Sunday, May 17, 2020

Tonight's Movie: Dodsworth (1936) - A Warner Archive Blu-ray Review

The William Wyler classic DODSWORTH (1936) was recently released on Blu-ray by the Warner Archive.

DODSWORTH, like the Warner Archive's brand-new release of MYSTERY OF THE WAX MUSEUM (1933), represents a new trend from the Warner Archive's Blu-ray line, presenting prints which are not just restored but are accompanied by more extras than the norm. MYSTERY OF THE WAX MUSEUM is a UCLA restoration with extras including a pair of commentary tracks and two featurettes.

The DODSWORTH disc features the new Academy restoration of the film.  The only extra in this case is a Lux Radio Theater production of the story, but that's still quite an upgrade from the usual lone trailer on Warner Archive discs, especially as it looks quite interesting; Barbara Kent and Barbara O'Neil appear on the show with the film's star, Walter Huston.

As it happens, I just saw the Academy restoration of DODSWORTH a few months ago, at an October 2019 tribute to Robert Osborne. That very special evening at the Samuel Goldwyn Theater was my first time to see the film, based on the novel by Sinclair Lewis.

For a longer discussion of the DODSWORTH plot and my initial reactions last fall, I'd like to direct readers to read that review before continuing here, rather than restate my thoughts in their entirety.

In a nutshell, on my first viewing I greatly admired the film's craftsmanship, while finding it more than a bit of a downer to watch the disintegration of a long-term marriage; however, the film is so highly regarded that I wanted to give it another look at some point. The new Blu-ray release prompted me to do so much sooner than expected!

I think I enjoyed the film marginally more this time; I'm the kind of viewer who sometimes finds it helpful to have a good idea "what's coming" in a film, especially when difficult subject matter is involved. Knowing where the film was headed from the outset definitely helped in allowing me to focus more deeply on the quality of the filmmaking and performances, which are superb.

As with my first viewing, I especially appreciated Mary Astor, whose gracious, glowing performance belies the fact that offscreen she was spending her evenings in a very difficult trial for custody of her daughter. I was interested and moved to learn, after seeing DODSWORTH the first time, that costar Ruth Chatterton gave Astor emotional support by accompanying her to court.

In the end, what I can say about DODSWORTH is that if one is interested in watching the depiction of the tragic collapse of a marriage, the viewer can surely do no better than watching this film.

I particularly enjoyed a review by my friend KC at A Classic Movie Blog, who beautifully describes her appreciation for the film concluding, in part, "It was, and still is rare for a film to so thoroughly and effectively explore these adult, existential matters." I recommend reading her piece for an alternate, very well-considered perspective on the movie.

DODSWORTH was filmed by future director Rudolph Mate. Sidney Howard wrote screenplay for the 101-minute film.

The picture and sound quality of the Warner Archive Blu-ray are superb, making it a "must buy" for anyone who wishes to own the film.

Thanks to the Warner Archive for providing a review copy of this Blu-ray. Warner Archive Blu-rays may be ordered from the WBShop or from any online retailers where DVDs and Blu-rays are sold.

1 Comments:

Blogger barrylane said...

Personally not a fan of Sinclair Lewis nor of Walter Huston as a romantic lead and I find Ruth Chatterton far more attractive than Mary Astor, although Mary is effective and likeable in Dodsworth.

As for not liking Lewis, another anti-America American; a so-called sophisticate. He made a lot of money from the pseudo-intellectual set. Just tip your hat Harry and gently walk away.

11:22 AM  

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