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Icons of Screwball Comedy Volume 2 (Multi Feature) [Import]
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Crazy situations, fast and sophisticated dialogue, and conflict arising from the roles of men and women in modern society? these are the essential elements of the Screwball Comedy. The Awful Truth, Twentieth Century, Holiday, His Girl Friday and The More the Merrier are prime examples of what would become a hallmark for Columbia Screwball Comedies. With superb production values, top directors (Capra, Hawks, Cukor, Stevens) and major stars, these classic films are some of the best known screwballs. For the second volume of Columbia's Screw Ball Comedies form the '30s and '40s, we return to the vaults to rediscover more classics of the beloved genre featuring two of its most glamorous leading ladies. The Legendary Irene Dunne plays a small-town author whose racy bestsellers, written under a pseudonym, bring her notoriety when a New Yorker (Melvyn Douglas) discovers her secret, in THEODORA GOES WILD. In TOGETHER AGAIN, Dunne plays the mayor's widow who falls for a sculptor (Charles Boyer)
The vaults of Columbia Pictures provide four screwball titles from the silly era, a package evenly split between two sylphlike stars, Irene Dunne and Loretta Young. Dunne gloriously shines in Theodora Goes Wild, a 1936 classic that changed her image from a serious actress to a skilled comedian. She plays Theodora, the author of a slightly racy novel--but she keeps her authorship secret for fear of scandalizing her neighbors, whose small town is the subject of the book. Enter smoothie Melvyn Douglas and a serving of cocktails, and Theodora's staid personality loosens up. Richard Boleslawki's spritzy film depends on Dunne's delightful touch with line readings, a touch that would blossom so memorably in The Awful Truth a year later. Alas, Together Again (1944) is a much less successful vehicle for the actress, reunited here with her Love Affair costar Charles Boyer. Dunne's a small-town mayor, Boyer's a sculptor, the screwball situations are busy--but the whole thing comes across like day-old champagne.
The Doctor Takes a Wife (1940) is a likable outing: Loretta Young is a bestselling author of an advice book for unmarried ladies--which makes it difficult to explain her sudden marriage to a physician (Ray Milland) she just met. The explanation is one of those screwball contrivances--it'll spare a scandal, for starters--required for the plot to work. And, largely because of the deft playing of Young and Milland, it does work. The 1942 A Night to Remember sounds like more fun than it is: Young and hubby Brian Aherne arrive at their new Greenwich Village apartment only to learn the place comes furnished… with a corpse. Alas, the body isn't the only stiff in sight: the comic sleuthing is surely meant to evoke the Thin Man series, but despite Aherne's breezy approach, the movie clumps badly. In this company, Theodora reigns head and shoulders above the rest. --Robert Horton
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Top Customer Reviews
This set has the same format as Icons of Screwball Comedy, Volume 1 -- which I reviewed on Amazon.com on January 29. 2015. Just as Volume 1 featured two classic comediennes -- Jean Arthur with two films on one DVD and Rosalind Russell with two films on the other -- so Volume 2 features two more classic comediennes -- Irene Dunne with two films on one DVD and Loretta Young with two films on the other.
As was the case with Volume 1, the only special features are some of the original trailers and a cartoon. Three out of the four original trailers are presented, and a 7-minute Columbia Cartoon called "Mad Hatter." The cartoon is not particularly inspiring in animation, and barely has a plot, and is not funny (though it tries to be). I can think of no reason at all for including it in this collection, except that it is from the year 1940 -- the same year as *The Doctor Takes a Wife* on the same DVD. Obviously, you don't buy this DVD set for the special features. The chapter menus aren't particularly great, either -- only 12 chapters per movie, and the images are very small and hard to see even on a 30-inch TV screen. So with poor chapter menus and only minor special features, the main value of this collection is in the films themselves.
