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Warner Archive Anniversary: Debbie Reynolds, Joan Blondell

Debbie Reynolds Warner Archive Greer Garson The Singing Nun Ricardo MontalbanWarner Archive: Debbie Reynolds, Joan Blondell, Ursula Andress (photo: Nuns Greer Garson and Debbie Reynolds, and priest Ricardo Montalban celebrate the Warner Archive's fourth anniversary — or was it Greer Garson's birthday? — on the Singing Nun set)

The Warner Archive, currently offering 1,500 DVDs and Blu-rays, turned four years old in March. New releases celebrating the Big Four include movies featuring Debbie Reynolds, Jane Powell, Joan Blondell, Eleanor Parker, John Garfield, Ursula Andress, Alexis Smith, and Richard Barthelmess.

Jane Powell, Debbie Reynolds, Joan Blondell

Jane Powell and Debbie Reynolds are sisters in Richard Thorpe's musical comedy Athena (1954), which also features Edmund Purdom, Vic Damone, Tyrone Power's then-wife Linda Christian, Citizen Kane's Ray Collins, frequent Jerry Lewis foil Kathleen Freeman, former Mr. Universe and future Hercules Steve Reeves, veteran Louis Calhern, numerology, and vegetarianism. According to the Warner Archive's release, Hugh Martin and Martin Blane's score "gets a first ever Stereophonic Sound remix for this disc," which also includes three musical outtake sequences.

In Ray Enright's pre-Coder Blondie Johnson (1933), Joan Blondell stars in a rags-to-riches story of a woman who, like Ruth Chatterton in Frisco Jenny (also 1933), builds her own unlawful empire. Chester Morris is Blondell's romantic interest, while Sterling Holloway, Claire Dodd, and Erich von Stroheim leading lady Mae Busch (later of Laurel and Hardy fame) provide support.

Between Two Worlds

A remake of the now forgotten Robert Milton's Outward Bound (1930), Warner Archive release Between Two Worlds (1944) was directed by the just as forgotten Edward A. Blatt. (Blatt was mostly a dialogue director in Warner Bros. productions such as Bette Davis' Now, Voyager and Watch on the Rhine.) The World War II-set Between Two Worlds stars Paul Henreid and Eleanor Parker as a couple aboard a mysterious ship sailing to a just as mysterious destination.

Among the other mysterious and/or puzzled passengers — unsure of where they are or where they're going — and/or those seen in flashbacks are John Garfield (who knows what's all about), Sydney Greenstreet, Edmund Gwenn, George Tobias, Faye Emerson, George Coulouris, Sara Allgood, and Dennis King. Music by Erich Wolfgang Korngold. Leslie Howard, Douglas Fairbanks Jr., and Helen Chandler starred in the 1930 movie.

Come to think of it, a remake of Outward Bound with Judi Dench in the old Leslie Howard /John Garfield role wouldn't be such a bad idea. Daniel Radcliffe and Emma Watson could play the young lovers.

More from the Warner Archive Collection: She, Rhapsody in Blue, pre-Code movies

Robert Day's She (1965) is a remake of She (1935), itself a remake of She (1921). The 1960s' She ("who must be obeyed") is played by Dr. No's Ursula Andress, while among those who must toe the line are Peter Cushing, John Richardson, and Christopher Lee. Previous She's were Helen Gahagan (Melvyn Douglas' wife for nearly five decades and vilified in the '50s by scuzzy political opponent Richard Nixon) and Betty Blythe (in a moderately entertaining silent version), not to mention Maria Montez's unofficial drag queen in Cobra Woman (1944).

Irving Rapper's Rhapsody in Blue (1945) is a by-the-book musical biopic starring Robert Alda (Alan Alda's father) as George Gershwin. The always reliable Joan Leslie plays one of the women in Gershwin's life, but it's Alexis Smith who steals the show as the socialite interested in Gershwin's, huh, music. Among those in supporting roles / musical cameos are Charles Coburn, Rosemary DeCamp, Julie Bishop, Al Jolson, Paul Whiteman, George White, Hazel Scott, and Oscar Levant.

And here are three more pre-Code movies from the Warner Archive:

  • Michael Curtiz's socially conscious drama Alias, the Doctor (1932), starring Richard Barthelmess, and featuring Marian Marsh and Norman Foster;
  • William Dieterle's From Headquarters (1933), featuring George Brent, Margaret Lindsay, murder, and cocaine addiction;
  • Mervyn LeRoy's highly watchable Heat Lightning (1934), starring the delightful Aline MacMahon and Ann Dvorak as sisters enmeshed in a murder at their desert diner. Preston Foster, Lyle Talbot, Glenda Farrell, and Ruth Donnelly are among the featured players.

Greer Garson, Debbie Reynolds, and Ricardo Montalban The Singing Nun picture: MGM / Warner Bros.

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