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Warner Home Video presents
That's Entertainment (1974)

"You know, you can wait around and hope, but I tell ya, you'll never see the likes of this again."
- Frank Sinatra

Review By: David Krauss  
Published: October 21, 2004

Stars: Fred Astaire, Bing Crosby, Gene Kelly, Peter Lawford, Liza Minnelli, Donald O'Connor, Debbie Reynolds, Mickey Rooney, Frank Sinatra, James Stewart, Elizabeth Taylor
Other Stars: Judy Garland, Cyd Charisse, Jane Powell, Kathryn Grayson, Ann Miller, Esther Williams, Leslie Caron, Lena Horne, Howard Keel, Eleanor Powell, Nelson Eddy, Jeanette MacDonald, Jean Harlow, Clark Gable, Cary Grant, June Allyson
Director: Jack Haley, Jr.

MPAA Rating: G for (nothing objectionable)
Run Time: 02h:14m:39s
Release Date: October 12, 2004
UPC: 012569691520
Genre: documentary


Style
Grade
Substance
Grade
Image Transfer
Grade
Audio Transfer
Grade
Extras
Grade
A AA-A- A

DVD Review

"Boy. Do we need it now." That was the clever catchphrase studio publicists devised for That's Entertainment when it premiered in 1974, and for a nation still reeling from the shame of Watergate and pain of Vietnam, this effervescent tribute to MGM's glorious musicals of yore proved a timely antidote. With a breathtaking array of classic clips spanning 30 years, writer/director Jack Haley, Jr. (the Tin Man's son) reminded audiences of a simpler, more innocent time, when a song from Judy Garland or dance by Fred Astaire painlessly cured all ills. The public flocked to That's Entertainment, turning the modest documentary into a major blockbuster, and left the theater walking on air.

Well, three decades later, we're mired in another controversial war and beleaguered by a nasty presidential campaign. And guess what? Here comes That's Entertainment to the rescue once again. Although the timing of its long-anticipated DVD release is certainly coincidental, That's Entertainment arrives at a critical juncture, when most Americans crave a vacation from reality. And what better way to flee our unsettled world than by reveling in the magic of Hollywood's greatest musical talent. "Forget your troubles, c'mon get happy…" sang the immortal Garland, and like some miracle elixir, a single dose of this delightful Golden Age mélange makes those troubles melt away.

Produced in honor of MGM's 50th anniversary, That's Entertainment presents a parade of showstoppers from dozens of the studio's best-loved films. Nobody made musicals like MGM, which attracted and cultivated the finest performers and creative personnel. Enhanced by lush sets, brilliant Technicolor, and elegant costumes, the musicals of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer possess a distinctive look and feel, ranking several cuts above competing product from other studios. And their appeal endures. With a style that defies the passage of time, these classic films continue to captivate audiences today.

As does That's Entertainment. With warmth and humor, an esteemed group of MGM alumni recount their experiences on the legendary lot and introduce a cavalcade of clips. Gene Kelly salutes Fred Astaire (and vice versa); Liza Minnelli offers a heartfelt tribute to her mother, Judy Garland; Donald O'Connor dives into the aquatic spectaculars of swimming star Esther Williams; Mickey Rooney chronicles his successful (but suspiciously similar) series of "backyard" musicals with Garland; and a deadpan James Stewart recalls the "panic" and "pandemonium" that swept Hollywood when sound was introduced in the late 1920s.

In the film's most amusing segment, Stewart notes how the popularity of MGM's musicals inspired the studio to force almost every star on the lot into at least one singing and dancing role, regardless of their ability. Peter Lawford remembers, "As a dancer, I was ill-equipped to compete with Astaire or Kelly…but we did what we were told to do." Jean Harlow, Robert Montgomery, Joan Crawford, Cary Grant, Clark Gable, and even Stewart himself were pushed into musical service, and That's Entertainment digs out their painful, yet hilarious, performances.

Of course, MGM possesses such an enormous stash of musical riches, not all of the studio's classic numbers could fit into one film. The dazzling "leftovers" would find their way into two That's Entertainment sequels, but the original edition contains the crème de la crème of the MGM archives—Gene Kelly twirling his umbrella in Singin' in the Rain; Fred Astaire and Cyd Charisse romantically Dancing in the Dark from The Band Wagon; Judy Garland singing the infectious Trolley Song from Meet Me in St. Louis and wistful Over the Rainbow from The Wizard of Oz; Astaire and Eleanor Powell tapping to Cole Porter's Begin the Beguine from Broadway Melody of 1940; and other spectacular moments from An American in Paris, Good News, Show Boat, High Society, Seven Brides for Seven Brothers, Gigi, and many, many more.

