Sunday, November 24, 2019

Tonight's Movie: The Goldwyn Follies (1938) - A Warner Archive DVD Review

The colorful musical THE GOLDWYN FOLLIES (1938) is available on DVD from the Warner Archive.

Although I love musicals, I was unfamiliar with this film until I recently read a post on it by Jessica Pickens at Comet Over Hollywood. I was intrigued and caught up with it today; I can report I found it visually stunning, if only moderately entertaining in other regards.

Adolphe Menjou plays movie producer Oliver Merlin, whose latest films haven't done well. While on location he overhears Hazel Dawes (Andrea Leeds, STAGE DOOR) commenting on the silliness of the scene she's just watched filming, and he decides to hire Hazel as a sort of "everywoman" he dubs "Miss Humanity" who will help him stay in touch with what the general public wants to see.

Hazel falls in love with an unknown singer, Danny (Kenny Baker, who would later appear in THE HARVEY GIRLS). The only problem with this is Oliver thinks he's in love with Hazel...

That's pretty much it as far as the plot. The rest of the film strings together a bunch of musical and comedy numbers of varying quality. There's Vera Zorina (seen here) and the American Ballet, choreographed by George Balanchine; opera singer Helen Jepson; Edgar Bergen and Charlie McCarthy; and the odious Ritz Brothers, who also appeared in ON THE AVENUE (1937). The less said about them the better, other than I'll never understand how they made it into the movies.

Of particular note are two Gershwin songs, "Our Love is Here to Stay" and "Love Walked In," which made their first appearances in this film. I also especially enjoyed Jepson singing an excerpt from LA TRAVIATA and Zorina's "Water Nymph" ballet.

Nothing about the musical numbers especially impressed me, but they're worthwhile, and the film should be seen at least once simply to take in the stunning Technicolor photography by Gregg Toland. The color is really something else!

There are other moments here and there which make the movie worth checking out, such as Alan Ladd in an early bit role playing a singer auditioning for a part. The idea of Ladd as a singer amused me.

For those wondering, Leeds did not do her own singing in her duets with Baker, but was dubbed by Virginia Verrill.

THE GOLDWYN FOLLIES was directed by George Marshall and the uncredited H.C. Potter. It runs 122 minutes.

The supporting cast includes Ella Logan (later of Broadway's FINIAN'S RAINBOW), Nydia Westman, Phil Baker, Bobby Clark, and Jerome Cowan.

THE GOLDWYN FOLLIES was released on a retail DVD a number of years ago, then reissued by the Warner Archive in 2015. Unlike most Warner Archive DVDs, it has subtitles and an illustrated chapter menu which were carried over from the original DVD release. The print is beautiful, with excellent sound.

Thanks to the Warner Archive for providing a review copy of this DVD. Warner Archive releases are MOD (manufactured on demand) and may be ordered from the Warner Archive Collection at the WBShop or from any online retailers where DVDs and Blu-rays are sold.


Blogger Rick said...

The thought of Alan Ladd as a singer is kind of funny... unless you've seen him (as himself) in 1947's VARIETY GIRL. Turns out he had a very nice singing voice after all.

10:53 AM  
Blogger Laura said...

Hi Rick! I saw VARIETY GIRL several years ago and forgot all about that, although I noted in my review "he sings?!" Need to give it a fresh look!

Best wishes,

12:33 PM  

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