Sunday, January 21, 2007


This second feature is worth seeing for its novelty, based as it is on a popular radio talk show of the 40's of the same name, hosted by Tom Breneman. The show itself, which I've never heard, seems to have been a lot like Art Linkletter's House Party on TV in the 50's, with music, interviews, and audience chat. The movie uses the show as a focal point for four narrative threads. The main story concerns a budding post-war romance between Minnesota girl Bonita Granville and Minnesota soldier Edward Ryan. They meet cute at the radio broadcast, done during breakfast at Breneman's restaurant and night club; she's been waiting since the end of the war to hear from her fiance, but Ryan happens to know that the cad is now married to someone else. The finale is all about Breneman getting the cops involved in a scheme to get the two together. The other plotlines also concern audience members at the show. Zasu Pitts has worn a crazy hat, because a regular part of the show has Breneman picking the craziest hat in the room and donning it, but gossip columnist Hedda Hopper upstages her, so much so that Spike Jones and his band perform a song about her hats. Beulah Bondi is an old lady who wins the "oldest audience member" award, gets involved in a car accident outside the restaurant, and seems to be on death's door until Breneman enlists her in his plan to get the lovebirds together. In the oddest plotline, Billie Burke is a housewife who goes to the show while her husband (Raymond Walburn) sets up a rendezvous with a couple of sweet young things. A comedy of errors ensues (Walburn is the one who almost hits Bondi) but by the time Burke and Walburn wind up together again, I didn't care about them at all. The radio show segment is the best part of the film; the rest, despite being comedic, all feels a bit gloomy, and the low budget is obvious, though the actors are all fine, especially Bondi. Nat King Cole's trio gets a couple of low-key numbers. [DVD]

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