Tyrone Power comes from a good family and a has a fine future as a concert violinist, but hedreams of leading a band. A chance encounter in a bar leads to the formation of Alexander’sRagtime Band, with the brassy Alice Faye as singer. Power and Faye are at it hammer and tongs,so you know they’ll wind up falling in love, and so they do. But the road they must travel is notan easy one, as Faye is hired away from the band to Broadway, and Power is recruited into thearmy just i… time for World War I. We follow the ups and downs of the protagonists’ careers,which trace the rise of ragtime. Into the mix too comes a young Ethel Merman as Power’s newsinger.
The plot is negligible, and the love story not terribly interesting (Power comes across asrather too selfish and tyrannical to be convincing, and Don Ameche, his rival for Faye’saffections, is too saintly for words). But the songs are classics, and Ethel Merman, in only hersecond film role and in full va-va-voom mode, belts her numbers in spectacular fashion.
The sound comes in both the original mono and a 2.0 remix. If you’ve checked out thereviews of the other Studio Classics discs, you know what I’m going to say next. Yup, that oldproblem with surround voices is here again. The music, on the other hand, has a good, richsound, and though there is some distortion on the vocals, overall the songs sound pretty damnfine for 1938.
The picture is in fullscreen, naturally (the original format), and the black-and-white, most ofthe time, has excellent shadings, blacks and tones. There are some moments, however, where thecontrasts become too harsh and bleach out faces. And while the grain is minimal, given the ageof the film, there doesn’t appear to have been any attempt at restoration, and so there are guitarstring lines along the left-hand side of the frame for most of the movie.
Film Score restrorationist Ray Fiola’s commentary is superb. He goes into plenty ofbackground and detail, filling us in on just about every aspect of the film, its cast and its creatorsthat one could hope for. All commentaries should be this good. There are three deleted scenes(with songs), an A&E Biography on Alice Faye, the Movietone newsreel of the London premiere,a still gallery, and the theatrical trailer. Also included are trailers for two other Studio Classics:Three Coins in a Fountain and How to Steal a Million. The menu is basic.
A solid musical with great songs (though it doesn’t have quite the energetic choreography ofothers of its kind). The DVD presentation isn’t bad, but closer attention to the print conditionwould not have gone amiss.
Special Features List
- Audio Commentary
- A&E Biography on Alice Faye
- Movietone Newsreel of London Premiere
- Deleted Scenes
- Theatrical Trailer
- Still Gallery