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Good News

review by Anthony D.


Not Rated

Studio: Warner

Starring: Juney Allyson, Peter Lawford, Joan McCracken, and Mel Torme

Genre: Musical

Directed by Charles Walters

Retail Price: $24.99

Features: Production Notes, Theatrical Trailer, Deleted Musical Number, Excerpts from 1930's "Good News."

Specs: 1.33:1 Full-Frame, Technicolor, Dolby Digital Mono English, English Subtitles, French Subtitles, Chapter Search (32 Chapters)

With football season upon us, it's only fitting to take a peak at M-G-M's collegiate football musical "Good News" as presented on Warner Home Video. This 1947 production is set at the mythical Tait College - -where everyone must be a little slow, or doing massive graduate work - - a school populated by students of questionable age groups. Here at Tait, at the height of the Roaring '20's, the student body seems more intent on singing and dancing than on the studies at hand, much like your typical real colleges. Entering into this lively environment is a pseudo-French woman, Pat McClellan (Patricia Marshall) who promptly steals the heart of the football hero, Tommy Marlowe (Peter Lawford), and every other wealthy boy on campus. Trouble is that Pat won't have a thing to do with Tommy because he is not a member of the same society circle Pat would like to travel in. Tommy decides that to win Pat's affections he must learn French, and quickly. Tommy enlists the aid of assistant librarian Connie Lane (June Allyson) who quickly develops her own unrequited crush on Tommy. Tommy becomes fluent in French through one French lesson (Chapter 11- an amusing duet written for the flm), but because football and girls don't mix, Tommy's grades fall drasitcally, to the point where he won't be allowed to play "the big game" unless he aces his French exam. But because Tommy has eyes for Pat, Connie refuses to tutor Tommy any more. Add to that the fact that if Tait wins the big game, Tommy will announce his engagement to Pat, and you have the zippy world of "Good News," a minor M-G-M musical adapted from a major Broadway hit show from 1927. Musical numbers abound, and director Charles Walters moves things along predictably with an assist from the classic words and music of B.G.DaSylva, Lew Brown and Ray Henderson.

Here's what should be a nice package of eye-candy: a technicolor musical from M-G-M. Instead we are given colors which are too muted, even if though the color scheme of the film is positively pastel. The 1940's Technicolor here, unlike "The Wizard of Oz," is not a mind-blowing experience - - the fleshtones of "Good News" are just simply what one would expect of a technicolor musical film of this age. Reds are either pumpkin-toned or maroon. An occasional aritifact will pop up, and a few signs of wear and tear, which do not detract from the film's viewing. Contrast is very good with little or no aliasing, bleeding or moiring. It's a transfer that stresses the softness of the image resulting in a relatively grain-free picture.

The audio is simply Dolby Digital mono. Nothing great, the songs come through, and the dialogue is firmly centered.

This is where "Good News" really takes off. Warner has included two scenes from the lost 1930 version of "Good News," both presented in stark black and white with grain and artifacts. In spite of the lack of quality, both numbers are quite entertaining, and a necessity for musical lovers. Representing the 1947 "good News" is June Allyson's deleted "An Easier Way" but doesn't state why it was deleted. The film only runs 83 minutes, and this song surely couldn't have hurt the pacing. It's a delightfully catty piece of music which pits two leading ladies against each other. Also included amongst the extras are a Cast and Crew spotlight which lists no filmographies, and only has bios for Peter Lawford and June Allyson. The Theatrical Trailer is dark and has a strident sound.

Now that Warner is trickling the M-G-M musicals to us, it's nice to know that their cataloguing will include lesser programs such as "Good News." This can only mean that a "BandWagon," A "Barkeleys of Broadway," and hopefully, a "Boy Friend" are on the way.

Not that there's anything WRONG with "Good News," it just seems to be a minor-league M-G-M musical, and it's casting reflects that. June Allyson, although she could have been, was not given the deluxe M-G-M "star treatment" associated with, say, Judy Garland. If Garland was the Queen of the lot, Allyson was only a lady-in-waiting. June Allyson was brought to Hollywood, from the Broadway stage, where she was nominally known for playing second banana roles - - her work at M-G-M sometimes gave her starring roles, but she rarely appeared in an M-G-M classic - - on the lines of say "Royal Wedding," - a role she could have easily done as well as Jane Powell. "Good News" gave her a nice break, but paired her with a vanilla leading man in Peter Lawford, who despite his suave good looks, and his charming British accent, never seems quite at home in the environs of the All-American Tait College. Mel Torme, the Velvet Fog himself, is given very little to do, but his vocal stylings on "The Best Things in Life are Free" (Chapter 23) are smooth and delightful. Thrown into the mix is a delightful gem of a performance from Joan McCracken - - a Broadway veteran, she was the original "Dream Laurie" in Rogers & Hammerstein's "Oklahoma!" Joan's energetic singing and dancing bring the life back into "Good News." Joan is given the title song at the start of the film, and a song written for the film "Pass that Peace Pipe," (Chapter 16) which results in a big time dance number in a soda shoppe. Sadly, Joan only appeared in two films, this and "Hollywood Canteen," before she died at 38 of cancer.

"Good News" is a film that I couldn't warm up to as much as I thought I would. It's plot is so firmly rooted in the past - - will Tait College win the big football game? - - but the songs are pleasant, even the new ones for the film, with a couple of standards buried beneath the brouhaha: "Lucky in Love" (Chaper 9) is given a nice full-cast presentation, Allyson works wonders with "The Best Things in Life are Free" (Chapter 12) and finally, (Chapter 31's) "The Varsity Drag" will have toes-tapping and viewers' dancing right along - - "The Varity Drag" bears a remarkable resemblance to "Rocky Horror's" "Time Warp," and if that isn't enough reason for learning a new dance step...well, I don't know what is!

All in all, Warner has done well by "Good News." Musical theater mavens must have it for it's scenes from the otherwise lost 1930 version; and M-G-M completists must have it because it exists. Warner must be commended for bringing out this film to the digital format, and if viewers buy it, Warner will continue to produce quality packages such as this of other more deserving ("Yolanda and the Thief" is at the top of my wish list) M-G-M titles. Bearing that in mind, I strongly urge fans of musicals - -you know who you are - -to rush out and BUY, not RENT "Good News."

(3.5/5, NOT included in final score)




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