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January 10, 2012

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On DVD/Blu-ray – Three Classic Comedies About the Movies

by HELEN GEIB

Essential Hollywood on Hollywood. In tribute to The Artist, three classic comedies about the movies:

Show People (1928)

Marion Davies had her best role as the aspiring actress star of King Vidor’s delightful late silent-era comedy Show People. An MGM production filmed and set on the studio backlot, the movie is further enlivened by cameo appearances by many of the top MGM stars of the day.

DVD Release Info

Show People is one of those major titles unaccountably not available on DVD. There is an out of print VHS and the movie shows up from time to time on TCM. It properly shouldn’t be listed here for that reason, but I couldn’t resist such a great film that fits the chosen theme so beautifully.

Sullivan’s Travels (1941)

The hero of Preston Sturges’ masterful satire is an idealistic comedy director (played by Joel McCrea), best known for the “Ants in Their Pants” series, who longs to direct a socially conscious drama called “O Brother, Where Art Thou?” He sets out to see the real America disguised as a hobo. After a series of adventures and misadventures, he discovers true love and the true value of laughter.

DVD Release Info

Sullivan’s Travels is available on DVD from the Criterion Collection. The plentiful features are an audio commentary by several current filmmakers, including Noah Baumbach and Christopher Guest; a documentary on Sturges from the PBS “American Masters” series; an interview with Sturges’ widow and an archival Hedda Hopper interview with Sturges; storyboards and blueprints; audio recordings of Sturges; and production stills and the trailer. Criterion’s website also has an appreciative short essay on the film.

Singin’ in the Rain (1952)

When the talkies threaten to end the career of silent screen idol Don Lockwood (Gene Kelly), his longtime sidekick Cosmo Brown (Donald O’Connor) advises him to “make ’em laugh”. It’s one of the signature numbers of the incomparable Singin’ in the Rain, the ultimate Hollywood on Hollywood movie and a principal inspiration for The Artist.

DVD Release Info

Singin’ in the Rain is available in a barebones single-disc DVD or a two-disc “special edition”. Features on the latter include a 30 minute documentary about the making of the film, “What a Glorious Feeling”; the full-length documentary Musicals Great Musicals: The Arthur Freed Unit at MGM, first shown on PBS; excerpts from movies where some of the songs in Singin’ in the Rain originated and/or also were used; outtake musical number “You Are My Lucky Star”; and a stills gallery and scoring session music cues.

New releases this week: Film Socialisme, Higher Ground, Killer Elite, Moneyball, What’s Your Number?


4 Comments Post a comment
  1. Jan 10 2012

    I own Singin’ in the Rain and the Criterion version of Sullivan’s Travels. Both great films, true classics. But I’ll admit that I haven’t heard of Show People.

  2. Jan 11 2012

    It’s a delightful movie but it’s hard to see if you don’t have TCM. I’ve updated the post with a note to that effect and information about the other films’ DVD releases. I had meant to include all that before I hit “publish”- I should have written the post before the five mile hike and post-hike celebratory drink instead of after (being on vacation can be hard on blogging ^_^).

  3. Richard Winters
    Jan 11 2012

    You really should have also mentioned Veronica Lake who appears alongside Joel McCrea in your screen caption of ‘Sullivans Travels’. She was a terrific and beautiful acctress. I loved her in ‘This Gun for Hire’, which is the film that made her a star. I also liked her trend-setting hairstyle that always had her hair covering her right eye. Of course severe alchoholism destroyed her career and by the the 1970’s she was penniless and working at a candle stick factory in Vermont just to make ends meet. She ended up dying in 1973 at the young age of 51. Suppesedly her ghost still haunts the home that she died in as strange occurences have been reported there since the 1970’s.

  4. Jan 11 2012

    I’d like to make a film about her ghost. That’d be fun. :O)

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