Warner Archive November Blu-ray Slate Includes ‘National Velvet’

Warner Archive’s slate for November 2021 includes Elizabeth Taylor’s star-making turn in National Velvet, as well as the fifth ‘Thin Man’ movie, and films starring Frank Sinatra and Doris Day.

National Velvet arrives on Blu-ray Nov. 16 with a new 4K scan from the original Technicolor negatives. The 1944 film stars a 12-year-old Elizabeth Taylor in her first major role as Velvet Brown, a wide-eyed adolescent who, assisted by her jockey pal (Mickey Rooney), trains Pie, a horse she won in a raffle, for the Grand National Steeplechase. She then poses as a boy to ride in the race. MGM was so impressed with their young new star’s work on the film that the studio gave the horse to Taylor after filming completed. Directed by Clarence Brown, National Velvet won two Oscars — Best Film Editing, and Best Supporting Actress for Anne Revere as Velvet’s mother. The cast also includes Donald Crisp and a young Angela Lansbury and veteran. The Blu-ray includes mono audio and the film’s theatrical trailer.

Arriving Nov. 23 on Blu-ray Disc is 1944’s The Thin Man Goes Home, the fifth of six films starring William Powell and Myrna Loy as amateur sleuths Nick and Nora Charles. The latest sequel in the series of mystery comedies that began with 1934’s The Thin Man finds the couple visiting Nick’s parents (Harry Davenport and Lucile Watson) when confronted with the case of a murdered artist. The cast also includes Gloria De Haven and Anne Revere. The Blu-ray includes a new 4K scan, mono audio, the short “Why, Daddy?” from Robert Benchley, the Tex Avery cartoon “Screwball Squirrel,” and the original theatrical trailer.

Warner Archive Nov. 9 releases 1936’s Fury on Blu-ray with a new 4K scan. The film stars Spencer Tracy as Joe Wilson, a wrongly jailed man thought to have died in a blaze started by a bloodthirsty lynch mob. Having survived the fire, Joe aims to ensure his would-be executioners meet the fate he miraculously escaped. Sylvia Sidney plays his bride-to-be. In his first American film, German director Fritz Lang (Metropolis) combines a passion for justice and a sharp visual style into a landmark of social-conscience filmmaking with its searing indictment of mob justice and lynching. The Blu-ray includes mono audio, commentary by Peter Bogdanovich with archival interview comments from Lang, and a theatrical trailer.

Also due Nov. 9 on Blu-ray is 1973’s The Last of Sheila, starring James Coburn, Raquel Welch, Richard Benjamin, Joan Hackett, James Mason, Dyan Cannon and Ian McShane. Composer Stephen Sondheim and actor Anthony Perkins wrote this witty, complex thriller directed by Herbert Ross. A movie kingpin (Coburn), whose wife, Sheila, was killed by a hit-and-run driver a year before, hosts a cruise aboard his sleek yacht. His guests are all friends (and some lovers) who may know more about Sheila’s death than they’re letting on. An elaborate murder game with Mediterranean ports of call is the itinerary. The Blu-ray includes a new 4K scan from the original negative, a widescreen presentation, mono audio, the theatrical trailer, and commentary by Benjamin, Cannon and Welch.

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Another Nov. 9 Blu-ray release is 1933’s Ladies They Talk About, featuring a new 1080p master from a 4K scan of the original nitrate camera negative. A prime example of the raw and racy films made before the enforcement of Hollywood’s repressive “production code,” this Warner Bros. title previously released in the “Forbidden Hollywood” series stars Barbara Stanwyck as Nan Taylor, a bank robber serving a prison sentence whose partners are killed in a jailbreak attempt. David Slade (Preston S. Foster) is the reformer who has fallen in love with her. Nan thinks David is the one responsible for tipping off the authorities, but she soon learns to trust in his love for her, eventually reciprocating and leaving her unsavory past behind. Co-directed by William Keighley and Howard Bretherton, and based on the play by Dorothy Mackaye and Carlton Miles, Ladies They Talk About also stars Lyle Talbot, Lillian Roth and Allen Jenkins. The Blu-ray includes mono audio, a theatrical trailer, the vintage 1933 WB cartoon I Like Mountain Music and the vintage 1933 WB short Pure Feud.

Arriving Nov. 16 on Blu-ray is 1958’s Some Came Running, featuring a new 4K scan of the original camera negative. After a round of partying he can’t remember, World War II veteran Dave Hirsh (Frank Sinatra) finds himself on a bus to his hometown of Parkman, Indiana, which he hasn’t visited in more than a decade. His arrival brings small-town hypocrisy to the unforgiving light of day in this character-driven tale directed by Vincente Minnelli and based on a novel by James Jones (whose From Here to Eternity led to Sinatra’s 1953 Oscar). In his first screen pairing with Sinatra, Dean Martin plays a sharp-witted card sharp. And Shirley MacLaine earned one of the movie’s five Academy Award nominations as the good-hearted floozy with a potentially fatal attraction to Hirsh. The Blu-ray includes a 2.35:1 letterbox presentation with mono audio, the film’s original theatrical trailer in HD, and the featurette “The Story of Some Came Running.”

