Saturday, June 02, 2007

GOOD NEWS (1947)

The archetypal college musical (c.f. TOO MANY GIRLS and COLLEGE SWING): glossy, colorful, and filled with catchy songs. Fall semester 1927 is in full swing at Tait College. Peter Lawford, the football star, is hot for new transfer student Patricia Marshall, who is actually a gold digging socialite interested only in men who come from money. June Allyson, working her way through college as a librarian, is talked into helping Lawford learn French to impress Marshall so she'll go to the big dance with him, even though she's superficially smitten with the Rich Man on Campus, Robert Strickland. Along the way, Lawford and Allyson fall for each other and when he finally realizes that he has no chance with Marshall, he asks Allyson to the dance, but when Marshall thinks (erroneously) that Lawford is rich, she weasels her way in as his date, leaving Allyson dateless. When the unhappy Lawford flunks his French class, he can't play in the big game until he retakes the test, and once again Allyson is called upon to help tutor him for good old Tait. This time, things work out so there's a happy ending for Lawford and Allyson. There's also a romantic triangle subplot involving Allyson's best friend, Joan McCracken, the musclebound lug who has claimed her as his property (Loren Tindell), and the skinny but sweet football hero-wannabe (Ray McDonald) who McCracken actually wants.

The musical numbers are all fun, especially a cute novelty song called "The French Lesson" and the big finale, "The Varsity Drag," but the main reason for watching is the presence of Joan McCracken. She was a rising star on the Broadway musical stage in the 40's, but this is the only movie she made (aside from a cameo in BROADWAY CANTEEN) and she's delightful in her high energy role, particularly in her spotlight number, "Pass That Peace Pipe," in which she is paired up with McDonald (another fine dancer who never got the movie breaks he deserved). As I was watching the film this time, it amused me to view it as an Archie Comics story, with Lawford as Reggie, Allyson as Betty, Marshall as Veronica, Tindall as Moose, and McCracken as Midge, which I guess would make McDonald a cross between Archie and Jughead. The movie also features Mel Torme as a slightly dissipated student (maybe a slave to the reefer), Connie Gilchrist as a sorority house cook, and Donald MacBride and Tom Dugan as coaches. All the actors look too old to be college-age (except McDonald), especially Allyson, who looks like she could be McDonald's mother, but the movie is mostly fizzy colorful fun, and to be treasured for the rare McCracken appearance. There's a great biography out of McCracken, called "The Girl Who Fell Down" which I've just reviewed on my other blog. [DVD]

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