In its heyday, MGM made musicals just about better than anyone else, and produced the most fondly remembered ones of the era.
The latest collection of these bundled into a boxed set is "Classic Musicals from the Dream Factory: Volume 3," which takes in MGM musicals from 1936 to 1955.
Though much of MGM's musical patrimony has already been issued in DVD -- including two bulging precursors to the current title -- they're far from hitting rock bottom, and four of these showcase the peerless tap dancer Eleanor Powell.
As usual with Warner Home Video releases, each disc is supplemented by cartoons, short subjects, and in a few cases outtakes of musical numbers.
The prints of both color and black-and-white films are dazzling, and a bit of mildly suggestive dancing aside, these all make good family viewing. None have been rated by the Motion Picture Association of America.
Born to Dance (1936)
Bouncy musical comedy in which a sailor (James Stewart) on shore leave in New York falls for the understudy (Powell) of a Broadway star. Directed by Roy Del Ruth, the comic situations are good, the Cole Porter songs are better, and Powell's dance routines are real showstoppers. Romantic complications. A-I -- general patronage.
Broadway Melody of 1936 (1935)
Backstage musical comedy in which a gossip columnist (Jack Benny) tricks a rattled producer (Robert Taylor) into hiring a talented newcomer (Powell). Directed by Del Ruth, the dim story line is brightened by some comic foils, catchy songs, and an assortment of production numbers. Romantic complications and innuendo. A-II -- adults and adolescents.
Broadway Melody of 1938 (1937)
Powell stars here as a horse trainer posing as a Parisian star, joined by future senator George Murphy and young Judy Garland, who plaintively warbled her star-making "Dear Mr. Gable" to a photograph of Clark Gable. Directed by Del Ruth. Some of Garland's audio outtakes are featured in the bonus material, along with a contemporaneous radio program. A-I -- general patronage.
Deep in My Heart (1954)
Overblown, dramatically sluggish biopic about operetta composer Sigmund Romberg (Jose Ferrer), but has some excellent musical numbers featuring such stars as Ann Miller, Gene Kelly, Jane Powell, Cyd Charisse and many more. Merle Oberon and opera legend Helen Traubel co-star. Directed by Stanley Donen. Cited originally for a "suggestive sequence" (Miller's dance number, no doubt). A-III ľadults
Hit the Deck (1954)
Bland but colorful widescreen update of a 1920s Vincent Youmens' tuneful musical about sailors on leave and their romantic entanglements. Tony Martin, Jane Powell, Debbie Reynolds, Vic Damone and Ann Miller (whose "suggestive dancing" again raised comment from this office back then) head the cast. Directed by Roy Rowland. A-III -- adults.
Lavish Broadway musical about a cunning thief (Howard Keel) who outwits Baghdad's wicked vizier (Sebastian Cabot) and wins the affection of one of the vizier's bored wives (Dolores Gray), while the love-smitten caliph (Vic Damone) woos the thief's daughter (Ann Blyth). Directed by Vincente Minnelli, the plot is largely inert, leaving viewers to be entertained by the settings and Alexander Borodin's haunting themes ("Stranger in Paradise"). Some sexual innuendo and suggestive dancing. Extras include an expanded musical number. A-II -- adults and adolescents.
Lady Be Good (1941)
Eleanor Powell plays matchmaker to two struggling songwriters (Robert Young and Ann Sothern), loosely adapted from a Gershwin stage musical. The film features an Oscar-winning song, Jerome Kern's "The Last Time I Saw Paris." Co-starring Red Skelton and Dan Dailey. Contains an audio-only outtake. Directed by Norman Z. McLeod. A-II -- adults and adolescents.
Nancy Goes to Rio (1950)
Pleasant musical in which an aspiring actress (Powell) and her mother (Ann Sothern) go after the same stage role, amid romantic complications. Carmen Miranda and Barry Sullivan co-star. Directed by Robert Z. Leonard. Includes an interview with Powell by TCM-cable-channel movie-host Robert Osborne. A-II -- adults and adolescents.
Two Weeks With Love (1950)
Very appealing and tuneful period musical -- circa 1900s -- in which Jane Powell tries to catch Latin heartthrob Ricardo Montalban, while Reynolds (and co-star Carleton Carpenter) perform the catchy "Aba Daba Honeymoon." Directed by Rowland. A-I -- general patronage.
These movies have been evaluated for artistic merit and moral suitability by the media reviewing division of Catholic News Service. The reviews include the CNS rating, the Motion Picture Association of America rating, and a brief synopsis of the movie.
The classifications are as follows:
A-I -- general patronage;
A-II -- adults and adolescents;
A-III -- adults;
L -- limited adult audience, films whose problematic content many adults would find troubling. L replaces the previous classification, A-IV.
O -- morally offensive.
Note: Some movies previously were designated A-IV. Older films with this classification should be regarded as classified L.