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(aka "Magnificent Ladyor "Frank Borzage's Magnificent Doll")

 

directed by Frank Borzage

USA 1946

 

Following her Best Actress Oscar win in 1940 for Kitty Foyle, Ginger Rogers was able to spend the next decade and beyond balancing dramatic roles with the lighter musical and comedy performances for which she had become known. The RKO films with Fred Astaire behind her, Rogers found herself in a position where she could appear in Tender Comrade, a black-and-white film about wives living on the home front, one year, and lavish Technicolor musical Lady in the Dark, the next. In 1946, she was cast by Frank Borzage (7th Heaven, Street Angel) as one of America's most beloved First Ladies, Dolley Payne Madison, in Magnificent Doll.

Written by Irving Stone, whose popular biographical novels would inspire such films as Vincente Minnelli's Lust for Life and Carol Reed's The Agony and Ecstasy, Magnificent Doll traces Madison s journey to the White House from her youth in Virginia at the end of the Revolutionary War to the famed episode in which, during the Battle of Bladensburg, she refused the leave her exalted residence without a portrait of George Washington. In between she is wooed by two great men of American politics, Senator Aaron Burr (David Niven) and his colleague, James Madison (Burgess Meredith).

Lavishly designed, Magnificent Doll boasts cinematography by five-time Academy Award nominee Joseph A. Valentine (Shadow of a Doubt), striking outfits by legendary costume designers Travis Banton (best known for his work on a number of Josef von Sternberg s pictures with Marlene Dietrich) and Vera West (whose credits include Bride of Frankenstein, Dracula and other classic Universal horror pictures), and hats by the celebrated milliner and fashion designer Lilly Daché.

***

Director Frank Borzage and star Ginger Rogers both came acropper in the lavish but dull historical biopic Magnificent Doll. The usually ebullient Rogers seems encased in wax as Dolly Madison, first lady of the United States in the early 19th century. The story begins as young Washington socialite Dolly Payne, previously and unhappily wed to one John Todd (Horace McNally), can't make up her mind romantically between idealistic politician James Madison (Burgess Meredith) and firebrand Aaron Burr (David Niven). Burr solves that problem when he flees the country after killing Alexander Hamilton in a duel, leaving the field clear for Madison. What should have been the film's highlight, Dolly's rescue of the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution during the 1812 burning of Washington, is treated as a throwaway. Told in flashback, the film ends just before Madison's ascendancy to the White House, with Dolly chastely charming the current chief executive Thomas Jefferson (Grandon Rhodes). Magnificent Doll is anything but.

Excerpt from Barnes and Noble located HERE

Posters

Theatrical Release: November 1946

Reviews                                                               More Reviews                                                       DVD Reviews

 

Review: Arrow Academy - Region 'B' - Blu-ray

Box Cover

CLICK to order from:

 

There is an Olive Blu-ray available in the US:

 

Distribution

Arrow Academy

Region 'B' - Blu-ray

Runtime 1:34:44.053
Video

Disc Size: 25,659,501,063 bytes

Feature Size: 22,630,232,064 bytes

Average Bitrate: 26.27 Mbps

Single-layered Blu-ray MPEG-4 AVC Video

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

Bitrate

Audio

LPCM Audio English 2304 kbps 2.0 / 48 kHz / 2304 kbps / 24-bit
Commentary:

LPCM Audio English 1536 kbps 2.0 / 48 kHz / 1536 kbps / 16-bit

Subtitles English (SDH),  none
Features Release Information:
Studio: Arrow Academy

 

Disc Size: 25,659,501,063 bytes

Feature Size: 22,630,232,064 bytes

Average Bitrate: 26.27 Mbps

Single-layered Blu-ray MPEG-4 AVC Video

 

Edition Details:
• Brand new audio commentary by writers and film historians David Del Valle and Sloan De Forest
• Brand new visual essay by film critic and novelist Farran Nehme on the dramatic roles of Ginger Rogers (19:21)
• Reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Jennifer Dionisio
• FIRST PRESSING ONLY: Illustrated collector's booklet featuring new writing on the film by Nathalie Morris


Blu-ray Release Date: February 19th, 20
18
Transparent Blu-ray Case

Chapters 12

 

Comments

NOTE: The below Blu-ray captures were taken directly from the Blu-ray disc.

There was an Olive Blu-ray  of the film, with no extras, released in the US HERE. We don't own it to compare. Arrow Academy's Blu-ray is single-layered but has a supportive bitrate and looks very textured. This new 1080P image is in the 1.37:1 aspect ratio. The overall image is consistent and pleasing with some light surface scratches. Contrast is layered and there is depth - it looks splendid in-motion.

 

The audio is transferred via a linear PCM track (24-bit) in the original English. There score is by by Hans J. Salter (Bend of the River, The 5,000 Fingers of Dr. T., Man Without a Star, Cover Up, The Wolfman, The Mole People) sounding reasonably strong via a lossless. Arrow add optional English (SDH) subtitles on their Region 'B' Blu-ray disc.

 

In the supplements Arrow have a brand new audio commentary by writers and film historians David Del Valle (author Lost Horizons Beneath the Hollywood Sign) and Sloan De Forest (author of Turner Classic Movies: Must-See Sci-fi: 50 Movies That Are Out of This World). They work well together and they address the film's perception as having historical inaccuracies and why the film flopped at the box office, Ginger Rogers and her stage mother etc.. There is a new, 20-minute, visual essay by film critic and novelist Farran Nehme on the dramatic roles of Ginger Rogers. I enjoyed discovering more about this actress and her many transformations as an actress/dancer. The package has a reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Jennifer Dionisio and the first pressings have an illustrated collector's booklet featuring new writing on the film by Nathalie Morris.

 

Magnificent Doll is certainly not premium Borzage - and it's not much of a film either aside from the performances and costumes. The historical context is certainly of interest despite the poetic licensing. I greatly appreciated the commentary and visual essay which, actually, may have more value than the film. The Arrow Blu-ray is certainly advanced over the bare-bones Olive edition. If you are keen on historical dramas, Borzage's output post his silent masterpieces, or the performers - this would be the release to get. 

 - Gary Tooze


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Box Cover

CLICK to order from:

 

There is an Olive Blu-ray available in the US:

 

Distribution

Arrow Academy

Region 'B' - Blu-ray

 



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