Puttin' on the Ritz

By Stuart J. Kobak

Musicals have long been a staple of the magical Hollywood machine. Although it has been years since this genre captured the excitement of mass audiences, I have no doubt that given the right ingredients, theater screens could once again light up in "glorious Technicolor, breathtaking Cinemascope, and stereophonic sound, "as Janis Paige and Fred Astaire sing in Silk Stockings, the marvelous musical remake of the classic Garbo comedy Ninotchka.

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     Remakes have also peppered Hollywood history. The philosophy seems to be "if it was good once, why not make it again" and, often, again. The obvious question is why not simply reissue the successful film if it was so good. To be sure, this has been done, but success of a film too often depends on the popularity of its stars, and a film made thirty years ago is unlikely to have stars who continue to magnet audiences into theaters.
     Musical remakes of a successful comedy or drama is a different matter altogether. The road to this musical incarnation is often circuitous, first lighting up the Broadway boards, sometimes for years, before being captured on film. In some cases, like My Fair Lady, the trail began in the mind of George Bernard Shaw as a classic stage production, then was adapted as a motion picture, with Shaw scripting, before enticing Lerner and Loewe to mount a staggeringly successful musical stage adaptation and finally brought to the musical screen in an incandescent production. Taking Shaw's Pygmalion and dressing it up in the finery of a musical is like heeding the line "dressed up like a million dollar trooper," from Irving Berlin's standard "Puttin on the Ritz."
     There is no guarantee that puttin' on the Ritz will realize a successful transformation, although more than likely, when the original material is good enough, the musical adaptation will delight an audience. Some, like Silk Stockings, even surpass the seeming unsurpassable. What are the ingredients that make the successful musical remake? Why do some fail, some shine, and others settle into relatively comfortable mediocrity: perhaps some insights can be gleaned by looking at a number of these combination film and musical remake that are available on laser disc.

Grand and Even Grander

Ninotchka was a much heralded movie event in 1939. The great Garbo in a comedy directed by master of effortless erudition Ernst Lubitsch couldn't fail. Billy Wilder, Charles Brackett and Walter Reisch penned a delicious script that gave the principals the structure on which to build a thoroughly successful film. Joining Greta Garbo was suave Melvyn Douglas, equally comfortable in light comedy or drama. The chemistry between Garbo and Douglas is excellent, as Douglas melts the chilly facade of the commissar. Garbo is really a delight in this her first comedy. The role is a custom tailored garment for Garbo to wear and she makes the most of this comedic opportunity.
     The story poking fun at the dour Soviet nature soon destined to dominate Eastern Europe is replete with possibilities. The Russians send a trio of emissaries to Paris to complete a sale of a group of imperial jewels, formerly the property of Grand Duchess Swana of the Russian royal family who is now living a luxurious life in the city of lights. Hearing of the pending sale, she dispatches her lover, Count Leon D'Algout (Douglas )to recover the jewels for her.
     Soon Leon has the trio of bumbling comrades enjoying the better points of Parisian night life. When the sale has not been expeditiously completed, Russia dispatches icy agent Garbo to tie up the loose ends. She too, is captivated by Leon, after some arduous charming.
     The film is well paced, the comic lines and swipes at Russia, well delivered. The photography and settings are rather stagy, but this does not take away from the pure joy of watching Ninotchka and Leon fall in love. The fine screenplay takes every opportunity to provide a chuckle. The film was nominated for four Academy Awards including Best Picture, Best Actress, Best Screenplay, and Best Original Story, but in one of the legendary years of Hollywood's glory, Ninotchka took home none of the prizes.
     The laser disc looks very good, MGM having turned up excellent source material. The shadings of black and white are very natural, and the sound is all right considering the film's age. The theatrical reissue trailer at the end of the disc is always a welcome addition. This is certainly a disc that you will want to have as part of your collection and repeat viewings will be rewarded.
     The reworking of Ninotchka into Silk Stockings began as a Broadway show penned by George S. Kaufman and Abe Burrows, with music by Cole Porter. The 1957 film was further refined from the stage play and included several additional musical numbers.

