If ever an actor mastered the double-take, it was Cary Grant, and his hilariously flabbergastedlook gets a full workout in My Favorite Wife (1940). Seven years ago, he lost wife IreneDunne in a shipwreck. Now he has just remarried to Gail Patrick, and Dunne, who spent the lastseven years marooned on an island, suddenly shows up again. We follow the comicmisadventures that will lead Grant to reuniting with Dunne and parting with cold-fish Patrick.Grant’s flustered att…mpts to cope with the situation are very funny, but the wheels come off thescript in the last act and the final twenty minutes of the film descend into total incoherence, as ifthe story were finished but the movie had to go on to make its running time.
Destination Tokyo (1944) features Grant without double-takes and indignantmumbling. Here he commands a submarine that must deliver a Lieutenant to Tokyo. All thefamiliar ingredients of a sub flick are present, and the morale-boosting purpose of the film israther obvious and ham-fisted. As well, at 135 minutes, the film is far too long, with tons ofcharacter filler, much of it involving rambunctious seaman John Garfield.
Night and Day (1946) is the one colour film in the set, and is a biopic about ColePorter. Naturally, this is a rather sanitized (to put it mildly) take on the man’s life — none of thehomosexual goings on in the recent De-Lovely present here. This is a pretty standard 40sbiopic, a mixture of song, drama and comedy.
The Bachelor and the Bobby-Soxer (1947) is, fortunately, very aware of how easilyits premise could become creepy, and so it avoids such dangers. Here Shirley Temple and MyrnaLoy are sisters. The former is a high school student, the latter a judge. Temple develops a crushon swinging bachelor Grant, and when things go badly for Grant (as they invariably do) and hewinds up on charges before Loy, she sentences him to dating Temple until her crush abates. Cuethe social humiliation. Grant is in good comic form here, though the comedy takes rather toolong to get through its set-up.
Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House (1948) teams Grant and Loy again. Fed upwith the chaos and crowding of Manhattan, Grant decides to move his family to a home in thecountry. The house they buy is a collapsing wreck, and building the dream house is onemisadventure after another. Very good-natured comedy, if a little toothless, but extremely wellproduced and performed by Grant, Loy and Melvyn Douglas as Grant’s cynical best friend.
The box boasts that these are “All-New Digital Transfers.” Well, what exactly does thatmean. It certainly doesn’t mean “restored,” which is painfully obvious in the picture quality, andwill be discussed below. As for the sound, all tracks are the original mono (good decision). Thequality varies a bit, but not a lot, from film to film. There is some hiss and static present in allcases. My Favorite Wife has the most harshness and sibilance on the dialogue, but all thefilms have a bit of distortion. Naturally, the age of the films must be considered, and the dialogueis never drowned in the static.
Grain is an issue for all the transfers, as is speckling. There are other forms of print damageas well (such as a bad vertical scratch that disfigures the first two minutes or so of DestinationTokyo), and the pictures are afflicted by some minor flickering now and then. In most cases,the grain and scratches diminish after the credits (but do not go away entirely). The texture of theblack-and-white is good, and the picture quality is generally very sharp. Night and Dayhas vibrant, stable colours, though there are some strange digital patterns that break up someimages (watch what happens to the singer’s dress in the first scene with Grant). All the films areeminently watchable, but no particular effort at restoration seems to have taken place. The aspectratio is, naturally, the original 1.33:1.
The extras are pleasant, but hardly spectacular. My Favorite Wife, Mr. BlandingsBuilds His Dream House and The Bachelor and the Bobby-Soxer have radioadaptations of the films, all featuring Grant (Blandings has two different dramatizations).Cartoons (including one by master Tex Avery) are present on Night and Day, Mr.Blandings Builds His Dream House and The Bachelor and the Bobby-Soxer. Insteadof cartoons, My Favorite Wife and Destination Tokyo has short features(Wife’s is a very funny Robert Benchley take on home movies). Night and Dayhas two musical shorts: “Desi Arnaz and His Orchestra” and “Musical Movieland.” All of thediscs have trailers. The main screen of the menus is scored.
Not a definitive boxed set like the Humphrey Bogart Collection, but many hours ofentertainment all the same.
Special Features List
- Radio Dramatizations
- Short Features
- Tailer Galleries