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Compilation: That’s Entertainment
The Ultimate Anthology of M-G-M Musicals
Excerpts from That’s Entertainment
That’s Entertainment Part 2
That’s Entertainment III

Available On: 6 CDs RHINO Turner Classic Movie Music R2 73192
Running Times: CD1 [79:04]; CD2 [78:50]; CD3 [79:44]
CD4 [78:02]; CD5 [74:08]; CD6 [79:41]

AmazonUK  £40 AmazonUS $90

Regular readers of Film Music on the Web reviews will have noticed that, over the years, we have carried many reviews of Rhino/Turner Classic Movies CDs of excerpts from great M-G-M musicals. Movie musicals lovers will also remember the 1974 anthology of highlights from M-G-M musicals, That’s Entertainment and the two succeeding anthologies That’s Entertainment Part 2 (1976) and That’s Entertainment III (1994). DVDs of all three films have appeared recently (including a boxed set of all three). Now here is a sumptuous collection of 6 CDs: music culled from all three films.

The set is comes with a magnificent 112-page booklet that charts thirty years of M-G-M musicals magic. It is liberally illustrated with hundreds of stills from the films, plus posters, and song sheet cover reproductions. The text, by George Feltenstein, an M-G-M musicals enthusiast and a producer of That’s Entertainment III, is a very readable and insightful retrospective of the Golden Age of M-G-M Musicals. A minor irritation is the tight binding of this book, making its handling difficult and a real problem when one encounters, for instance, the double page spread picture of M-G-M stars that is the studio’s Silver Jubilee (1949) group portrait because some of the picture is lost in the book’s guttering.

This 6-CD collection represents major upgrades in sound quality (the earlier, late 1920s musicals excerpts, for instance, sound much better than on previous LP and CD incarnations). There are 25 remastered tracks and there is also an entire disc of previously unused, never-issued outtake material appearing for the first time.

Excerpts begin on disc 1 with ‘Singin’ in the Rain’ sung in M-G-M productions from 1929 to 1952: first in Hollywood Review of 1929 – sung by Cliff Edwards (aka ‘Ukulele Uke’), then in Speak Easily (1932) sung by Jimmy Durante, followed by Judy Garland’s rendition in Little Nelly Kelly (1942), and, of course, Gene Kelly, Debie Reynolds and Donald O’Connor belting out the number in the 1952 classic, Singin’ In The Rain. And the 5th disc ends first with Elvis Presley performing the title number from Jailhouse Rock (1957) and finally the cast of another M-G-M classic The Bandwagon (1953), that included Fred Astaire and Cyd Charisse, singing the title number of this whole collection, ‘That’s Entertainment’. In between there are over 100 numbers that surely must cover some of every film music fan’s favourites. Just to mention a very few of mine: Allan Jones’ ardent singing of ‘A Pretty Girl is Like a Melody’ from The Great Ziegfeld (1936); Jane Powell’s honeyed-voiced ‘It’s a Most Unusual Day’ from A Date With Judy (1948) and what to choose from The Bandwagon? well Fred (with Jack Buchanan) singing ‘I Guess I’ll Have to Change My Plan’ and the M-G-M Orchestra playing the haunting ‘Dancing in the Dark for starters. Then there is Singin’ in the Rain, and of course, the title song sung inimitably by Gene Kelly and Donald O’Connor’s never-to-be-forgotten ‘Make ‘Em Laugh’. Judy Garland sings the title song from For Me And My Gal (1942) and ‘The Trolley Song’ from Meet Me in St Louis (1944) and the great Mario Lanza together with the coloratura voice of Kathryn Grayson sing The Toast of New Orleans (1950). Then there is Fred Astaire cheekily, seductively singing ‘All of You’ from Silk Stockings (1957), the An American in Paris (1951) ballet, Louis Armstrong and Bing Crosby swinging it in ‘Now You Has Jazz’ from High Society (1956) and Louis Jordan’s expressive rendition of the title song of Gigi (1958).

I have refrained from including details of all the tracks on all 6 CDs in the heading of this review because it would have stretched out for miles. Instead I give just a taste by listing below just some of the musicals covered in this collection:

Anchors Aweigh
Annie Get Your Gun
Babes in Arms
The Bandwagon
The Barkleys of Broadway
The Belle of New York
Born to Dance
The Broadway Melody series especially 1940
Cabin in the Sky
Easter Parade
For Me and My Gal
Girl Crazy
The Great Ziegfeld
High Society
Hollywood Review of 1939
Idiot’s Delight
It’s Always Fair Weather
Jupiter’s darling
Kiss Me Kate
Lady Be Good
Little Nelly Kelly
Love Me Or Leave Me
Lovely To Look At
Meet Me in St Louis
The Merry Widow
New Moon
On The Town
Panama Hattie
The Pirate
Rose Marie
Seven Brides for Seven Brothers
Show Boat
Silk Stockings
Singin’ In The Rain
The Student Prince
Take Me Out To The Ball Game
Thousands Cheer
Three Little Words
The Toast of New Orleans
The Wizard of Oz
Words And Music
Ziegfeld Girl

Finally a word about disc 6: those outtakes: some two dozen fascinating tracks from film that ended up on the cutting room floor. One of the earliest is ‘Poor little G-String’ (suffering in a child’s music lesson) rendered by a young Bing Crosby, with just a hint of the style that would propel him to success, in The March of Time (1930). How could they have lost such a potential hit ballad as ‘Let’s Pretend It’s True’ as sung by June Knight, intended for Vacation from Love (1938)? Joan Crawford is nicely, huskily expressive in her singing of the not too impressive song, ‘Follow Me’ lost from Torch Song (1953). The lovely, enticing voice of Lena Horne singing ‘You Won’t Forget Me’ was, incredibly, ditched from Duchess of Idaho (1950). What a pity we missed hearing the surprisingly exciting bass baritone voice of George Sanders, as he joined Joann Greer (singing for Esther Williams) in ‘I Have A Dream’ from Jupiter’s Darling (1956). That sultry beauty Yvonne DeCarlo also impresses in her rendition of ‘You Belong To My Heart’ from Sombrero (1953). Sophie Tucker hugging ‘Some of these Days’ is another inexplicable omission from Broadway Melody of 1938. Another crime is the deletion of the wit of Cole Porter as voiced by the beautiful Ann Sothern in the composer’s ‘Make It Another Old Fashioned Please’ from Panama Hattie (1942). The Student Prince (1954) ran into a lot of production problems not the least due to Mario Lanza’s girth. This disc includes a demo for that film – ‘Deep In My Heart, Dear’ sung by Vic Damone and Jane Powell. Finally I must mention another brief demo ‘Can’t Help Loving That Man Of Mine’ from Jerome Kern’s Show Boat (1951) beautifully sung by Lee Wiley.

An irresistible cavalcade of memorable melodies from the three films that celebrated the brilliance, the magic world of M-G-M musicals
Ian Lace

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