Feb 17, 2021

On Blu-ray: High-Stepping Co-eds in Good News (1947)


The sparkling collegiate musical Good News (1947) is a good fit for the talents of leads June Allyson and Peter Lawford, though it is briskly stolen by Joan McCracken in a supporting role and featured player Mel Torme. The film looks and sounds great on a new Blu-ray release from Warner Archive which also offers a peek at the even peppier 1930 film version of the Broadway show.

Allyson stars as Connie, a serious student working multiple jobs to support herself at the swank Tait College in 1927. She tutors the self-absorbed football star Tommy (Peter Lawford) and they start a flirtation, though he’s still stuck on the snobby Pat (Patricia Marshall) who wants him for his massive inheritance. Amidst this drama there’s prom, further romantic maneuvering, and the requisite big football game. 

While Allyson was a bit long in the tooth to be playing a college student, she’s charming in the role. I’ll admit I’ve never enjoyed her eager-to-please vibe, but she’s sympathetic here and has great chemistry with Lawford. He makes his feather-light talents work despite clearly having no business being in a musical. 

While the pair is a pleasant match, it’s hard to accept Connie with a guy as selfish and insensitive as Tommy. You want to tell her to run away while she still can. 

In contrast to the gently appealing vibe of Allyson and Lawford’s scenes, supporting player Joan McCracken is like a box of firecrackers. Everything about her is brightly charismatic and exciting, but when she starts to dance she inspires ecstatic joy. The Broadway star didn’t make a lot of movies and it’s a shame, because somehow her stage style works brilliantly on the screen. In the opening of the film and especially leading the film’s centerpiece, the Pass That Peace Pipe production number, Cracken appears effortlessly precise and filled with the joy of performance. 

There are other pleasant songs and engaging dances in the film and Allyson and Lawford lead a delightfully engaging finale, but the Pass That Peace Pipe scene is a marvel that stands on its own. It’s an astonishing feat of precision, with dozens of dancers packed tight in a soda shop set, moving quickly and efficiently, with limbs flailing, all perfectly in-sync. The energy popping in that scene is heart-pounding. This is what makes Good News a true classic. 

I also felt a bit swoony every time featured player Mel Torme appeared onscreen. He doesn’t get nearly enough screen time. You get the impression he wasn’t much of an actor, but who cares with that voice? As it is, he makes the most of the time he gets the spotlight in Lucky in Love, strumming an ukulele, and demonstrating in his easygoing way why he was known as the “Velvet Fog.”

The disc special features are especially entertaining; there’s a couple of fantastic clips from the high-energy 1930 version of Good News (which used more of the songs from the stage version), a radio interview with June Allyson, the deleted musical number An Easier Way, and a theatrical trailer. There’s also a menu with links that go directly to the songs in the film.

Many thanks to Warner Archive for providing a copy of the film for review. To order, visit The Warner Archive Collection.

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