First Love (1939)
|Year Of Production||1939|
|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||No|
The sixth movie in Roadshow's local release of the nineteen disc The Deanna Durbin Collection is First Love. Released by Universal in November 1939, just one month before her eighteenth birthday, First Love gave the young soprano her first screen romance, and a hugely publicised first screen kiss which was literally headline news around the world. Audiences flocked. Usually dismissed by the "experts" in derogatory terms, First Love is a totally captivating retelling of Cinderella in 1939 dress and one of the best young romance movies ever made.
The movie opens with the graduation ceremony at a girls' school, with all the graduates being collected by parents to return to their homes, except one. Constance / Connie Harding (Deanna Durbin) is an orphan and is going to live with her wealthy uncle, James F. Clinton (Eugene Pallette), her aunt Grace (Leatrice Joy) and cousins Barbara (Helen Parrish) and Walter (Lewis Howard). With the exception of Uncle James this is a pretty unlikeable and twitty bunch. At least the servants they employ are sympathetic.
At the local country club Connie encounters horse-riding rich boy Ted Drake (Robert Stack) and is smitten. A big party/ball is to be held. Connie doesn't have a suitable gown! The kindly servants come to the rescue! Barbara doesn't want her to go! Connie has to be back by midnight! She has an escort of six policemen on six white motorbikes! Connie waltzes with the princely Ted and flees at midnight, losing a slipper on the stairs! Sounds familiar? This is a delightful retelling of Cinderella and to criticise it for being "unoriginal" - as many "experts" have - is ludicrous. It is a beautiful modern - 1939 modern - fairytale from beginning to end and the old story is told lavishly by Universal.
Deanna Durbin is a wonderful Constance - I'll have to get out my thesaurus to find more adjectives for her - looking lovely and singing gloriously. Huge world-wide publicity was made of Deanna's upcoming "first screen kiss" in this film and the search for the "prince" who was to deliver it was almost on a par with the "search" for Scarlett O'Hara. The lucky young man was twenty-one year old Robert Stack in his first film. Later to find huge television success as Elliot Ness in The Untouchables, Robert Stack here is almost unbelievably blonde and handsome, the perfect prince for the young screen musical princess. The entire ball sequence is worth multiple viewings, but the waltz segment is one of the most romantic things I've ever seen. The set , the music, the costumes, the Oscar nominated photography, in fact every element is perfect, including the young couple waltzing. The imaginative isolation of the lovers from the throng astonished me. A truly great sequence and movie history.
The supporting cast give excellent performances with the exception of Kathleen Howard as the schoolmarm Miss Wiggins. This performance would have been old hat in 1939. That aside the rest of the cast are great. Eugene Pallette with his inimitable walk and voice is fun as the only sane voice in the Clinton Family, Leatrice Joy is batty and enjoyable as the astrology-obsessed aunt and Lewis Howard has good moments as the dissolute son. Helen Parrish, so dreary in Three Smart Girls Grow Up, here does what she does best, playing glamorous sourpuss to the hilt, and looking beautiful. There is a host of character reliables such as Frank Jenks (the cab driver in 100 Men And a Girl), Thurston Hall and Marcia Mae Jones as well as the collective-fairygodmother servants, who contribute much warmth to the proceedings. The female domestics are played by Mary Treen, Dorothy Vaughan and Lucille Ward, while "George the Butler" is Charles Coleman and the chauffeur is Jack Mulhall. These are all sterling performers whose faces we know, but whose names are rarely heard.
The film's musical highlights were Amapola, Home Sweet Home, One Fine Day from Madame Butterfly and Spring In My Heart (Johannes Strauss), so beautifully sung and staged in the ball sequence. Three new songs are also listed in the booklet accompanying the boxed set, but these are not in the film. The original score by Charles Previn, another Oscar nomination, once again enhances a Durbin film.
The production team led, for the sixth time, by Joe Pasternak, topped previous Durbin vehicles and Henry Koster's direction deserves high praise- we'll forget Miss Wiggins. I don't know where the major credit should go for the entire ball sequence, whether to Koster, Pasternak or Director of Photography Joseph Valentine. Whoever is responsible, that sequence is perfection.
What a sensation First Love must have been in 1939.
The sixty-nine year old audio track is in very good condition.
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 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. There is at times a very slight background rumble, barely audible. I was more aware of it when it stopped. There is also the occasional crackle or pop. These comments aside, the quality of the sound is extremely good, sharp and vibrant, the original musical scoring sounding most attractive. There is very slight distortion on the loudest vocal passages, but I would rather have these very slight "imperfections", which are in no way distracting, than lose the dynamism of the sound as a whole.
There was one dropout during the opening Universal logo music (00.11).
|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 - no gallery on First Love- there are no other extras on the entire nineteen discs, not even a trailer. The reverse of the slick for First Love contains small reproductions of five stills.
The picture disc reproduces the title's cover.
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.
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 First Love in Region 1.
The nineteen titles box set is available in Region 2 where it is more than double the Australian price.First Love is also available separately, as well as being included in the five disc set The Deanna Durbin Collection : Box 2 along with Three Smart Girls Grow Up, Can't Help Singing, The Amazing Mrs Holliday and For the Love of Mary.
|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)|