Posted in: Disc Reviews by David Annandale on February 14th, 2006
Fred Astaire plays wealthy businessman and inveterate bachelor. On trip to France, his car goes into a ditch. Seeking help in a nearby orphanage, he catches sight of the vivacious Leslie Caron. Captivated by her joie de vivre, he arranges for her to receive a full scholarship and education in the states, and watches from the safety of anonymity as she flourishes. But then, whoops, he begins to fall in love with her.
Astaire was 55 at the time, and playing his age. Caron was 20, pla…ing 18. Ick, you might say. To its credit, the movie doesn’t ignore the age difference, and writers Phoebe and Henry Ephron get off some pretty good one-liners on this subject, and Astaire’s character is certainly aware of the problem. Even so… The movie is on safer ground with the song and dance numbers, which are solid, but the film, running at over two hours, is emphatically overlong.
No mono options for the English track. One might be justifiably concerned. But the 4.0 audio does very well by this 1955 picture. There is no wraparound dialogue or other inappropriate surround elements. In fact, there is little surround at all when it comes to the sound effects. The music, however, is given a handsome, expansive mix, one that completely belies its age. The dialogue itself does suffer from some minor distortion, but in general, this sounds as good as one could expect a 50-year-old film to sound.
The picture isn’t quite as strong as the sound. The print is certainly in very good shape, as far as damage is concerned. There isn’t any grain to speak of, nor edge enhancement, and the 2.55:1 anamorphic widescreen image is sharp. All of this is good. But the colours are the weak link. Some of the film looks very handsome indeed, but overall there seems to be rather too many brown tones, and the appearance is rather faded.
The commentary by historian Ken Barnes and Ava Astaire McKenzie (Astaire’s daughter) is supplemented by archival comments by composer Johnny Mercer. Barnes and McKenzie’s banter sounds very scripted, but they are very informative. They also comment on the two Movietone newsreels (showing premieres in Hollywood, NYC and London). There is a photo gallery, and couple of brief comments by the stars about each other. There are two trailers (one in CinemaScope), plus trailers for Week-End in Havana and Pin-Up Girl. The menu is basic.
Impressive dancing aside, this is not the high point of Astaire’s career, though it does have a certain historical interest.
Special Features List
- Audio Commentary
- Movietone Newsreels with Optional Commentary
- Photo Gallery