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Directed by Walter Lang
USA
1943

 

A delightful, spectacularly costumed, if predictable musical featuring the legs and talents of Betty Grable as a brassy singer in a lower class Coney Island saloon. The owner of said saloon and interested party in Miss Grable’s love life is Cesar Romero. George Montgomery, desperately trying to channel Clark Gable, is Romero’s longtime friend and fellow con man, newly arrived in town to settle an unending score with Romero. Naturally, he can’t take his eyes off Grable; the fact that she is also Romero’s love interest only makes her more tempting.  There are lots of songs, mostly on stage, except for the bellowings of the ever-tipsy Charles Winninger; also wonderful costumes, lots of color and a beauty mark poorly placed on Grable that disappears (thankfully) in the movie’s second act.

There are a couple of fascinating specialty numbers: if you look closely at the finale you might notice how one of Betty’s dancing partners suspiciously resembles Fred Astaire - that’s because he is Hermes Pan, Fred’s erstwhile RKO choreographer in one of his rare on-screen performances. Another marks something of a first for me: a white leading lady (Grable) made up as a mulatto, dancing with several white men in black face in a number that will have your eyebrows popping. Ah, those sweet innocent days before political correctness sucked the life out of nave creativity.  If this were a Warner’s or Disney DVD release there would be all kinds apologies accompanying the disc.  Too bad Fox doesn’t own Song of the South.

Leonard Norwitz
LensViews

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Theatrical Release: June 11th, 1943

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DVD Review: Fox Cinema Archive - Region 0 - NTSC

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Distribution Fox Cinema Archive - Region 0 - NTSC
Runtime 1:35:48 
Video 1.33:1 Aspect Ratio
Average Bitrate: ??? mb/s
NTSC 720x480 29.97 f/s   
Audio English (Dolby Digital 2.0) 
Subtitles None
Features

Release Information:
Studio: Fox Cinema Archive

Aspect Ratio:
Original Aspect Ratio 1.33:1

Edition Details:

• None

DVD Release Date: March 1st, 201
3
Keep Case
Chapters: 10

 

Comments:
Image: 8
Fox Cinema Archives, like Warner Archive, are not DVDs in the usual sense but burned just as we would do at home.  They have no menus to speak of, only chapter advance every ten minutes. Unless “Remastered” (a term that tells us nothing anyway), these video discs are simply transferred “from the best materials available” and are thus entirely dependent on the condition of those sources. Fox’s 1943 Technicolor musical Coney Island is one of those good sources.  Color is rich and vibrant, though at times leaning toward the golden hues. Contrast shows considerable crush in all the darkly lit scenes or scenes with a predominance of darker colors, which is the disc’s only serious problem. Highlights and stark whites hold detail in all but a few seconds of one of the big stage numbers. Helen Rose’s dazzling costumes for Miss Grable are never given short shrift.  No edge enhancement to speak of, and transfer artifacts are just about non-existent.

Audio & Music: 8/7
Fox’s minimalist approach to the transfer offers crispy clear dialogue and singing vocals (for which Betty Grable sounds unlike herself enough to suspect dubbing, though I can’t confirm this.)  Choruses, orchestras, effects are all nicely balanced - not an example of MGM-like perfection, but quite respectable in its own right.  I especially liked the intermezzo with Borrah Minnevich and his Harmonica School, though nearly undone by the duet twixt Betty and George.  One more item about this movie that may be unique to it: the title card, along with the names of the stars, are sung by an unseen chorus.  A brilliant touch, not likely to be repeated.
 
Extras: None
 
Recommendation: 7
With only a couple of memorable tunes, there is something very familiar and comfortable about the music here (e.g. When Irish Eyes Are Smiling and Cuddle Up a Little Closer) and much the same can be said for the plot and characterizations.  We’ve seen all this before and we will again in musicals throughout the forties and early fifties, including the 1950 remake, Wabash Avenue, also with Grable and also available on Fox Cinema Archive.  Black crush notwithstanding, this is a pretty good looking video, as unremastered efforts go.

Recommended.

Leonard Norwitz
LensViews

 


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DVD Box Cover

   

CLICK to order from:

Distribution Fox Archive - Region 0 - NTSC



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