'Coney Island: Cinema Archives'
(Betty Grable, George Montgomery, Cesar Romero, Charles Winninger, Phil Silvers, et al / DVD / NR / (1943) 2016 / 20th Century Fox)
Overview: Set at the turn of the century, smooth talking con man Eddie Johnson weasels his way into a job at friend and rival Joe Rocco's Coney Island night spot. Eddie meets the club's star attraction (and Joe's love interest), Kate Farley, a brash singer with a penchant for flashy clothes. Eddie and Kate argue as he tries to soften her image. Eventually, Kate becomes the toast of Coney Island and the two fall in love. Joe then tries to sabotage their marriage plans.
DVD Verdict: Despite a slow start and trifling plot, "Coney Island" turns out to be One of Betty Grable's most sheerly exuberant musicals and another shimmering, glossily produced, exquisitely Technicolored Fox tuner set in the Gay 90s, directed with chic elegance by Walter Lang.
Betty is wonderful all the way and gave what she had as Kate Farley, the stage show entertainer/singer who is transformed by George Montgomery into a classy Broadway star with musical and vocal talents, despite the protests from Kate's manager, played by Cesar Romero. Charles Winninger, Phil Silvers and Hurst are the capably eccentric supporting players.
Brooklyn had two landmarks of note that the world knew about. One was Ebbets Field where the Dodgers played and the other was that entertainment mecca, Coney Island. The Dodgers are gone and Coney Island looks a bit frayed around the edges, but you can still see some traces of the glamor of the period that Betty and the cast are portraying. At least Nathan's Hotdogs is still operating though they wouldn't come into being until long after the era that this film is set in was over.
As expected, then and now, the songs and numbers are joyously, spectacularly staged, including the unforgettable "Cuddle Up a Little Closer", "Pretty Baby", "There's Danger in a Dance", "Beautiful Coney Island", "Put Your Arms Around Me", and "Lulu from Louisville." This is a Full Screen Presentation (1.33:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs.