This collection really captures the brilliance of Jimmy Stewart.
Some of the extras in this set left me scratching my head.
James Stewart - The Signature Collection contains 6 films that give us a nice look at his career, while showing us the multifaceted roles this brilliant actor was able to pull off. Featured in this set are The Spirit of St. Louis in which Stewart plays famed aviator Charles Lindbergh in a film by Billy Wilder. In FBI Story Stewart is Agent Chip Hardesty in this movie that shows us the bureau from the inside out as it spans from 1924 to the late 1950s. The Naked Spur sees Stewart, in a film masterfully executed by Anthony Mann, as Howard Kemp; the leader of a band of bounty hunters, Stewart finds himself going up against Robert Ryan's Ben Vandergroat. In The Stratton Story, Stewart plays Monty Stratton, a man who gets permanently injured but doesn't let that quell his spirit in this inspiring film from director Sam Wood. The final DVD sees The Cheyenne Social Club and Firecreek together on one disc. These two films saw buddies Stewart and Henry Fonda in a genre that really suited them well, the Western.
All in all, I felt like going through James Stewart - The Signature Collection was both an engaging look at an actor's career, but also a lesson in film history. I would consider this a must own for any serious DVD collector.
The Spirit of St. Louis
Spirit of St. Louis Premiere
A narrated news piece that examines this movie's first premiere. It was a star studded event and it goes to show that not much has changed from then to now. Overall, I was most impressed with the quality of the picture as this is quite old and probably wasn't kept up over the years.
So Your Wife Wants to Work
This interesting short showcasing Speedy Gonzalez opens with a disclaimer about some of the racist elements in this film. While I think that that is quite sensitive, I am very happy that the creators of this DVD didn't alter the cartoon itself. They let it play as is but they also warned people about what they were going to be seeing.
The Naked Spur
Things We Can Do Without
Furniture is the focus in this funny featurette as it examines some furniture that human beings just don't need. From chairs that make people fall over, to the pieces of furniture that take up too much space, this featurette seems like it could almost always be timely.
Little Johnny Jet
The Stratton Story
Bugs are nowhere to be found as this humorous featurette that shows us how to deal with those that annoy and bother. Whether someone is howling at you on the street, or just generally getting on your nerves, I think this movie should be updated and look at those creeps that talk on their cellphones during movies.
Audio Only Radio Broadcast
This is a radio show that features, among others, Jimmy Stewart and June Allyson who star in this feature. While I didn't listen to all of this (it is an audio only feature), I did find it interesting getting to hear the people involved talk about the making of this movie. I am sure that there are some older people who probably listened to this when it was first on, and they will certainly appreciate the ability to discover it all over again.
The Cheyenne Social Club/Firecreek
The Good Time Girls
An interesting featurette that looks at the girls who came west which is a subject that isn't looked at much. In many Westerns, the women are usually eye candy or they are aiding a rebellious outlaw who really is good at heart. As this is also the subject of The Cheyenne Social Club, it makes for a nice juxtaposition with the time this movie was shot and the period depicted in the film. The actors themselves also lend interesting insights as they remark on their characters and the project they are making.
The Naked Spur and The Stratton Story are in their standard versions. They are in a format preserving the aspect ratio of their original theatrical exhibitions. The FBI Story, The Spirit of St. Louis and The Cheyenne Social Club/Firecreek are in widescreen versions presented in a "matted" widescreen format preserving the aspect ratio of their original theatrical exhibition. Enhanced for widescreen TVs. What impressed me the most about all of these DVDs, no matter if the picture was in black or white, or color, these movies looked really solid in this collection. While I don't think every frame was gone over meticulously, I think enough work was done to make these films look more than presentable.
Rather than go through each disc and list out mono, stereo, or what have you, I will simply state that all the discs in this collection are in Dolby Digital. I found that the audio varied from disc to disc. On one, I might have to turn up the sound louder and on another I might have to lower it. This makes sense considering that we dealing with different movies, created at different times, and that the films in this set represent a decent amount of improved upon audio technology.
A warm picture of Jimmy Stewart graces this front cover which seems like it might have been the headshot this actor used at some point in his career. The back lists out all the films in this set, it displays tiny pictures of their covers, and the bottom portion of this slipcase (which houses all 5 discs) is where the technical specs can be found. I think this packaging is quite simple without making it seem daunting or overly hard to wade through for a prospective buyer. Nice packaging job Warner Bros. but you could have saved space and plastic and made this a digipack.
Why is it that every film Jimmy Stewart does seems good? As an actor, he always seemed to turn in sold performances no matter what the role or genre called for. He was just as comfortable playing warm cuddly guys, as he was playing hard nosed FBI men like Chip Hardesty. I also never felt like I was watching somebody act. He really seems to have taken on the roles that he played, yet he never seemed to change up his delivery much. More than anything else, that is the sign of a really solid actor because it is the viewers ability to forget they are watching an icon like Stewart that makes all the difference in how their performance is perceived.
If you want to see some of the most solid screen work, not just from Stewart but from America's directors, you will want to check out James Stewart - The Signature Collection.
The Cheyenne Social Club was released June 12, 1970.