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The Classic Romance Collection [6 Discs] [DVD]

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Overview

Synopsis

A Farewell to Arms
This first film version of Ernest Hemingway's novel A Farewell to Arms stars Gary Cooper and Helen Hayes. Cooper plays Lt. Frederick Henry, a World War I officer who falls in love with English Red Cross nurse Catherine Barkley (Hayes)-after first mistaking her for a woman of ill repute. Henry's friend, Major Rinaldi, is envious of the romance, and pulls strings to have Catherine transferred to Milan. When Henry is wounded in battle, he ends up in the very hospital where Catherine works. They resume the affair, which reaches an ecstatic peak just before Henry is returned to the front. The now-pregnant Catherine remains in Switzerland, sending letters by the bushelfull to Henry. But the jealous Rinaldi sees to it that Henry never receives those letters, leading Catherine to conclude sorrowfully that Henry has forgotten her. As the Armistice approaches, Henry makes his way to Switzerland, hoping to find Catherine. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

Love Affair
Leo McCarey's classic tale of romance stars Irene Dunne and Charles Boyer as two strangers who fall in love on an ocean voyage. Charles Boyer is Michel Marnet, engaged to be married to Lois Clarke (Astrid Allwyn). Irene Dunne is Terry McKay, also engaged to be married, in this case to Kenneth Bradley (Lee Bowman). But when Michel and Terry meet aboard a ship, they fall instantly in love. In order to prove to themselves their love affair is not just a shipboard romance, they agree to meet six months hence on the top of the Empire State Building. If they still feel the same way about each other, they will bid adieu to their fiancees and start their affair anew. Six months later, they are still thinking about each other and proceed to their meeting at the Empire State Building. Michel awaits Terry's arrival, but Terry, on the way to their meeting, is involved in a terrible car accident, leaving her a cripple. Later, by a twist of fate, they are reunited and Michel vows to stay with Terry to help her walk again. ~ Paul Brenner, Rovi

Power, Passion and Murder
Set during the '30s, this made-for-television sudser tells the melodramatic tale of a beautiful Hollywood starlet who throws away her promising career for the love of a married man. ~ Sandra Brennan, Rovi

The Strange Woman
B-movie auteur Edgar G. Ulmer managed to direct a few A-pictures during his long career; he was personally selected by Hedy Lamarr to helm this big-budget thriller, a project she put together to change her image as a starlet whose sex appeal outweighed her acting abilities. Set in the early 19th century, The Strange Woman takes place in Bangor, Maine, where logging and lumber mills have made the town prosperous. Jenny Hager (Lamarr) has grown up in Bangor, not far from the watchful eye of wealthy Isaiah Poster (Gene Lockhart). The fact that Jenny is twenty years Isaiah's junior does not stem his amorous intentions, and when she's finally out of her teens, Jenny accepts his proposal of marriage. But beneath her sweet exterior, Jenny is a shrewd, conniving women, and while she makes a fine life for herself with Isaiah's money, she obviously doesn't care for him. When Isaiah's son Ephraim (Louis Hayward) visits from college, Jenny is immediately attracted to him, and she tells him that she'll marry him if he murders his father. But, unknown to Ephraim, Jenny is already scheming to win the affections of businessman John Evered (George Sanders), even though he's pledged to marry her best friend Meg (Hillary Brooke). Based on a novel by Ben Ames Williams, The Strange Woman was generally considered one of Hedy Lamarr's best performances, although her best-known performance would continue to be in Ecstasy (1933), largely because of her then-daring nude scenes. ~ Mark Deming, Rovi

