Three classic Oscar winners come to Blu-ray
With the Academy Awards on the horizon, Warner Home Video looks back at three Best Picture winners – ‘Driving Miss Daisy,’ ‘Grand Hotel’ and ‘Mrs. Miniver’ — now on Blu-ray for the first time.
We’re now in the midst of award season with the Academy Awards on the horizon, so what better time to take a look back at some former Best Picture Oscar winners? Warner Home Video has dug into the vaults to present Best Picture winners from 1932, 1942, and 1989. These films have all been available on various home video formats, but Warners has gone one step further and upgraded these three classic films to Blu-ray, and the end results are nothing short of spectacular.
The film most people will be familiar with is Driving Miss Daisy. Adapted from the Pulitzer Prize winning Broadway play, the film stars Jessica Tandy (who also won Best Actress) as Miss Daisy, Morgan Freeman (also nominated, but lost to Daniel Day-Lewis in My Left Foot) as her chauffer Hoke, and Dan Aykroyd in his first real dramatic film role (even though the part is laced with humor) as Miss Daisy’s son Boolie. The film also features Tony winner Patti LuPone (Boolie’s wife) and Esther Rolle (Good Times) as Miss Daisy’s housekeeper, two characters mentioned but never seen in the play.
It’s been quite some time since I’ve seen the film, and I think my memory really does the film a disservice as I learned while watching it again. I certainly remember the humor and the relationship between Miss Daisy and Hoke, but I’ve forgotten what really made this film Best Picture material (it was up against Born of the Fourth of July, Dead Poets Society, Field of Dreams and My Left Foot) — it really tackles the issue of racism and civil rights in the South from a period between the 1940s and 1970s, putting both lead characters square in the middle of the issue. It’s easy to forget that Miss Daisy is Jewish, and the film (based on writer Alfred Uhry’s grandmother’s life) shows us how the Jewish community became allies with the Black community during the turmoil of segregation and the Civil Rights movement, and how they suffered from that support as well (a temple was bombed by white supremacists in retaliation). Seeing the film now through older eyes, I can appreciate the history the film covers, as well as the relationship between Miss Daisy and Hoke. I defy you not to get a tear in your eye towards the end when Miss Daisy tells Hoke that he’s her best friend (even after it’s shown in every bonus feature on the disk).
Warner Home Video’s new Blu-ray edition presents the film at its best, with a lovely golden sheen that evokes the period. It may not look reference quality to those brought up in the digital age of HD video — and there are some instances of minor image flutter that is most likely in the source material — and the image isn’t as sharp as digital video today, but it’s not supposed to be. It’s meant to evoke a feeling of an era, director Bruce Beresford and his DP Peter James succeeded, and the Blu-ray accurately reflects their vision. The audio, presented in DTS-HD MA 2.0, doesn’t give you a complete surround experience, but it still offer some directionality across the front speaker spectrum, with dialog clear (even over scenes with loud machinery), and presents Hans Zimmer’s score very crisp and clear (but Miss Daisy’s theme music is an earwig that I just can’t get rid of).
The Blu-ray edition also features several extras. The disk is packaged in one of Warner’s digibook cases with information about the film and the actors, and images from the film. Bonus material on the disk includes a commentary track with Bruce Beresford, Alfred Uhry and Lili Fini Zanuck (recorded separately but edited together as a single conversation) and:
- Things Are Changing: The Worlds of Hoke & Miss Daisy — (29 minutes) A newly produced look at the historical context for the story, segregation in the South, the black chauffeurs that inspired Alfred Uhry’s story, and the connection between the Jewish and Black communities in Atlanta.
- Miss Daisy’s Journey: From Stage to Screen — (19 minutes) Vintage short detailing the transition of the show from stage to screen, and the difficulties in getting the film made due to the ages of the two leads (who wants to see a movie with two old people talking in a kitchen?). Trivia: Elizabeth Taylor and Shirley MacLaine were suggested for the role of Miss Daisy. Morgan Freeman played the role of Hoke in the original stage production.
- Jessica Tandy: Theatre Legend to Screen Star — (7 minutes) A 2003 tribute to Jessica Tandy featuring Alfred Uhry, Jon Avnet (who directed Tandy in Fried Green Tomatoes), Bruce Beresford, and Tandy’s friend Frances Sternhagen.
- 1989 Vintage Making-Of — (6 minutes) EPK like those seen on HBO to promote a movie with highlights featuring interviews with Tandy and Freeman.
- Theatrical trailer
If you’re a fan of Driving Miss Daisy or just a collector of award winning films, then this is the set for you. If you’ve never seen the movie, by all means seek it out because there is so much more to it than meets the eye.