Classic ‘Wonderful World of the Brothers Grimm’ to Be Released on Blu-ray March 29 From Warner Archive

The classic 1962 film The Wonderful World of the Brothers Grimm will debut as a two-disc special edition Blu-ray on March 29 from the Warner Archive Collection.

The film is restored in 4K (3840 x 2160) master files from 6K files of original Cinerama Camera Negatives, with the most advanced technology available used by Cinerama Restorationists David Strohmaier and Tom H. March, to eliminate the “join lines” that plagued traditional release prints, and early video format releases. The Cinerama 7-channel sound has also been restored for a new 5.1 mix.
 
The release will include an eight-page booklet that is a partial replica of the original souvenir program sold in theaters during the film’s original theatrical roadshow engagements and will be available at $24.98 at the Warner Archive store on Amazon.com or at online retailers where Blu-ray discs are sold. 

The film tells the story behind the brothers who created the beloved fairy tales that bear their name, with reenactments of three of their fairy tale stories. It follows the brothers’ long struggle for recognition and the sacrifices they and their families made to achieve their goals. Between dreamer Wilhelm (Laurence Harvey) and practical Jacob (Karl Boehm), some marvelous fairy tales develop. In “The Dancing Princess,” a princess (Yvette Mimieux) falls in love with a charming woodsman (Russ Tamblyn). In “The Cobbler and the Elves,” a Christmas miracle of dedicated labor helps the cobbler out when he most needs it. And in the last story, a fire-breathing dragon threatens the kingdom until a lowly servant (Buddy Hackett) saves the day.

Shot on location in West Germany, the production features Puppetoons, a technique developed by Oscar-winning special effects expert George Pal.

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Viewers can watch the film either in a traditional letterbox format, or in the Smilebox format, which attempts to re-create the immersive Cinerama experience with a simulated curve to the screen. Both versions bring together the three original Cinerama panels with virtually no trace of the lines that joined them together when originally projected in theaters back in 1962.

Cinerama restorationists David Strohmaier and Tom March and Decurion Corp. (parent company of Cinerama Inc.) partnered with Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc.to bring the project to fruition.

Special features include “Rescuing a Fantasy Classic-Documentary,” “The Epic Art of The Brothers Grimm,” “The Wonderful Career of George Pal” and trailers.

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.

 

 

Warner Archive Announces June 2021 Blu-rays

The Warner Archive Collection has announced its slate of catalog films heading for Blu-ray Disc in June 2021.

Due June 8 is 1970’s There Was a Crooked Man. Kirk Douglas plays a charming inmate scheming to recover $500K in stolen loot he has hidden away, while Henry Fonda looms as his new prison warden. Each man will find the tables turning in this boisterous yet blistering Western packed with brawls, shootouts and wry wit. The cast also includes Hume Cronyn, Burgess Meredith, Warren Oates and Lee Grant. The film was directed Joseph L. Mankiewicz from a script by David Newman and Robert Benton (Bonnie and Clyde).

Arriving June 15 is the 1945 musical Ziegfeld Follies. Following in the footsteps of dearly departed showman extraordinaire Florenz Ziegfeld Jr., Ziegfeld Follies is a who’s who of Golden Age Hollywood talent. The all-star revue offers Fred Astaire in four numbers, with Gene Kelly joining him in their first-ever screen pairing. Red Skelton reprises his funny Guzzler’s Gin skit. Esther Williams swims, Lena Horne sings, and Judy Garland spoofs snobbery.

Also due June 15 is 1968’s Guns for San Sebastian. Leon Alastray (Anthony Quinn), a rebel on the run from the Mexican Army, escapes to the remote village of San Sebastian, where locals believe he’s a holy man. Finding the area devastated by savage Yaqui attacks and the presence of a separate enemy — Teclo (Charles Bronson), a man with his own shocking secret — Leon reveals his true identity and leads the villagers against the deadly threat. As the people of San Sebastian prepare for an explosive fight, they must gather courage to reclaim their town.

Available June 22 will be the 1963 Elvis Presley musical It Happened at the World’s Fair. Set against the backdrop of the 1962 Seattle World’s Fair, Presley plays pilot-for-hire Mike, whose hope of starting his own flying business is grounded by the gambling of his copilot Danny (Gary Lockwood). The two hitch to Seattle, where Mike finds romance, Danny finds easy marks and both find problems prior to a “Happy Ending.” Keep an eye out for Kurt Russell as the child who wallops Mike in the shins.