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Why does Silk Stockings surpass its non musical predecessor? Fred Astaire is a major asset to any project and he's in peak form playing movie producer Steve Canfield, a smooth successor to Melvyn Douglas's earlier Leon. With Cyd Charisse costarring as Ninotchka, Astaire has a superb dancing partner with whom he can weave his footwork magic. Astaire's easy style is perfectly suited to this charming role, and while the romance may not be up to the fire between Garbo and Douglas, the fine dancing truly lifts Silk Stockings. Charisse holds her own as dancing commissar and is remarkable in the "Silk Stockings" number, a perfectly concocted striptease ballet.
     Cole Porter's musical score is exuberant in complimenting the feeling of the film. The consistently clever lyrics are entertaining and give the songs a certain snap, pop, and glitz. The very delightful "Stereophonic Sound" would be a highlight of any musical. This is one of the three numbers that feature Janis Paige in the role of Peggy Dayton, glamorous and clamorous Hollywood musical queen, who joins Astaire and company in Paris to star in the film he is producing. Paige's performance is a comic masterpiece, clearly a career capper for the leggy redhead. "Stereophonic Sound" is performed as a duet with Astaire, and later she sings "Satin and Silk," hilarious and the perfect lead in for Charisse's deft dance number "Silk Stockings" that follows immediately. The mix of Paige in the glowing recipe for Silk Stockings is precisely apportioned, greatly adding to the strength of the film adaptation.
     Other musical highlights of the fourteen numbers on the disc include "Too Bad," a box of bon mots performed by the Bolshevik trio of Jules Munshin, Joseph Buloff, and Peter Lorre, alongside Astaire leading them into revelry; "Siberia," an adorable performance by the aforementioned Russkis, the clever "Fated to be Mated" sung by Astaire and "The Ritz Roll and Rock," performed by Astaire. Fred Astaire's long legs graced the boards in only two more screen musicals after Silk Stockings, the following year's Funny Face, and a decade later in the Francis Ford Coppola directed Finian's Rainbow.
     The direction of Rouben Mamoulian, known for his taste and exquisite sense of camera movement, helms Silk Stockings almost invisibly. The camera is always where it should be for the musical numbers and the actors are presented to best advantage. Mamoulian's career was equally at home on Broadway, directing both Porgy and Bess and Carousel for the stage.
     Silk Stockings retains the charm of Ninotchka, and although the wit is less acerbic, it is more appropriate to the musical genre. The musical dressing on the comedy's shapely figure truly enhances the experience. Each musical number is so harmoniously integrated into the story that the pacing is even swifter than the original's. It is this wonderful balance between story and music that sets Silk Stockings atop perfection's peak; the story is never subordinated to the musical set pieces and vice versa.
     The glorious Technicolor, breathtaking Cinemascope and stereophonic sound have all been well captured in the transformation to disc. The colors are rich, yet not overly saturated, and the production numbers move gracefully across wide screen presentation. Surround effects of the stereo are minimal, but it is always crisp with no apparent noise. The pressing is also virtually free of video noise. The disc runs very close to its maximum and there was no room for the theatrical trailer without running into the expense of a second disc.
     Watch Ninotchka first, savor it for a week, then turn on to the scintillating successful musical embellishment of Silk Stockings. There is no way you will be disappointed.

Not All Remakes Are Equal

Tampering with a classic is a challenge that does not always meet with glowing accolades. In 1937, Frank Capra directed the screen version of the popular James Hilton novel, The Lost Horizon. Able Capra collaborator, screenwriter Robert Riskin, captured the essence of the novel's delicacy in the screen treatment, and with an able cast of players, Capra brought the novel to life on the big screen.

