Tuesday, July 05, 2016


William Judd Brennan (William Haines) is a wisecracking fellow who works at a music store and has dreams of becoming a radio host. Brennan flirts obnoxiously with Marion (Mary Doran), a customer, and winds up following her to her place of business which happens to be radio station WPN where the big boss is her brother Sam (Robert King), who just happens to be an old friend of William's. The station is losing ratings and Sam hires William to help come up with some new programming. How cozy—except Marion still can't stand the perpetually insufferable William. One of the people William hires for his new show is clairvoyant Dr. Kruger (John Miljan) who is actually the head of a group of small-time crooks known as the Ghost Gang; as he performs readings for people over the air, he is actually sending coded messages to his gang to aid in pulling off their robberies. Kruger also starts dating Marion, which causes William no end of irritation. When the gang hits a group of socialites gathered at the radio station, William figures out that Kruger is behind it, so Kruger kidnaps him and makes it look like William is actually the criminal mastermind. Can William escape before the crooks launch another crime during which they plan to eliminate him for good?

I’ve reviewed other William Haines movies before; he was a popular silent comic actor who had the persona of the eternal juvenile, always joking, always assuming he could win anyone over with his charm. But in sound films, his "charm" comes across more often as unpleasant arrogance. Today's viewer may also note a touch of camp in his over-the-top jesting, though his characters were apparently to be read as 100% heterosexual. Here, he has absolutely zero chemistry with Mary Doran—to be fair, part of the problem is Doran who gives a frowning, low-energy performance opposite Haines' grinning, bouncing off the walls style. In terms of plot, I don't think it's ever explained why the gang has to rely on radio messages—why couldn't Kruger just deliver his orders in person? As with some early sound films, there are a handful of dialogue flubs left in, but otherwise the technical aspects of the film are satisfactory. The stuttering comedian Roscoe Ates has a couple of bits that are the high points of the film. If stutterers and prancing ninnies aren't your cup of tea, you may want to skip this. [TCM]

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