100 Men and a Girl (1937)
|Year Of Production||1937|
|RSDL / Flipper||No/No||Cast & Crew|
|Region Coding||4||Directed By||Henry Koster|
Roadshow Home Entertainment
|Pan & Scan/Full Frame||Full Frame||English Dolby Digital 2.0 mono (192Kb/s)|
|Widescreen Aspect Ratio||None|
|Video Format||576i (PAL)|
|Original Aspect Ratio||1.37:1||Miscellaneous|
|Annoying Product Placement||No|
|Action In or After Credits||Yes, STOKOWSKI CONDUCTING SYMPHONY ORCHESTRA|
The second movie in Roadshow's local release of the nineteen disc The Deanna Durbin Collection is 100 Men And A Girl. Nominated for the Best Picture Oscar in 1937, this hugely popular Universal film followed the teenage soprano's star making debut in Three Smart Girls. After the release of this second vehicle Deanna Durbin's salary was doubled to $3,000 a week plus a $10,000 bonus for each feature. 100 Men And a Girl is a joy of a film, with sentiment, comedy, glorious music and a glittering star at its centre.
" We got the money, we got a sponsor, we got a contract. All we ain't got is Stokowski!"
The Oscar nominated script introduces us to John Cardwell (Adolphe Menjou), an unemployed musician, and his daughter Patricia/Patsy (Deanna Durbin). One evening he finds a purse containing some money, which he keeps, and leads Patsy to believe that he has found employment playing in Leoplod Stokowski's orchestra, paying their back rent with the money from the purse. When Patsy visits the concert hall where her father is supposed to be playing she uncovers the deception, confronts her father and resolves to return the purse to its owner. Patsy finds the owner, Mrs Frost (Alice Brady) entertaining high society. (Trivia time ! When Alice Brady is first seen she is seated beside a very glamorous Bess Flowers, the famous queen of Hollywood extras. Looking very elegant in black, Bess even gets a couple of lines later in the scene.) Patsy wheedles a reward from Mrs Frost, and with it repays the "missing" money. Patsy ends up singing for the guests - the lovely A Heart That's Free - and tells Mrs Frost about her out-of-work father, and all his similarly unemployed musician friends. The idea of starting her own orchestra is born, with Mrs Frost sort-of agreeing to be patron. Complications arise ! Mrs Frost goes "overseas", Mr Frost (Eugene Pallette) knows nothing about any orchestra and is not interested. After much teenage angst from Deanna, the whole idea of the "symphony orchestra of unemployed musicians" has no hope of coming into being unless they can find a famous, promotable image to attach to their enterprise. Patsy's eyes widen. "Mr Stokowski!"
The remainder of the film concerns Patsy's endeavours to obtain the famed conductor to agree to help, for one night, "one hundred men and a girl". Problem! The great man is committed to conduct in Europe, but from the very outset we know how it all will end. This is a 1930s fairytale, a fairytale that a world recovering from the Great Depression needed and wanted to hear. Universal's producer, Joe Pasternak, tells the heartwarming, but never cloying, story with economy - just over eighty minutes - and uses the best resources the studio had to offer. The original score, which did win an Oscar, is at times arrestingly lovely. The sets are excellent, from theatres and plush apartments, to boarding houses and basements. The script is tight, often very funny, and the lighting and camerawork are excellent. For its time the sound recording is outstanding - another Oscar nomination. The climax of the film has the unemployed musicians, having invaded Stokowski's house, ranged on the stairs of his house, playing Liszt's Hungarian Rhapsody No.2, Stokowski conducting from the top of the stairs mentally "pushed" on by Deanna, with the camera excitingly capturing it all. It is exhilarating.
For the second time Deanna Durbin was directed by Henry Koster. Most commentary insists that the teenager's acting was "limited" - but this is not a heavy drama. Under Koster's direction she delivers a performance that is dramatic enough at times, funny a lot of the time, charming and - the most surprising thing about Deanna Durbin - so natural and unaffected. Just look at her entrance on the stairs as she greets Adolphe Menjou (her first close-up revealing the slightly straightened dentures), a wonderful minute or so that she spends sharing a chair with Mischa Auer (26:00), and her agony at Mrs Frost's party when all she wants is food while the hostess insists that she sing.
