Musicals: 6-Movie Collection [DVD]

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Overview

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Special Features

  • Closed Captioned

Synopsis

Anchors Aweigh
This mammoth musical is at base the story of two sailors on leave in Hollywood. Brash Joseph Brady (Gene Kelly) has promised his shy pal Clarence Doolittle (Frank Sinatra) that he will introduce Clarence to all the glamorous movie starlets whom he allegedly knows so well. Actually, the only actress whom Joseph meets is bit player Susan Abbott (Kathryn Grayson). He arranges for the golden-throated Susan to be auditioned by musician José Iturbi, but when she seems to want to return the favor romantically, Brady tries to foist the girl off on Clarence. But Clarence only has eyes for a fellow Brooklynite (Pamela Britton). Also involved in the plot machinations is runaway orphan Donald Martin (Dean Stockwell). Featuring Kelly dancing with such partners as a cartoon mouse (courtesy of MGM's house animators Bill Hanna and Joseph Barbera), Anchors Aweigh was a huge hit in 1945, assuring audiences future Gene Kelly/Frank Sinatra teamings. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

Meet Me in St. Louis
Sally Benson's short stories about the turn-of-the-century Smith family of St. Louis were tackled by a battalion of MGM screenwriters, who hoped to find a throughline to connect the anecdotal tales. After several false starts (one of which proposed that the eldest Smith daughter be kidnapped and held for ransom), the result was the charming valentine-card musical Meet Me in St. Louis. The plot hinges on the possibility that Alonzo Smith (Leon Ames), the family's banker father, might uproot the Smiths to New York, scuttling his daughter Esther (Judy Garland)'s romance with boy-next-door John Truett (Tom Drake) and causing similar emotional trauma for the rest of the household. In a cast that includes Mary Astor as Ames' wife, Lucille Bremer as another Ames daughter, and Marjorie Main as the housekeeper, the most fascinating character is played by 6-year-old Margaret O'Brien. As kid sister Tootie, O'Brien seems morbidly obsessed with death and murder, burying her dolls, "killing" a neighbor at Halloween (she throws flour in the flustered man's face on a dare), and maniacally bludgeoning her snowmen when Papa announces his plans to move to New York. Margaret O'Brien won a special Oscar for her remarkable performance, prompting Lionel Barrymore to grumble "Two hundred years ago, she would have been burned at the stake!" The songs are a heady combination of period tunes and newly minted numbers by Ralph Blane and Hugh Martin, the best of which are The Boy Next Door, The Trolley Song, and Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas. As a bonus, Meet Me in St. Louis is lensed in rich Technicolor, shown to best advantage in the climactic scenes at the St. Louis World's Fair of 1904. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

Gigi
Leslie Caron plays Gigi, a young girl raised by two veteran Parisian courtesans (Hermione Gingold and Isabel Jeans) to be the mistress of wealthy young Gaston (Louis Jourdan). When Gaston falls in love with Gigi and asks her to be his wife, Jeans is appalled: never has anyone in their family ever stooped to anything so bourgeois as marriage! Weaving in and out of the story is Maurice Chevalier as an aging boulevardier who, years earlier, had been in love with Gingold's character. Chevalier gets most of the best Lerner & Loewe tunes, including Thank Heaven for Little Girls, I'm Glad I'm Not Young Any More, and his matchless duet with Gingold, I Remember it Well. Caron's best number (dubbed by Betty Wand) is The Night They Invented Champagne while Jourdan gets the honor of introducing the title song. Filmed on location in Paris, Gigi won several Oscars, including Best Picture; it also represented the successful American movie comeback of Chevalier, who thanks to this film was "forgiven" for his reputed collaboration with the Nazis during World War II. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

Easter Parade
Fred Astaire had announced his retirement before the cameras began to roll on Easter Parade, but he decided to accept the film's leading role when its original star Gene Kelly became incapacitated. The thinnish plot, which finds Astaire trying to turn chorus girl Judy Garland into a star in order to show up his former partner Ann Miller, is hardly what keeps the audience's eyes riveted to the screen. All that truly matters are the 17 musical numbers, all written by Irving Berlin (ten were standards, while seven were new to this film). Among the many highlights are Astaire's slow-motion version of "Steppin' Out," the Astaire/Garland duet "We're a Couple of Swells," the opening rendition of "Happy Easter," and the closing performance of the title number. So successful was Easter Parade that plans were immediately drawn to reteam Fred Astaire and Judy Garland in The Barkeleys of Broadway; this time, however, it was Garland who withdrew, to be replaced by Astaire's most famous vis-à-vis, Ginger Rogers. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

Gypsy
This Stephen Sondheim/Jules Styne/Arthur Laurents musical comedy Gypsy had been a Broadway smash with Ethel Merman in the lead. Based on the autobiography of striptease artist Gypsy Rose Lee, it centers on the antics of Mama Rose (here played by Rosalind Russell), the Stage Mother from Hell who prods and pushes her daughters June and Louise into a vaudeville career. Rose pins most of her hopes for fame on older daughter June (billed as "Dainty June"), while little Louise reluctantly goes along for the ride. Karl Malden plays the girls' agent, who falls in love with Rose but is ultimately turned off by her ruthless ambition. When June escapes the act to get married, Rose puts the unwilling Louise in the star spot, but vaudeville is dying and soon the only booking they can get is in a cheap burlesque house. The strippers take Louise under their wing and advise her that "You've gotta have a gimmick" to survive on the bump-and-grind circuit. The nervous Louise rises to stardom as stripper Gypsy Rose Lee, whose "gimmick" is to adopt a self-mocking attitude and to put on pseudo-sophisticated airs. Rose resents Gypsy's rise to the top, but a bravura eight-minute musical soliloquy reveals that Rose had forced her daughters on the stage because she wanted to live out her own dreams of stardom. Louise--aka Gypsy--is played by Diane Pace as a girl and by Natalie Wood as an adult; June (better known as June Havoc) is portrayal by Suzanne Cupito (later billed as Morgan Brittany) as a little girl and Ann Jillian as an adolescent. Most of the best songs, including "Let Me Entertain You," "Small World," and "Everything's Coming Up Roses," remain intact from the original Broadway production. Gypsy was remade for television in 1993, with Bette Midler as Rose. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

High Society
High Society is a glossy Technicolor-and-VistaVision musical remake of Philip Barry's The Philadelphia Story (1940), decked out with million-watt star power and a Cole Porter score. Set amongst the rich and famous in Newport, RI, the story revolves around the wedding plans of socialite Tracy Lord (Grace Kelly). Tracy is all set to marry stuffy George Kittridge (John Lund), while magazine writer Mike Connor (Frank Sinatra) and photographer Liz Imbrie (Celeste Holm) intend to cover the ceremony. Meanwhile, Tracy's ex-husband C.K. Dexter-Haven (Bing Crosby) also comes calling, ostensibly to the attend the annual Newport Jazz Festival, but actually for the purpose of winning Tracy back. In the course of events, Mike falls in love with Tracy, and she with him. The Jazz Festival subplot allows scriptwriter John Patrick to bring Louis Armstrong into the proceedings, much to the delight of anyone who cares anything about music. The Cole Porter tunes include the Crosby-Sinatra duet "Well, Did You Evah?," the Crosby-Armstrong teaming "Now You Has Jazz," the Kelly-Crosby romantic ballad "True Love," and the Sinatra solo "You're Sensational." Though it lacks the satiric edge of the Philip Barry original (Barry, incidentally, is not given any screen credit), High Society succeeds on its own lighthearted terms. The film represents Grace Kelly's final acting assignment before her real-life wedding to Prince Rainier of Monaco. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

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