Category: DVD Report

The DVD Report #684

Girl Crazy was the last and best of the four MGM musicals that Mickey Rooney and Judy Garland made between 1939 and 1943. It was the second of three film versions of the 1930 Broadway musical starring Ginger Rogers and introducing Ethel Merman.

Unlike the 1940 Rooney-Garland musical Strike Up the Band, which only utilized the title song from the George and Ira Gershwin original, substituting in songs by other composers, all but one of the songs in 1943’s Girl Crazy was written by the Gershwins for the 1930 Broadway version. The one added song (“Fascinating Rhythm”) is from another Gershwin score. Who needs substitutions when the original score includes such gems as “I Got Rhythm,” “Treat Me Rough,” “Bidin’ My Time,” “Embraceable You,” and “But Not for Me?”

Unlike the kids they played in Babes in Arms, Strike Up the Band, and Babes on Broadway, Rooney and Garland were all grown up now. Rooney made this between The Human Comedy and , and Garland made it between For Me and My Gal and Meet Me in St. Louis. They were young adults and their roles reflected that. Rooney was a baby-faced playboy and Garland a small-town postmistress. The sparkling new Warner Archive Blu-ray captures them at their best under the superb direction of Norman Taurog (The Adventures of Tom Sawyer).

The supporting cast includes Gil Stratton, Robert E. Strickland, Rags Ragland, June Allyson, Nancy Walker, and Guy Kibbee.

Also new from Warner Archive is Million Dollar Mermaid, long considered the crown jewel in Esther Williams’ career. It’s the one film she made highlighting her swimming skills in which MGM’s writers were not forced to come up with novel ways of getting her into the water. The film is a biography of Australian-born swimmer Annette Kellerman (1887-1975) who gained greater fame in the U.S. after being arrested for wearing a one-piece bathing suit in 1907 Boston. She later became a major attraction at New York’s Hippodrome and a silent film star. Victor Mature co-stars as her future husband, with Walter Pidgeon as her supportive father. Her older brother, cinematographer Maurice Kellerman (1883-1943), is not mentioned in the film directed by the legendary Mervyn LeRoy (Quo Vadis).

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The DVD Report #683

Marriage Story was my fifth favorite film of 2019, behind 1917, Parasite, Once Upon a Time…in Hollywood, and The Irishman. The first three were previously released on Blu-ray and DVD as were Little Women, Jojo Rabbit, The Joker, and Ford v Ferrari, the other four films comprising the 2019 films nominated for the most recent Best Picture Oscar. Criterion, which has just released Marriage Story, will also subsequently release The Irishman. These two films follow Criterion’s release of 2018 Best Picture nominee Roma as only the second and third films to be granted Blu-ray and DVD releases by Netflix.

In addition to its Best Picture nomination, Marriage Story was nominated for Best Actor (Adam Driver), Actress (Scarlet Johansson), Supporting Actress (Laura Dern), Original Screenplay (Noah Baumbach), and Score (Randy Newman), with Dern winning. The best thing about the film is writer-director’s Baumbach’s incisive screenplay about the breakup of a marriage in which the husband and wife work to retain some sort of normalcy for the sake of their toddler son. Both Driver and Johansson deliver compassionate performances, with Dern at her wicked best as Johansson’s pushy lawyer. Alan Alda and Ray Liotta also have their moments as Driver’s lawyers, with Julie Hagerty as Johansson’s mother the standout among the remaining cast.

Given a 4K digital transfer, the film’s Blu-ray extras include the standard making-of features with interviews from the filmmakers and principal players. One intriguing bonus is the inclusion of the handwritten notes by both Driver’s and Johansson’s characters about the other in the Blu-ray packaging.

Also new from Criterion is another recent film about the breakup of a marriage, although one with a different outcome.

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The DVD Report #682

Hair was a worldwide sensation on stage. The rock musical, which debuted off-Broadway in late 1967, quickly moved to Broadway in early 1968 and soon expanded all over the world. The Original Cast Recording was also a phenomenon and the 2009 Broadway revival was a tribute to its timelessness. In the meantime, there was Milos Forman’s 1979 film version.

Olive has released a superb Olive Signature edition of the film on Blu-ray joining the ranks of a select handful of classics that include High Noon, The Quiet Man, and Invasion of the Body Snatchers. Features include audio commentary by assistant director Michael Housman and star Treat Williams; The Tribe Remembers, new on-camera interviews with cast members John Savage, Beverly D’Angelo, Don Dacus, Annie Golden, Dorsey Wright, and Ellen Foley; and much more.

