CARY GRANT: THE SIGNATURE COLLECTION

(WARNER HOME VIDEO)

The Golden Age sound era yielded five uncommonly versatile superstars who were equally adept at both drama and comedy: Spencer Tracy, James Stewart, Gary Cooper, James Cagney, and, of course, Cary Grant. While Tracy, Stewart, Cooper, and Cagney were accepted by audiences and critics in both genres, Grant fans vastly preferred his films to be in a comedic vein, and only Hitchcock, and, to a lesser extent, George Stevens were successful at exploring Grant's darker side. Therefore it's no surprise that of the five Grant films that Warner Home Video chose for their CARY GRANT SIGNATURE COLLECTION box-set, three are out-and-out comedies, and even the atypical Grant musical biopic and war film are of the lighter variety.

The premise of MY FAVORITE WIFE was such a comically attractive one (Grant's first wife, Irene Dunne, lost at sea seven years before and presumed dead,  turns up just in time for Grant's wedding to a second wife) that it was remade twice, first as the aborted Marilyn Monroe-Dean Martin starrer SOMETHING'S GOT TO GIVE and finally as MOVE OVER, DARLING which teamed Doris Day and James Garner. But neither holds a candle to WIFE, with its smart and snappy screenplay, deft direction, and scintillating performances from Dunne, Grant, Randolph Scott and a perfectly chosen supporting cast. (Indeed, the Dunne-Grant chemistry veers disarmingly close to that of Tracy - Hepburn's, about which no higher praise can be given!)

Tony Curtis said recently that he was so inspired by DESTINATION TOKYO when he saw it in its original release that he immediately joined the Navy, an entirely understandable decision, for here is a film that shows sub warfare as it really was : good, clean fun! The submarine shenanigans on display in this fantastically entertaining but preposterous sea epic make it appear as if undersea warfare was the equivalent of a summer camp for overgrown boys, all of whom are having one hell of a good time. Even those pesky torpedo-dropping Japs interrupt the spirited antics of this fun-loving and closely knit crew only fitfully, and to top things off the submarine Captain is none other than Cary Grant at his most benevolent, bemused and dapper (if somewhat out-of-place) best. If you can check your reason at the door, no recruiting film has ever been so much fun. DESTINATION TOKYO depicts war not as it was, but as it should have been.      

The casting of Cary Grant as the legendary Cole Porter in the splendiferous but wafer-thin biopic NIGHT AND DAY (his first in Technicolor) is a mystery. Despite the fact that Grant is in nearly every scene of this fairly inaccurate, insubstantial  and uncommonly uneventful film, the screenplay doesn't allow him the latitude to display any of his unique talents. Indeed, this is probably the only Grant film where it's best to ignore him completely and instead focus on those great songs and magnificent production numbers which fortunately crop up with great regularity, and are brilliantly orchestrated by the phenomenal Ray Heindorf.                                                  

THE BACHELOR AND THE BOBBY-SOXER probably isn't one of the Grant comedies most fondly remembered by his fans, which is a pity. In my opinion this is one of the most enjoyable light comedies ever released, and anyone unfamiliar with the spectacularly individual comedic inventiveness and timing of this great star should view BACHELOR first. While Sidney Sheldon's original screenplay won the Academy Award, there's no getting around the fact that in the hands of a lesser cast this would be, at best, a pleasant minor diversion. But Grant's unparallelled ability to squeeze a laugh, either by gesture or delivery, out of the most mundane line is on full and glorious display here, and it doesn't hurt one bit that the wonderfully dry and wry Myrna Loy is Grant's initially reluctant love interest, or that even the smallest role is filled by such scene-stealing supporting players as Rudy Vallee, Ray Collins, Harry Davenport, and Shirley Temple in her best grown-up (sorta!) role.

MR. BLANDINGS BUILDS HIS DREAM HOUSE is, by leaps and bounds, the very best let's-move-out-of-the city -to-the-country comedies (GEORGE WASHINGTON SLEPT HERE, THE EGG AND I, PLEASE DON'T EAT THE DAISIES) ever made. Here we have yet another example of a proficiently written screenplay elevated to Olympian heights by the skill of a truly exceptional cast, headed by Grant and Loy (in top form) as the married couple who buy a ramshackle house in the country and Melvyn Douglas who, as the best friend, accomplishes something no other actor could ---  he steals the picture from Grant!                   

Of the four black and white full screen transfers BLANDINGS fares the best with a very nice transfer that is virtually damage free and exhibits a very good grey scale . The DESTINATION TOKYO transfer is almost as good, and shows far less speckling and subsidiary damage than that of the TOKYO transfer recently shown on Turner Classic Movies. Both MY FAVORITE WIFE and THE BACHELOR AND THE BOBBY-SOXER exhibit a slightly higher level of graininess, and vertical lines intrude occasionally, but sharpness is good and the grey scale decent. The transfer of the full screen 3-strip Technicolor NIGHT AND DAY seems to be a substantial improvement over the washed out print shown a few weeks ago on Turner Classic Movies, and is joy to watch, as Warner's utilized colors rarely seen in other studio's Technicolor output. The monaural sound on all five films is strong and distortion-free.                                          

Warner Home Video demonstrates yet again with THE CARY GRANT SIGNATURE COLLECTION  the indisputable fact that their level of commitment  to the frequent release of their classic library titles on dvd is second to none.

--DICK DINMAN

  

 

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