Once again Pasternak and/or Koster have Miss Durbin surrounded by a throng of tried and true professionals. Adolphe Menjou is excellent, charming, subtle and never maudlin in a father role that could be so corny. Alice Brady, Eugene Pallette, Mischa Auer (in this he is outstanding) and Billy Gilbert are always welcome screen faces. Finally there is Frank Jenks as the cab driver who has a couple of great "bits" as he drives the fareless Deanna around the city. You probably don't know Frank Jenks by name, but you will definitely know the face.
The film has loads of beautiful music. Mozart, Tchaikovsky, Wagner, Verdi and Liszt, all conducted by Stokowski. In addition there is the delightful It's Raining Sunbeams and the previously mentioned A Heart That's Free. This movie comes from an era when movie audiences were regularly treated to music that had endured the test of time, and when the general population knew the names of great conductors, pianists, dancers and singers. Sad how today's technology has narrowed the cultural awareness of the "general public".
No apologies for this film. That 100 Men And a Girl is almost seventy years old has no bearing whatsoever. This is a first rate movie from the past starring one of the loveliest young talents ever projected onto the silver screen.
Considering the age of this film - over seventy years - this is a very pleasing disc.
The image is presented in a 4x3 transfer with an aspect ratio of 1.33:1, the original presentation having been 1.37:1
It would appear that a relatively good print of the movie was available and considered to be adequate for transfer to disc, without any restoration work. The result is an image that has a very pleasing "cinema" look. I would think that this is exactly how the projected film appeared to audiences when it was first released.
The image is rock steady for the entire film.
With the exception of the occasional soft-focus close-up the image is pleasingly very sharp, clear and with little grain. This is an improvement on Three Smart Girls, although that title looked quite good.
Shadow detail is very good, there is no low level noise, and there is a very nice grey scale. There are no flaring whites and blacks are solid.
The only aliasing seen was very early in the film on a theatre rail and backs of seats (01:57).
Reel cues are still in evidence and the start of each new reel accompanied by a slight "thud" on the soundtrack.
There are minor film artefacts - a little debris, and a few scratches - but no damage to the film itself.
The disc is single layered.
There are no subtitles on the disc.
The over seventy year old audio track is remarkably good, allowing total enjoyment of the musical feast provided.
There is only one audio track, an English Dolby Digital 2.0 reproduction of the original mono Western Electric Noiseless Recording, which was Oscar nominated.
The dialogue is clear and sharp with not one syllable indistinct and no sync problems. Deanna Durbin's visuals match the pre-recorded vocals perfectly.
There appears to be no doctoring of the soundtrack at all. As a result there is a very slight background noise, with the rare crackle or pop. These comments made, the quality of the sound is extremely good, sharp and vibrant. I would rather have these very slight "imperfections", which are in no way distracting, than lose the dynamism of the sound on this disc. I was quite shocked by the presence of the piano introduction to It's Raining Sunbeams - and then came the Durbin voice, with absolutely no distortion. There are no dropouts.
The reproduction of the music is outstanding. Deanna Durbin's soprano, piano and symphony orchestra all sound tremendous - loud, clear and undistorted.
|Surround Channel Use|
The box set contains a Sixteen Page Souvenir Booklet.
Apart from this booklet and the Stills Galleries on five of the titles, there are no other extras on the entire nineteen discs, not even a trailer. The reverse of the slick also contains small reproductions of the Stills Gallery.
The picture disc reproduces the title's cover.
There are no subtitles.
All menu screens are 4x3.
The main menu design is extremely basic. The screen comprises two stills from the film, with orchestral music from the credits of the film.
The options are :
Scene Index: Selecting this option gives a new screen with two further stills and a list of ten scenes. No thumbnails, no sound.
Stills Gallery : Selecting this option gives access to ten very nice quality black and white publicity stills, again without sound.
NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.
There is no current release of 100 Men And A Girl in Region 1.
The nineteen title box set is available in Region 2 where it is more than double the Australian price. However, unlike the local situation, the individual titles are also available separately.
|DVD||Onkyo-SP500, using Component output|
|Display||Philips Plasma 42FD9954/69c. Calibrated with THX Optimizer. This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 1080i.|
|Audio Decoder||Built in to DVD player. Calibrated with THX Optimizer.|
|Speakers||VAF DC-X fronts; VAF DC-6 center; VAF DC-2 rears; LFE-07subwoofer (80W X 2)|