The Astaire & Rogers Collection, Vol. 1  (5-disc)

Top Hat      Swing Time         Follow the Fleet        Shall We Dance        The Barkleys of Broadway

directed by Mark Sandrich, George Stevens and Charles Walters


USA 19
35, 36', 37', 49'

 

Fans of classic movie musicals will be in heaven with Astaire & Rogers Collection, Vol. 1, featuring the DVD debut of five films of Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers, the quintessential dancing duo. The two gems of the set are Top Hat (1935), generally considered their definitive movie, and Swing Time (1936), which many consider their most enjoyable. Follow the Fleet (1936), Shall We Dance (1937), and The Barkleys of Broadway (1949) fill out the set, each with its own charms.
The Astaire-Rogers films mix light romantic comedy (usually centered around mistaken identities and ending, inevitably, in blissful wedding promises) with elegant dinner wear and surreal sets intended to transport '30s audiences away from the Depression to such locales as Rio, Paris, and Venice. The two stars are also aided by a recurring stable of RKO players such as Edward Everett Horton (master of the double-take), Eric Blore, and Helen Broderick. And then there's that sensational dancing set to great songs by the likes of Irving Berlin, George and Ira Gershwin, and Jerome Kern, numbers that are not merely entertaining but also innovative for their time in that they reveal character and advance the plot. Add it all up, and you have a recipe for an irrepressible joie de vivre that practically defines the movie musical.
With a score by Irving Berlin, Top Hat is most famous for two numbers, Astaire's definitive tuxedo setting "Top Hat, White Tie, and Tails" and the feathery duet "Cheek to Cheek." But other joys include Astaire's "Fancy Free" declaration, "Isn't It a Lovely Day," and the grand finale "The Piccolino." Favorite musical moments in Swing Time include the set-piece "Pick Yourself Up," in which Rogers "teaches" Astaire to dance before they break into a spectacular number; the farewell ode "Never Gonna Dance," and the Oscar-winning "Just the Way You Look Tonight," from the team of Jerome Kern and Dorothy Fields.

 Excerpt from David Horiuchi's comments HERE

 

 out of

Warner  - Region 1, 4 * - NTSC

* except 'The Barkleys of Broadway' which is Region 1,2,3,4

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Distribution Warner Studios - Region 1,2,3,4 - NTSC
Comments:

The set contains the following 5 DVDs:

Top Hat (1)
Swing Time
(1)
Follow the Fleet
(1)
Shall We Dance
(1)
The Barkleys of Broadway
(1)

All DVDs are encoded for Region 1, 4 in the NTSC standard (The Barkleys of Broadway is 1,2,3,4). All have English, Spanish and French subtitles. All have original mono English audio and The Barkleys of Broadway has an optional French mono DUB. None contain liner notes. Like most of the other recent Warner Boxset releases you can purchase these individually at the time of release - but there is a valued savings by getting the Boxset as opposed to buying the title individually.

 

All transfers appear to have gone through Warner's digital restoration process and generally look very good with limited damage showing, excellent contrast and heavy grain. Some specific detail is mentioned in the individual reviews. I had issue with the color in The Barkleys of Broadway and the inconsistent image quality of Shall We Dance. Overall we find this a must-buy Boxset, highly anticipated and extensively fulfilling with commentaries and many new featurettes made specifically for this Boxset. It appears as though Warner is not fearing an HD/Blue Ray future as they continue to pour money into these digital releases (many bought from MGM). I suspect these films look as good as they have in the past 50 years. We strongly recommend!  out of   

 

directed by Mark Sandrich
USA 19
35

Perhaps the best remembered of the 10 Astaire/Rogers musicals, Top Hat has it all: Art Deco elegance, a wonderfully addled storyline, loopy support from skilled farceurs and the incomparable chemistry of the two leads cheek-to-cheeking to Irving Berlin's finest film score. It's a wake-up call for romance when Fred's exuberant No Strings dance in his hotel suite disturbs the sleeping beauty (Ginger) in the room below. They meet cute, Fred decides he'd like a few strings (preferably a tied knot) after all and love beckons until Ginger mistakenly gets the idea that Fred is a married playboy. But mistakes can be wonderfully, wackily resolved. Among the highlights: Fred mows down the chorus line in his signature Top Hat, White Tie and Tails, the shimmeringly dreamy Isn't It a Lovely Day (to Be Caught in the Rain)? and the rhapsodically tender Cheek to Cheek. Nominated for 4 Academy Awards including Best Picture, Top Hat is top-drawer entertainment magic.

