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THE DORIS DAY COLLECTION

Whether it was as a singer, or and actress or both, there have been few entertainers who have brought as much joy to fans as Doris Day. Now in her eighties and long retired from entertaining, Doris Day has held onto a large base of fans and garnering new ones, thanks to the classic movie cable stations the regularly feature her sizable catalog of films. Nowadays, Doris Day is most recognized for the late fifties, early sixties bedroom farces in which she starred with Rock Hudson and Tony Randall. However, Doris Day’s film career spanned a much greater period, but in general, she has become a beloved screen legend in her own right for portraying characters with the kind of sunny disposition that one can only associate with Doris Day. For her legions of fans, Warner Home Video has made THE DORIS DAY COLLECTION available, an eight film boxed set that spans much of the performers cinematic career.

The box set starts off with YOUNG MAN WITH A HORN a somewhat dark Kirk Douglas starrer that finds Doris Day as one of the two women in the life of Douglas’ tortured, alcoholic jazz trumpeter Rick Martin. Day is wholesome singer Jo Jordan, who stands by Martin through his ups and downs, while Lauren Bacall is Amy North, the predatory society gal, who helps drives this young man with a horn to the bottle. The fine cast of YOUNG MAN WITH A HORN also features Hoagy Carmichael and Juano Hernandez, and the film greatly benefits from the assured direction of silver screen veteran Michael Curtiz. YOUNG MAN WITH A HORN also affords Day opportunities the vocal gifts that made her a singing star before she became an actress.

YOUNG MAN WITH A HORN has been given a really great black and white transfer that presents this 1950 production in its proper 1.37:1 framing. The film elements are in marvelous shape for their age; display very few blemishes and little apparent grain. Sharpness and image detail are excellent and the overall appearance of the movies is smooth, glossy and silky. Blacks are on the money, whites are crisp and the picture produces a rich grayscale and excellent contrast. The Dolby Digital monaural soundtrack does have some of the expected limitations in fidelity, but Harry James trumpeting dubs for Douglas’ character and Doris Days vocals are still very pleasing to the ear. Dialogue is always easy to understand and voices maintain a nice sense of character. No other language tracks are included, but English, French and Spanish subtitles have been provided. Extras on the disc are limited to a two-film Doris Day Trailer Gallery.

While it is somewhat thin on plot, LULLABY OF BROADWAY actually manages to borrow some story elements from films like LADY FOR A DAY and STAGE DOOR, to keep this musical comedy moving when it isn’t showcasing Doris Day’s musical talents. LULLABY OF BROADWAY finds young Broadway hopeful Melinda Howard (Day) returning to America after touring overseas with a theatrical troop and hoping to following in the footsteps of her mother, stage star Jessica Howard (Gladys George). What Melinda doesn’t know is that alcohol has reduced her mother to headlining in a barroom; although some dear friends do manage to the keep alive the illusion of her mother’s Broadway star for Melinda’s sake. Helping to keep the illusion alive is married would be producer Adolph Hubbell (S.Z. Sakall), who takes a liking to Melinda, so much so, that he backs a Broadway production for her to star in. The cast LULLABY OF BROADWAY also features Gene Nelson, Billy De Wolfe, Gladys George and Florence Bates.

LULLABY OF BROADWAY has been given a really fine 1.37:1 transfer that nicely that renders this Technicolor treat. The film elements look terrific for their age, with few markings and little appreciable grain. Only the occasion errant shot with an optical appears slightly off. Image sharpness and detail are very good. Colors look great, and recreate the film’s pastel color scheme beautifully. Blacks are deep, whites are stable and the contrast is very smooth. The Dolby Digital monaural soundtrack is quite pleasing, even with the inherent limitations in these fifty plus year old recordings. There is no noticeable background hiss or other sonic anomalies at average listening levels, and the dialogue is always easy to understand. No other language tracks are included, but English, French and Spanish subtitles have been provided. Extras on the disc are limited to a three-film Doris Day Trailer Gallery.

