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For a fellow who'd never acted before, Ronald Reagan carries this little programmer with panache. It bears little relation to the real world, but it's not a bad way to spend an hour. Reagan's skill as a radio announcer is exhibited, but he plays all the other required notes quite handily. The story gets a few unexpected twists, though most of it is hokum of the first degree. Ben Welden is always a welcome sight, here as a slightly more serious villain than he sometimes played. Most of the rest of the cast is pretty well B-level, competent but no great shakes. Reagan alone makes this worth viewing. He's likable, charming, energetic, and he handles dialogue better than just about anyone in the film. Quite an accomplishment for a newcomer.
Dick Powell had introduced a song called Love Is On The Air in Varsity
Show which is a nice number. Therefore one might have expected a film
with this title to be a musical. Though the song is played over the
opening title credits, this film is far from a musical.
Instead it is the film debut of former radio announcer Ronald Reagan playing a radio commentator who is getting the gangsters in his city all kinds of nervous with his hard hitting expose. But his sponsor Addison Richard is in league with those selfsame gangsters led by Ben Welden. He pressures station owner Robert Barrat to pull the plug on Reagan's show, but Ron's got a contract. Never mind the owner just assigns him to a kiddie show that June Travis formerly had.
Of course she's all kinds of put out, but Ron's charm wins her over in a number of ways and oddly enough the kid's show provides him with a lead that eventually busts the racketeer control wide open.
Casting Reagan as a radio commentator was no big acting stretch for him, but this did show the wisdom of Warner Brothers in developing new talent by giving them comfortable surroundings. Reagan's likability did the rest in this very easy to take B programmer based in part on Paul Muni's film Hi Nellie from a few years before.
The Gipper's fans ought to be pleased.
Warner Bros. 'B' picture starring Ronald Reagan in his first film as a
radio reporter who gets in trouble going after corrupt city officials.
So he's demoted to hosting a kids' show. The radio station boss hopes
it will make him quit, as they can't fire him due to his contract. Will
it work? Doubt it.
Reagan is fine, likable and charming. My only complaint was the constant yelling of his lines, but that was undoubtedly because of Warner Bros. Most of the lead actors in their 'B' films at the time did this, and even some in their 'A' films. The title makes no sense really. It implies the film is a romantic comedy and it's not. This is a watchable way to pass an hour. Remake of Paul Muni's "Hi, Nellie."
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
... "Hi, Nellie!". Warners did this a lot, sometimes not even waiting
five years to recycle a script. In this case they only waited three
years, but even if you've seen the precode "Nellie", this one is worth
seeing for all of the energy and charm Reagan brings to the role in
this very short B film. Andy McCaine (Ronald Reagan) is a crime
reporter for a local radio station who gets a promise from the head of
a citizens' group, creamery owner George Copelin, that he'll get the
low down on who at city hall is in league with the rackets the next
night. Now, Andy seems like a bright guy, so he's got to know that it
isn't the smartest thing in the world to broadcast - literally - that
you'll be outing the corrupt powers that be the following night plus
tell everyone who the source of the information is. I mean, criminals
have radios too.
As expected, the creamery owner disappears permanently before Andy can get the details, and since the mob has the creamery's auditor on the hook for a big gambling debt, they get him to cook the books to make it look like Copelin stole the creamery's money and disappeared because of the theft. Andy gets on the air and broadcasts what he thinks really happened to Copelin and who he thinks is responsible, although he has no proof. The mob has strings in high places including Andy's station's sponsor, and Andy gets pulled from his crime beat to hosting the station's kiddie show. How will all of this work out? Watch and find out.
This one has some interesting twists on the original script - for one thing Reagan cheerily makes lemonade out of the lemons he is handed with the kiddie show assignment, unlike Paul Muni's character in "Hi, Nellie" who drank heavily to handle his demotion. An interesting parallel - Robert Barrat plays a big role in both films. Other than Barrat and Reagan there are no Warner stars or contract players of note that show up here, so it is impressive how Reagan pulls this thing off pretty much single-handed. Recommended as one of the better Warner B films of the 30's.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
When I saw the movie was entitled "Love is in the Air", I naturally
assumed this was a romance, but there is really very little of that.
Instead, it's much more of a suspense film with a touch of comedy and a
tiny smidgen of romance! Ronald Reagan plays a hot-shot radio
announcer--much like Walter Winchell. His specialty is talking about
politics and exposing crime, but when the local mob sees he's poking
his nose around a bit too close for comfort, they do what they can to
de-rail his career. He is demoted to doing sappy children's programs
and longs to return to his former job. Later, when Reagan gets a lead
on the whereabouts of two people who might have been liquidated by the
mob, he sets a pretty clever trap--leading to a dandy as well as
violent little conclusion.
While this is a very slight film and there isn't a lot to make it stand out from the crowd, LOVE IS IN THE AIR was a very good start for Reagan. This was his first film and he came off pretty well and less wooden than he did in a few of his later films. He was good as a fast-talking yet likable radio star--not much of a departure, as he had been a radio announcer before being discovered by Hollywood. Plus, as a "time passer", it's pretty watchable and interesting--especially considering it was pretty much a B-film with very low expectations from Warner Brothers Studio.
Love is on the Air (1937)
** (out of 4)
The title has nothing to do with this "B" picture from Warner, which features Ronald Reagan in his debut. Reagan plays a hot shot radio broadcaster who decides to use the airways to bring down racketeers but this gets him into trouble with his boss and puts his life on the line by the bad guys. This 61-minute film goes by pretty fast but in the end it's pretty light on story, action and acting. Reagan is decent in his first film, although at times it seems like he's trying to do an impersonation of James Cagney. The supporting cast is mostly forgettable and there's really nothing that stands out here among the various other "B" films of its type.
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