Easter Parade: Special Edition (1948)

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Released 14-Apr-2005

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Musical Main Menu Audio & Animation
Audio Commentary-Ava Astaire McKenzie And John Fricke
Trailer-Garland Trailer Gallery
Featurette-Easter Parade: On The Avenue
Outtakes-Mr. Monotony Outtake
Rating Rated G
Year Of Production 1948
Running Time 99:03 (Case: 103)
RSDL / Flipper Dual Layered Cast & Crew
Start Up Language Select Then Ads Then Menu
Region Coding 2,4,5 Directed By Charles Walters
Studio
Distributor

Warner Home Video
Starring Judy Garland
Fred Astaire
Peter Lawford
Ann Miller
Jules Munshin
Clinton Sundberg
Richard Beavers
Case ?
RPI $24.95 Music Irving Berlin


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 1.0 (192Kb/s)
French Dolby Digital 1.0 (192Kb/s)
Italian Dolby Digital 1.0 (192Kb/s)
English Audio Commentary Dolby Digital 1.0 (192Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio None
16x9 Enhancement No
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.37:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English
French
Italian
Dutch
Arabic
Bulgarian
English for the Hearing Impaired
Italian for the Hearing Impaired
Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement Yes, Magazine covers.
Action In or After Credits No

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

Plot Synopsis

    As the film begins (circa 1910) we see a dapper (as always) Fred Astaire strolling along the street singing Happy Easter. He moves from store to store buying a ladies hat, some flowers, and moves on to a toy shop to buy an Easter Bunny (all no doubt for the love of his life). Another musical number ensues and the film is up to the 7:30 mark before we hear the first spoken dialogue. There is no doubt about it folks, we are in MGM musical land. The film is Easter Parade (or as the opening credits call it: Irving Berlin's Easter Parade). The longer title is the key - this film is permeated with top tunes from the famous song composer - even the incidental music consists of melodies from his extensive catalogue.

    I am a huge fan of Astaire and the added attraction of seeing him paired (for the first and only time apart from 'all-star revue' type films) with Judy Garland made this a mouth-watering prospect. On top of this the film has had a video and sound restoration for this release and comes with an interesting selection of Extras. Interestingly, the male lead was originally meant to be Gene Kelly but a broken ankle led to Astaire being enticed out of (one of his many periods of) retirement.

    I'm not sure if I really need to recount much of the plot - it is typical musical fluff and merely serves as a vehicle to carry the numerous song and dance routines, but it also has the odd humorous moment which adds to the enjoyment. Anyway, such as it is, we find stage entertainer Don Hewes (Astaire) being dumped by his partner and girlfriend Nadine (Ann Miller in an incandescent performance). It seems Nadine has been offered a solo contract, so that Don has to find a new partner. Drowning his sorrows at a club with his friend "the professor" (Peter Lawford) he states that "I could take any one of those girls ..." and make her a star. I'm sure you can all guess which one he chooses.

    Well, if you couldn't guess it is Hannah Brown (Judy Garland) and he soon starts to mould her into a second Nadine, which doesn't quite work as Hannah is more down-to-earth than his rather snooty ex. At one point he bursts out in frustration "What idiot ever told you you were a dancer?", and with very nice timing and delivery Garland quietly replies "You did!". Eventually Don realises that his new co-star is better suited to vaudeville style entertainment rather than classy dancing acts and the pair rocket to success while performing classics such as A Couple of Swells in tramp costumes. Romance ensues, there is some heartbreak, but then true love triumphs in the end (along with a nice twist to the title tune).

    As I said before, the plot is really incidental to the songs, the dancing, and the good humour. All of the stars are in very good form here (though Lawford is a little out of place) and the music flows wonderfully along below it all. Fred Astaire is a joy to watch, his dancing is as stunning as usual, and his acting is natural (and quite subtle) - watch out for an interesting use of slow-motion in one of the dance numbers at 71:28. A young and radiant Garland is his perfect foil, and on this evidence it is easy to see what made her such a major star. The performance from Miller is also very deft - she was a late replacement for an injured Cyd Charisse and certainly seized her opportunity with both feet (especially when you find from the Extras that she made the film carrying some major injuries of her own).

    This is another film that my family test audience thoroughly enjoyed. It is a great example of the Hollywood musical, just lacking a certain 'something' that keeps it from the top tier (think Singin' In The Rain) but is close to a classic in its own right. The only complaint I have with its DVD presentation is that the same version of the film comes on a 2-disc set in the USA and we are missing a few significant Extras here (as detailed later in this review). On its own merits this is a fine film, nicely presented on DVD, that is a 'must-have' for any fan of the genre, and would be a pleasant rental for those who are not. Now, can someone at RKO (in whatever shape that film company is now) please follow this example and give us a fully restored set of Fred and Ginger movies?

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Transfer Quality

Video

    The video restoration given to this Technicolor film is nicely presented here, with a video transfer that makes many more recent releases look rather ordinary.

    The aspect ratio of the transfer is 1.33:1, non 16x9 enhanced, which is acceptably close to the production ratio of 1.37:1.

