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SPECIFICATIONS
  • 1.37:1 Standard
  • English PCM Mono
  • English subtitles
  • 1 Disc
FEATURES
  • New introduction by critic B. Ruby Rich
  • New selected-scene commentary featuring film historian Cari Beauchamp
  • An essay by critic Sheila O'Malley

Dance, Girl, Dance

Blu-ray
Reviewed by: Chris Galloway

Directed By: Dorothy Arzner
1940 | 90 Minutes | Licensor: Warner Brothers Home Entertainment

Release Information
Blu-ray | MSRP: $39.95 | Series: The Criterion Collection | Edition: #1028
Sony Pictures Home Entertainment

Release Date: May 19, 2020
Review Date: May 24, 2020

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SYNOPSIS

Dorothy Arzner, the sole woman to work as a director in the Hollywood studio system of the 1930s and early ’40s, brings a subversive feminist sensibility to this juicily entertaining backstage melodrama. A behind-the-footlights look at friendship, jealousy, and ambition in the ruthless world of show business, Dance, Girl, Dance follows the intertwining fates of two chorus girls: a starry-eyed dancer (Maureen O’Hara) who dreams of making it as a ballerina and the brassy gold digger (a scene-stealing Lucille Ball) who becomes her rival both on the stage and in love. The rare Hollywood film of the era to deal seriously with issues of female artistic struggle and self-actualization, Arzner’s film is a rich, fascinating statement from an auteur decades ahead of her time.


PICTURE

The Criterion Collection presents Dorothy Arzner’s Dance, Girl, Dance on Blu-ray in its original aspect ratio of 1.37:1 on a dual-layer disc. The 1080p/24hz high-definition encode is sourced from a new 4K restoration scanned directly from the 35mm nitrate original camera negative, with small portions sourced from a 35mm fine-grain master positive where the negative had too badly deteriorated.

This is yet another marvel of a restoration that goes well and beyond what I would have expected. The image is shockingly clean throughout its run time, and though it looks as though a soft focus is being applied here and there the image is still incredibly sharp, delivering high amounts of detail where it can. Film grain is there and looks to be rendered cleanly, leading to a gorgeous photographic look. The blacks and whites look spot-on with superb contrast and a clean rendering in the grayscale.

There are slight shifts in the image quality where I assume the alternate source print had to be used, and the image can be a bit fuzzy in comparison to the rest, but it’s rather subtle. Outside of this the film could almost pass as something brand new.

9/10

All Blu-ray screen captures come from the source disc and have been shrunk from 1920x1080 to 900x506 and slightly compressed to conserve space. While they are not exact representations they should offer a general idea of overall video quality.

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AUDIO

The lossless PCM 1.0 monaural presentation sounds sharp and clean and does provide surprising range in some of its musical numbers. Dialogue has some fidelity and depth behind it but it is still fairly limited. The track is also clean outside of some faint noise.

7/10

SUPPLEMENTS

Disappointingly this release doesn’t receive much in bonus material, though thankfully what’s here is good. There is an interview with B. Ruby Rich (which was originally recorded for The Criterion Channel), who goes over director Dorothy Arzner’s career for 15-minutes, looking at how she came to be the first woman director in the Director’s Guild while also covering her films and how she presented the women in them. It’s a fine enough overview, but an 11-minute interview with director Francis Ford Coppola proves far more enlightening. Coppola had Arzner as a teacher at UCLA (and he still calls her Miss Arzner) and he recounts her passion for filmmaking and how blown away he had been at her natural ability, right down to editing using “arm lengths” as measurement for how long a scene should be. He also rather touchingly recounts how she stopped him from quitting film school simply by telling him he “would make it” as a filmmaker. Rather amusingly, he also recounts how, as a starving student at the time, the food he’d get from her, whether it be cookies or a club sandwich. It’s such a short interview, which is unfortunate, but it’s one of the more loving tributes I’ve seen one filmmaker pay towards another.

The release then closes with an insert featuring an essay by Sheila O’Malley, that does fill in the academic gap for the film itself that the release otherwise lacks since the on-disc content is about Arzner. For the debut of the director in the collection this release feels slight.

4/10

CLOSING

Supplements are disappointingly sparse, not even a half hour total, though Coppola’s passionate interview at least makes up for some of the lack of much else. Still, the presentation is stellar and worth picking up for that alone.


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