Wednesday, September 17, 2008

dvd review: tyrone power matinee idol collection

It may be the end of summer, and the football games are in full swing, but that doesn't mean we need to take a break here at The Shelf. On the contrary, we've got loads of DVD reviews to bring you and more. In fact, today we take a look at one of Hollywood's legendary leading men, and review the new Tyrone Power: Matinee Idol Collection. It's a mega set brimming with films that have never been previously released on DVD and choc' full o' features. But I know you are asking yourself, Is it worth the purchase, JC? Is it worth my hard earned bucks? Gas ain't cheap y'know. Yeah, yeah- we know. So think of this as a public service, if you will. Check out our review of Tyrone Power: Matinee Idol Collection and see if this is a set to put on your shelf.

The Hard Facts:
Tyrone Power: Matinee Idol Collection
10 Films5 Discs in 5 slimcases
Studio: 20th Century Fox
Black and White/Color
Full Screen & Widescreen
Original Studio: Fox
Release Date: 7/29/2008
Rated: NR
Stars: Tyrone Power
Directors: Various

You know you're a star when the public loves you, no matter what the plot is or who your co-star may be. You know you are a Matinee Idol, when they keep coming back for more, and follow you to the point of adulation. Your arena is the matinee- the picture that the fans know they will like- not the epic or the "serious picture." Steady, tried and true. That was certainly the case for Tyrone Power, Jr. He was most definitely a Matinee Idol, groomed and promoted by the star machine- the studio. But they got more than even they bargained for, because Tyrone Power was so much more, and could have been so much more. Not only did he have one of the most "movie star" faces of his generation- the guy could act. Even today, there are thousands who include themselves as Tyrone fans. Back in the day, Ty could pack 'em in the seats- a guaranteed money maker. The ladies swooned over him, and the guys - well the fellas enjoyed the swashbuckling and the beautiful array of co-stars. Like many phenoms, Power wanted to do more- he wanted to have more serious roles. And he could handle them. He was an excellent actor, and one who would have become even better, but his life took a tragic end. He died young in 1958 at the age of 44- just starting to really plumb the depths of his talent in my opinion. His last completed film, Witness for the Prosecution, showed that while his youthful looks were beginning to show age, he still had a charm and a presence. One can only surmise if his career would've had a resurgence. Although he has always had fans, his movies and career are gaining new fans and renewed interest, as evidenced by the previous bestselling Tyrone Power Box set from Fox and their willingness to produce another volume of Power films.

The Films:
The Films included in this collection are: Cafe Metropole, Girls Dormitory, Johnny Apollo, Daytime Wife, Luck of the Irish, I'll Never Forget You, That Wonderful Urge, Love Is News, This Above All, and Second Honeymoon. Because there are so many, we won't delve too deeply into summaries and focus more on the review itself of each entry.

Girls Dormitory is a love struck melodrama in which a young student, Marie (Simone Simon) has fallen in love with the headmaster of her Girl's finishing school. The good Dr. Stephen Dominick (Herbert Marshall) , not only can't believe it, but also doesn't realize that a fellow teacher and coworker (Ruth Chatterton) has been in love with him for a long time. Eventually, Dr. Dominick rushes headlong into to romance, but not without consequences. Tyrone Power has a brief role at the end of the film as Marie's cousin. Girl's Dormitory is not a particularly standout film, but a melodramatic programmer that nonetheless satisfied target audiences. Ruth Chatterton still manages to rise above the material, as she is wont to do, and one can only hope that more of her work will make it to DVD. The film also has the unusual distinction of officially introducing Tyrone Power to audiences (he had already had some small, uncredited roles) and also introducing French actress Simone Simon to American audiences. She would go on to star in the Val Lewton Cult classics, The Cat People and Curse of the Cat People.

Cafe Metropole
Adolphe Menjou stars as a Parisian nightclub owner, Victor Lobard, who needs to find a way to replace money he has embezzled from the business. Things look up when he comes into winnings at a Casino, but one of the gamblers, an American- Alexander Brown (Power) isn't good for his losses. In order to square the debt (and save his neck) Lobard convinces Brown to pretend to be a Russian Prince to woo another American, Laura Ridgeway (Loretta Young), who just happens to have a rich dad. Lobard is anxious to lay his hands on the Ridgeway dough, but this being a romantic comedy, not everything goes to plan. Cafe Metropole is a very pleasant romantic comedy- verging on the screwball, but not quite. It's also one of several films where Fox paired Tyrone Power with Loretta Young, arguably the two most beautiful faces on the screen during their time. Very much an enjoyable film- an entertaining romantic comedy the way Hollywood used to make them.

