Monday, February 15, 2016

OVP: Good News (1947)

Film: Good News (1947)
Stars: June Allyson, Peter Lawford, Patricia Marshall, Joan McCracken, Mel Torme
Director: Charles Walters
Oscar History: 1 nomination (Best Original Song-"Pass That Peace Pipe")
Snap Judgment Ranking: 4/5 stars

Okay, I will admit first hand that going into Good News, a film I saw mostly because I was maxed out and figured that a musical was the best way to cure my insomnia/work-stress, was one of those films I figured I would just "cross-off the OVP list," not expecting very much in terms of actual quality in the picture.  Thankfully for me, Turner Classic Movies (and in this case, Comden & Green) were not about to let my frown resist some upside down action, as Good News was a delight from start-to-finish, one of those musicals that you can't help but want to go on forever and features a game performance from Peter Lawford of all people.

(Spoilers Ahead) The film's plot is about as easy to predict as you could possibly imagine.  You have studly Tommy Marlowe (Lawford), the quarterback with a gorgeous mug who can get any girl he wants, pursuing a snobby gold-digger named Pat McClellan (Marshall) who won't give him the time of day because he's not rich.  Marlowe tries to impress her by learning French from a Plain Jane named Connie Lane (Allyson) who turns out to be quite beautiful once he gives her half a notice.  The film falls into typical love triangle mode, with Tommy realizing that Connie is the girl for him just in time for him to win the big game and end up in her arms.

The trick here is that the score to the film is ridiculously good fun.  Thirty years before Grease was the word, we got something similar in Good News, though the numbers here are more classic musical theater than pop-radio friendly.  The film was originally on Broadway, but several songs were added in the big-screen version, including "The French Lesson" (which is impossibly witty fun and you should see it right now) and "Pass the Peace Pipe," which won an Academy Award nomination.  It seems inexplicable to me, quite frankly, that what is almost certainly the worst song in the film (with all due respect to Joan McCracken, who nails pretty much everything else in this role and is, along with Lawford, the highlight of the movie), managed the nomination, as "Pass the Peace Pipe" really only has a solid bass-line going for it.  The rest of the song is forgettable, and instead you'll spend most of the film wanting to recreate "The French Lesson" with your personal crush.

The film's actors were all pretty new in their careers, including singer Mel Torme who manages a bit part in the film and gets his own musical number.  Allyson and Lawford were new stars, coming off of hits in Two Girls and a Sailor and The Picture of Dorian Gray, and were major draws with the teenybopper set.  Both actors have called this amongst their favorite pictures, but the film itself was a bit of a flop when it first came out which may be why it has been forgotten in the MGM canon, but don't let that fool you-it's a frothy delight.  The film captures what would later be missing in musical revivals and is completely gone from the genre today-the firm lightness that made MGM and the musical genre itself so wonderful.  The songs are wry and the dancing effervescent, but it's that lightness of touch, and the quick focus on not only the main characters but properly setting up side characters that makes it particularly well-focused.  No one would accuse this movie of being a masterpiece, but it's a damn fine way to spend two hours.

Those are my thoughts on this little-remembered (had you even heard of it, because I hadn't?) picture.  Share your thoughts on the film, Allyson, Lawford, and the musical genre in general in the comments!

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