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Reviews » DVD Video Reviews » Cary Grant Signature Collection
Cary Grant Signature Collection
Warner Bros. // Unrated // June 1, 2004
List Price: $49.92 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by John Sinnott | posted June 14, 2004 | E-mail the Author
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C O N T E N T
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Highly Recommended
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Cary Grant was arguably the most glamorous star of Hollywood's golden era.  He was suave and sophisticated but at the same time down to earth and real.  He exuded class and dignity, but was also uproariously funny.  Born in 1904 in Bristol, England and given the unlikely moniker Archibald Leach, he ran away from home to join a traveling show when he was 14.  Trained in acrobatics, juggling, and as an all around song and dance man, Grant eventually made it to America and signed with Paramount in 1931.  He steadily made his way up the ladder and by the late 30's he was a major star.  When his contract with Paramount expired, he made an unusual decision and decided to freelance.  From then on, he could work for any company he chose to, and the strength of his name and acting ability ensured that he had constant work.  He stared in all sorts of films, from war movies to serious dramas, but he is best known for his romantic and madcap comedies.  Warner Brothers has released five of the star's pictures in the boxed set "Cary Grant:  The Signature Collection."  This set contains some of the great pictures that Grant made at a very reasonable price.  The films in this collection are Mr. Blandings Builds his Dream House, Destination Tokyo, The Bachelor and the Bobby-Soxer, My Favorite Wife, and Night and Day. 



Mr. Blandings Builds his Dream House:

Jim Blandings (Cary Grant) is an advertising executive living with his family in a small apartment in Manhattan.  Tired of cramped city living Jim and his wife Muriel (Myrna Loy) decide to move to the country where they can build their perfect home.  They soon find out that it is easier said than done.  With cost overruns, feuding contractors, water wells that are dry but a basement that floods Jim has his hands full.  Not only is the construction going wrong, but Mr. Blandings is also under pressure from work to come up with a new ad campaign for Wham Ham.   How can he think of a new way to sell ham when he's trapped in a small room in his 'dream house?'

If you've ever built a home, or even contracted for some work to be done you'll relate poor Jim Blandings.  Everything that can go wrong on this project does, and with hilarious results.  Mryna Loy is hysterical as the proper housewife who seems oblivious to all the trouble most of the time.  She's more interesting in the colors of the walls than the problems getting the wall erected in the first place.  I loved the scene where she gives her opinion about the floor plan of the house:  "I refuse to endanger the lives of my children in a house with less than four bathrooms." To which Grant replies "For 1,300 dollars they can live in a house with three bathrooms and rough it!"

Cary Grant made many classic comedies, and this is one of the best.  His aggravation and frustration with every aspect of the project is laugh out loud funny.  A great movie to include in this "signature collection."

The DVD:

Audio:

The mono soundtrack fit the movie well.  Like all movies from this era, there weren't a lot of impressive sound effects, but the dialog was easy to understand and the music was clear.  There was only a very light amount of hiss.  Subtitles were available in English, French, and Spanish.

Video:

This movie had very nice image quality.  The full frame video had very few digital defects and was generally clean with good contrast and detail.

The Extras:

The disc features the great Tex Avery cartoon The House of Tomorrow, and two radio shows both staring Cary Grant:  Lux Radio Theater from 10-10-49 and The Screen Director's Playhouse from 06-09-50.


Destination Tokyo:

This film is different from the other movies in this collection.  It's a straight war movie.  Grant plays Captain Cassidy of the submarine USS Copperfin.  His mission is to sneak his sub hundreds of miles into enemy territory and through Tokyo Bay itself to land a group of Marines on the Japanese mainland.

This taut thriller is still as gripping today as it was at the height of the war when it was made.  Though some of the plot lines and characterization seem clichéd today, but they assuredly weren't back in 1943.   This film was produced under the eye of the US Navy, who gave it their seal of approval, so there is a lot of propaganda and flag waving.  Even so it is a rousing wartime drama.  There's a good amount of action for a submarine film.  Attacks by Japanese planes, mines, unexploded ordinance and sneaking through antisubmarine nets are just some of the hazards that the crew faces on their way to the enemy's homeland.  All of these threats keep the tension high.

