Up in Central Park (1948)

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Released 7-Nov-2007

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Musical None
Rating Rated G
Year Of Production 1948
Running Time 83:48
RSDL / Flipper No/No Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 4 Directed By William A. Seiter
Studio
Distributor
Universal-Internatnl
Roadshow Home Entertainment
Starring Deanna Durbin
Dick Haymes
Vincent Price
Albert Sharpe
Tom Powers
Hobart Cavanaugh
Thurston Hall
Howard Freeman
Case Custom Packaging
RPI Box Music Sigmund Romberg
Dorothy Fields
Johnny Green


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

   

    Good news for those contemplating buying the nineteen disc set  Deanna Durbin : The Collection! Roadshow have announced an April price drop to $150 "for Mother's Day".

   

" The folks look so rosy and healthy and gay
The democrats tell you they all get that way
From eating Republicans three times a day!"

     Sigmund Romerberg and Dorothy Fields had a moderate hit on Broadway in 1945 with Up In Central Park. Romberg (The Student Prince, The Desert Song) had written another melodic score, and the rights were snapped up by Universal for Deanna Durbin. Technicolor photography was to commence in December 1946, but production was delayed until October of the next year - in black and white. Sepia evidently was considered, probably to enhance the period feel, but this idea was also dropped. Fred Astaire was approached to direct, but he was not interested. When the movie opened audiences also were not interested. It seems that Up In Central Park was a potentially good idea that went wrong.


    The plot centres on the crooked political dealings of Boss Tweed (Vincent Price) in 1870s New York. Tweed, acknowledged as being the most infamous political boss in U.S. history (the same character was played by Jim Broadbent in Scorsese's Gangs of New York) pays immigrants for their votes. Two new arrivals are Timothy Moore ( Albert Sharpe) and his daughter Rose (Deanna Durbin). As reward for his support of Tweed, Timothy is made superintendent of Central Park. Hovering in the wings, or lurking in the shrubbery, is reporter John Matthews (Dick Haymes) on a mission to expose Tweed's corruption. Matthews meets Rose "promenading" in the park and is smitten. Not knowing who Rose is, Matthews tricks information out of Timothy regarding the ultimate destination of park birdlife - Tweed's dinner table. Matthews publishes, Rose is furious, Timothy is fired and so it goes. Actually the plot is interesting and unusual, certainly so for a musical, and the script is fast and humorous. So, where did things go wrong?


    Universal bought the Romberg/Fields musical for Durbin and then removed all but two of the original songs! There was a third Broadway song filmed, the Durbin/Haymes duet Close As Pages in a Book, but preview audiences did not like the number and it was cut before the film's release. So we have an iconic soprano and one of the great crooners of the 40s, starring together and with precious little to sing. Inexplicably two pointless ballets, well staged by Helen Tamiris,  are retained from the Broadway production. From her first movie Deanna Durbin acted with conviction and vitality, but here she does not seem interested. When she should be filled with Irish temper and fire, all we get is a waspish pout. She makes not the slightest attempt at an Irish brogue, the lines screaming for this natural lilt. It is, indeed, a strange experience to listen to dialogue and hear in your head how it should be played, with not one of the three principals even getting close. There is fun and wit in Herbert Fields' dialogue, but you have to ignore the actors to find it. Dick Haymes is totally miscast in a role that requires masculine energy, while he seems to be struggling to stay awake. Vincent Price does give some life to his character, but it is entirely the wrong life. He is effete, devious and slyly attractive where he should be ruthlessly dynamic. Oh, for the likes of Robert Preston


    Director William A. Seiter bore some responsibility for Tom Drake's performance in I'll Be Yours, and here he seems incapable of directing even the simplest piece of visual comedy with any sense of style or timing. The producer was to have been Miss Durbin's husband, Felix Jackson, but their marriage was headed for a 1948 divorce and Karl Tunberg took charge. Production values are not what was to be expected from a Deanna Durbin vehicle, with the exterior sets of New York streets and Central Park looking underpopulated, cramped and confined. Some interiors, such as Tweed's salon, look like bad stage sets but at least the leading lady's gowns and period hairdos are attractive.


