A trio of victors in the race for Oscar gold
Best Picture Winners From Warner Home Video
Warner Home Video, $20 to $27
And the winner is: Two best picture Oscar winners -- 1929’s “The Broadway Melody” and 1937’s “The Life of Emile Zola” -- are making their DVD debuts, while 1981’s “Chariots of Fire” is being served up in a special two-disc collector’s edition.
The Broadway Melody
The second film to win best picture is also the first talkie and musical to win the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences’ top prize. “Broadway Melody” was the first talkie produced by MGM -- the studio thought sound movies were just a passing fancy and were late in converting to the new medium. Advertised as “100% All Talking! 100% All Singing! 100% All Dancing!,” the film was a huge success.
Though it’s corny and creaky and the dancers a bit fleshy and out of sync, “Broadway Melody” is still tons of fun thanks to such songs as “Broadway Melody,” “You Were Meant for Me” and “Wedding of the Painted Doll” and to the plucky performance of Bessie Love. She received a best actress nod as the eldest member of a sister act who comes to New York with her prettier, flirtatious sister played by Anita Page to make it big on Broadway. Charles King plays the Broadway entertainer both girls love.
Extras: Vintage musical shorts that are an absolute hoot.
The Life of Emile Zola
Besides producing some of the greatest gangster movies ever made in the 1930s, Warner Bros. also made its share of prestige biopics -- well-crafted films that featured some of the studio’s most popular actors.
However, these films haven’t weathered the test of time all that well. Truth be told -- they are often boring and stilted in their own self-importance. And “Emile Zola” can be a tiresome watch. Paul Muni, who won a best actor Oscar for 1936’s “The Story of Louis Pasteur,” plays the French writer who risks everything to defend the Jewish Captain Dreyfus, played by Joseph Schildkraut, against a trumped-up treason charge.
Thankfully, the film picks up steam when Zola comes to the aid of Dreyfus, beautifully played by Schildkraut, who won supporting actor.
Extras: A radio version of “Emile Zola” starring Muni .
Chariots of Fire
This handsome, beautifully produced historical drama was the surprise best picture Oscar winner for 1981 because it had such heavyweight competition that year as “Raiders of the Lost Ark” and “Reds.” Ben Cross and Ian Charleson star in this British import that follows the paths of two young athletes who ran for Great Britain in the 1924 Olympics. Cross plays the dour, Jewish Harold Abrahams who battled prejudice and anti-Semitism; Charleson is the highly religious Protestant Eric Liddell, a Cambridge divinity student who felt that running made him feel closer to God. The first feature film directed by documentarian Hugh Hudson, “Chariots of Fire” starred such veterans as John Gielgud, Lindsay Anderson and Ian Holm as well as such then-up-and-comers as Nigel Havers, Nicholas Farrell and Alice Krige.
Extras: A comprehensive documentary, “Wings on Their Heels -- the Making of Chariots of Fire,” a nostalgic and humorous visit with Havers, Farrell, Hudson and producer David Puttnam filmed during an afternoon tea at Puttnam’s estate; seven deleted scenes and screen tests as Hudson supplies the civilized commentary.