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13 out of 14 people found the following review useful:

Jazz, newspapers, and pre-code Lee Tracy wackiness! Who could ask for anything more?

7/10
Author: neroville from Los Angeles, CA
29 August 2003

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Along with the 1958 Montgomery Clift potboiler, "Lonelyhearts," this 1933 comedy/drama shares the honor of being based on Nathanael West's novella "Miss Lonelyhearts." However, it is hard to imagine two leading men more different; whereas Montgomery Clift was the epitome of post-war angst and brooding introspection, Lee Tracy, one of the most popular comedians of the early '30s, embodied the Depression-era wisecracker, all snappy cynicism, rapid-fire delivery and loads of energy (almost reminiscent of Bugs Bunny, actually). "Lovelorn" was made at the height of Tracy's A-list career, and Nathanael West's dark story about an idealistic young journalist's descent into madness was tailor-made into a peppy star vehicle.

In brief, Tracy plays a troublemaking reporter, Toby Prentiss, who is forced by his editor to take up the Miss Lonelyhearts column. Much hi-jinx ensue, as Prentiss gives screwy "modern" advice to everyone who writes in, in the hopes he'll be fired. But, in the best tradition of "The Producers," Prentiss's column turns out to be an unexpected boffo hit, and the editor refuses to let him go. There's more jazzy early '30s wackiness, with lots of gleeful mugging from everyone involved, until the story takes an abrupt turn into melodrama, as if the scriptwriters suddenly remembered the original Nathanael West novel. In exchange for cash, Prentiss has been plugging some drugs for a shady manufacturer, until (**SPOILERS**) he gives those same drugs to his ma who's having a spell of heart trouble- and she promptly croaks. The scene where he realizes he was partially responsible for his own mother's death is startling, since until then the film was strictly light comedy. Yet albeit odd, it is interesting and moving to see Tracy act other than a goofy wiseacre- he emotes quite well indeed, and it's a pity that the film doesn't develop his new-found angst. Instead, it makes another abrupt turn and becomes a fairly standard "righteous reporter vs. the evil corporate thugs" drama, with everything ending happily. There's a wedding too! Golly gee whillikers!

In any case, plot problems asides, this is a lot of fun, and it even has a great soundtrack. Sterling Holloway (aka the Cheshire Cat) is very amusing as Tracy's sidekick, and Sally Blane, Loretta Young's sister, is okay as the love interest (though it's hard not to think of her as the poor man's Loretta Young). It's a must-see for Lee Tracy fans out there, since he's in top form here. It's really too bad this film isn't more available (although those curious can find it at Eddie Brant's Saturday Matinee, a most excellent video store in North Hollywood).

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8 out of 12 people found the following review useful:

Great comedy-drama owes nothing to Nathanael West.

9/10
Author: F Gwynplaine MacIntyre from Minffordd, North Wales
14 April 2010

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

'Advice to the Lovelorn' is ostensibly based on the novel 'Miss Lonelyhearts' written by Nathaniel West, who changed his forename to the more pretentious Nathanael. (My own name may seem pretentious too, but at least I spell it properly.) While watching this splendid comedy, I got my first laugh during the opening credits when I saw that they'd (mis)spelt the author's name as Nathaniel. Even better, this movie takes almost nothing from West's over-rated novel except its initial premise of a male journalist required to write an agony-aunt column. (The same premise was used again a year later, in "Hi, Nellie!".)

Oddly, 'Advice to the Lovelorn' spends its first half as a very funny screwball comedy, then suddenly swerves into dead-earnest drama, abruptly switching back to comedy during the climax and fade-out. Commendably, it works.

Lee Tracy spent most of his career playing fast-talking newsmen in the style of Walter Winchell, whom he physically resembled. He's in excellent form here, ably handling both the comedy and dramatics. I'm often intrigued by the elaborate hand gestures used by 1930s Hollywood actors. Tracy has one particular hand gesture here that seems more contrived than usual, but it turns out to have a payoff.

The script of this 1933 movie wisely jettisons West's plot and replaces it with some topical humour. The opening sequence is inspired by the earthquake that hit Long Beach, California on 10 March 1933. Later, Tracy has some dialogue concerning the untrustworthiness of men named Adolf. (Has he a particular Adolf in mind?)

Sally Blane (not quite as pretty as her sister Loretta Young, but even sexier) is excellent here and wears some chic outfits, including an ensemble that seems to have only one glove. Jean Adair, as Tracy's mother, is a bit too twee even though at one point she actually complains about the 'damn' weather.

SLIGHT SPOILER. Columnist Tracy is in collusion with the owner of some 'druggee shoppees' (sic) who hawks cut-rate medicines. Tracy happily pockets his share of the graft until his mother dies after taking substandard medicine. From this point, Tracy's character seems inspired by Samuel Hopkins Adams, the journalist who agitated for the creation of the Pure Food and Drug Act.

In other IMDb reviews I've often criticised Sterling Holloway, an extremely annoying performer. Film historian William K Everson considered Holloway the most annoying male actor in Hollywood history. (I consider Chester Clute even worse, but just slightly.) In 'Advice to the Lovelorn', I was pleasantly surprised that Holloway gives an energetic and well-timed performance, without the deeply annoying mannerisms and vocal whinnyings that have consistently blighted his work elsewhere. He's even useful at the film's climax. Well done, Holloway! For once, Sterling is sterling.

