Sunday, June 27, 2021

Tonight's Movie: Ziegfeld Follies (1945) - A Warner Archive Blu-ray Review

One of the things I've really been enjoying about the Warner Archive Collection releasing MGM musicals on Blu-ray is that it's been a wonderful excuse to revisit so many of them.

These movies were key as I became a classic film fan growing up, and over the years I've seen most of them many times. I haven't seen them so often in recent years, however, as I've explored many new-to-me genres and filmmakers for the first time, so I'm coming back to them with a fresh perspective.

The latest MGM musical released on Blu-ray by the Warner Archive is ZIEGFELD FOLLIES (1945), which just came out in mid-June. It's a unique compilation of musical numbers and comedy sketches, initially introduced by Florenz Ziegfeld (William Powell, reprising his role from 1936's THE GREAT ZIEGFELD).

Honestly, in some respects the idea of the film is better than the overall finished product. The comedy sketches featuring the likes of Red Skelton, Keenan Wynn, and Victor Moore have never done a great deal for me, though they're imaginatively staged with minimalist sets.

Judy Garland's "The Great Lady Has An Interview" is another scene which has never been a favorite, though she looks lovely and seems to be having a good time with it.

The high points for me:

*The opening and closing numbers featuring a young Cyd Charisse, including the infamous "bubbles" in the finale. The introductory scene also includes Lucille Ball in an oddball bit wielding a whip, surrounded by several women in cat costumes, but it's interesting, I'll give it that.  The Dali-esque finale, "There's Beauty Ev'rywhere," is sung by Kathryn Grayson.

*Esther Williams in "A Water Ballet," short and sweet.

*James Melton and Marion Bell singing a duet from LA TRAVIATA, though it's very short. Bell soon would go on to be the original Fiona in Broadway's BRIGADOON, which opened early in 1947.

*Lena Horne singing "Love."

*Fred Astaire and Lucille Bremer, an underrated favorite, dancing "Limehouse Blues" and "This Heart of Mine." The former number shows off Bremer's technical proficiency, matching Astaire step for step while also performing intricate fan movements; the latter is my favorite sequence in the movie, which looks absolutely dazzling on the Blu-ray.

In the end it's certainly worth seeing, including the opportunity to see Astaire doing a dance duet with Gene Kelly, but I can't help wishing at times that the film's 110 minutes contained more substantive musical numbers.

Additional cast members not already mentioned include Virginia O'Brien, Edward Arnold, Hume Cronyn, and Fanny Brice.

The Blu-ray includes the movie's overture, and the film can be played with a mono or stereo audio track. The picture, as one might expect, is excellent.

Extras carried over from DVD include the trailer; the featurette "Ziegfeld Follies: An Embarrassment of Riches"; a short and two cartoons; and extensive audio outtakes. The Blu-ray also includes a song selection menu. It's an excellent package, and those who never got the DVD will particularly want to add the Blu-ray to their MGM musical shelf.

The sequences were directed by Lemuel Ayers, Roy Del Ruth, Robert Lewis, Vincente Minnelli, George Sidney, Merrill Pye, and the uncredited Charles Walters, who worked with Garland on her "Great Lady" segment.

The cinematographers were George J. Folsey, Charles Rosher, and the uncredited Ray June.

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


Blogger dfordoom said...

I'm a bit tempted by this one. I"m quite fascinated by the whole Ziegfeld thing. I do like glamour.

12:31 AM  
Blogger Laura said...

I hope you'll enjoy it! It's definitely beautiful to look at.

Best wishes,

10:41 PM  

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