CALAMITY JANE is a big, boisterous delight of a musical from Hollywood’s golden age that stars Doris Day as the title character, whose talent with a gun is second only to her talent for exaggerating her Indian fighting exploits. With Howard Keel as Wild Bill Hickok, and plenty exuberantly staged, rollicking musical numbers, CALAMITY JANE is a personal favorite amongst Doris Day’s numerous films. In addition to its more rollicking numbers, the score to CALAMITY JANE also features the Academy Award song Secret Love, which was one of the biggest hits and best-remembered songs of Doris Day’s career. In addition to the leading players, the cast of CALAMITY JANE also includes Gale Robbins, Philip Carey, Dick Wesson, Paul Harvey and Chubby Johnson.

This edition of CALAMITY JANE is identical to the very good-looking 1.37:1 aspect ratio transfer that was previously issued on DVD. CALAMITY JANE displays much of its original IB Technicolor beauty, with only minor flaws to remind one that the movie is more than fifty years old. There are some small scratches and bits of debris on the film element, but nothing too objectionable. Additionally, optical fades appear a tad bit blurry. The image is pretty sharp and nicely defined, with not too much by way of noticeable film grain. Colors generally display the vibrancy of the old IB Technicolor process, although outdoor and processed shots don’t look as good that those photographed under carefully controlled studio lighting. Blacks are accurately rendered, contrast is very good and shadow detail is on par with other Technicolor productions of the same era. CALAMITY JANE is presented in a nice sounding Dolby Digital monaural. While there are definite limitations in the fidelity of these nearly half-century-old recordings, background hiss and other signs of age related distortions are not readily apparent. Actually, the film’s bouncy score is rendered in a very pleasant manner, plus the dialogue is fully intelligible. A French language soundtrack has also been encoded onto the DVD, as have English, Spanish, French, Portuguese, and Japanese subtitles. Extras include a theatrical trailer, some Calamity Jane related newsreel footage, production notes, cast listing and a Doris Day biography.

LOVE ME OR LEAVE ME is a movie atypical for it's time. During the 1950's Hollywood only seemed to make "happy" musicals. LOVE ME OR LEAVE is gritty biography, that isn't afraid to show the darker aspects of its central characters. Doris Day stars as singer Ruth Etting, while James Cagney turns in a top-notch performance as her gangster husband Marty "The Gimp" Snyder. LOVE ME OR LEAVE traces Etting's career from the point where she meets Snyder, through their rocky relationship, and her rise to stardom. Anyone who thinks Doris Day was a lightweight performer will change his or her mind after seeing LOVE ME OR LEAVE. Day’s fine performance proves her a very capable actress in this strong dramatic role. The cast of LOVE ME OR LEAVE also features Cameron Mitchell as the other man in Etting’s life who ignites Snyder’s seething jealousy.

MGM’s previous widescreen Laserdisc edition of more than a decade ago looked pretty terrific, but Warner 16:9 enhanced DVD edition of LOVE ME OR LEAVE looks phenomenal. The image is beautifully defined and almost always appears crisp. Colors are strongly rendered and highly appealing, especially the flesh tones. Blacks can be a tad weak in places, but overall are up to muster. Whites are clean and the picture boasts terrific contrast and more than respectable shadow detail. The film elements appear virtually pristine, with almost no appreciable grain. The Dolby Digital 5.0 channel soundtrack sounds wonderful for a fifty-year-old film, with Doris Day musical performances being the highlight. Fidelity has some mild limitations, but the original musical recordings have held up exceedingly well. Dialogue is crisp and easy to understand. A French language track has also been encoded on the DVD, as have English, French and Spanish subtitles. Extras include SALUTE TO THE THEATERS, which highlights MGM's CinemaScope releases from 1955, as well as the Vitaphone shorts A Modern Cinderella and Roseland, featuring the real Ruth Etting, plus a theatrical trailer for LOVE ME OR LEAVE.