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Ronald Coleman is an elegant Robert Conway, internationally acclaimed British diplomat, whose plane is hijacked while fleeing from airport during an attack by rebel forces at the Chinese city of Baskul . Coleman and a handful of fellow refugees are crash-landed deep in the Himalayan mountains, from where they are ostensibly rescued and brought to the seemingly perfect world of Shangri-La.
     The majestic setting of the fantastic, and I must say improbable, monastery at Shangri-La serves as a stage for the philosophic pondering of modern society. Capra sprinkles enough exotic powder on the scene to create an other worldly feeling for Shangri-La, particularly well complimented by a wonderful score by Dimitri Tiomkin. Capra's pacing is excellent and the film has been very well edited. He has also elicited first rate performances from his actors across the board.
     The choice of Ronald Coleman is a major factor for the great critical and popular reception of the film. Coleman brings inherent qualities to the role that save thousands of feet of establishing film footage. He communicates the erudition and sensitive humanity of a great man effortlessly. Although it is a small role, Sam Jaffe as the High Lama is equally sensitive and Coleman and he have a wonderful scene together when Jaffe offers to pass the reigns to Shangri-La. Excellent support is also offered from Jane Wyatt, Thomas Mitchell, H. B. Warner, Everett Edward Horton and John Howard.
     This laser disc is billed as the "Original Restored Version," of the film that most of had known from chopped television versions with prints in lamentable condition. The film length has been restored to 125 minutes, with 7 additional minutes of audio accompanied by stills, bringing it to its original theatrical length. The condition of this assembled "new" print shows age in many places exhibited by scratches and snow, however the gamma levels of the black and white images are well rendered and the disc quality is surely the best print that I have seen. The sound is in pretty good shape. Though there are no chapter stops, when the disc was produced four or five years ago, the omission was typical. Even this imperfect restoration is a welcome achievement, for this Lost Horizon is an important part of our film history.
     The musical remake fails utterly on a number of levels. Timing is certainly a factor that works against the musical version. When the original was made, the world was a much smaller place and the black and white images of Shangri-La were exotic and mysterious to Western audiences. In 1972, in candied color, convincing the audience of the reality of a Shangri-la is a another chore altogether. Presumably, it still might have worked with proper execution.
     For almost the first half hour of this new version, it follows the original almost scene for scene and cut for cut. Even the dialogue seems to be the same. I found myself wondering if this really was going to be a musical. The first musical number is incredibly more than forty minutes into the film. I spent the time wondering why the producers had decided to cast a very bland Peter Finch in the role so magically captured earlier by Ronald Coleman.
     The direction by Britisher Charles Jarrott (only his third film) is absolutely moribund. Of course, the biggest problem is the musical treatment itself, composed in banal tones and lyrics by Burt Bacharach. With this disastrous element, the musical Lost Horizon was doomed to failure.
     The performances of the songs is at best pedestrian. It is difficult to believe that Liv Ullmann and Peter Finch were actually dubbed by professional singers, so weak are their renderings of the material provided to sing.
     For some reason, Pioneer decided to issue this two disc production as a Pioneer Special Edition. The source material provides stable, sharp and clean images for the pressing, which has some minor vertical dropout streaking, but no other obvious flaws. The sound is excellent, and for those seeking pure punishment, the music only track is available on the analog right channel. The gatefold packaging is very well executed with pleasing design and excellent organization.
     Another crucial factor that can spread nitroglycerin around the base of a remake is an extraordinarily strong performance in the original, which often stamps the role indelibly with the image of the actor who created the part. Such is the case with Peter Finch faltering in the shadow of Ronald Coleman's incandescent effort. For audiences who have seen the original, comparison is inevitable, which is likely to explode the foundation of the newer version. How many years that pass between the two versions can mitigate the volatility, since much of the core audience is unlikely to have seen the original performance in theaters, although time factors have been somewhat blurred by the advent of video. Still, younger, newer movie lovers do not avail themselves generously enough of the wealth of our film heritage, often passing on the opportunity to see a classic because it was filmed in black and white.
     Dramatic material is more difficult to successfully adapt to the musical genre. The nature of comedy blends much more comfortably with song. Although one can point to Opera to dispute this observation, Opera is a very stylized entertainment, and well established conventions are much more forgiving to the often weakly constructed books.