Although the film version of Hair received high praise from critics and audiences upon its release, its box office was disappointing for a grade A film version of a much-loved Broadway musical. Consensus was that time had passed it by, that a film about hippies and the Vietnam War was not relevant in the more conservative era that would soon usher in Ronald Reagan as the U.S. president. It received no Oscar nominations in which the Best Picture nominations went to the delightful bicycle movie Breaking Away, the beautifully filmed but largely incoherent Vietnam War movie Apocalypse Now, the union movie Norma Rae, the open heart surgery musical All That Jazz, and the anti-feminist soap opera Kramer vs. Kramer, which won.

Hair was a much better musical than All That Jazz and, in the end, a more realistic film about Vietnam than Apocalypse Now. It was also a huge improvement dramatically over the stage version which was rather sketchy. John Savage, who during filming was still doing retakes on The Deer Hunter, brought the same level of gravitas to his character here. Treat Williams, in his breakthrough performance, was a revelation as the leader of the Central Park hippies called “the tribe” and the rest of the cast was sensational as well. Forman’s direction is on the same level as in his two Oscar-winning films, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, four years earlier, and Amadeus, five years later.

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The DVD Report #681

Hud is a film that collectors have long wanted to see released on Blu-ray but remains, like many other films from Paramount, unreleased in the U.S. There is, however, a perfectly fine region-free Australian Blu-ray from Shout Entertainment that was released under license from Paramount Pictures International in September 2019. Ironically, it is sold out on Shout International’s website, but is available from Amazon.

Shout Entertainment’s Blu-ray is barebones, no extras, not even a trailer, but the film itself is there in all its pristine black-and-white glory.

The 1963 film was nominated for seven Oscars including Best Picture, Actor (Paul Newman), Director (Martin Ritt), Adapted Screenplay (Irving Ravetch and Harriet Frank Jr.), and Black-and-White Art Direction. It won three for Best Actress (Patricia Neal), Supporting Actor (Melvyn Douglas), and Black-and-White Cinematography (James Wong Howe).

Ravetch and Frank’s screenplay was from the acclaimed novel of Larry McMurtry, whose The Last Picture Show and Terms of Endearment were later made into Oscar favorites as well. McMurtry himself won an Oscar of his own for his screenplay for Brokeback Mountain.

Ravetch and Frank and director Ritt were longtime collaborators, who first worked with Newman as the star of 1958’s The Long, Hot Summer. Later collaborations included Hombre, again with Newman, and Norma Rae, for which Sally Field won her first Oscar.

Wong Howe’s Oscar was his second out of eight nominations. His first was for 1955’s The Rose Tattoo. He would receive later nominations for 1966’s Seconds and 1975’s Funny Lady.

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The DVD Report #680

San Francisco was both the highest grossing film of 1936 and the first of three films for which one of its Oscar nominations was later declared to be category fraud. That, however, was technically not the case as Spencer Tracy in San Francisco, Luise Rainer in The Great Ziegfeld, and Stuart Erwin in Pigskin Parade were all nominated in the categories they were eligible for under AMPAS rules in force that year.

The acting categories were expanded from six (three each for Actor and Actress or more when ties were involved) to 20 (five each for Actor, Actress, Supporting Actor and Supporting Actress). Frank Capra, the then-AMPAS president set up a blue ribbon panel nominating committee consisting of fifty members to make the nominations. Actors and actresses considered stars by their studios were eligible for Best Actor and Best Actress. Actors who were classified as supporting players were eligible for the awards for Supporting Actor and Supporting Actress regardless of the size of their parts. Thus, Tracy and Rainer, who were rising stars, could only be considered for Actor and Actress and Erwin, who was generally considered a utility player, could only be considered as a Supporting Actor even though he had the lead in the film he was nominated for.

That rule was changed the following year when the voting was open to the entire acting membership of the Academy. The new rule allowed for studios to send out reminder lists in which each film’s stars were identified with an asterisk. Those stars were eligible only for consideration for Best Actor and Actress. Those who weren’t so identified could be nominated either for Best Actor or Actress or Best Supporting Actor or Actress, but the original idea lingered in voters’ minds. Thus, character actors who had co-lead roles in their films were more likely to be nominated in support while major stars who had supporting roles in their films were more likely to be nominated for Best Actor or Actress for the next few years.

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The DVD Report #679

The Cameraman was both Buster Keaton’s next-to-last silent film and his last overall great film.

