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A writer for a radio program needs some fresh ideas to juice up his show. For inspiration, he rents a room with a typical American family and begins to secretly write about their true life antics. The show becomes a big hit, but he begins to feel guilty about his charade when he falls in love with the family's pretty older daughter. Written by
Daniel Bubbeo <email@example.com>
After Betty Hutton stole Happy Go Lucky right out from under leads Dick Powell and Mary Martin, Paramount decided to try the Martin and Powell combination again for one more time. They were cast in a very funny comedy picture, True to Life, but the demand for them as a team was underwhelming.
Mary might even have at the time been contemplating an offer to go back to Broadway and do One Touch Of Venus and Powell was begging Paramount for the chance to do some really dramatic roles. But troopers that they were they did do this film which has a lot of laughs in it.
Dick Powell and Franchot Tone play a pair of radio writers whose radio show has fallen in the Hooper ratings and network president Clarence Kolb tells them to get some fresh material. A chance meeting by Powell with waitress Mary Martin who mistakes him for being indigent and feels sorry for him. She takes him home and persuades the family to take him in as a boarder.
What Powell's fallen into is a kind of poor version of the Vanderhof clan from You Can't Take It With You. The folks at Paramount leaned very heavily on the Kaufman&Hart classic for inspiration here. Powell's inspired as well realizing he's found a gold mine of fresh material here with parents Victor Moore and Mabel Paige and Mary's siblings Raymond Roe and Beverly Hudson. Also boarding with them is William Demarest, Paige's sickly brother. Some of the best lines in True To Life come from Paige who indulges Demarest not contributing anything to the household, but is on Powell's case constantly to get a job and earn a living.
Of course Powell mining this treasure trough of comedy material and Tone actually doing the writing isn't pleasing to Tone. He contrives a meeting with this family and also enters their lives and as a suitor for Martin.
Interestingly enough Franchot Tone who left his original home studio of MGM because he also was not getting the dramatic parts he wanted, was once again cast as a debonair man in a tuxedo because he looked so good in them.
Later on in their careers I do wonder how Powell and Tone looked back on their various films and did they appreciate what a comedy gem True To Life is. I certainly hope so.
A couple of guys who were just as good at presenting their own material as the stars they were whom they wrote for, Hoagy Carmichael and Johnny Mercer, wrote some songs for True To Life. The best of them is The Old Music Master which Powell sings in an effort to distract the family from the radio where their daily lives are being broadcast. Dick Powell had stopped recording his musical material, he had not renewed his contract from Decca a couple of years earlier. But Carmichael himself did a classic version of The Old Music Master
The guy who rains on the parade is William Demarest. I really enjoyed his performance as the lazy good for nothing uncle who when all is revealed does something in the grand American tradition, he finds a lawyer and threatens suit, something about defamation of character and invasion of privacy. That particular part of this film is even more relevant today than in 1943.
True To Life was no doubt something that Mary Martin, Franchot Tone, and Dick Powell were all doing until the next stage of their careers commenced. Yet this film, directed by comedy master George Marshall is a real sleeper. It's terribly under-appreciated and very funny.
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