Nov. 23 will see the release of the 1951 musical Lullaby of Broadway on Blu-ray with a new HD master in a 1.37:1 presentation with mono audio. Doris Day stars as a singer newly arrived in New York and destined for Great White Way fame in the capable company of costars Gene Nelson, S.Z. Sakall, Billy De Wolfe, Gladys George and Florence Bates. The film gave Day a chance to not just vocalize with her usual excellence, but to also show off her impressive dancing talents — a daunting prospect for the star, who was told that injuries suffered during a car accident in her youth would prevent her from becoming a dancer. Songs include the Oscar-winning title tune, Cole Porter’s “Just One of Those Things” and “Somebody Loves Me.” The Blu-ray also includes the film’s theatrical trailer.

Available on Blu-ray Nov. 30 will be 1958’s Party Girl. When maverick director Nicholas Ray (Johnny Guitar, Rebel Without a Cause) turns his talents to a gangster movie, a familiar genre becomes startling and new. Under the auspices of long-time MGM musical producer Joe Pasternak, and with the added gloss of the CinemaScope widescreen and Metrocolor, the auteur created a cult classic. Set in 1930s Chicago, Party Girl follows a bum-legged mouthpiece for the mob (Robert Taylor) and a gorgeous, wised-up vamp (Cyd Charisse) who fall in love, try to go straight, and head straight for trouble. The cast also includes Lee J. Cobb and John Ireland. The Blu-ray includes a 2.35:1 letterbox presentation with mono audio, plus the film’s theatrical trailer.

Warner Archive titles are available at its Amazon Store and other online retailers of Blu-ray Discs and DVDs.

 

 

‘A Place in the Sun,’ ‘Nashville’ and ‘Bugsy Malone’ Join Paramount Presents Blu-ray Line in August

Three classics, A Place in the Sun, Nashville and Bugsy Malone, are joining the “Paramount Presents” Blu-ray line in August.

The limited-edition Paramount Presents Blu-rays come in collectible packaging featuring a foldout image of each film’s theatrical poster and an interior spread with key movie moments. Each disc also includes access to a digital copy of the film.

Due Aug. 10 is A Place in the Sun, from director George Stevens. The 1951 film, which won six Academy Awards, is remastered from a 4K film transfer in celebration of its 70th anniversary. The release includes a new “Filmmaker Focus” featuring film historian Leonard Maltin talking about Stevens and the innovative film techniques he used for this story of ambition, passion and betrayal. The disc also features previously released bonus content, including commentary by George Stevens Jr. and Ivan Moffat, retrospective cast and crew interviews, and a segment on Stevens featuring filmmakers who knew him. In the film, Montgomery Clift stars as George Eastman, a young man determined to win a place in respectable society and the heart of a beautiful socialite (Elizabeth Taylor). Shelley Winters is the factory girl whose dark secret threatens Eastman’s professional and romantic prospects.

Nashville is also coming out Aug. 10. Director Robert Altman’s seminal 1970s film is newly remastered from a 4K scan of original elements. The release includes a new featurette entitled “24 Tracks: Robert Altman’s Nashville.” The disc also includes a previously released commentary by Altman. The film follows 24 distinct characters with intersecting storylines over five days in the titular city. The ensemble cast includes Ned Beatty, Ronee Blakley, Keith Carradine, Karen Black, Geraldine Chaplin, Henry Gibson, Michael Murphy, Lily Tomlin, Shelley Duvall, Scott Glenn, Jeff Goldblum and Barbara Harris.

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Bugsy Malone will make its U.S. Blu-ray debut Aug. 31. Director Alan Parker redefined the movie musical with his first feature-length film, which celebrates its 45th anniversary this year. The film has been remastered from the original elements for this limited-edition release. The Blu-ray includes a new Filmmaker Focus delving into this early work from the director of FameThe Commitments, Pink Floyd: The Wall, Mississippi Burning and Evita. Set in 1929 New York City, Bugsy Malone captures a flashy world of would-be hoodlums, showgirls, and dreamers — all portrayed by child actors. As Tallulah, the sassy girlfriend of the owner of Fat Sam’s Grand Slam Speakeasy, future superstar Jodie Foster leads a talented cast. Parker’s script is combined with the music and lyrics of Paul Williams.