Keaton reached the height of his popularity with 1924’s Sherlock, Jr., 1926’s The General, and 1928’s Steamboat Bill, Jr., which were produced independently with the help of his brother-in-law, powerful producer Joseph M. Schenk, who sold Keaton’s contract to MGM in late 1927. Keaton, who devised all his stunts but never took credit for his films’ direction, was under the impression that with big studio MGM behind him, he would continue to have the creative freedom he always did with more money to spend. Nothing could be farther from the truth.

MGM insisted on a script but allowed Keaton to improvise within the boundaries of the script so long as expenses were kept under control. He was able to expound on his ideas even when they varied drastically form the script, but he had to fight for every one of them. In the end, the finished product about a short, clumsy man who trades in his tintype operation for a movie camera to become a successful newsreel photographer proved to be another Keaton masterpiece.

Criterion’s 4K restoration of the film is, as was to be expected, outstanding. Also included in the Blu-ray release is a 2K restoration of Keaton’s second for MGM, and his last talkie, Spite Marriage, which also looks fantastic.

Keaton had wanted to make Spite Marriage, in which his hopeless character’s marriage to a popular actress is a sham to make her former lover jealous, as a talkie, but MGM wouldn’t allow it. They wanted to keep Keaton silent. This time they also insisted that Keaton stick to the script. He and co-star Dorothy Sebastian managed to improvise within their scripted scenes, but he wasn’t allowed to go off on tangents the way he did in The Cameraman. The result was a good, but not great film.

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The DVD Report #678

American Madness is the last of Frank Capra’s classic Columbia Studios comedies of the 1930s to be released on Blu-ray, this one from Sony. Its original DVD release was part of a 2006 package that also included It Happened One Night, Mr. Deeds Goes to Town, You Can’t Take It with You, and Mr. Smith Goes to Washington. Although not as well-known as those five seminal works, American Madness was every bit as important as those other films in the great director’s oeuvre.

After the stock market crash of 1929, films tended to portray banks and bankers as evil. Capra’s 1932 film based on Bank of America’s A.P. Giannini, restored confidence in the institution and the men who ran it. Walter Huston’s bank president is a kindly man who loans money to people without collateral because he believes in them. He is a precursor to James Stewart’s savings-and-loan man in Capra’s 1946 classic, It’s a Wonderful Life. The highlight of the film is a run on the bank that would later be one of the highlights in that later film.

Huston’s performance is one of his best, evoking the one he would give just four years later as the retired industrialist in Dodsworth. Pat O’Brien as the head teller evokes the brash confidence he brought to The Front Page the year before and Constance Cummings who played Huston’s daughter in that year’s The Criminal Code is his secretary and O’Brien’s sweetheart here. Kay Johnson (Madam Satan) plays Huston’s wife who may be having an affair with one of his employees. All four are superb.

The film is also notable as the first in which overlapping dialogue was used to move the plot along. Prior to American Madness, sound engineers insisted it couldn’t be done. Capra forced them to find a way.

Kino Lorber continues to be the leader in releasing classic films from Hollywood and around the world on Blu-ray. Recent releases include a 1933 children’s classic, a German musical from the same year, and the first three films for which Vanessa Redgrave was nominated for an Oscar, all three of which were made in the U.K.

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The DVD Report #677

It Started with Eve is the jewel in the crown of Kino Lorber’s Deanna Durbin Collection I containing the first three of nine planned Blu-ray upgrades of the 1938 Oscar winner’s classic films.

Durbin first came to attention at the age of 14 in the 1936 short Every Sunday with Judy Garland. When MGM decided to keep Garland and let Durbin go, Universal immediately signed her to a contract and starred her in 1936’s Three Smart Girls and 1937’s 100 Men and a Girl which were huge hits. Both were nominated for Best Picture Oscars, the former losing to MGM’s The Great Ziegfeld and the latter to Warner Bros. The Life of Emile Zola. Thanks to the success of 1938’s Mad About Music and That Certain Age, Durbin was given an honorary Oscar for her juvenile performances, an honor she shared with Mickey Rooney whose films that year included Boys Town. Garland would win the following year, the year of The Wizard of Oz.

Robert Stack gave Durbin her highly publicized first on-screen kiss in 1939’s First Love when she was 17. By 1941, she was tired of playing innocent young girls and wanted a role that would make her seem less naïve. To prove that she was all grown up at 19, she shocked everyone by marrying Vaughn Paul, a 35-year-old second unit director on two of her previous films, during the filming of It Started with Eve.

