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Paramount Studios presents
Riding High (1950)

"What are we waiting for? Let's bake a sunshine cake!"
- Dan, Alice, and Whitey (Bing Crosby, Coleen Gray, Clarence Muse)

Review By: Jeff Rosado   
Published: January 06, 2005

Stars: Bing Crosby, Coleen Gray, Clarence Muse, Raymond Walburn, William Demarest
Other Stars: Frances Gifford, Charles Bickford, Percy Kilbride, James Gleason, Harry Davenport, Margaret Hamilton, Douglass Dumbrille, Ward Bond, Dub Taylor, Gene Lockhart, Joe Frisco, Frankie Darro, Charles Lane, Oliver Hardy
Director: Frank Capra

MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (nothing objectionable)
Run Time: 01h:51m:34s
Release Date: August 31, 2004
UPC: 097360491746
Genre: comedy


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

DVD Review

To kick off his third decade as an international star, Bing Crosby teamed with legendary director Frank Capra on the latter's remake of his 1934 film, Broadway Bill. It's A Wonderful Life, had flopped, and, anxious to start off with a clean slate and restore his stature in the biz, Capra sold Crosby and Paramount Pictures on his Broadway re-vamp, even offering to cut costs by incorporating footage from the original picture (!) and using mostly public domain music for Bing to warble. Besides, as good a film as Bill was, the director confessed dissatisfaction in retrospect due to male lead Warner Baxter's dislike of horses.

Bing inherited the role of Dan Brooks, a former horserace player trying to settle into respectability with an upcoming marriage to fiancée Margaret (Frances Gifford), one of the daughter's of prominent (and very well-off) J.L. Higgins (Charles Bickford). But after a combination business meeting/formal dinner pairing Danny Boy with his prospectively stuffy in-laws and a taste of what his future could become, he opts to give the track life just one more try, much to the delight of the family's down-to-earth youngest daughter Alice (Coleen Gray), Dan's closest ally who's always harbored a bit of a crush on her future brother-in-law.

With the aid of good buddy Whitey (Clarence Muse), backers Eddie Howard (Douglas Dumbrille) and Happy McGuire (William Demarest), Dan and Alice set about to revive his hopes and dreams that ride on his beloved horse Broadway Bill. After a disastrous freshman race where the hoofer goes into reverse, it looks like the clouds of bad luck are finally parting. But like weather in the South, sometimes all you have to do wait a minute and a partly sunny day turns to grey. In other words, the rain returns, literally, as a violent thunderstorm and it's accompanying precipitation pours through our thrifty horse owner's inferior barn roof, leaving Bill fighting for his life.

Though mostly predictable, Riding High is a swell, old-fashioned and unapologetic feel-good movie, but it's not devoid of problems. For one, the mixture of vintage and new footage comes off extremely awkwardly at times (which we'll discuss more technically below in the visual review). For one, the 1934 model seemed to be faster paced, especially in the dialogue department. But the non-cynical side and more sensible side of my brain goes, c'mon! This is a Capra-corn fest! So, if you take it for what it's worth and delight in its positives, High will ascend your dour mood to the heavens, particularly if you're a real classic movie lover. Many top-tier character actors are to be found, including western star Ward Bond, Gene Lockhart, that wicked 'ol witch herself, Margaret Hamilton (speaking of which, watch quickly in the opening seconds for her fellow Wizard of Oz castmate Clara "Aunt Em" Blandick appearing in stock footage from Bill), Dub Taylor, whose regional twang made him a busy man, appearing in everything from Bonnie and Clyde to Hee Haw, and the great Charles Lane, who can chalk up eight Capra classics on his 200-plus film resume.



Rating for Style: B
Rating for Substance: B-

 

Image Transfer

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


Image Transfer Review: Mostly in line with many of Paramount's films from this era; crisp black and white with slight instances of barely-there grain, at least on the new material shot for the film. What makes this film's look spotty at times is the cross cutting of stock footage from Broadway Bill, which unfortunately wasn't well kept-up in the Columbia vaults (Paramount bought the rights when High was green lit; film restoration didn't even exist at this point of cinema history). At times, there's a lot of flickering, slight scratches, overt sharpness and so on, which does the freshly shot material no favors since it's mostly spotless.

Image Transfer Grade: B

 

Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
MonoEnglishyes


Audio Transfer Review: Though slight distortion is evident from time to time, it's pleasing enough with no major problems (and surprisingly consistent considering the shift in soundtracks recorded years apart).

Audio Transfer Grade: B

 

Disc Extras

Static menu
Scene Access with 14 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English with remote access
Packaging: Keep Case
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: single

Extras Review: As an infamous Bing standard once lamented, "I got plenty o' nuttin'...", and that's what you'll find in a non-existent extras section.

Nuttin'.

Extras Grade: D-

 

Final Comments

Although not top drawer Crosby or Capra, Riding High is a mostly entertaining musical-comedy-drama that should please fans of each.

 


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