This is the second volume of MGM Dream Factory musicals. Only "That's Dancing" and "Royal Wedding" are on DVD already, and those are generally poor public domain copies. The other five features have only been on VHS up to now. I'd put all of these movies except "Belle of New York" at between four and five stars if you are a fan of the MGM musicals of the 40's and 50's. "Belle of New York" I'd put at between three and four stars mainly because the campiness of the entire production gets in the way most of the time. Considering you expect some gimmicks in MGM musicals of this era, that is saying a lot. The extra features, which I got from a press release from Warner Home Video, do look good. This package probably rates 4.5 stars taken as a whole, and I round it up to five. The following are brief descriptions of the films and the special features for each one.
The Pirate (1948) Starring Gene Kelly and Judy Garland. Features music by Cole Porter. A swashbuckling tale is largely just a framework for the music and dancing, which is excellent. Judy Garland plays a girl obsessed with a legendary pirate. Gene Kelly pretends to be that pirate in order to get the girl. This film actually lost money for MGM in its initial release. Today it is interesting because it showcases the talents of Gene Kelly and Judy Garland so well.
Commentary by historian John Fricke
New featurette The Pirate: A Musical Treasure Chest
Oscar-nominated Pete Smith Specialty 1948 MGM comedy short You Can't Win
1947 MGM classic cartoon Cat Fishing
Mack the Black stereo remix version
Audio-outtakes: Love of My Life and Mack the Black
Roger Edens' guide tracks of Be a Clown, Manuela, Nina, and You Can Do No Wrong
Promotional radio interviews with Gene Kelly for On the Town and Judy Garland for The Pirate
That's Dancing! (1985) is a documentary along the same lines as "That's Entertainment" narrated by Gene Kelly along with co-hosts Ray Bolger, Sammy Davis Jr., Mikhail Baryshnikov and Liza Minnelli. The clips of dancing in motion pictures from the 30's to the 80's are very good, but the presentation was lacking somewhat. The narration seems deadpan, and when the narration cuts into the actual dancing numbers it is distracting more than informative.
Introduction by Gene Kelly and Jack Haley, Jr.
Invitation to Dance
The Cameras Roll
Words and Music (1948) features lots of stars as themselves performing to the music of Rodgers and Hart. This is a totally fictional account of the lives and careers of Rodgers and Hart. In 1948 the true story would have never made it past the censors, but then the commentary is supposed to clear all of that up.
Commentary by historian Richard Barrios focusing on Rodgers and Hart
New featurette A Life in Words and Music
Oscar-nominated Theatre of Life 1948 MGM short Going to Blazes!
1948 MGM classic cartoon The Cat That Hated People
Lover and You're Nearer Outtakes featuring Perry Como
Audio-only bonuses: Outtakes of Falling in Love with Love, I Feel at Home with You, Manhattan (alternate version), My Funny Valentine, My Heart Stood Still, On Your Toes (alternate version) and Way Out West on West End Avenue
That Midnight Kiss (1949) Starring Kathryn Grayson and Mario Lanza. This is another MGM musical with a great supporting cast that largely exists for the sake of the music, not the plot. There are some great operatic performances by Lanza who is starring in what turns out to be a pseudo-autobiography.
Pete Smith Specialty 1949 MGM comedy short Sports Oddities
1949 MGM classic cartoon Droopy
One Love of Mine outtake sequence with Lanza and Grayson
Toast Of New Orleans (1950) Starring Kathryn Grayson and Mario Lanza. This time Lanza is a fisherman when his talent as a singer is discovered, and he and Grayson are in New Orleans, thus the title. This is a light breezy film with touches of comedy, delivered somewhat surprisingly by Lanza.
2006 BBC documentary on Mario Lanza
Vintage Fitzpatrick Traveltalk 1940 MGM shorts Modern New Orleans and Old New Orleans
Royal Wedding (1951) Starring Fred Astaire and Jane Powell. My favorite film of the group. A brother and sister act perform in England at the time of then Princess Elizabeth's wedding. They both fall in love, thus breaking up the act. This has Astaire's famous performance in which he dances on the walls and ceiling of his London hotel room.
Private Screenings with Stanley Donen [2006 TCM special]
Royal Wedding: June, Judy and Jane-A New Featurette
Car of Tomorrow 1951 MGM cartoon
Droopy's Double Trouble 1951 MGM cartoon
Every Night at Seven outtake with Peter Lawford and Jane Powell
Fred Astaire and Jane Powell MGM Promotional Radio Interview for Royal Wedding [audio only]
The Belle of New York (1952) Starring Fred Astaire and Vera-Ellen. This is actually a disappointing film considering Astaire is in it. Although Astaire dances more in this film than in most of the others he made, it is just hard to get past the campiness of it all - literally dancing on air, dancing on a horse's back, etc. There is some great music from Harry Warren and Johnny Mercer, though.
Musiquiz 1952 MGM Pete Smithshort
Magical Maestro 1952 MGM Tex Avery cartoon
I Wanna Be a Dancin' Man-Unused alternate take