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20th Century Fox presents
Orchestra Wives (1942)

"Ah, you fellas are crazy. You were crazy to get married. Now companionship is all right, but there's no point in carrying it to extremes."
- Bill Abbot (George Montgomery)

Review By: Jeff Wilson  
Published: October 30, 2005

Stars: George Montgomery, Ann Rutherford, Lynn Bari
Other Stars: Glenn Miller, Carole Landis, Cesar Romero, Virginia Gilmore, Jackie Gleason
Director: Archie Mayo

MPAA Rating: Not Rated for nothing objectionable
Run Time: 01:37:39
Release Date: November 01, 2005
UPC: 024543208242
Genre: drama

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer

DVD Review

Orchestra Wives may seem at first glance like an unlikely candidate for the Studio Classics collection series put out by 20th Century Fox. But you spine number freaks out there wondering exactly what you're buying might be pleasantly surprised. Orchestra Wives, while a bit run of the mill and implausible story-wise, features enough laughs to make for an enjoyable ride. And, if you like the big band era, you get several performances by one of the legendary groups of the era, the Glenn Miller Band, led by the man himself.

The music kicks in from the opening scene, where we watch Gene Morrision (Glenn Miller) and his band rehearse a new record. The band is dismayed when singer Jaynie (Lynn Bari) tells them they're about to go on tour. Not only is it gruelling work, but the band members with wives do not look forward to their spouses' reactions to having to go out on the road. We cut to Connie Wood (Anne Rutherford), your typical small town girl, who simply loves Morrison's band, and trumpet player Bill Abbot (George Montgomery) in particular. When her would-be boyfriend Cully (Harry Morgan) offers to take her to see the band live that night, she quickly agrees. Abbot and pal St. John "Sinjin" Smith (Cesar Romero) notice Connie after the gig, and Bill quickly puts the moves on her, almost forcing Connie into an immediate make-out session on the spot. He urges Connie to travel to the next show on the schedule, and she agrees. The next night, Connie shows up, and Bill won't let her go so easily. His solution? Marriage! He doesn't even know her name, but hey, details, details, right? Connie impulsively agrees, and she finds the world of the orchestra wife to be rather different than she imagined.

The performances are generally good, with Cesar Romero displaying his talent for comedy, and Rutherford, previously best known for her recurring role in the Andy Hardy series, is appealing as the naif thrown into the deep end. Miller, playing himself more or less, is a bit wooden at times, but seems genuine enough. Montgomery is suitably piggish as the playboy turned husband, although his skirt-chasing ways seem to vanish awful quickly. Members of the Glenn Miller Band appear as themselves (a young, unbilled Jackie Gleason plays the bass). The ladies do a good job with their showy roles, with Lynn Bari and Carole Landis having the best material to work with.

The pleasures in this film are twofold. First is the music (by Harry Warren and Mack Gordon), assuming you enjoy the sounds of that era, as Miller and his band get several chances to strut their stuff, and director Archie Mayo manages to make relatively static performances, at least in a visual sense, remain lively. The dialogue and performances are also a delight, and a pleasantly biting comedic edge. The trailer advertises the film forth as a wacky comedy, but the humor is often rather more snarky and a bit mean, with most of the wives acting rather bitchy and catty. None of them display any genuine emotion beyond spite, jealousy, and pleasure at causing grief. It reduces them to the level of cartoons, but it's still fun to watch. The men, for their part, are portrayed as either put upon (the husbands) or easy going playboys (the unmarried guys). It's a cheap characterization to make, but speaks to the attitudes of the time.

In the end, it is Connie who drives the film, first inadvertantly breaking up the band, and then manuevering to put it back together. She shows that she's learned her lessons well, and schemes to allow the wives to let their husbands re-join, bribing them with gifts to get them to allow their husbands to work together again (one wife has been having an affair with the other's husband). It's a slightly meanspirited way to end the film, but it does at least have a ring of reality to it in that regard. The film ends with an out of nowhere performance by the Nicholas brothers, who perform to I've Got a Gal in Kalamazoo. Their number is exuberant and impressively wince-inducing, as the pair do repeated jump splits that hurt to watch. I have no idea why they were stuffed into the film so abruptly, other than they were under contract and needed to be used, but it jerks the film out of its previous rhythm, given the lack of dance numbers in the movie. Plus, it really doesn't advance the plot in any way; it's just there to wow the audience, which it admittedly does.

Rating for Style: B+
Rating for Substance: B


Image Transfer

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

Image Transfer Review: Not stellar, not terrible, merely average. Detail level could be higher here, as the picture is a bit noisy for my liking at times, but nothing too off-putting. Odds are you've seen better, and you've seen worse, really.

Image Transfer Grade: B


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0Englishyes

Audio Transfer Review: Mono and stereo tracks are included, though the stereo isn't a notable improvement over the mono, which sounds just fine. The music is really the star here, and it sounds good.

Audio Transfer Grade: B


Disc Extras

Static menu
Scene Access with 28 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English, Spanish with remote access
1 Original Trailer(s)
4 Other Trailer(s) featuring Anna and the King of Siam, Alexander's Ragtime Band, Desk Set, Letter to Three Wives
1 Feature/Episode commentary by Actress Anne Rutherford and dancer Fayard Nicholas
Packaging: Amaray
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: dual

Extras Review: Of note is a commentary track featuring star Anne Rutherford and dancer Fayard Nicholas. Nicholas, despite only appearing in the final five minutes of the film, proves to be a good companion for Rutherford, who chats away with very few dead spots. Nicholas does discuss his dance scene almost immediately, which would have been better during the actual scene, still more than an hour away, but most will presumably listen to this track after having watched the film, so no big deal. The two don't have a great deal to say about Orchestra Wives per se, but it's an entertaining track if only to hear two veterans of old time Hollywood talking about the old days. Also included on the disc is the trailer and a brief stills gallery, including some advertising material for the film. Trailers for four other Fox Studio Classics films are thrown in as well.

Extras Grade: B-


Final Comments

Not the absolute "classic" Fox would have us believe, but an enjoyable movie nonetheless. I was pleasantly surprised, and I imagine others might be as well. Fox's DVD includes an amusing commentary to go with an average transfer.


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