Mad About Music (1938)

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Released 7-Nov-2007

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Musical Gallery-8 STILLS, POSTER and SHEET MUSIC COVER
Rating Rated G
Year Of Production 1938
Running Time 91:56
RSDL / Flipper No/No Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 4 Directed By Norman Taurog

Roadshow Home Entertainment
Starring Deanna Durbin
Herbert Marshall
Gail Patrick
Arthur Treacher
William Frawley
Marcia Mae Jones
Helen Parrish
Jackie Moran
Elisabeth Reardon
Case Custom Packaging
RPI Box Music Harold Adamson
Jimmy McHugh

Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame Full Frame English Dolby Digital 2.0 mono (192Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio None
16x9 Enhancement No
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.37:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles None Smoking No
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

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

Plot Synopsis


" ... the 1940s sweetheart, Deanna Durbin!" 

    After appearing in the MGM one-reeler Every Sunday in 1936, featured alongside another young hopeful, Judy Garland, Deanna Durbin was dropped by Metro. Radio success on the Eddie Cantor Show  led to Deanna's signing by Universal, where she literally became an "overnight star". Judy, undoubtedly the greatest female entertainer of the last century, became a  teenage workhorse at MGM, shuttling from movie to movie, supporting others, waiting for her major breakthrough. Mad About Music is the third film featured in Roadshow's  release of The Deanna Durbin Collection,  a boxed set containing nineteen of the twenty-one movies Durbin made at Universal. The sixteen-year-old soprano is showcased looking and sounding like the major star she had become. Judy had to wait.

    Gloria Harkinson (Deanna Durbin) attends a school in Switzerland. Her father died when she was an infant, and her mother is Gwen Taylor (Gail Patrick) a famous Hollywood movie star. Gwen, urged by her agent "Dusty" (William Frawley), has concealed her teenage daughter's existence, afraid that she will lose her fans if they realise she is old enough to have a fourteen year-old daughter. Gloria, "robbed" of both parents, invents a big game hunter father, forging letters from Africa, which she reads to her schoolgirl friends, as well as to her teachers. Caught up in her ever-widening web of lies - fingers firmly crossed when telling them - Gloria finds herself at the railway station waiting for the invented arrival of her invented father. Watched by her fellow schoolgirls, including friend Olga (Marcia Mae Jones) and enemy Felice (Helen Parrish), Gloria is cornered. In desperation she thrusts her welcoming bunch of flowers at a well dressed gentleman alighting from the train (Herbert Marshall), who is accompanied by his manservant Tripps (Arthur Treacher). The astonished recipient of the flowers turns out to be Richard Todd, a composer - convenient - and the plot then revolves dizzily around the subterfuge Richard becomes part of, aimed at saving Gloria's face at school. We are taken from Switzerland to Paris, and back again to Switzerland for the finale, which finds Gloria with two parents, a youthful romance and a song to sing. I won't spoil the outcome, but I think you will be way ahead of the events on the screen. Nothing like fulfilling the hopes and expectations of an adoring audience!

    This is very light, fluffy stuff with less plot substance than Miss Durbin's previous hit, 100 Men And A Girl. Universal, however, were doing the right thing by their songbird bucket of gold. Joe Pasternak again produces and the other ingredients are first class. Deanna looks most attractive, slimmer and maturing into a lovely young woman. The sets are excellent, even if the overly quaint exteriors of the Swiss school look like a very large stage set and the village streets are straight from Universal's The Hunchback of Notre Dame and Frankenstein. Deanna has a new director, Norman Taurog (1938 Oscar nominee for Boys' Town) and she emerges from the film with yet a third natural and charming performance. Herbert Marshall is the consummate gentleman and works beautifully with Miss Durbin in their charming scenes together. As the aspiring young beau, Tommy, Jackie Moran is most effective and there is excellent work, as you would expect, from Arthur Treacher, William Frawley (I Love Lucy) and Gail Patrick.