The good news is that the picture and sound are great on all 4 films, and the films themselves are great, too. Irene Dunne can hold her own as a screwball comedienne with the best of them, and Loretta Young, while not quite as natural in the genre, is still pretty good.Read more ›
The Irene Dunne films in this collection are absolutely terrific. In Theodora Goes Wild and Together Again, we can see just how talented and under-rated a comedienne Irene Dunne was. In these films she displays a charisma, charm, and sexiness that make viewing the film a delight from beginning to end. It also helps that the two leading men in these films given exceptional performances, Melvyn Douglass in the former, and Charles Boyer in the latter.
The two Loretta Young films are rather hit and miss. In a Night to Remember, Loretta Young is really wasted in a play that is put to film, and like My Sister Eileen in Volume One, comes across as claustrophobic and boring, with the comedy often seeming forced. It also does not help matters that the leading man in both of these films, Brian Aherne, is rather more annoying and bombastic than funny.
In The Doctor Takes A Wife, Loretta Yond and Ray Milland display good chemistry in a film that offers the kind of fun and charm that one expects to see in a screwball comedy. The emotions and feelings come across as genuine, helping the viewing immerse themselves more fully into the comedy of the absurd situations the characters find themselves in.
"Theodora Goes Wild " also starring Irene Dunne ( with Melvyn Douglas ) is rated in many movie guides as being better than " Together Again ". It is the story of a small town author of " racey " novels that works incognito under a pen name. Laughter arises when she is exposed , and the town must modernize and come to grips with the truth. A satire of prudery it is worthy of four stars.
Also on the bill are two Loretta Young films " A Night to Remember " , which is a highly rated murder mystery comedy , and " The Doctor takes a Wife " which is also highly rated as a comedy of mistaken identity .
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Like volume one, this set contains four films on two discs:
Theodora Goes Wild (1936) - Irene Dunne is part of the leading family in a small-minded small town. She is also the author of a racy bestseller under an assumed name. Melvyn Douglas is a book jacket illustrator who figures out who the author is and assumes Theodora wants to be liberated from her small town existence. Probably the best film in this set.
Together Again (1944) Irene Dunne is a Vermont widow who goes to New York to interview a sculptor, played by Charles Boyer. When she returns to Vermont she is surprised to see Boyer again when he decides to move into her garage to do his sculpting. Charles Coburn costars as Dunne's confused father-in-law. A hard-to-find and amusing film.
The Doctor Takes a Wife (1940) Loretta Young plays the feminist author of books on the joy of being a single woman. Ray Milland is a college professor whose career advancement is hurt by the fact that he is unmarried. When the two are mistaken as a married couple they decide to let the farce continue since it benefits both of them individually. A very good film and rarely seen.
A Night to Remember (1943) - Loretta Young plays the wife of a novelist. She rents a gloomy apartment in Greenwich Village hoping it will provide the atmosphere her husband needs to write his next novel. Instead, a body turns up in their apartment. Not as good as the other films, but pleasant enough.
I get the impression that we should expect no extra features.
The masterpiece among these four movies is of course "Theodora Goes Wild", Columbia's 1936 comedy about the adventures of small town girl Theodora Lynn in the big city. Leading lady Dunne was so unattracted to such a role - a ditzy comedy - she took off for Europe in the hope Columbia studio boss Harry Cohn would give up on his 'crazy idea' of casting her, dignified and very proper Irene Dunne, a serious actress, as a small town girl who secretly pens a racy bestseller under a pseudonym, Caroline Adams, then tries to hide her famous identity back home from her church-going family and neighbors. Cohn stuck to his guns, and through one of those delightful transformations film is forever giving us, the melodramatic star of countless womens pictures reemerged reborn as a star comedienne!
The basic story line is pretty straightforward, Theodora doesn't want anyone to discover she is the author of a book condemned in her own home town, Lynnfield - named after her family! When Michael Grant, played by Melvyn Douglas at his most urbane, the artist who painted the sexually alluring cover for the book, tricks Theodora's publisher into meeting the highly elusive Ms 'Caroline Adams', the painter discovers she's anything but the wild debauchee the book suggests. Instead, the real author is terrified at all the notoriety and wishes she had never written 'That thing!" "What came over me!" Theodora says, as she explains to her publisher and the leering artist who she's certain is undressing her with his look, "Were you ever raised in a small town by two maiden aunts? Have you played the organ in church since you were fifteen? No, well I have. And right now I ask myself where did Caroline Adams come from? How did all this start?"
