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DVD: Broadway Melody of 1940, The (1940)
Review Rating:   Good  
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1 (NTSC)

April 22, 2003



Genre: Musical  
A dance team searching for success meets a New York producer, while an identity mix-up keeps the loan sharks at bay.  



Directed by:

Norman Taurog
Screenplay by: George Oppenheimer,  Leon Gordon
Music by: Cole Porter
Produced by: Jack Cummings

Fred Astaire,  Eleanor Powell,  George Murphy,  Frank Morgan,  Ian Hunter,  Florence Rice,  Lynne Carter,  Ann Morriss,  Trixie Firschke

Film Length: 102 mins
Process/Ratio: 1.33 :1
Black & White
Anamorphic DVD: No
Languages:   English (Mono), French (Mono) / English, French & Spanish Subtitles
Special Features :  


Comments :

After leaving RKO and his lengthy association with Ginger Rogers, Fred Astaire's first MGM musical teamed him with the queen of tap dancing, Eleanor Powell. Co-starring in the fourth and final “Broadway Melody” entry (after 1929, 1936, and 1938 - the last two co-starring Powell), the film benefited from the ultimate tap dance pairing, and the film's amazing musical numbers are buffered by an amiable story involving confusion, double-crossing, and a cheerful reunion at the end (because there's no true bad people in musicals, really).

Hosting “Cole Porter In Hollywood: Begin the Beguine,” Ann Miller gives a concise history of the production, enhanced by publicity stills of the rehearsals (which, under Astaire's perfectionism, pushed Powell to greater strain and refinement) and production. The film made history at the time for constructing the largest set ever for a musical - a giant palm-treed stage, with glass floors and pin-light nightscape that's still a visual feast for its clarity, the illusion of travelling stars, and the pair's dancing across a translucent floor. The only person not covered in the production is Trixie Firschke - who does a mean juggling version of “Anything You Can Do I Can Do Better” with Astaire. (You gotta see what she does with a ball, a stick, and her big mouth. This routine's ripe for a “South Park” variation.)

Using Cole Porter's “Begin the Beguine” from the failed musical “Jubilee,” the song became an extended production number, serving as the film's finale, and becoming a hit song once again. The mono sound mix is clear, showcasing a nice score arranged by Alfred Newman, in a rare loan-out from 20th Century Fox.

Along with a crisp transfer of the film, the DVD includes the film's trailer, and a lovely print of "The Big Premiere," an Our Gang short from 1940. Shunned by a beefy usher at a Hollywood premiere, Buckwheat, Darla, Spanky, Alfalfa, Waldo, and Mickey (a pee-wee Robert Blake) stage their own film premiere. A complimentary bonus, one hopes the studio will ultimately release a complete Our Gang set, so older fans can rekindle their own childhood memories, and a new generation will get a kick out from the elaborate antics by the world's most resourceful kids.

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

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