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New on Disc: 'The Quiet Man' and more …

28 Jan, 2013 By: Mike Clark


The Quiet Man

Olive, Comedy, $24.95 DVD, $29.95 Blu-ray, NR.
Stars John Wayne, Maureen O’Hara, Barry Fitzgerald, Victor McLaglen, Ward Bond.
1952.
Thanks in part to Maureen O’Hara’s runaway redhead-ism and that lush on-location Irish greenery, Winton C. Hoch and Archie Stout took the ’52 Oscar for color cinematography to complement this all but unique take on domestic strife — an Academy nod to complement John Ford’s tandem win (his fourth, not counting wartime documentaries) for direction. But despite UCLA’s restoration efforts many years ago, home-viewing copies have looked pretty shoddy for a movie so beloved for so many years (though perhaps no longer universally, due to shifting sexual politics). This 4K spiff-up from the original negative is somewhere in the 90-some percentage range of being full-octane — an exponential improvement on what home viewers have had to see for three-plus decades now. I suspect you have to be Catholic or Irish Catholic to understand all the ins-and-outs of Frank Nugent’s romp of a screenplay. As for the politics, John Wayne does indeed drag spouse O’Hara over the countryside as a byproduct of his long-gestated feud-turned-fisticuffs with her dyspeptic brute of a brother (Oscar-nominated Victor McLaglen) over the latter’s withheld dowry. The dowry is the symbol of the independence she craves — and whatever else you want to say, O’Hara’s Mary Kate Danaher is one of the most strong-willed women seen on American screens in the first quarter-century of the talkies.  
Extras: Includes a making-of documentary of significant visage that’s hosted by Leonard Maltin and carried over from previous releases — and also a healthy excerpt by Joseph McBride’s Searching for John Ford, which, if you’re going to read just one Ford bio (though Scott Eyman and Tag Gallagher have also penned must-reads as well), it’s the one.
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Grand Hotel (Blu-ray)

Warner, Drama, $19.98 Blu-ray, NR.
Stars Greta Garbo, John Barrymore, Joan Crawford, Lionel Barrymore, Wallace Beery.
1932.
Like 1989’s Driving Miss Daisy, which Warner Entertainment has concurrently released with Grand Hotel in an Oscar Blu-ray promotion along with 1942’s Mrs. Miniver, MGM’s granddaddy all-star epic is in that very limited club of best picture Oscar recipients in which its director (Edmund Goulding) was overlooked for a nomination himself. More interestingly, Hotel didn’t get a nomination in any other category either — though this Blu-ray presentation shimmers enough in the good way (you can almost shave in its images) that one can see how Greta Garbo favorite William Daniels might have gotten a nod for cinematography. Hotel truly is an ensemble vehicle, and I really don’t have a favorite performer here out of a pool that includes Garbo (career-faded ballerina), John Barrymore (jewel thief and broke dandy who falls for her), Wallace Beery (strapped business magnate), Joan Crawford (in “working class mode” as a stenographer) and Lionel Barrymore (dying and badgered Beery employee blowing his savings to stay in the title posh establishment, located in Berlin). The result is sometimes overwrought but doesn’t creak, even if Garbo’s acting style is sometimes as other-world-ish as Norma Desmond’s would have been. (She’s definitely an actress, to use my oft-referenced Danny Peary reference, you can’t imagine in jeans). Hotel is not as good of an MGM all-star vehicle as Dinner at Eight (which joins Design for Living as my favorite Hollywood movie of 1933) but immeasurably better than 1934’s Night Flight. The most germane comparison, though, is the just as entertaining Skyscraper Souls, which, somewhat amazingly, MGM had released just two months earlier.
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