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Comedy Classics, Vol. 3 [2 Discs] [DVD]

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Overview

Special Features

  • Digitally mastered
  • Interactive menus
  • Chapter selections
  • Digitally enhanced audio 5.1

Synopsis

Never Wave at a WAC
Self-centered Washington socialite Rosalind Russell joins the WACS in order to be near her boyfriend William Ching, a GI stationed in Paris. Russell is certain that her DC connections will enable her to get out of the service as easily as she got in. Unfortunately for her, Russell's ex-husband Paul Douglas decides to teach her a lesson by pulling a few strings himself. Several of the army-camp scenes are stolen by Marie Wilson as an amply proportioned chorus girl, who's joined the WACS to escape stage-door johnnies. Filmed in part on location at the Women's Army Corps training center at Fort Lee, Virginia, Never Wave at a WAC was produced by Rosalind Russell's husband, Frederick Brisson. The film was released in England as The Private Wore Skirts. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

Nothing Sacred
"This is New York, Skyscraper Champion of the World...Where the Slickers and Know-It-Alls peddle gold bricks to each other...And where Truth, crushed to earth, rises again more phony than a glass eye..." With this jaundiced opening title, scripter Ben Hecht introduces his classic comedy Nothing Sacred. Fredric March plays Wally Cook, a hotshot reporter condemned to writing obituaries because of his unwitting complicity in a fraud. Anxious to get back in the good graces of his editor Oliver Stone (Walter Connolly), Cook pounces on the story of New England girl Hazel Flagg (Carole Lombard), who is reportedly dying from radiation poisoning. Actually, Hazel isn't dying at all; she's been misdiagnosed by Moscow's eternally drunk doctor (Charles Winninger). But when Cook offers to take her on an all-expenses-paid trip to New York in exchange for her exclusive story, it's too good an offer to pass up. Once in the Big Apple, Hazel is feted as a heroine by the novelty-seeking populac; she enjoys the adulation at first, but soon (and with the help of gallons of alcoholic beverages) suffers the pangs of conscience. She confesses her deception to Cook, who by now has fallen in love with her. Cook and Stone conspire to keep the public from discovering the truth, eventually dreaming up a phony suicide. Travelling incognito to avoid arrest, Wally and Hazel marry and go on a honeymoon, secure in the knowledge that New York City has forgotten all about her and moved on to their next fad. Brimming with witty, acerbic dialogue and hilarious bits of physical business, Nothing Sacred is among the best "screwball" comedies of the 1930s. The musical score by Oscar Levant both mocks and celebrates the George Gershwinesque musical style then in vogue. As an added bonus, the film is lensed in Technicolor (avoid those two-color reissue prints), allowing modern viewers to see what New York City looked liked back in 1937. Nothing Sacred was later adapted into a Broadway musical, Hazel Flagg, which in turn was filmed by Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis as Living It Up (1954), with Lewis in the Carole Lombard role. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

The Smallest Show on Earth
The Smallest Show on Earth is a gentle, frequently uproarious takeoff of Britain's neighborhood-cinema industry. Real-life husband and wife Bill Travers and Virginia McKenna star as Matt and Jean Spencer, a middle-class couple who inherit a decrepit movie house in a tiny railroad whistle stop. They also inherit the theater's ancient, doddering employees: bibulous ticket-taker Percy Quill (Peter Sellers), former silent-movie accompanist Mrs. Fazackalee (Margaret Rutherford) and doorman/janitor old Tom (Bernard Miles). Making the best of things, the Spencers set up shop going through the usual travails of small-time cinema owners: substandard projection and sound reproduction, a dismal selection of films (all they can afford is American B-Westerns), and sundry mishaps with the audience. Just when they're about to write off the theater as a loss, crafty old Tom comes up with an underhanded but effective method to allow the Spencers to make a huge profit on their shaky enterprise. Though chock full of entertaining vignettes, the best and most poignant scene in The Smallest Show on Earth finds the three elderly employees tearfully reveling in a nostalgic screening of the 1924 silent film Comin' Thro' the Rye. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

My Dear Secretary
Produced by comedy specialist Harry M. Popkin and his brother Leo Popkin, My Dear Secretary stars Kirk Douglas as Owen Waterbury, a best-selling novelist with an eye for the ladies. When aspiring writer Stephanie Gaylord (Laraine Day) signs on as his secretary, Waterbury assumes that he's lined up another sexual conquest. But Stephanie is not so easily won over, and the rest of the film finds Waterbury striving to come up to her standards. Whenever the film's pace lags, one can count on the farcical expertise of Keenan Wynn, borrowed from MGM to play Douglas' sardonic confidante, to save the day. Along with Strange Love of Martha Ivers, My Dear Secretary is one of the most accessible of Kirk Douglas' early films thanks to its public-domain status. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

