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Stephen H. Wood
- Published on Amazon.com
BROADWAY TO HOLLYWOOD is Warner Home Video's blanket title for five of the splashiest and most tuneful color MGM musicals ever made: THE BANDWAGON, EASTER PARADE, BRIGADOON, BELLS ARE RINGING, and FINIAN'S RAINBOW.
Two of these are sleeper gems. Vincente Minnelli's BRIGADOON (1954), with an army of musical numbers by Lerner and Loewe, has travelers Gene Kelly and Van Johnson coming upon a Scottish village that can only be seen once every hundred years; Cyd Charisse is the lovely leading lady. The movie has been criticized for its sound stage re-creation of a Scottish village, but that is a plus for me. Along with CinemaScope, one gets the feel for what this show was like on Broadway. A dozen songs, choreographed by Kelly, include "The Heather on the Hill" and "It's Almost Like Being in Love." BRIGADOON is a lovely movie, with remastered color and sound. Bonuses include three outtake musical numbers and several original theatrical trailers.
Francis Ford Coppola does brand-new audio commentary on his own fabulous FINIAN'S RAINBOW (1968), in Technicolor and letterboxed Panavision. Again, we are mostly on a soundstage, with Fred Astaire and Tommy Steele as leprechauns and Petula Clark at her loveliest as Astaire's daughter. This E.Y. Harburg-Fred Saidy-Burton Lane musical has songs I cannot get out of my head weeks later, including "Look to the Rainbow,""That Old Devil Moon," "How Are Things In Glocca Mora?" and Steele's show-stopper: "If I'm Not With the Girl I Love, I'll Love the Girl I Am With." The movie is glorious and very underrated, from a late 1960's era of underrated movie musicals, including STAR! and HELLO, DOLLY!
BELLS ARE RINGING.(1960), with Vincente Minnelli directing a delightful Betty Comden-Adolph Green screenplay, with Jule Styne music, is a great musical vehicle for wonderful Judy Holliday, re-creating a Tony winning stage role. She is a switchboard operator named Melasande at Susanswerphone in a lower-depths part of Manhattan. She is not supposed to get personally involved with the clients, but as "Mom" falls in love with songwriter Dean Martin. She also does not know that bookie Eddie Foy, Jr. is using the answering service as a gambling front. Terrific songs here include the legendary "Just in Time" and "The Party's Over". DVD bonuses, in addition to remastered color and sound, include outtake musical numbers and a filmmaking documentary. You also get to see a CinemaScope movie at its right aspect ratio.
The two crown jewels of the BROADWAY TO HOLLYWOOD set are double disks of Charles Walters' EASTER PARADE (1948) and Vincente Minnelli's THE BANDWAGON (1953). Both have magnificently remastered sound and picture to look and sound brand new. EASTER PARADE has about fifteen old and new Irving Berlin songs, performed by the incomparable Fred Astaire and Judy Garland. Its magnificent bonuses include the finest Garland documentary, two full hours from PBS, that I have ever seen; a filmmaking documentary; and audio commentary by Astaire's daughter Ava and Garland biographer John Fricke. This is an all-time favorite musical of mine, and I have never enjoyed it more.
Last and probably best (which is saying a lot!) is THE BANDWAGON (1953), which several movie musical experts feel is the best movie musical of all time. It is certainly one of the most sophisticated and stylish color ones, with a wonderful Oscar-nominated Comden and Green screenplay about putting on a Broadway show. Astaire stars this time with lovely Cyd Charisse, never better than in "Dancing in the Dark." Other hit songs include "By Myself," "Shine on My Shoes." "Triplets," "Louisiana Hayride," the gorgeously-designed Mickey Spillane climax, and "That's Entertainment!" Comden and Green have a delightful time spoofing themselves as the Nanette Fabray and Oscar Levant characters. The biggest bonus here is audio commentary by a very happy and friendly Liza Minnelli and Michael Feinstein, along with a filmmaking documentary and an hour-long "Men Who Made the Movies" documentary on Vincente Minnelli.
If you'd like to own this DVD boxed set, BROADWAY TO HOLLYWOOD, it retails for about $60, but sells from Amazon for about $45, less than an orchestra ticket for a downtown San Francisco stage show. Happy viewing!