When Michael tries to discover the sexpot he believes is hidden behind Theodora's frigid reserve, he gets nowhere, and she flees back to Lynnfield. And just when Theodora thinks its safe to breath again and her secret is safe, who should appear whistling on the sidewalk in front of her quiet home but Grant, posing as an out of work drifter. When Theodora's aunts hire him to do some work around the place she's horrified. Naturally events follow a predictable course, with Theodora falling for Michael, but in this case Michael, satisfied he has won through Theodora's reserves, returns to the big city, leaving behind a shallow note, claiming he has 'freed' Theodora. Confused and upset, Theodora feels used and jilted.
Refusing to accept such treatment from Michael, and now infuriated by the wagging of local tongues gossiping about Theodora and a 'GARDENER!', a now flush with best-seller royalties Theodora sets off from small town Connecticut for New York City. There she discovers Michael also has his own issues, including an ugly bitter marriage continuing only because his father demands his son stay married as to not upset the father's political standing. Instantly recognizing her chance, Theodora moves in to embarass Michael as he embarassed her, and the film zooms into overdrive as Theodora, now turned out in outrageous fashions, and filling an eager press who lap up her juicy hints of broken marriages, becomes both avenging angel and comic muse.
The films high point: A dazzling Theodora giving the papparazzi a brilliant smile while dancing in the arms of the Governor, who of course has no clue as to the identity of his bewitching partner - now a notorious wild woman and homebreaker who has become front page copy in all the scandal sheets of New York. The handling and photography of this scene at the State Ball is one of the absolute highwater marks not only of Screwball Comedy but American film.
This deliberately limited synopsis only suggests an outline of parts of the film; what gives it such special charm is not only a clever storyline but the ease with which Dunne plays off her fellow actors - fine professionals who allow her to literally bloom from the girl of the three hankie weepies into the liberated comic creature she becomes.
Dunne was so good she received an Academy Award Nomination for Theodora, and the next year returned to comedy in the spontaneous perfection that is "The Awful Truth". The Awful Truth - a rare comedy nominee for Best Picture, and winner for best director. Dunne's mesmerizing skill at reading comedy is truly astonishing here, and once again she was nominated for Best Actress. For audiences of the times Dunne's performances were right out of left field, wholly unexpected for anyone who had sat through her playing interminable jilted women in such fare as "Back Street." Now at her best, Irene Dunne illuminates the screen, an irridescent actress, and "Theodora Goes Wild" is the first film showing her in full sail! Highest recommendation!
Of the three other films -
Dunne and Boyer in "Together Again" is a disappointment. I fail to see why just because a favorite actor or actress are in a film people lavish praise on it. This same uncritical adoration is laivshed indiscriminately on for several Myrna Loy/William Powell features - in particular the later films in the "Thin Man" series. Ladies and gentleman - "Together Again" is not a very good movie. Irene Dunne and Charles Boyer were earlier - and far better cast - in the superb film, "Love Affair", remade by its director Leo McCarey with Cary Grant and Deborah Kerr as "An Affair to Remember. The later well known version, in glorious color, and hugely popular, appears, when seen against the first version, way too long, sluggish and labored. Boyer is far better than Grant, superb as the famous lover, and Dunne more the assured lady than the timid Kerr. Sadly, like so many Columbias, this earlier film fell into a miserable state and today looks very poorly. Love Affair So watch this film about Boyer the sculptor, and Dunne as small town mayor, but go back and see Dunne and Boyer make magic together in the earlier film.
