BLUE SKIES [1946 / 2022] [Blu-ray] [USA Release]
Paramount Pictures King-Size Musical and It’s The Nearest Thing To Heaven!
Screen legends and ‘Holiday Inn’ co-stars Bing Crosby (‘The Emperor Waltz’) and Fred Astaire (‘Daddy Long Legs’) reunite for another dazzling Irving Berlin musical spectacular, ‘BLUE SKIES.’ Dancing star Jed Potter [Fred Astaire] and singer/nightclub owner Johnny Adams [Bing Crosby] are both in love with songstress Mary O’Hara [Joan Caulfield]. Mary O’Hara marries Johnny Adams but his passion for buying and selling nightclubs drives them apart. So Jed Potter steps in, hoping to win Mary O’Hara’s heart — until fate steps in and changes the lives of all three. Wonderfully directed by the versatile Stuart Heisler (‘Among the Living’ and ‘Beachhead’) and featuring thirty Irving Berlin songs including the showstopper “Puttin’ on the Ritz.” ‘BLUE SKIES’ remains one of the all-time great musicals!
FILM FACT No.1: Awards and Nominations: 1947 Academy Awards®: Nominated: Best Music and Original Song for Irving Berlin for the song "You Keep Coming Back Like a Song." Nominated: Best Music and Scoring of a Musical Picture for Robert Emmett Dolan.
FILM FACT No.2: ‘BLUE SKIES’ proved to be a box office hit, taking in over $5 million in profits. It was noted that the picture was to be Fred Astaire’s swan song, billed as his last motion picture as he was turning his focus on to opening his own dance studios, stating film work had tired him and this picture allowed him to leave while on top. His retirement would not last long when in 1948 he was asked to replace an injured Gene Kelly in ‘Easter Parade’ starring alongside Judy Garland. This would be the first of several “retirements” for Fred Astaire. Joan Caulfield was originally pulled out of the film; but Paramount Pictures changed their mind and put her back in.
Cast: Bing Crosby, Fred Astaire, Joan Caulfield, Billy De Wolfe, Olga San Juan, Mikhail Rasumny, Frank Faylen, Victoria Horne, Karolyn Grimes, Jean Aloise (uncredited), Carol Andrews (uncredited), Maxine Ardell (uncredited), Charlene Arnold (uncredited), Gene Ashley (uncredited), Valmere Barman (uncredited), Jackie Barnett (uncredited), Dorothy Barrett (uncredited), Herman Belmonte (uncredited), Richard Benedict (uncredited), William H. Benter (uncredited), Herman Boden (uncredited), Clarence Brooks (uncredited), Bill Burt (uncredited), Janice Cameron (uncredited), Josef Carmassi (uncredited), Eddie Carnegie (uncredited), William Carvel (uncredited), Dolores Cole (uncredited), Gene Cole (uncredited), Roxanne Collins (uncredited), Jimmy Conlin (uncredited), Calvin Coolidge (uncredited), Laura Corbay (uncredited), Norma Creiger (uncredited), Roy Damron (uncredited), Grace Davies (uncredited), Dorothy Dayton (uncredited), John Deauville (uncredited), Harry Depp (uncredited), Eileen Dixon (uncredited), Virginia Duffy (uncredited), Dick Earle (uncredited), Clark Eggleston (uncredited), Wanda Faye (uncredited), Margaret Field (uncredited), Jac Fisher (uncredited), Joel Friend (uncredited), John Gallaudet (uncredited), Howard Gardiner (uncredited), Art Gilmore (uncredited), Roy Gordon (uncredited), Sam Harris (uncredited), Len Hendry (uncredited), Mary Jane Hodge (uncredited), Nan Holliday (uncredited), Frances Hughes (uncredited), Jerry James (uncredited), Vicki Jasmund (uncredited), Beverly Johnson (uncredited), Shirley Johnson (uncredited), Roberta Jonay (uncredited), John Kelly (uncredited), Lucy Knoch (uncredited), Audrey Korn (uncredited), Charles La Torre (uncredited), Elaine Langan (uncredited), Wallace Earl Laven (uncredited), Ethelreda Leopold (uncredited), Lillian Lindsco (uncredited), Joanne Lybrook (uncredited), Mary Manners (uncredited), Cissy Marr (uncredited), Jean Marshall (uncredited), Bob Mascagno (uncredited), Lee Mayer (uncredited), Charles Mayon (uncredited), Peggy McIntyre (uncredited), William Meader (uncredited), Cecilia Meagher (uncredited), Peggy Meech (uncredited), Harold Miller (uncredited), Margot Morgan (uncredited), Frances Morris (uncredited), Virginia Morris (uncredited), Mavis Murray (uncredited), Frederic Nay (uncredited), Cliff Nazarro (uncredited), Jack Norton (uncredited), Aileen O'Donnell (uncredited), Eleanor Peterson (uncredited), Byron Poindexter (uncredited), Ted Priour (uncredited), Frank Radcliffe (uncredited), Renee Randall (uncredited), Paula Ray (uncredited), Marjorie Raymond (uncredited), Ruthe Reid (uncredited), Ricky Ricardi (uncredited), Albert Ruiz (uncredited), Betty Russell (uncredited), Louise Saraydar (uncredited), Jeffrey Sayre (uncredited), Mary Jane Shores (uncredited), Barbara Slater (uncredited), Jane Starr (uncredited), Larry Steers (uncredited), Mary Stewart (uncredited), Brick Sullivan (uncredited), John M. Sullivan (uncredited), Beverly Thompson (uncredited), Valerie Traxler (uncredited), Rudolph Valentino (archive footage) (uncredited), Vanita Wade (uncredited), Wally Walker (uncredited), Walton Walker (uncredited), Lillian West (uncredited), Audrey Westphal (uncredited), Eric Wilton (uncredited), Gordon C. Wood (uncredited), Joan Woodbury (uncredited), Will Wright (uncredited) and Audrey Young (uncredited)
Directors: Mark Sandrich (uncredited) and Stuart Heisler
Producer: Sol C. Siegel
Screenplay: Arthur Sheekman (screenplay), Allan Scott (adaptation) and Irving Berlin (based on an original idea)
Composer: Robert Emmett Dolan (uncredited)
Gowns: Edith Head, Hal Pereira and Hans Dreier
Costume Designers: Barbara Karinska and Waldo Angelo
Cinematography: Charles Bryant Lang Jr., A.S.C. (Director of Photography) and William E. Snyder (Director of Photography)
Technicolor Color Director: Natalie Kalmus
Image Resolution: 1080p (Technicolor)
Aspect Ratio: 1.37:1
Audio: English: 2.0 DTS-HD Master Audio
English: 2.0 Dolby Digital Stereo Audio
Running Time: 103 minutes
Region: Region A/1
Number of discs: 1
Studio: Paramount Pictures / Kino Lorber Studio Classics
Andrew’s Blu-ray Review: For over two decades, Bing Crosby was the number one star at Paramount Pictures and successfully rescued the studio from bankruptcy in the early 1930’s. Despite that, Paramount Pictures rarely put Bing Crosby in a Technicolor film. However, when the studio did put Bing Crosby in a big budget musical, the result was always out of this world. That was the result of ‘BLUE SKIES’ .
As in ‘Holiday Inn’ , whereas ‘BLUE SKIES’ is designed to showcase the songs of Irving Berlin. The plot, which is presented in a series of flashbacks with Fred Astaire as narrator, follows a similar formula of Bing Crosby beating Fred Astaire for the affections of a leading lady Joan Caulfield. The comedy aspect of the film is principally provided by Billy De Wolfe.
With the film ‘BLUE SKIES,’ Irving Berlin’s usually buoyant tunes take on a decidedly melancholy tone in director Stuart Heisler’s post-World War II musical. Unsurprisingly matching the unsettled mood of the country after a devastating world war, ‘BLUE SKIES’ forsakes the utter frivolity of Irving Berlin’s previous pre-war stage and screen musicals and opts instead for an amusing and charming mood punctuated on a regular basis with frustration and unhappiness. Luckily, Irving Berlin’s got two of the best song and dance men in the business to help spell that sometimes brittle but always entertaining spirit: Bing Crosby and Fred Astaire.
Broadway star Jed Potter [Fred Astaire] is interested in making chorus girl Mary O’Hara [Joan Caulfield] and dubbed vocals by Betty Russell into a Broadway star, but he’s also interested in a romantic arrangement with Mary O’Hara, but she’s not interested. She is interested, however, in pursuing a romance with nightclub owner and entertainer Johnny Adams [Bing Crosby] who is, however, is a free spirit, often selling his nightclubs on the spur of the moment only to leave town and open another one in a different city. After a couple of years of Mary O’Hara’s pushing and against his better judgment knowing he’s not really husband material, Johnny Adams and Mary O’Hara marry with the couple jumping from city to city as Johnny Adams looks for the perfect nightclub to plant some roots, but after Johnny Adams and Mary O’Hara have a child, she insists they need to settle down. Johnny Adams, disliking the feeling of not being his own boss, and Mary O’Hara, disillusioned with Johnny Adams’s selfishness, divorce leaving the path open for Jed Potter to once again pursue Mary O’Hara.
