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    Other Musical Christmas Favorites

    Posted by Mike Finnegan on

    Moviegoers in search of silver screen songs to take to their hearts have these choices at their 2016 multiplex: Disney’s animated Moana, with its pop and Pacific region-flavored assortment of seven tunes; Universal/Illumination’s animated Sing, whose animal talent-show aspirants take deep dives into the contemporary pop songbook; and the live-action critical favorite La La Land, with six newly written numbers that propel its candy-colored tale of Los Angeles as a city where dreams can be realized when powered by persistence and hard work. To help program an alternate “Christmas Season Movie Releases Playlist” full of variety, consider these Yuletide Holiday Openings offered on Twilight Time hi-def Blu-ray. Flaming Star (debuting December 20, 1960) was a thoughtfully made Western drama about identity and family loyalty with a marvelously engaging Elvis Presley lead performance; not a musical in the vein of his later vehicles, it nonetheless provided two numbers for The King to croon in the early-going scenes – Flaming Star and A Cane and a High Starched Collar (both with accompaniment by The Jordanaires) – before the heavier-going conflicts of director Don Siegel’s tough and lean frontier saga kicked in. Miss Sadie Thompson (December 23, 1953, directed by Curtis Bernhardt) alluringly beckoned with a potential match-for-the-ages of iconic – and musical movie alumna – Rita Hayworth with a sweet role (W. Somerset Maugham’s propriety-shunning shady dame) and gorgeous Hawaiian location Technicolor photography in audience-grabbing 3D. Though more material was written when the project was originally conceived as a full-bore musical, the song selection by Ned Washington, Lester Lee and Allan Roberts was cut down to four tunes; the two best remembered (and performed by Jo Ann Greer, Hayworth’s long-experienced singing dubber) are The Heat Is On (coupled with a smoldering Hayworth dance that would blowtorch away any winter chill in the immediate vicinity) and Blue Pacific Blues, which earned a Best Original Song Academy Award® nomination. Director Busby Berkeley takes the holiday fruitcake for his and Twentieth Century Fox’s Christmas gift of The Gang’s All Here (December 24, 1943), an audacious extravaganza of zany, Technicolor-drenched visual ornamentation that sent World War II-beleaguered audiences home in a much better mood. This perpetual-motion concoction’s wall-to-wall tuneful ingredients (with most by composer Harry Warren and lyricist Leo Robin) include numbers powered by Benny Goodman’s incomparable orchestra (Soft Winds, Minnie’s in the Money, The Jitters and the catchy (I Got a Gal in) Kalamazoo) and one-of-a-kind leading ladies Alice Faye (A Journey to a Star, No Love, No Nothin,’ The Polka Dot Polka) and Carmen Miranda (Brazil, Paducah and the eye-popping wonder The Lady in the Tutti Fruitti Hat). All three titles boast solid feature transfers, isolated tracks showcasing each’s particular musical glories and Expert Audio Commentaries. Deck your halls, eyes and ears by taking these Past Holiday Season Favorites for an audiovisual spin and enjoy a Merry TT Christmas.