Wednesday, August 13, 2008

DVD Box Sets: A Wish List

As an avid buyer, and watcher, of classic Hollywood titles on DVD, I’ve often fantasized about which DVD box sets I would like to see. The following are a few I’ve thought of recently. One or two are within the realm of possibility, while some others are likely mere pipe dreams. But in an industry that last year gave us a Sam Katzman collection (one of my favorite DVD collections, by the way), then anything is possible.

Tyrone Power – Action Hero

Last month 20th Century Fox gave us the Tyrone Power Matinee Idol Collection, with 10 titles consisting mainly of comedies and dramas. This means Fox leaves us with a good variety of Power titles in the adventure genre that could be mined for a box set. Because Fox placed such a strong emphasis on the romantic Power in the last collection, it seems very likely that they will do a separate adventure set.

“Untamed” (1955). Power, Susan Hayward and Richard Egan in a romantic adventure set amidst the Boer War. Fabulous Franz Waxman score, with one of the best main title music cues ever.

“King of the Khyber Rifles” (1955). Power romances Terry Moore and puts down a native rebellion on the Indian frontier. Pretty dull film, livened by a great Bernard Herrmann score, far and away the best thing in the film. Guy Rolfe plays the villain, always a plus.

“Pony Solider” (1952). Power as a Canadian Mountie putting down an Indian rebellion. Good Saturday afternoon fare.

“Diplomatic Courier” (1952): Tense spy melodrama with Patricia Neal. Henry Hathaway directed, who was one of Power’s best directors.

“An American Guerilla in the Philippines” (1951). WWII action, directed by Fritz Lang, which will get some attention from the Lang cultists.

“Suez” (1938). Power as Ferdinand deLesseps, architect of the Suez Canal. Power has two leading ladies, Loretta Young and future wife Annabella. If memory serves, the sandstorm sequence is might impressive.

“Lloyd’s of London” (1937). Power’s breakthrough role, in this story of the founding of the famous insurance company. Even though it’s about an insurance company, it’s surprisingly watchable. Madeleine Carroll is absolutely gorgeous in this, but you knew that already. Also, this was the first of several teamings between Power and George Sanders. Watching “Lloyd’s of London”, who would have ever guessed that Power and Sanders would be rehearsing a sword fight for “Solomon and Sheba” (1959) when Power would be felled by a fatal heart attack, dying at age 44.

John Wayne Adventure Set

During last year’s John Wayne centennial celebration, I kept hoping that Universal would release six very rare action movies he made there in the mid-1930s. I don’t know what condition they’re in, and maybe good materials don’t exist for them. But these would be nice to see. I’ve never seen any of these except for “Idol of the Crowds” and that was in a splicy, dark, bootleg copy.

“Adventure’s End” (1937): Period sea adventure story.

“Idol of the Crowds” (1937): John Wayne as a hockey player.

“I Cover the War” (1937): Wayne as a war correspondent.

“California Straight Ahead” (1937): Wayne as a cross-country trucker.

“Conflict” (1936): Wayne as a boxer. This co-stars mega babe Jean Rogers, who co-starred that year as Dale Arden in the Flash Gordon serial. 1936 Jean Rogers is well worth watching.

“The Sea Spoilers” (1936): Wayne as a Coast Guard officer.


Dennis Morgan/Jack Carson Collection

One of my favorite stars of the 1940s was Dennis Morgan. A most likeable chap, with a very pleasant tenor singing voice, Morgan was a big star at Warner Bros. in the 1940s and was teamed with good friend Jack Carson in a series of popular musicals.

“Two Guys from Texas” (1948). Morgan and Carson on a dude ranch out west. With Dorothy Malone and a Bugs Bunny sequence.

“Two Guys from Milwaukee” (1946). Morgan as a European prince who, wanting to relate to the common folk, ditches his royal responsibilities. He befriends cab driver Jack Carson, who doesn’t know his new friend’s real identity. All this, and a Bogart/Bacall cameo.

“The Time, the Place and the Girl” (1948). Fun musical with a nice score, including “Got a Gal in Calico”. Nice Technicolor on this one.

