Studio Classics: Set 1 [Fox 75th Anniversary] [4 Discs] [DVD]

This release constitutes the first volume in a set of classic features commemorating the 75th anniversary of 20th Century Fox studios. This particular installment begins with Anna and the King of Siam (1946), a non-musical precursor to The King and I (based on the novel by Margaret Landon, and directed by John Cromwell) about Anna Leonowens (Irene Dunne), the British society woman who traveled to Siam in 1862 to educate the children of the Siamese monarch (Rex Harrison). The remainder of the collection focuses exclusively on musicals: Frank Sinatra and Shirley MacLaine headline the 1960 Can-Can, which brings Cole Porter's blockbuster stage musical of the same name to the screen; Fred Astaire and Leslie Caron star in director Jean Negulesco's Daddy Long Legs (1955), with Astaire as the benefactor of French orphan girl Caron; and finally, Julie Andrews headlines Robert Wise's epic-length 1968 biopic Star!, as Broadway icon and chanteuse Gertrude Lawrence.
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Special Features

  • Closed Captioned


Biography: Anna and the King - The Real Story of Anna Leonowens
This video presents a profile of Anna Leonowens, whose life in the court of the King of Siam was immortalized in her book, The King and I. Leonowens was a woman of many talents and disguises. The video follows her story, from India, where she was born of British parents, to her unconventional life, and then her years as tutor of the children of the King of Siam. The program includes an interview with actress Jodie Foster, who plays the role of Anna in a movie entitled Anna and the King. Foster shares what she learned about the amazing Anna Leonowens, as she prepared for the role. ~ Rose of Sharon Winter, Rovi

Touted by 20th Century-Fox as a follow-up to their enormously successful The Sound of Music, Star! reteams that earlier film's leading lady Julie Andrews and director Robert Wise. Andrews plays legendary musical comedy star Gertrude Lawrence, while Daniel Massey appears as Lawrence's friend, co-worker and severest critic Noel Coward (Massey's real-life godfather). The film jumps back and forth in continuity at times, its transitions bridged by fabricated newsreel footage; essentially, however, William Fairchild's script traces Lawrence's progress from ambitious bit actress to the toast of London and Broadway. Her success is offset by a stormy private life, which is given some ballast when she falls in love with an American financier (Richard Crenna). The film is way too long for its own good, though the musical set pieces -- especially the Andrews-Massey duets -- are superb. Julie Andrews welcomed the chance of playing a character as far removed from her goody-two-shoes heroine in Sound of Music as possible; Gertrude Lawrence was temperamental, sarcastic, profane and at times self-destructive, and Andrews makes a meal of the role. Unfortunately, Andrews' fans, conditioned by the Fox publicity machine to expect a continuation of Sound of Music, rejected her outright in this "new" characterization. Star! was a huge box-office bomb, so much so that Fox desperately attempted a shortened re-release under a misleading new title, Those Were The Happy Times. They weren't: it remained a financial disaster, though it has developed a loyal cult following in recent years. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

Daddy Long Legs
This last remake (thus far) of the Jean Webster novel Daddy Long Legs was extensively revised to accommodate the talents of Fred Astaire and Leslie Caron. Fragments of the basic plot remain: American millionaire Astaire is the unknown benefactor of French orphan girl Caron, financing the girl's education on the proviso that his identity never be revealed to her. Moved by Caron's letters of thanks, Astaire's secretary Thelma Ritter advises Astaire to go to France to visit the "child". When he arrives, he finds that his ward has grown up rather nicely, and the two fall in love--though Caron never knows until the very end who Astaire really is. The old story has been updated to allow for an elaborate "cowboy" number and a couple of Eisenhower jokes. Highlights include a solo ballet by Caron and a wonderful Astaire routine involving a set of drums. The score for Daddy Long Legs is unremarkable save for Johnny Mercer's hit "Something's Gotta Give". ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

Cole Porter's Gay Paree musical about the introduction in Montmartre in 1896 of the notorious Can-Can dance, is brought to the screen, filtered through a Rat Pack sensibility. Shirley MacLaine stars as Simone Pistache, the perky and vivacious owner of a Parisian cafe, who, aided by her swingin' boyfriend Francois Dumais (Frank Sinatra), is trying to keep her establishment from being closed down by the Paris authorities because of Simone's insistence on treating her patrons to the Can-Can, the salacious dance outlawed by French law. Maurice Chevalier is a kindly French judge who graciously looked the other way, but another hard-nosed judge, Philippe Forrestier (Louis Jordan), turns up the heat on Simone to close her cafe. That is, until Simone turns up the heat on him, and Phillippe falls hard for Simone. ~ Paul Brenner, Rovi

Anna and the King of Siam
More serious and less colorful than The King And I, Anna And The King Of Siam is still a well-crafted and elaborate spectacle. Leonowens (Irene Dunne) and her son travel to the tiny kingdom of Siam, where she has been hired to teach Western ways and culture to the multitudes of children sired by the King (Rex Harrison). All too soon, however, the King and Anna clash over the differences in their ways and cultures; Anna is also drawn into a palace romance between the concubine, Tuptim (Linda Darnell), and another man, which ends in tragedy. Whereas The King And I focused on the budding relationship between Anna and the King, the non-musical version is a more straightforward reading of Margaret Landon's book about the real Anna Leonowens. Harrison made his screen debut in the role, which became synonymous with Yul Brynner in the 1956 musical version. ~ Don Kaye, Rovi

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