The Amazing Mrs. Holliday (1943)

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Released 7-Nov-2007

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category DRAMA WITH MUSIC None
Rating Rated PG
Year Of Production 1943
Running Time 93:21
RSDL / Flipper No/No Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 4 Directed By Jean Renoir
bruce Manning
Studio
Distributor

Roadshow Home Entertainment
Starring Deanna Durbin
Edmond O'Brien
Barry Fitzgerald
Arthur Treacher
Harry Davenport
Grant Mitchell
Frieda Inescort
Elizabeth Risdon
Bess Flowers
Case Custom Packaging
RPI Box Music Giacomo Puccini
Fritz Kreisler
Charles Previn


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

    It Started With Eve was in cinemas world wide in 1942 and Deanna Durbin's star was high in the cinematic heaven, yet a new Durbin film did not appear until February 1943, and that was The Amazing Mrs Holliday. In 1942, for the fourth consecutive year, Universal's soprano was the UK's number one female box office star, and a seven day "Deanna Durbin Festival" was held throughout the entire Odean cinema chain. This was, and remains, a unique event. Why then was Mrs Holliday so long in making its appearance?

    Producer of all previous Durbin features, Joe Pasternak, as well as her usual director Henry Koster, had joined Universal's Hollywood operations in 1936 at the same time as the then teenage soprano. After helming ten Durbin productions, Pasternak was enticed away from Universal by MGM, where he immediately began working his magic on Kathryn Grayson's films, starting with Seven Sweethearts. Deanna Durbin was outraged that Universal would let "her" producer escape and in protest went "on strike" for a year, a year which coincides with her first marriage. When she did return to work it was on her terms, which included respected French Director Jean Renoir -  Deanna was always a Francophile - and that the film should be a drama, not a musical. The result was The Amazing Mrs Holliday, a troubled cinematic mess that on its release credited regular Durbin writer Bruce Manning as director, with nary a mention of Jean Renoir. It seems that at some stage late in the production Renoir discovered that Universal was adding "musical highlights" to his movie, and, with that, Jean was gone.

    In the hodge-podge of a screenplay by Frank Ryan and John Jacoby, Ruth Kirke (Deanna Durbin) is an American school teacher who went to China as an infant with her missionary parents. It's World War II and we meet Ruth as she is attempting to smuggle nine children out of Japan-threatened China into Singapore. In desperation, and with the help of seaman Timothy Blake (Barry Fitzgerald), she smuggles herself and the children onto a ship bound for San Francisco. Discovered by the ship's magnate owner, Commodore Thomas Holliday (Harry Davenport), Ruth is promised by the Commodore that, once on American soil, he will adopt the children thus allowing them to stay in the United States. Unfortunately the ship is torpedoed by the "Japs" and sinks, along with, evidently, the Commodore and one of  Ruth's young charges. Once arrived on the doorstep of the Commodore's San Francisco mansion Ruth meets his snooty relatives. Ruth - urged by Timothy - realises that the only way she can ensure the children's security is to lie that she had married the Commodore - Harry Davenport - prior to the sinking. The "dead" magnate's son turns up, Tom Holliday (Edmund O'Brien), there is a tediously unfunny dinner scene with a wilfully errant cherry, and Ruth tells Tom of her China experience in messy but well staged flash-backs. Ruth finally confesses her deception to Tom, who insists she must leave the house, the children remaining with him. A significant script inconsistency has Deanna sticking around long enough to sing another song to the children, and Tom allows her to stay yet a few more days to attend a presentation. At the function two unexpected faces turn up. The Commodore and the kid! Ruth must now marry the aged Commodore, but she loves his son, and he loves her back. A surprise announcement by the Commodore, and a few fainting relatives and it's "the end".

    Deanna Durbin does well with the material she has, and looks most attractive, whether in refugee garb or glamorous gowns. She is surprisingly effective in the flashback sequences which leads one to speculate that the project could have been more successful had it been told chronologically and more simply, rather like an earlier The Inn of the Sixth Happiness, with brave Deanna leading the children through dreadful dangers, singing This Old Man, or some other catchy little marching song as they make their way to safety. Where, oh where was Joe Pasternak? At MGM, that's where.

