Cites & Insights: Crawford at Large
ISSN 1534-0937
Libraries · Policy · Technology · Media

Selection from Cites & Insights 7, Number 5: May 2007

Offtopic Perspective

50-Movie Classic Musicals, Part 1

Fifty musicals for $15-$20. What could that mean? You’re not going to get spectaculars like West Side Story, Oklahoma, The Music Man for that kind of money (I’m seeing some cost-effective collections of deluxe two-disc editions of such musicals, though—like six of them for $70 or less). As I go through these, it may be interesting to see how “musical” is defined—it can be a picture about music or musicians (real or fictional) so that lots of music gets included, a picture with a regular plot that has lots of music (well-integrated into the plot or otherwise), a musical revue on film—and maybe other things. This set has four or five duplications with other 50-movie packs I’ve reviewed, but three of the four I’m sure of are quite good movies, so that’s OK.

Mill Creek Entertainment continues the erratic spelling of the medium these movies appear on: “Disk” (wrong) on the sleeves, “Disc” (right) on the discs themselves. As with all 50-movie packs, assume VHS-level transfers, frequently from mildly-damaged originals, with no special features and (always) four scene divisions per title (most packs now have intelligent scene breaks, not just an arbitrary quarter of the length). If there are enough missing frames to reduce the run length by more than a minute from what appears in IMDB, I give the actual DVD run time in [square brackets]. The dollar rating at the end of each mini-review is fairly forgiving and ranges from $0 to $2.50, although anything over $2 is rare. A buck or more means I think the movie is worth watching and might conceivably watch it again. $1.50 or more means I think the movie would be worth buying as a bargain DVD on its own.

Disc 1

The Fabulous Dorseys, 1947, b&w, Alfred E. Green (dir.), Tommy and Jimmy Dorsey, Janet Blair, Paul Whiteman, Bob Eberly, Helen O’Connell, Art Tatum, William Lundigan. 1:28.

The Dorseys aren’t much as actors, and the plot may be realistic but still comes off a bit hokey—but it doesn’t matter. Great music by great musicians, including a first-rate jam session with Art Tatum. Pretty decent print quality, and the sound track’s more than good enough. Worth watching just for the musical numbers. $1.50.

Calendar Girl, 1947, b&w, Allan Dwan (dir.), Jane Frazee, William Marshall, Gail Patrick, Kenny Baker, Victor McLaglen, Franklin Pangborn. 1:28 [1:20]

Cute plot, good musical numbers, but the sound’s badly damaged in portions and the picture’s pretty frayed as well. I’d give this $1.25 in a decent transfer, but can’t go higher than $0.75 under the circumstances.

Sunny, 1941, b&w, Herbert Wilcox (dir.), Anna Neagle, Ray Bolger, John Carroll, Edward Everett Horton, Grace Hartman, Paul Hartman, Martha Tilton. 1:38 [1:35].

This one also suffers from a badly damaged print, but it’s a thoroughly enjoyable flick nonetheless—this time with a plot that actually drives the movie. Sunny Sullivan’s a circus performer (singer, horseback rider) who meets up with the wealthy scion of an automaker during Mardi Gras in New Orleans. They get engaged. The circus friends (Ray Bolger and crew) show up at the wedding and she runs away with them—but of course love conquers all: It’s a musical! Even with the damage, this one’s worth $1.25.

Swing Hostess, 1944, b&w, Sam Newfield (dir.), Martha Tilton, Iris Adrian, Charles Collins, Betty Brodel, Cliff Nazarro, Harry Holman. 1:16.