Irving Berlin’s story idea of two men interested over a period of time in the same woman is not all that different from his triangle story used for the plot of Holiday Inn though now his leading man owns not one nightclub but a succession of them and Fred Astaire is the one trying to keep the girl from Bing Crosby instead of the opposite scenario in Holiday Inn. The leading lady’s waffling back and forth between her two suitors has been fleshed out by screenwriter Arthur Sheekman though the plot really is just barebones enough to hang on it almost two dozen Irving Berlin tunes, mostly old but with four new ones.
There are Irving Berlin’s patented comedy tunes: “I’ve Got My Captain Working for Me Now” and “I’ll See You in C-U-B-A,” show pieces “Serenade to an Old Fashioned Girl” featuring Joan Caulfield and “Steppin’ Around” with Bing Crosby (by far the two weakest numbers in the whole shebang), but there are three Irving Berlin standards to showcase Fred Astaire’s high stepping: “A Pretty Girl Is Like a Melody,” and the climactic “Heat Wave, and one of the film’s true amazing highlights ”Puttin’ on the Ritz” where Fred Astaire dances with mirror images of himself in a marvel of movie trickery, and the beautiful title song “Blue Skies” sung with mellow melancholy by Bing Crosby.
Three of the film’s newest songs are among the most charming tunes Irving Berlin ever penned: “A Couple of Song and Dance Men” which wonderfully pairs Bing Crosby and Fred Astaire in their only number together in the film, the delicate lullaby “Running Around in Circles” as Bing Crosby serenades his young daughter Mary Elizabeth Adams [Karolyn Grimes], and a gorgeous new ballad “You Keep Coming Back Like a Song,” Oscar-nominated and cleverly composed so it could be sung in counterpoint to the title song.
Having won an acting Oscar two years before, Bing Crosby inevitably invests his Johnny Adams with deeper emotion and feeling than he did in characters he had played in earlier years, and his singing voice is perhaps at its zenith here with a mellow, longing tone that really digs into the lyrics of his big ballads. Fred Astaire, who surprisingly was not the first choice for the role of Jed, plays his usual good natured, waiting-in-the-wings second choice for love in his duel with Johnny Adams for Mary O’Hara’s hand. Joan Caulfield was fairly new to films, and she wasn’t a natural musical talent and witness only a brief dance turn in the opening number, a solo song that involved no dancing, and a dubbed singing voice.
Joan Caulfield is incredibly gorgeous in the lush Technicolor that graces this film and does what she can with wishy-washy Mary O’Hara. Billy De Wolfe’s on hand as Johnny Adams right-hand man Tony and gets to play one of his old vaudeville routines “Mrs. Murgatroyd” late in the film. Olga San Juan as Tony’s girlfriend/entertainer Nita Nova scores with “You’d Be Surprised” and the vocal section of “Heat Wave.”
‘BLUE SKIES’ image presentation is beautifully shot, utilizing vibrant Technicolor, with aspects of lavish musical stage pieces, along with the more plot driven scenes. Critics and audiences of the time loved the picture for what it was. On top of the strong box office numbers, a highly successful album of Irving Berlin music featuring the talents of Bing Crosby and Fred Astaire was produced, becoming one of the top albums of the year. In the end the music far outlasted the feature film, but the most memorable would be the brilliant talents of Bing Crosby and Fred Astaire as timeless stars of the day.
