Classic Shorts from the Dream Factory: Volume Two (MOD)

36 mostly musical shorts crafted in the heart of the lion's den of MGM.

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Classic Shorts from the Dream Factory: Volume Two (MOD)
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Classic Shorts from the Dream Factory: Volume Two

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More mini-nuggets from the MGM program

By JLewis

from Sanford, FL

About Me Movie Buff

Verified Reviewer


  • Classic
  • Entertaining
  • Historic Interest


    Best Uses

    • Education
    • Entertainment
    • Everyone

    Comments about Classic Shorts from the Dream Factory: Volume Two:

    Boy meets girl. Boy loses girl. The lovers unite and sing a song. The End.

    Quite a few titles in this set follow this essential plot, particularly on Disc #2. The settings change... ancient Rome (NO PLACE LIKE ROME), the mechanized factories (VIOLETS IN SPRING, MEN OF STEEL, HAPPILY BURIED, etc.), a magician's stage (THE MAGICIAN'S DAUGHTER), college campuses and schools with strict discipline (IT'S IN THE STARS, SOMEWHAT SECRET) and even a barber college (ONCE OVER LIGHTLY). These ten to twenty minute Tabloid Musicals, Miniatures and MGM "Specials" were not aimed for those seeking Hitchockian twists and deep directorial "meaning". They were for a less sophisticated and obviously less cynical audience (and with less "social media" at their fingertips). The aim was to keep things light and fluffy before the main feature, along with the usual Hal Roach comedy, Pete Smith Specialty, Happy Harmony cartoon and Hearst newsreel. MGM was the studio of happy endings (and the features also followed this essential formula), but there were the occasional turns toward less sunny material like ANNIE LAURIE and hard hitting biopics like SONG OF REVOLT.

    Although you sometimes feel a touch of déjà vu watching a cluster of these in a row, you are still highly entertained and impressed by the lavish production values. As Leonard Maltin remarked in THE GREAT MOVIE SHORTS, there was often more "production" in a 10-minute MGM short than an 80-minute Monogram feature. Many of these do resemble something you would see in an Arthur Freed spectacular, with a large cast, gigantic sets (love the art deco waffle one used in HAPPILY BURIED) and well-choreographed dancing. An earlier set of CLASSIC MUSICAL SHORTS FROM THE DREAM FACTORY featured a full two discs worth of Technicolor shorts, both in early thirties "2-color" and the full rainbow past 1934. This set just has four color films from 1935 and '39, but these are just as eye-popping as the earlier set's crop. GYPSY NIGHT and TWO HEARTS IN WAX TIME, with dolls and store mannequins coming to life, are about as close to an animated '30s Disney Silly Symphony or Warner Merry Melody as any fully "live-action" short can get. Also on the cartoony side (but in black and white) is the very unique NEW SHOES, with Arthur Lake and Jean Chatburn playing the humans, while a secondary story involves shoes taking on personalities of their own.

    Disc #1 has the most variety. The very first short COPY (1929) isn't even a musical, but a hard-hitting dramatic act set in a news room (with a little lesson learned by a cool-blooded reporter once his own family becomes part of "just another news story"). There's also early Jack Benny two years before his radio show began in THE ROUNDER, although the funniest films in this set are probably GENTLEMEN OF POLISH, with Shaw and Lee (also seen in two of the Vitaphone sets available on this site) playing a Laurel & Hardy type duo but with a noticeable Three Stooges-style irrelevance in their slapstick (making a mess out of high society dinner party and a photographer's camera), and ONCE OVER LIGHTLY (disc #2) with Billy Gilbert at his most blusterous (playing dad to one of the love-birds in this story).

    The cover showcases Disc #2's EVERY SUNDAY with Deanna Durbin and Judy Garland, a popular staple on Turner Classic Movies. However, this set isn't quite as star-studded as the Dream Factory set with its many "Galaxy of Stars" shorts in color. There is still plenty of semi-familiar talent here, though. George Murphy, Virginia Grey, Anne Rutherford, Dennis Morgan and Mary Doran are among the primary "love interests", often familiar faces in features. Comedy relief comes from the before-mentioned Gilbert (appearing in at least three, I think), Benny Rubin (as a Hindu yogi in HAPPILY BURIED) and even the the future voice of Pinocchio's Geppetto, Christian Rub (VIOLETS IN SPRING). A young (unbilled) Dorothy Dandridge can be seen singing with her sisters in SNOW TIME FOR COMEDY.

    Most of the shorts span the years 1934-39, with a jump to 1943 in Disc #3 with the war becoming the backdrop for ODE TO VICTORY. One Oscar winner is included here, the pleasant (if typically "fluffy") HEAVENLY MUSIC in which a swing band leader must prove his talent worthy of the deceased musical masters up in the pearly gates. Arguably the best title is SPREADIN' THE JAM, which is non-stop dancing and jive-talk (pre-Hip Hop slang) that is in constant motion from start to finish... and requiring more than one viewing to catch it all. Although the picture quality of these shorts are uniformly excellent (minus the digital touching-up), this particular short unfortunately shows a bit more wear than the others.

    All of these short subject compilations are absolute "must-haves" for any fan of old time Hollywood. One wishes Universal, Paramount and Fox were as equally interested in the many theatrical shorts in their vaults, since all of these one and two-reelers played a vital part in movie history, if neglected by film historians on account of their limited availability for viewing.

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