Daytime Wife
This film pairs our leading man with a lovely newcomer, Linda Darnell (who was only 15 at the time of filming) as a young married couple. However, all is not well- Jane (Darnell) soon suspects that Ken (Power) is spending his free time with his secretary. With the help of a friend, Jane decides to get a job as a secretary to see why it is that men step out with their secretaries, and maybe teach Ken a lesson in the process.
Daytime Wife is a light, romantic comedy that is just perfect for quick classic film fix. The leads are so charming that you will almost ignore the fairly worn plotline. One of the treasures of the set, this film demonstrates that even when the studios were falling back on tried and true, they still knew how to pull together a great cast and make an entertaining picture. Comedienne Joan Davis has a small role in the film as another secretary and she is a standout in the film- as always. I loved her in the Abbott and Costello film Hold That Ghost. I can imagine couples going to the theater for a carefree night on the town, and finding this picture fitting the bill for entertainment and light romance. A charmer.

Johnny Apollo
Ty stars as the son of an embezzling businessman who finds that because his father is in jail, no one will give him a chance or help him. Desperate, Bob(Power) becomes a reluctant gangster nicknamed Johnny Apollo to try and get the funds to pay back his dad's debts and get his dad out of jail. However, he falls for the boss's girl (Dorothy Lamour), which doesn't make him any friends. And to complicate things further, he gets placed in jail right next to his dad.
Power really excelled at Swashbuckling and dramatic roles. So much so that he began to be type cast in those roles. It's almost an oddity to see him in Noir/gangster type role, but Power acquits himself well, and Lamour plays the tough gangster moll to a T. Given that he did so few of these darker type roles, (the studio didn't want to alienate his female fan base) it's hard to tell, but I think had he lived- this, and by extension Witness for the Prosecution- demonstrates where he could have gone with his career.

Love Is News/That Wonderful Urge
Both of these films follow the same plot, with Urge essentially a remake of News. Both are remakes or reworkings of Libeled Lady. Though not as good, the pairing of Loretta Young and Power in Love is News and Gene Tierney and Power in Urge provides chemistry and charm to win an audience over. Both plots involve Power as a muck-racker journalist trying to get the goods on the heiress (Young/Tierney) for a story. She turns the tables on him by falsely declaring they are engaged and he has offered a million dollar dowry (In Urge, Tierney actually declares they are married already). While perhaps the weaker pair of the set, both are still entertaining and fun to watch. News is perhaps the better of the two, because the chemistry between Young and Power is undeniably strong.

Second Honeymoon
Second Honeymoon is Loretta Young and Tyrone Power's fourth pairing as a dynamic screen team, and this time they are ex-husband and wife, with Power trying to win back his ex from her current husband. Again light, romantic comedy with a charming couple. Nothing outstanding, but still - a fun way to spend the afternoon. After all, isn't that what the Matinee was all about?

This Above All
Joan Fontaine plays Prudence Cathaway, an English woman from a wealthy, aristocratic family who decides to join the WAAF in World War II. While stationed for training she is talked into a blind date where she meets Clive, a soldier who survived the fighting at Dunkirk. Clive doesn't have much use for war or the wealthy, whom he seems to think thrive on the backs of others. Despite their different backgrounds, and the war going on around them (and Clive's unexplained American accent) the two fall in love. However Pru soon discovers that Clive is haunted by the war and what he experienced and has secrets that he would rather she never discovered.
This Above All is an excellent dramatic film, ably carried off by Power, Fontaine and the rest of the cast. Nigel Bruce is featured as well as the always great Thomas Mitchell as Clive's old soldier buddy and fellow Dunkirk survivor. Although at times the films seems preachy, one must remember that the film was made during the war, and while the tone was somewhat bleak, the film makers were trying to encourage and bring hope to the people. This is a good World War II romance- a weepie, as they called 'em- that also demonstrates that Power had a way of having good chemistry with almost all of his leading ladies.

Luck of the Irish
Somewhat fantastical romantic tale of Steven Fitzgerald, a newspaper reporter (did Tyrone Power just look like a typical newspaper man or something? I don't think so) who meets a leprechaun (played by Cecil Kellaway) and a lovely lady (Anne Baxter) who works at an Inn during a trip to Ireland. The leprechaun grants Steven good fortune, but it doesn't take the path that's obvious. While struggling to try and be true to himself and the temptation of wealth that his fiancé (played by Jayne Meadows) in New York offers, Steven finds that good fortune comes in ways you least suspect. Especially when he returns to New York and finds that the leprechaun and the Irish lass are there as well. The film is in black and white, but while in Ireland, Fox has restored the original Green hue while Steven is in Ireland. Luck of the Irish is definitely light hearted faire (aye laddie) and one must throw believability to the wind and enjoy it. Especially since Kellaway is the largest leprechaun you'll ever see.