Meet John Doe
The first of director Frank Capra's independent productions (in partnership with Robert Riskin), Meet John Doe begins with the end of reporter Ann Mitchell's (Barbara Stanwyck) job. Fired as part of a downsizing move, she ends her last column with an imaginary letter written by "John Doe." Angered at the ill treatment of America's little people, the fabricated Doe announces that he's going to jump off City Hall on Christmas Eve. When the phony letter goes to press, it causes a public sensation. Seeking to secure her job, Mitchell talks her managing editor (James Gleason) into playing up the John Doe letter for all it's worth; but to ward off accusations from rival papers that the letter was bogus, they decide to hire someone to pose as John Doe: a ballplayer-turned-hobo (Gary Cooper), who'll do anything for three squares and a place to sleep. "John Doe" and his traveling companion The Colonel (Walter Brennan) are ensconced in a luxury hotel while Mitchell continues churning out chunks of John Doe philosophy. When newspaper publisher D.B. Norton (Edward Arnold), a fascistic type with presidential aspirations, decides to use Doe as his ticket to the White House, he puts Doe on the radio to deliver inspirational speeches to the masses -- ghost-written by Mitchell, who, it is implied, has become the publisher's mistress. The central message of the Doe speeches is "Love Thy Neighbor," though, conceived in cynicism, the speeches strike so responsive a chord with the public that John Doe clubs pop up all over the country. Believing he is working for the good of America, Cooper agrees to front the National John Doe Movement -- until he discovers that Norton plans to exploit Doe in order to create a third political party and impose a virtual dictatorship on the country. The last of Capra's "social statement" films, Meet John Doe posted a profit, although Capra and Riskin were forced to dissolve their corporation due to excessive taxes. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

Penny Serenade
While listening to a recording of "Penny Serenade," Julie Gardiner Adams (Irene Dunne) begins reflecting on her past. She recalls her near-impulsive marriage to newspaper reporter Roger Adams (Cary Grant), which begins on a deliriously happy note but turns out to be fraught with tragedy. While honeymooning in Japan, Julie and Roger are trapped in the 1923 earthquake, which results in her miscarriage and subsequent incapability to bear children. Upon their return to America, Roger becomes editor of a small-town newspaper, just scraping by financially. Despite their depleted resources, Julie and Roger want desperately to adopt a child. It seems hopeless until kindly adoption agency head Miss Oliver (Beulah Bondi) helps smooth their path. Alas, their happiness is once more short-lived: their new daughter, Trina (Eva Lee Kuney), succumbs to a sudden illness at the age of six. Reduced to hopelessness, Julie and Roger decide to dissolve their marriage, but Miss Oliver once more comes to the rescue. Sentimental in the extreme, Penny Serenade is also enormously effective, balancing moments of heartbreaking pathos with uproarious laughter. Only director George Stevens could have handled a scene with a copiously weeping Cary Grant without inducing discomfort or embarrassment in the audience. Since lapsing into the public domain in 1968 (though released by Columbia, the film was owned by Stevens' production firm), Penny Serenade has become almost as ubiquitous a cable-TV presence as It's a Wonderful Life. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

The Last Time I Saw Paris
Loosely based on F. Scott Fitzgerald's short story Babylon Revisited, MGM's The Last Time I Saw Paris is a star-studded soap opera, luxuriously lensed by director Richard Brooks. In his last film as an MGM contractee, Van Johnson plays reporter Charles Wills, who while covering the VE Day celebrations in Paris, meets and falls in love with the gorgeous Helen Ellsworth (Elizabeth Taylor). Soon afterward, Charles and Helen are married. Charles supports his wife with a low-paying wire service job, devoting his evenings to writing a novel. After numerous rejections, Charles is more than willing to give up writing and live off the revenue of a Texas oil well in which he'd invested. As he squanders his newfound riches on creature comforts, he loses his literary ambitions and, slowly but surely, the love and devotion of his wife. His self-destructive behavior is halted only by a devastating tragedy. Donna Reed costars as Charles sister-in-law Marion, who carries a torch for him throughout the picture, and Eva Gabor contributes a supporting role. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

A Star Is Born
A Star is Born came into being when producer David O. Selznick decided to tell a "true behind-the-scenes" story of Hollywood. The truth, of course, was filtered a bit for box-office purposes, although Selznick and an army of screenwriters based much of their script on actual people and events. Janet Gaynor stars as Esther Blodgett, the small-town girl who dreams of Hollywood stardom, a role later played by both Judy Garland and Barbra Streisand in the 1954 and 1976 remakes. Jeered at by most of her family, Esther finds an ally in her crusty old grandma (May Robson), who admires the girl's "pioneer spirit" and bankrolls Esther's trip to Tinseltown. On arrival, Esther heads straight to Central Casting, where a world-weary receptionist (Peggy Wood), trying to let the girl down gently, tells her that her chances for stardom are about one in a thousand. "Maybe I'll be that one!" replies Esther defiantly. Months pass: through the intervention of her best friend, assistant director Danny McGuire (Andy Devine), Esther gets a waitressing job at an upscale Hollywood party. Her efforts to "audition" for the guests are met with quizzical stares, but she manages to impress Norman Maine (Fredric March), the alcoholic matinee idol later played by James Mason and Kris Kristofferson. Esther gets her first big break in Norman's next picture and a marriage proposal from the smitten Mr. Maine. It's a hit, but as Esther (now named Vicki)'s star ascends, Norman's popularity plummets due to a string of lousy pictures and an ongoing alcohol problem. The film won Academy Awards for director William Wellman and Robert Carson in the "original story" category and for W. Howard Greene's glistening Technicolor cinematography. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

