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.