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08.20.08

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Phaedra

Tyrone Power: Matinee Idol Collection

Five discs; 20th Century Fox; $49.98

By Michael S. Gant


This set of 10 Tyrone Power vehicles, complete with background documentaries, period posters and production stills, serves as an example of how our Hollywood heritage should be preserved. These Fox features display Power's skills as both a comedian and a dramatic leading man. In the late '30s, Power specialized in playing callow young cads— with his brilliantined hair he looks like the man in the Arrow Shirt ads. He sparkles in 1937's Café Metropole, even though the plot saddles him with a fake Russian accent and a screechy Loretta Young. Power is paired again with the gorgeous Young in Second Honeymoon (1937) and Love Is News (1937). In the latter, the pair exhibit an easy comic rapport that makes this fast-paced comedy about a journalist and an heiress a unfairly forgotten delight. The story was recycled in 1948 as That Wonderful Urge (1948) with Gene Tierney. The fun ended with World War II. This Above All (1942) is a muddled tale of a lower-class British deserter (Power) and an upper-class woman (Joan Fontaine). Fontaine's teary "why we fight" speech makes Henry V's oratory at Agincourt sound like the mutterings of a defeatocrat who refuses to admit that the surge against France has worked. The proto-noir Johnny Apollo (1940) casts Power as a rich man's son who turns to a life of crime. The weird green tint that overlays the Irish scenes in The Luck of the Irish (1948) can't disguise the corned-beef corn in the story of a newsman who finds true love (Anne Baxter) with the help of an annoying leprechaun (Cecil Kellaway). The strange I'll Never Forget You (1951) begins in the black-and-white present with Power as an atomic scientist. After a bolt of lightning, the film turns to color, and Power imitates one of his own London ancestors, circa 1784, romancing Ann Blyth. As is true in all time-travel stories, the past can't really be recaptured. These films aren't A-list material, but the remarkably high standards of craft—in acting, set direction and cinematography—that informed all of Fox's films glows even 60 years later. (Read more at www.metroactive.com and on our MoviesandTV blog.)


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