High Society (1956)

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Released 11-Nov-2003

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Musical Main Menu Audio
Featurette-Cole Porter in Hollywood: True Love
Featurette-Gala Premiere for High Society
Listing-Cast & Crew
Featurette-Cartoon - Millionaire Droopy
Theatrical Trailer
Rating Rated G
Year Of Production 1956
Running Time 107:03
RSDL / Flipper RSDL (41:32) Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 2,4,5 Directed By Charles Walters
Studio
Distributor

Warner Home Video
Starring Grace Kelly
Bing Crosby
Frank Sinatra
Celeste Holm
John Lund
Case ?
RPI $24.95 Music Cole Porter
Saul Chaplin


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 5.1 (384Kb/s)
French Dolby Digital 1.0 (192Kb/s)
Italian Dolby Digital 1.0 (192Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.78:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.85:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English
French
Italian
Arabic
Dutch
Danish
English for the Hearing Impaired
Italian for the Hearing Impaired
Smoking Yes, Frequent
Annoying Product Placement Yes, Minor
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

    Tracy Lord is headed down the isle...again. After a failed marriage with Dexter (Bing Crosby), Tracy (Grace Kelly) has found a brand new love in the form of the handsome and sturdy (though somewhat bland) George Kittredge (John Lund). Whilst there is a hurried and earnest preparation for the big day, all is not well in the House of Lord. Tracy's father Seth has left his wife and become involved with a showgirl. This has caused some embarrassment and much heartache for both Mrs. Lord and Tracy. This is compounded by the fact that the famous (infamous) magazine Spy is about to run an expose on the sexual exploits of Mr. Lord for all the nation to see. This is not exactly the type of exposure that the future Mrs. Kittredge would like to have, and Tracy's Uncle Willie might just have a way for the whole scandal to avoid the tabloids. To escape the terrible press that could mar the proceedings, it's proposed that a reporter and photographer from Spy should be sent to cover the society wedding of the year, all in exchange for the story of Seth Lord's infidelity going unpublished. While reluctant to allow the intrusive eye of the scandal sheet into her life, Tracy realizes that there is really little choice and reluctantly agrees to the press coverage.

    Enter Mike Connor and Liz Imbrie (Frank Sinatra and Celeste Holm) on the assignment of a lifetime. Star reporter and photographer for Spy Magazine, the pair are thrust into the heady world of privilege and wealth. Arriving at the home of Lords, Mike and Liz are immediately impressed with the opulence of their subject's surroundings. They are also struck with the outlandish and bizarre behaviour of Tracy Lord. Irritated by the press intrusion into her life, Tracy has decided to put on a show for everyone, as it is her life that is under the scrutiny of the common press. Mike and Liz are at first convinced that the mad behaviour of Tracy is just a symptom of the high life gone wrong, but they (especially Mike) soon become aware that there might be more to the bride-to-be than meets the eye. As Mike begins his investigation into the lives of the people he's reporting on, he becomes more and more attracted to the beauty that is Tracy. Throw into the mix former husband Dexter, who still carries a torch for his former wife, and you have a bizarre love quadrangle with more ups and downs than an elevator factory. As the big day comes ever closer, Tracy realizes that she can only walk down the aisle with one man, and there are three professing their love.

    This is a great film and a wonderful musical that features a range of songs that even the most infrequent of musical filmgoers would recognize, such as Who Wants To Be a Millionaire and Well Did You Evah (What a Swell Party This Is). Headlining the musical line-up here are Bing Crosby, Frank Sinatra and Louis Armstrong, and what a combination this is! The trailers for this film highlighted that fact that with Frank and Bing in the same film, you'd never seen anything like it before. Because of contractual obligations, Frank and Bing were committed to different studios and thus were never bound to appear on film together. After Bing fell out of a long term contract with Paramount Pictures, he was able to appear in the film with Sinatra. For its time, this would have been almost like Bugs Bunny and Mickey Mouse appearing in Who Framed Roger Rabbit? together; two huge names that had never appeared in the same place at the same time...ever. For the filmmakers, this combination was too good to be true. Couple this with grace personified, Grace Kelly in her last screen role before her true-to-life Princess fairytale wedding to Prince Rainier of Monaco and the legendary bandleader Louis 'Satchmo' Armstrong and you'd have a great musical in the making. But while the performers are all important, you can't have a musical without the music and in this case it was the fantastic soundtrack composed by Cole Porter that brought all the different elements together. This comes across as an overkill formula, with a ridiculous overabundance of talent on tap, but it's when you have this wealth and depth of performance quality that you can truly experience brilliance in an unforgettable fashion. This film is a great example of how successful the musical genre can get. While we are just getting reacquainted with the musical thanks to the likes of Moulin Rouge, we can take a look back at classics such as this and know just what fun a great musical can be. Don't rob yourself of the great experience that this film can give just because it's old (almost 50 years old). Fresh and energetic youthfulness is important, but when it comes to great performances it is hard to pass this one up. A must have for fans of classic cinema and classic musicals.

