follow us on twitter

dOc on facebook

Microsoft Store

Share: email   Print      Technorati.gif   StumbleUpon.gif   MySpace   digg.gif delicious.gif   google.gif   magnolia.gif   facebook.gif
Permalink: Permalink.gif

Buy from Amazon

Buy from Amazon.com

Warner Home Video presents
The Ronald Reagan Signature Collection (Kings Row, The Hasty Heart, Storm Warning, The Winning Team, Knute Rockne All American) (1940-1952)

"Randy! Randy! Where's the rest of me?!"
- Drake McHugh (Ronald Reagan)

Review By: David Krauss  
Published: February 02, 2007

Stars: Ronald Reagan
Other Stars: Ann Sheridan, Robert Cummings, Claude Rains, Richard Todd, Patricia Neal, Ginger Rogers, Doris Day, Steve Cochran, Pat O'Brien, Betty Field, Charles Coburn, Judith Anderson, Maria Ouspenskaya, Nancy Coleman, Harry Davenport, Russ Tamblyn, Frank Lovejoy
Director: Vincent Sherman, Stuart Heisler, Sam Wood, Lloyd Bacon, Lewis Seiler

MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (adult themes, mild violence)
Run Time: 08h:38m:00s
Release Date: August 15, 2006
UPC: 012569808072
Genre: drama

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer

DVD Review

He may have been dubbed the Great Communicator during his presidency, but even Ronald Reagan's staunchest political supporters would think twice—or even thrice—about calling him a great actor. Competent? Absolutely. But Reagan's modicum of talent and easygoing on-screen manner weren't enough to loft him into the coveted ranks of superstardom, where the dashing likes of Gable, Grant, and Flynn reigned supreme. His dependability, however, paid big dividends, and allowed him to carve out a two-decade career as a B-picture leading man and A-list supporting player during Hollywood's Golden Age.

Reagan made only a handful of memorable films (and, no, Bedtime for Bonzo isn't one of them), and Warner Home Video has included practically all of them in their handsome Ronald Reagan Signature Collection, a five-disc box set spanning the actor's most productive period. A good mix of gritty drama, soapy romance, fervent patriotism, schmaltzy inspiration, and light-hearted corn, these movies allow us to fondly recall Reagan's first vocation, and prove he could recite a line of dialogue with almost as much conviction as a campaign stump speech. Two of the pictures—Knute Rockne All American and Kings Row—can be purchased separately, but the other three—Storm Warning, The Hasty Heart, and The Winning Team—remain exclusive to this collection, which showcases a rugged Reagan in his prime. In chronological order, we begin with:

Knute Rockne All American (1940)
This is the movie that put Ronald Reagan on the celluloid map, and it affords him the opportunity to utter that immortal deathbed line, "Win just one for the Gipper." An indelible blueprint for all subsequent sports movies, Knute Rockne All American isn't really about the ailing player whose words would spur future teams on to victory, but rather the influential and inspirational Notre Dame coach (Pat O'Brien) who almost single-handedly transformed football into a national obsession. Tough yet tender, Rockne won his players' respect and devotion, turning boys into men while revolutionizing the game with inventive tactics and formations (the most famous of which he derived from a girly chorus line). Knute Rockne may creak a bit around the edges, but remains a stirring, impassioned biopic, distinguished by O'Brien's career-defining performance. And though Reagan only shags 12 minutes of screen time, he too makes a solid impression as the soft-spoken George Gipp, who traded baseball for a brief but shining few years on the Fighting Irish front line.

Kings Row (1942)
Long before Peyton Place, there was Kings Row, a soapy yet impeccably produced small-town saga that earned a Best Picture Academy Award nomination. Much like its sensational successor, the bucolic borough of the film's title claims to be "a good clean town," but plenty of dirt lurks beneath the idyllic surface. Madness, tyranny, and sadism are only some of the disturbing themes that swirl about this lush, lyrical drama, one of Warner's classiest adaptations of the 1940s. Reagan is flat-out terrific as a handsome, privileged, yet hot-headed young man whose life takes a devastating turn after a tragic accident. Never again would he play a part with more conviction, nor would another film better showcase his boyish charm and quiet strength. Ann Sheridan (who receives top billing, but doesn't appear until after the film's halfway point) is equally fine as his wrong-side-of-the-tracks flame, and Robert Cummings, Betty Field and such stalwart character actors as Claude Rains, Judith Anderson, Charles Coburn, and Maria Ouspenskaya round out the all-star cast.