    Musically what is there is quite good  - but there is precious little. Deanna has a very attractive opening number with Oh Say, Do You See What I See?, neatly staged on deck before the immigrants dock. Carousel in the Park is prettily staged on a very small carousel, with the romantics working well together. The only singing left for Haymes is When She Walks in the Room, a clever, pretty song, rather boringly staged. Deanna gets a brief operatic bit, auditioning for "grand opera" once again, with Pace, Pace Mio Dio from La Forza del Destino (Verdi). Background and ballet scoring by Johnny Green is attractive, but there is very little vocal music indeed, with at least three on screen dialogue music cues, and no song to follow - but we do have those two "ballet" numbers. Very odd.


    Up In Central Park was one of those projects which could have, should have, worked but ultimately failed, commercially and artistically. In 1948, Judy Garland, the girl who had shared the screen with Deanna Durbin in the 1936 one reeler Every Sunday Afternoon, had her only MGM box office flop, The Pirate. Judy's movie, which had also had its production problems, was an artistic wonder. It's a shame that Universal-International could not present their biggest star in a more worthy effort.


    This is a very tired and uninspired treatment of what might have been an interesting, intelligent, witty musical. With half-hearted production, direction and performance there isn't much left except the basics of a decent script and what remains of the original Romberg/Fields score.
        
    
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Transfer Quality

Video

    This release of Up In Central Park provides a very good print of the film, with a similar soundtrack.
     
    The image is presented in a 4x3 transfer with an aspect ratio of 1.33:1, the original presentation having been 1.37:1.
     
    The image is steady and sharp, even the close ups looking very good, with almost undetectable grain.
    Shadow detail is  pleasing, notably in the night scenes in the park.
    The transfer reproduces the original picture very nicely. Blacks are deep and solid and the whites do not flare.
    The grey scale is very good and makes for a most attractive black and white image.
     
    Film to video effects were difficult to find, with just a few cases of low level noise noted.
    Aliasing occurred on a vest (32:18) but that was the only instance.
    There were slight problems with noise reduction, mainly on the intricate interior furnishings (40:04, 51:30, 81:30).
    

    Film artefacts are totally absent. I could not see one white fleck or one piece of debris.
    Reel cues have been removed, and there is no damage at the ends of the original reels.
    
    
    The film is consistent in its quality from reel to reel.
    It is in good, clean condition and delivers a solid, reliable and enjoyable image.
    
    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 very pleasing, with not one major problem.
    There is only one language, English, in a Dolby Digital 2.0 reproduction of the original mono Western Electric Noiseless Recording.
    There are no sync problems.
    Dialogue is always totally clear and easy to understand.
    There is no distortion on voices, spoken or singing.
    
    There was a very slight hum during the second reel, but apart from this the sound stage is remarkable quiet for a film sixty years old.
    There is a only the very rare  crackle or "pop".
    
    Johnny Green's orchestrations sound very impressive, full and detailed, with individual instruments clearly defined.

    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 Up In Central Park - there are no extras on the entire nineteen discs, not even a trailer.
    The inside of the cover slick has small reproductions of six stills from the film.
    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 one portrait of Deanna Durbin from the film, with orchestral audio.
    The options are :
        Play Film
       Scene Index: Selecting this option gives a new screen with another portrait 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 does not have a current release of Up in Central Park.
    
    The nineteen title box set is available in Region 2 where it is more than double the Australian price. Up in Central Park  is also available separately.

Summary

     Up In Central Park is a disappointing musical. Disappointing because one would have hoped that for once Deanna Durbin would have been presented as the star of a work with a full theatrical score, written by experts in the fields of operetta and musical comedy. This movie disappoints in almost every respect. The disc looks extremely good and the sound is fine.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Garry Armstrong (BioGarry)
Friday, March 28, 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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