I'll Never Forget You
This film stars Tyrone Power as Peter Standish, a scientist obsessed with the past and eager to find a way to travel in time. He lives in a flat on Berkeley Square in London and has studied its history and his own ancestors. A strike of lightning essentially transports Standish back to the house in the 18th century where the past isn't quite as pristine as he imagined it. Believing he can advance the causes of mankind and jump start scientific progress by a few centuries, he attempts to pass on scientific learning from the 20th century, but to no avail. No one believes him. Although he doesn't find the past to be what he imagined, he does find love in the form of Helen (Ann Blyth). While trapped in the body, and life, of his ancestor Peter is determined to follow the path of true love, no matter what time period it's in. The danger is in his knowledge of the future, which could not only doom him (the people believe him insane) but also doom his chance at love.
I'll Never Forget You (AKA: The House in the Square as it is known in the UK) is a fan favorite- predating the Somewhere in Time milieu by decades. Interestingly the modern sequence is filmed in black and white and the 18th century sequence is in Technicolor. Fans have eagerly hoped that this film would make it to DVD sometime, and they are pleasantly surprised. It's romantic escapism at it's best and most tragic- time crossed lovers. A definite winner.

Bonus Features:
Includes new documentaries and features on Power's career and life: Tyrone Power: Prince of Fox, Ty and Loretta: Sweethearts of the Silver Screen, My Dad, Tyrone Power and Jayne Meadows Remembers Tyrone Power. Special features include deleted scenes from several films including a dance sequence by Bill "Bojangles" Robinson that was deleted from Café Metropole. Also featured is a poster gallery and a photo gallery from Ann Blyth taken during filming in London on I'll Never Forget You. The docs are well done, and they do a good job of finding several co-stars and intimates to interview. The doc which features the children of Tyrone Power reminiscing about their father and the kind of man he was is particularly touching.

The films look fantastic- rich in black and white hues. On several films, particularly This Above All there was some faint scratching, but I couldn't be sure- it's nothing to worry about. The coloring on Luck of the Irish is different, but appreciated in that Fox restored the original look of the film. I just wish it was originally shot in color!

The Bottom Line:
The real deal here is that there aren't any arty, ultraclassic films here- but that is just dandy. This is what classic film fans want anyway- they want to see their favorite actors and actresses and they want to dive into the escapism just like audiences of the past. Sure we can find the Citizen Kanes out there and the Gone With the Winds- in multiple editions and prints I might add- all great standards. What we don't have enough of are the fun flicks, the great escapist films, the cult classics and the star and studio hits. Tyrone Power fans should be excited to see many of these films on DVD. I was impressed that Fox released these and all I can say is -MORE! Get your vaults open and get these out there on DVD. They may not be critical darlings, but the fans love them and want more of them.
As far as the Tyrone Power set goes, there isn't a five star film in the bunch, but several of them get close and most are excellent, solid entertainment. My favorites are perhaps Day Time Wife (you can read another excellent review of that film at Laura's Miscellaneous Musings!) and This Above All. The aren't epics or magnum opus works- they are just fun, entertaining, great films. That's why we love them. That's why fans will buy this set, because it features one of their favorite stars in a collection with a lot of films at a great value. Between this and the first Tyrone Power Set (still available) and several other individual releases you can own a large body of work of a great movie star who was gone before his time.

Review Rating:
Individually rating the films and the features, the Tyrone Power: Matinee Idol Collection would earn the following:
Cafe Metropole: B
Girls Dormitory: C+
Johnny Apollo: B
Daytime Wife: B+
Luck of the Irish: B
I'll Never Forget You: A
That Wonderful Urge/Love Is News:
Both B
This Above All: A
Second Honeymoon: B

Bonus Features: A

Overall Rating: We give Tyrone Power: Matinee Idol Collection a solid 4 stars (Groucho glasses). It's a must buy for the Classic film fan, or anyone who loves classic Hollywood or Tyrone Power!

Stay tuned- more reviews and stuff on the way!

Oh, I know it's a penny here and a penny there, but look at me. I worked myself up from nothing to a state of extreme poverty.

Look, I don't know what kind of license you fellas want, but this ain't the place for it!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

This looks like a great set. The last one was fantastic! I'm glad they put these out on DVD. Never thought they would release I'll Never Forget You on DVD! Hopefully we'll get some more "forgotten" classics soon.


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