This film was finely crafted film.  While it is no Das Boot, and gets a little too patriotic in parts, it is one of the better war films that Hollywood created during WWII.
 

The DVD:

Audio:

Like the other movies in this set, this film has a mono soundtrack that sounds fine.  The dialog was easy to understand and the music was clear.  There was only a very light amount of hiss.  Subtitles were available in English, French, and Spanish.

Video:

The full frame B&W picture looked good.  There was a good amount of detail, though some things did get lost in the shadows.  A very acceptable picture for a fine movie.

The Extras:

This DVD also has a rare short, Gem of the Sea.  This 21-minute musical short start the French actress Jeanne Aubert in one of her few motion picture appearances.  The singing and dancing aboard an ocean liner sailing for Europe doesn't really fit with the feature film, but it's a nice addition to the disc in any case.


The Bachelor and the Bobby-Soxer:

Richard Nugent (Cary Grant) is a notorious playboy about town.  He makes a living as an artist, and lectures about art on the side.  One afternoon he gives a talk to a high school class, and a young girl in the audience, Susan Turner (Shirley Temple,) falls for him hard.  She fakes being on the school newspaper to get an interview with the artist to learn more about him.  Susan's sister and guardian Judge Margaret Turner (Myrna Loy) isn't as impressed with Richard Nugent.   He's appeared before her court, and she knows what a womanizer he is.

When Susan turns up missing that night, Margaret correctly deduces that she's gone to see Nugent.  Susan has snuck into his room, unbeknownst to the artist, and fallen asleep on the couch waiting for him to return from a night of carousing.  He does return it is just in time to have the DA pound on his door and discover the underage high school student in his room.  It looks bad for poor Richard, but Susan's uncle, a psychiatrist, convinces everyone that if Nugent goes to jail, Susan will look at him as a martyr and never get over her crush.  So instead of serving time in jail, Richard has to date Susan!

This is a very amusing comedy from the late 40's.  While it is not as well known as other films that the cast appeared in, it is still an excellent movie.  Cary Grant is at his straight man best here, being suave and smooth while still being able to get laughs with his reactions.  The look on his face when he finds Temple in his room is priceless, as is his impersonation of a young hep-cat.  Grant is able to pull of wild farce better than any other actor of the time.

Shirley Temple does a good job as the love struck teenager, and Myrna Loy is wonderful as the protective older sister.  I wish Loy's part had been bigger.  She shines in the scenes she has with Grant, but they are too few.

The plot may seem a little contrived, but the comedy more than makes up for it.  There's a lot of humorous rapid-fire dialog such as when Grant is trying to talk his way out of jail, and a good amount of slapstick, the races at the picnic stand out.  This is a classic comedy that the whole family should enjoy.

The DVD:

Audio:

This movie has a mono soundtrack that is acceptable.  There was a little hiss, but it wasn't distracting.  Subtitles were available in English, French, and Spanish.

Video:

The black and white full frame picture looked very good.  There was a good amount of contrast and the details were clear.  There was a good amount of digital noise in the picture, but it wasn't distracting.  The print that was used had some very light emulsion damage in a few areas, but this was minor, just some discoloration in a few frames.

The Extras:

This DVD has a great screwball Tex Avery cartoon The Little Tinker in which a malodorous skunk has problems getting a girl.    There is also an edition of Lux Radio Theater from 06-14-49 in which Cary Grant and Shirley Temple reprise their roles from this film.


My Favorite Wife: 

This is a comic masterpiece, one of the great romantic comedies of the era.  Cary Grant really shines as Nick, a lawyer who was married to Ellen (Irene Dunne.)  But Ellen has been missing at sea for seven years and Nick has her legally declared dead so they he may marry Bianca (Gail Patrick.)  As luck would have it, Ellen has been living on an island all this time and is rescued just after Nick marries Bianca.  She wants to find out if he still has feelings for her so she follows him to the hotel where he will be staying on his honeymoon.  Nick is astounded at finding the wife he thought was dead is still alive, and tries to hide the fact from his new wife.  Bianca in turn wants to start their married life, but finds it hard to do with her husband running off at odd moments.

