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Leading Ladies of the Studio Era [5 Discs] [DVD]

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$39.99
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Overview

Special Features

  • Closed Captioned

Synopsis

Dial M for Murder
Based on the popular mystery play by Frederick Knott, Dial M For Murder is more talky and stagebound than most Hitchcock films, but no less enjoyable. British tennis pro Ray Milland suspects that his wealthy wife Grace Kelly is fooling around with handsome American Robert Cummings. Milland blackmails a disgraced former army comrade (Anthony Dawson) into murdering Kelly and making it look like the work of a burglar. But Milland's carefully mapped-out scheme does not take into account the notion that Kelly might fight back and kill her assailant. When the police (represented by John Williams) investigate, Milland improvises quickly, subtly planting the suggestion that his wife has committed first-degree murder. He almost gets away with it; to tell you more would spoil the fun of the film's final thirty minutes. Hitchcock claimed that he chose this single-set play because he was worn out from several earlier, more ambitious projects, and wanted to "recharge his batteries." Compelled by Warner Bros. to film Dial M For Murder in 3-D, Hitchcock perversely refused to throw in the standard in-your-face gimmickry of most stereoscopic films of the era--though watch how he visually emphasizes an important piece of evidence towards the end of the film. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

Mildred Pierce
Joan Crawford won an Academy Award for her bravura portrayal of the titular heroine in Mildred Pierce. The original James M. Cain novel concerns a wife and mother who works her way to financial security to provide a rosy future for her beloved daughter, but encounters difficulties and tragedies along the way. Ranald McDougall's screenplay tones down the sexual content, enhancing its film noir value by adding a sordid murder. The film opens with oily lounge lizard Monte Beragon (Zachary Scott) being pumped full of bullets. Croaking out the name "Mildred", he collapses and dies. Both the police and the audience are led to believe that the murderer is chain-restaurant entrepreneur Mildred Pierce (Crawford), who takes the time to relate some of her sordid history. As the flashback begins, we see Mildred unhappily married to philandering Bert Pierce (Bruce Bennett). She divorces him, keeping custody of her two beloved daughters, Veda (Ann Blyth) and Kay (Jo Anne Marlowe). To keep oldest daughter Veda in comparative luxury, Mildred ends up taking a waitressing position at a local restaurant. With the help of slimy real estate agent Wally Fay (Jack Carson), she eventually buys her own establishment, which grows into a chain of restaurants throughout Southern California. Meanwhile, Mildred smothers Veda in affection and creature comforts. She goes so far as to enter into a loveless marriage with the wealthy Monty Beragon in order to improve her social standing; Beragon repays the favor by living the life of a layabout playboy, much to Mildred's dismay -- and possible financial ruin. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

Now, Voyager
Olive Higgins Prouty's popular novel was transformed into nearly two hours of high-grade soap opera by several masters of the trade: Warner Bros., Bette Davis, Paul Henreid, director Irving Rapper, and screenwriter Casey Robinson. Davis plays repressed Charlotte Vale, dying on the vine thanks to her domineering mother (Gladys Cooper). All-knowing psychiatrist Dr. Jaquith (Claude Rains) urges Charlotte to make several radical changes in her life, quoting Walt Whitman: "Now voyager sail thou forth to seek and find." Slowly, Charlotte emerges from her cocoon of tight hairdos and severe clothing to blossom into a gorgeous fashion plate. While on a long ocean voyage, she falls in love with Jerry Durrance (Henreid), who is trapped in a loveless marriage. After kicking over the last of her traces at home, Charlotte selflessly becomes a surrogate mother to Jerry's emotionally disturbed daughter (a curiously uncredited Janis Wilson), who is on the verge of becoming the hysterical wallflower that Charlotte once was. An interim romance with another man (John Loder) fails to drive Jerry from Charlotte's mind. The film ends ambiguously; Jerry is still married, without much chance of being divorced from his troublesome wife, but the newly self-confident Charlotte is willing to wait forever if need be. "Don't ask for the moon," murmurs Charlotte as Max Steiner's romantic music reaches a crescendo, "we have the stars." In addition to this famous line, Now, Voyager also features the legendary "two cigarettes" bit, in which Jerry places two symbolic cigarettes between his lips, lights them both, and hands one to Charlotte. The routine would be endlessly lampooned in subsequent films, once by Henreid himself in the satirical sword-and-sandal epic Siren of Baghdad (1953). ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

For Me and My Gal
For Me and My Gal, a leisurely period musical, represents the first on-screen dancing of MGM's new star Gene Kelly. Judy Garland plays a member of a vaudeville troupe consisting of herself, George Murphy, Ben Blue and Lucille Norman. She leaves the act to join up with Kelly, who promises to propel her to the big time. Two unsuccessful years later, Garland and Kelly are still struggling in the small time, while Murphy and his bunch are headliners. Kelly nearly throws Garland over for singer Marta Eggerth, but Judy remains loyal--at least until Kelly deliberately breaks his hand to avoid serving in World War I. Having lost her brother Richard Quine to the war, Garland denounces Kelly as a coward and walks out. Kelly redeems himself by joining an overseas entertainment troupe, saving several lives when he finds himself under attack on the front. Judy and Gene are at last reunited in Paris. A major break for both Gene Kelly and Judy Garland (who proved once and for all in this film that she was no longer just a "juvenile"), For Me and My Gal was based on a story by Howard Emmett Rogers. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

Father of the Bride
Spencer Tracy received an Oscar nomination for his performance in this classic comedy. Stanley T. Banks (Tracy) is a securely middle-class lawyer whose daughter Kay (Elizabeth Taylor) announces that she's going to marry her beau Buckley Dunstan (Don Taylor). From that point on, everything in Stanley's life is turned upside down. His wife Ellie (Joan Bennett) wants Kay to have the kind of formal wedding that she and Stanley never had, and between meeting his soon-to-be in-laws, the socially prominent Herbert and Doris Dunstan (Moroni Olsen and Billie Burke), his man-to-man talk with the groom, hosting the engagement party, financing the increasingly lavish wedding, and wondering if Kay and Buckley will resolve their differences before arriving at the altar, Stanley barely has time to deal with his own considerable anxieties about his advancing age and how his "little girl" became a grown woman. Director Vincente Minnelli reunited with the principal cast a year later for a sequel, Father's Little Dividend; and the movie was remade in 1991 with Steve Martin and Diane Keaton. ~ Mark Deming, Rovi

Cast & Crew

  • Ray Milland
    Ray Milland - Tom Wendice
  • Grace Kelly
    Grace Kelly - Margot Wendice
  • John Williams
    John Williams - Chief Inspector Hubbard
  • Anthony Dawson
    Anthony Dawson - Captain Swan Lesgate
  • Patrick Allen
    Patrick Allen - Detective Pearson
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