    Musically the film is extremely strong, with three new songs by Harold Adamson and Jimmy McHugh. Deanna's first song is her major hit, I Love To Whistle, sung as she and about twenty other "young ladies" ride pushbikes through a "Swiss" country lane. The original 78 rpm recording was a BIG hit on "The Hit Parade" when the film was first released. It is reprised twice in the film, once with the Cappy Barra Harmonica Ensemble (octet)  in a Swiss inn and then on a train as Gloria tries to find Richard . The song is even worked into the "dramatic" action of the film. Then we have Chapel Bells, beautifully sung by the star with "daddy" at the piano and for the finale A Serenade to the Stars. In addition there is Gounod's Ave Maria, Deanna accompanied by The Vienna Boys' Choir, gloriously sung and photographed.

    Movies such as Mad About Music are of a different time, a time with different sensibilities and values. In talking about these films we feel invited us to use adjectives like "charming", "delightful" and "endearing" - words which seem to have gone from our vocabulary, words that are dated and definitely not "cool". I am delighted to be totally "uncool" and admire the charming pleasures of this film and its endearing - and talented - young star, whom I've only just come to appreciate.

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Transfer Quality


    Considering the age of this film - over seventy years - the movie looks very good indeed.
    The film is presented in a 4x3 transfer, with the opening credits slightly reduced to prevent any written information on the extremes of the image being lost. The screen then reverts to 1.33:1 full screen, the original presentation having been 1.37:1.
    There has obviously been some clean-up done on the print, as there are no cue marks in evidence. In fact I noticed only one film artefact, a scratch which appeared for a second down Marcia Mae Jones' face (26:25). The image throughout is very clean and clear, with a minute jump/cut (11.50) due to damage - maybe one frame.
    The image is totally steady for the length of the film.
    The picture is bright and detailed, with a wide grey scale. Blacks are deep and solid while the is no flare on the whites.
    Apart from soft-focus close-ups, the picture is pleasingly sharp - the small printing in the credits is easily legible - with barely noticeable grain, no low level noise and good shadow detail. No aliasing noticed at all..
    The disc is single layered.

Video Ratings Summary
Shadow Detail
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts


    The seventy-two year old audio is in very good shape.
    There is only one audio track, an English Dolby Digital 2.0 reproduction of the original mono Western Electric Noiseless Recording.
    The dialogue is clear and sharp with not one syllable indistinct or any sync problems.
    There is a small amount of background hiss/crackle in some sections of the film, but barely noticeable. There is one pop (11:50) accompanying probably one missing frame, but no dropouts.
    The reproduction of the music is, of course, way below the quality of today's recordings, but the excellent orchestrations are full with only a small amount of distortion occurring in the loudest orchestral and vocal passages.


Audio Ratings Summary
Audio Sync
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 music from the credits behind.
    The options are :
        Play Film
        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 eight black and white publicity stills, a poster reproduction and the front of the sheet music for I Love To Whistle. No sound.

R4 vs R1

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 Mad About Music  in Region 1.
    There is a Region 2 release of the nineteen disc Deanna Durbin Collection, which is priced at more than double that of the Australian release.
    Region 2 does have individual titles from the box set available separately.


    Deanna Durbin's third Universal feature completed the hat trick. Three excellent examples of 1930s big studio expertise, each delivering top flight entertainment with the young star at their centre growing in stature with each new release. Good print with OK sound.

Ratings (out of 5)


© Garry Armstrong (BioGarry)
Saturday, March 08, 2008
Review Equipment
DVDOnkyo-SP500, using Component output
DisplayPhilips Plasma 42FD9954/69c. Calibrated with THX Optimizer. This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 1080i.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to DVD player. Calibrated with THX Optimizer.
AmplificationOnkyo TX-DS777
SpeakersVAF DC-X fronts; VAF DC-6 center; VAF DC-2 rears; LFE-07subwoofer (80W X 2)

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