Saturday, January 03, 2009


Fred Allen's traveling band gets stuck on a rainy night in a small town and happens upon a political rally for windbag politician Raymond Walburn, who is running for governor. His tiresome speech has the audience members trickling out in boredom, but when singer Dick Powell gets up and does a song, the reaction is electric. Allen agrees to have the band peform at all of Walburn's rallies, but Powell soon gets fired for being too good--the crowds start to leave after he's done, not sticking around for the often-inebriated candidate. Party boss Alan Dinehart sees a good thing when it's in front of him and asks Powell to run for governor instead, as a figurehead for the party. He agrees to do it, assuming he'll lose but hoping to get some good exposure for his singing, but soon he's ahead in the polls. Powell and the band enjoy the ride, but when the party tries to make his sign a contract promising specific state office appointments as favors, he rebels.

First of all, I must cry "Yikes!" at the fortuitous arrival of this film on Fox Movie Channel so close to the time that Illinois's Blagojevich scandal broke. It's always fun when a little-known classic-era flick becomes relevant to our 21st-century affairs. I had never heard of this film, but it's a little gem; the political satire, though broad, is fun, the songs are decent, and I enjoyed seeing hunorist Fred Allen, who I mostly know from reruns of early-50's episodes of What's My Line on Game Show Network, in a rare acting role; he's quite good, and I'm sorry he didn't do more sidekick roles like this. Dick Powell is at an interesting place in his career here: he'd just pushed past the "lead juvenile" part he could do in his sleep (the early 30's Gold Diggers films), but hadn't yet found his tough-guy niche (1944's MURDER MY SWEET). I found him quite handsome and charming here; his leading lady, Ann Dvorak, is fine in a less substantive role, and Walburn is very funny as the popeyed drunken politician. Also with Patsy Kelly and Paul Whiteman and his orchestra. A romantic stumbling-block plotline involving the party boss's wife fliriting with Powell is too half-hearted to work, but the rest of the film is quite enjoyable. [FMC]

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