There have been a good number of silent films that have come out on
DVD, but the early sound era films haven't been nearly as well represented.
(One reason for this is that the early talkies, as a whole, weren't as
good as the later silents.) In any case Kino has been one of the
companies that haven't ignored the films from the late 20's and early 30's.
Their most recent release from this era is the Fanny Brice vehicle Be
Yourself. A nice if forgettable film, this is the earliest Brice
film that still exists in complete form, one of only a couple. The
DVD presents the film in unrestored form but it still looks and sounds
very good for a film from 1930.
Brice, immortalized by Barbra Streisand in the films Funny Girl and
Funny Lady, was a singer and comedienne who rose to fame in Ziegfeld
Follies, staring in every production from 1911 until 1923, and many more
until 1930. Today she's best remembered for her radio performances
as Baby Snooks, a devilish little girl who would pull pranks that would
drive her poor father to distraction. Though she tried to make it
in films, she never did and this feature gives a good clue why that was.
Brice (billed as 'Fannie' in this production) plays Fannie Field, a
show girl staring in a nightclub act. She's drawn to Jerry Moore
(Robert Armstrong), a down on his luck fighter who has just moved into
the big city but can't get a fight. When he gets into a scrap at
the club with the champ, Fannie and her lawyer brother Harry (Harry Green),
decide to become Jerry's manager and get him some fights.
As Jerry rises, Fannie starts to fall in love with him, but when he
finally makes it to the top he leaves her for a glamorous gold-digger who
is only out for his money. Heart-broken, Fannie has to make Harry
see the error of his ways before its too late.
was typical for romantic comedies of the day, there are a lot of songs
included in this film. Too many really. The movie only run
66 minutes yet there are five musical numbers. Every time Fannie
starts to sing, the movie grinds to a halt while she does her thing.
It wouldn't be all that bad if the songs were better, but they're mediocre
at best, and down-right stupid at worst. One tune is I'm Cooking
Breakfast for the One I Love that includes such inspired lyrics as
"Now my baby likes bacon, and it's bacon that I'm makin', while I'm cooking
breakfast for the one I love." They even sung thaT song twice.
Brice also doesn't have much screen presence. She's mainly forgettable
in the role and though she was no stranger to heart-ache in real life,
she isn't very convincing when the fighter leaves her. While doing
her musical numbers Brice hams it up like she was on a stage, making goofy
faces and prancing around a bit. While this would have been fine
on Broadway, on the screen it's a bit too much and she looks stupid rather
than funny. It's also a bit surprising that the famous comedienne
wasn't more humorous. She's constantly upstaged by Harry Green.
Granted Green is supposed to be the comic relief, but Fanny's jokes nearly
all fall flat.
Even with these problems this film has a simple charm that a lot of
movies from the 30's have. It is a light and enjoyable way to spend
an hour, even if the details from the film will fade as soon as the credits
The two channel mono soundtrack sounded good for an early sound feature.
The audio is naturally thin and tinny do to the recording technology of
the time. Both highs and lows are clipped, but that isn't surprising.
The sound technicians were still learning their craft when this film was
made as the footsteps of actors walking across the soundstage are too loud.
There is a bit of background noise, hum and some occasional clicks, and
while this is prominent in the quite scenes it isn't distracting.
The dialog is generally easy to hear even though it is slightly muffled
in some scenes and there are a bit of distortion mostly during the songs.
Overall this disc sounds about average for an early talkie.
Like the audio, the full frame image looks nice for an unrestored film
from the '30's. The image is a little soft, there are some spots
and a few scratches bit these aren't too bad. The image has a good
amount of detail and the contrast is very good. Some scenes are a
bit dark but only a little. This film looks very good given
Unfortunately there are no bonus items. An episode of the Baby
Snooks radio show would have been nice, or one of Brice's other appearances
on the radio. Most of the old-time radio shows are in the public
domain so the rights wouldn't have been a problem.
This was a nice movie but utterly forgettable. Fanny Brice just
didn't have much screen presence in this and the overly frequent songs
really interrupted the pacing of the movie. Fans of early talkies
or of Brice's Baby Snooks character should check this film out, just to
see the star, but make it a rental.