Sunday, November 23, 2008

The Mickey Rooney &Judy Garland Collection DVD
By—Jennifer Smith & Rob Klein

Warner Home Video has released a DVD must have: The Mickey Rooney &Judy Garland Collection. Originally Metro Goldwyn Mayer musicals, these four “Mickey and Judy” films were tailor-made for their two teen-aged leads. Both Rooney and Garland were bona-fide stars on their own by the time their first collaboration Babes in Arms (1939) was released, it was the first of four films that they would co-star in together. Rooney was just eighteen years old when Babes was filmed, Garland was sixteen, but together they presented a professional and seasoned show business façade, each having come from theatrical families, literally born into the business.

Billed as “The Ultimate Collector’s Edition”, this set contains five DVD’s in truly spectacular packaging. It contains a DVD first, an actual hard cover book housing the bonus feature DVD, the book is filled with fun facts and photos of their films, and the back cover has four one-sheet posters beautifully reproduced faithful to their glorious vintage Hollywood graphics. In addition to the book and the standard packaged 4 DVD set containing the feature film, this set has a wonderful photo folder, portfolio with over 20 rare images taken of Judy and Mickey. Reproduced to look like a miniature 8x10 glossy photo. Many of these images I have never seen in print, and these show a behind the scenes look at the fantasy of the glory days of MGM when even an off camera moment is something of feature film. The MGM promotion machine is ever evident while you flip through this folio of fun.

On the bonus disc, Hollywood’s keeper of the faith and classic movie historian, Robert Osborne, interviews Mickey Rooney. It is amusing to see Mickey Rooney telling a story about his blacklisting from Hollywood in the 1950’s, spin yarns about his career and contradict himself, then become mildly irritated toward the interviewer during his attempt to make sense out of the tale. At one point Rooney tells a story with a fascinating footnote: he recalls being pressured to return to a film set by Eddie Mannix, MGM’s “man with the whip”. Mannix would later become suspected by conspiracy theorists of allegedly being involved with George Reeves (TV’s Superman) murder, as Reeves was having a prolonged affair with his wife. It’s great to hear Rooney’s gruff vocal impression of this mysterious man, whom MGM called upon in the 50’s and 60’s when little “personality problems” arose; he was the “muscle” of MGM.
Included in this set are Babes in Arms (1939) Strike of the Band (1940) Babes on Broadway (1941) and Girl Crazy (1943). All gosh-damn delightful to be sure. MGM’s A-list musical director Busby Berkley, whom Rooney heavily praises on the bonus disc, helmed three of these films. The three films also benefit from the input of legendary songwriter/producer Arthur Freed, whose place in MGM’s history will forever be cemented by major movie credits spanning from The Wizard of Oz (1939) to Gigi (1958).

If nothing else it is a delight to see a post Wizard of Oz Judy Garland grow up film after film. She reaffirms us that she was really something special. With these viewings of these movies it is no wonder Mickey can be quoted at telling her ‘Judy, you the biggest star in the world’.

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