Monday, February 25, 2008

Tonight's Movie: Naughty But Nice (1939)

In NAUGHTY BUT NICE, a straight-laced music professor (Dick Powell) who disdains modern music finds his life turned upside down when he sells his symphony to a music publisher (Ronald Reagan) who turns it into a popular song with the help of a pretty lyricist (Gale Page) and an oomphy songstress (Ann Sheridan).

This mildly diverting musical comedy is filled with some amusingly wacky characters, including Zasu Pitts and Helen Broderick as Powell's aunts, Max Rosenbloom as a butler-cook named Killer, Jerry Colonna as a composer, and Granville Bates as a judge. Pitts in particular is quite funny. It's not a great movie, but it's a pleasant way to spend an evening.

NAUGHTY BUT NICE continues a Dick Powell movie weekend. This was Powell's last musical under contract to Warner Bros., and according to the TCM website, it spent a period of time "on the shelf" to retaliate against Powell when he left the studio. When NAUGHTY BUT NICE was made Powell was 35 and had matured past the "young leading man" roles he played in earlier Warners musicals; his singing voice seems a bit deeper, too.

When Powell left Warner Bros. he starred in a series of light comedies before having a notable career renaissance when he starred in MURDER, MY SWEET (1944), and began playing "tough guy" roles. Powell was also a pioneering early TV star and producer on FOUR STAR PLAYHOUSE beginning in 1952.

Powell's other movies include films made with his first wife, Joan Blondell, and his second wife, June Allyson; my favorite, though, is MRS. MIKE (1949), costarring Evelyn Keyes. I haven't seen it in years. It wasn't a very accurate filming of the classic book, but I liked it just the same.

Sweet Gale Page is perhaps best known as "the fourth Lane sister" in FOUR DAUGHTERS and three other films in which she appeared as the sister of Priscilla, Lola, and Rosemary Lane. She also had a small but notable role in THEY DRIVE BY NIGHT playing Humphrey Bogart's wife, and she played the wife of Knute Rockne in KNUTE ROCKNE ALL AMERICAN, which of course co-starred NAUGHTY BUT NICE supporting actor Ronald Reagan. After 1941's FOUR MOTHERS, the last film she made with the Lane sisters, Page retired for family life, only appearing in a small handful of other projects.

NAUGHTY BUT NICE was directed by Ray Enright. Writer-Producer Jerry Wald was one of the co-authors of the screenplay. This black and white film runs 89 minutes.

Unfortunately this movie isn't available on either video or DVD. It's part of the Turner Classic Movies library; they have the trailer available here.


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