Warner Bros. UK cut corners big time on a new British Doris Day DVD boxset!

March 1, 2006 2 Comments

Warner Bros. release a Region 2 DVD set “The Doris Day Anthology” on the 10 April 2006 exclusively for HMV stores in the UK.

The announcement at the time of this 7-disc DVD set was quite a welcomed surprise as it featured new-to-DVD titles: Tea for Two, On Moonlight Bay, April in Paris, By the Light of the Silvery Moon and Lucky Me which hadn’t even been issued in the United States.

The catch was in the rush to cash in on the Doris Day DVD boom the UK simply did not live up to the standards set by its bigger and more experienced brother Stateside. So, most of “us” fans on reflection feel let down by the generally disappointing job done. The “rumoured” reason behind this anti-climax was the titles which hadn’t yet been meticulously remastered by the US were simply lifted from old British transfers that were originally intended for VHS tape production.

My advice therefore is if you have a multi-region DVD player wait for these titles to be issued in the USA (as it will happen eventually). Or accept the compromise and wait for this set to be marked down on the next sale from its ridiculous retail price of £49.99. Although a Volume 2 set is planned for 2007 by Warner Bros. (USA) I’d advise to stay well clear of it!

STOP PRESS: The Doris Day Anthology goes on general say from the 28 September 2009 and is available to order now from amazon.co.uk for under £20.00 UKP.

The Doris Day Anthology
Warner Bros. UK / Region 2 DVD set
Order the set from amazon.co.uk

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2 Comments to “Warner Bros. UK cut corners big time on a new British Doris Day DVD boxset!”
  1. Allen-Pollock says:

    This box-set of seven key Warner Brothers 50’s musicals featuring Doris Day will no doubt be the highlight for all her fans in the UK. After all, Doris was at her movie musical peak at this time and backed up with incredible record sales.

    TEA FOR TWO (1950), loosely based its plot on the vintage stage success, NO, NO NANETTE, is a typical Warner Brothers back-stage tale with some pleasantly familiar songs. Co-starring Doris with Gordon MacRae, they ably transform I WANT TO BE HAPPY, I KNOW THAT YOU KNOW, DO, DO, DO and the title song amongst likeable numbers with occasional incorporated dance sequences. However, for more spectacular hoofing Gene Nelson is on hand as a splendid second-fiddle to show just how well he could utilise imaginative choreography, particularly with CRAZY RHYTHM which is vocally performed by the film’s jealous femme fatale, Patrice Wymore. There’s also strong support from that comedic force known as the delightful Eve Arden, the effete humour of Billy De Wolfe and the neurotic outpourings of S.Z. Sakall, who all benefit from snappy dialogue. Set within a long flashback between the opening and final scenes, director David Butler ensures Doris has every opportunity to shine and she also looks terrific. The only reminder the action is set in 1929, the year of the Stock Market crash, is provided by some early dialogue references whilst the young dancers energetically perform the 20’s dance-craze CHARLESTON despite costumes and hairstyles strongly reflecting the early Fifties! Playing an heiress eager to invest in a Broadway show, Doris attempts to grab some show business sparkle within a plot involving a bet she should say “No” to every question for twenty-four hours. In fact, the mood is generally bright and breezy with the occasional spanner in the works artfully retrieved and replaced by the anticipated happy ending.

    Again directed by David Butler, LULLABY OF BROADWAY (1951) retains a back-stage scenario for another lavish Technicolor song and dance event with some old but pleasant songs like, YOU’RE GETTING TO BE A HABIT WITH ME, SOMEBODY LOVES ME and I LOVE THE WAY YOU SAY GOODNIGHT. Doris shares love interest with her upgraded co-star Gene Nelson and they strike necessary sparks in their acting, duets and dance numbers while Gene grabs his own solo number for twinkling taps on ZING WENT THE STRINGS OF MY HEART. Doris plays an aspiring singer/dancer newly returned from Europe intent on reuniting with her Broadway star mother played by Gladys George who performs A SHANTY IN OLD SHANTY TOWN and PLEASE DON’T TALK ABOUT ME WHEN I’M GONE In fact with stardom long faded and in decline, her mother is playing a honky-tonk club and the plot basically involves keeping this fact from her daughter. Along the way, Doris performs JUST ONE OF THOSE THINGS in top hat and tails and gets to include some nifty steps with the perfect finale featuring the title song which gives Doris and Gene the benefit of spectacular staging and elegant slow-motion dance choreography. Overall, the plot is fast-paced with comedy interludes provided by Billy De Wolfe, Florence Bates and “Cuddles” Sakall who help maintain the buoyant mood amidst some cloying sentimentality and a somewhat unbelievable scenario.