The film, which was produced by Joe Pasternak (In the Good Old Summertime) and directed Henry Koster (The Bishop’s Wife) who had produced and directed all her Universal films up to that point. It had a screenplay by Norman Krasna (The Devil and Miss Jones) and Leo Townsend (Night and Day) and was photographed by Rudolph Maté (Foreign Correspondent). Durbin never looked lovelier.

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The DVD Report #676

The Love of Jeanne Ney, one of G.W. Pabst’s earliest films, was an international success for Germany’s UFA Studios. Released in Germany in December 1927 and the U.S. in July 1928, the film’s style was heavily influenced by that of F.W. Murnau’s Nosferatu and Frtiz Lang’s Metropolis, as well as Russian director Sergei Eisenstein’s Battleship Potemkin.

Kino Lorber’s new Blu-ray release version is of the 2019 restored French theatrical release of the German version. The heavily censored unrestored U.S. release version is provided as an extra.

Edith Jehanne, a German silent screen star who died shortly after the coming of sound films, has the title role as a bureaucrat’s daughter whose Russian lover (Uno Henning) is a Bolshevik spy who kills her father in self-defense. With the Russian revolution as background, the lovers are reunited in Paris where Jeanne now works for her lecherous uncle (Ernest E. Licto) whose blind daughter (Brigitte Helm) is being courted by the dastardly villain (Fritz Rasp) who caused the confrontation between Jeanne’s lover and her father. It is his intention to marry the girl and kill her for her father’s money. The film is unique in that contrary to most melodramas, it is not the man who unmasks the villain and saves the girl in the end, but the girl who does so, hence the title.

Pabst, who would go on to direct Louise Brooks in both Pandora’s Box and Diary of a Lost Girl, as well as the classics Westfront 1918, The 3 Penny Opera, and Kameradeschaft within the next four years, gets superb performances from all his actors. The lovely Jehanne is especially noteworthy, as is Helm, whose performance equals her legendary work in Metropolis. The informative commentary by film historian Eddy von Mueller is outstanding.

Kino Lorber’s recent Blu-ray releases include David Lean’s 1952 film The Sound Barrier, featuring superb award-winning performances by Ralph Richardson, Nigel Patrick, and Ann Todd.

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The DVD Report #675

A Midnight Clear has finally been given a U.S. Blu-ray release by Shout Select.

The anti-war film directed by former actor Keith Gordon (Dressed to Kill) has been a cult favorite ever since its debut in April 1992. Taken from the novel by William Wharton (Birdy, Dad) with a screenplay by Wharton and Gordon, the story about American and German soldiers coming together just before the end of World War II, is based on a true story in which the names have been changed “to protect the guilty” according to Wharton.

The film is narrated by Ethan Hawke who stars in the film with Kevin Dillon, Gary Sinise, Peter Berg, Frank Whaley, Arye Gross, and John C. McGinley. The commentary track by Gordon and Hawke is imported from a previous release. “A New Look Back at A Midnight Clear” with Gordon, Hawke, Whaley, and Gross is provided as an extra.

Shout Select has also released an upgraded Blu-ray of Sidney Lumet’s last film, 2007’s Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead about family dynamics involved in a robbery gone wrong. Philip Seymour Hoffman and Ethan Hawke star as brothers with Albert Finney as their father, Rosemary Harris as their mother, Marisa Tomei as Hoffman’s wife, and Amy Ryan as Hawke’s ex-wife with Michael Shannon and Brian F. O’Byrne in key supporting roles.

Lumet’s commentary and a making-of documentary from the previous Blu-ray release are included. The director, whose films ranged from 12 Angry Men to The Verdict, died in 2011. New extras include “Best Last Film,” an interview with Ethan Hawke, and “A Dark Story,” an interview with screenwriter Kelly Masterson (Snowpiercer).

Paramount has released long overdue Blu-rays of Atlantic City and On a Clear Day You Can See Forever.

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The DVD Report #674

Dance, Girl Dance, the best-known of Dorothy Arzner’s sixteen films, has been given a Criterion Collection Blu-ray release from a new, 4K digital transfer.

Arzner was a founding member of the Directors Guild of America and the only female director during Hollywood’s Golden Age from the 1920s-1940s. She made Dance, Girl, Dance starring Maureen O’Hara immediately after O’Hara made her Hollywood debut in the 1940 remake of A Bill of Divorcement. Seven years earlier she had directed Katharine Hepburn in Christopher Strong immediately after Hepburn made her Hollywood debut in the 1932 version of A Bill of Divorcement.

