Sunday, March 4, 2007

THREE LITTLE WORDS (MGM 1950) Warner Home Video

Richard Thorpe’s Three Little Words (1950) is a minor musical classic from MGM that is worthy of renewed interest and viewing. Superficially based on the lives of Tin Pan Alley composers, Bert Kalmar (Fred Astaire) and Harry Ruby (Red Skelton), the film begins with a splashy opening number performed by Kalmar and his wife, Jessie (Vera Ellen).

The two are a successful Vaudeville act on the cusp of become grace personified. But Bert doesn’t really want to dance or even write music. He just wants to be a magician.
Supportive, though suspecting that her husband’s talents lay elsewhere, Jessie helps Bert hire a stage hand; aspiring song writer, Harry Ruby.

Unfortunately, Bert’s debut as a magician is a disaster, thanks to Harry’s ill-timing. The two part company on a sour note, but are reunited several months later when friend Charlie Kope (Keenan Wynn) suggests that Bert throw his back into writing lyrics for a song that Harry has composed. The teaming proves fortuitous. Kalmer and Ruby have their first hit single.

Recognizing their success, Bert steers Harry away from several romantic distractions by sending him off to train with a professional league in baseball camp. Eventually though, Harry does fall in love with aspiring singer, Eileen Percy (Arlene Dahl).

Nimbly showcasing Kalmer and Ruby’s best loved and most fondly remembered repertoire of standards, the film is more a cornucopia for that song catalogue than it is a legitimate attempt at fictionalizing their real lives. Regardless, the plot clings together with adroit and spirited humor, buttressed by immense production values and a stellar roster of talents working under producer Arthur Freed’s well oiled machinery of musical magic at MGM. Delightful and charming with something for the ear and the heart – Three Little Words is recommended to anyone who just wants to kick back and relax with great old time entertainment.

Warner Home Video’s DVD is adequately rendered; though it does seem to lack that kick most Technicolor productions of this vintage have. Colors are subdued, though nicely balanced. Flesh tones appear slightly more pinkish than one would expect. Contrast levels appear just a tad too low for an image that – again – is not quite as punchy as one would expect. Age related artifacts are kept to a minimum. Digital anomalies are not an issue for a very smooth presentation. The audio is mono but adequately repurposed for this presentation. Aside from a very brief featurette, there are NO extras.

FILM RATING (out of 5 - 5 being the best)



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