Dec 29, 2006

Christmas Comes But Once A Year

Whereas Christmases past usually involved the anguish of surreptitiously investigating my presents and shoving those deemed to be sweaters or leggings under nearby furniture to avoid opening them, this week's holiday found me absolutely aglow with gratitude for such great gifts. It seems 2006 was the year I successfully established that if it didn't relate to classic film in some way, perhaps I would be better off giftless, for I had no use for it - my passion for the silver screen has indeed affected my taste in films, music, literature, and even clothing, jewelry and makeup, among other interests, so it makes sense that I was positively rabid to find these beneath the tree:

Bogie and Bacall: The Signature Collection is four discs of forties film heaven. Having emulated Lauren's lustrous locks and sultry eyes and developed a crush on Bogie since seeing The Big Sleep in my teens, I was smitten with the collection's beautiful black-and-white cover when I came across it at Target months ago, and was thrilled to own it come Christmas Eve. Included are the only four movies this iconic real-life couple made together: 1944's To Have and Have Not, which was also Bacall's big screen debut; 1946's The Big Sleep, a fabulous Howard Hawks-directed thriller; Dark Passage, which, despite being a solid film with sweet, sweet tension and inventive camerawork, many consider to be the weakest of the pair's pairings, from 1947; and the star-studded drama Key Largo (1948), which boasts a cast that includes Lionel Barrymore, Edward G. Robinson and Claire Trevor. The only improvements I could see upon this stunning set would be a biography of Lauren and Humph, be it a DVD a la the Thin Man boxset or a booklet, detailing their separate careers, their romance, and the legendary partnership that transferred from the silver screen to real life.

Gone With the Wind: Four Disc Collector's Edition
Whether you love the drama and romance of this sweeping 1939 epic, or you can't believe you wasted four hours of your life on Scarlett's whining, Rhett's swashbuckling, and Ashley's pantywaist tendencies, you must admit: Gone With the Wind is a pretty damn impressive movie. The newest collector's edition boasts the film itself on two discs, brilliantly restored using Warner Brother's Ultra-Resolution technique, and its vivid color and unmistakable score by Max Steiner are perhaps even more impressive here than they were during the film's theatre premiere.
The two discs of extras include an absolute plethora of backstories and behind-the-scenes information, highlights of which are a two-hour documentary on the making of the film, created by producer David Selznick's sons, footage from the movie's 1939 debut, and an in-depth look at the restorative processes that lend this release its superb visual and audio quality. The fourth disc focuses on the lives of GWTW's stars: with three of the four leads deceased as of 1967, the task of reminiscing has long been relegated to the only remaining main cast member, the delicate screen legend Olivia de Havilland. Her chatty retrospective was filmed specifically for this and, if not rife with new details and inside stories, offers unique and valuable perspectives and recollections from someone identified very closely with the movie.

If you're a fan who doesn't yet own this film, this DVD edition is paramount in terms of quality, presentation, and extras, and it retails for a surprisingly low price: it's a cool $17.99 brand new on

The Glenn Miller Story (1953) After convincing my sister to rent 1948's The Stratton Story on a whim back in October, we came to the mutual conclusion that if there was anything better than watching Jimmy Stewart onscreen, it was watching Jimmy romance June Allyson. Pretty, petite, and perseverant, Allyson complements Stewart's lanky, laid-back Everyman perfectly, and their onscreen chemistry is arguably among the most poignant and heartfelt of all movie couples - it's surprising that, given their respective longevity and popularity, the two only collaborated in three films over a six-year period: 1948's Stratton, 1953's The Glenn Miller Story, and Strategic Air Command (1956).

While I admittedly haven't seen this film yet, I am rabidly awaiting its arrival - at this rate it will be a New Year's Gift - and I can't stress enough, don't buy from eBay powersellers!

I also received the out-of-print VHS version of Sex and the Single Girl, a 1964 sex comedy that pairs Henry Fonda against Lauren Bacall and Tony Curtis against Natalie Wood, commencing in one gloriously overblown misunderstanding after another - it's no classic, but as far as campy, esoteric films riddled with my favorite stars go, this one's delish. I was also delighted to find that my beloved sister had left a dvd copy of the Danny Kaye/Dinah Shore film Up In Arms under the tree for me (no doubt paying me back for introducing her to the wonders of June Allyson). Ahhh, Christmas. With this many fabulous movies at my disposal, I don't know how I'll ever find the motivation to start school in a few weeks....blecch.

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