THE MICKEY ROONEY
BABES IN ARMS
BABES IN ARMS marked the first pairing of Mickey Rooney and Judy Garland under the direction of the legendary Busby Berkeley. Loosely adapted from the Rodgers and Hart stage musical, BABES IN ARMS is the story of Mickey Moran (Rooney) and Patsy Barton (Garland), the children of vaudeville families. Unfortunately, vaudeville isnít what it used to be and the kids are discouraged from following their parents onto the stage. Of course, the kids have the theater in their blood and decide to help their folkís financial fortunes by mounting their own show in a local barn. The cast of BABES IN ARMS also features Charles Winninger, Guy Kibbee, June Preisser, Grace Hayes, Betty Jaynes, Douglas McPhail, Rand Brooks, Leni Lynn, John Sheffield and Henry Hull.
STRIKE UP THE BAND
Rooney, Garland and Berkeley are re-teamed for STRIKE UP THE BAND. STRIKE UP THE BAND finds Rooney in the role of school drummer Jimmy Connors, while Garland is singer Mary Holden. The plot of STRIKE UP THE BAND has Jimmy transforming the boring school orchestra into a hot dance band. Of course, Jimmyís ambitions for the band get in the way of a potential romance with Mary, plus a lack of money, may prevent the band from competing in an upcoming competition in Chicago. The cast of STRIKE UP THE BAND also features June Preisser, William Tracy, Larry Nunn, Paul Whiteman, Margaret Early, Ann Shoemaker, Francis Pierlot, Virginia Brissac, George Lessey, Enid Bennett and Howard C. Hickman.
BABES ON BROADWAY
BABES ON BROADWAY marked the third collaboration between Rooney, Garland and Berkeley. In BABES ON BROADWAY Rooney and Garland as Broadway hopefuls Tommy Williams and Penny Morris, who are literally singing for their supper while trying to get onto the great white way. Although their talents havenít gotten them the fame and recognition they hoped for, Tommy and Penny decide to put them to use for a benefit to assist in the relief for war orphans. As expected, their little show does begin to get them some recognition, but will it lead to Broadway? The cast of BABES ON BROADWAY also features Fay Bainter, Virginia Weidler, Ray McDonald, Richard Quine, Donald Meek, Alexander Woollcott, Luis Alberni and James Gleason.
GIRL CRAZY finds Berkeleyís contributions limited, but Rooney and Garland are ready to put on a show. GIRL CRAZY tells the story of female obsessed Danny Churchill, Jr., a young playboy who finds himself shipped off to a remote all male school in the southwest, after his skirt chasing antics make headlines one too many times. Despite the testosterone driven environment, Danny finds himself in proximity of the deanís niece Ginger Gray (Garland), who has her choice of any male on the campus. When the college is threatened with closure, Danny hatches a musical plan to bolster enrollment and transform the institution to coeducational. The cast of GIRL CRAZY also features Gil Stratton, Robert E. Strickland, Rags Ragland, June Allyson, Nancy Walker, Guy Kibbee, Frances Rafferty, Henry O'Neill, Howard Freeman and Tommy Dorsey.
Warner Home Video has made all four films that comprise THE MICKEY ROONEY & JUDY GARLAND COLLECTION ($60) available on DVD in black and white transfers that frame each of the films in their proper 1.37:1 full screen aspect ratios. For the most part all of the films look very good, and the presentations are up to the usual Warner standard for classic films that have not undergone digital frame-by-frame restoration. Sharpness and image detail are usually strong; of course there are individual shots that appear somewhat soft, as well as some sequences that are a few more generations removed from the original negatives that are inherently soft. Overall, the picture for each of the films ranges from very good to more than respectable. Contrast and grayscale are somewhat variable, but for the most part it all holds up rather well. Minor print damage and other signs of age crop up, but are seldom bothersome. To varying degrees, film grain is ever present, but again, not too troublesome. Digital compression artifacts are not a problem anywhere in the set.
All of the films featured in THE MICKEY ROONEY & JUDY GARLAND COLLECTION come with pretty good sounding Dolby Digital monaural soundtracks. For musicals from late 1930s and early 1940s, the sound isnít half bad. Fidelity has the expected limitation, but the musical numbers sound fine at average listening levels. For the most part, the majority of background hiss and audible anomalies have been cleaned during the mastering process, leaving each of the soundtracks with reasonably pleasant sonics. There is a bit of distortion in places, but it isnít severe. Dialogue is clean and easy to understand. No other language tracks have been included on the DVDs, but English and Spanish subtitles are provided.
Music underscores the basic interactive menus, which allow one access to the standard scene selection and set up features, as well as the supplements that have been spread out across the collection. All of the films feature an Introduction by star Mickey Rooney. Individual disc supplements are as follows: BABES IN ARMS comes with a running Audio Commentary by historian John Fricke; the Vintage Our Gang Short: Duel Personalities; Classic Cartoon: The Mad Maestro; 1939 Newsreel with Mickey and Judy; plus Audio-Only Bonuses: Leo Is On The Air Radio Promo & three different Radio Shows with Rooney and Garland; and finally, a Theatrical Trailer. STRIKE UP THE BAND comes with a Pete Smith Specialty Comedy Short: Wedding Bills; the Classic Cartoon: Romeo In Rhythm; Do The La Conga (Stereo Remix Version); plus Audio-Only Bonuses: Leo Is On The Air Radio Promo, Millions For Defense Radio Special with Mickey and Judy & an additional Radio Show with Rooney and Garland; and finally, a Theatrical Trailer.
BABES ON BROADWAY comes with a Pete Smith Specialty Comedy Short: How To Hold Your Husband Back; the Classic Cartoon: Dance Of The Weed; plus Audio-Only Bonuses: two Leo Is On The Air Radio Promos & Radio Show Adaptation of Merton Of The Movies with Rooney and Garland; Chin Up! Cheerio! Carry On Song Demo performed by composer Burton Lane; and finally, a Theatrical Trailer. GIRL CRAZY comes with a running Audio Commentary by historian John Fricke; Vintage Short: Hollywood Daredevils; the Classic Cartoon: The Early Bird Dood It; I Got Rhythm (Stereo Remix Version); plus Audio-Only Bonuses: Bronco Busters Outtake; and finally, a Theatrical Trailer. THE MICKEY ROONEY & JUDY GARLAND COLLECTION also comes with a Bonus Disc that features Private Screenings with Mickey Rooney- the 1996 TCM special hosted by Robert Osborne; The Judy Garland Songbook- a collection of twenty-one Judy Garland musical numbers spanning her many films from 1936-1954; and finally, a Mickey And Judy Trailer Gallery.
Although hokey by todayís standards, THE MICKEY ROONEY & JUDY GARLAND COLLECTION brings together four classic films that show that Rooney, Garland, Busby Berkeley and all of MGM really knew how to put on a show. Warnerís presentations are solid and the extras are great. Absolutely recommended.
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