Two Sisters Times Two

The Pioneer Special Edition which presents My Sister Eileen both in its original black and white comic clothing and its Ritzed up colorful musical clone made some thirteen years later served as an inspiration for this article. The idea of packaging the two films together was an artistically intelligent decision and gives disc lovers a delightful opportunity to taste of a comic classic and its musical mate. Pioneer must be commended, not only on conception, but on execution, of a handsome gatefold two disc presentation. The source material for the 1942 My Sister Eileen is in grand condition and the transfer has been accomplished with commensurate care. The black and white images offer a beautifully tracked gray scale and the mono soundtrack is clean and clear.     

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Rosalind Russell as Ruth Sherwood ignites the screen as the elder of two small town Ohio sisters who relocate to Manhattan's Greenwich Village in search of success in the world of the arts. The comedy is often hilarious and Director Alexander Hall guides the actors and maintains the pace with polished aplomb. Hall was hot in the forties directing close to a dozen comedies, such as the wonderful Here Comes Mr. Jordan, as well as The Doctor Takes a Wife and Bedtime Story.
     The film luster is embellished by a wonderful supporting cast. Brian Aherne joins sophistication and daffiness to create a believable character as Robert Baker, Ruth's editor and love interest. George Tobias embodies bulldozer landlord Appopolous, while Allyn Joslyn's reporter Chick Clark is a funny, broad portrait of a Broadway hipster. Janet Blair is appealing as Eileen and Richard Quine as her would-be beau Frank Lippincott provides the right measure of earnestness. Quine, who went on to a reasonably successful directing career, in a nice nostalgic touch, directed the musical remake of the film. Rounding out the cast with empty-headed good nature is Gordon Jones as "The Rambling Wreck from Georgia Tech."
     My Sister Eileen embodies the rich period of Hollywood's zany days when the entertainment machine produced a series of sparkling "screwball" comedies. Its classic moments like the Brazilian conga line, or the continuing subway blasts hold up as comic explosions.

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The musical remake in the Pioneer package is an amiable film, but the music, is entertaining but unremarkable. Here, the story overshadows the music and the music slows the pacing reducing the effectiveness of the plot. Betty Garrett , as Ruth, is funny, but she lacks the biting wit and elegant presence with which Rosalind Russell imbued the role. This is a clear example of an actress claiming the role as her own.
     The scenes follow the original pretty faithfully, but the overall comic execution is not on par with the predecessor. Evaluating it on its own, the musical entertainment is fun, but it shrivels in light of comparison to the tightly constructed original. The deliriously mad conga set piece of the original loses its excitement and spontaneity with the transition to a weakly scored and cloyingly choreographed musical number. The actors convey the feeling of a typical small town musical that MGM cranked out with regularity in the forties and early fifties. It is almost as if the remake could be set in Ohio instead of New York.
     The wide screen images of the disc are fully presented, but the choreography by later great Bob Fosse is not up to the generous expanses of the Cinemascope format. The colors on the Technicolor film element appear to be slightly muted by time, however this is not a glaring fault. My disc set was defective due to several points at the 52 minute area of side three where the laser hangs up or jumps forward or back skipping some of the action. Otherwise, the pressing was very clean with little grain and no dropouts. The stereo sound only wants for a better score to show off.
     Sixteen years after garnering a Best Actress Academy Award nomination for witty creation of Ruth Sherwood, Rosalind Russell received the Academy's recognition again for her superlative comic talents as Auntie Mame. Indeed, this absolutely delightful comedy is largely carried on the graceful shoulders of this wonderful actress; however, she has been presented a very fine screenplay from Betty Comden and Adolph Green that captures the charm of the novel written by Patrick Dennis. Before its film life, the novel was turned into a successful Broadway play, foreshadowing the path that its musical remake would also travel.
     Auntie Mame's comic adventures span approximately ten years beginning just prior to the 1929 stock market collapse, when she is given custody of her just orphaned nephew, Patrick. Examined through his eyes, she is an affectionately drawn eccentric, blithely traveling through life with her own, unique point of view. Russell keeps the reigns tightly controlled on a role that might have carried a less accomplished comedienne on a ride into slapstick garishness. Mame's interaction with the variety of characters that surround her is nearly always uproarious, and the good spirited nature of the film even manages to provoke a laugh at the death of Mame's likable husband, Beauregard, adequately played by Forrest Tucker.
      While Russell does receive excellent comic support from Peggy Cass as her nearsighted assistant Agnes Gooch and Fred Clark as the suitably irritating banker Babcock, this is a Rosalind Russell movie. She sparks delight into almost every scene. The film, though running almost two and a half hours, moves at pace as quick and sure as Miss Russell's snappy delivery of her lines.
     The original film elements for this two disc set are in good condition, save for a number of scratches. The color is excellent and the images sharp. There are video occlusions evident on the pressing in the form of white or colored flecks. Do save a place in your collection for this wonderful presentation.
     Auntie Mame in musical skins was a big success on Broadway with Angela Lansbury well suited to the role. Herein lies the fatal fault with Mame as a movie musical: the miscasting of Lucille Ball as Mame Dennis simply prevents the film from developing any rapport with its audience. Not only is her singing thoroughly irritating, her Mame is never invested with any sense of vibrancy, and is certainly lacking an aura of false erudition that is needed to carry off the role.