(Movie buffs as bored as I was by the basic film can at least have fun trying to spot a number of uncredited performers, notably two-time Oscar winner Shelley Winters at the very beginning of her career; Carole Mathews, long since escaped from a Midwestern nunnery and gone Hollywood; and Miss World's Fair, Adele Jergens, with her brunette hair now blonde as a stripper in what would too soon become her type casting. Oddly enough, for a wartime movie the director insists on showing far more of the aging Dunne than these young bombshells! At one point Ms Jergens is out of sight on stage performing while Dunne is before the camera backsatge in the ladies dressing room doing the actual stripping while her dress, with had wine spilled on it, is being ironed by an attendant. One can only imagine what the servicemen felt watching a film with the likes of New York's top show girl Adele Jergens beginning a strip tease when suddenly they are given such a switcheroo as that! The film also has an isolated and rather painful bittersweet elevator scene involving one of the Little Rascals.)
"The Doctor Takes a Wife" mixes Ray Milland and Loretta Young in a less than sterling story, but the two leads both offer charm. Gail Patrick is as ever typecasted as the other woman, and once again somewhat wasted. (To see Patrick in absolute top form one must watch "My Man Godfrey", given a magisterial reissue on Criterion - My Man Godfrey - Criterion Collection ) Let's hope the underrated Ms Young, perhaps too familar from her long running television show, finally can be seen in her better films, such as the obvious but utterly charming "The Farmer's Daughter".
The other Young feature finds her playing detective after a fashion - this is certainly nothing to get excited about.
Had "Theodora Goes Wild" been offered as a single feature this DVD issue would have received a full and very deserved five stars. Hopefully a four star review will not keep anyone from trying the lead feature. I should note that Dunne was not alone in losing out in the Academy Awards - in 1936 Carole Lombard was passed over for her glowing performance as Irene Bullock in "My Man Godfrey", and in 1937 Garbo, up for her work in "Camille" lost out. In 1937 Dunne's finest comedic partner, Cary Grant, amazingly wasn't even nominated!
I was fortunate enough to see it, some twenty years ago in London, and a British friend taped it for me. It gave me
hours and hours of pleasure.
We have a married couple of amateur detectives, nothing new here, but everything seems to be related to houses (they have rented
a basement apartment at 13 Gay street in Greenwich), a new twist.
YOUNG is outstanding and AHERNE does his usual unsung acting. They are very funny together.
JOSEPH WALKER does his usual superior cinematography and the director RICHARD WALLACE, best known for THE FALLEN SPARROW
and SINBAD THE SAILOR, is respectable.
I won't reveal the plot, since you'll be buying the picture anyway, for the great THEODORA GOES WILD, but we have the pleasure
of seeing old friends: GALE SONDERGAARD/BLANCHE YURKA/LEE PATRICK and SIDNEY TOLER as a police inspector and DONALD MAC BRIDE
as a police officer, and the great JAMES BURKE.
It was the third novel by KELLEY ROOS ("THE FRIGHTENED STIFF") in a series of 8 novels, from 1941 to 1949, featuring
the same couple of amateur detectives (mystery writer and wife). Again, not groundbreaking, but a decent American
Dunne was a ladylike dramatic actress who could also sing. She surprised the pundits in 1936 when she starred in her first outright comedy, "Theodora Goes Wild", displaying her superb timing and sunny personality. The change of direction was so surprising, Dunne was nominated for an Oscar! Both this film and "Together Again", released in 1944, focus on the break down of Dunne's ladylike persona, the first as a small town spinster who writes a racy novel and the latter as a widowed mayor who falls for a sculptor. Both films benefit from first rate leading men although Charles Boyer looks a bit tired in "Together Again" and is a rather stiff farceur. Melvyn Douglas, however, matches Dunne magnificently in "Theodora". The latter, whilst overlong, is the superior film with a wonderful collection of supporting players and many good lines. The film is meticulously directed but would be better with some of the spontaneity and speed of the subsequent and more famous "The Awful Truth". "Together Again" is best with the byplay between the stars. The rest is reminiscent of those squeaky clean American 50s situation TV comedies like "The Donna Reed Show", with "cute" Charles Coburn as Dunne's father-in-law dispensing advice with a trowel and Mona Freeman as a tiresome and precocious teen.