Due June 22 is 1950’s Chain Lightning. Matt Brennan (Humphrey Bogart) plans to show the potential of the JA-3, an experimental jet — by flying it from Nome over the North Pole and into the Pentagon’s lap in Washington, D.C. The JA-3 has never been tested at this range and can’t provide enough pressurization at 80,000 feet. But Brennan has modifications in mind … and no shortage of courage. Eleanor Parker, as a former World War II flame, fuels the romance in this adventure that tapped into the era’s fascination with jet aviation.

Arriving June 29 is 1943’s Madame Curie. In an era when women were allowed to be ornaments, mothers or drudges, young Marie Sklodowska of Poland dreamed of something more. She defied convention to study physics and mathematics at the Sorbonne and — with Pierre Curie, the professor who became her husband — to make one of the greatest breakthroughs in 20th-century science. Greer Garson and Walter Pidgeon reunite to portray the courageous couple who won the 1903 Nobel Prize for their discovery of radium.

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Mike’s Picks: ‘The Mystery of the Wax Museum’ and ‘A Thousand Clowns’

The Mystery of the Wax Museum

Available via Warner Archive
Warner, Horror, $21.99 Blu-ray, NR.
Stars Lionel Atwill, Fay Wray, Glenda Farrell, Frank McHugh.
1933.
This above-and-beyond is even more impressive for licking the salvage job that had to be done as opposed to the movie’s visual content, which is by nature on the dark side for the film that was later remade in 1953 as House of Wax with Vincent Price.
Extras: Museum wouldn’t be a vintage Michael Curtiz picture on a recent Blu-ray if it didn’t serve up Curtiz biographer Alan Rode to offer a backgrounder, and he really has to fight the clock to fit his standard pro job into the tight 78-minute running time. This would all be enough for most discs, but there’s also a sweet tribute to Fay Wray, which includes not only Wray in archival interviews but Victoria Raskin, her daughter with screenwriter Robert Riskin and author of a recent book on her parents
Read the Full Review

A Thousand Clowns

Kino Lorber, Comedy, $19.95 DVD, $29.95 Blu-ray, NR.
Stars Jason Robards, Barbara Harris, Barry Gordon, Martin Balsam, William Daniels.
1965.
If there can be such a thing as a pro-hippie dropout movie geared for white guys, it has to be A Thousand Clowns, which in its own ragged way, almost by accident, also nearly comes off as “European” in its approach to 1960s cinema.
Extras: Former child actor Barry Gordon is on the main bonus extra here covering the basics of his career and offering opinions on how the movie evolved into an offbeat mess.
Read the Full Review

‘Selena’ Now on Blu-ray Via Warner Archive

The Warner Archive Collection recently released the 1997 biopic Selena on Blu-ray for the first time. The film stars Jennifer Lopez as the Grammy-winning Tejano singer who was murdered at age 23 by the former manager of her fan club.

The cast also includes Edward James Olmos and Jon Seda.

The Blu-ray includes both the theatrical and extended cuts of the film, and extras such as the documentary “Selena, Queen of Tejano”; the featurette “Making of Selena: 10 Years Later”; outtakes; and the theatrical trailer.

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Warner Archive also just released a Blu-ray edition of 1958’s The Reluctant Debutante, starring Sandra Dee as Jane, an American girl sent to live with her father (Rex Harrison) in England. She soon finds herself thrust into the society spotlight thanks to the prodding of a busy-body society matron (Angela Lansbury). Despite her stepmother’s desire for her to pair off with a suitor of appropriate social standing, Jane only has eyes for a lowly drummer (John Saxon).

The film was directed by Vincente Minnelli.