The Hasty Heart (1949)
Warner Bros. tried to sell this adaptation of the popular John Patrick stage play as a love triangle, but it's really a thoughtful, intimate study of male friendship and devotion. Set in a British hospital in Burma at the close of World War II, The Hasty Heart chronicles the humanization of a proud, bitter Scottish soldier (Richard Todd) who's unwittingly dying of kidney disease. Reagan asserts himself well as a no-nonsense American GI who tries to crack the Scot's gruff exterior, and Patricia Neal shines as a sympathetic nurse, but they're both hopelessly overshadowed by Todd's heartbreaking, Oscar-nominated performance. At times reminiscent of Dark Victory, the story has all the makings of a major downer, but thankfully director Vincent Sherman preserves the play's uplifting, inspirational spirit. Still, even the most stoic viewers will find themselves fumbling for Kleenex during the emotionally charged final minutes. All tolled, the honest sentiment, simple themes, and tight ensemble work make The Hasty Heart the hidden gem of this collection.

Storm Warning (1951)
Though its Southern setting and incendiary family dynamics would prompt many to term it a shameless knock-off of A Streetcar Named Desire (released the same year), Storm Warning more strongly resembles Warner's socially conscious films of the 1930s. This tense, gripping melodrama indicts the insidious nature of the Ku Klux Klan, even as it side-steps the group's heinous white supremacist attitudes. Reagan, in a rather listless portrayal, plays a jaded county prosecutor investigating a white reporter's murder and hoping to wring some damning testimony from out-of-town witness Marsha Mitchell (Ginger Rogers), who at first pledges to cooperate, then chooses to keep mum to protect her brawny Klansman brother-in-law (Steve Cochran) and naïve, lovesick sister (Doris Day, who easily steals the picture). Despite palpable Stanley-Stella-Blanche parallels, Storm Warning stays focused on the crime at hand, and strikingly depicts how the Klan exerts its odious influence over the weak, lost, and scared. The burning-cross climax must have been an eye-opener in 1951 (and still packs a punch today), but excessive histrionics somewhat douse the flames. Storm Warning, however, remains a noteworthy film, and its release on DVD is welcome indeed.

The Winning Team (1952)
The weakest title in the set, The Winning Team amiably tells the against-all-odds story of Hall-of-Fame hurler Grover Cleveland Alexander, who battled physical ailments and personal demons to become one of baseball's finest early pitchers. Although the often corny screenplay juggles events for dramatic effect and sugarcoats Alexander's alcoholism and epilepsy, it succeeds as a portrait of perseverance, and Reagan nicely embodies that quality. Even at 41, the Gipper possessed enough youthful vigor to make a believable phenom early in the film, but his best scenes come toward the end when a down-and-out Alexander wages an impressive comeback and becomes the hero of the 1926 World Series. Once again, Doris Day provides support, this time as Alexander's long-suffering wife, and her natural, sincere portrayal helps keep the movie on an even keel.

Reagan never wowed the public with his acting talent, but he got the job done, and these five films salute his sound work ethic, efficiency, and enthusiasm. Though he may not have been the movie industry's commander-in-chief, he did far more in Hollywood than play a chimp's chump, and within this excellent collection lies the proof.

Rating for Style: A
Rating for Substance: A


Image Transfer

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

Image Transfer Review: Each movie has undergone a degree of refurbishment resulting in a clean image, rich black levels (especially noticeable when viewing the noir-ish Storm Warning), and a reduction in nicks and scratches. The degree of grain varies from film to film, but all retain a smooth celluloid feel and sport a wide-ranging gray scale. Kings Row looks especially crisp and vibrant, though it does suffer from occasional bouts of image instability. On the other end of the scale, The Hasty Heart is perhaps the most problematic of the bunch, with a few rough patches and more conspicuous imperfections, but it's still an above-average transfer.

