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Samuel Goldwyn 6-Film Collection: Volume II [6 Discs] [DVD]
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Overview

Synopsis

The Westerner
The Secret Life of Walter Mitty
James Thurber wasn't too happy with the Sam Goldwyn film adaptation of his 1939 short story The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, but the Technicolor musical comedy proved to be a cash cow at the box office. Danny Kaye stars as Walter, a milquetoast proofreader for a magazine publishing firm. Walter is constitutionally incapable of standing up for himself, which is why his mother (Fay Bainter) has been able to arrange a frightful marriage between her son and the beautiful but overbearing Gertrude Griswold (Ann Rutherford). As he muses over the lurid covers of the magazines put out by his firm, Walter retreats into his fantasy world, where he is heroic, poised, self-assured, and the master of his fate. Glancing at the cover of a western periodical, Walter fancies himself the two-gun "Perth Amboy Kid"; a war magazine prompts Walter to envision himself as a fearless RAF pilot; and so on. Throughout all his imaginary adventures, a gorgeous mystery woman weaves in an out of the proceedings. Imagine Walter's surprise when his dream girl shows up in the flesh in the person of Rosalind van Horn (Virginia Mayo). The girl is being pursued by a gang of jewel thieves headed by Dr. Hugo Hollingshead (Boris Karloff), a clever psychiatrist who manages to convince Walter that he's simply imagining things again, and that Rosalind never existed. At long last, Walter vows to live his life in the "now" rather than in the recesses of his mind: he rescues Rosalind from the gang's clutches, tells his mother and Gertrude where to get off, and fast-talks his way into a better position with the publishing firm. Substituting the usual Danny Kaye zaniness for James Thurber's whimsy, Secret Life of Walter Mitty works best during the production numbers, especially Kaye's signature tune "Anatole of Paris." ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

They Got Me Covered
Bob Hope's first starring vehicle for producer Sam Goldwyn borrows the title of Bob's 1942 autobiography They Got Me Covered and very little else. Co-scripted by Leonard Q. Ross (aka Leo Rosten), Leonard Spigelgass and Harry Kurnitz (among many others!), the film casts Hope as Robert Kittredge, the Moscow correspondent for a major American news service, who is fired when he neglects to file a report about Hitler's invasion of Russia. Hoping to get back in the good graces of his boss Norman Mason (Donald MacBride), Kittredge steals another reporter's story about a Nazi spy ring operating in New York. Though officially a comedy, the film is curiously unfunny at times, with Hope playing an unsympathetic, unappealing character who'll step on anyone -- including his long-suffering sweetheart (Dorothy Lamour) and a hysterical kidnap victim (Phyllis Povah) -- to get ahead. Otto Preminger is funnier (perhaps intentionally) as the head Nazi. A few good gags notwithstanding, They Got Me Covered is nowhere near as satisfying as Hope's second Goldwyn effort, The Princess and the Pirate. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

Stella Dallas
Produced by Sam Goldwyn, this second film version of Olive Higgins Prouty's Stella Dallas is by far the best. The combined talents of Goldwyn, director King Vidor and star Barbara Stanwyck lift this property far above the level of mere soap opera. Stanwyck is perfectly cast as Stella Martin, the loud, vulgar factory-town girl who snares wealthy husband Stephen Dallas (John Boles). When Stephen is offered a job in New York, Stella stays behind, knowing that she'll never be part of her husband's social circle. She pals around platonically with her old beau, the cheap and tasteless Ed Munn (Alan Hale), a fact that drives yet another wedge between Stella and her husband. The final straw is daughter Laurel's (Anne Shirley) birthday party, which is boycotted by the local bluenoses. Though she would like to remain part of her daughter's life, Stella knows that she and she alone is the reason that Laurel is shunned by the rest of the community. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

The Princess and the Pirate
In his second film for producer Sam Goldwyn, Bob Hope is felicitously teamed with luscious Goldwyn contractee Virginia Mayo. Hope plays Sylvester the Great, a two-bit entertainer "touring" the West Indies in the 18th century. Mayo is Princess Margaret, who is kidnapped by a rough, tough buccaneer known only as The Hook (Victor McLaglen). Through a series of unbelievable circumstances, Sylvester rescues Margaret, and the two of them pose as travelling troubadors in a treacherous Pirate colony, where people are stabbed and dumped in the ocean for nonpayment of rent and other such offenses. Disguising himself as The Hook, Sylvester is befriended by corrupt colonial governor La Roche (Walter Slesak), but only until the real Hook shows up. Things look bleak for Sylvester and Margaret, but salvation is on the way-as well as a surprising romantic denoument, when a "bit player from Paramount" (guess who?) shows up to steal the Princess away from Sylvester ("Boy, this is the last picture I make for Goldwyn!") No fewer than six writers teamed up for this Technicolor extravaganza, which though not as consistently hilarious as other Hope farces still holds up beautifully. The best performance is offered by Walter Brennan as an addled pirate named Featherhead, a character right out of a Tex Avery cartoon! ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

Dead End
Adapted by Lillian Hellman from Sidney Kingsley's Broadway play, Dead End concerns itself with several denizens of New York's East River district. Here the elite and the slum-dwellers rub shoulders due to the close proximity of the riverfront tenements with the East Side luxury hotels. Slum girl Drina Gordon (Sylvia Sidney) tries to prevent her younger brother Tommy (Billy Halop) from wasting his life as a member of the local street gang. Tommy and the other kids idolize Baby Face Martin (Humphrey Bogart), a onetime East- sider who has hit the "big time" as a notorious gangster. Dodging the cops, Martin makes a sentimental journey to the neighborhood to visit his mother (Marjorie Main) and his old girlfriend Francie (Clare Trevor). But Martin's mother coldly tells him to get lost, while Francie reveals herself to be a consumptive prostitute. Despite his depressed state, Martin is still admired by the local kids; this displeases sign painter Dave Connell (Joel McCrea), who hopes to escape the slums via his romance with wealthy Kay Burton (Wendy Barrie). Attempting to kidnap a rich boy who'd earlier been beaten up by the street kids, Martin is prevented from making the snatch by Dave, who shoots Martin down. Receiving a large reward, Dave decides to give the money to Drina so that she can afford a lawyer to defend her brother Tommy, who has wrongfully been accused of masterminding the beating of the rich kid. His outlook on life altered by this unselfish act, Dave gives up his mercenary romance with Kay Burton, choosing instead the poverty-stricken Drina. The film introduces the Dead End Kids--Billy Halop, Leo Gorcey, Gabe Dell, Huntz Hall, Bernard Punsley and Bobby Jordan--all of whom were veterans of the Broadway version of Dead End and would be metamorphosed into the East Side Kids and The Bowery Boys. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

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