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Review - The Cary Grant Signature Collection (DVD-2004)
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The Cary Grant Signature Collection (DVD-2004)

Warner Home Video

Reviewed by Daniel Severin

 

Cary Grant is the quintessential gentleman of the silver screen. His career spanned over 30 years, and his influence continues to be felt in modern movies. In celebration of the 100th anniversary of his birth, Warner Brothers has introduced the Cary Grant Signature Collection, a set of classic films from the great star. The presentation is top-notch, a fitting tribute to Grant’s elegance. The films in the collection seem to get glossed over in Grant’s filmography. My Favorite Wife, for example, is one of the brightest screwball comedies of the 1930s. Lavish production numbers and great songs anchor Night and Day, a musical biopic of composer Cole Porter. The interplay between Grant and a teenage Shirley Temple is very funny in The Bachelor and the Bobby-soxer. Rounding out the cycle of new DVDs are the compelling family drama Mr. Blandings Builds his Dream House and the suspenseful war film Destination Tokyo.

My Favorite Wife was directed by Garson Kanin, who wrote the play Born Yesterday and the scripts for the Hepburn-Tracy films Adam’s Rib and Pat and Mike. My Favorite Wife reunites stars Cary Grant and Irene Dunne with producer Leo McCarey, the team responsible for the screwball comedy The Awful Truth. Grant is perfect as Nick Arden, a man who has remarried seven years after his wife was lost at sea. Hilarious hijinx ensue when Ellen, played by Dunne, returns and Nick gets arrested for bigamy. Costarring in the film is Grant’s roommate and life-long friend Randolph Scott as a hunky scientist in love with Ellen. In addition to a beautifully restored print, the DVD includes a radio theatre adaptation of My Favorite Wife, also starring Grant and Dunne.

Another film in the collection that has unfairly been forgotten is Destination Tokyo. It is easy to dismiss this World War II drama as typical Hollywood propaganda, but to do so would be a shame! In the film, Cary Grant plays the captain of a submarine, and the crew features a talented ensemble of studio actors including John Garfield and Alan Hale. A stirring score by Franz Waxman complements the suspense as the sub sails to Japan to pinpoint targets for Army bomber planes. Destination Tokyo is a love letter to the U.S. Navy, but the acting is so good and the chemistry between the sub-mates so convincing that the viewer gets drawn into the story. The vintage short “Gem of the Ocean,” included on the DVD, gives viewers a taste of the cinema-going experience during World War II.

Cary Grant films tend to be praised, damned, or forgotten. The Signature Collection includes one that has experienced all three reactions, Night and Day. That film is a Technicolor Warner Brothers tribute to songwriter Cole Porter, with Grant playing Porter during his days at Harvard, his Broadway flops and triumphs, and his struggle to work after a crippling accident. The musical numbers are creatively staged, presenting some of Porter’s most memorable songs. The supporting cast includes Monty Wooley playing himself, Mary Martin singing “My Heart Belongs to Daddy,” and Alexis Smith as Linda Porter. Interest in Night and Day is high, as MGM is soon to release a new musical biography of Cole Porter called De-Lovely, starring Kevin Kline and Ashley Judd. The real stars of Night and Day, however, are the beautiful songs.

The Cary Grant films are available on DVD separately or as part of a box set that also includes the Turner Classic Movies original documentary Cary Grant: A Class Apart, featuring interviews with colleagues, friends and spouses. The documentary analyzes Grant’s longevity as a movie star and penetrates his mystique. The recently released Signature Collection proves that no other movie star will ever equal Cary Grant.

 

 

2004 Daniel Severin/Celluloid Dreams

 

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