Posters

Theatrical Release: August 30th, 1935

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DVD Review: Warner - Region 1, 4 - NTSC

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Runtime 1:39:39 
Video 1.33 Original Aspect Ratio
Average Bitrate: 5.73 mb/s
NTSC 720x480 29.97 f/s

NOTE: The Vertical axis represents the bits transferred per second. The Horizontal is the time in minutes.

Bitrate:

Audio English (Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono)
Subtitles English, Spanish, French, None
Features

Release Information:
Studio: Warner Studios

Aspect Ratio:
Original aspect Ratio 1.33:1

Edition Details:

• Commentary by Fred Astaire’s daughter, Ava Astaire McKenzie, and film dance historian Larry Billman
• Featurette: On Top: Inside the Success of Top Hat (18:20)
• Comedy short: Watch the Birdie with Bob Hope (18:16)
• Classic cartoon: Page Miss Glory
• Theatrical trailer

DVD Release Date: August 16th, 2005

Keep Case
Chapters: 28

 

 

Comments:

The transfer is as good as I imagine the film can look today. It takes a few minutes to settle showing some damage but as the film progresses tends to look better and better. Lots of film grain is prevalent in close-ups, probably too much for some, but I am satisfied with it. Black levels are good but not as piercing as we have seen in the past. Audio levels are a shade inconsistent and weak at times but overall very acceptable. We have to realize that this film is over 70 years old and Warner's commitment to these projects is to be highly commended. The commentary is wonderful as are all the extras, even the cartoon addition (love that inclusion!). Warner continues to excel in their Boxsets.  out of   

Gary W. Tooze

 

I want to alert everyone that the cartoon included on the "Top Hat" DVD is Tex Avery's "Page Miss Glory." It's a masterpiece. The cartoon is partly a fever-dream that extends and parodies Busby Berkeley's "Lullaby of Broadway" number in "Gold Diggers of 1935." The transformation from hillbilly reality to Art Deco dreamland (triggered by the imminent arrival of a Hollywood "star") early in the film is one of the most thrilling things in all animation. This is, so far as I know, the first release by Warner Brothers of any of Tex Avery's great Warner Brothers cartoons; they are, if anything, visually even freer and more brilliant than his later work for MGM. My other favorite from this period is "Penguin Parade." A DVD of his Warner's work is urgently needed. (His MGM work is available in France in an inadequate DVD set.) To understand what Tex Avery is doing in "Page Miss Glory" you have to have the "Lullaby of Broadway" number pretty firmly in mind. It's shown on Turner fairly often. It will also be included in the 7-disc "Unseen Cinema" collection coming out soon from Image; and I think "Gold Diggers of 1935" is included in the Busby Berkeley set of several films promised for either later this year or early 2006. "Lullaby of Broadway" is an ambitious surrealist masterpiece, the apex of Busby Berkeley.

Frank Bidart

 





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directed by George Stevens
USA 1936

 It's Swing Time anytime Fred and Ginger slip on their dancing shoes. Here, Fred's a gambler with a fiancée back home...but one look at Ginger and all bets are off! He pursues, she resists, and it's all tied together by a series of breathtaking dances. "Bojangles of Harlem," a tribute to hoofer Bill Robinson, has Astaire tapping with three giant Astaire shadows. The sly "Pick Yourself Up" features Ginger teaching the supposedly flub-footed Fred how to dance. Other highlights from the splendid Jerome Kern-Dorothy Fields score include "A Fine Romance," "Waltz in Swing Time," and the Academy Award winning "The Way You Look Tonight." George Stevens directs.

Posters

Theatrical Release: August 27th, 1936

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DVD Review: Warner - Region 1, 4 - NTSC

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Runtime 1:43:28 
Video 1.33:1 Original Aspect Ratio
Average Bitrate: 5.72 mb/s
NTSC 720x480 29.97 f/s

NOTE: The Vertical axis represents the bits transferred per second. The Horizontal is the time in minutes.