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Transfer Quality

Video

     We get a fairly decent image on this DVD, but there are a couple of issues that affect the quality of the picture.

    This film is presented in 1.78:1, which is near its original theatrical aspect ratio of 1.85:1. The feature is 16x9 enhanced.

    The transfer features a reasonably sharp image throughout, but the picture is by no means reference quality, which is unfortunate as I believe that this motion picture probably deserved a reference quality transfer. That said, we have far from an unrestored film here and for the most part the image is very watchable. Most of this feature takes place in well lit locations, so shadow detail isn't taxed too much. For what little low light shots there are, the shadow detail is adequate. I had no issues with low level noise.

    There is much debate as to the colour committal to this disc. Filmed in Technicolor, the colours visible on screen are quite vibrant and at times somewhat exaggerated. This is possibly due to several things. Some commentators have speculated that the film has gone through some sort of basic restoration process and that the colours have been ramped up to compensate for the degradation of the original print. It is also possible that what we have here is a true representation as to the original colour transfer as seen theatrically in 1956. Colour film photography was still a fairly fresh technology and some colour films did at times have an exaggerated colour image, so what we see here might just have been what the original viewers could have seen. I'll not pretend to know which opinion is the right one, but I'll gladly state that the image features bright colours that are quite appropriate to the film and until a complete restoration, it'll do. The colour from the transfer print has been well committed to the DVD here.

    MPEG artefacts are no issue with this disc, and neither macroblocking nor pixelization are visible at any time. The main issues with regards to artefacts seem to come from both the committal process as well as the transfer print itself. First up, we have some quite noticeable moiré effects from time to time. This is most noticeable on Frank Sinatra's jacket in several places in the film, such as at 27:51. This is not a major issue and only presents a problem whenever Frank and 'that jacket' are on the screen. There is some very pronounced grain visible during the use of stock and second unit film. The most noticeable examples of this are during the opening aerial shot of Newport, Rhode Island as well as Grace Kelly and Frank Sinatra's car ride (51:02). These two scenes take on a totally different appearance and do not blend into the rest of the film well. There is some quite noticeable telecine wobble that affects proceedings from time to time. I found this especially noticeable during Grace Kelly and Bing Crosby's poolside talk (around the 41 minute mark). Not terrible, but quite noticeable. There is also a very noticeable frame shake at 19:00, although this might have been due to some physical contact with the camera during filming and not a transfer flaw per se. There is at times a quite pronounced halo effect seen around various objects in the film. This has the look of edge enhancement on steroids and I can't blame the ever-present serial pest totally for this flaw. Although there is definitely edge enhancement present, there also seems to be some additional reaction in the original print between the light and dark portions of the film itself. This might perhaps be due to some physical reaction in the development process of the original film, and one that it would be nice to see removed from the transfer in some perhaps future restoration. As for the rest of the transfer, the print used is quite clean and is largely free of nicks and flecks.

    There are several subtitle options available on this disc, with the English title stream being reasonably accurate, though not word for word. The main problem with the subtitles here is that they are not available during the various songs as seen during the film, which would make them almost useless. As this film is a musical, to not have titles during the songs robs the viewer of half of the film's experience.

    This disc is formatted RSDL, with the layer change taking place at the 41:32 mark. While this change takes place mid-scene (Grace Kelly and Bing Crosby's poolside talk), I found this to be almost the hardest layer change to find to date in my reviewing career. Even with my Panasonic RP-82 and its non-seamless layer changes (one of the reasons I got the player in the first place), this one was almost invisible and anyone with a player with memory buffers for layer change pause removal will not pick this one. A poor place for the change, but so well executed that the location is no issue at all.

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

    This disc features quite a reasonable audio transfer with quality sound available during the programme.

    This disc has 3 audio options, these being an English Dolby Digital 5.1 mix as well as French and Italian mono mixes. I listened to the English track in its entirety and sampled the Italian track.

    The dialogue quality for the majority of this programme is quite good and for the most part I had no trouble understanding the spoken (and sung) word here.

    The audio sync for much of this film is fairly ordinary. While some musical numbers would obviously have been lip synched during filming and therefore more prone to being out of sync, this problem is evident right through the film and noticeable at almost any time during the movie. Examples can be seen at 8:03-8:14 during Louis Armstrong's opening number as well as at 52:05, though these are by no means isolated cases and this fraction of a second out of sync is visible throughout the film.

