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Shapely burlesque dancer Hot Garters Gertie aka Angela Gardner meets her former teacher John Palmer, now a professor at Midwest State... where she decides to begin her new college career. She rents a room; her new landlady proves to be the professor's wife. Among romantic complications, Angela helps the downtrodden dramatic arts department put on a potentially popular musical show...but someone's discovered her secret past. Does she have an ace up her garter? Written by
Rod Crawford <firstname.lastname@example.org>
All the social commentary that James Thurber wrote in The Male Animal about academic freedom has been deleted in this scrubbed version of that classic. She's Working Her Way Through College comes out as a rather insipid, but pleasant musical where singing and dancing is taken care of by Virginia Mayo and Gene Nelson. Ronald Reagan in the part that Henry Fonda played of the college professor is defending the right of former burlesque performer Virginia Mayo to attend class and star in a musical show the college is putting on.
Back in the day Mayo was known as 'Hot Garters Gertie' on the stage and all she wants to do is attend college quietly. But when Nelson who was formerly going out with Patrice Wymore starts paying attention to Mayo, Wymore finds out who she is and blows her cover. Which comes to the attention of chair of the board of directors Roland Winters who wants her expelled from the college. He puts it on Reagan's shoulders to do the job.
It was the age of McCarthyism and the original story which dealt with Henry Fonda reading a letter from the jailed Bartolomeo Vanzetti would never have been made at Warner Brothers at that point. And Ronald Reagan who as Governor of California would clash on academic freedom with the Berkeley Free Speech movement is still in an ironic position defending freedom for Mayo to attend college. But Reagan who fought communists in his union, the Screen Actors Guild would never have played the part as originally written and this is before his political career. And Virginia Mayo was also quite the conservative lady in her time as well.
One part of the film is retained where Don DeFore takes Jack Carson's role as the All American football alumnus who was a rival for Reagan for his wife Phyllis Thaxter. Reagan does repeat and does it well, Henry Fonda's drunk scene from The Male Animal.
She's Working Her Way Through College is pleasant enough, but not anything special and Thurber aficionados will not be pleased.
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