“Shine on Harvest Moon” (1944). Morgan as entertainer Jack Hayes (also lyricist of the song “Take Me Out to the Ball Game”) and Ann Sheridan as his wife, legendary vaudevillian Nora Hayes. If memory serves, the film is in black and white but the final musical number is in Technicolor. Carson plays, I think, a fellow vaudevillian, but it’s been a while since I’ve seen it.


“It’s a Great Feeling” (1949): A wonderful spoof of Hollywood, with much of it filmed on the Warner Bros. backlot, and cameos by lots of Warner Bros. stars. Morgan and Carson play themselves, with Carson cast as an ego-filled ham who no one wants to work with. This title might be part of a rumored third Doris Day box set.

Twentieth Century Fox Gay 90s Composers Series

Sure, they would have to change the title, but if it meant additional sales, I say keep it. 20th Century Fox boasted a series of films highlighting composers who are hardly household names but were big news 100 years ago. Curiously, Fox would augment these films with new songs written by their in-house composers. For instance, “My Gal Sal” the purported story of Paul Dresser, has more songs in the movie not written by Dresser. Ah, Hollywood.

“My Gal Sal” (1942). Paul Dresser, brother of the novelist Theodore Dreisser, wrote the title song and “On the Banks of the Wabash.” Here he’s played by Victor Mature and Sal is none other than Rita Hayworth, in glorious Technicolor. This is one of my biggest wishes for DVD release.

“Irish Eyes are Smiling” (1944). Dick Haymes plays Ernest Ball, composer of the title song, and June Haver, in her first big role, as the Irish lass he writes the song about. The film’s big production number, “Bessie in the Bustle” is by Mack Gordon and James V. Monaco. So much for honoring Ball.

“I Wonder Who’s Kissing Her Now” (1947). June Haver again, this time supporting Mark Stevens as composer Joe Howard.

“Oh, You Beautiful Doll!” (1949). June Haver and Mark Stevens again, this time with Stevens as Fred Fisher, composer of the title song, “Chicago”, and “Peg O’ My Heart.”

Of course there’s also “Stars and Stripes Forever” (1952), with Clifton Webb as John Philip Sousa, with good support from Robert Wagner and Debra Paget. This is slated for release later this year, according to http://www.foxclassics.com/.

Betty Grable Vol. 2

I’ve heard rumors that Betty Grable Vol. 1 experienced disappointing sales, which may be true since there’s been no news about a Vol. 2. But with Alice Faye getting a second volume, I’m hoping that Betty will get her due as well.

Part of the problem may have been the contents of the first volume. “My Blue Heaven” (1950 is pretty rough going and “The Dolly Sisters” (1945) is one of the weaker Grable period musicals (though it was one of her biggest hits).

What they should include in the second volume is:

“Coney Island” (1943), my favorite Grable film, and never released on home video before. Great Technicolor and some of Grable’s best numbers including “Take it From There,” “There’s Danger in a Dance” (featuring seemingly every balloon in Hollywood at the time) and the scintillating “Lulu from Louisville.” Heck they can even throw in the remake, “Wabash Avenue” (1950), also starring Grable, as a bonus.

“Mother Wore Tights” (1947). Now we’re talking. Probably her most popular film, and the first musical to team her with Dan Dailey, “Mother Wore Tights” is a warm and affectionate look at a family of vaudevillians. “You Do” is repeated a hundred times in this movie; you’ll be hearing it in your sleep for days afterwards. Betty’s legs look sensational in that cut away tuxedo in the “Kokomo, Indiana” number.

“The Shocking Miss Pilgrim” (1947). Speaking of legs, this was one of Betty’s biggest flops, with the studio theorizing she was kept in long skirts for too much of the movie. Regardless, this tale of one of the first women secretaries in the work force (called here a “typewriter”) has a great deal of charm and a treasure trove of previously unpublished Gershwin songs. Her duet with Dick Haymes, “Aren’t You Kind of Glad We Did”, is a particular favorite.