Bitrate:

Audio English (Dolby Digital 2.0)
Subtitles English, Spanish, French, None
Features Release Information:
Studio: Warner Studios

Aspect Ratio:
Original aspect Ratio 1.33:1

Edition Details:

• Commentary by John Mueller, author of Astaire Dancing
• Featurette: The Swing of Things (14:47)
• Musical short: Hotel a la Swing (21:38)
• Classic cartoon: Bingo Crosbyana (7:53)
• Theatrical trailer

DVD Release Date: August 16th, 2005
Keep Case
Chapters: 27

 

 

Comments:

Picture quality has some hazy moments and exhibits the same characteristics as Top Hat - slight scratch damage, visible grain but improved contrast. A strong commentary is provided and another original featurette accompanied by a musical short and another cartoon of the era. Brilliant menus and subtitles. Warner is giving us the best it can with another very old classic. out of      

Gary W. Tooze

 


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directed by Mark Sandrich
USA 19
36

All hands on deck! In the fifth of 10 Astaire/Rogers pairings, Fred trades his top hat for a sailor's cap, Randolph Scott gets the girl (pre-Nelson Harriet Hilliard), Ginger gets a tap solo and viewers get the unending delight of seven sparkling Irving Berlin numbers, including Let Yourself Go, We Saw the Sea, the Duo's zany I'm Putting All My Eggs in One Basket skit and their sublimely powerful Let's Face the Music and Dance. Astaire is Bake Baker, a hoofer now given to stepping a sailor's horn-pipe while he and other swabbies patrol the seas for democracy. Rogers is his former partner Sherry, now convoying the Navy around a ballroom for 10 cents a dance. But one day the fleet returns to home port. Bake again meets Sherry, and the partnership is renewed at least for one more show. In small early-career roles, look for a very blond Lucille Ball and a very young Betty Grable !

Posters

Theatrical Release: February 20th, 1936

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DVD Review: Warner - Region 1, 4 - NTSC

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Runtime 1:49:56 
Video 1.33:1 Original Aspect Ratio
Average Bitrate: 5.54 mb/s
NTSC 720x480 29.97 f/s

NOTE: The Vertical axis represents the bits transferred per second. The Horizontal is the time in minutes.

Bitrate:

Audio English (Dolby Digital 2.0)
Subtitles English, Spanish, French, None
Features Release Information:
Studio: Warner Studios

Aspect Ratio:
Original aspect Ratio 1.33:1

Edition Details:

• Featurette: Follow the Fleet: The Origins of Those Dancing Feet (13:53)
• Musical short: Melody Master: Jimmie Lunceford and His Dance Orchestra (10:12)
• Classic Cartoon: Let It Be Me (7:51)
• Theatrical trailer

DVD Release Date: August 16th, 2005

Keep Case
Chapters: 26

 

 

Comments:

Like all releases in this Boxset - we have another restored progressive transfer showing heavy grain, minimal damage and celluloid blemishes and very good contrast. I enjoyed this film although perhaps considered an also-ran next to Top Hat and Swing Time. No commentary but substantial extra features included that continue to bring in the nostalgic feel for these classic films. Warner continue to show their class.  out of     

Gary W. Tooze

 


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directed by Mark Sandrich
USA 19
37

To keep musical-comedy star Linda Keene from retiring to marry, her manager Arthur Mille, suggests to the press that she's already married to Petrov, the ballet dancer. The two ultimately decide to marry so that they can have very public divorce and clear the air, but true love blossoms between them. 

Posters

Theatrical Release: May 7th, 1937

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DVD Review: Warner - Region 1,4 - NTSC

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Runtime 1:48:44 
Video 1.33:1 Original Aspect Ratio
Average Bitrate: 5.72 mb/s
NTSC 720x480 29.97 f/s

NOTE: The Vertical axis represents the bits transferred per second. The Horizontal is the time in minutes.

