The Rodgers & Hammerstein Collection [DVD]

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Synopsis

Carousel
Carousel was adapted from the 1945 Rodgers and Hammerstein Broadway musical of the same name--which, in turn, was based on Liliom, a play by Ferenc Molnar. Gordon MacRae stars as carnival barker Billy Bigelow, who much against his will falls in love with Maine factory girl Julie Jordan (Shirley Jones). Billy proves an improvident and unreliable husband, but Julie stands by him. Upon discovering that Julie is pregnant, the unemployed Billy sees an opportunity for some quick money by joining his unsavory pal Jigger (Cameron Mitchell). The scheme goes awry, and Billy dies. Standing before the Pearly Gates, Billy is given a chance to redeem himself by the kindly Starkeeper (Gene Lockhart). He is allowed to return to Earth to try to brighten the life of his unhappy 15-year-old daughter Louise (Susan Luckey). Billy offers Louise a star that he has stolen from the sky; when Louise backs off in fear, Billy slaps her. He feels like a failure until he and his Heavenly Friend (William LeManessa) attend Louise's school graduation ceremony. There the invisible Billy watches as the principal (Gene Lockhart again) inspires Louise (and, by extension, Julie) by assuring her that so long as she has hope in her heart, she'll never walk alone. Frank Sinatra, the film's original Billy Bigelow, dropped out of the production due to laryngitis. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

State Fair
Twentieth Century-Fox couldn't make a film version of Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein's Oklahoma in 1945--that particular Broadway musical would remain a "hot ticket" until the end of the decade--so the studio did the next best thing by hiring Rodgers & Hammerstein to pen the score for the Technicolorful State Fair. Fox had previously made a non-singing movie of Philip Stong's novel in 1933, with Janet Gaynor and Will Rogers in the leads. The musical remake downplayed the older characters in favor of the younger members of the cast. Set during the annual Iowa State Fair, the story concentrates on the Frakes family: father Charles Winninger, mother Fay Bainter, and grown-up children Jeanne Crain and Dick Haymes. Each has his or her own reason for attending the fair: Winninger intends to win the "prize hog" ribbon, Bainter hopes to defeat her longtime snooty rival in the food contest (she wins when the judges get schnockered on the alcohol in her entry), Crain falls in love with fast-talking journalist Dana Andrews, and Haymes woos footloose and fancy-free vocalist Vivian Blaine. Musical highlights include the Oscar-winning "It Might as Well be Spring," "It's a Grand Night for Singing," and the title number. To avoid confusion with the 1962 remake, the 1945 State Fair was for many years retitled It Happened One Summer for TV showings. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

Oklahoma!
The King and I
The King and I, Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein's 1951 Broadway musical hit, was based on Margaret Landon's book Anna and the King of Siam. Since 20th-Century-Fox had made a film version of the Landon book in 1946, that studio had first dibs on the movie adaptation of The King and I. Deborah Kerr plays English widow Anna Leonowens, who comes to Siam in the 1860s to tutor the many wives and children of the country's progressive King (Yul Brynner, recreating his Broadway role-and winning an Oscar in the process). The culture clash between Anna and the King is but one aspect of their multilayered relationship. Through Anna, the King learns the refineries and responsibilities of "modern" western civilization; Anna meanwhile comes to realize how important it is for an Oriental ruler to maintain his pride and to uphold the customs of his people. After a successful evening entertaining foreign dignitaries, Anna and the King celebrate with an energetic dance, but this is cut short by a bitter quarrel over the cruel punishment of the King's new Burmese wife Tuptim (Rita Moreno), who has dared to fall in love with someone else. Despite the many rifts between them, Anna and the monarch come to respect and (to a degree) love one another. When the King dies, Anna agrees to stay on to offer help and advice to the new ruler of Siam, young Prince Chulalongkhorn (Patrick Adiarte). In general, The King and I tends to be somewhat stagey, with the notable exception of the matchless "Small House of Uncle Thomas" ballet, which utilizes the Cinemascope 55 format to best advantage (the process also does a nice job of "handling" Deborah Kerr's voluminous hoopskirts). Most of the Broadway version's best songs ("Getting to Know You", "Whistle a Happy Tune", "A Puzzlement", "Shall We Dance" etc.) are retained. None of the omissions are particularly regrettable, save for Anna's solo "Shall I Tell You What I Think of You?" This feisty attack on the King's chauvinism was specially written to suit the talents of Gertrude Lawrence, who played Anna in the original production; the song was cut from the film because it made Deborah Kerr seem "too bitchy" (Kerr's singing, incidentally, is dubbed for the most part by the ubiquitous Marni Nixon). When all is said and done, the principal attraction of The King and I is Yul Brynner, in the role that made him a star and with which he will forever be identified. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

The Sound of Music
One of the most popular movie musicals of all time, The Sound of Music is based on the true story of the Trapp Family Singers. Julie Andrews stars as Maria, a young nun in an Austrian convent who regularly misses her morning prayers because she enjoys going to the hills to sing the title song. Deciding that Maria needs to learn something about the real world before she can take her vows, the Mother Superior (Peggy Wood) sends her off to be governess for the children of the widowed Captain Von Trapp (Christopher Plummer). Arriving at the Trapp home, Maria discovers that her new boss is cold and aloof, and his seven children virtual automatons-at least, whenever the Captain is around. Otherwise, the kids are holy terrors, as evidenced by the fact that Maria is the latest in a long line of governesses. But Maria soon ingratiates herself with the children, especially oldest daughter Liesl (Charmian Carr), who is in love with teenaged messenger boy Rolf. As Maria herself begins to fall in love with the Captain, she rushes back to the Abbey so as not to complicate his impending marriage to a glamorous baroness (Eleanor Parker). But the children insist that Maria return, the Baroness steps out of the picture, and Maria and the Captain confirm their love in the song "Something Good." Unhappily, they return home from their honeymoon shortly after the Nazis march into Austria. Already, swastikas have been hung on the Von Trapp ancestral home, and Liesl's boyfriend Rolf has been indoctrinated in the "glories" of the Third Reich. The biggest blow occurs when Von Trapp is called back to active duty in the service of the Fuhrer. The Captain wants nothing to do with Nazism, and he begins making plans to take himself and his family out of Austria. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

South Pacific

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