    Music for this feature come from prolific film and stage composer Cole Porter and Saul Chaplin. Both composers had many memorable works attributed to them. For Porter, songs such as Begin the Beguine, I Get a Kick Out of You and Anything Goes (one of my favourites) would spotlight a spectacular career, while Chaplin would be remembered for the scores for 1954's Seven Brides for Seven Brothers as well as West Side Story in 1961. Put these two together with the talents of Louis Armstrong and the vocals of Bing Crosby and Frank Sinatra and you have by default one of the most memorable musicals of all time. A fantastic soundtrack filled with catchy and memorable tunes.

    While this film was originally filmed in mono, the 5.1 remastering is quite decent and keeps the feel of the original soundtrack whilst making it much more expansive and enjoyable for those with the right equipment to decode it. There isn't a huge amount of rear activity, but the surround channels take a complementary atmospheric role in creating an expansive and enveloping soundstage.

    The LFE channel is used in support of the mains during some of the musical passages and works well in its supporting role.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

    There are some interesting extras here, but the disc isn't bursting at the seams.

Menu

    After the usual distributor's logos, we are taken to the disc's Main Menu which offers us the following:     The Main Menu is 16x9 enhanced and features audio from the soundtrack in Dolby Digital 2.0.

    Going to the Special Features menu, we get to choose from the following:

    Second page: Additional Special Features:

Cole Porter in Hollywood: True Love   -   8:59

    This is a brief but interesting look at the making of the film. The reference in the title to Cole Porter is fairly misleading as this featurette, which is hosted by one of the film's last living stars Celeste Holm, is a look at many of the aspects of the creation of the film. This goes from the original film version of the story, The Philadelphia Story, to this remake and the casting decisions that were made. Very interesting and enlightening, although far too short. Presented full frame with audio in Dolby Digital 2.0.

Gala Premier for High Society   -   1:12

    This is an original black and white newsreel feature covering the opening night of the film, where we see many of the film's stars arrive at the theatre on the big night. Short, but again, interesting. Presented in 1.85:1, 16x9 enhanced. Audio is in Dolby Digital 2.0 mono.

Cast & Crew

    These are 2 static pages of the names of the film's main cast and crew. None of the names are selectable or linked to any other feature.

Millionaire Droopy   -   6:54

    This is a classic Hanna - Barbera cartoon featuring the ever relaxed Droopy. This cartoon short is reported to be a reworking of an earlier title named 'Wags to Riches' that was originally released in 1949. This is presented in 2.35:1 without 16x9 enhancement. Audio is in Dolby Digital 2.0 mono.

Theatrical Trailer   -   3:54

    Ed Sullivan sits down with Bing Crosby to talk about his new motion picture. Their talk is interspersed with clips from the new film and we see highlights from some of the most memorable portions of the movie. A great trailer that promotes the film very well. Presented in 1.85:1 with 16x9 enhancement and audio in Dolby Digital 2.0 mono.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

     This title was released in Region 1 in April 2003 in a package similar to that offered here in Region 4. There are a couple of differences, however.

     The Region 4 version misses out on:

     The Region 1 version misses out on:

     While the radio ads and Philadelphia Story Trailer might be of some interest, the two packages are very similar and local affordability and availability would make this match a near draw. If you can get the Region 1 disc for the same dollars as the Region 4, then it might be worth it. Overall, I'm happy with the disc we have here, although I'd love to see this title redone with a complete restoration and transfer. Perhaps one day.

Summary

     What an absolute showcase for some of the best musical talent of the 20th Century! To have Frank Sinatra, Bing Crosby, and Louis Armstrong all together singing the songs of Cole Porter is a once-in-a-lifetime treat and one not to be missed by any fan of classic musicals. Well worth the purchase price and a worthy addition to any collection of classic films and musicals.

     The video is average with some transfer print issues affecting the image. The picture is bright and reasonably clear, but the film could use a complete restoration.

     The audio is good with an enveloping soundstage that suits the film well. Audio sync could have been a bit better.

     There are a couple of interesting extras, especially the making of featurette which is interesting but too short.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Sean Bradford (There is no bio.)
Tuesday, November 04, 2003
Review Equipment
DVDPanasonic DVD RP-82 with DVD-Audio on board, using S-Video output
DisplayBeko TRW 325 / 32 SFT 10 76cm (32") 16x9. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderYamaha RX-V2300 Dolby Digital and dts.
AmplificationYamaha RX-V2300 110w X 6 connected via optical cable and shielded RCA (gold plated) connects for DVD-Audio
SpeakersVAF DC-X Fronts (bi-wired), VAF DC-6 Center, VAF DC-2 Rears, VAF LFE-07 Dub (Dual Amp. 80w x 2)

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