Wednesday, December 09, 2009

cinema obscura sighting: Edmund Goulding's "Mardi Gras" (1958)

Where, oh where, are Pat Boone's movies? Well, one of them - one of the best - has been plucked from studio-shelf obscurity by 20th Century-Fox:

Edmund Goulding's terrific "Mardi Gras" from 1958 gets a rare showing on the studio's Fox Movie Channel at 2 p.m. (est) on Wednesday, 13 January.

Alas, it will be a fullscreen showing of the CinemaScope feature, but pan-and-scan is better than nothing. This is one of many Boone films that Fox has not bothered to release on home entertainment in any form.

So where's the gratitude?

An early contract player at the studio, Boone was a major cash cow for Fox during the 1950s. What's odd is that most of the films of Elvis Presley, Boone's polar-opposite counterpart, have long been available on home entertainment and have been shown endlessly on Turner Classic Movies.

And let's face it, Elvis' titles, with the exception of two or three, are fairly ... awful. Boone's movies are actually better, particularly his first three titles for Fox which are more than deserving of a boxed set.

Those first three films would be Henry Levin's "Bernadine" and "April Love" (both 1957) and Goulding's ensemble musical, "Mardi Gras."

While "Bernadine" and "April Love" are modest, diverting entertainments, "Mardi Gras" works as a great, full-fledged movie musical, replete with a varied song score and fine choreography by Bill Foster. The plot (not that much unlike "Bernadine's" - which I'll get to later) is about school guys - in this case, military cadets (played by Boone, Dick Sargent, Tommy Sands and Gary Crosby) - who aim to attract a French movie starlet (Christine Carère, a delightful, if sadly fleeting, screen presence at the time) to their end-of-the-year ball. Everyone converges in New Orleans, where the movie queen is promoting a new movie and where the cadets are participating in the Mardi Gras festivites.

Lionel Newman (brother of legendary composer-scorer Alfred Newman and uncle of composers Randy, David and Thomas Newman) wrote the nimble score, which includes the title song, "I'll Remember Tonight," "Bourbon Street Blues," "That Man," "What Stonewall Jackson Said," "Just Like The Pioneers," "Bigger Than All Of Texas" and the showstopping "Loyalty," cleverly staged in a locker room shower. The traditional "Shenandoah," sung by Sands, was also utilized

Rounding out the cast are the invaluable Sheree North, Barrie Chase (who does a comic striptease), Jennifer West and ace character actors Fred Clark and Geraldine Wall. Jeffrey Hunter and Robert Wagner, who were making "In Love and War" with North at the time (also on the Fox lot) put in cameo appearances.

Carère, who made her American film debut in Jean Negulesco's "That Certain Smile" (1958), would appear in one more American film - Raoul Walsh's "A Private's Affair" (1959), also with Gary Crosby - before heading back to France.

"Mardi Gras," of all Pat Boone films, deserves a DVD showcase.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Boone made a credible film debut in "Bernadine," based on the Mary Chase play and augmented by some popular songs of the time (the title song and "Love Letters in the Sand," among them). It's about a group of high-school guys and a fictitious girl named Bernadine - the "perfect girl" - who they want to prove really exists. Such veteran film actors as Janet Gaynor, Dean Jagger and Walter Abel are on hand to fortify newbie Boone, and the young supporting cast includes Terry Moore, James Drury, Dick Sargent (billed as Richard) and Ronnie Burns (son of George Burns and Gracie Allen).

The affable "April Love" is a remake of Henry Hathaway's 1944 film, "Home in Indiana" (based on the novel by George Agnew Chamberlain and utilizing the same screenplay by Winston Miller), about a delinquent city boy forced to do time with relatives in a rural area, stirring things up. (Actually, Herbert Ross's "Footloose" of 1984 could have easily come from the same source.)

Boone plays the bad boy and he's effectively teamed opposite tomboy Shirley Jones. Again, there's an ace supporting cast here - Jeanette Nolan, Arthur O'Connell, Matt Crowley (not to be confused with playwright Mart Crowley) and the sublime, criminally neglected Dolores Michaels.

And, while we're at it, where the heck is Norman Taurog's "All Hands on Deck" (1961), with Barbara Eden and Buddy Hackett, one of the last films Boone made for Fox? How about it, Fox? Put them on DVD already.


Jay said...

Matt Crowley is damn good in his 1951 debut film, Robert Parrish's THE MOB, a fine crime drama with Broderick Crawford and Richard Kiley that TCM dusted off a couple of years ago. He was already middle-aged, and his career seems short-lived. Don't know what his story is, but he's impressively subtle in THE MOB, in kind of a tricky role.

Haven't seen the Pat Boone stuff. Maybe I'll catch MARDI GRAS, but pan-and-scan weakens my motivation.