Martha Tilton was a vocalist for Benny Goodman and is absolutely first rate as a singer and more than good enough as an actress. As with Calendar Girl, this one’s partly set in a “struggling artist” apartment house—this time with lots of novelty acts (magician, acrobats). The plot hinges on a situation that could only have happened during a few years: The master disks on which records are directly cut are so expensive that a recording studio head (and masher) insists on using the rest of a disk that Tilton’s already cut a demo on—and her half gets released as though by the (awful-sounding) girl the head brings in. Hijinks ensue (this is most definitely a comedy), and of course it all works out. The most interesting part here: “Telephone jukeboxes” in restaurants, where you put in a coin, pick up a phone, and tell the operator what tune you want, at which point she plays the disc on one of several turntables at the central station. I can only assume this actually happened. Not great but quite good. $1.25.

Disc 2

I hope this is the most problematic disc in the set. Every movie on this disc poses one problem or another, at least as part of a set of musicals. Read on. You’ll see what I mean.

Dixiana, 1930, b&w (with color finale that’s not on the disc), Luther Reed (dir.), Bebe Daniels, Everett Marshall, Bert Wheeler, Robert Woolsey, Joseph Cawthorn, Bill Robinson. 1:40 [1:25]

Woman who sings and does other acts in a circus performing in New Orleans meets up with a wealthy high-society fellow right around Mardi Gras. They get engaged. Circus friends show up at a high-society gathering and embarrass her, so she runs away. Sound a little bit like Sunny? (Check out Disc 1.) It’s not.

What it is, is a complete mess—that might have been redeemed by the 15 minutes missing from this transfer, presumably the 2-strip Technicolor finale that includes a three-minute tap dance sequence by Bill “Bojangles” Robinson. That finale might also resolve the plot—but it’s just not here. What is here includes a long Wheeler & Woolsey comedy routine that’s apparently just about the only film of them (and suggests that tastes in comedy have changed a lot in 75 years!), some other musical numbers of indifferent quality, and a plot that might have been moderately interesting if it hadn’t simply disappeared. A shame. Very generously (there’s some good comic interplay within the movie itself, and some decent music), $0.75.

Palooka, 1934, b&w, Benjamin Stoloff (dir.), Jimmy Durante, Lupe Velez, Stuart Erwin, William Cagney, Robert Armstrong, Thelma Todd. 1:26.

It’s a decent comedy based on the comic strip, with Joe Palooka as a sort of accidental boxer (son of a boxing champ who abandoned the family for the high life) and Jimmy Durante as his manager. But it’s simply not a musical: There are two, count them, two songs total. One is an odd song-and-dance number by Lupe Velez wearing an outfit that’s clearly “pre-code Hollywood”; the other Durante’s signature tune. A good cast—and I would have sworn that was a young James Cagney as the champ Palooka (Erwin) defeats and is later defeated by, until I read the credits: It’s his lookalike brother. $1.

Glorifying the American Girl, 1929, b&w (and color, but not on the disc), John W. Harkrider & Millard Webb (dir.), Mary Eaton, Dan Healy, Kaye Renard, Edward Crandall, Eddie Cantor, Helen Morgan, Rudy Vallee, Noah Beery, Irving Berlin, Billie Burke, Texas Guinan, Otto Kahn, Ring Lardner, Jimmy Walker, Johnny Weissmuller, Florenz Ziegfeld Jr. 1:27. [1:34!]

With Dixiana, I didn’t notice the “Technicolor” claims in opening credits, so I was mostly disappointed by the lapsed plot and fact that Bill Robinson didn’t show up as a dancer (albeit claimed on the sleeve). This time, I did notice the claim, so I was disappointed: If there’s any color anywhere in this flick, I couldn’t detect it. There’s plenty of music and comedy, of course: Much of the picture is a Ziegfeld review, including a Cantor comedy routine and songs by Helen Morgan and Rudy Vallee (sax strapped over his shoulder but never touched during the song). The rest of those stars? Mostly cameos on their way into the theater. The plot, such as it is, lacks resolution, but it’s not all that important anyway. Not great, not bad. $0.75.

Check and Double Check, 1930, b&w, Melville W. Brown (dir.), Freeman F. Gosden, Charles J. Correll, Irene Rich, Duke Ellington and the Cotton Club Orchestra. 1:17.