THE PAJAMA GAME is another genuine delight and another genuine highlight from Doris Day’s screen career. As movie musicals go, THE PAJAMA GAME is a thoroughly enjoyable adaptation of the Broadway hit that greatly benefits from not only Doris Day’s singing talents, but also a wonderful score, plus the co-direction of George Abbott and Stanley Donen, in addition to the invigorating choreography of Bob Fosse. The plot of THE PAJAMA GAME focuses on a labor dispute at the Sleeptite Pajama Factory that comes down to seven and a half cents. Heading up the labor side of the dispute is 'Babe' Williams (Day), while her management counterpart is Sid Sorokin (John Raitt). Of course, negotiations are further complicated by a blossoming romance between the two. The cast of THE PAJAMA GAME also features Carol Haney, Eddie Foy Jr., Reta Shaw and Barbara Nichols.

THE PAJAMA GAME has been given a pretty nice 1.78:1 wide screen transfer that is enhanced for playback on 16:9 displays. A full screen presentation is offered on the flip side of the disc for anyone who cares, but it is not reviewed here. The widescreen presentation offers reasonably sharp and nicely defined image. Colors are a tiny bit unstable in place, but a generally appealing. Blacks are deep, white are stable and the picture produces good contrast. The film elements don’t display too many signs of age, although a grain structure becomes noticeable from time to time. The Dolby Digital monaural soundtrack certainly gets the job done, but the limitations in fidelity leave one wishing that the sound elements could have been rejuvenated a bit more could have justified a multi channel remix. Dialogue is clean and without problems. No other language tracks are included, but English, French and Spanish subtitles have been provided. Extras on the disc include a cast & crew listing, production notes, a theatrical trailer and a deleted musical number.

While PLEASE DON'T EAT THE DAISIES may not be the pick of the litter in THE DORIS DAY COLLECTION, it remains light domestic comedy fun. Based upon the book by Jean Kerr, PLEASE DON'T EAT THE DAISIES tells the amusing story of one family’s move to the suburbs. Doris Day stars in PLEASE DON'T EAT THE DAISIES as long suffering Kate Mackay, the wife of acid pen drama critic Lawrence Mackay (David Niven) who decides to move their bratty brood from a cramped apartment in the city to a spacious country home. Of course, domestic bliss in the country proves elusive, thanks to a house that is a Handyman’s nightmare, not to mention that our theater critic has captured the attention of the lovely actress Deborah Vaughn (Janis Paige). The cast of PLEASE DON'T EAT THE DAISIES also features Spring Byington, Richard Haydn, Patsy Kelly and Jack Weston.

Presented in its proper 2.35:1 aspect ratio, the 16:9 enhanced presentation of PLEASE DON'T EAT THE DAISIES looks pretty darn good. There are some soft looking shots scattered about, but for the most part, image sharpness and detail are just fine. Colors can occasionally look mildly subdued, but otherwise they are just fine. Optical fades tend to skew the colors a bit, but those are the kind of things that are inherent in older films. Blacks are accurate, whites are clean and the contrast level is smooth. The film elements don’t display too many blemishes and grain is held in check. PLEASE DON'T EAT THE DAISIES comes with a perfectly respectable Dolby Digital monaural soundtrack. Fidelity is adequate, although the musical component can occasionally sound a bit thin. Dialogue is always completely understandable. A French language track has also been encoded on the DVD, as have English, French and Spanish subtitles. Extras on the disc are limited to a theatrical trailer.

BILLY ROSE'S JUMBO is a delightful little musical trifle about an elephant, and the nearly down and out circus, in which said pachyderm is the star attraction. Doris Day stars in BILLY ROSE'S JUMBO as Kitty Wonder, daughter of circus owner Pop Wonder (Jimmy Durante), who not only has a full time job as a circus performer, she also has a full time job just keeping the entire enterprise afloat due to her father’s gambling preoccupation which always manages to drain away the show’s funds.  Stephen Boyd also stars as drifter Sam Rawlins, who quickly becomes part of the circus troupe and a romantic interest for Kitty.  Unfortunately for all concerned, a rival circus headed up by John Noble (Dean Jagger) has designs of Pop Wonder’s star attraction and has even gone so far to plant a spy in their midst.  BILLY ROSE'S JUMBO affords Day another chance to shine in a big musical, as well as affording movie clowns Jimmy Durante and Martha Raye to mug it up amongst real circus clowns.  The only star to seem somewhat out of place is Stephen Boyd, who comes off as stiff amongst all the animated characters that surround him.