Mike’s Picks: ‘Tin Cup’ and ‘The General Died at Dawn’

Tin Cup

Available via Warner Archive
Warner, Comedy, $21.99 Blu-ray, ‘R’ for language and brief nudity.
Stars Kevin Costner, Rene Russo, Cheech Marin, Don Johnson.
1996. A golf-backdropped romantic comedy directed and co-written by Ron Shelton, Tin Cup was about as popular at the box office as the filmmaker’s breakthrough Bull Durham, yet it isn’t talked about as much these days — perhaps due to Durham’s extraordinarily sustained shelf life as a movie that really caught on in the home market.
Read the Full Review

The General Died at Dawn

Kino Lorber, Thriller, $24.95 Blu-ray, Not rated.
Stars Gary Cooper, Madeleine Carroll, Akim Tamiroff, Porter Hall, William Frawley.
1936.
As a standout film or close in the borderline screen career of Lewis Milestone that additionally features the first screenplay of playwright Clifford Odets’ career, The General Died at Dawn has more going for it than the cosmetic magnitude of its two impossible-looking lead actors captured here in a new 4K mastering that shows how great ’30s Paramounts used to look.
Extras: Historians Lee Gambin and Rutanya Alda share the Blu-ray commentary.
Read the Full Review

 

 

Tin Cup

BLU-RAY REVIEW:

Available via Warner Archive;
Warner;
Comedy;
$21.99 Blu-ray;
Rated ‘R’ for language and brief nudity.
Stars Kevin Costner, Rene Russo, Cheech Marin, Don Johnson.

A kind of shaggy dog or shaggy bogey or shaggy something golf backdropped romantic comedy directed and co-written by Ron Shelton, 1996’s Tin Cup was about as popular at the box office as the filmmaker’s breakthrough Bull Durham, yet it isn’t talked about as much these days — perhaps due to Durham’s extraordinarily sustained shelf life as a movie that really caught on in the home market. It’s long and a little lumpy, but it’s my favorite golf film out of a limited pool, despite my decades of boundless affection for Martin & Lewis in The Caddy, which is the picture from which I caught the movie bug in 1953.

For one thing, it has one of the greatest premises for a romantic comedy that I’ve ever seen, as a practitioner of the No. 1 head game in sports (Kevin Costner) falls for a clinical psychologist (Rene Russo). I see that one of those cretins you sometimes see posting on IMDb.com said he didn’t like the picture because Russo didn’t act anything like real people in the profession do, but one of the key points here is that the latter has knocked around in sales and other professions before getting her certification and is hardly to the profession born. What’s more, if she weren’t in her own way as flakey as Costner, their relationship could never get past the opening tee shot, which it barely does, anyway.

The setting is a West Texas driving rage that Costner operates and lives in sub-meagerly. I won’t say it’s out in the middle of nowhere, but you somehow know it isn’t a good sign when the logo on his establishment’s sign is an armadillo. Once a promising college golfer at the University of Houston, Costner has gone to professional seed over his habit of playing recklessly and his congenital refusal to follow the advice even of his caddy and all but live-in friend (Cheech Marin, in the best screen role he’s ever had aside from maybe parts in the earliest Cheech & Chong vehicles). Meanwhile, Costner’s chief college rival (a never-better Don Johnson) has become a name pro on the circuit. Those two are not dissimilar physical types, but I can’t tell if Shelton is trying to construct an alter ego thing or not.

Russo, who has a history of “following boyfriends” to wherever they are geographically, shows up at the range for golf lessons — and though this isn’t divulged right away, her current squeeze is a golfer who happens to be … well, guess. She can barely hit the ball when teeing off, so Costner has a lot of work to do, including polishing his faltering romantic patter. His familiar formulas aren’t working, partly because Russo sees right through him. She’s also too slow in picking up on the fact, which Costner fully knows from their long history, that super-slick Johnson is about as sincere as, say, Jim Bakker.

This is all an entertaining setup for what happens when Costner elects to attempt entry to the U.S. Open, which literally is “open” to any golfer who can qualify for entry — which, among other things, means not playing like a highly talented madman. This would encompass not intentionally snapping clubs like wishbones, using a 7-iron when it’s an eccentric choice for the shot and insulting your longtime caddy to the point where he walks off the course. Still, aside from the caddy part, Costner makes it work for him up to a point, though his behavior keeps adding strokes to a score and blowing what ought to be a cushion after he’s hit a hot streak.