Parlor, Bedroom and Bath
Based on the stage comedy by Charles W. Bell and Mark Swan (previously filmed in 1920), Parlor, Bedroom and Bath is a curious mixture of all that was good and everything that was bad in Buster Keaton's talkie features. Keaton plays Reginald Irving, a dimwitted bill-poster who finds himself the pawn in a scheme cooked up by wealthy Jeffrey Haywood (Reginald Denny). It seems that Jeffrey will not be permitted to marry Virginia Embrey (Sally Eilers) until a suitable husband is found for Virginia's older sister Angelica (Dorothy Christy). Since Angelica has rejected all the available suitors, Jeffrey schemes to offer Reginald as an eligible mate. First, however, he has to transform our dopey hero into a gentleman -- and a great lover. Somehow or other, poor Reginald innocently ends up in a compromising situation involving vampish Polly Hathaway (Charlotte Greenwood) and the very married Nita Leslie (Joan Peers) at a posh no-tell hotel. Keaton is permitted a few choice pantomimic moments in Parlor Bedroom and Bath, notably his scenes with the aggressive Charlotte Greenwood and a spectacular sight gag "borrowed" from his 1920 silent classic One Week. On the whole, however, Keaton is lost in a sea of unfunny dialogue and tired farcical situations -- a not untypical pitfall of his MGM talkies. Long unavailable due to legal complications, Parlor, Bedroom and Bath can be purchased from any of the public-domain video companies proliferating in the U.S. (Incidentally, that baronial "upstate New York" mansion in the film's early scenes was actually Buster Keaton's Beverly Hills home) ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

The Nasty Rabbit
This parody takes a poke at Cold War espionage films as it tells the tale of two Red spies who sneak into the U.S. and onto a Western dude ranch with an infectious bunny. It is hoped that the little hopper will cause a deadly epidemic. Once on the ranch, the Soviet agents finds themselves surrounded by similarly disguised agents from all over the world. ~ Sandra Brennan, Rovi

New Faces
Producer Leonard Sillman's 1952 edition of his popular Broadway revue New Faces was filmed just as it was staged, save for a wraparound fictional romantic story. The newly grafted plotline involves the efforts of director Ronny Graham to stave off an angry creditor long enough to open his show. We occasionally cut away to the backstage intrigues, but never long enough to take anything away from Sillman's talented cast of newcomers. The cast includes Eartha Kitt, singing such standards-to-be as "C'est Ci Bon" and "Monotonous"; Robert Clary, doing a medley of his hit "I'm in Love With Miss Logan"; Alice Ghostley, belting forth a brace of satirical torch songs; Paul Lynde (heavier than we're used to seeing him), offering his "safari" monologue and later participating in a screamingly funny Death of a Salesman takeoff; and Ronny Graham, performing an extended lampoon of either Tennessee Williams or Truman Capote (we aren't too sure; judge for yourself). Carol Lawrence also makes her first film appearance herein. The Broadway production's biggest song hit, "Love Is a Simple Thing," is sung and danced to the oversaturation point. Among the many writers was a young fellow by the name of Melvin Brooks (that's how he's billed). Its production flaws and budget shortcomings notwithstanding, the widescreen, full-color New Faces offers a rare opportunity for a 1990s audience to see what a '50s-style musical revue really looked like to the opening-night crowd. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

One Week
One Week was the first Buster Keaton-directed film to be released to the public (The High Sign was made earlier but shelved for several months). Based on a now-obscure educational short called Home Made, it involves a build-it-yourself house given to Keaton and his new bride (Sybil Seely). Unbeknownst to the couple, the wife's disgruntled former suitor has changed the numbers on the boxes containing the building materials. Keaton does make the house in one week, as the instructions have promised, but what a house! Right off the bat, this early Keaton film shows his penchant for big props (the cockeyed house, a passing train). Even though it's only a two-reeler, it still managed to become one of the top-grossing movies of 1920. ~ Janiss Garza, Rovi

Love Laughs at Andy Hardy
For his first post-WWII starring film, 26-year-old Mickey Rooney returned to familiar territory in Love Laughs at Andy Hardy. In true Art-Imitates-Life fashion, Rooney plays returning GI Andy Hardy, who arrives in his home town of Carvel to the open arms of his family: Father Judge Hardy (Lewis Stone), mother Mrs. Hardy (Fay Holden) and Aunt Milly (Sara Haden). After reels and reels of "Gee, Mom and Dad, it's great to be home", Andy launches into a new romance with college coed Kay Wilson (Bonita Granville). His boundless ebullience is dampened when Kay elects to marry another, setting the stage for a another of those man-to-man talks between Judge Hardy and Son. Fortunately, Andy bounces back to his old self when he meets Latin American exchange student Isobel Gonzales (Lina Romay). Wisely, MGM decided that Mickey Rooney was too old to continue to play Andy Hardy, and the studio dropped the series with this entry (there would be a so-so "reunion" picture, Andy Hardy Comes Home, in 1958). If it seems nowadays as though Love Laughs at Andy Hardy is being telecast at least seven times per week, it may be because the film lapsed into public domain in 1974. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

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