As Dance, Girl, Dance begins, O’Hara, Lucille Ball, and Mary Carlisle are dancers from New York currently in a chorus line in a club in Akron, Ohio which is a front for gambling in its back room. The club is raided, and the girls must find their way back to New York. Back in Manhattan, Ball gets a job as a stripper and convinces O’Hara to perform as her stooge. Both O’Hara and Ball are in love with playboy Louis Hayward who is still in love with ex-wife Virginia Field. Ralph Bellamy as a theatrical empresario and Maria Ouspenskaya as a dance instructor and agent co-star. The film’s dramatic highlight is O’Hara’s lecture to the leering men in the burlesque theatre just before she and Ball have a knock-down, drag-out catfight that lands them in court.

A critical and commercial failure on its initial release, the film was pretty much forgotten until the feminist movement of the late 1960s and early 1970s helped give it a new lease on life.

Extras on the Blu-ray include an assessment of Arzner’s career by film critic B. Ruby Rich and a remembrance of his days as a student of Arzner’s at UCLA in the early 1960s.

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The DVD Report #673

Thunder on the Hill, Douglas Sirk’s 1951 film, was the director’s first for Universal, the studio where he would make such classics as Magnificent Obsession, All That Heaven Allows, and Imitation of Life over the next eight years. He was the perfect choice for this female-driven murder mystery based on a successful East End London play.

Claudette Colbert, in her last great screen role, plays a nun who is also a nurse in a Catholic hospital where convicted murderess Ann Blyth is sheltered for the night on the way to her execution for the murder of her brother. Convinced of Blyth’s innocence, Colbert and a loyal assistant (Michael Pate) make a dangerous trip in a small boat during a storm to find Blyth’s former fiancé (Philip Friend) in the hope that he can help prove her innocence. She is also aided by a fellow nun, the hospital’s chief cook (Connie Gilchrist), who finds a clue to Blyth’s innocence in newspaper accounts of her trial. Gladys Coper is the disapproving Mother Superior, Robert Douglas the hospital’s primary doctor, and Anne Crawford is his nervous wife. The film’s climax in the chapel’s bell tower predates the more famous one in Alfred Hitchcock’s Vertigo by seven years and is just as memorable.

Thunder on the Hill is one of three films featured in Kino Lorber’s Blu-ray boxset Film Noir: The Dark Side of Cinema II, featuring beautifully restored prints of all three films in the set. The others are The Female Animal and The Price of Fear.

Directed by Harry Keller, 1958’s The Female Animal is classified as film noir but is really an unabashed melodrama about a move star (Hedy Lamarr) and her alcoholic daughter (Jane Powell) in love with the same man, a Hollywood gigolo played by George Nader, that ends in tragedy. Nader had starred opposite Esther Williams in the previous year’s The Unguarded Moment, also directed by Keller, in which the rising star appeared opposite an actress whose legendary screen career was approaching its end. Williams would make three more films through 1963, but for Lamarr, this was the end of the road at 44. The actress who was the model for Disney’s Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, who turned down the leads in both Gaslight and Laura, deserved a better end. She got it posthumously with 2017’s Bombshell: The Hedy Lamarr Story, in which the actress who died in 2000, is given her due as underrated ingenious inventor. Her invention of frequency hopping paved the way for cell phones, Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, and military technology.

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The DVD Report #672

A Thousand Clowns was an unlikely contender for Best Picture at the 1965 Oscars, yet there it was nominated over such stronger possibilities as A Patch of Blue, The Collector, and Those Magnificent Men in Their Flying Machines, along with Darling, Doctor Zhivago, and Ship of Fools, all of which were destined to lose to the beloved box-office juggernaut that was The Sound of Music.

The quirky comedy written by Herb Gardner (I’m Not Rappaport) first appeared on Broadway in April 1962. It was nominated for Tonys for Best Play, Featured Actor (Barry Gordon), and Featured Actress (Sandy Dennis), winning for the latter. Dennis was unable to reprise her role in the film because she was then starring on Broadway in Any Wednesday, the 1966 film version of which she lost to Jane Fonda, but by that time she was filming Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? for which she would win the 1966 Oscar for Best Supporting Actress.

Dennis was replaced in the film version by Barbara Harris (Nashville) whose most famous Broadway role in 1965’s On a Clear Day You Can See Forever went to Barbra Streisand when it was filmed five years later. She would receive a Golden Globe Best Actress – Musical or Comedy nomination for A Thousand Clowns and an eventual Oscar nomination for 1971’s little seen Who Is Harry Kellerman and Why Is He Saying Those Terrible Things About Me?, also written by Gardner.

