Blu-ray Review: April Love - Twilight Time Limited Edition

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Image: Pat Boone Enterprises

George Agnew Chamberlain’s 1941 novel Phantom Filly spawned two movie adaptations. The first was the Oscar-nominated (for Best Cinematography, Color) Home in Indiana (1944). The second, a Pat Boone vehicle called April Love (1957), has recently been issued as a limited edition Blu-ray (3,000 copies total) via Twilight Time. The title song, by Sammy Fain and Paul Francis Webster, earned the film an Academy Award nomination of its own. Pat Boone’s rendition of the tune ended topping the Billboard singles chart at the tail end of 1957.

As a romantic musical, April Love has charm to spare. Nick Conover (Boone) is a reckless, big city youth. His penchant for joyriding landed him in some trouble, but his rather lenient sentence involves living with his Kentucky-based Aunt Henrietta (Jeanette Nolan) and Uncle Jed Bruce (Arthur O’Connell). The thinking is that the calm, farm-based life will have a positive influence on the juvenile delinquent. The Bruces’ only son was killed in the Korean War, leaving Jed in particular very bitter. But Nick, who turns out to be not such a bad boy after all, quickly wins him over. As Nick works with Jed’s horses, including the supposedly untamable Tugfire, and gets a busted jalopy running again, he goes a long ways toward building an admirable character.

April Love BD Cover (213x280).jpgNick soon develops a romantic interest in the fetching young Templeton girls, Liz (Jones) and Fran (Dolores Michaels), of the neighboring farm. As he works towards choosing between Liz and Fran, Nick also learns harness racing. Director Henry Levin keeps the tone feather-light, while infusing the story with a few weighty beats. Tugfire is accidentally left out in a storm, leading to some drama involving his subsequent illness. There’s plenty of beautifully shot racing footage, both automobile and horse, to add some light action elements. Of course, the songs are as much a co-star any of the actors. In addition to the celebrated title tune, we hear melodic gems including “Clover in the Meadow,” “Give Me a Gentle Girl,” and “Do It Yourself.” April Love is a fun slice of mild-mannered romantic drama that ably represents a bygone era.

April Love looks spectacular in this new restoration provided to Twilight Time by the film’s distributor, 20th Century Fox. Nearly six decades melt away in this flawless presentation, obviously sourced from impeccable elements. Wilfred M. Cline’s cinematography, shot largely on location in picturesque Lexington, Kentucky, is quite breathtaking. The audio is similarly exceptional, presented in DTS-HD MA 5.1. The songs sound terrific. The fidelity is, overall, so good that it easily betrays the extensive use of ADR (much of the outdoor dialog has a somewhat processed, studio-bound sound—not at all a problem with the track; it’s inherent in the original sound design). There’s a DTS-HD MA 2.0 isolated music track as well.

Co-star Shirley Jones sits with film historian (and record producer) Nick Redman for an engaging commentary track. Twilight Time frequently includes newly recorded commentaries with their titles, which always add a great deal of value. The 81-year-old Jones recalls tons of interesting details about the making of the film, with especially fond recollections of the actual harness racing she learned specifically for this film. Pat Boone was originally going to be part of the commentary, but Redman explains early on that Boone’s wife of nearly 62 years has been ailing of late and he couldn’t make it as a result.

As is standard with Twilight Time releases, film historian Julie Kirgo provides an insightful essay about in the Blu-ray booklet. To order the limited edition April Love (while supplies last), visit Screen Archives.

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Chaz Lipp writes for The Morton Report.

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