Expand Partners San Diego Comic Con 2014 Expand Partners
Best of Warner Bros.: 20 Film Collection (Musicals)
WHY 21?

No, no special features disc. This set clocks in at 21 discs because of 1954's 'A Star is Born' 3+ hour running time forced it on to a double disc set.

This massive collection is part of Warner Bros' continuing celebration of their 90th anniversary.  I know what you are thinking. 90th?  Not exactly a key anniversary but Warner Bros is known for celebrating a lot of anniversaries.  Fine with me as long as it keeps them releasing first-time DVD and blu-ray outings and collections of films at prices that can't be beat individually.  There is really no use in going into quality detail about each movie.  If you've seen them this isn't bringing you anything that hasn't already been released prior to this set.  

The biggest complaint I have is the seemingly quick "thrown together" nature that obviously took place, almost as if the impending 90th anniversary was a surprise.  This tactic only becomes obviously because of Warner Bros' history of releasing incredible, all-encompassing DVD and blu-rays.  Many of the discs in this collection (The Jazz Singer, Singin' in the Rain, Yankee Doodle Dandee, The Wizard of Oz) were originally part of larger sets themselves, clearly marked "Disc One" while others have the more forward thinking "The Movie" listed when disc two feature the extras.  

Because of this cherry-picking, this box set is purely for those that love the movies themselves but aren't too keen on the special features.  Some discs still have a few bonuses but the real good stuff is saved for the individual box sets.

In all, this is an extremely cost-effective purchase for any fan of Warner Bros' and MGM's vast musical history, especially since buying these films individually would cost you well over $250 but if you are looking for the special features, you will probably want to buy individual movies. 

-The Jazz Singer (1927) 1927/1928 Academy Award Winner, Special Award
The Jazz Singer (1927)
When The Jazz Singer was released in theaters, the future of Hollywood changed.  For the first time in a feature film, an actor spoke on screen, stunning audiences and leaving the silent era behind.  "The World's Greatest Entertainer," was the history-making actor in this story of the son of a Jewish cantor who must defy his rabbi father in order to pursue his dream of being in show business.  But the film is more than just history - if you think it isn't also pure entertainment, you ain't heard nothin' yet!

-The Broadway Melody (1929) 1928/1929 Academy Award Winner, Outstanding Picture
The Broadway Melody of 1929
History's first "All Talking! All Singing! All Dancing!" movie was also All Hit, drawing enough 35-cents admissions to pile up an enormous $4-million box office. The film's sound-technology innovations were revolutionary, the performances had gusto (including Bessie Love's effective Oscar-nominated turn as a hard-luck older sister), the Arthur Freed/Nacio Herb Brown songs became irresistible standard and when all was danced, acted and voh-doy-de-oh-dohed, a new American art form emerged: the movie musical!

Fan Page for The Broadway Melody

-42nd Street (1933)
42nd Street (1933)
Meet a dewy-eyed ingenue, a gee-whiz tenor, stuck-up stars, hard-up producers, brassy blondes and "shady ladies fromt he '80s."  They're all denizens of 42nd Street, belting out ageless Harry Warren/Al Dubin songs and tapping out Busby Berkely's sensational Depression-lifting numbers.  Lloyd Baon directs screenwriters Rian James and James Seymour's version of the put-on-a-show plot.  Full of famous faces, including Ruby Keller, Dick Powell and Ginger Rogers, this dazzling film proves good times never go out of style.

Fan Page for 42nd Street

-The Great Ziegfeld (1936) 1936 Academy Award Winner, Outsanding Production, Actress and Dance Direction
The Great Ziegfeld (1936)
Business at showman Florence Ziegfeld Jr.'s midway attraction was good (with broadway's legendary follies and more), bad and rarely lacking optimistic excess.  The Great Ziegfeld casts William Powell at the head of a lustrous cast including real-life Ziegfeldians and Hollywood favorites (including Luise Rainer).  Key creative personnel from Ziegfeld shows are on board.  And musical numbers (like A Pretty Girl is Like a Melody) meld Ziegfeld lavishness with cinematic pizzazz.  Great? You bet!

Fan Page for The Great Ziegfeld

-The Wizard of Oz (1939) 1939 Academy Award Winner, Original Score and Song

There's no place like home and no movie like this one.  Based on L. Frank Baum's treasured book series, The Wizard of Oz made the top 10 int he American Film Institute's 100 Greatest American Movies and topped their list of fantasy films.  Embark for the Emerald City on the moust famous road in movie history with Dorothy, The Scarecrow, The Tin Man and The Cowardly Lion.  Magic awaits on the Yellow Brick Road and Over the Rainbow.