    The picture is nice and sharp (crisp in some scenes) and looks bright for the most part. At times shadow detail is a little poor (as at 19:32) but there is no low level noise in what is an impressive picture for such an old film.

    The colours are rich and vibrant (try around 52:04 for fine colour and sharp focus) with the excellent costumes by Irene looking spectacular. Flesh tones are generally good, though there is some minor variation in colour at times no doubt reflecting the state of the original print (there are no doubt limits to what any restoration can do).

    The transfer is in good condition, with imperfections being infrequent and fairly minor. You will find some aliasing, a slight hint of grain at times and the odd positive artefact, but they do not detract from the viewing experience.

    The English subtitles are fine (even with the odd missed word). The English for the Hearing Impaired titles are adequate - they include cues such as Piano Playing but miss a number of other audio indications. There are also 6 other foreign language sets of subtitles available.

    The layer change is at 47:34 and was brief and unobtrusive on my equipment.

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

Audio

    The audio transfer is quite good - the disc producers have not attempted a surround remix but the original audio is well represented here.

    Apart from the English Audio Commentary track there are three audio tracks on the disc - English, French and Italian Dolby Digital 1.0 mono tracks encoded at bitrates of 192 Kb/s. I listened to the English track in its entirety and to segments of the French. The latter was quite good, with nicely chosen voice actors, though the nature of the musical film works against this sort of track as the songs are all in English with the original performers, who sound nothing like the actors in dialogue scenes.

    Dialogue is clear at all times, with good audio sync. The audio sync is not quite so good in musical numbers, with Garland in particular not doing so well in the lip-sync department. The dialogue is also a little too quiet in the early part of the film but is better balanced with the other audio elements later on.

    The music is nothing short of sensational - the songs and backing music are classics and are mixed well with the rest of the audio. Judy Garland is in top singing form, and Fred does his bit too.

    There is no surround presence here, but the songs sound fine and the sound is nicely positioned in centre screen. It is strange to say in this digital age but I think there is really no need for a surround remix for this film.

    The sub provides minor bass support in musical numbers if directed to do so.

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

Extras

    This DVD carries a "Special Edition" tag and has just enough in the way of Extras to justify the label.

Menu

    The menu is animated with audio. From the menu you can choose: Play Movie, Scene Selections, Special Features, Languages. There are a generous 30 scene selections available. The disc starts with a very annoying anti-piracy ad.

Commentary by Ava Astaire McKenzie and John Fricke

    This is an informative audio commentary by Astaire's daughter and one of Garland's biographers. Most of it comes from Fricke, who is a mine of information, and I learnt a lot from it, mostly about the stars rather than the production process, though there is some interesting coverage of the shift in emphasis of the script from a darker-edged dramatic tone to the enjoyable piece of fluff we have now.

Garland Trailer Gallery

    A selection of 9 trailers (including the one for this film) from the MGM catalogue. You can play them individually or 'Play All'.

Featurette - Easter Parade: On The Avenue

    This is a modern 'Making of ...' type feature running for 34:22 at an aspect ratio of 1.33:1. While there is some repetition of material from the audio commentary (the same two commentators feature heavily) there is still a lot of interesting material here (including comments from Ann Miller shortly before her death).

Mr. Monotony Outtakes

    During the featurette it was mentioned that each scene, particularly the musical numbers, were shot multiple times to get them right. This is certainly well illustrated in this feature which shows a number of takes for a musical number with Judy Garland which was ultimately excluded from the film (it seems a little too sophisticated for the 1912 setting and the character Garland plays in the film). After watching this for 20:24 you may appreciate the song title - Garland must have felt she was having a Groundhog Day. Interestingly this is at an aspect ratio of approximately 1.33:1 but appears to be 16x9 enhanced.

R4 vs R1

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

    The Region 1 version of this DVD is a 2-disc set which includes a feature on Judy Garland, a radio production of the film and a promo for that production; all missing here. The Garland feature in particular is apparently very good, so that the Region 1 is the version of choice. Why oh why do we continue to be short-changed here in Region 4???

Summary

    This is a bright and entertaining musical presented with an effective video and audio restoration. The stars are in fine form and the songs are entertaining and memorable. The only negative factor comes in the shape of the missing Extras - this is a 2-disc set in Region 1 which better deserves the 'Special Edition' tag. If you like the genre or the stars this is well worth the asking price.

    The video transfer is bright and colourful, and will surely please.

    The audio transfer accurately represents the original mono audio.

    The Extras are interesting and informative, but not as extensive as in the Region 1 release (shame!!).

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Tony Robert Davison (read my bio)
Thursday, September 01, 2005
Review Equipment
DVDToshiba SD-K350, using Component output
DisplaySONY VPL-HS10 LCD projector, ABI 280cm 16x9 screen. Calibrated with Video Essentials. This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 1080p.
Audio DecoderKenwood. Calibrated with Video Essentials.
AmplificationKenwood
SpeakersKenwood

Other Reviews NONE
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