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The wide open settings of the movie’s second half are a photogenic contrast to the first, which spends a lot of time in and around the mold culture where Costner lives, works and has even had surprising success with women in the past, though none of them with Russo’s at least relative polish. There are at least a couple standout set pieces, the first being an incredible bet that Costner sets up in a bar on the tour, which involves a long drive through a narrow doorway and over a body of water to attempt an odds-defying feat.

The other one is simply terrific — a scene I’ve never forgotten and one I was highly anxious to see again. It involves Costner’s death-wish attempt to reach the green over (again) a body of water, and it isn’t pretty, yet ultimately, it’s jammed with grandeur — the kind sports fans will talk about for decades when the actual winner of the tournament will be a fuzzy memory except for those who qualify as the hard core.

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All four leads really deliver in form-fitting roles, and though he wasn’t awarded top spot, Costner was one of three more to win a citation as best actor for 1996 from the New York Film Critics circle. He apparently had to be coached heavily to look like a competitive golfer, but he is such a good athlete in general (and a heavily skilled baseball player) that to my eye, at least, he looks convincing.

Mike’s Picks: ‘Tin Cup’ and ‘The General Died at Dawn’

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

Beau Brummell

Available via Warner Archive
Warner, Drama, $21.99 Blu-ray, NR.
Stars Stewart Granger, Elizabeth Taylor, Peter Ustinov, Robert Morley.
1954.
A flop at the time, this superbly cast costume drama has picked up a cult following who should be pleased by the Blu-ray’s 4K scan off the original negative that pays off with such vivid reds and dark blues on its British military uniforms.
Read the Full Review

Canyon Passage

Kino Lorber, Western, $24.95 Blu-ray, NR.
Stars Dana Andrews, Brian Donlevy, Susan Hayward, Ward Bond, Hoagy Carmichael, Patricia Roc, Lloyd Bridges.
1946.
Set in pre-Civil War Oregon amid a settlement that’s pretty isolated even by Northwest standards of the day, Technicolor Canyon Passage on Blu-ray makes for a fairly stunning visual experience, though you can’t tell at first because the opening shot is set of muddy streets during a monsoon.
Extras: Includes a commentary by Toby Roan, who knows Westerns as well as anyone.
Read the Full Review

 

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’

 

A Little Romance

BLU-RAY REVIEW:

Available via Warner Archive;
Warner;
Drama;
$21.99 Blu-ray
;
Rated ‘PG.’
Stars Laurence Olivier, Diane Lane, Thelonious Bernard, Sally Kellerman, Arthur Hill.

It was spring of 1979 when 12-year-old Diane Lane made the cover of Time magazine back when that really meant something — ostensibly as part of a cover story on “Hollywood’s Whiz Kids” but spurred primarily by her utterly beguiling screen debut opposite Laurence Olivier in A Little Romance, the first film released, albeit through Warner Bros., by the then brand new Orion Pictures. I can’t believe the pans the picture originally got, though I did just notice that Frank Rich provided a very enthusiastic blurb at the time, and Rich’s film criticism was always as dead-on as his political writing (his current Intelligencer column in New York magazine is never to be missed). But the movie has aged well despite all of its potential minefields, due in huge part to Lane, who was worthy of making the cover of almost any magazine that comes to mind, including Civil War Times, Just Jazz Guitar and that White Castle’s monthly house organ (I actually have a friend who collected a consecutive run of the last for years).

Almost by definition, the picture sounds all but inevitably as if it’ll be plagued by a rampant “case of the cutes” — while Sir Larry’s performance is rather, uh, broad here (I won’t say hammy, though, because it’s too funny and besides, it’s in the spirit of the movie). Then and now, I always looked at Romance as a keen move by director George Roy Hill to develop some filmography “rhythm” after having just done Paul Newman’s Slap Shot, a hockey comedy that comes pretty close to being an all-timer but which also had what was probably the most profane script of any Hollywood film released up to that time. Of course, with 1964’s The World of Henry Orient, Hill had already done one of the best of all adolescent-centered comedies.

