Guest Review: The 1947 Musical Favorite “Good News”

“I wish that someone loved me as much as you love you!”

All the gals are crazy about Tait University’s cocky football hero Tommy Marlowe (Peter Lawford), but Tommy only has eyes for the new student, beautiful society vamp Pat McClellan (Patricia Marshall). When Pat plays too hard to get, he turns his attentions to the school’s assistant librarian, Connie Lane (June Allyson), who quickly succumbs to his charms, only to find out that what he wants from her is merely a brief lesson in French in order to impress Pat!

College never was so fun as it is in Good News, one of the most jubilant films to ever come out of the Arthur Freed unit at MGM….and also, one of the most underrated post-war musicals. This unpretentious little musical is a delightful mixture of 1920s snappy humor and 1940s sassiness. Never mind that the flapper and sheikh fashions of the 1920s is non-existent. The film’s simple story-line provides a few excellent excuses for some exuberant song-and-dance numbers, including “Pass that Peace Pipe” and “The Varsity Drag,” and lots of fun-filled collegiate hi-jinks.

Good News was based upon the popular 1927 Henderson/DeSylva stage musical of the same name. It was brought to the screen for the first time in 1930 in an Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer pre-code adaptation starring Bessie Love and Cliff Edwards. However, that film removed most of the songs that made the stage musical such a big hit. Naturally, when producer Arthur Freed decided to bring the film back in a Technicolor version, he wanted the songs re-instated and, so, five numbers from the stage production were kept intact (albeit shuffled around a bit) for this frothy remake and two more added – “The French Lesson” and “Pass that Peace Pipe” – courtesy of Hugh Martin and Ralph Blane.

For Good News, the songwriting team of Betty Comden and Adolph Green put their heads together for the first time to pen its screenplay, and they discovered that they had quite a knack for it! The duo would go on to script some of the best MGM musicals of the 1950s, including Singin’ in the Rain and The Band Wagon, and also share seven Tony Awards over the years for their work on Broadway.

Peter Lawford and June Allyson made a wonderful team in Two Sisters from Boston (1946) and are equally good in this film (they would play together again in Little Women two years later), while their characters were joined by a great bunch of friends who include Joan McCracken as Babe, Ray McDonald as Bobby, and a young Mel Torme as Danny.

Joan McCracken was a fabulous dancer/singer who should have went on to have a great musical film career but didn’t. She is especially sensational in the “Pass that Peace Pipe” numbe, and her scenes with Ray McDonald provide much of the humor in Good News.

All-in-all, Good News is a breezy film that leaves you with a light-hearted joyful feeling…..after all, if college students could chuck away all their cares, why can’t you? The best things in life are indeed free.

Constance Metzinger runs the website Silver Scenes, “a blog for classic film lovers.” 

This article originally ran last year and is being reprinted as part of our ongoing tenth anniversary celebrations!