BLUE SKIES MUSIC TRACK LIST
A PRETTY GIRL IS LIKE A MELODY (Words by Irving Berlin) (Music by Irving Berlin) (1919) [Sung by Fred Astaire] [Danced by Fred Astaire, Joan Caulfield and chorus]
I’VE GOT MY CAPTAIN WORKING FOR ME NOW (Words by Irving Berlin) (Music by Irving Berlin) (1920) [Sung by Bing Crosby]
YOU’D BE SURPRISED (Words by Irving Berlin) (Music by Irving Berlin) (1919) [Sung by Olga San Juan]
ALL BY MYSELF (Words by Irving Berlin) (Music by Irving Berlin) (1921) [Sung by Bing Crosby and Joan Caulfield and dubbed by Betty Russell]
SERENADE TO AN OLD-FASHIONED GIRL (Words by Irving Berlin) (Music by Irving Berlin) (1946) [Sung by The Guardsmen]
PUTTIN’ ON THE RITZ (Words by Irving Berlin) (Music by Irving Berlin) (1930) [Sung and Danced by Fred Astaire]
I’LL SEE YOU IN C-U-B-A (Words by Irving Berlin) (Music by Irving Berlin) (1920) [Sung by Bing Crosby and Olga San Juan]
A COUPLE OF SONG AND DANCE MEN (Words by Irving Berlin) (Music by Irving Berlin) (1945) [Sung and Danced by Fred Astaire and Bing Crosby]
YOU KEEP COMING BACK LIKE A SONG (Words by Irving Berlin) (Music by Irving Berlin) (1943) [Sung by Bing Crosby and chorus]
BLUE SKIES (Words by Irving Berlin) (Music by Irving Berlin) (1927) [Sung by Bing Crosby]
THE LITTLE THINGS IN LIFE (Words by Irving Berlin) (Music by Irving Berlin) (1930) [Sung by Bing Crosby]
NOT FOR ALL THE RICE IN CHINA (Words by Irving Berlin) (Music by Irving Berlin) (1933) [Sung by Bing Crosby]
RUSSIAN LULLABY (Words by Irving Berlin) (Music by Irving Berlin) (1927) [Sung by Bing Crosby]
EVERYBODY STEP (Words by Irving Berlin) (Music by Irving Berlin) (1921) [Sung by Bing Crosby] [Danced by chorus]
HOW DEEP IS THE OCEAN? (Words by Irving Berlin) (Music by Irving Berlin) (1933) [Sung by Bing Crosby and chorus]
(Running Around in Circles) GETTING NOWHERE (Words by Irving Berlin) (Music by Irving Berlin) (1945) [Sung by Bing Crosby]
HEAT WAVE (Words by Irving Berlin) (Music by Irving Berlin) (Additional music by Fred Astaire) [Sung by Fred Astaire and Olga San Juan] [Danced by Fred Astaire, Olga San Juan and chorus]
ANY BONDS TODAY? NOWHERE (Words by Irving Berlin) (Music by Irving Berlin) (1945) [Sung by Bing Crosby]
THIS IS THE ARMY, MISTER JONES (Words by Irving Berlin) (Music by Irving Berlin) (1942) [Sung by Bing Crosby]
WHITE CHRISTMAS (Words by Irving Berlin) (Music by Irving Berlin) (1942) [Sung by Bing Crosby]
ALWAYS (Words by Irving Berlin) (Music by Irving Berlin) (1925) [Sung by chorus]
SERENADE FOR AND OLD-FASHIONED GIRL (Words by Irving Berlin) (Music by Irving Berlin) [Performed by Joan Caulfield and dubbed by Betty Russell]
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Blu-ray Image Quality – Paramount Pictures and Kino Lorber Studio Classics presents the film ‘BLUE SKIES’ with a wonderful 1080p Technicolor image and shown in the standard 1.37:1 aspect ratio. The liner notes proclaim this to be a new 2K master, and the clarity and spotlessness of the image is indeed commendable. There’s the slightest touch of colour breathing during “You’d Be Surprised” and a shot or two where the colour appears paler than scenes before or after it. Otherwise, the Technicolor is stunningly beautiful with the myriad costumes in the production numbers really popping off the screen and shadows darker than ever before with silhouettes of the stars appearing interestingly in them.
Blu-ray Audio Quality – Paramount Pictures and Kino Lorber Studio Classics brings us the film ‘BLUE SKIES’ with just one standard 2.0 DTS-HD Master Audio experience. Dialogue and song lyrics are easily discernible and have been mixed with the music and some of the sound effects with much expertise. There is, however, a real problem with Fred Astaire’s taps which have not been dubbed properly into the final mix. Occasionally you hear echoes of them and they come off strongest in “A Couple of Song and Dance Men,” but they’re almost completely lost in the opening number and otherwise flit in and out during his other big solos and group numbers, a real disappointment and also something of a great distraction. There are no age-related aural anomalies, but those missing taps are a glaring misstep on the part of a quality control engineer at Paramount Pictures.
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Blu-ray Special Features and Extras:
Brand New 2K Master and Newly Remastered Audio!