The most difficult of the four, for reasons that folks knowledgeable with entertainment history may have spotted already. Here’s my advice, if you happen to have access to this disc:

Go to the second scene, about minute 27 overall. Most of the next 11 minutes are performances by Duke Ellington and orchestra, including a full-length big-band jazz number nicely filmed and one of Ellington’s first (and few) filmed performances. That segment is worth watching. Skip the rest of the movie.

Otherwise, well, there’s a huge problem here in the persons of Gosden, Correll, and another actor. It’s a problem that makes an otherwise poorly-plotted degrading race comedy into something even less watchable. Ever hear of Amos ‘n’ Andy? If you ever saw the TV series, they were dumb and played as stereotypes, but they were good hearted and the cast was all black. Here, though, the originators and radio stars played the roles—and Gosden and Correll are both white, playing in full minstrel-show blackface. The only semi-redeeming thing I can say about this is that, according to Wikipedia, the two were offered the chance for a sequel and turned it down—and Gosden later called the movie “just about the worst movie ever.” Here’s an appalling factoid if you believe Wikipedia (I see no reason not to): Although the critics and Gosden and Correll hated the movie, it was RKO’s biggest-grossing film until King Kong in 1933. Oh yes: The soundtrack’s noisy, but not too bad during the Duke Ellington sequence. I’d give this a flat zero except for Ellington, who earns it a big $0.25.

Disc 3

This one’s more like it. Four black-and-white movies about and featuring music, all with all-black casts, all marketed primarily to black audiences. Which may be why only one of the four is otherwise available on DVD—and that only because The Duke is Tops, Lena Horne’s first movie appearance, was reissued years later after she became a star and is available on a twofer DVD. The prints vary from very good (with missing frames) to poor. But the music? Ah, the music!

Paradise in Harlem, 1939, b&w, Joseh Seiden (dir.), Mamie Smith, Norman Astwood, Edna Mae Harris, Merritt Smith, Francine Everett, Percy Verwayen, Babe and Eddie Matthews. 1:25.

The plot centers on a would-be dramatic actor who’s stuck doing blackface (yes, a black actor doing blackface in a Harlem club, playing Uncle Tom), who witnesses a mob hit. The mob tells him to get out of town, which he does, becoming a traveling drunk. Eventually, he comes back, gets the chance to do Othello, and comes to a remarkable scenic climax with the aid of impromptu a cappella gospel (and an absurd ending to the crime plot). Quite a bit of excellent music along the way. Some damage. $1.25.

The Duke is Tops, 1938, b&w, William L. Nolte (dir.), Ralph Cooper, Lena Horne, Laurence Criner. 1:13 [1:15!]

Lena Horne’s first movie, as a singer in shows produced by her boyfriend—until she (and only she) gets a chance at Broadway. He trumps up a scene so she’ll leave him and goes to work with a traveling medicine show—eventually coming back to rescue her from a bad show and make everything right. This one’s also mostly music and some comedy (Cooper does a fine medicine-show routine). Lena Horne was still young and a bit low on star power, but the music’s nonetheless excellent. $1.50

Reet, Petite and Gone, 1947, b&w, William Forest Crouch (dir.), Louis Jordan (and the Tympany Five), June Richmond, Bea Griffith. 1:07 [1:10].

The plot doesn’t amount to much—rich dying father, industrious bandleader son, wicked lawyer, faithful butler, daughter of the father’s first love—but it also doesn’t take up much time. This movie is really about music—14 complete songs filmed head-on, with good sound and a good picture. If you want to nitpick, the dancers in one or two numbers seem to be doing random steps, but who cares? Jordan’s a showman, the music’s first-rate, and this one’s all about the music. Even with a few missing frames, I give this a solid $2. I’ll watch it again.

