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Night and Day

By the time he starred in Night and Day (1946), Cary Grant had played so many fictional playboys with a taste for champagne and pretty girls that stepping into the real-life shoes of witty, high-living composer Cole Porter must not have been much of a stretch. Maybe that's why it doesn't seem like Grant's trying very hard in director Michael Curtiz's biopic — which is more a series of musical numbers strung together with bits of drama than a truly thoughtful look at the life of one of America's greatest talents. Night and Day actually takes several large liberties with the facts of Porter's life, especially in its central plot device — the enduring romance between Porter and earnest socialite Linda Lee (a rather bland Alexis Smith), a love story that plays out over the course of several years as the pair is parted, first by war and then by Porter's determination to make it big on Broadway. Then, when he does find success, that too threatens their happiness. (Conveniently omitted in all of this is Porter's homosexuality — but it was the '40s…) But at least things are de-lovely on stage: The film re-creates performances of several of Porter's best-known songs (including "Night and Day," "You're the Top," "Let's Fall in Love," "I've Got You Under My Skin," and "I Get a Kick Out of You"). All are chock full of Porter's sly, literate lyrics, the kind of rhymes that at first made it difficult for the sophisticated composer to catch a break. Porter was advised several times to dumb his songs down for the common man; luckily he had the support of believers like Lee, songstress Carole Hill (Ginny Simms), and longtime friend Monty Woolley (who plays himself) to keep him headed in the right direction. Night and Day features several familiar faces in the supporting cast, including ex-Mrs. Ronald Reagan Jane Wyman as chorus girl Gracie Harris, Mary Martin as herself, and Eve Arden as feisty French chanteuse Gabrielle. It all adds up to make a film that's just glossy and entertaining enough to make you wonder what was really going on behind Porter's posh façade. Warner's DVD presents the film in a strong full-screen transfer (as it was originally shown) with monaural Dolby Digital audio (English, French, and Spanish subtitles are available). The relatively healthy list of extras includes two vintage short films — "Musical Movieland," which combines a backlot studio tour with musical numbers, and "Desi Arnaz and His Orchestra," which showcases the future Mr. Lucille Ball when he was still an up-and-coming performer — as well as a classic Looney Tunes cartoon ("The Big Snooze") and a Cole Porter trailer gallery. Keep-case.
—Betsy Bozdech

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