    Deanna's romantic interest is provided by a barely adequate Edmund O'Brien. Although O'Brien was to become an efficient character actor when still quite young, and won an Oscar for The Barefoot Contessa, here he is miscast and lacklustre. Barry Fitzgerald is wasted, and has a few embarrassing moments when he is supposed to be a crying baby. Someone involved with this production had a very odd sense of humour. Even Arthur Treacher as the Butler has some awkward moments, as do Frieda Inescort and Elisabeth Risdon providing the remainder of the magnate's relatives. One of the tricks of the director, whichever one he was, seems to be "when in doubt, have everyone faint!". Of the supporting players, the children come off best. They are generally likeable and natural, with just the occasional peek at the camera. Bess Flowers appears as a reporter and has one line.

    The musical interludes, which so offended Jean Renoir, are hardly worth their screen time. Included are The Old Refrain, Visi d'Arte from Tosca and, most effectively, Mighty Like a Rose. For some reason the recording of Miss Durbin's lovely soprano is not as clear as in the previous titles.

    What a disappointment this highly anticipated release must have been for Durbin deprived fans! At its best this is mediocre melodrama, with a few interesting flashbacks thrown in, and ultimately one for only the dedicated fans of the star.

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Transfer Quality

Video

    The transfer of this sixty-seven year old film is clean and generally provides a pleasing viewing experience. The image is presented in a 4x3 transfer with an aspect ratio of 1.33:1, the original presentation having been 1.37:1. For the opening credits the image has been slightly reduced to avoid cutting off any of the written information.

    The image is steady, quite sharp and clean with no low level noise. There is a minute amount of grain and a very good grey scale. Blacks are deep and there are no flaring whites. On three occasions there is some brief and slight water or emulsion damage, initially at 05:12. There is a small piece of debris at the top of the image at 06:48, but apart from this the only film artefacts are the occasional white fleck.

    The image is not up to the standard of First Love or It Started With Eve, but it is clean, quite sharp and generally more than satisfactory.

    There are no subtitles and the disc is single layered. 

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

Audio

    The audio is also in good condition.

    There is only one language, English, in a 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. As a result there is at times a very slight background rumble, only audible at high volumes. There is also the occasional crackle or pop, but these comments aside, the quality of the 1941 sound is generally good.

    Deanna Durbin's vocals are not as sharp and clear as in the best of the transfers in this set, and there is some distortion on the loudest vocal passages. Orchestrations are mostly sharp and clear, and the original musical scoring by Charles Previn sounds most attractive. There are no dropouts.

    

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

Extras

    The box set of nineteen movies on nineteen discs contains a Sixteen Page Souvenir Booklet. Apart from this booklet and the Stills Galleries on five of the titles (no gallery on The Amazing Mrs Holliday) there are no other extras on the entire nineteen discs, not even a trailer. The reverse of the slick for The Amazing Mrs Holliday contains small reproductions of six stills.

    The picture disc reproduces the title's cover. There are no subtitles.

Menu

    All menu screens are 4x3. The main menu design is extremely basic. The screen comprises two stills from the film, with orchestral audio taken from the film's opening credits. The options are Play Film and Scene Index. Selecting this option gives a new screen with two further stills and a list of ten scenes. No thumbnails, no sound.

R4 vs R1

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

    Region 1 has no current release of The Amazing Mrs Holliday. The nineteen titles box set is available in Region 2 where it is more than double the Australian price. The Amazing Mrs Holliday  is also available separately.

Summary

    The Amazing Mrs Holliday is a strange mixture of a film, neither comedy, drama nor musical. Deanna Durbin is always a welcome presence, but the production lets her down, from the script to the choice of leading man. Despite the good transfer and OK sound, this one is only for the Durbin completists.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Garry Armstrong (BioGarry)
Saturday, March 15, 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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