On the new DVD front, it's a slow week for recent theatrically released films, but a great one for classics and re-issues. Let's take a look:
Richard Eyre's Stage Beauty tells the tale of Ned Kynaston (Billy Crudup), the last great male actor to play women's roles on the stage, and the anatomical woman (Claire Danes) who usurps him. "To his credit," writes Ella Taylor in the LA Weekly, "Eyre has sidestepped the temptation to dumb down Kynaston's biography into a 17th-century La Cage Au Folles." Of course, none of that will matter to gossip fans, who will always remember Stage Beauty as the film where Crudup and Danes hooked up, causing the former to leave his wife, Mary-Louise Parker, who was pregnant at the time.
A surprise hit last fall,
Ladder 49 stars Joaquin Phoenix as a young firefighter who, trapped in a burning building, flashes
back on his life so far. Co-starring John Travolta as a fire chief, and Jacinda
Barrett as Phoenix's wife. Reviews were mostly of the "it's not as bad as it could have been" variety.
The weepiest of the classic weepies, King Vidor's Stella Dallas (1937) stars Barbara Stanwyck as a blue-collar girl who marries up, and must sacrifice herself to save her daughter from the horrors of the working class. Stanwyck is the ultimate dame - here she beautifully develops the tramp-with-goals persona she invented four years earlier in Baby Face, and perfected seven years later in Double Indemnity.
Come and Get It, a film finished in 1936 by William Wyler after producer Samuel Goldwyn dismissed original helmer Howard Hawks, is neither director's best work, but it offers up a chance to see the late Frances Farmer in action. Farmer only had a handful of starring roles before losing her career in haze of (primitively diagnosed) mental illness - but in this film, she has two, playing both the dance-hall girl that Edward Arnold falls for, and that woman's daughter, who must deal with the advances of both Arnold and Joel McCrea. More than satisfying, if only for the curiosity factor alone.