“Sweet Rosie O’Grady” (1943). More period Betty, with a short and sweet running time of less than 75 minutes. Good Harry Warren score, including a particular favorite “My Heart Tells Me” and “Goin’ to the County Fair.” Fox filmed the same story in modern dress as “Love is News” (1937) and “That Wonderful Urge” (1949), both starring Tyrone Power. Fox certainly got its money worth with that story.

That’s a lot of Betty Grable in period garb. They need to throw in a modern title, so how about “Springtime in the Rockies” (1942) which introduced the song “I Had the Craziest Dream.” This is also the only Carmen Miranda film unreleased to DVD.

Or they could give us “Billy Rose’s Diamond Horseshoe” (1945) with its fabulous opening number “Acapulco” and Dick Haymes singing “The More I See You.” When this film was released in New Zealand he recorded a new version called “The Maori I See You.” No he didn’t, that was a joke.

Or how about “Song of the Islands” (1942), with lots of Betty in bathing suits and grass skirts?

Universal/Paramount Sets

Universal is woefully lacking in sales of their catalog sets. How about a second collection of Deanna Durbin? A Jon Hall/Maria Montez collection? I think Universal would be pleasantly surprised at how well that would sell. An Alan Ladd/Veronica Lake collection? By including “The Glass Key” (1942) and “The Blue Dahlia” (1946) you’d be pleasing fans of, respectively Dashiell Hammett and Raymond Chandler.

As time goes on I will compile another list of fantasy DVD box sets.

6 comments:

texasoperastar said...

A second collection of Deanna Durbin movies would sell very well. A "Sweetheart Pack Two" would make an excellent gift!!

Alex

www.deannadurbindevotees.com

Kevin Deany said...

Thanks for reading Alex. Yes, I know quite a few people that purcahsed the first collection, so I hope a second volume is on the way.

Kevin

r,j, said...

Re your comments on Morgan and Carson, I think you may be overlooking their best and most unusual teaming --in 1942's "The Hard Way", not a comedy but more of a musical "noir". Your memories of "Shine On Harvest Moon" are pretty accurate. My grandfather wrote "So Dumb But So Beautiful" for Carson and Marie Wilson, and "I Go For You" for Morgan and Sheridan.

Also, thank you for the nice mentions of his other songs here, "Some Sunday Morning", "Sweet Dreams, Sweetheart" and the title song for "Hollywood Canteen". He wrote them all, and was a fairly prolific guy during his years with Warners'

David Butler, whom you mention, remained friends with our family for years, and asked for my grandfather on many of the later films he directed, like "Glory" at RKO.

I've enjoyed reading your blog -- cheers!

Richard Jerome

Kevin Deany said...

R.J.: It's an honor and pleasure to have you here. I always enjoy your comments on the Greenbriar Picture Show site.

Of course, I should have rememberd about "The Hard Way." What was I thinking? And that's probably the best remembered film they made together, too.

Your grandfather provided us with some beautiful songs. "Some Sunday Morning" from "San Antonio" is a particular favorite of mine. Thank you so much for writing.

r.j. said...

Kevin,

I found you thru the comments section on Greenbriar. Gee, what can I say? You flatter me no-end -- seriously. I really thought the readership there was about to form a lynch committee, because of all the excessive comments I've made. But, John's a great guy, as I'm sure you'll agree. As regards "Hard Way" -- that was another assignment that my grandfather and his erstwhile partner, lyricst Jack Scholl, worked on, and was one of the few films I really ever heard my grandfather refer to directly, in later years. He really liked that one, and understandably. Besides writing "Youth Must Have It's Fling" for Leslie, and doing some of the "Special vaudeville material" for Morgan and Carson, he also appears in a "Cameo", as "rehearsal pianist" in the scene with Gladys George and Phil Van Zandt.

Please allow me to return the compliment and tell you how much I've enjoyed your postings here, as well.

Best,

R.J.

Kevin Deany said...

R.J. Greenbriar Picutre Show is one of my favorite sites on the web.

Thanks for the additional information on your grandfather's participation in "The Hard Way." I will look for him next time I see that movie. I'm a sucker for looking for cameo appearances from songwriters and film composers in movies.

Thank you for your nice words about my blog. I hope you can stop by again. I try to post at least once a week, depending on my schedule.