Bitrate:

Audio English (Dolby Digital 2.0)
Subtitles English, Spanish, French, None
Features Release Information:
Studio: Warner Studios

Aspect Ratio:
Original aspect Ratio 1.33:1

Edition Details:

• Commentary by songwriter Hugh Martin and pianist Kevin Cole
• Featurette: They Can't Take That Away from Me: The Music of Shall We Dance  (15:41)
• Musical short: Sheik to Sheik (21:38)
• Classic cartoon: Toy Town Hall (6:31)

DVD Release Date: August 16th, 2005

Keep Case
Chapters: 24

 

 

Comments:

A little worse for wear thank the previous offerings in the boxset and the image quality is quite inconsistent having stretches of haziness and recovering back to the expected Warner level of sharpness. I don't have any conclusions as to why this particular release looks weaker at times unless it is the source negative. What I have heard of the commentary so far is adept and I look forward to the rest. The 'Sheik to Sheik' featurette was also very worthy. This may be the weakest of the black and white transfers of this boxset but we still endorse as a must-own keepsake of the wonderful musical era gone by.  out of  

Gary W. Tooze

 



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Note: Scratch damage on both sides and image is quite hazy!

 

 


 

 

 

directed by Charles Walters
USA 1949


The last Astaire/Rogers movie, about a show-biz team divided by career ambitions, is also the duo's only color film. Highlights: Fred's Shoes with Wings On and the pair's They Can't Take That Away from Me.

Posters

Theatrical Release: May 4th, 1949

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DVD Review: Warner - Region 1,2,3,4 - NTSC

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Runtime 1:48:48
Video 1.33:1 Original Aspect Ratio
Average Bitrate: 5.73 mb/s
NTSC 720x480 29.97 f/s

NOTE: The Vertical axis represents the bits transferred per second. The Horizontal is the time in minutes.

Bitrate:

Audio English (Dolby Digital 2.0), DUB: French (Dolby Digital 2.0) 
Subtitles English, Spanish, French, None
Features Release Information:
Studio: Warner Studios

Aspect Ratio:
Original aspect Ratio 1.33:1

Edition Details:

Featurette: Reunited at MGM: Astaire and Rogers Together Again (12:35)
Vintage short: Annie Was a Wonder (10:50)
Classic Droopy cartoon: Wags to Riches (7:00)
Theatrical trailer

DVD Release Date: August 16th, 2005

Keep Case
Chapters: 28

 

 

Comments:

I believe this is the only release where the singing is actually translated in the subtitles. I have a problems with this release: not unlike Warner's The Private Lives of Elizabeth & Essex where the Technicolor registry is unbalanced, something appears wrong with these colors to me. It shows up more in movement than in still captures but it is almost like color bleeding where the balance is off. I may be wrong but what I am referring to shows up best in the 'Shoes With Wings On' (see comparison with the 'That's Entertainment' DVD image) sequence. Hopefully I will hear from someone who is more knowledgeable on the topic than I am and I will post all findings here. 

Gary W. Tooze

Matt says:
Unfortunately, I don't have the box set, so I can't speak with total authority (not that that's ever stopped me before), but I wouldn't be at all surprised to see Technicolor registration errors in the film. It's simply the nature of the beast. Technicolor holds its colors, but--like all film--it is likely to shrink over time. This is not really a problem with single-strip processes like black and white or monopack color, but in the case of Technicolor where you have three different strips of film that are supposed to match up precisely to create a single image, shrinkage will be much more readily apparent.

Currently, the only way around this is Warners' Ultra Resolution process which has the nasty drawback of being painstakingly slow and excruciatingly expensive.

If you look hard enough in any recent print or transfer of a Technicolor film (excepting those created digitally through a process such as Ultra Resolution), you will find registration errors, even if only briefly at the reel ends (where film shrinks first and most).

 



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(That's Entertainment - Warner  Region 1,2,3,4 NTSC - TOP vs. The Barkleys of Broadway - Warner 1,2,3,4 NTSC - BOTTOM)

 


(That's Entertainment - Warner  Region 1,2,3,4 NTSC - TOP vs. The Barkleys of Broadway - Warner 1,2,3,4 NTSC - BOTTOM)

 


 

 

 


 

 


 

 


 

 

 




 

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