The star of A Thousand Clowns is Jason Robards who also received a Golden Globe nomination for reprising his Broadway role of the nonconformist writer who is trying to clean up his act to keep from losing guardianship of his precocious 12-year-old nephew, played by Tony nominee Gordon who is, as he was on stage, the most winning character in the film. Harris and William Daniels, another veteran of the stage production, are the investigators trying to determine Robards’ suitability, with Harris falling under Robards’ spell. Martin Balsam, replacing stage actor Larry Haines (The Odd Couple), somehow managed to win an Oscar for playing Robards’ more responsible older brother. Balsam had a meatier role that year as the ship’s doctor in The Bedford Incident, but Oscar voters for some reason liked him better in this.

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The DVD Report #671

Sweet Bird of Youth and Reflections in a Golden Eye were among the most controversial films of the 1960s. The former was among the best of that decade, the latter was among the worst. Both have been given sparkling new Blu-ray releases from Warner Archive.

Tennessee Williams’ Sweet Bird of Youth first appeared on Broadway in March 1959 starring Paul Newman and Geraldine Page with Sidney Blackmer, Diana Hyland, and Rip Torn in major supporting roles. Newman, Page, and Torn repeated their roles in the 1962 film version about a small-town gigolo (Newman) who returns to his hometown as the driver/lover of a faded, jaded actress (Page). Torn played the son of local political boss Ed Begley (substituting for Blackmer) with Shirley Knight in Hyland’s role as Begley’s daughter and Newman’s former sweetheart.

Bowing to production code rules of the day, the film never refers to Newman as a gigolo, making him instead an aspiring actor and opportunist who uses the alcoholic, drug-addicted actress as a pawn in his efforts to get a Hollywood screen test. In the play, his former sweetheart had a hysterectomy as a result of Newman’s character infecting her with a venereal disease that caused her to not only lose the baby that she was carrying but prevent the possibility of her ever having a child. In the film, the hysterectomy becomes an abortion forced on her by her father. The other major change to the screenplay is the ending. In the play, Newman’s character is castrated by Torn’s character. In the film, he is merely beaten up, followed by a happy ending in which he and his former sweetheart run away together.

Critically and commercially, the film ranks behind only A Streetcar Named Desire and Cat on a Hot Tin Roof in the pantheon of films made from Williams’ plays. Newman, of course, had starred in the 1958 film of Cat on a Hot Tin Roof for which he received the first of his eventual nine Oscar nominations. That film was directed by Richard Brooks (Elmer Gantry, In Cold Blood), who also directed Sweet Bird of Youth.

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The DVD Report #670

Connecting Rooms and Love Among the Ruins are not films we tend to think of when we think of Bette Davis and Katharine Hepburn, but both films have been newly released on Blu-ray by Kino Lorber to remind us once again what extraordinary actresses these two legends were throughout their lives.

Connecting Rooms was a British film that was barely released in the U.S. in 1970 and the U.K. two years later, though it frequently shows up on British TV. Based on a flop British play called The Cellist by Marion Hart, it was originally intended for Anthony Mann (Bend of the River) in 1967, but put on hold after the director’s sudden death. It was taken over by writer-producer Franklin Gollings, who had done second unit work in the past. This would be his only directorial effort.

Filmed in 1969 when Davis was 61 and already past her horror film comeback in What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?, Hush…Hush, Sweet Charlotte, and The Nanny, the film came her way when she was looking for something different. This seems to be a throwback to those domestic dramas she made after the success of 1950’s All About Eve such as Payment on Demand and Another Man’s Poison. Her character in this, though, is far more sympathetic. It is in fact, one of her rare kindly roles.

Davis was at her best playing selfish characters in films like Of Human Bondage, The Letter, and The Little Foxes, but now and then she could be equally effective playing a selfless character such as those in Now, Voyager and The Corn Is Green. Her role in Connecting Rooms is one of those. In it, she plays
a 50-year-old woman who still makes her living, meager though it may be, as a cellist. She lives in a dilapidated Bayswater boarding house.

Michael Redgrave, in his best role since The Browning Version, is a disgraced classics professor who takes a room in the building with a door between their apartments that refuses to stay closed. Alexis Kanner is an aspiring songwriter in his twenties who plays Davis for a fool while romancing both a French singer and an artist’s model in a local art school.

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