Killer Diller, 1948, b&w, Josh Binney (dir.), Dusty Fletcher, Butterfly McQueen, Jackie “Moms” Mabley, Ken Renard, Nat ‘King’ Cole and the King Cole Trio, and many more. 1:13.

The sleeve talks about a “loose storyline,” and that’s almost an exaggeration—it involves a show producer, his fiancée, a slapstick magician, four very slapstick cops, and maybe 10-12 minutes total of what’s essentially a filmed revue. (Butterfly McQueen’s only in the “plot” portion.) Moms Mabley is cleaner than I’d expect (but it is a movie), Nat King Cole is—well, Nat King Cole, even if he’s doing lesser-known numbers. Other musicians, dancers, and singers keep it going—including one great performance of “Ain’t Nobody’s Business But Mine.” Unfortunately, there are continuous projector-damage lines throughout the film, and the soundtrack’s even distorted at times, which reduces this hour+ of comedy, dancing, and mostly music to $1.25.

Disc 4

Delightfully Dangerous, 1945, b&w, Arthur Lubin (dir.), Jane Powell, Ralph Bellamy, Constance Moore, Morton Gould and his orchestra, Arthur Treacher. 1:32. [1:30]

15-year-old Cheryl (Jane Powell) is a music student who wants to make it in theater—just like her older sister (Moore). Turns out Moore’s really a burlesque performer. Cheryl pays a surprise visit to New York. Hijinks ensue. Good musical numbers, decent plot, fine performances by all concerned—but there’s some distortion in the sound track for the first half, unfortunate for a musical. That brings it down to $1.25.

Private Buckaroo, 1942, b&w, Edward F. Cline (dir.), the Andrews Sisters, Dick Foran, Joe E. Lewis, Shemp Howard, Harry James, Donald O’Connor, Huntz Hall, Mary Wilkes, Ernest Treux. 1:08.

Shemp Howard was much better on his own than as part of the Three Stooges, in my opinion, and he shines in this wartime flick as a sergeant who has trouble with his supposed girlfriend. The real plot: Harry James gets drafted and his group all enlist to stay with their leader. There’s another draftee who’s not willing to obey orders. The plot makes as much sense as any of these war-promotion flicks, and there’s a great running gag: Harry James, an amazing trumpeter, can’t get the hang of the Army bugle. The middle Andrews Sister is a bit much for my taste, but overall there’s good non-slapstick comedy, great music, and a generally decent print. $1.50.

Stage Door Canteen, 1943, b&w, Frank Borzage (dir.), Judith Anderson, Tallulah Bankhead, Ralph Bellamy, Edgar Bergen & Charlie McCarthy, Ray Bolger, Katharine Cornell, Gracie Fields, Lynn Fontanne, Helen Hayes, Katharine Hepburn, Jean Hersholt, George Jessel, Gypsy Rose Lee, Alfred Lunt, Harpo Marx, Elsa Maxwell, Yehudi Menuhin, Ethel Merman, Paul Muni, Merle Oberon, George Raft, Cornelia Otis Skinner, Ethel Waters, Johnny Weissmuller, Ed Wynn, William Demarest, Count Basie, Xavier Cugat, Benny Goodman, Kay Kyser, Guy Lombardo and many more stars of stage and screen (I’m not kidding…Peggy Lee doesn’t even get a credit). 2:12 [1:52]

First the bad news: The print isn’t as good as it might be (some ghost images), although the soundtrack’s fine—and apparently a few minutes are missing. Oh, and the plot’s not compelling. But the plot’s mostly a way to show off an astonishing cavalcade of stars, either performing on stage or acting as waiters and the like—just like the real Stage Door Canteen and Hollywood Canteen (although it’s hard to believe they got quite such an impressive concentration every night). If you know stage, screen and music of the 1940s, there’s probably another 30 people I should have listed here. Supposedly, this is Katharine Cornell’s only screen appearance (a cameo). Katharine Hepburn singing The Lord’s Prayer (very well). Yehudi Menuhin playing two numbers, one of them Flight of the Bumble Bee. Benny Goodman playing clarinet as if he invented it. And so much more. Thoroughly enjoyable, wartime propaganda and all. Even with a second-rate print, this gets $2.25.

