50-Movie Classic Musicals, Disc 1

Fifty musicals for $15-$20. What could that mean? Clearly, you’re not going to get the spectaculars like West Side Story, Oklahoma, The Music Man for that kind of money (I’m seeing some very cost-effective collections of deluxe two-disc editions of such musicals, though—like six of them for $70 or less). As I go through these, it may be interesting to see how “musical” is defined—it can be a picture about music or musicians (real or fictional) so that lots of music gets included, a picture with a regular plot that has lots of music (well-integrated into the plot or otherwise), a musical revue on film—and maybe other things. This set has four or five duplications with other 50-movie packs I’ve reviewed, but at least three of the four I’m sure of are quite good movies, so that’s OK.

As an amusement, I note that Mill Creek Entertainment follows the erratic spelling of what these movies appear on: the incorrect “Disk” on the sleeves, the correct “Disc” on the discs themselves. As with all the 50-movie packs, assume VHS-level transfers, frequently from mildly-damaged originals, with no special features and (always) four scene divisions per title (most packs now have intelligent scene breaks, not just an arbitrary quarter of the length). If there are enough missing frames to reduce the run length by more than a minute from what appears in IMDB, I give the actual DVD run time in [square brackets]. The dollar rating at the end of each mini-review is fairly forgiving and ranges from $0 to $2.50, although anything over $2 is rare. A buck or more means I think the movie is worth watching on the whole and might conceivably watch it again; $1.50 or more means I think the movie would be worth buying as a bargain DVD on its own.

Disc 1

The Fabulous Dorseys, 1947, b&w, Alfred E. Green (dir.), Tommy and Jimmy Dorsey, Janet Blair, Paul Whiteman, Bob Eberly, Helen O’Connell, Art Tatum, William Lundigan. 1:28.

The Dorseys aren’t much as actors, and the plot may be realistic but still comes off a bit hokey—but it doesn’t really matter. Great music by great musicians, including a first-rate jam session with Art Tatum. Pretty decent print quality, and the sound track’s more than good enough. Worth watching just for the musical numbers. $1.50.

Calendar Girl, 1947, b&w, Allan Dwan (dir.), Jane Frazee, William Marshall, Gail Patrick, Kenny Baker, Victor McLaglen, Franklin Pangborn. 1:28 [1:20]

Cute plot, good musical numbers, but the sound’s badly damaged in portions and the picture’s pretty frayed as well. I’d give this $1.25 in a decent transfer, but can’t go higher than $0.75 under the circumstances.

Sunny, 1941, b&w, Herbert Wilcox (dir.), Anna Neagle, Ray Bolger, John Carroll, Edward Everett Horton, Grace Hartman, PLaul Hartman, Martha Tilton. 1:38 [1:35].

This one also suffers from a badly damaged print, but it’s a thoroughly enjoyable flick nonetheless—this time with a plot that actually drives the movie. Sunny Sullivan’s a circus performer (singer, horseback rider) who meets up with the wealthy scion of an automaker during Mardi Gras in New Orleans. They get engaged. The circus friends (Ray Bolger and crew) show up at the wedding and she runs away with them—but of course love conquers all: It’s a musical! Even with the damage, this one’s worth $1.25.

Swing Hostess, 1944, b&w, Sam Newfield (dir.), Martha Tilton, Iris Adrian, Charles Collins, Betty Brodel, Cliff Nazarro, Harry Holman. 1:16.

Martha Tilton was a vocalist for Benny Goodman and is absolutely first rate as a singer, and more than good enough as an actress. As with Calendar Girl, this one’s partly set in a “struggling artist” apartment house—this time with lots of novelty acts (magician, acrobats). The plot hinges on a situation that could only have happened during a few years: The master disks on which records are directly cut are so expensive that a recording studio head (and masher) insists on using the rest of a disk that Tilton’s already cut a demo on—and her half gets released as though by the (awful-sounding) girl the head brings in. Hijinks ensue (this is most definitely a comedy), and of course it all works out. The most interesting part here: “Telephone jukeboxes” in restaurants, where you put in a coin, pick up a phone, and tell the operator what tune you want, at which point she plays the disc on one of several turntables at the central station. I can only assume this actually happened. Not great, but quite good. $1.25.

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