GOOD NEWS is an MGM musical based on the smash 1927 Broadway musical that ran for 16 months and starred Mary Lawlor and Inez Courtney as Connie and Babe, and Gus Shy as Bobbie.
In the film version, Lawlor and Shy repeat their stage roles, but Bessie Love takes over as Babe. While many fans of musicals are familiar with the 1947 version (starring June Allyson), the original film version sticks close to its theatrical roots. This is both good and bad. While this version has a ton of pep and some imaginative staging and choreography, the acting is mostly wooden, and the dialog and slang were already creaky in 1930. The sound recording is surprisingly bad in many spots.
What this film has going for it is a terrific central performance by Bessie Love as the zippy co-ed who gleefully chases after her man (Shy). While Love's musicals numbers have been largely lost on other MGM films like CHASING RAINBOWS, here she gets to sing a little and dance a little. She also gets to throw herself into the physical comedy, like the scene where she's hiding (along side a cake) under a bed from her old boyfriend, Beef (played by future writer/director Delmer Daves). Before he leaves he sits on the bed, shoving Bessie's face into the cake. She's terrific.
Also great are MGM stalwart Cliff Edwards (Ukulele Ike) as Pooch and Penny Singleton (billed as Dorothy McNulty) as Flo. Singleton is pretty amazing as lead dancer in the "Varsity Drag" and "Good News" numbers. Stanley Smith is OK as Tommy but sings well. Lola Lane is thrown away as Pat. Gus Shy (who looks about 40) is way too stagy to be effective.
MGM scuttled a few of the songs as the craze for musicals died while they were filming this one. Pity. The songs are really good and very representative of the era. Still, GOOD NEWS was a hit at the box office, probably due to the popularity of Bessie Love.
The best number is the lively "Varsity Drag." As the prof leaves the classroom and admonishes the students to use the free minutes to study, they instead push back the chairs and launch into a torrid version of the famous dance. Singleton sings and dances here and the number becomes truly cinematic when, in a great shot, the camera zeroes in on the blackboard where chalk figure of Roman generals start doing the drag. The bottom of the screen shows only the heads of the dancers who are in front of the blackboard. Later the camera zooms in on the dancers' shoes, which are smoking from the workout. It's great stuff.
Singleton again leads the dancers in the "Good News" number, which also features famed rubber-legged dancer Al Norman. Also in the cast are Ann Dvorak (chorus) Vera Marshe (the pretty blonde), Billy Taft, Thomas Jackson (the coach), Buster Crabbe (football player), Frank McGlynn (Kenyon), and for no reason at all Harry Earles.
GOOD NEWS was Love's last Hollywood musical and Lawlor's last film. The 2-strip Technicolor wedding finale is now sadly lost.
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