some vocalist each get two numbers; it’s great to see Spike Jones in action, and one of Cole’s numbers is an absolutely first-rate blues piece. The negatives: The print’s not in great shape, with damage to the picture and sometimes the sound. Even with damage, this comes in at $1.50.

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