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Naughty But Nice (1939)

 -  Comedy | Musical  -  1 July 1939 (USA)
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Ratings: 5.9/10 from 134 users  
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Professor Hardwick teaches at Winfield College and detests the new swing music that is the craze. He has written a rhapsody which he takes to New York to be published. Staying with his Aunt... See full summary »



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Title: Naughty But Nice (1939)

Naughty But Nice (1939) on IMDb 5.9/10

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Cast overview, first billed only:
Zelda Manion
Professor Donald 'Don' Hardwick
Gale Page ...
Linda McKay
Helen Broderick ...
Aunt Martha Hogan
Ed 'Eddie' Clark
Joe Dirk
Max 'Slapsie Maxie' Rosenbloom ...
Killer (as Maxie Rosenblum)
Jerry Colonna ...
Allie Gray
Luis Alberni ...
Stanislaus Pysinski
Vera Lewis ...
Aunt Annabella Hardwick
Elizabeth Dunne ...
Aunt Henrietta Hardwick
William B. Davidson ...
Samuel 'Sam' 'Simsy' Hudson - Music Publisher (as Bill Davidson)
Granville Bates ...
Judge Kennith B. Walters, Superior Court
Halliwell Hobbes ...
Dean Burton, Winfield College


Professor Hardwick teaches at Winfield College and detests the new swing music that is the craze. He has written a rhapsody which he takes to New York to be published. Staying with his Aunt Martha, he is surrounded by swing and after a few drinks, he is photographed hanging on the chandelier. He finds that he can only sell his rhapsody to Eddie and Miss McKay puts lyrics to it. It is a big swing sensation and the partnership of Hardwick and McKay crank out the hits until Zelda breaks up the team. Zelda wants to sing the hot songs and have Hudson, the Home of the Hits, publish the music. Written by Tony Fontana <>

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Comedy | Musical


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Release Date:

1 July 1939 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

The Professor Steps Out  »

Company Credits

Production Co:

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Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
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Did You Know?


Referenced in The Man in the Gray Flannel Suit (1956) See more »


Remember Dad (On Mother's Day)
Music by Harry Warren
(based on "Symphony No. 8 in B Minor 'Unfinished,' D.759" (1822) by Franz Schubert)
Lyrics by Johnny Mercer
Played on piano and sung by Jerry Colonna and Allen Jenkins
See more »

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User Reviews

The Professor Steps Out
2 February 2002 | by (Kissimmee, Florida) – See all my reviews

NAUGHTY BUT NICE (Warner Brothers, 1939), directed by Ray Enright, began production in the summer of 1938, and was withheld theatrical release for almost a year, and it's easy to see why. The finished product, unfortunately, is a disappointment. Dick Powell, whose long and successful career in musical films at Warners since 1933, has come to a rather tepid end. Taking second billing to Ann Sheridan, who was being groomed to stardom by the studio, Powell sings no major hit tunes, and is transformed from a baby-faced crooner to a mature but dull college professor of classical music who wears glasses and quite naive of the outside world, a role more suitable to the likes and comedy antics of possibly Eddie Cantor. Of the supporting players, Gale Page, whose movie career was short-lived, comes off best as the nice girl who guides the professor along.

As for the plot, Professor Donald Hardwick (Dick Powell) of Winfield College, comes to New York City on a mission of getting his symphonic composition published. While there, he stays with his maiden Aunt Martha (Helen Broderick) who manages a speakeasy. Donald then meets Linda McKay (Gale Page) and Ed Clarke (Ronald Reagan), who mistake Donald for a waiter. After becoming acquainted, Linda, a songwriter, takes Donald's classical compositions and changes it into swing music without his knowledge. Upon his return to Winfield, Donald learns of the radio air-date as to when his composition is to be played so he and his college dean (Halliwell Hobbes), along with Professor Trill (Edward McWade) can join in and listen. Donald gets the shock of his life when he finds his composition changed to a jive number retitled "Hooray for Spinach" as sung by vocalist Zelda Manion (Ann Sheridan). The disgrace finds Donald returning to New York to straighten out matters, only to be further tricked into having his compositions changed into top pop tunes that make it to Number One on the Hit Parade, which eventually leads to a courtroom case.

With music and lyrics by Harry Warren and Jerry Mercer, with acknowledgments to classical composers Richard Wagner, Johannes Sebastian Bach, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and Franz Lizst, the songs featured include: "Remember Dad" (sung by Jerry Colonna and Allen Jenkins); "Hooray for Spinach" (sung by Ann Sheridan); "I'm Happy About the Whole Thing" (sung by Dick Powell and Gale Page); "In a Moment of Weakness" (sung by Gale Page); "Corn Pickin'" (sung by Ann Sheridan/ jitterbug dancing by patrons); and "I Don't Believe in Signs" (sung by Ann Sheridan). Only "Hooray for Spinach" would be a tune more to the liking of the famous cartoon character of Popeye.

Other than the use of six forgettable songs based on classical compositions, NAUGHTY BUT NICE finds Powell in numerous comedic situations, such as being served an alcoholic beverage instead of his usual lemonade which gets him so drunk that he shouts out, "YA-HOO," only to get photographed by news-hounds and picture being placed on the front page of every newspaper showing Donald swinging from a chandelier; Powell getting a "hot foot" (lighted matches stuck on his shoes) by Joe Dirke (Allen Jenkins), which causes the naive professor to take hold of his foot and jump up and down as he moans, causing the night club patrons to do the same, thus, the creation of a new type of dancing, a jitterbug number called "Corn Pickin'"; Donald getting vamped by Zelda; among others. But what is supposed to be hilarious comes off somewhat forced. This type of comedy is not Powell's style, but sure is the way of studio contract termination, this making NAUGHTY BUT NICE Powell's "swan song."

Then there is the droll Helen Broderick as Powell's more down-to-earth Aunt Martha, along with his other maiden aunts, Penelope Louisa Hardwick (Zasu Pitts), an accurate-on-information know-it-all; Annabella (Vera Lewis) and Henrietta (Elizabeth Dunne), as lovers of classical music. Maxie Rosenbloom, a former boxer, is also featured as Broderick's man-servant who answers doors, cooks cakes and cleans house; Grady Sutton as a college student; and William B. Davidson, billed as Bill Davidson in the closing credits, a familiar face in numerous Warner Brothers features, playing as a crooked song publisher.

NAUGHTY BUT NICE is a good idea gone sour, and at 90 minutes, looks more like an overlong "B" movie. The age of the thirties musicals is over, changing to the swing of things of the more prosperous forties. Warners would produce other musicals, but didn't hit its stride again until YANKEE DOODLE DANDY (1942) starring none-other than James Cagney. By then Powell had moved on to other studios such as Paramount, Universal and MGM before he successfully transformed into a serious actor in "film-noir" dramas beginning with MURDER, MY SWEET (RKO, 1944), and later director.

NAUGHTY BUT NICE can be seen during the late night hours on Turner Classic Movies. (**)

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