Beau Brummell

BLU-RAY REVIEW:

Available via Warner Archive;
Warner;
Drama;
$21.99 Blu-ray;
Not rated.
Stars Stewart Granger, Elizabeth Taylor, Peter Ustinov, Robert Morley.

To my very pleasant surprise, Warner Archive has given 1954’s Beau Brummell the full treatment with a 4K scan off the original negative for a payoff of such vivid reds and dark blues on its British military uniforms and more that you’d swear the same costumer designed Roy Rogers’ shirts. Because this Eastman Color release has always carried a “print by Technicolor” credit as well, I suspect that the film was always inherently superior to pure Eastman Color MGM titles from the same era (one of my favorite movies of all time — It’s Always Fair Weather — will forever be an eyesore in spots because of cost-cutting Eastman). But even the Brummell print I once recorded off MGM-friendly Turner Classic Movies was, to be generous, no great shakes.

A flop at the time (apparently lead Stewart Granger didn’t even like it), this superbly cast costumer, I’m told, has picked up a cult, which pleases me because I’ve always liked the picture despite its substantial liberties taken with history (don’t they all, or at least most of them?). Granger’s title protagonist, previously played in the silent era by John Barrymore, was and is here a 19th-century army captain of humble background despite his advanced education; he dresses like a fop but is, in fact, so direct and uncompromising in his opinions on virtually every subject that he accrues a lifetime of enemies who further regard him as an opportunist. BB opens the picture by publicly knocking his regimen’s new uniforms — a cheeky move, given that they were designed by a power figure (sort of) who incidentally, really is a fop: Peter Ustinov as George IV, aka the Prince of Wales and frustrated heir to the throne held by his bonkers father George III (Robert Morley). Think of the play or movie of The Madness of King George — and George III’s real-life importance to our own Revolution’s history. In this telling, Brummell’s insubordination nearly gets him busted by IV, but the two then develop an odd and unlikely friendship that’s on-and-off testy, but when all is said and done, lastingly affectionate.

The selling point here for the masses is probably the second-billed participation of Elizabeth Taylor as a “Lady Patricia” — supposedly betrothed to George III’s top political advisor (James Donald as Lord Edwin Mercer) in another one of those instances in which a highly eligible woman opts for dull security over a life of creditors that a reckless spendthrift like Beau will guarantee. This is an issue because although Patricia tries to fight it, the attraction is also there on her part. This is an uncommon Taylor screen experience because she spends the first half of the picture in a silver wig before eventually reverting to the brunette state with which we’re familiar.

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Liz notwithstanding, Beau Brummell is foremost a love story between two men, and Ustinov, who’s just spectacularly good here, has notably more screen time than Taylor, even though he’s billed third in a large in-name-only supporting role. Adding to his narrative importance is the fact that he and Beau Granger share something of an empathetic link, in that No. IV longs to wed the widowed Roman Catholic he loves (Rosemary Harris). It’s a union No. III expressly forbids, even though his son openly flaunts the relationship at banquets that seem to be an everyday occurrence (these people know how to live). In real life, IV did get to marry her, but the union wasn’t recognized by the Church. I probably won’t make any friends by saying this, but in A Man for All Seasons (though I love the movie), I always root for Henry VIII over Sir Thomas More because consenting adults of age who want to wed should be allowed to. In other words, butt out.

Of course, in this telling, there’s still III to deal with, and he’s so deranged that he claims his son is an imposter. Morley is as great here as Ustinov even if he does just have a single scene — which he totally nails. Everyone knows III is mad, but his vested-interest colleagues have successfully hushed it up (kind of like Woodrow Wilson times-12). The male acting principals are all memorable here, including the very underrated Granger (when I asked Martin Scorsese in an interview which old-school actors he most regretted not having been able to work with, I believe he listed Granger No. 2 after James Mason and mentioned that he and Granger had had dinner the previous night). BB’s box office underachievement didn’t do his career any good after his rich decade of outdoor adventures and costume dramas (these were falling out of favor). Scaramouche, for one, is a marvelous romp and possibly director George Sidney’s best film, even though I’m also exceptionally fond of The Harvey Girls. I have to think it would be a major Warner Archive candidate.

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Beau Brummell ultimately turns morose, which is perhaps inevitable given the army of creditors who show up daily at the door to demand payment for one or another ornate purchase. This probably didn’t help the box office, either, but even here, there are a couple powerful climactic scenes of reconciliation that reveal the men’s true feelings. And it’s really a revelation to see the movie looking this vital and pristine — I guess for the first time since 1954, when MGM couldn’t buy a hit outside of the surprise smash-dom of Seven Brides for Seven Brothers.

Mike’s Picks: ‘Beau Brummell’ and ‘Canyon Passage’