Today is another day in #CleanMovieMonth. The temperatures have been rising in recent days, and so have our views! I want to thank all my readers for so faithfully reading the daily articles which PEPS has been publishing throughout July. We are watching and reviewing movies exclusively from the Breen era of Hollywood (1934-1954), when the Motion Picture Production Code was in its glory days. We hope to discover new things about this time and its films by reviewing a different Code movie every day.
My film choice for today is a movie from 1947, Good News. This movie is a college musical set in 1927. Starring June Allyson and Peter Lawford, it features a lively variety of talent to perform in this lighthearted tale. The story began as a Broadway musical. Then, it became a pre-Code film. Eventually, it became the rousing melodic romance from the Code era which we are reviewing today.
A new girl has come to a sorority at Tait College. The girl is the refined Pat McClellan, who has lived abroad and makes a habit of interspersing her conversation with snippets of French. Most of the girls in the sorority are repelled by her pride, but the boys at the school are immediately smitten with the attractive, flirtatious newcomer. Two of the main girls at Phi Gamma Gamma are roommates Babe Doolittle and Connie Lane. Connie is a sweet, studious girl who works at the library and doesn’t have a boyfriend; she wonders if anyone will ever care for her. Babe is a popular girl who is the girlfriend of a hefty football player and student of psychology named Beef; although Beef is very possessive and jealous, she is interested in a skinny young fellow who spends every game on the bench, Bobby Turner. All the girls at school are infatuated with Tommy Marlowe, the handsome captain of the football team. At a party at the sorority, Tommy immediately flirts with the new girl, but she coldly makes it clear to the ladies’ man that she is uninterested in him. She is looking for a man with wealth – of culture. She finds him in the stuffy millionaire Peter Van Dyke III. However, Tommy has never been defeated in love before, and he is determined to win-over the French-speaking flapper. He decides to impress her by speaking to her “in her own language.” He decides to learn French. He goes to the library looking for French books and meets the assistant librarian, Connie. She is a language student herself, so she gives him a crash course on French vocabulary. They become fast friends, but Connie obviously wants more. She’s hurt when Tommy ends the romantic scene by saying that his new knowledge will make a dent in Pat. Tommy starts taking French lessons from Professor Kennyon, but Connie wishes he would pay attention to her instead of Pat. Finally, he delivers a brilliantly-executed French monologue to Pat in the drug store, but she rudely turns down his request for her to accompany him to the prom. Babe and some of the others feel that her harsh treatment will make him so depressed that he won’t be able to play well in the big game before the prom. After Tommy has left, Babe makes up a story about Tommy being one of the wealthiest boys at Tait because his father is the Pickle King. As expected, the gold-digging Pat is thrilled to hear that Tommy is a millionaire. Meanwhile, Tommy convinces Connie to go the dance with him. However, Pat shows up at the football game and says that seeing him on the field completely changed her mind about him. Now, she wants to go to the prom with him! Tommy giddily accepts, forgetting that he has a date with Connie. When he finally breaks the news over the telephone, she is already dressed to go. She is heartbroken. In the months that follow, the possessive Pat continues to date Tommy, and they become engaged. However, Tommy is not thrilled about it. Part of him regrets breaking his date with Connie. Will he be able to realize which girl is the right one for him? Would Pat still like Tommy if she knew he wasn’t a millionaire? Will Connie ever get the man of her dreams? Watch the movie to find out!
Connie Lane is played by June Allyson. Tommy Marlowe is played by Peter Lawford. Pat McClellan is played by Patricia Marshall. Babe Doolittle is played by Joan McCracken. Bobby Turner is played by Ray McDonald. Beef is played by Loren Tindall. Peter Van Dyke III is played by Robert Strickland. Professor Kenyon is played by Clinton Sundberg.
This movie doesn’t have a lot of really great singers, but it has a lot of great performers. All the actors in this picture don’t have great voices. However, they all know how to sell a song. One really great singer in the cast, though, is Mel Torme. As one of the college students, he croons, strums a ukulele and delivers a couple lines. He is very young in this movie, and his voice is high and beautiful.
This movie features just one musical number after another. It begins with the chorus singing the title song. Later, Tommy gives Bobby advice on how to handle women as he sings the song “Be a Ladies’ Man.” They walk and dance around the campus singing the song, eventually being joined by Mel Torme and a fourth young man. At the sorority party that evening, “Lucky in Love” is sung in many different ways and in many different situations as nearly every member of the cast takes a turn at the tune. One of the cutest numbers is in the library, when Connie is teaching Tommy his first French lesson. They go throughout the library, singing the French names for different objects. Afterwards, they sing a love song, “The Best Things in Life Are Free.” At the drug store, Babe and Bobby lead the chorus of students in a rousing musical number called “Pass That Peace Pipe,” an Indian-themed song that displays energetic choreography and dancing. This number was nominated for Best Song at the Academy Awards. When Connie is jilted by Tommy on the night of the prom, she sings a sad song in her room, “Just Imagine,” her beautiful blue eyes glistening in the dim lighting. Later, Mel Torme reprises “The Best Things in Life Are Free,” and Tommy chimes in at the repeat, singing the words in French. The final number is a rousing dance routine which includes the whole college chorus, “The Varsity Drag.” It’s a musical party from start to finish!
This is a wonderful example of good, clean, musical fun from the Code era. It’s about the music, the color, the romance, and the fun of an MGM musical. In 1947, World War II was just over. While some movies focused on the serious aspects of the post-war world, others sought to be fun, lighthearted entertainment which distracted people from their troubles. This movie brought people back to another time, the Roaring Twenties. However, the roar of that flaming decade was quite faint in this film.
When you watch this film, you might think, “My, college was such a wholesome place back then! All the young people look so clean-scrubbed and decent.” However, what you are seeing is a 1940s look at the 1920s. Naturally, it’s clean, decent, and wholesome. These adjectives, however, are more descriptive of the decade in which the film was made rather than that in which it was set. Pre-Code films about college life, such as the original Good News from 1930 or College Humor from 1933, show a much different atmosphere. The young people seem rather loose and flirtatious in these stories about higher education. Research about the 1920s and early 30s reveals that such risque depictions were rather accurate. Colleges were often locations of “petting parties.” Many co-eds shamelessly announced that they frequently petted, necked, and drank bootleg liquor. This films, however, shows none of these occupations among the young people. No alcohol is consumed or mentioned, and all the romance is decent and proper.
The Code did not require films to water down history all the time. This particular film, however, sought to depict a very carefree environment. Excessive details about “flaming youth” would remind people of the problems which plagued the 1920s. The purpose of this film was to make people forget their troubles, past or present. Thus, the purified depiction of collegiate life in the 1920s is a charming backdrop for this delightful film. If you’re in the mood for a good Technicolor Broadway musical, watch Good News!
By the way, I’m happy to announce that, last week, the Pure Entertainment Preservation Society became a member of the Large Association of Movie Blogs. We are honored to be one of the LAMBs. We are already getting involved in many of the exciting activities in this community. We are honored to be member #1933. (#1934 would have been more appropriate, but we’re glad to be here anyway!) We’ll let you know soon about our involvement as a LAMB!
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