Career Girl, 1944, b&w, Wallace Fox (dir.), Frances Langford, Edward Norris, Iris Adrian, Craig Woods. 1:09. [1:07]

Three out of four ain’t bad. This is the fourth. Traditional “girl from the Midwest goes to New York to make it big on Broadway, gets her heart broken, but it works out” story, with a wealthy fiancée back home who wants her to settle down and be Mrs. Mine-manager and a theatrical boarding house full of women who keep her from giving in. There aren’t many musical numbers and they aren’t all that great; the plot doesn’t really reach resolution; worst of all, the soundtrack’s distorted enough that the musical numbers are painful. Being generous, $0.75.

Disc 5

Second Chorus, 1940, b&w, H.C. Potter (dir.), Fred Astaire, Paulette Goddard, Artie Shaw, Charles Butterworth, Burgess Meredith. 1:24.

The timeless Fred Astaire and a very young Burgess Meredith as two “friendly”-rival musicians who’ve managed to stay in college, running a collegiate band, for seven years. They hire a gorgeous (and very effective) manager, somehow both graduate, and both try to get into Artie Shaw’s band, sabotaging each other along the way. Some slapstick, decent plot, lots of Shaw’s music and some other good numbers, and there’s a little dancing in there too. $1.50.

Trocadero, 1944, b&w, William Nigh (dir.), Rosemary Lane, Johnny Downs, Ralph Morgan, Sheldon Leonard, Marjorie Manners, Cliff Nazarro. 1:14 [1:08]

This one has an actual plot, albeit told entirely in flashbacks. Tony Rocadero leaves his restaurant/night club to his (adopted?) kids, who have trouble making a go of it. But they get some good advice and book some newer jazz/swing performers. Along the way, just as they’re about to shut down, one who has his eyes on the woman manager offers to finance a rebuilding and wants a bigger, fancier sign with hotter name—and Tony Rocadero’s becomes the Trocadero. Interesting variety of music, but this one’s as much plot as it is musical. Downgraded for soundtrack problems. $1.25.

People Are Funny, 1946, b&w, Sam White (dir.), Jack Haley, Helen Walker, Rudy Vallee, Ozzie Nelson, Art Linkletter, Frances Langford. 1:33 [1:27].

Another “friendly” rivals situation, with two radio producers (that Ozzie Nelson one of them) trying to sell a show to a grumbly sponsor (Vallee, who sings once), both trying to work from a premise involving ordinary folks in a small town. After various hijinks, “People are Funny” is born. Running gag with one musical group that keeps trying to audition for one producer. Decent plot, decent music, nothing special. $1.25.

Doll Face, 1945, b&w, Lewis Seiler (dir.), Vivian Blaine, Dennis O’Keefe, Perry Como, Carmen Miranda, Martha Stewart. 1:20 [1:18].

Let’s see: A musical based on a play written by Gypsy Rose Lee, telling the story of a burlesque star who writes a book (or, rather, works with a ghostwriter, thus establishing romantic tension with her producer/manager/ boyfriend O’Keefe) to show she’s classy enough for the legit stage—and winds up doing a Broadway show based on the story she wrote. Self-referential as all get out, and well done to boot. (Carmen Miranda’s character makes a deprecating joke when someone compares her to Carmen Miranda…) Good musical numbers including some fully staged showpieces. Obvious missing frames and bad cuts lower this to $1.25.

Disc 6

The Great Gabbo, 1929, b&w*, James Cruze (dir.), Erich von Stroheim, Betty Compson, Donald Douglas, Marjorie Kane, Marbeth Wright. 1:32 [1:34].