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     Some of Jerry Herman's musical numbers for Mame are well formed and entertaining, but the fire is not in the lyrics but how they are delivered, and again, Lucy's in the way. The dance sequences are similarly compromised. Robert Preston, playing the role of Beauregard is a welcome treat in any film, and his rendition of the title song is graceful.
     The production looks expensive and perhaps overproduced, but blessedly, director Gene Saks keeps the action moving along. The pressing and transfer of the two disc has been well accomplished, although some scenes are slightly soft. There are no glaring defects in this limp remake.

From the Sublime to the Ordinary

The Shop Around The Corner is a film that epitomizes Hollywood at its tasteful best. Though sentimental, it never lapses into bathos; its charm does not step over the line into cuteness. Ernst Lubitsch achieves his finest directorial moments in this lovingly realized romantic comedy set in pre World War II Budapest viewed through an immigrant's veil of longing memory.
     As producer and director, Lubitsch has cast his film as a jeweler selecting gems for his finest creation. The effortless style of James Stewart infuses shop manager Alfred Kralik with a convincing touches of honesty and acid, romance and practicality. Stewart can deliver lines like , "And I'd like to take this opportunity Miss Novak to, inform you, that I don't walk like a duck and I'm not bowlegged," without missing a beat. This is one of Stewart's most appealing screen roles. Playing opposite Stewart for the fourth and final time, Margaret Sullavan is a radiant Klara Novak. The development of their delightfully rocky romance is the fulcrum on which the various elements of the film balance beautifully.
     Frank Morgan's Hugo Matuschek, proprietor of the gift shop where the Stewart/Sullavan love-hate relationship evolves, provides able support, as do stock player Felix Bressart and a surprisingly oily Joseph Schildkraut.
     There is an overall magic that surrounds this production by Lubitsch. The stylized sets of the streets of Budapest are not meant to be realistic; when the snow falls in perfect flakes, it reinforces a fairy tale quality to the story. The deft "Lubitsch Touch" is perfectly in tune to the characters and their world, transparently transporting the audience along for the ride. The director allows the emotions of the characters to communicate themselves naturally out of the plot and dialogue. The absence of a musical soundtrack displays confidence that the Lubitsch audience needs no extraneous scoring to reinforce how they are to respond to his characters and situations.
     The disc presentation of this classic film is very good visually. The elegant range of filmed blacks and whites is accurately reproduced in the transfer. There are few noticeable blemishes. The soundtrack shows its age with a persistent scratchiness as well as a annoying low level hum, perhaps all the more obvious because of the absence of a background score. Along with the original theatrical trailer, MGM has included an interesting short subject on the power that lights the movies to open the disc program.
     A pleasant programmer, In the Good Old Summertime is not up to the typical standard of Judy Garland musicals made at MGM. The remake of The Shop Around the Corner is merely cute and the unfolding romance between Van Johnson and Judy Garland uninvolving. The setting has been changed to turn of the century Chicago, and the main framework of the plot has been retained, but the magic of the original has totally evanesced. 