Jay said...

This is Jay Bryant, by the way, Joe. For some reason I have to sign in via my gmail account now.

joe baltake said...

Yikes! It's been corrected. It's back to where it was originally. Now anyone can comment anytime. Sorry about that, Jay. Don't know how it happened but thanks for the heads up. --J

Andrew said...

Equally frustrating about "Mardi Gras" is the fact that, although it had a great score, there was NEVER a soundtrack album. Pat Boone made studio recordings of six of the songs but without the original cast or original orchestrations ("I'll Remember Tonight" wasn't anything like in the film). It almost seems as though Fox is trying to hide this film. "The Best Things In Life Are Free" is another one that is kept under cover.

joe baltake said...


I'm heartened to know that there are people out there who know of "Mardi Gras" and appreciate it. It's a truly wonderful movie musical. I also was disappointed that no soundtrack was issued. As yo can see from my post, I'm familiar with the Pat Boone 45ep album that you mention.

aerojro said...

I was stationed in England at RAF Chicksands when "Bernadine" hit the cinemas. I went right out and bought an Austin Healey 100/6 like Pat had in the movie: "It's a little bit like a rocket propelled machine." Of course, I named the car Bernadine. Would love to have a DVD. Do have the 45 of "Bernadine"
Jim R.

Janice said...

"Mardi Gras" is a wonderful film, I can't believe it's never been committed to video. Yes, it's a real musical, not just another Pat Boone movie. I can't wait to see it again. Thanks for the tip.

Ray K. said...

"Bernadine" and Pat Boone served as a role model for my formidable teen years. I was 13 when it came to the movies,and as a young boy growing up in Atlanta, I ,and all my buddies wanted to be like "Those Guys". They were clean, decent, sharply dressed and knew how to interact with cars, each other, and girls. I'm 64 now and still appreciate the life lessons presented in this movie.

Ray Killingsworth

Wes from Australia said...

I'm glad there are other Pat Boone fans out there asking where his movies are and why we haven't seen them on DVD.I'm from Australia and have only ever seen these movies on pay tv some years ago but never on VHS or DVD. I just don't understand why Fox release the works of Joan Collins and Jane Mansfield on DVD but have yet to do so with one of the best money earners they had in the 60's Pat Boone.I want to see these movies again before I die so come on Fox let's do it.

Jane said...

Pat Boone is really underrated. As a young singer and actor, he was dreamy and I like the three films that you mention. I haven't seen them in years, maybe decades! Where and why are they buried? I look forward to seeing "Mardi Gras" again and can't wait to see the others you mention.

joe baltake said...


FYI. The Fox Movie Channel has been showing "Bernadine" quite regularly - well, abut four times in the past year. "Mardi Gras's" showing is the first in a long time. I've no idea what happened to "April Love."


Griff said...

TCM is unlikely to air many of these, as it has fairly limited access to the Fox library. The Fox Movie Channel, which occasionally airs some of Pat's films, should definitely consider a full-fledged Boone retrospective -- and Pat might well be willing to participate. Boone's company still has financial interest in some of his Fox pictures; in an interview a few years back he mentioned that he still gets checks for JOURNEY TO THE CENTER OF THE EARTH, co-produced by his Cooga Mooga Productions.

joe baltake said...


Thanks for the heads-up, re Turner Classics and Fox films. Makes sense.


James said...

My guess is that the suits figured that Pat Boone films would only appeal to original Pat Boone fans -- a slowly vanishing breed -- and wouldn't sell well enough to members of subsequent generations, for whom Pat is not an iconic exemplar of "Cool" or "Tragically Hip" (as were, for example, Presley, Joan Collins and Jayne Mansfield). You mentioned "Footloose": Too bad nobody figured out a "six degrees of Pat Boone" game back then. This might have built enough of a lasting aura of "cool" around Pat to light some fires under marketers.

I do recall Boone films as being more watchable, overall, than Presley's, and I agree that it is a shame that the films you cite here remain unreleased on DVD.

joe baltake said...

James- Thanks for the thoughtful comment. I like Elvis, but his films are generally,uniformly bad (with the possible exception if "Kid Galahad" and "Follow That Dream"). Boone, on the other hand, made real movies, not just star vehicles, and those first three that I discuss are more than deserving of DVD release. He made a lot of money for Fox. The studio's ingratitude boggles the mind. --Joe

Jim said...

Great little site. Love all the dialogue about Pat Boone. Everyone's wish for availability of his films doesn't seem to matter at all to whatever unaware person decides these things at Fox. If they had any good sense at all they would release all of the Pat Boone Fox movies in one or more sets. Let's hope. It would just be the most exciting pop movie event since the advent of home video.