In 2019, the Walt Disney Company completed its acquisition of 20th Century Fox, which set off a panic among classic film fans and the launch of Disney+ only proved us right. Aside from the token addition of Miracle on 34th Street for obvious reasons, Disney+ features almost zero classic 20th Century Fox films. Disney is now sitting on a collection of some of the greatest Classic Hollywood movies and seems to want nothing to do with it, aside from bury it.
With that in mind, there has been a rush on 20th Century Fox DVD and Blu-ray releases. During the height of the DVD era, Fox was one of the best studios when it came to putting out releases of its classics. They even had special sub-labels for noir masterpieces and musicals. The studio released a variety of star-specific sets, packed with movies that could never be released on their own. Even a star like the underrated Alice Faye got two collections of her work.
Put together, The Alice Faye Collection Volumes 1 & 2 provide an incredibly comprehensive overview of Faye’s career. Although her best Tyrone Power collaborations – In Old Chicago (1937) and Alexander’s Ragtime Band (1938) – were released individually, these collections provide a look at what she was best at.
Faye, born in Hell’s Kitchen, was an incredibly gifted singer with a unique voice no one could duplicate. Her performances bring a warmth to the screen unmatched, and it’s a shame Fox made her almost exclusively make musicals. Some of the films in these sets, particularly Lillian Russell (1940), Rose of Washington Square (1939) and Hollywood Cavalcade (1939) prove how wonderful an actress she was. But for every one of those, there’s an On The Avenue (1937), That Night In Rio (1941) and The Great American Broadcast (1941) on her resume.
One part of Faye’s career missing here. The sets do not include any of her early films, when Fox was trying to make her an imitation Jean Harlow or stereotypical MGM starlet. She made her film debut in 1934’s George White’s Scandals, and appeared in 11 films between 1934 and 1936. It was not until In Old Chicago that Faye finally got a part that would establish her as a great star.
Notably, only one of the nine films in the collections has been released on Blu-ray, Busby Berkeley’s 1943 classic The Gang’s All Here. In 2016, Twilight Time released the film on Blu-ray, including all the bonus material Fox created for the DVD included in the sets. The big addition is a wonderful commentary featuring critics Glenn Kenny, Ed Hulse and Farran Smith Nehme.
Speaking of extras, it’s astonishing how jam-packed these nine discs are. Many of the discs include isolated score tracks, promotional galleries and even complete deleted sequences and outtakes dug up in the Fox vaults. There are even specifically-created featurettes for the movies and Faye. Going through these sets was like a trip down memory lane, when we didn’t have to bank on independent labels to pack supplements on. There are even individual leaflets on films in Volume 1, and a little booklet for Volume 2.
Here are the films included in these sets:
- On The Avenue (1937), directed by Roy Del Ruth
- Lillian Russell (1940), directed by Irving Cummings
- That Night In Rio (1941), directed by Irving Cummings
- The Gang’s All Here (1943), directed by Busby Berkeley
- Rose of Washington Square (1939), directed by Gregory Ratoff
- Hollywood Cavalcade (1939), directed by Irving Cummings
- The Great American Broadcast (1941), directed by Archie Mayo
- Hello, Frisco, Hello (1943), directed by Bruce Humberstone
- Four Jills in a Jeep (1944), directed by William A. Seiter
Since these movies were all made at the same studio, it’s fun to pick up on the threads and similarities that run throughout. You run into the same supporting cast and leading men paired with Faye. Don Ameche, John Payne and Tyrone Power all pop up in these movies. Fox chief Darryl F. Zanuck’s bizarre obsession with the late 1890s-early 1900s is all over the place. We’re even tortured by the Ritz Brothers and other strange novelty acts Zanuck loved. And while the Fox stable of songwriters might not have been as strong as MGM’s, Faye was still given some lovely material to perform, most notably “You’ll Never Know” by Harry Warren & Mack Gordon in Hello, Frisco, Hello.
Alice Faye’s movies aren’t among the greats, but all nine of these have some bright moments. She was billed as the “Girl Next Door,” but these films show she could be so much more when Zanuck allowed it. Her knock-out lead performance in Lillian Russell shows it, and her unique take on “My Man” in Rose of Washington Square (an unauthorized Fanny Brice biopic that Faye is sort of miscast in) shows she could even be sexy. Once Zanuck figured out her strengths, he utilized them effortlessly in these movies and there’s constantly evidence that Faye could always offer more than her Golden Voice.
These sets are not going for much online yet, so get them now while you can. There is no evidence Disney plans to bring Faye’s films – or any classic Fox film that doesn’t have to do with Christmas – to Disney+. These musicals are examples of Golden Age Hollywood at its finest, and should appeal to anyone looking for warmth, humor and great music from the movies.