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William Wyler
Walter Huston, Ruth Chatterton, Mary Astor
Writing Credits:
Sidney Howard

A retired auto manufacturer and his wife take a long-planned European vacation only to find that they want very different things from life.

Rated NR

Aspect Ratio: 1.37:1
English DTS-HD MA Monaural
Supplements Subtitles:

Runtime: 101 min.
Price: $21.99
Release Date: 3/24/20

• 1937 Lux Theater Radio Broadcast


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Dodsworth [Blu-Ray] (1936)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (April 14, 2020)

With 1936ís Dodsworth, William Wyler earned his first-ever Oscar nomination as Best Director. Heíd go on to get 13 total Best Director nods and win three.

Based on Sinclair Lewisís 1929 novel, automotive tycoon Sam Dodsworth (Walter Huston) sells his business and retires. His wife Fran (Ruth Chatterton) wants to live the high life and prods Sam to take her on a fancy European vacation.

This goes poorly for Sam, as Fran flirts with other men and eventually leaves him. Sam finds solace with widowed Edith Cortright (Mary Astor) but matters with Fran donít remain in the past, as she comes back to threaten his happiness.

Though accurate, that synopsis implies that Fran plays a much more self-absorbed, tawdry role than we actually find. Not to say she doesnít come across as superficial and selfish at times, but Dodsworth manages to make her more three-dimensional than one might anticipate.

For a while, at least, as the focus starts to shift along the way. Through the movieís first half or so, it provides a surprisingly robust look at a relationship that falters as a long-married couple grows apart.

Dodsworth plays these moments well. While the movie does initially set up Fran as vain and self-absorbed, we better see her point of view once the couple embarks on their journey.

As they go, we get a vision of Sam as self-involved in his own right, too concerned with his own gee-whiz perspective to discern how he ignores his wife. Though the film still paints Sam in the more sympathetic light, we definitely see why Fran grows weary of their relationship.

For a while at least, as the dynamic shifts along the way. Eventually the movie more heavily invests in Sam as the aggrieved party and Fran as the selfish lout, and when that happens, the film becomes less interesting.

Still, Dodsworth works quite well for much of its running time, as it manages a surprisingly mature look at the decline of a long relationship. Though it loses steam as it goes, I still think this becomes a largely engaging character drama that holds up after 84 years.

The Disc Grades: Picture B+/ Audio B-/ Bonus C

Dodsworth appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.37:1 on this Blu-ray Disc. This became an impressive presentation for an 84-year-old film.

Overall sharpness worked well. A smattering of shots looked a bit soft, but these failed to cause distractions, and the majority of the movie felt accurate and concise.

I saw no signs of jagged edges or shimmering, and edge haloes didnít appear. In terms of print flaws, I saw nothing prominent.

With a nice layer of grain, I suspected no digital noise reduction. Blacks looked deep and dark, while shadows seemed smooth and clear, and the image boasted satisfying contrast. I felt very pleased with this age-defying transfer.

Though not as good, the movieís DTS-HD MA monaural soundtrack worked fine for its age. Speech could be reedy but the lines lacked edginess and remained easily intelligible.

Both effects and music failed to deliver much dynamic range, but that was expected given their vintage. These elements still seemed clean and clear, without distortion or other concerns. For an 84-year-old track, this one felt more than satisfactory.

One extra appears here: an April 12, 1937 Lux Radio Theater adaptation of Dodsworth. It lasts 59 minutes, 31 seconds and brings back Walter Huston as the title character, with his real-life wife Nan Sunderland as Fran.

As usual, the radio adaptation provides a fairly bare-bones version of the tale, and it loses the development it needs. Fran comes across as less likable than in the film, and the story seems too superficial. While not an effective take on the narrative, this still acts as a cool addition to the set.

Though it works less well in its third act, Dodsworth mostly provides an insightful take on romantic relationships and how couples grow apart from each other. Without too much melodrama, it digs into the subject matter in an engaging manner. The Blu-ray brings very good picture, era-appropriate audio and one useful bonus feature. Despite some flaws, I think Dodsworth succeeds and remains relevant after 84 years.

Viewer Film Ratings: 3.5 Stars Number of Votes: 2
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