Fan Page for The Wizard of Oz

-Yankee Doodle Dandy (1942) 1942 Academy Award Winner, Actor, Score
Yankee Doodle Dandy (1942)
James Cagney thrills in a rare (and limber) song-and-dance performance as composer-entertainer George M. Cohan. This nostalgic biography is told in flashbacks, covering Cohan's formative years becoming Broadway's brightest star and touching upon his loves, musicals, and artistic triumphs. Director Michael Curtiz (The Adventures of Robin Hood) offers Cagney ample opportunities to invent an utterly charming performance in what is practically a one-man show. If you've never seen Cagney as a hoofer, you're in for a treat: his dancing is as dynamic as anything else he's ever done on screen.

Fan Page for Yankee Doodle Dandy

-An American in Paris (1951) 1951 Academy Award Winner, Best Motion Picture, Art Direction, Costume Design, Score, Screenplay
An American in Paris (1951)
Gene Kelly, producer Arthur Freed, director Vincente Minnelli and screenwriter Alan Jay Lerner create an entertainment for the ages.  Kelly plays an ex-GI who loves Paris and an alluring (but engaged) perfume-shop clerk (Leslie Caron in her beguiling screen debut).  Dazzling dance sequences are spun around Gershwin songs.  And the closing ballet - combining the title piece, Impressionaist set stylings and Kelly's inimitable talent for telling a story in dance - makes this winner of six Oscars timeless.

Fan Page for An American in Paris

-Show Boat (1951)
Show Boar (1951)
Produced by Arthur Freed and written for the screen by John Lee Mahin, director George Sidney's version of the saga of riverboat lives and loves has glorious stars (Kathryn Grayson, Ava Gardner, Howard Keel, and Marge and Gower Champion) in Technicolor radiance, a made-from-scratch 170-foot paddle wheeler, timeless songs and an equally timeless outcry against racial bigotry.  "This was music that would outlas Jerome Kern's day and mine," novelist Edna Ferber said in recalling her first reaction to hearing Ol' Man River.  She was right as rain.

Fan Page for Show Boat

-Singin' in the Rain (1952)
Singin' in the Rain (1952)
Silents are giving way to Talkies, and a hoofer-turned-matinee idol (Gene Kelly) is caught in that bumpy transition, as are his buddy (Donald O'Connor), prospective ladylove (Debbie Reynolds) and shrewish costar (Jean Hagen).  Comedy, romance, musical numers and stars: Singing' in the Rain has it all, ranking 10th on AFI's 100 Greatest American Movies list.  Co-directed by Gene Kelly and Stanley Donen, this fond re-creation of a bygone moviemaking era from screenwriters Adolph Green and Betty Comden is pure moviewatching joy.

Fan Page for Singin' in the Rain

-Seven Brides for Seven Brothers (1954) 1954 Academy Award Winner, Score
Seven Brides of Seven Brothers (1954)
Now that big brother Adam's fetched a bride, the unwed Pontipee men are so inspired they raid the town for brides of their own.  Everything fits right in this classic directed by Stanley Donen, written by Albert Hackette, Frances Goodrich and Dorothy Kingsley, choreographed by Michael Kidd and featuring a Gene de Paul/Johnny Mercer score.  Jane Powell and Howard Keel star, supporting by a cast-leaping barn-raising sequence alone will give you a daylong smile.

Fan Page for Seven Brides for Seven Brothers

-A Star is Born (1954)
A Star is Born (1954)
A Star Is Born is a 1954 American musical film directed by George Cukor. The screenplay written by Moss Hart was an adaptation of the original 1937 film, which was based on the original screenplay by Robert Carson, Dorothy Parker, and Alan Campbell. Clocking in at over 3 hours, this is the longest film of the bunch and the only one that spans two discs (hence the 21-discs instead of 20).

Fan Page for A Star is Born

-The Music Man (1962) 1962 Academy Award Winner, Score
The Music Man (1962)
Robert Preston, Shirley Jones, Buddy Hackett, Hermione Gingold, Paul Ford, Morton DaCostaLet 76 trombones lead the big parade from the Great White Way into your home. It's the Music Man, the screen version of one of Broadway's all-time blockbusters, a skyburst of Americana as irresistible as 4th of July fireworks.

Fan Page for The Music Man

-Viva Las Vegas (1964)
Viva Las Vegas (1964)
In one of his most popular movies, Elvis plays race-car driver Lucky Jackson, who arrives in town with his car literally in tow.  In order to enter the first Las Vegas Gran Prix, he must raise nough money to buy a new engine.  He gets the cash but loses it when the hotel swimming pool instructor (Ann-Margaret) distracts him.  Just when it seems he will lose both race and girl, Lady Luck steps in.  Veteran director George Sidney guides hist two musical talents through Sally Benson's screenplay and a succession of unforgettable songs.

