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Ronald Reagan Centennial Collection [8 Discs] [DVD]

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$49.99
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Overview

Special Features

  • Expert commentaries
  • Vintage newsreels
  • Musical shorts
  • Cartoons

Synopsis

Knute Rockne, All American
Knute Rockne-All American was Pat O'Brien's finest hour: thanks to intensive rehearsals and numerous makeup applications, he so closely resembled the title character that, in the words of Rockne's widow, "I almost expected him to make love with me". The life of the legendary Notre Dame football coach is recounted from his childhood, when young Rockne (played by Johnny Sheffield) startles his Norwegian-immigrant parents by announcing at the dinner table that he's just been introduced to "the most wonderful game of the world." As an adult, Rockne works his way through Indiana's Notre Dame university, under the watchful and benevolent eye of Father Callahan (Donald Crisp) A brilliant student, Rockne is urged by Father Nieuwland (Albert Basserman) to become a chemist, or at the very least remain a chemistry teacher. Newly married to Bonnie Skilles (Gale Page), Rockne at first sticks to academics, but the call of the gridiron is too loud for him to ignore, and before long he has built his reputation as the winningest college football coach in America. One of his most significant contributions to the game is the invention of the tactical shift, inspired by the precision choreography of a team of nightclub dancers! Among the players nurtured by Rockne are the immortal Four Horsemen-Miller (William Marshall), Stuhlreder (Harry Lukats), Laydon (Kane Richmond) and Crowley (William Byrne), and of course the tragic George Gipp, superbly enacted by Ronald Reagan. His career continues unabated until his death in a plane crash in 1931. The screenplay of Knute Rockne-All American tends to be all highlights and little story, with several of the more dramatic passages telegraphed well in advance (just before her husband's death, Bonnie Rockne comments forebodingly "It's gotten cold all of a sudden"). Still, the film remains one of the best and most inspirational sports biographies ever made, with a heart-wrenching conclusion guaranteed to moisten the eyes of even the most jaundiced viewer. Ironically, the film's most famous scene, George Gipp's deathbed admonition to "Win one for the Gipper", was for many years excised from all TV prints due to a legal entanglement stemming from an earlier radio dramatization of Rockne's life; fortunately, this and several related scenes were restored to the film in the early 1990s. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

The Hasty Heart
Richard Todd plays an insufferable Scots soldier confined to a World War II military hospital. Ronald Reagan is an all-American patient who befriends the headstrong Scotsman, while Patricia Neal is the compassionate nurse. Gradually the patients grow begrudgingly fond of Todd, and when it is learned that he is suffering from a fatal illness, everyone involved tries to keep his true condition a secret from him. Todd inadvertently discovers the truth, and violently turns against his new buddies. But before the fade-out, friendship wins out over bitterness and self-pity. Filmed in England, Hasty Heart is based on the stage play by John Patrick. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

Dark Victory
Bette Davis earned an Oscar nomination for her role in this classic four-hanky tearjerker. Judith Traherne (Bette Davis) is a very wealthy Long Island heiress whose life is a constant whirl of cocktails, parties, and wild living. Despite her hedonistic lifestyle, Judith derives little pleasure from life except for her horses, cared for by stable master Michael O'Leary (Humphrey Bogart). When Judith begins suffering from headaches and dizzy spells, Dr. Frederick Steele (George Brent) gives her the bad news: she has a brain tumor that could threaten her life if not treated immediately. Judith consents to surgery, and Frederick informs her that the operation was a success. A grateful Judith quickly falls in love with Frederick, and they plan to marry. However, the tumor returns, and when Judith discovers that she has only a few months to live, she calls off the wedding, convinced that Frederick is marrying her only as an act of pity for a dying woman. A major success and perennial favorite, Dark Victory was later remade as Stolen Hours with Susan Hayward and as a TV movie starring Elizabeth Montgomery. ~ Mark Deming, Rovi