Image Transfer Grade: B+


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access

Audio Transfer Review: The original mono soundtracks grace all the films, and once again, Warner technicians have taken special care to eradicate any imperfections. Pops and crackles are nonexistent, and though a slight bit of hiss can often be detected, it never distracts from the on-screen action. Dialogue is always easy to comprehend—even when it's swathed in Richard Todd's thick Scottish brogue—and the various music scores sound pleasantly robust.

Audio Transfer Grade: B+


Disc Extras

Static menu with music
Scene Access with 137 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English, French, Spanish with remote access
5 Original Trailer(s)
1 Feature/Episode commentary by director Vincent Sherman and Reagan biographer John Meroney
Packaging: Box Set
Picture Disc
5 Discs
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: dual

Extra Extras:
  1. Three vintage shorts
  2. Three classic cartoons
  3. Radio adaptation of Knute Rockne All American
Extras Review: Each disc includes the original theatrical trailer of its corresponding film, but The Hasty Heart, Knute Rockne All American, and Kings Row boast other supplements as well. Most notably, The Hasty Heart features an audio commentary by its always colorful director, the recently deceased Vincent Sherman, and Reagan biographer John Meroney. Both informative and entertaining, this superior track gets under Reagan's skin, and provides us with an intimate understanding of the man and his passion for both the movies and politics. Meroney opines that the real Reagan was a product of Hollywood, and his 20-year film career was instrumental in shaping his personality and presidency. He cites the actor's anguish over his recent divorce from Jane Wyman as adding an extra dimension to his Hasty Heart portrayal, and outlines Reagan's delicate transition from actor to statesman. Sherman (whose remarks were recorded separately) focuses more on the film at hand, fondly recalling the heightened discipline of the British crew and, at one point, breaking down when discussing the finer elements of Richard Todd's character. An amusing 11-minute short, So You Want to Be in Pictures, features cameos by such familiar Warner contract players as Jack Carson, Alexis Smith, Janis Paige, and Reagan himself as it follows comedian Joe McDoakes as he bumbles his way through a bit part, while the seven-and-a-half-minute cartoon, The Hasty Hare, finds Bugs Bunny trying to evade capture by a determined Martian.

Knute Rockne includes the similarly rousing (and Oscar-winning) Technicolor short, Teddy, the Rough Rider, a 19-minute tribute to President Theodore Roosevelt that charts the politician's rise through the ranks while showcasing his outspoken views and lively personality. Unfortunately, actor Sidney Blackmer gives a one-note, overly stylized performance that—coupled with a syrupy musical accompaniment and preachy script—badly dates the film. More sports oriented (and perhaps better suited to The Winning Team DVD) is the classic Looney Tunes cartoon, Porky's Baseball Broadcast, a seven-minute, black-and-white jewel in which the stuttering pig provides play-by-play commentary for a Giants-Yankees game and invokes almost every conceivable baseball cliché, which Warner animators then pricelessly depict. Finally, a surprisingly faithful 60-minute Lux Radio Theater adaptation that allows Reagan, Pat O'Brien, and Donald Crisp to reprise their roles (and King Kong scream queen Fay Wray to play Rockne's wife), completes the extras.

For a dose of flag-waving patriotism, the Kings Row disc offers up the nine-and-a-half-minute short, The United States Marine Band. Filmed on the steps of the U.S. Capitol and directed by a young Jean Negulesco, this energetic concert shows off the musical talents of the toughest branch of the American armed forces, while the Looney Tunes short Fox Pop chronicles the efforts of a country fox to become a pampered Park Avenue pet.

Extras Grade: B


Final Comments

Forget politics. The Ronald Reagan Signature Collection is a fitting tribute to one of Hollywood's most likeable and relatable actors. This five-disc set not only reconnects us to the man's professional roots, but also honors his achievements and durability in an industry he helped shape. Four of the five films supply top-notch entertainment and would be worthy additions to the DVD libraries of both Republicans and Democrats. Recommended.


Back to top

Microsoft Store

On Facebook!
Promote Your Page Too



Original Magic Dress.com

Susti Heaven

Become a Reviewer | Search | Review Vault | Reviewers
Readers | Webmasters | Privacy | Contact
Microsoft Store