BILLY ROSE'S JUMBO has been given a sterling 2.35:1 wide screen transfer that has been enhanced for playback on 16:9 displays. The image is bright, sharp and beautifully defined. Colors are vibrant and really enhance the circus environment of the film. Blacks are pretty deep, whites are crisp and the picture sports excellent contrast and fine shadow detail. The film elements display very few blemishes and grain is pretty minimal. For this release, BILLY ROSE'S JUMBO has been upgraded to a really nice Dolby Digital 5.1 channel mix. The musical numbers make good use of all the discrete channels to create an enveloping sonic environment. Fidelity is quite nice for the 1962 release, with a solid bottom end, as well as crisp, clean highs. Dialogue is easy to understand and the voices maintain a good sense of character. A French language track has also been encoded on the DVD, as have English, French and Spanish subtitles. Extras on the disc include a Vitaphone short, a Tom and Jerry cartoon that features an elephant, plus a theatrical trailer.

THE GLASS BOTTOM BOAT is goofy good fun with a bunch of slapstick moments that benefits from the direction of Frank Tashlin, who cut his teeth in the world of Looney Tunes cartoons. Doris Day stars in this enjoyable spy spoof as widow Jennifer Nelson, who works for a father as a mermaid on his glass bottom boat tour off Catalina Island, as well as tour guide for an aerospace company. Unfortunately, innocent telephone calls to a dog named Vladimir, results in our poor widow being mistaken for a Russian spy, which serves to complicate a new romance with Bruce Templeton (Rod Taylor), the head of the aerospace company. The fine funny cast of THE GLASS BOTTOM BOAT also features Arthur Godfrey, John McGiver, Paul Lynde, Edward Andrews, Eric Fleming, Dom DeLuise, Elisabeth Fraser, Dick Martin, George Tobias, Alice Pearce and Ellen Corby.

THE GLASS BOTTOM BOAT comes to DVD is a pretty darn nice 2.35:1 wide screen presentation that has been enhanced for playback on 16:9 displays. There are some mildly soft shots scattered about, but for the most part, things appear fairly sharp and pretty well defined. Colors are attractive, provide good saturation and produce appealing flesh tones. Blacks look good, and the whites are stable. Contrast is smooth and shadow detail is more than respectable. The film elements are very clean and there is little appreciable grain. The Dolby digital monaural soundtrack is also pretty darn good. Fidelity is more than respectable, with musical score always sounding quite pleasant. Dialogue is clean and always fully intelligible. Extras on the disc include three featurettes Every Girl's Dream, NASA and Catalina Island, plus The Dot And The Line; a Chuck Jones directed cartoon and a theatrical trailer.

Spanning the various periods of her cinematic career, THE DORIS DAY COLLECTION is a delight that the entertainer’s fans will most definitely want to add to their collections. Warner does their usual fine job with the presentations of all the films, which should please everyone, even those with only a passing interest in the material. As a fan and movie buff, I am grateful THE DORIS DAY COLLECTION has come out and recommend it highly to other fans.

The entire eight-film THE DORIS DAY COLLECTION is available for 88.98, with each individual title being available for $19.98.

 

THE DORIS DAY COLLECTION 


Doris Day Collection (Billy Rose's Jumbo / Calamity Jane / The Glass Bottom Boat / Love Me or Leave Me / Lullaby of Broadway / The Pajama Game / Please Don't Eat the Daisies / Young Man with a Horn)

ENHANCED FOR 16:9 TELEVISIONS 


DVD reviews are Copyright © 2005 THE CINEMA LASER and may not be copied or reprinted without the written consent of the publisher.
THE CINEMA LASER is written, edited and published by Derek M. Germano.


 

 

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