Dvd Check

DVD CHECK

June 22, 2006|By LOS ANGELES TIMES

Betty Grable Collection Vol. 1

[Fox] $60 for set, $20 each

Betty Grable sang and danced her way into America's hearts in the 1940s, becoming one of the top box-office draws and a leading pinup girl of soldiers during World War II.

Her famous gams are on ample display in The Betty Grable Collection Vol. 1 -- four of her best-known Technicolor films, spanning 1940 through 1950.

Though she was just 23 when she made 1940's Down Argentine Way, Grable had been knocking around Hollywood for a decade, appearing in the chorus and in small roles in such films as 1930's Whoopee! and 1934's The Gay Divorcee.

Alice Faye, Fox's reigning musical queen, was set to do Down Argentine Way but pulled out, claiming exhaustion, and studio head Darryl Zanuck replaced Faye with Grable.

Grable plays a wealthy American horsewoman who falls in love with the handsome son (Don Ameche) of a South American breeder (Henry Stephenson). The Brazilian Bombshell, Carmen Miranda, performs several lively numbers in her film debut. Charlotte Greenwood and the Nicholas Brothers also star.

Extras include astute commentary from writer Sylvia Stoddard and an A&E documentary.

In 1941's effusive Moon Over Miami, Grable, her sister (Carole Landis) and aunt (Greenwood) decide to use all their money to nab a rich husband at a lush Miami resort. Robert Cummings and Ameche also star.

Bonus materials include a photo gallery.

Musical biographies were enormously popular in the 1930s and '40s. In the 1945 The Dolly Sisters, Grable and Fox's up-and-comer June Haver play the famous twins who became the toast of vaudeville in New York and Paris. John Payne also stars.

In the astute commentary, Drew Casper, film professor at the University of Southern California, discusses the historic and esoteric significance of the Fox musical.

Grable's popularity had dipped by the time she made 1950's My Blue Heaven, in which she and frequent costar Dan Dailey play married radio stars desperate to start a family. David Wayne and Mitzi Gaynor, in her film debut, also star.

Neil Young: Heart of Gold

[Paramount] $30

Jonathan Demme directed this documentary that captures rocker Young's first public performance of songs from his album Prairie Wind at the Ryman Auditorium in Nashville.

The two-disc set includes a bonus track, a 1971 performance by Young on The Johnny Cash Show, minidocumentaries and rehearsal diaries.

Jimi Plays Monterey / Shake! Otis at Monterey

[Criterion] $30

D.A. Pennebaker's exhilarating companion pieces to his seminal Monterey Pop captures complete sets of the 1967 festival's most electrifying performers: Jimi Hendrix and Otis Redding.

Jimi Plays Monterey offers an excerpt from an interview with Pete Townshend and crisp commentary by music critic-historian Charles Shaar Murray.

Shake! includes an interview with Redding manager Phil Walden and observations by critic-historian Peter Guralnick.

Valley of the Dolls

Special Edition

[Fox] $27

A camp masterpiece. Unintentionally funny 1967 adaptation of Jacqueline Susann's provocative best-seller about showbiz hopefuls (Barbara Parkins, Patty Duke and Sharon Tate) whose lives spiral out of control when they start to use "dolls" (drugs). The two-disc set includes a dishy pop-up trivia track, and gossipy commentary with Parkins and E! Entertainment reporter Ted Casablanca.

Beyond the Valley of the Dolls

Special Edition

[Fox] $27

Russ Meyer's X-rated 1970 musical romance penned by critic Roger Ebert, who supplies amusing commentary. Dolly Read, Cynthia Meyers, Michael Blodgett, Marcia McBroom and Edy Williams star in this cliche-ridden farce about a girl band seeking fame in Hollywood.

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