|Index||4 reviews in total|
Cute early musical starring Nancy Carroll as a chorus girl who inherits
a men's college where her ex-boyfriend (Stanley Smith) is a star
football player. She tries to sabotage his career until she gets school
spirit. An original musical for the screen, SWEETIE boasts a good cast
and some solid tunes.
Helen Kane co-stars as the troublemaking Helen who boop-a-doops through "He's So Unusual" and does a mean "Pep Step" with Jack Oakie, a brash hoofer who follows Carroll to college and enrolls. William Austin is the silly college dean, and Stu Erwin is a dumb-blond football player who is usually the target of Kane's pop gun.
Carroll and Smith sing a few songs, but it's Oakie's "Alma Mammy" that flows through the film as a theme song after Oakie is told that alma mater is Latin for dear mother, which he converts into a Jolson-like MAMMY song.
Nancy Carroll was Paramount's top musical star in early talkies, and she's stunning, but this film belongs to Helen Kane and Jack Oakie.
Helen Kane steals the whole show at Pelham College. She does the
"Prep-Step" with Jack Oakie and watches the boys from a tree . .. until she
Lots of good songs. Nancy Caroll sings "My Sweeter Than Sweet" and Helen sings "He's So Unusual" later made famous again by Cyndi Lauper.
They used to show TV prints of this one but now . . .who knows where it is. Paramount films are disintegrating fast.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Paramount was a studio that was well known for it's pictures of flaming
youth with it's roster of vibrant players - Clara Bow, Charles "Buddy"
Rogers, Nancy Carroll and Louise Brooks etc. Theirs was the first
college film to make a splash and unlike a lot of the other college
based movies (and there were a lot) it didn't take itself too seriously
and most of the players genuinely seemed to have a good time. Motion
Picture News said "It doesn't pretend to be realistic". Based on the
1920 play "The Charm School", Paramount had filmed it numerous times,
once with Wallace Reid and another "Someone to Love" only the year
before with Charles "Buddy" Rogers.
It is love at first sight for Barbara Pell (Nancy Carroll) and Biff Bentley (Stanley Smith), Captain of the Pelham College Football team when he sees Barbara in a Broadway revue. Biff plans to leave the school for "something bigger than this" but hearing the boys sing "Bear Down, Pelham" and the coach wax nostalgic about Pelham's glory years has him thinking twice. Barbara, in her eagerness, drives out to the college to see him - and it is not long before an orchestra is heard and "This is the song he wrote for me" "I've prepared a love song... for My Sweeter Than Sweet". That is before Biff tells her the wedding is off and she tells him "well back to school, recess is over".
The big surprise is Barbara Pell is really Barbara Pelham and she has now inherited the boy's school where Biff is enrolled. She plans to install herself as Principal and teach Biff a few lessons!! Next door is Miss Twill's School for Girls, where the most lively girl is Helen Fry (Helen Kane) - she carries a gun and always gets her man. Her man of the moment is "Moose" (Stuart Erwin - as a blonde!!) but "He's So Unusual" that "he drives her wild" - he prefers football to petting!!! She instantly goes into "The Prep Step" an amazingly catchy song with lots of animated dancing and plenty of boop boop a doops!! At the football dance - Barbara looks wonderfully fetching. Tap Tap (Jack Oakie, one of the best things about the movie) Barbara's Broadway dancing partner, who takes to college like a duck to water, wows everyone with "Alma Mammy" - when all the college girls do the dance, using all the actions it is absolutely super.
Next day the worst happens - Barbara organises an English test and all who fail will not play in the big football game. Moose, their star player, thinks a preposition is getting a girl to say yes!! so the boys are in trouble. Biff is determined to keep Moose up all night studying, with the result that he is the one who fails!! - and Barbara's name is now mud!!! Never mind, Helen gets a chance to sing the provocative "I Think You'll Like It", Barbara has a change of heart and offers Biff a re-examination and of course he passes and saves the day but only after a big mistake is cleared up. (Biff thinks Barbara has only let him play so she can sell the school, so he purposely sets out to lose!!!) but everything turns out okay and there is another rendition of "Alma Mammy" - this time sung in black face.
The story behind one of the movies most popular songs "Alma Mammy" was that Jack Oakie had been performing a Jolson parody at Hollywood parties and Whiting and Marion wrote the song to give him an opportunity to do a similar number on the screen. The really big hit of the movie was only heard once - "He's So Unusual" was sung by newcomer Helen Kane, moaning about her unromantic boyfriend ("and when we're riding in a taxi, he converses with the chauffeur", "when we're walking in the moonlight, he says "I don't like the moonlight, aw let's not park in the dark"") all sung in a suggestive "boop boop a doop" voice. She became a sensation - she had already introduced her unique singing style to Broadway when she ad-libbed part of "I Wanna Be Loved By You". She had the look and personality that was very much in vogue in the 20s but like all novelties a little bit went a long way. Her popularity didn't last very long - by the next year, 1930, her style was passé.
Highly, Highly Recommended.
Stanley Smith is an obscure actor today, but in 1933 he was to take
Dick Powell's role in Footlight Parade when Dick got sick with
pneumonia. When Dick got well, Stan was out, and he never amounted to
much. Judging by his performance in this film, I can see why. He
reminds me of Lawrence Gray, who was adequate but lacked that something
special that made audiences want to see him again.
The film also stars Nancy Carroll who was quite beautiful, Helen Kane who won me over with her cute voice and silly antics (she is introduced sitting in a tree shooting the man she loves), and Jack Oakie who is quite attractive here in this early part, and brimming over with the personality that made him famous. The scenes are incredibly beautiful, mostly set on a college campus, and the music is fun but none of it is very memorable, except for "Alma Mammy" which turns the alma mater into a jazzy Jolson-style number.
This college romp was screened at Cinevent in 2012.
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