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Anything with Garland still within her prime years is a welcome entertainment and she and costar Van Johnson make a sweet screen couple. The musical dressing is halfhearted with a scarce seven songs, including a mundane barber shop quartet that doesn't include Garland and two foreshortened renditions of the title song. The songs have all been culled from other sources. Perhaps an original score might have dressed the story in more exciting garments.
     The supporting cast is lead by S. Z. "Cuddles" Sakall as Mr Oberkugen, owner of the music shop where this romance unfolds, sweet Spring Byington as the bosses love interest, and an oddly miscast Buster Keaton as Oberkugen's nephew Hickey.
     There is nothing outstanding about the production. The direction is uninspired. Nevertheless, this is an enjoyable film if one's expectations are not too high.
     The rich Technicolor hues have been successfully transferred to the disc in a clean pressing. The sound shows no evidence of age and the picture is always sharp.

Transforming the Transformed

The compact Pygmalion runs a breathless 90 minutes. Along with the wonderfully witty and charming screenplay from George Bernard Shaw, this trim production features a smashing screen debut performance from Wendy Hiller as Eliza Doolittle. Hiller's guttersnipe is thoroughly believable and the smudges of dirt on her cheeks don't look as if they were applied by a make-up man. The transformation from flower girl to Lady is thoroughly refreshing.
     Leslie Howard, co-director and star as Professor Henry Higgins, comfortably sculpts Eliza Doolittle from " squashed cabbage leaf" to Queen of the Embassy Ball. Howard's relaxed manner is sometimes at odds with the frenetic pace of the miraculous molding, but this does not mitigate the delight delivered by the film.
     Perhaps a secret virtue of this British production is the crisp editing of David Lean, working on only his third film. The transformation montages are brilliantly executed. The London street images, recorded handsomely by director of photography Harry Stradling, pull the viewer in, yet never lose focus of the principals as they move through crowds.
     Stradling's photography has been transferred to disc at the proper levels and the images do not suffer in the process. There are scenes that are soft and parts of the film element are not in pristine condition. The sound is serviceable. Unfortunately, my disc was plagued with intrusive video snow occlusions, presumably a fault in the pressing and perhaps the beginning of laser rot. Pygmalion is a joyfully executed production, and the disc, sans pressing problems, is worthy of a prominent place in a collection.
     There is an irony in transforming Pygmalion into the gorgeous production of My Fair Lady, considering that it is a tale of transformation. It is astounding to contemplate the success of the musical when a significant virtue of the original is its nonstop telling of the story; My Fair Lady runs almost a hour more, yet scene for scene it does not drag.