Per its title, the focus here is adolescent romance, as unaffected Lane’s child of privilege falls for the scruffy, street-smart 13-year-old son of an uncouth French taxi driver — a pleasing turn by another screen newcomer, Thelonious Bernard, who almost immediately gave up acting in real life and eventually became a dentist. His character is also a film buff (they, of course, know how to grow them in France), and the movie gets off to a rough start when we see a montage of his screen favorites that somehow finds room for True Grit and Hill’s own Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, which doesn’t exactly suggest Bertolucci’s The Dreamers when it comes to that film’s more accurate portrayal of what a French student of film might be watching. The Bernard character (Daniel) is, however, enough of an auteurist to love Howard Hawks’ To Have and Have Not with Bogie and Bacall and knows an omen when he finds one upon discovering that the Lane character’s name is Lauren.

Sally Kellerman plays Lane’s toxically flighty thrice-wed mother at a time when Kellerman did “impossible” better than anyone. Her good-guy husband No. 3 and Lane stepfather (Arthur Hill) is work-stationed as an American executive in Paris, which is how the movie’s storyline comes to be. This, in turn, gives mom the opportunity to pursue a currently shooting film director (David Dukes), and one of the funniest gags here is that fact that while commercially popular, he’s a total hack. Bernard’s Daniel is, of course, movie-savvy enough to know this, compounding his total disdain for someone he’d dislike on sight for a number of other reasons. Another good gag is that Broderick Crawford, who looks as if he entered the wrong door on his way to the Highway Patrol set, plays himself in all ways but full literal moniker (here, he is “Brod”) as one who ends up cast in Dukes’s movie. Brod only has two or three scenes, but he gets some laughs, even though he probably agreed to do the picture for a couple pops.

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Lane’s Lauren is caught in the middle of all this (Dukes is as much of an aggressive pain as Kellerman), which makes credible what might have been a too-appealing-to-be-true characterization: an absolute seventh-grade dreamboat with all seventh-grader vulnerabilities but also a bookish one with literate-adult interests and reading taste at least half-a-decade beyond her years, at least for the era in which the movie is set. But she’s still a Romantic with a thing for Elizabeth Barrett, so it makes a certain kind of sense that she’d fall for a boy who loves handicapping and playing the horses and also sneaking out and into movies like one the young rascals in Francois Truffaut films.

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Every young couple needs a Cupid, which is where Olivier fits in — a role that, top billing notwithstanding, initially looks like a small one (nearly an hour in before his second show-up but expands substantially in the second half). It all comes to be after the kids meet this courtly old-school French charmer of somewhat vague background after he is felled by a flying soccer ball. Inspired by romantic memories of his late wife, Olivier agrees to aid and abet the youngsters on their daring journey to Venice’s Bridge of Sighs, where the two plan to kiss at sunlight (though Lane lies about the reason for the trip). Their challenges have to do coming up with the money, the fact that as minors they’re way too young to travel legally without an adult, pursuing authorities who assume they’re looking at a kidnapping case, and missed train connections.

This is a movie that probably shouldn’t work, but it does for me, and it isn’t all Lane, though she’s the nucleus of this pure confection’s sleeper uccess. Adapting a Claude Klotz novel, Allan Burns’s Oscar-nominated script brandishes a TV series brand of humor, but it’s good TV (Burns worked on “The Bullwinkle Show,” “Mary Tyler Moore Show” and plus a lot of “Lou Grant” and “Rhoda”). The young actors who play the respective best friends of Lane and Bernard could have been throwaways, but their roles are not only well written but exceptionally well directed by Hill. Georges Delerue’s score took the Oscar, and cinematographer Pierre-William Glenn had previously shot Truffaut’s Day for Night for automatic street cred (DFN’s score came from Delerue as well). I used to think Arthur Hill was on the bland side, but the more I watch, I’m impressed by his malleability in playing sympathetic characters but also occasionally sinister types. His scenes with Lane are genuinely warm, and he keeps it under control when the kids get looped on champagne during what is otherwise not much of a birthday bash for her, which Kellerman has insisted be combined with a wrap party for Dukes.

This Warner Archive release has no real extras, but I didn’t really care because it was so much fun watching Olivier approaching the end of his career as Lane was just beginning hers. It’s been fun watching her grow up on the screen into a perfect woman, an assertion I base not just on her multi-level attractiveness but the fact that in Jay Roach’s Dalton Trumbo biopic, we see her having a normal backyard conversation while juggling.

Mike’s Picks: ‘A Little Romance’ and ‘Salesman’