    Inspired by the success of MGM’s family orientated MEET ME IN ST. LOUIS, Warner Bros. adapted Booth Tarkington’s “Penrod” stories to create similar characters for ON MOONLIGHT BAY (1951) and its equally appealing and successful sequel BY THE LIGHT OF THE SILVERY MOON(1953). With Doris playing a tom-boy with spirit who falls for the boy next door played by Gordon MacRae, their striking interplay make both films particular favourites with Day fans. Minor family tribulations add impetus amid some nostalgic numbers from early in the 20th Century. CUDDLE UP A LITTLE CLOSER, TELL ME, TILL WE MEET AGAIN; I’M FOREVER BLOWING BUBBLES and the title song are featured in ON MOONLIGHT BAY and are sung by Doris, Gordon, and Jack Smith as an eager but unwanted suitor. Mary Wickes plays the meddlesome maid armed with suitable caustic comments masking endearing kindness, and she is a key figure in the corny plot aided by Rosemary DeCamp and Leon Ames as Doris’ character’s parents with mischievous but likeable Billy Gray on hand as the younger brother for a film which provides pure entertainment and the feeling nothing too drastic will ever happen to unbalance the cosy atmosphere permeated by Roy Del Ruth’s assured direction. BY THE LIGHT OF THE SILVERY MOON continues the on-screen Day-MacRae romance and family story with the same team and similar plot mix of good-natured comedy set in the pure nostalgia of 1917 with the action moving on from where the previous movie left off. Doris sets the mood with her portrayal of the likeable tomboy now exhibiting a female independence as part of her capricious journey to womanhood much to MacRae’s chagrin but it all turns out in his favour in the end! At least he gets to celebrate this fact with JUST ONE GIRL while Doris has a barnyard setting for her biggest number, KING CHANTICLEER. The remaining songs IF YOU WERE THE ONLY GIRL IN THE WORLD, AIN’T WE GOT FUN, YOUR EYES HAVE TOLD ME SO and I’LL FORGET YOU add tuneful resonance. Directed by David Butler, the film is as appealing as its predecessor with both conveying warmth and appeal within their bright Technicolor backdrop.

    Coming between the above movies, APRIL IN PARIS (1952) is the weakest link in this box-set. Although Doris is in top-form she unfortunately gets saddled with the implausible casting of dancer/comedian Ray Bolger who really doesn’t fit the role as the primary love interest. Even worse is the dreadfully dull Claude Dauphin as a peripheral romantic figure providing a display of inept acting and terrible English which pushes any trace of French charm strictly onto the rocks in this shipboard charade which involves a mistaken identity. Doris’ chorus-girl character is mistaken for actress Ethel Barrymore to represent the USA at a Parisian cultural event! A banal plot from start to finish, Doris fortunately resuscitates its clichés to some extent with her undoubted vivacity and some heartfelt songs such as the movie’s title song and I KNOW A PLACE. In contrast, new Vernon Duke/Sammy Cahn numbers, I’M GONNA RING THE BELL TONIGHT and THAT’S WHAT MAKES PARIS PAREE provide fully-formed and enjoyable production numbers for her, chorus and dancers to brighten up and redeem what otherwise would be a tedious movie.

    Following the successful and dynamic CALAMITY JANE, Warner’s first musical in Cinemascope, LUCKY ME (1954) is infinitely inferior to that cracker, with a script which can only be described as weak. Doris plays a superstitious member of a theatrical troupe with the film’s excellent opening number THE SUPERSTITION SONG nailing her foibles. Stranded in Miami and down on their luck, they are forced into hotel kitchen duties but the proceedings are never dull due to the overwrought backstage capers of Phil Silvers, Eddie Foy Jr. and Nancy Walker. Apart from a nice bitchy turn from Martha Hyer as a rich but spoilt socialite, songwriter Robert Cummings is Doris’ love interest and the plot’s mistaken identities provide her with some prime moments. Surmounting the odds, she looks great, has immense vocal impact on the Sammy Fain/Paul Francis Webster score which includes I WANNA SING LIKE AN ANGEL, I SPEAK TO THE STARS and THE BLUEBELLS OF BROADWAY. There’s also a couple of unused numbers from the CALAMITY JANE score with LOVE YOU DEARLY sung by Cummings and Doris plus a stage production number MEN! which join HIGH HOPES and PARISIAN PRETTIES as additional tuneful treats.

    A Broadway musical concerning labour unrest in a garment factory may have seemed unlikely material but the successful THE PAJAMA GAME (1957) was an exuberant frolic with a terrific Richard Adler/Jerry Ross score yielding some wonderful numbers. Warner Brothers wisely transferred most of the talented stage cast to Hollywood for the movie version with Doris the ideally feisty union representative, Babe Williams who gets her fingers romantically burned when she falls for the management’s time and motion study expert played by virile and strong voiced John Raitt. Pay negotiations, management problems and strike action are merely the background to this believable central romance, peripheral comedic characters and engaging songs, such as HEY THERE, HERNANDO’S HIDEAWAY, STEAM HEAT, SMALL TALK, THERE ONCE WAS A MAN and Doris’ big number I’M NOT AT ALL IN LOVE which are mostly enlivened by Bob Fosse’s energetic choreography. It’s very much a team effort and the overall enthusiasm can’t help but to carry the viewer along. My only disappointment with the UK release is the deleted scene that appeared in the US edition featuring a ballad, THE MAN WHO INVENTED LOVE (specially written for Doris) was not included.

    It’s difficult to judge the extent of any remastering beyond the quality of the VHS video released versions of a few years ago but the better image and definition provided by the DVD format is by far the better option for viewing these films. Let us hope future releases will include IT’S MAGIC, MY DREAM IS YOURS, IT’S A GREAT FEELING and others will augment these Doris Day movie treasures which look splendid in Technicolor. Housed in a simple slip case each film is lodged in an individual DVD case with suitably attractive artwork.

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