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Paramount Studios presents
Just For You / Here Comes the Groom (1951-2)

Jordan: What do you think fathers are for?
Babs: To make money and be famous?

- Bing Crosby, Natalie Wood, in Just For You

Review By: Jon Danziger   
Published: September 16, 2004

Stars: Bing Crosby, Jane Wyman, Ethel Barrymore, Alexis Smith
Other Stars: Natalie Wood, Anna-Maria Alberghetti, Louis Armstrong, Dorothy Lamour
Director: Elliott Nugent, Frank Capra

MPAA Rating: Not Rated
Run Time: 03h:02m:46s
Release Date: June 29, 2004
UPC: 097360504347
Genre: comedy


Style
Grade
Substance
Grade
Image Transfer
Grade
Audio Transfer
Grade
Extras
Grade
B B-CB- D-

DVD Review

Just what sort of an offscreen father Bing Crosby made is almost certainly something known only to his children; to date, the reviews have been mixed, and the definitive word may come from Crosby biographer Gary Giddins. (To date, alas, only A Pocketful of Dreams, the first volume of Giddins' undertaking, has been published.) On screen, however, he's close to textbook perfect, with a sympathetic ear, a big heart, a few extra bucks. This DVD offers a double feature of Daddy Bing, and more often than not in these pictures, father knows best.

Leading off is Just For You, from 1952, and directed by Elliott Nugent, and it's as close to a sitcom as Crosby ever got—in effect, it's The Courtship of Babs' and Jerry's Father. Der Bingle plays Jordan Blake, the toast of Broadway, a producer with a magic touch; he's a wonder at the keyboards, and is putting the final strokes on his new masterpiece, due to open in days. Jordan is widowed, and has a yen for his new leading lady, Carolina, played by Jane Wyman; all would be just ducky, but Jordan's kids have some issues. Natalie Wood plays young Babs, with a new nanny who likes to take more than the occasional nip of the cooking sherry; all that Babs desperately wants is to go to St. Hilary's, a posh finishing school for girls that seems to have disdain for show folk. Far more deeply problematic is Jerry, Jordan's son, played by Robert Arthur; he and his buddy have come to town from their boarding school to share the good news with Dad that one of their songs is going to be published. But the song isn't very good, and Jordan tells them as much; Dad then rubs salt in the wound for poor Jerry when it's clear that Jerry has a schoolboy crush on Carolina, and has hopes for a mad Mrs. Robinson-type romance.

And there's nothing like a few lungs full of country air to set right the problems of city folk. Jerry gets his heart broken, and writes a song that's actually a pretty good one, pining for Carolina; and Jordan makes a new pal down at the lake, who turns out to be the headmistress at St. Hilary's. Ethel Barrymore is marvelous in the role, with the wonderful name of Alida de Bronkhart; she's at once regal and egalitarian, and as is fitting with her surname, seems like true screen royalty. Just about anything is an excuse for a song in this movie—an opening night, a weenie roast—and though the score isn't first rate, it's sufficiently tuneful. Wyman does well enough without getting all that much to do, and the real star of course is Crosby, who floats through the movie with a smile.He does much the same in the nightcap, Here Comes the Groom, which was made a year earlier, and sports a more prestigious Hollywood pedigree. It's directed by Frank Capra, and sharing credit for the script is Robert Riskin, probably the best and most important of Capra's screenwriters—he wrote It Happened One Night, Mr. Deeds Goes to Town and Meet John Doe, among others. And while this picture isn't nearly of the quality of their previous work, particularly for structural reasons, it still goes down easy.

This time Crosby plays a newspaperman, Pete Garvey, stationed in Paris and with a weakness for war orphans. He's made it his personal mission to find a home for each and every one; in the process, he's ditched his fiancée back home, Emmy, played by Wyman. Pete finally makes it back stateside, with his last two French orphans, the hopelessly cute Bobby and Susie, in tow; Emmy has moved on to greener pastures, however, and is engaged to be married to her billionaire boss. Here's the catch: Pete has to be married by Saturday to keep custody of the kids, otherwise they get shipped back to France; and Saturday is the very day that Emmy and her new beau are slated to be married. Anybody care to wager on how this one turns out?

There's lots of snappy, old-time newspaper movie dialogue ("You peanut brain son of a peanut brain kangaroo!"), and even a delightful interlude at 30,000 feet—on the flight to the States, Pete and the kids find themselves traveling with a USO troupe, and we're treated to a number with cameos from, among others, Louis Armstrong and Road picture regular Dorothy Lamour. There's even a very good recurring song: In The Cool, Cool, Cool of the Evening, by Johnny Mercer and Hoagy Carmichael. But the story is a little bottom heavy—we don't meet Wilbur, Emmy's new intended, until nearly an hour into the running time of the picture, and there's not much to him, so in this fight over the girl, Crosby has to be Macaulay Connor and C.K. Dexter Haven all in one. There are a couple of solid comic set pieces, though, such as when Pete and Wilbur (a game but underarmed Franchot Tone) square off, or when Pete tries to make a sassy gal out of Wilbur's blueblood cousin Winifred, played in a sly comic turn by Alexis Smith.

Much of this is very old-fashioned and frankly sexist—at one point Winifred and Emmy even engage in a catfight—and can make something like My Best Friend's Wedding look progressive in comparison. But looking at these movies through our contemporary political prism is probably unfair, and if you can leave that agenda aside for a little while, this is a fairly entertaining double bill.

Rating for Style: B
Rating for Substance: B-

 

Image Transfer

 One
Aspect Ratio1.33:1 - Full Frame
Original Aspect Ratioyes
Anamorphicno


Image Transfer Review: Don't be fooled by the illustration on the cover of the DVD case—Just For You is in black and white, and doesn't look too shabby. The opening stanza isn't nearly as crisp and sharp, though; the many lakeside matte shots in Here Comes the Groom must have been pretty poor to begin with, and the years have made them seem downright laughable. Many blotches and scratches don't help the cause any, either.

Image Transfer Grade: C

 

Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
MonoEnglishno


Audio Transfer Review: More crackle on the first feature than the second, but the mono tracks are generally pretty clean.

Audio Transfer Grade: B-

 

Disc Extras

Static menu
Scene Access with 32 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English with remote access
Packaging: Amaray
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: dual
Layers Switch: 01h:44m:08s

Extras Review: Only chapter stops.

Extras Grade: D-

 

Final Comments

These are almost throwaway efforts and aren't watershed marks in the careers of anyone involved. Still, this is a breezy double feature with Bing Crosby smiling through, and if you're a fan of decidedly old-fashioned entertainments, these are worth at least a glance.

 


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