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This is a very big production dressed in the finest of clothing. The costumes of Cecil Beaton are sumptuous, the sets richly detailed. The choice of professional paraphernalia for Higgins clearly tops the original. But all the production values could have easily suffocated the lady. The real Ritz of this production is the music and lyrics.
     Composers Lerner and Loewe have created a wonderful score, with many of the song lyrics derived directly from the Shaw script. Once Director George Cukor has established the mood and setting for the film, the wealth of this lyrical treasure chest is offered up in copious delight beginning with Harrison's wonderful rendition of "Why Can't the English." I count fifteen more songs, not including reprises, ranging from fine to sublime.
     Harrison brings an acerbic edge to the role of Higgins that was lacking in Howard's original portrayal, and suits the character to a tee. Although Harrison rather more talks than sings the songs, he is extremely effective in their performance and he masterfully shapes dialogue like "She's so deliciously low, so horribly dirty" into something between speech and song. Rex Harrison appropriately dominates this production, just as he dominates the world of Higgins. This is a superlative acting achievement that was rightly awarded the Academy Award for Best Actor in 1964.
     Incandescent Audrey Hepburn is rather difficult to picture as the dreadfully dirty flower girl. The dirt on her face does look like freshly applied make-up. Her singing is dubbed by Marnie Nixon and this is a shortcoming of the film. While Harrison's Higgins towers over Howard's, Hepburn's Eliza hardly measures up to Hiller's and try saying that in front of a flame. Nevertheless, Hepburn's appeal is too strong to put a damper on the role, and her transformed Eliza more than makes up for the unconvincing cockney.
     The supporting cast is led by a smashing music hall performance from Stanley Hollaway. His two production numbers, "With a Little Bit of Luck" and "Get Me to the Church on Time," are show stoppers. Holloway was nominated for Best Supporting Actor for his hilarious turn as Alfred P. Doolittle. Wilfred Hyde-White, in constant screen company of Harrison, recreates his stage Colonel Pickering quite effectively.
     Director Cukor's elegant eye is abetted by the fine camera of Harry Stradling, reprising his role as Director of Photography of Pygmalion for this sparkling musical double. Stradling was rewarded for his perseverance with the Academy Award for Best Photography after a total of eight nominations. Cukor, likewise, was honored as Best Director for his exquisite command of My Fair Lady, his fifth nomination in the category. The film was also awarded Best Picture of 1964 by the Academy.
     The disc production is not of Academy Award caliber. The colors of the transfer print appear slightly faded, diminishing the film's richness in some scenes. This "newly remastered edition" still evidences some of the video snow that plagued the first wide screen transfer and there seems to be an extraordinary amount of aliasing or shimmering, although I can't pinpoint why it should be any worse than other discs in this department. There is also an indication that some sort of edge enhancement technology has been used at some point in the disc production which produces an annoying white glow on facial details in many scenes. Upper lips, eyelids and ears seem to have been highlighted unnaturally. The aspect ratio presented is 2.05:1, which corresponds to the projection specifications for the 70 millimeter prints of this Super Panavision 70 film. Fox has done an elegant job of packaging My Fair Lady in a gatefold jacket which includes extensive liner notes, however they inexplicably reproduce a cropped still on the back cover of a photo that appears on the inside of the jacket.
     Though I'd delight in a better treatment for this disc pressing, it is still serviceable and I would not do without it for my collection. My Fair Lady is a classic example of a successful reworking of a film into a musical remake.
     The quality of these surveyed films and their musical counterparts scales the range from success to failure. A good number of interesting pairs have not been addressed here, some due to obvious limitations, and others because both films of a pair were not available on laser. The very fine I Am a Camera starring Julie Harris, which is based on the same Berlin Stories by Christopher Isherwood that is the basis for Cabaret, has not yet been offered on laser . Cabaret has just been released in a beautiful wide screen pressing from Warner. The King and I I first saw the light of screen as the enchanting Anna and the King of Siam , starring Irene Dunne and Rex Harrison. The former is currently available in crisp wide screen images from Fox Video and hopefully Anna will have a disc debut soon. The Women, a witty and original film, sported a sterling all female cast, including Norma Shearer, Joan Crawford and Rosalind Russell and is available from MGM-UA, as is its musical double, The Opposite Sex, starring June Allyson, Dolores Grey and Ann Miller. The marvelous David Lean directed Oliver Twist is available on disc from Paramount starring Alec Guinness and Robert Newton, as is its musical pair, Oliver, from Columbia Tri-Star.
     Watching these films in relation to each other can add an interesting dimension to the overall video experience. Hopefully, our selected sampling will provide you with another way to look at these films.


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Choko Movie Posters

The  popular Paris movie poster store makes it's way to the Internet with an outstanding selection of French Movie Posters.  Many beautiful images on display in a searchable data base.

You wonít want to miss the online iF Magazine.  You may have guessed iF stands for independent film.

Frank Darabont is the cover interview in the current online issue of Fade-In Magazine. Check it out along with other savvy features of this excellent book

.The online site for Film Comment Magazine includes all the information you need to know about cinematic events sponsored by the Film Society of Lincoln Center.