Fan Page for Viva Las Vegas

-Camelot (1967) 1967 Academy Award Winner, Art Direction, Costume Design, Score
Camelot (1967)
The oft-told tales of Arthurian legend have always been fertile ground for art. With countless books, fi lms and songs on the subject, there have been many interpretations of Merlin, the Knights of the Round Table, the glories of the kingdom of Camelot and the doomed love triangle of King Arthur, Lady Guenevere and Sir Lancelot du Lac. The musical Camelot, however, remains the most iconic. Consider the historical context of the piece. Originated for the stage in 1960, Camelot coincided with the presidency of a young John F. Kennedy. Kennedy was a big fan of Camelot; he identifi ed with King Arthur and, according to the First Lady, she and the President would often listen to the soundtrack before going to bed at night. Tragically, and ironically, just as Arthur's rule lasted for one brief, shining moment, so did Kennedy's, and the press forever linked the two legendary leaders many hundreds of years apart. Camelot is emblematic of JFK and, as such, it is emblematic of an era.

Fan Page for Camelot

-Willy Wonka & The Chocolate Factory (1971)
Willy Wonka & The Chocolate Factory (1971)
Join the expedition visiting legendary Candy Man Willy Wonka (Gene Wilder) in a splendiferous movie that wondrously brings to the screen the endlessly appetizing delights of Roald Dahl’s classic book. Coated with flavorful tunes and production design that constantly dazzles the eye, this effervescent musical never fails to enchant young and old. On a whirlwind tour of Willy’s incredible, edible realm of chocolate waterfalls, elfish Oompa-Loompas and industrial-sized confections, a boy named Charlie (Peter Ostrum) will discover the sweetest secret of all: a generous, loving heart. And you’ll rediscover the timeless magic of a delicious family classic. 

Fan Page for Willy Wonka & The Chocolate Factory

-Cabaret (1972) 1972 Academy Award Winner, Supporting Actor, Actress, Art Direction, Cinematography, Director, Editing, Score, Song
Cabaret (1972)
Willkommen, bienvenue, welcome to Cabaret.  Inside the Kit Kat Klub of 1931 Berline, starry-eyed singer Sally Bowles (Liza Minnelli) and an imish emcee (Joel Grey) sound the clarion call to decadent dun, while outside a certain political party grows into a brutal foce.  Featuring songs by John Kaner and Fred Ebb, Cabaret won Academy Awards for Minnelli, Grey and director Bob Fosse, who shaped a triumph of style and substance from Jay Presson Allen's screenplay.  Come to this Cabaret.  You'll never want to leave.

Fan Page for Cabaret

-That's Entertainment (1974)
That's Entertainment (1974)
This is not a film, per se, it is an unforgettable collection of sequences from MGM's greatest musicals. "Anchors Aweigh," "Babes in Arms," "Singin' in the Rain," "The Wizard of Oz," and more. Astaire, Crosby, Kelly, Minnelli, Sinatra and Rooney host. That's extravaganza, that's dance, that's song, that's entertainment. The only shame here is that they didn't include the two sequels.

Fan Page for That's Entertainment

-Victor/Victoria (1982) 1982 Academy Award Winner, Score
Victor/Victoria (1982)
Julie Andrews plays a woman whose livelihood depends on pretending to be a man who pretends to be a woman in this clever delight from filmmaker Blake Edwards.  Robert Preston plays a cabaret performer who devises the gener-bender stage act.  Farcically complicating matters are James Garner as a mobster suspecting Victor is a Victoria and Lesley Ann Warren as a short-fused floozy.  This Academy Award winner also boasts a marvelous score by Henry Mancini and Leslie Bricusse.

Fan Page for Victor/Victoria

-Little Shop of Horrors (1986)
Little Shop of Horror s(1986)
Business blooms at Mushnik's Flower Shop when an exotic potted plant called Audrey II arrives.  It turns out to be a carnivorous "mean, green mother from out space," filling that little shop with lots of horros.  Little Shop of Horrs first flowered in a low-budget 1960 Roger COrman movie, resprouted as a smash 1982 off-Broadway musical and came full circle with this 1986 movie musical adaptation of the stage hit, which was directed by Frank Oz from a screenplay by lyricist Howard Ashman.

Fan Page for Little Shop of Horrors

-Hairspray (1988)
Hairpray (1988)
In 1962 Baltimore, where cool is king and the Madison is the fave rave of the Hit Parade!  Tracy Turnblad (Ricki Lake) has the biggest bouffany on the block and all the right moves to be a star on Blatimore's homegrown dance show.  This offbeat comedy from acclaimed filmmaker John Watersis higlighted by rhythm and blues and tail-shakin' dancing, and also stars Divine (Pink Flamingos) and rock legends Sonny Bono and Debbie Harry.

Fan Page for Hairspray

Peter Oberth
Review by Peter Oberth
Follow him @ Twitter