David Butler’s Pigskin Parade (1936) is a passable little nothing of ensemble musical comedy that effortlessly passes the time with good cheer and endearing charm. The film stars now forgotten character actor, Stuart Erwin as Amos Dodd – a hillbilly ‘discovery’ by married football coaches, Bessie (Patsy Kelly) and Winston ‘Slug’ Winters (Jack Haley).
Seems Amos knows how to toss around the ol’ watermelon on his farm and that directly translates into a killer forward pass for the fledgling Texas team all set to face off against Yale in the Yale Bowl. Showcasing a veritable who’s who of Fox up and comers and never-would-be’s, including Bette Grable (Laura Watson), Dixie Dunbar (Ginger Jones) and Elisha Cook Jr. (Herbert Terwilliger Van Dyck), today, the film’s focus on Amos’ younger sister, Sairy (Judy Garland) seems far more obvious than it actually was at the time of the film's release.
Garland was a Vaudeville veteran under contract to MGM at the time she was loaned out to Fox for Pigskin Parade. In their shortsightedness, MGM had miscast Garland in several low budget short subjects but had hesitated spending the money to showcase her in a feature film. Instead, they exploited Pigskin Parade as a testing ground for audience interest in Garland's talents. The response was overwhelming. Garland’s renditions of the Texas Tornado and It’s Love I’m After had to be re-shot because they drew spontaneous applause from the cast and crew on the set.
If you’re a fan of musical comedies of this vintage then you already know how this one ends – with merriment, song and laughter; in short – a pretty good way to spend a Sunday evening at home or cozy up with nostalgia on a rainy or snowy day.
Fox Home Video’s DVD is fairly impressive. The B&W image is sharp, solid and nicely contrasted with a fairly solid spectrum of tonality. Occasionally, the image can appear slightly softly focused and fine details do tend to get lost in extreme long shots. Overall, however, the picture will surely not disappoint.
Age related artifacts are kept to a minimum and the overall quality of the transfer is smooth and appealing. The audio has been rechanneled to stereo. The original mono is also included. Extras include a featurette on all of the talents in the film, a special reminiscence on Garland from her daughter, Lorna Luft, a brief bio on Darryl F. Zanuck, stills galleries and a restoration comparison. Recommended.
FILM RATING (out of 5 - 5 being the best)