Kings Row
This Is the Army
The splashy, star-studded This is the Army is based on the Irving Berlin Broadway musical of the same name, which in turn was a reworking of Berlin's WW1 "barracks musical" Yip Yip Yaphank. In both instances, the cast was largely comprised of genuine servicemen, many of them either recently returned from fighting or on the verge of heading off to war. The Hollywood-imposed storyline concerns Jerry Jones (George Murphy), a member of the original 1918 Yip Yip Yaphank cast. His showbiz career curtailed by a leg injury, Jerry becomes a producer during the postwar era. When the US enters WW2, Jerry gathers together several other cast members from the 1918 Berlin musical to help him stage a new all-serviceman show, titled (what else?) This is the Army. The show-within-a-show framework is able to accommodate a romantic subplot, involving Jerry's son Johnny (Ronald Reagan, later a political comrade-in-arms of George Murphy) and Eileen Dibble (Joan Leslie), the daughter of Yip Yip Yaphank alumnus Eddie Dibble (Charles Butterworth). Some of the best moments in This is the Army are from the Broadway production itself, though the lengthy Alfred Lunt-Lynn Fontanne imitation and incessant "gay" jokes may have been too smart for the room in 1943. Guest stars include boxer Joe Louis, Kate Smith (singing "God Bless America", naturally) and Irving Berlin himself, who steals the show with his plaintive rendition of "Oh, How I Hate to Get Up in the Morning". All profits for the stage and film version of This is the Army went to the Army Emergency Relief Fund, which also controlled the rights to the film. Long withheld from TV distribution, the film finally hit the small screen when it lapsed into Public Domain in the mid-1970s. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

Storm Warning
In Storm Warning, Ginger Rogers stars as a model visiting relatives in an unnamed small town. She happens to witness the beating death of a man at the hands of the KKK. Rogers soon discovers that the whole town is controlled by this vigilante group, and that her loutish brother-in-law Steve Cochran is one of the group's members. D.A. Ronald W. Reagan is the man who breaks the stranglehold of the hooded terrorists--through the simple expedient of walking into one of their meetings and calmly identifying each of them by name. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

Desperate Journey
Errol Flynn are the on-screen spark plugs in this bracing propaganda yarn, which relies on the personalities of its casts as well as the lively direction of Raoul Walsh to overcome the improbabilities of its plot. In 1942, a lone RAF bomber flying deep into Germany (just inside the old Polish border) is shot down after completing its mission. The skipper is killed, and left in command is Flight Lieutenant Terry Forbes (Errol Flynn), an Australian who plans on leaving damage behind on the ground so the Germans remember him, even if he doesn't make it back to England. The rest of the crew consists of brash American bombardier Johnny Hammond (Ronald Reagan), bookish Canadian navigator Jed Forrest (Arthur Kennedy), wide-eyed Flight Sergeant Lloyd Hollis (Ronald Sinclair), the son of a World War I hero, and First World War veteran Kirk Edwards (Alan Hale, Sr.). They're captured in short order, and brought before Luftwaffe Major Otto Baumeister (Raymond Massey) for interrogation -- they not only manage to escape, but gather some information vital to the Allied war effort. Now they only have to figure out how to cross most of Germany and Holland, avoiding capture along the way by a mix of sheer daring, blind luck, and assistance from two anti-Nazi Germans (Nancy Coleman, Albert Bassermann) -- and just when it seems that all of the odds have turned against them, they find themselves faced with a German plot to wipe out a major part of London, and one last opportunity to get home. ~ Bruce Eder, Rovi

The Winning Team
Ronald Reagan delivers one of his best screen performances as baseball great Grover Cleveland Alexander in The Winning Team. The title refers to the mutually supportive relationship between Alexander and his loving wife Aimee (top-billed Doris Day); with this in mind, is it any surprise that the real Aimee Alexander served as the film's technical advisor. While the basic milestones of Alexander's career are adhered to, the film is a typical Hollywood blend of fact and fancy-plenty of fancy. While playing in the minors, Alexander is is hit on the heat by a batted ball, resulting in the dizziness and double vision that would ever after plague him. After toting up a record of 28 wins with the Philadelphia Phillies, Alex is traded to the Cubs, but World War 1 intervenes. On the battlefield, Alex suffers a recurrence of his double vision; and when he plays his first postwar game with the Cubs, he collapses on the field. Warned that his seizures will persist if he doesn't retire, Alex swears the doctor to secrecy. When the dizzy spells continue, Alex turns to drink. Branded an "alky", he descends to the depths of a House of David-style team, thence to the humiliation of carnival side shows. With the help and support of both Aimee and his old pal Rogers Hornsby (Frank Lovejoy), Alex stages a spectacular comeback, striking out Yankee Tony Lazzeri during the 1926 World Series and leading his team to victory. The script rearranges the chronology of Alexander's life, suggests incorrectly that the Lazzeri strikeout was the last play in the deciding Series game, and-most amusingly-depicts the unloveable Rogers Hornsby as a 100 % sweetheart. Otherwise, The Winning Team provides an excellent showcase for Ronald Reagan-though in later years he expressed some reservations about the script, noting that, by adhering to Warner Bros' insistence that the word "epilepsy" never be spoken, the picture confused audiences as to the true nature of Alexander's affliction. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

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