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New on Disc: 'High Noon' and more …

23 Jul, 2012 By: Mike Clark

High Noon

Olive, Western, #19.95 DVD, $29.95 Blu-ray, NR.
Stars Gary Cooper, Grace Kelly, Lloyd Bridges, Katy Jurado.
Hollywood made a gazillion Westerns of all stripes in the 1950s, but if we’re talking about 1.33 black-and-white, I suspect that this landmark from producer Stanley Kramer, writer Carl Foreman and director Fred Zinnemann was the movie most responsible for the fact that by 1959, something like 35% of network TV programming was devoted to black-and-white Westerns. Just about every generation since the film’s release has been able to grow up with High Noon: It was one of the few really big-name movies of the ‘50s released to television before the decade was even completed. Several of Noon’s characters — particularly the Quaker wife played by Grace Kelly, the morally shaky deputy played by Lloyd Bridges and the community girl friend played by Katy Jurado — are very well drawn in limited screen time. This was a big, big deal at the time because the film had won four Oscars: for Gary Cooper — and also for Elmo Williams’ editing, Dimitri Tiomkin’s world-famous score and the title tune (“Do Not Forsake Me, Oh My Darling”).
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Cover Girl

Available via ScreenArchives.com
Twilight Time, Drama, $29.95 Blu-ray, NR.
Stars Rita Hayworth, Gene Kelly, Phil Silvers, Eve Arden.
Cover Girl is to Rita Hayworth in Technicolor what Gilda is to the black-and-white dimension of her drop-you-dead screen persona, in that these are the movies even the semi-educated automatically think of when the subject of Golden Age Columbia’s biggest star comes to mind. Of course, Gilda doesn’t have a Jerome Kern-Ira Gershwin score that produced a standard — “Long Ago and Far Away.” Unlike some musicals of the era (though not to put too fine a point on this) the Virginia Van Upp screenplay here has a few chops. In my experience, the movie’s dark elements have generally gone underreported, though it features a wealthy New York editor who’s been lovesick for 40 years (the ever-malleable Otto Kruger); a head case of a male protagonist (Gene Kelly); and a singing/dancing heroine named Rusty (Hayworth) who, when she finally makes it to Broadway, starts drinking and shedding weight due to personal stress. The production numbers here are good, and a couple of them are even better than that, but the melancholy subtext enables it to get a few more miles to the gallon in terms of lingering effect. This is definitely one of the best musicals in the 1940-60 span not made by MGM. Maybe the best.
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For the First Time

Available via WBshop.com’s Warner Archive
Warner, Drama, $17.95 DVD-R, NR.
Stars Mario Lanza, Zsa Zsa Gabor, Johanna von Koczian.
Had Mario Lanza not died of a heart attack at 38 two months after the release of what then became his swan song, I wouldn’t be giving it space here. But he did, and the nature of this very influential tenor’s premature death informs the picture. Lanza looks mighty puffy here, with makeup working overtime to soothe his appearance — though, on the other hand, he is in very good voice, which is why his fans rate this picture near the top of his admittedly small big-screen pool. Lanza’s “Tonio Costa” character meets a young deaf woman (Johanna von Koczian) who eventually has one of those operations termed as experimental and unlikely to work – though in movies like this, they always do. Along for the ride is Zsa Zsa Gabor as a contessa who wears a lot of jewels she’s probably obtained in barter for her own treasures.
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