Audio Commentary by Film Critic and Author Simon Abrams: Here Simon Abrams introduces himself and also wants to talk about the film ‘BLUE SKIES’ which he feels is a “Jukebox Musical” that starred Bing Crosby, Fred Astaire and Joan Caulfield and Simon Abrams says he is going to focus on how the film came together and feels the film is very underrated and a sort of follow up to the film ‘Holiday Inn,’ that also starred Bing Crosby and Fred Astaire that also included songs composed by Irving Berlin. We are also informed that Fred Astaire was not the first choice to appear in the film as Jed Potter, because originally it was going to be Paul Draper Jr. the noted American tap dancer and choreographer, but Simon Abrams does not know the story behind the reason he was dropped from the film, but Simon Abrams thinks there was a serious clash of personality with actress Joan Caulfield, who was rumoured to be extremely difficult to work with and Fred Astaire had some very serious issues with Joan Caulfield. Simon Abrams explains in detail why the film was called a “Jukebox Musical.” We hear that there was a four year gap with the release of the film ‘Holiday Inn’ and the filming of ‘BLUE SKIES’ due the Second World War and also the fact that Irving Berlin and Bing Crosby did a massive world tour entertaining the troops and supporting the war effort where ever they performed. When we get to chapter 3 at around 26 minutes we get to view the amazing song and dance routing with Fred Astaire performing “Puttin’ On The Ritz” which originally appeared in the film ‘Top Hat,’ but unfortunately Simon Abrams does not go into any detail how the amazing dance routine was worked out and how did he think up of having all those mirrors behind him, and as usual Fred Astaire is known to take a week at least to perfect the routine, but despite this, seeing Fred Astaire doing the dance routine “Puttin’ On The Ritz” is one of the highlight moment in the film ‘BLUE SKIES.’ Simon Abrams gets round to comment on what the critics said about the film ‘BLUE SKIES,’ and basically they felt the film had no plot and they also felt there was no sort of story, and that the film sort of lacked any dramatic urgency and more relied on the Irving Berlin composed songs to hold the film together. On top of all that, the three main characters in the film felt they were emotionally distant from each other. But on the other hand, Simon Abrams feels the film would not have worked out if Joan Caulfield had not appeared in the film, because he felt she worked well in the scenes with Bing Crosby and Fred Astaire. From then onwards, Simon Abrams gets slightly boring and rattles on about the film that was very boring and always talked about things in scenes that I can see for myself and I hate people like him telling me what I am watching, which to me was totally irrelevant and instead should of given more relevant information about unknown facts about the film. At chapter 10 at around 1:39:55 Simon Abrams says, “As the picture wraps up, I want to talk about what the three principle characters that went onto do after the release of ‘BLUE SKIES.’ First, Bing Crosby, after filming finished, felt he was a little over worked and checked himself into a hospital with serious back problems. Then Fred Astaire starred alongside Judy Garland in ‘Easter Parade,’ then went onto do ‘Royal Wedding,’ ‘Band Wagon’ and then ‘Silk Stockings.’ But as to what happened to Joan Caulfield, went onto concentrate more on television, westerns and TV guest appearances and especially in ‘My Favorite Husband.’ As the film come to an end, Simona Abrams says, “Thanks for joining me, and hopes you enjoyed the film.” Well for me I enjoyed the film, but as to Simons Abrams audio commentary, I personally can only give it a two star ratting, as the majority of what he commented on the film ‘BLUE SKIES’ was most of the time very boring.
Theatrical Trailers: Here we get to view four Original Theatrical Trailers and they are as follows:
Road to Morocco  [480i] [1.37:1] [2:13]
Daddy Long Legs  [480i] [2.55:1] [2:42]
Love Me Tonight  [480i] [1.37:1] [1:46]
Thoroughly Modern Millie  [480i] [1.78:1] [2:39]
Finally, take Hollywood’s most decorated and profitable leading man Bing Crosby between 1945 – 1946 and add in the attraction of being Fred Astaire’s “finale picture” and put them in a story mixed with the popular Irving Berlin melodious classics songs, you also get the jaw-dropping Technicolor musical ‘BLUE SKIES.’ The recipe is was easily one of the more profitable features of year, albeit not the finest work of either leading man appearing alongside of Joan Caulfield. With a winning combination of talent and musical material ‘BLUE SKIES’ was a beautiful and entertaining picture for audiences reminiscing for the entertainment of pre-war features with colourful glitz that was becoming more common with America’s now booming post-war economy. ‘BLUE SKIES’ brings together Bing Crosby and Fred Astaire and once again the tunes by the great Irving Berlin. Overall, ‘BLUE SKIES’ was to me a very entertaining film and especially to feature Bing Crosby and Fred Astaire together. It’s not as good as ‘Holiday Inn,’ but I enjoyed watching it non the less and it had some very good musical numbers as an added bonus. Highly Recommended!
Andrew C. Miller – Your Ultimate No.1 Film Aficionado
Le Cinema Paradiso