As Tracy's boss, actor Paul Harvey is splendid: why didn't he become better-known? Jimmy Conlin and Charles Lane are excellent in their brief turns, Conlin even better than usual and Lane in a rare non-sourpuss role. Adalyn Doyle (who?) is charming and effective as the newspaper's switchboard operator.

Some of this film's exterior sequences were filmed at the front entrance of Villa Ramona, a posh residence in Baldwin Park, CA. The production budget includes several diagonal wipes and impressive montage sequences consisting solely of newspaper close-ups. Since so much money was splashed out elsewhere in this movie, I was annoyed that they didn't spend a bit more effort on the typesetting. We see a montage of Tracy's syndicated column published in what are meant to be newspapers from several different cities ... yet they all have exactly the same typography, and his column has the same heading in every newspaper. Not likely!

'Advice to the Lovelorn' is one of those they-don't-make-'em-like-this anymore Hollywood delights, with a brisk climax and plenty to recommend it. I'm pleased that, for once, Sterling Holloway doesn't seem to be auditioning for Holloway Prison (yes, I know). My rating: 9 out of 10.

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2 out of 2 people found the following review useful:

Miss Lonely Hearts!!

9/10
Author: kidboots from Australia
4 May 2012

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Nathanael West's "Miss Lonelyhearts" couldn't have been published at a worse time. A month after the book's publication, in 1933, the publishing firm of Liveright Inc. went into receivership and a month later all the banks in the United States were closed by presidential order. The book would have found it hard to find success anyway, with a scathing attack on it by "Harrison's Reports" which called it "vile and vulgar and would please only moronic natures"!!! But before that came out Darryl F. Zanuck bought the story for $4,000 for his new 20th Century Pictures. What they were really interested in was West's highly original story about the private life of a newspaperman assigned to answer letters for a lonely hearts column. Fortunately it was made (in 1933) before the industry bought in the self regulating censorship laws and what emerged was a snappy comedy ideally fitted to the sizzling talents of Lee Tracy who was enjoying his busiest year!!

This is a super little film. Tracy plays Toby Prentiss, a wise cracking columnist assigned to the Lonely Hearts page (under great protest) when the regular writer takes leave to get married. As "Miss Lonely Hearts" he turns the column on it's ear and of course law suits pile up (sort of like "Blessed Event"). His advice to most of the letter writers being - "take your happiness while you can, who cares how you get it"!! Suddenly he is a celebrity with books and perfume named in his honour. One of the people who fall by the wayside is his long suffering girl Louise (pretty Sally Blane), she, in turn, turns her attention to Adolphe, a worker at her father's garage but as Toby comments "There never was an Adolphe in history that wasn't anything but a menace"!!!

The story turns quite dramatic when Toby's mother dies, the victim of a cut price drug store. Kramm (C. Henry Gordon) of Kramm's Cut Price Drug Stores had been paying Toby over $1,000 a week to promote his stores in the lovelorn column - as well as giving Toby advice on answering Rose's letters, a girl he wishes to make his mistress. Feisty Isabel Jewel makes a welcome appearance (playing almost the same type of role as she did in "Blessed Event") playing Rose, who bursts into Toby's apartment with an emotional punchy "thanks to your advice my life is in ruins" speech. Once she realises what is happening she hysterically (as only Isabel Jewel can) cries that Kramm, while being a cut price druggist uses only inferior ingredients and ends with the chilling "You killed your own mother".

This is Lee Tracy's movie all the way - "I've got an idea for a column that will make Walter Winchell look like the kid who writes on fences"!!!! Sally Blane didn't have much to do but look lovingly on. She was Loretta Young's sister who was almost her twin in the beauty department. Sterling Holloway played his goofy but loyal offsider.

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1 out of 1 people found the following review useful:

A quintessential Lee Tracy movie

8/10
Author: Paularoc from United States
10 April 2013

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

A great opening to this movie with a Chamber of Commerce type who is giving a radio program enthusiastically praising how wonderful it is to live in California: no hurricanes, floods, snow storms or tornadoes - it' always sunny and beautiful. Just then, an earthquake hits. It's a big news story but one that reporter Toby Prentiss misses reporting on because he's recovering from a hangover. His boss is none too pleased and demotes Prentiss to writing the "Miss Lonleyhearts" column. Prentiss figures he'll force his boss to fire him by giving wacky and scandalous advice to those who write letters in. Even though his advice verges on being on being mean and uncaring (even if funny) the column becomes a big hit. At first Prentiss is chagrined but quickly realizes he can make a lot of money out of his new fame. He gleefully accepts money from a corrupt drug store owner who sells cut- rate and diluted drugs. All goes well until Prentiss' mother dies because of diluted medicine Prentiss bought at one of these drug stores. This is a highly entertaining movie that goes from a lighthearted and snappy comedy to a crusading drama. The cast is superb especially the fast talking, wise cracking (what else?) Lee Tracy. Tracy is one of my favorite actors and he does a stellar job here, even in the dramatic scenes. Also of note are the performances of Sterling Holloway as his usual doofus character, C. Gordon Henry as his usual slimy and corrupt businessman and Paul Harvey as his usual solid and occasionally blustering character. Also as usual, Sally Blane really doesn't have much of a strong screen presence but she does well with the rather bland role she has been given. Highly recommended.

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