A musical remake of "The Philadelphia Story," Cole Porter was convinced to write original songs that are among his most memorable works. "True Love," crooned by Bing Crosby and Grace Kelly, became a popular single, and the teaming of Frank Sinatra and Bing Crosby in "Well, Did You Evah" joined two generations of popular singers in a witty, clever duet.
Remastered in Dolby 5.1, the songs and score are discreetly channeled, with good bass and vocal clarity, and the large swathes of turquoise and off-white colours glow in Warner Bros' clean transfer. The DVD also restores the film's Overture - usually clipped on old TV prints - and includes an installment of "Cole Porter In Hollywood: True Love."
Hosted by Celeste Holme - the only surviving member of the A-list cast - the brief featurette covers the production history, offers some background on key songs, and the film's footnote as Grace Kelly's cinematic swan song. Filmed on a tight schedule, Kelly's final feature film role was scheduled to end in time for her new role as the Princess of Monaco. There's a bittersweet nostalgia for the young men who saw the film upon its release (including my dad), and a curious career closure for Kelly, who earned respect from her critics (and an Oscar for Best Actress) two years earlier in "The Country Girl," as the wife of a washed up singer vying for a comeback, played by co-star Bing Crosby.
Including trailers for "High Society" and "The Philadelphia Story," the luxury life is also represented by an original Droopy cartoon (in CinemaScope) - "Millionaire Droopy" - where the evanescently-challenged mutt outwits a greedy bulldog after being appointed the prime beneficiary of a million dollar estate. The colours are a bit dark and print quality fine, and fans should enjoy the politically incorrect antics of dogs, dynamite, and murderous mayhem.
Finishing off the disc is a rare glimpse into the marketing of a soundtrack album and released singles. The norm of the day included pre-recording answers from the star artists, and shipping the recorded material, often on LP, with the single. The local DJ could then flip between reading prepared questions, Bing Crosby's answers on each song (impressions, working with, genius of Cole Porter, Grace Kelly's talent), and playing the song before the next round. Now rare collectors items, Warner Bros has included the raw responses from Bing Crosby on the DVD (from master session tapes), with a few brief responses from Grace Kelly (recorded separately), and a brief promo speech from Crosby and Sinatra (from a transcription disc). The whole set runs 19 minutes, and is a gem. (Incidentally, fans of such archival goodies will find a more formally edited Q&A session with Fred Astaire on the CD "Steppin' Out," recorded in 1952, after appearing in MGM's "The Band Wagon.")
This Warner Bros title is available separately or as part of a five-disc “Classic Musicals Collection – The Cole Porter Gift Set” which includes "Broadway Melody of 1940," "High Society," "Kiss Me Kate," "Les Girls," and "Silk Stockings."
© 2003 Mark R. Hasan