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Night and Day

(1946) ** Unrated
128 min. Warner Brothers. Director: Michael Curtiz. Cast: Cary Grant, Alexis Smith, Monty Woolley, Ginny Simms, Jane Wyman.

Night and Day, a Technicolor curiosity "based on the career of Cole Porter," bares scant resemblance to the life of Cole Porter. If not for flashes of flair from an uncomfortable-looking Cary Grant and Golden Age director Michael Curtiz—known for Casablanca, Yankee Doodle Dandy, and The Adventures of Robin Hood (and the list goes on...)—Night and Day would be hopeless. As it is, the film is merely mediocre drama goosed with hit-and-miss production numbers of Porter's witty tunes.

Though Alexis Smith is a bit frozen as Cole's long-suffering wife Linda, Night and Day benefits from a veteran ensemble, including Jane Wyman, Eve Arden, Alan Hale, Sig Ruman, and, in an odd spectacle, Monty Woolley and Mary Martin as themselves. Martin recreates her "My Heart Belongs to Daddy" routine from Porter's Leave It To Me, and Woolley, who was a contemporary of Porter's at Yale, reinvents himself as a rakish professor who really wants to direct. As for the hard-working, conscientious Grant, he seems at sea with the square script and, when in doubt, simply flashes his million-watt grin. Grant fanatics will enjoy the handful of tremulous Grant vocals.

Night and Day includes 27 Porter songs in all, including "Let's Do It," "You Do Something to Me" (set to a remarkable cane dance), "What is This Thing Called Love?", "I've Got You Under My Skin," "It Was Just One of Those Things," "Anything Goes," "You're the Top" (sung by Grant), "I Get a Kick Out of You" (replacing Porter's reference to cocaine with "perfume from Spain"), "You'd Be So Easy to Love," "Begin the Beguine," and, in a snippet of vintage footage from Hollywood Canteen, "Don't Fence Me In" as sung by Roy Rogers. Ray Heindorf gets the credit for orchestrating and conducting the production numbers (Max Steiner also contributed to the score) and LeRoy Prinz for creating and directing the dance numbers.

As a biopic, Night and Day is standard stuff. One can excuse Yankee Doodle Dandy's inaccuracies because of that film's narrative brilliance, commanding musical numbers, and superior leading performance, but Night and Day has limited compensations for its rote fictionalization of Porter's life, from 1914 at Yale to his contemporary struggle with a crippling leg injury. Curtiz's film, which was authorized by Porter, shares some ground with Irwin Winkler's De-Lovely: the strain of workaholism on the Porters' marriage, his leg trouble, and the curse of wit (a producer tells Grant's Porter, "This song is clever and it's different, but it may be too clever and too different").

The four credited writers on Night and Day emphasize early struggles for success, romanticize Porter's war record, and depict Porter as a babe magnet (lathering several coats of gloss over his well-known homosexuality). Poky but sort of mesmerizing, Night and Day is only occasionally moody and relentlessly upbeat: even when Porter is down, Linda conspires to cheer him to success. As Cary Grant's first color film and the first "biopic" of Porter, Night and Day will doubtless draw audiences for years to come.

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Aspect ratios: 1.33:1 Full Screen

Number of discs: 1

Audio: Dolby Digital 1.0 Mono

Street date: 6/8/2004

Distributor: Warner Home Video

Warner presents Night and Day as a part of its "Cary Grant Signature Collection," in a so-so transfer with an understandably inconsistent color tone (the tricky Technicolor process tends to waver in modern transfers without an expensive film or computer restoration); unfortunately, a few shots at the Porter family manse suffer from hideous blurring. The mono track comes through clearly, making for a sturdy presentation of this nearly sixty-year-old film.

Warner also includes a battery of supplemental materials: three vintage shorts and a Cole Porter Trailer Gallery with vintage previews of Broadway Melody of 1940, Kiss Me Kate, High Society, Silk Stockings, and Les Girls. First up among the short subjects is the inelegant, ten-minute, black-and-white "Desi Arnaz and His Orchestra" (1946), with the bandleader lip-synching energetically to tunes like his signature song "Babalu." The elaborate, twenty-minute short subject "Musical Movieland" (1944) is more to the point of the disc, directed as it is in Technicolor by LeRoy Prinz (Night and Day's dance director); it's a goofy tour of the world by way of the studio backlot. Lastly, the disc features the gleeful, seven-minute Bugs Bunny Looney Tune "The Big Snooze" (1946), in which Elmer Fudd threatens to break up the act, prompting Bugs to invade his dreams.
Review gear:
Panasonic Viera TC-P55VT30 55" Plasma 1080p 3D HDTV
Oppo BDP-93 Universal Network 3D Blu-ray Disc Player
Denon AVR2112CI Integrated Network A/V Surround Receiver
Pioneer SP-BS41-LR Bookshelf Speaker (2)
Pioneer SP-C21 Center Speaker
Pioneer SW-8 Subwoofer

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