Sunday, January 18, 2015

Tonight's Movies: Just For You (1952) and Here Comes the Groom (1951) - A Warner Archive DVD Set Review

The Warner Archive recently released a "double feature" set with a pair of good films starring Bing Crosby and Jane Wyman, HERE COMES THE GROOM (1951) and JUST FOR YOU (1952).

The films were originally released exactly a year apart, with HERE COMES THE GROOM hitting theaters in September 1951 and JUST FOR YOU following in September 1952.

HERE COMES THE GROOM is a black and white film directed by the great Frank Capra, while JUST FOR YOU is a Technicolor film directed by Elliott Nugent. Since I watched the films back to back and they share the same lead actors, I thought I'd break from the norm and discuss these films in a joint review.

I'll start with JUST FOR YOU, which I'd not seen since I was quite young. This bright, colorful film is my favorite of the two movies; it has a wonderful cast, a pleasant Warren-Robin score which includes the Oscar-nominated "Zing a Little Zong," and some gorgeous location shooting at Lake Arrowhead, California. (The movie was filmed by George Barnes.) All this plus fave Regis Toomey in a small role as Bing's butler makes for an enjoyable film.

Bing plays a widowed Broadway impresario who has neglected his children, played by Robert Arthur and Natalie Wood. Wyman is the star of Bing's new musical; he falls in love with her and she helps him reconnect with his children, which is complicated when Arthur fancies himself in love with her despite their age difference.

Meanwhile, young Wood wants to get into a girls' school run by Ethel Barrymore, but is concerned her father's show business background will scotch her admission to the high-class establishment.

Although I didn't remember most of the film, when the schoolgirls launched into their song on a picnic it was as though my childhood came rushing back to me. I suspect that scene made more of an impression on me since I was a child when I saw it. Ironically, that song has nothing to do with the film's main characters and could easily have been trimmed to reduce the film's slightly long-ish 104 minutes.

This is one of Wyman's most likeable performances as the cheery, confident musical star who wants the best for Bing and his kids. And she cuts an impressive figure in her costumes, too.

Bing has silver hair at his temples to play a mature fatherly type, who threw himself into work and attaining financial success after his wife's death. His character isn't such a bad guy, and when he realizes his children are growing up and having problems he gets to work reintegrating himself into their lives.

Barrymore gives a warm performance as the headmistress who enjoys verbal parrying with Bing. The cast also includes Herb Vigran, Art Smith, and Cora Witherspoon.

All in all this is quite a pleasant movie, which epitomizes the term "family entertainment."

I reviewed the second film in the set, HERE COMES THE GROOM, back in 2008 and enjoyed returning to it for a second look.

This time around Bing plays a footloose journalist who returns stateside from France with two war orphans (Beverly Washburn and Jacky Gencel) in tow...the only complication is Bing needs to marry within five days to keep the children he wants to adopt from being sent back to France.

He thinks his one-time flame, played by Wyman, is a great candidate to marry him and be the children's mother -- only problem being that she's about to marry her wealthy boss, played by Franchot Tone.

However, Tone has a distant relative, played by Alexis Smith, who is madly in love with him. Maybe Bing and Alexis will be able to engineer things so the right couples end up together and the kids get to stay in their new home...

HERE COMES THE GROOM is the weaker of the two films, attempting to cover way too much ground in a meandering 113 minutes; the movie even takes time out for specialty numbers featuring the likes of Louis Armstrong, Dorothy Lamour, Phil Harris, and Anna Maria Alberghetti. It's quite slow out of the starting gate, with Wyman not appearing onscreen until around the half hour mark.

That said, there's still much in the film to like and it's definitely worth watching.

It's to the film and Crosby's credit that the movie manages to keep his previously commitment-shy character likeable. The film also has a very engaging secondary couple in Tone and Smith; Smith really shines as Crosby and his boss (the very funny Robert Keith) attempt to teach the gangly young woman how to charm Tone. Tone is wonderful in a non-cliched "other man" role, and frankly I feel as though Smith's character might have gotten the better deal of the two leading men!

One of the movie's high points is the Oscar-winning song "In the Cool, Cool, Cool of the Evening," which was performed "live" during filming by Crosby and Wyman. Wyman has a pleasant singing voice, which is also heard in JUST FOR YOU, and their performance is great fun. The Mercer-Carmichael song, which became an American standard in short order, also serves a dramatic purpose in quickly showing the couple's comfortable rapport so that the audience will root for them to end up together.

The deep supporting cast includes Connie Gilchrist, Adeline DeWalt Reynolds, H.B. Warner, Ian Wolfe, James Barton, and Charles Lane.

The two films are on a single-sided Warner Archive disc. The prints are in great shape. There are no extras, but unlike most Warner Archive films, there are chapter selections and English subtitles.

All in all, this is a very nice release which will please the stars' many fans. This set is also a good choice for parents to share with their kids.

Thanks to the Warner Archive for providing a review copy of this DVD set. Warner Archive releases are MOD (manufactured on demand) and may be ordered at the Warner Archive website. Please note that initial copies of this set sold at the Warner Archive site will be traditionally replicated (pressed).


Blogger Caftan Woman said...

My scale tips in the direction of "Here Comes the Groom" due to Franchot Tone's adorableness! Both movies are old favourites just perfect for a Sunday afternoon. I'd love to have Jane's wardrobe from "Just for You".

12:44 PM  
Blogger Jacqueline T. Lynch said...

A nice double set! This cracked me up: "...frankly I feel as though Smith's character might have gotten the better deal of the two leading men!" Must be one of the few times in Hollywood history where the also-rans have us pulling so strongly for them. Great review.

12:55 PM  
Blogger Kevin Deany said...

Of the two, I prefer JUST FOR YOU, because HERE COMES THE GROOM could be my least favorite Capra movie. The story line was somewhat preposterous and some of those child actors grated on me.

But I thought Crosby and Wyman made a marvelous and underrated screen team and its bad they didn't do more movies together.

1:27 PM  
Blogger Laura said...

Thank you all so much for your comments!

Caftan Woman, I can completely understand the scale tipping to HERE COMES THE GROOM for that reason! This is one of Tone's most charming roles. Jacqueline, you're right, this really was one of those rare occasions where you root so much for the second male lead!

And weren't the costumes great?!

Kevin, I generally enjoy child actors but the little boy in HERE COMES THE GROOM kind of wearies me, and I didn't care for the running gag waving the hand in front of the face. You're so right about Crosby and Wyman being a good screen team -- I'm glad that is highlighted by the Archive teaming the films together in this way.

Hope more viewers will enjoy this disc -- as Caftan Woman says, the films are perfect viewing for a Sunday afternoon.

Best wishes,

2:01 PM  
Blogger KC said...

We pretty much see eye-to-eye on these films! I got bored with Here Comes the Groom, though Alexis Smith cracks me up. I thought Just For You was a real find when I first saw it, and I still think it's charming and nicely different. Crosby doesn't charm me though. I mean sometimes--the way he makes everything seem so easy is great, that kind of oogly-googly way he's got about him--but I always sense a dark streak in him. His lovable scamp routine doesn't work for me, because it strikes me as too mean.

10:37 PM  
Blogger Laura said...

Enjoyed your feedback, KC!

That's interesting about Crosby -- I don't see the same dark streak you do so interested you respond that way to him.

I think HERE COMES THE GROOM was one of Smith's best performances, she was really delightful.

Best wishes,

10:52 PM  

Post a Comment

<< Home

Newer›  ‹Older