Release Date(s)1947 (January 26, 2021)
Studio(s)MGM/Loews Inc/Warner Bros (Warner Archive)
- Film/Program Grade: B
- Video Grade: A
- Audio Grade: B
- Extras Grade: B-
The ten-year period from 1943 to 1953 was a rich one for MGM musicals. Within that decade, the studio produced Cabin in the Sky, Meet Me in St. Louis, Anchors Aweigh, Easter Parade, On the Town, Summer Stock, Show Boat, Royal Wedding, Singin’ in the Rain, and The Band Wagon. Another musical from that period was a huge hit for Metro in 1947 but didn’t achieved the status of the others: Good News.
A color remake of the 1930 film of the same name, Good News stars June Allyson and Peter Lawford as college students in 1927. Co-ed Connie Lane (Allyson) falls for football star Tommy Marlowe (Lawford) while tutoring him so he can pass his French class and play in an important upcoming game. But sexy newcomer Pat McClellan (Patricia Marshall) also has her eyes on Tommy and is determined to win him over.
This shallow plot provides the means to get from one musical number to the next, and the title tells you that things will work out in typical happy ending fashion. Directed by Charles Walters in his behind-the-camera debut, the film moves swiftly and contains several good songs and production numbers, among them The Best Things in Life Are Free, Lucky in Love, Just Imagine, Be a Ladies’ Man, and the title number. The original score by DeSylva, Brown and Henderson was supplemented by two new songs, Pass That Peace Pipe by Hugh Martin and Ralph Blane and The French Lesson, by Betty Comden and Adolph Green. One of the best novelty tunes, The French Lesson has Connie teach Tommy the basics of the language in the school library while shelving books randomly without first checking their titles. What’s especially amusing about this number is that Lawford’s French sounds perfect while Allyson’s sounds clunky at best.
The Academy Award-nominated Pass That Peace Pipe is a big production number featuring Joan McCracken. A crowd of students gathered in the malt shop break into song, with Connie’s best pal, Babe (McCracken), twirling and sashaying as chorus and back-up dancers get in on the action. The choreography is exciting and features 30 dancers with McCracken at the center. The number is a splash of color with McCracken in bright, angled stripes and supporting dancers in primary and pastel shades, all against a black-and-white checkerboard floor. In a tracking shot filmed from behind the counter, one ice cream soda after another is plunked down on every downbeat of the percussion-heavy arrangement. The number is outstanding, with McCracken’s expert and energetic dancing a highlight of the film. The other production number is The Varsity Drag, featuring Allyson and Lawford fronting groups of male and female dancers in tight patterns on the basketball court.
Allyson, a good dancer with a husky singing voice that is distinctive, if not exceptional, handles the role of Connie adequately. Though she made films prior to Good News, this one established her as a star. She conveys a sweetness and girl-next-door quality and has good screen chemistry with Lawford.
Peter Lawford turned up in a number of musicals during his tenure at MGM and usually looked out of his element singing and dancing, but here he does a pretty good job. His singing range isn’t great and he tends to talk-sing his numbers but he’s playing a jock, so his unconventional singing voice can be overlooked.
McCracken is a human engine as she leads the chorus in the title number, weaving in and out of the formations, singing and joyously swirling and pirouetting, and she steals the picture with Pass That Peace Pipe. Also in the cast are the “Velvet Fog” Mel Torme and Ray McDonald as Bobby Turner, who is ga-ga over Babe but wary of her jealous boyfriend, Beef (Loren Tindall).
Good News is part of a sub-genre known as the college musical, popular from the early sound era though the 1930s. The 1947 version modernized it somewhat but couldn’t avoid what was even then an old-fashioned, simplistic plot. Though cast members appear to be in their late 20s or early 30s, credibility is stretched to accommodate the talent featured. The film’s running time is brief, the pace is brisk, the songs come often, and the right guys pair with the right girls by the final fade-out.
Featuring 1080p resolution, Warner Archive brings Good News to Blu-ray with a brand new 4K transfer struck from the film’s original Technicolor negatives, presented in the aspect ratio of 1.37:1. Clarity and contrast are excellent. Quality overall is sharp, with nice detail in dress patterns, party scene props, tree bark, individual books on shelves in the library, and individual strands of hair. The color palette is filled with bold primary hues and more subtle pastels. The Tait College colors are red and white, with reds dominating sweatshirts and banners. One of Babe’s dresses is solid red and really stands out. As with most Technicolor films, complexions are creamy smooth and look terrific, especially in close-ups.
The English Mono 2.0 DTS-High Definition Master Audio soundtrack is fine for the dialogue scenes, which are clear and distinct. In The French Lesson, Peter Lawford rattles off the French words for English equivalents rapidly while keeping each word precise and distinct. The words to the title number are not always easy to understand. The musical numbers are not as vibrant as other Blu-ray Warner/MGM releases. Sound mixing is most noticeable in the Lucky in Love number, in which various characters sing choruses, ending with voices trailing off and a solo of Mel Torme strumming a ukulele as he walks into a close-up of the instrument and plunks the final note. Crowd cheering during the big football game creates excitement. Optional English SDH subtitles are available.
Bonus materials include a deleted musical number, excerpts from the 1930 version of the film, an MGM radio promotion, a song selection menu, and the theatrical trailer.
Deleted Number – June Allyson sings An Easier Way, written by Betty Comden and Adolph Green, to a group of girls. She bemoans the fact that it’s hard for her to catch the attention of a guy because she’s smart.
Excerpts from Good News (1930) – Clips from two musical numbers are shown (featuring some deterioration, splice marks, and scratches). The first is The Varsity Drag, featuring a super-charged Dorothy McNulty (later known as Penny Singleton of the Blondie film series and the voice of Jane on the animated TV series The Jetsons). There’s also a brief appearance by Harry Earles (Freaks). The second excerpt, Good News, also features McNulty and her laughably frenetic dance moves, complete with acrobatic stunts, backed by a stiff-looking chorus. Al “Rubberlegs” Norman dances with seemingly boneless legs, reminiscent of Ray Bolger as Scarecrow in The Wizard of Oz.
Radio Promotion – This is an MGM transcription sent to radio stations in which June Allyson answers questions that local disc jockeys ask based on a script they received from the studio. Allyson enumerates the five things in life she really wanted when she left New York for Hollywood, describes a terrible childhood accident, recounts her start in show business, and tells about understudying Betty Hutton in the Broadway production of Panama Hattie, which led to a role in Best Foot Forward, and eventually a contract with MGM.
Song Selection Menu – This feature allows you to access any of the musical numbers quickly.
Theatrical Trailer – This 3-minute trailer is presented in HD and features brief dialogue and song excerpts with bold orange letters announcing the movie’s title.
Good News doesn’t achieve the classic status of Singin’ in the Rain, feature the iconic pairing of Astaire and Garland as in Easter Parade, or combine music with melodrama as in Show Boat, but it has its charm. If you look beyond the ho-hum plot and its predictable ramifications and concentrate on the musical numbers, you’ll be well-entertained.
- Dennis Seuling