Thursday, January 19, 2006


A rather ho-hum semi-musical bit of whimsy which seems designed as a launching pad for radio singer Kenny Baker's movie career; it didn't quite work, given that he only made a few more films over the next ten years, then retired from the screen. He comes off like a hayseed Dick Powell without the touch of sophistication that Powell brought to his parts. Baker plays Claude Dodd, an electrician from the small town of Pewamo who is discovered singing at the local strawberry festival by a big-city mattress manufacturer (Ferris Taylor, whose company is called Morpheus Mattress). Taylor likes the boy's rich baritone voice, and the fact that his wife fell asleep while Baker was singing makes Taylor think that Baker would be a natural to sing soothing tunes on his company-sponsored late night radio show. But by the time Baker gets on the air, he has had an operation due to an attack of "quinsy" (yes, it's says it's an inflamed abscess of the tonsils) and his baritone has risen to tenor. Taylor isn't happy, but the listening audience loves him and the radio station owner (Henry O'Neill) signs him to a big-money contract to sing on the Toothpaste Hour. In one of the most artificial plot contrivances ever, it turns out that Baker also has an invention that can make old radios sound like new, and this gets him entangled with a swindler (John Eldredge). The somewhat homely and naive Baker also winds up with three women after him: opera singer Alice Brady, conniving Gertrude Michael, and radio station secretary Jane Wyman, who of course is the one he ends up with, but not until a series of con jobs, ransackings, and misunderstandings (not to mention another case of quinsy) sends him back to the simple life in Pewamo. Baker is rather drab, but he is surrounded by a competent cast, highlighted by the delightful Brady, in high diva mode, and the reliable Frank McHugh as his friend and manager. Harry Davenport has a small role as a Pewamo doctor, and if you watch carefully, you may see William Hopper and Dave O'Brien in uncredited bits. Baker's baritone song, "If I Were a Lily," is a hoot, and a later song, "Remember Me," was nominated for an Oscar, but otherwise the music is not particularly memorable. [TCM]

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