In 1939, Loretta Young refused to renew her 20th Century Fox contract due to differences with studio head, Daryl F. Zanuck. She decided to launch out on her own, a bold and courageous decision. Zanuck had her blackballed from the studios. "The Doctor Takes a Wife", released in 1940, was an important film for Young because it broke the blackball. It is a funny career versus marriage farce starring Ray Milland as an academic medico and Young as a spinster novelist. Complications arise when the couple are presumed married. The farce races from one situation to the next like a freight train. Apparently it was written for Dunne and Cary Grant and while the stars are handsome, competent and likeable in the best Hollywood tradition, they lack the flair of Grant/Dunne. The film also shows evidence of editing removing some of the continuity. Some scenes end abruptly. The attached trailer contains a nightclub scene, for example, which is missing from the final print. Similarly, "A Night to Remember" is pleasant enough entertainment whereby mystery novelist Brian Aherne and wife Young rent a Greenwich Village apartment and stumble on a murder mystery of their own. The film is quite corny and the stars overact with a vengeance.
The best news of the set is that the prints of the films are good. The extras are minor with some promotional material for other Sony releases, theatrical trailers for 3 of the films and one very amusing technicolour cartoon from 1940. The set is reasonable value but "Theodora" might be the only one which warrants revisits. The others are amusing in parts but generally one dimensional, particularly "A Night to Remember".
PS The people at Sony have a sense of humour too. Both Dunne and Young were staunch Catholics, known, with Rosalind Russell, as the "Nuns of Hollywood" and great friends.
None of the films in this batch is as remotely as bad as "She Wouldn't Say Yes". The Loretta Young disk is the weaker of the two. "A Night to Remember" has nothing to do with the Titanic. It's a not-very-engaging story about a woman and her novelisit husband (Brian Aherne) stumbling into a murder case when they move to a Greenwich Village apartment. The one really funny thing is the composer's occasional use of Wagner, the best moment being when Ahern burns a roast to the tune of the "Magic Fire" music. This particular genre -- comedy-mystery -- pretty much died out in the '30s. The Hope/Goddard "Ghost Breakers" is a much-better example. Two stars out of four.
"The Doctor Takes a Wife" has everyone thinking that a marriage-hating author ("Spinsters Aren't Spinach") has jumped ship and married a doctor (Ray Milland), and the complications which thereby ensue. Thematically, the film is nearly identical to "She Wouldn't Say Yes", and even has similar lines about how "career women" are confused and neurotic, etc, etc, etc. What makes it a passable film is that the characterizations are more or less believable. In particular, the sequence in which Young assists Milland in a rural childbirth gives them an opportunity to see the "better angels" of their natures, so that when the inevitable union occurs at the end, we feel it's been legitimately "earned", rather than concocted. Two and a half stars out of four.
"Together Again" has Irene Dunne as the widow of a popular small-town mayor, who's taken over his job with such serious purpose that she has no desire to remarry. When lightning decapitates her late husband's statue, she goes to New York to interview a sculptor (Pepe Le Pew -- uh, Charles Boyer). Need I tell you the rest? Two stars out of four.
The one keeper is "Theodora Goes Wild", in which Dunne is the author of a cheap, salacious, best-selling novel she doesn't want the citizens of her small down (which her family founded) to learn she wrote. When Melvyn Douglas "outs" her, she turns the tables on him. It's not surprising that the film is as good as it is, as the script is by Sidney Buchman. Three and a half stars out of four.
As with the other films in this series, the prints and transfers are excellent.
It's unfortunate that, out of eight films, only one is really good (unless you think "My Sister Irene" is a good play, which I don't). These two sets are more of a monument to Columbia's failure to consistently turn out first-rate comedies. If I'd known how disappointing these sets would be, I probably wouldn't have bought them. Your call.