Song and dance DVDs arrive in style this week a pair of reissued, made-over classics and a box of Busby Berkeley confections.
"An American in Paris: Special Edition" (Warner, 1951, two discs, $20.97). One of Gene Kelly's greatest triumphs gets a classy DVD redo with this special edition which features fabulous bonus materials, including an audio commentary made up of vintage interviews with Kelly and director Vincente Minnelli, as well as new interviews with co-stars Leslie Caron and Nina Foch.
The film itself is a colorful, lilting romp built around a bevy of great Gershwin tunes, and it's never looked or sounded so good. The plot has Kelly as an ex-GI artist who is torn between his rich benefactor (Foch) and the young French woman he loves (Caron in her film debut). But the dazzling production numbers are what make the film worthwhile, along with comic relief from Oscar Levant.
My only complaint is that it was filmed on a Hollywood backlot rather than on location in France (although the set design is awfully good).
Extras: full frame, audio commentary, new documentary, featurettes, audio outtakes, vintage radio interviews (with Kelly and Caron), vintage short film, vintage cartoon, trailer
"Gigi: 50th Anniversary Special Edition" (Warner, 1959, two discs, $20.07). Eight years later, Caron and Minnelli conjured up yet another delightful musical with this (sanitized) adaptation of Colette's story of a young woman being groomed as a courtesan, laced with memorable Lerner & Loewe songs, bolstered by support from Maurice Chevalier, Louis Jourdan, Hermoine Gingold and Eva Gabor and this one was filmed on location in Paris. Good bonus features here as well.
Extras: widescreen, commentary (by Caron and film historian Jeanine Basinger), new documentary, vintage short film, vintage cartoon, trailer; also 1949 non-musical b/w film "Gigi," in French with English subtitles
"The Busby Berkeley Collection: Volume 2" (Warner, 1936-38, b/w, four discs, $39.92). Berkeley is famous for those kaleidoscope and precision tap-dance routines with scantily clad women surveyed by overhead and gliding floor cameras. And those routines are on display aplenty in these four Depression-era flicks.
• "Gold Diggers of 1937" (1936). The "Gold Diggers" films with meager plots based on the overly familiar chestnut "let's put on a show" were Berkeley's stock in trade. Here, regulars Dick Powell and Joan Blondell star, along with Victor Moore. Best song: "All's Fair in Love and War."
• "Varsity Show" (1937) casts Powell as a Broadway showman putting on a campus program for his alma mater, with exuberant performances by Buck and Bubbles, comedy from Sterling Holloway, and the film debut of sisters Priscilla and Rosemary Lane. Berkeley didn't direct this one, but he choreographed the you-gotta-see-it-to-believe-it finale, with hundreds of dancers on a 50-foot-by-60-foot staircase!
• "Hollywood Hotel" (1937) has Powell paired with Rosemary Lane, and this time he's won a talent contest that takes him to Hollywood. "Hooray for Hollywood" provides a rousing number but the real treat is Benny Goodman (with Gene Krupa on drums) doing "Sing, Sing, Sing." Look for Ronald Reagan in a bit part.
• "Gold Diggers in Paris" (1938). The title tells all when those terpsichorean tappers are mistaken for a ballet company. Rudy Vallee stars in this one, with Rosemary Lane and a bevy of comics.Extras: full frame, musical excerpts from "Gold Diggers of Broadway" (1929), vintage short films, vintage cartoons, trailers (all titles available individually, $19.97)
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