A quip about Mark Spitz and reference to Debbie Reynolds' current Broadway success slightly date the film, but in general, That's Entertainment is as timeless as the musicals it salutes. No, they don't make 'em like that anymore, but this exhilarating documentary makes us wish they did. So uncork the champagne, raise a glass, and toast the creative genius of MGM. After all, as they say in the trailer, "It's more than a movie; it's a celebration!"

Rating for Style: A
Rating for Substance: A

 

Image Transfer

 OneTwo
Aspect Ratio1.85:1 - Widescreen1.33:1 - Full Frame
Original Aspect Ratioyesno
Anamorphicyesno


Image Transfer Review: Warner technicians have fashioned an all-new 30th anniversary digital transfer that allows viewers to enjoy That's Entertainment on any type of television without compromising the film's original aspect ratio. The double-sided disc features an enhanced widescreen transfer on Side A (which replicates the film's original theatrical presentation), and a standard 4x3 version on Side B that properly letterboxes Cinemascope sequences.

By masking the sides of the screen, the widescreen transfer remains true to the 1.33:1 material (which oddly includes the narrative sequences). Yet the image often expands—just like it did during the film's initial theatrical engagements—so especially splashy musical numbers that weren't originally shot in Cinemascope can fill the entire screen. While it might seem as if Warner is manipulating the film's aspect ratio, nothing could be further from the truth. The presentation duplicates what audiences experienced back in 1974, and it's a treat to see such numbers as the ballet from An American in Paris, the Broadway Ballet from Singin' in the Rain, On the Atchison, Topeka and the Santa Fe from The Harvey Girls, A Pretty Girl Is Like A Melody from The Great Ziegfeld, The Varsity Drag from Good News, and the medley from Show Boat (Cotton Blossom, Make Believe, and Ol' Man River)—among others—in glorious widescreen.

Both transfers offer a crystal clear image filled with all the rich, vibrant Technicolor hues that make MGM musicals a feast for the eyes as well as the ears. Even the narration sequences, filmed in the cheaper Metrocolor format, sport lush, beautifully saturated color. Contrast and detail levels are excellent, and although a slight bit of edge enhancement and a few errant speckles occasionally intrude, they never dilute the magic of the vintage material. Unfortunately, the increased clarity exposes more grain in the black-and-white clips, but it's a small price to pay for such a vivid, pleasing image. That's Entertainment has surely never looked better, and this meticulously produced transfer will delight the film's legion of fans.

Image Transfer Grade: A-

 

Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
Dolby Digital
5.1
Englishno


Audio Transfer Review: A spanking new 5.1 soundtrack spreads the music across all speakers and adds depth and presence to the film. Although stereo separation is sketchy at best, the track nicely envelops, with solid fidelity bringing out subtle accents in many of the musical numbers. Narration is always clear and easy to understand, and any pops, crackles or distortion can only be detected during the most aged film clips. Of course, the segments from the 1950s sound the best, but the entire film now possesses a contemporary sound that matches its restored image.

The disc also includes the movie's robust overture and elegant exit music, both beautifully arranged by Henry Mancini.

Audio Transfer Grade: A-

 

Disc Extras

Static menu with music
Scene Access with 32 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English, French, Spanish with remote access
1 Original Trailer(s)
Packaging: generic plastic keepcase
1 Disc
2-Sided disc(s)
Layers: dual
Layers Switch: 01h:12m:31s

Extra Extras:
  1. Introduction by Turner Classic Movies host Robert Osborne
Extras Review: Historian Robert Osborne introduces the film from his familiar spot on the Turner Classic Movies set. He discusses how That's Entertainment was originally slated as a TV project until MGM executives saw some of Haley's rough footage and green-lighted a theatrical release. He also touches upon the movie's enormous (and unexpected) box office success, and how it pioneered a new genre known as "docu-tainment." Clips from the lavish That's Entertainment premiere and subsequent gala enhance the five-minute piece and give viewers a glimpse of many legendary stars.

The film's original theatrical trailer is the only other extra offered, but if you purchase the Deluxe Four-Disc Collector's Edition (which includes That's Entertainment, That's Entertainment, Part 2, and That's Entertainment III), you'll receive a bonus disc, That's Entertainment: Treasures from the Vault, featuring almost five hours of supplemental material, including documentaries, featurettes, TV specials, and over a dozen rare musical outtakes.

Extras Grade: A

 

Final Comments

What a glorious feeling! That's Entertainment finally arrives on DVD, and the high quality transfer and newly remastered 5.1 audio make the disc well worth the wait. MGM's motto, "Do it big, do it right, and give it class," is evident in every frame of this scintillating salute to the singing and dancing legends of Hollywood's Golden Age. That's Entertainment will enthrall and delight the entire family, and deserves a prominent spot on every film-lover's shelf. Highly recommended.

 


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