The situation is complicated by the fact that Ellen wasn't alone on the island; she was stranded with the very handsome Burkett (Randolph Scott.) Ellen swears that nothing happened between them, but Nick isn't sure if he should believe her and gets very jealous.  Burkett in the meantime wants has fallen for Ellen and wants her to run away with him.  Comedy ensues as each person comes up with their own plan for snaring the mate they want.

This is a very funny film.  Every time I watch it I seem to enjoy it more.  Cary Grant can get a laugh with a simple facial expression easier than any other actor of his time.  Just watch the scene where he spots his missing wife for the first time in the hotel lobby as the elevator doors are closing.   It is a classic scene.

The script is excellent, with a lot of jokes and plot points flying about in typical madcap fashion.  Both Grant and Dunne gave brilliant performances, and the supporting actors did a great job too.  This was a great movie to include in this set, one of Grant's best comedies.

The DVD:

Audio:

This DVD has a nice mono soundtrack, with optional subtitles in English, French, and Spanish.  A little background hiss, but nothing major.

Video:

The black and white video was presented with its original aspect ratio of 1.33:1.  The image quality was very good for a film this old. There was good contrast and detail, and the picture was generally clean.

The Extras:

The DVD includes an amusing Robert Benchley short Home Movies, and the 12-07-50 Screen Director's Playhouse radio show staring Cary Grant.


Night and Day:

This heavily fictionalized 1946 biopic of songwriter Cole Porter isn't one of Grant's best efforts and was a surprising choice to include in this 'signature series' collection.  Grant plays the writer of such classic tunes as "Let's Do It (Let's Fall in Love)," and "Anything Goes," not to mention the title song.

The story starts at Yale in 1914 when Cole was studying law.  He is more interested in hanging out at the music hall writing tunes than learning the intricacies of the justice system.  When he returns home for Christmas he informs his family that he's dropping out of school and wants to pursue a career in music.  Along with his old college professor, Monty Woolly, Porter goes about raising money for his first musical play.  The movie follows Porter through World War I and his lean years to becoming one of the most popular songwriters of his day.

This movie has a lot going for it.  It was Grant's first color film, has a lot of great music and a superb supporting cast including Jane Wyman, Eve Arden, and Alan Hale. It is filmed in glorious Technicolor, and has many big production numbers.  But when all is said and done, the movie comes across as flat and lifeless.  Cary Grant is uncharacteristically wooden as the famous song writer.  His costar Alexis Smith, who plays the Porter's love interest, just doesn't have any screen presence.  She's beautiful and a talented actress, but just doesn't seem to have any chemistry with Grant.

The musical numbers are very good, the film features 27 of Porter's songs, but they can't save this movie from being a mediocre effort.

The DVD:

Audio:

The mono soundtrack had a little hiss in the background, but the level was low.  The dialog was clear, and the music sounded nice.  There are subtitles in English, French and Spanish.

Video:

The full frame Technicolor image preserves the movie's original aspect ratio.  The print is in good condition for being so old, but the image hasn't been restored.  The picture quality is fairly good, although there were specks and spots present on the print, along with a couple of torn frames.  There is a good amount of edge enhancement but it isn't too heavy handed.  This is an above average picture for a movie this old.

The Extras:

Musical Movieland:  A 20-minute Technicolor short that takes you on a tour of a studio lot.  A guide leads a group of visitors through a back lot and while there they see musical numbers from various movies that are in production.

Dezi Arnaz and his Orchestra:  A 10 minute black and white short where the future costar of I Love Lucy plays some songs with his band in a Latin setting.

The Big Snooze:  A Looney Tunes short featuring Bugs Bunny.  Elmer Fudd gets tired of the fact that Bugs always gets the better of him in the cartoons, so he rips up his contract and quits.  But he can't get away from bugs that easily.

Cole Porter Trailer Gallery:  Trailers to five films featureing music by Cole Porter.

Final Thoughts:

I really enjoyed these movies.  Cary Grant was a wonderful comedian and actor, and these are a good selection of his films.  These are not his very best works, Bringing Up Baby is one comedy that I would have wanted to be included, and his best dramatic work was in the pictures he made with Hitchcock, but these are still great films.  One nice thing about this set is that all these movies (with the possible exception of Night and Day) stand up to repeat viewing very well.  The extras, while not copious are fun to have.  It is easy to give this set of movies a Highly Recommended rating.

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