Jane Eyre
This version of the Charlotte Bronte classic is the first to use sound. The story closely follows the book as it chronicles the romantic travails of a troubled orphan girl who grows up to be a governess in love with her employer who returns her affections. She has finally found happiness. Alas, her happiness is short-lived as she learns that her love has locked his crazy wife in a remote wing of the house. The distraught governess flees and gets engaged to a new man. Just before they marry, she learns that her true love's house has burned down, immolating his wife and leaving him nearly blind. Without hesitation she returns to him and romantic bliss ensues. ~ Sandra Brennan, Rovi

Eternally Yours
Anita's (Loretta Young) life seems to be progressing nicely. She's engaged to Don Barnes (Broderick Crawford), a wealthy man that will give her all the stability and comfort a woman could desire. But then she meets a magician with the unlikely name of The Great Arturo (David Niven), who performs a singular feat of magic -- he sweeps her off her feet. Promptly dropping Barnes, she weds Arturo and travels the globe as his assistant. After some time, however, the magic begins to wear off and Anita longs for a simpler life, perhaps on a quite farmhouse in the country. She's also a bit put out by Arturo's flirting with other women, but what really worries her are the dangerous stunts he has added to his repertoire. Realizing it is time for her to do something, she pulls a little magic of her own and disappear, forcing Artuto to set off on a lively chase to find her. ~ Craig Butler, Rovi

Father's Little Dividend
This sequel to the 1950 comedy hit Father of the Bride finds Spencer Tracy and Joan Bennett returning as Stanley and Ellie Banks, the parents of newlywed Kay Dunstan (Elizabeth Taylor). In the first film, Stanley Banks was forced to endure the chaotic events leading up to the wedding. This time, he must comes to grips with the prospect of becoming a grandfather. Once he's reconciled himself to this jolt of mortality, Stanley must contend with the little bundle of joy, who screams his head off every time Grandpa comes near him. Father's Little Dividend was remade in 1994 as Father of the Bride II, with Steve Martin assuming the Spencer Tracy role, and with the added complication of discovering that his own wife (Diane Keaton) is also pregnant. The copyright for Father's Little Dividend was not renewed in 1978; thus the film has lapsed into public domain. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

Algiers
This Hollywood remake of the French Pepe le Moko adheres so slavishly to its source that it utilizes stock footage from the original film, and even picked its actors on the basis of their resemblance to the French cast. Contrary to legend, star Charles Boyer never says "Come wizz me to zee Casbah"; as master criminal Pepe le Moko, he's already in the Casbah, a crook-controlled safe harbor which protects Pepe from the French authorities. Pepe's friendly enemy, police inspector Joseph Calleia, treats his pursuit of Pepe like a chess game, patiently waiting for his opponent to make that one wrong move. The ever-careful Pepe has the misfortune to fall hopelessly in love with tourist Hedy Lamarr (in her first American film). A combination of events, including the betrayal of Pepe by his castaway lover Sigrid Gurie and Hedy's tearful return to her ship when she is misinformed that Pepe is killed, lures the hero/villain into the open. Arrested by Calleia, Pepe begs for one last glance at his departing sweetheart. At this point in the French version, Pepe cheated the hangman by killing himself; this would never do in Production Code-dominated Hollywood, so Algiers contrives to have Pepe shot while trying to escape. Algiers was remade in 1948 as a musical, Casbah, starring Tony Martin. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

The Lady and the Highwayman
Adaptation of Barbara Cartland's novel featuring a 17th century adventure romance between an aristocrat and an endangered noblewoman. ~ Jeaniff Dorset, Rovi

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