Saturday, February 20, 2021

Tonight's Movie: Good News (1947) - A Warner Archive Blu-ray Review

Two of my favorite MGM musicals have been released on Blu-ray in recent weeks by the Warner Archive: THE HARVEY GIRLS (1946), which I reviewed on New Year's Eve, and GOOD NEWS (1947).

I've seen GOOD NEWS many times and want to rave about the Blu-ray at the outset of my comments: I think it's one of the best Blu-rays I've ever seen. The clarity and crispness gives scenes such as students gathered on the sunny lawn of Tait College a remarkable "you are right there" immediacy, and the richness of the Technicolor made me sigh with bliss.  This disc is a "must buy" for fans of musicals in general and this film in particular.

GOOD NEWS was the feature film debut of director Charles Walters, who got his start in films as a dance director in the early '40s.  Walters more than showed his skills with GOOD NEWS, a joyous bauble which overcomes its minimal story with energetic performances and a succession of delightful musical numbers.  Though it's been in the shadow of more famous MGM musicals, my impression is that the movie is only becoming more beloved with the passage of time.

The fun begins right from the opening credits and the Tait College chant ("Boom boom sis boom...") launching into the title song under the opening credits.

It's 1927, and Tait College football star Tommy Marlowe (Peter Lawford) is tutored in French by librarian Connie Lane (June Allyson).  Tommy starts to fall for Connie, but his attention is momentarily diverted by glamorous golddigger Pat McClellan (Patricia Marshall).  

Will Tommy pass all his classes so he can play in the big game?  And will he realize Connie is his true love?  What do you think?  It's all neatly wrapped up in 93 minutes.

What's really important are the musical numbers, and there are so many fun scenes, with everyone in the cast at the top of their game.  I've always gotten a kick out of Peter Lawford, Mel Torme, and company singing "Be a Ladies' Man"; I agree with my friend KC that Torme should have had more screen time, but his reprise of "The Best Things in Life Are Free" late in the film is a delightful moment for fans of the "Velvet Fog."

Even better are "The French Lesson," a novelty duet with Allyson and Lawford; the "Varsity Drag" finale, recognized by many due to being showcased in THAT'S ENTERTAINMENT! (1974); and the fantastic "Pass That Peace Pipe," an Oscar-nominated song which puts the vivacious Joan McCracken front and center. If only she had made more movies...

The fast-paced "Pass That Peace Pipe" and "Varsity Drag" are remarkable sequences featuring many synchronized dancers, and part of the joy, beyond the performance of Robert Alton's choreography, is the "realness" of the dancing captured on film; I counted roughly 8 or 10 perfectly timed cuts in each number, which doesn't seem like very many given the complexity of the routines. The long takes with such superb group dancing are a big part of the thrill.

The distinctive "MGM sound," with orchestrations by Conrad Salinger and Lennie Hayton, is also wonderfully displayed here. MGM's arrangements, along with the performances of the MGM orchestra and chorus, were head and shoulders above any other studio, and this film is an excellent example.

The movie also provides a good look at parts of the storied MGM backlot, including "St. Louis Street" from MEET ME IN ST. LOUIS (1944) along with the Tait College sets.

Charles Schoenbaum filmed the movie in Technicolor.  The terrific, colorful costumes are by the great Helen Rose.  Betty Comden and Adolph Green wrote the screenplay based on the original play by several writers.

Extras reprised from the 2000 DVD -- which came in a snap case, remember those? -- are the trailer, a deleted musical number, a radio promo, and a couple of excerpts from an earlier version of GOOD NEWS (1930). There's also a song selection menu.

Thanks to the Warner Archive for providing a review copy of this Blu-ray. Warner Archive Blu-rays may be ordered from the WBShop or from any online retailers where Blu-rays are sold. 


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