The * after b&w is for one of the disappointments in this curious film: Portions of the movie are supposed to be in color, presumably some of the massively staged musical numbers (near the end, we see the marquee noting a cast of 350—I can believe it!). Unfortunately, there’s no color in this print (or, apparently, in any available version). Other disappointments: too many splices and distorted sound in a couple of the big numbers.

Otherwise—well, it’s an odd mix of drama and musical, featuring the declining director/actor von Stroheim as an impossibly good ventriloquist (his dummy sings while he’s eating, drinking and smoking) who’s also a harsh egomaniac and abuses his assistant so much that she finally quits (although she still loves Otto, the dummy). Two years later, the Great Gabbo’s a big star in a Broadway show—but the former assistant is also a featured singer/dancer in the show, along with a man who turns out to be her husband. The Great Gabbo wants her back; she tells him the truth; he goes nuts—well, he finishes going nuts, including punching out Otto. It’s an—um—interesting movie.

I didn’t pay attention to the year before viewing it. Knowing that it’s one of the earliest all-sound movies (and how difficult early sound techniques were), some of the problems with the film (flubbed lines, relatively little camera movement in most big musical numbers, one angle for audience reaction shots—or is it the same shot repeated?) are forgivable. Watchable enough, and von Stroheim certainly has presence, but I can’t give it more than $1 except maybe as a historic document. $1.

The Dancing Pirate, 1936, b&w*, Lloyd Corrigan (dir.), Charles Collins, Frank Morgan, Steffi Duna, Louis Alberni, Victor Varconi, Jack La Rue, The Royal Cansino Dancers. 1:23.

There’s a lot to say about this little gem of a picture—“little” in that it’s not one of the huge music-and-dancing Busby Berkeley or Warner Bros. spectaculars. In addition to the movie as it exists in this set, there’s the movie as it was filmed and interesting marketing maneuvers.

First, the movie. It really is a gem, but as a modest picture with some great dancing—waltz, tap, and glorious Mexican/Spanish ensemble dances. Oh, and two original songs by Rodgers & Hart. The movie isn’t a spectacular, but that doesn’t mean it’s not the real stuff. The plot’s straightforward. A dance instructor from Boston in 1820 gets shanghaied on to a pirate ship. He manages to escape when the ship’s loading up fresh water in Alta California and intends to go back to Boston—but a shepherd’s spotted the pirate ship, rung the alarm in the little town, and somehow he winds up captured as a pirate (the rest of the pirates sail away, knowing nothing about this). They want to hang him as a pirate, but the alcalde’s daughter wants to learn the waltz; then some soldiers show up—supposedly on the governor’s business (from Monterey) but actually thrown out of the governor’s ranks, and out to seize the alcalde’s lands one way or another. Various hijinks ensue, including a wedding intervention by a nearby band of peaceful Native Americans who are handy with ropes, and of course it all turns out well in the end.

Charles Collins is wonderful (if perhaps a trifle too cheerful in the face of frequent impending death) as the dancing pirate, and boy can he dance. Steffi Duna as the alcalde’s daughter is very good. But do you recognize that second name in the credits? Frank Morgan—the wizard of Oz. He’s remarkable as a frequently bemused alcalde, showing the same mix of bravado and uncertainty as in The Wizard of Oz.

I enjoyed it. The print’s pretty good (a little streaking near the end), the sound’s good, I’d watch it again. The ensemble dances in Spanish/Mexican dance outfits are spectacular, partly because they’re not over the top: They’re just dancing in the town square.

The movie as it was filmed? That’s the * after “b&w,” and it’s a disappointment: This was the first dancing musical filmed 100% in Technicolor, as the credits note, and it would be great to see those costumes in color—but this print, apparently like most that are available today, is strictly black & white.

Marketing maneuvers? The jacket shown on IMDB makes this out to be a Rita Hayworth movie. And apparently she’s in the movie—but not in the credits. For good reason. She was 18 years old at the time, and in this as in fourteen 1935-1937 movies, she’s either uncredited or credited as Rita Cansino, sometimes part of the Dancing Cansinos or Royal Cansinos. You’d have to know what she looked like at 18 and look very closely to spot her in the big dance scenes; I certainly didn’t spot her. (Mill Creek doesn’t credit her, appropriately.)

If you read the full set of IMDB and Amazon user reviews, be aware that they’re reviewing several different versions (apparently there is or was a color VHS release at some point—I’d love to see this in color!) and that, as usual, some of them bring their preconceptions to the table. In my case, I’ll just say that I think Collins did a fine job all around, Morgan was amusing, the story was fun and didn’t strike me as outlandish. Even deducting a little for the missing color, this gets $1.50.

Road Show, 1941, b&w, Hal Roach (dir.), Adolphe Menjou, Carole Landis, John Hubbard, Charles Butterworth, Patsy Kelly, Shemp Howard, The Charioteers. 1:27.

This and the other film on Side B don’t really qualify as musicals (each has two or three musical numbers within a dense plot)—but they’re both delightful screwball comedies. This one features a rich bachelor who winds up in an insane asylum thanks to his fiancée, meets “certified lunatic” and joyful eccentric Col. Carlton Carroway (Menjou)—who checks himself in and out of the hospital from time to time, escapes and winds up with a traveling carnival. There’s more to the plot, of course. It’s classic screwball comedy, expertly done and thoroughly enjoyable. Very good print, good sound, just plain enjoyable even if it doesn’t really belong in this set. $2.

Hi Diddle Diddle, 1943, b&w, Andrew L. Stone (dir.), Adolphe Menjou, Martha Scott, Pola Negri, Dennis O’Keefe, Billie Burke, June Havoc. 1:12.

This time, Menjou’s a not-very-successful con man married to a Wagnerian opera singer (Negri); his son (O’Keefe) (who she doesn’t know about) is a sailor, marrying a woman during his three day shore leave. The bride’s ex-boyfriend thinks the sailor’s a golddigger and tells him that the mother’s lost all her money (due to his deliberate scheming and crooked gambling)—but the sailor doesn’t care, and the marriage commences. They want to go on a brief honeymoon, but this is a screwball comedy… Good running gags (one of which, a beautiful woman who keeps showing up in different scenes and apparently different minor roles, blatantly opens the fourth wall as a lead character mentions that she’s a relative or friend of the producer); a remarkable sequence in which four people at a nightclub practice doubletakes (causing the bartender watching them to do a classic doubletake). The print’s not quite as good as Road Show; the musical numbers are fine (one of them really excellent) but two songs do not a musical make; but as a screwball comedy, this is a fine little movie. Lowered for damaged sections to $1.50.

Summing Up

I tried to be tough in judging these, taking some off for print damage and more for soundtrack damage, and a little for “color” that’s not there. As noted previously, I’ve also cut the original dollar values: $2.50 is as high as I’d go, simply because DVDs have gotten cheaper in general.

That said, this is a pretty good showing for the first half—noting that I consider $1 a decent value, $1.25 a pretty good film, and anything $1.50 or more solid value. Only five out of 24 movies failed to merit “passing grades,” mostly because of serious visual and soundtrack damage, once because of other, deeper problems (a movie that was pretty much disowned by its stars).

Three real treats here—Stage Door Canteen, Reet, Petite and Gone, and Road Show. Add six more that may be worth watching again: The Fabulous Dorseys, The Duke is Tops, Private Buckaroo, Second Chorus, The Dancing Pirate and Hi Diddle Diddle. For that matter, none of those eight “$1.25” movies is a slouch. I count a total of $30.50—not bad for half of a box that cost $16.

Cites & Insights: Crawford at Large, Volume 7, Number 5, Whole Issue 89, ISSN 1534-0937, a journal of libraries, policy, technology and media, is written and produced by Walt Crawford, a senior analyst at OCLC.

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