Monday, January 19, 2009

Good News 1930 & 1947

Here is my submission for the L.A.M.B. (Large Association of Movie Blogs) Blog-a-thon entitled "Do Remakes Give You the Shakes?" Read the rules here. I decided to focus mine on Good News (1930) and it's remake Good News (1947).

Remakes are a good thing only if they are well done. Unfortunately, what we get these days are sad excuses for movies. They are so bad that their mere existence seems like an insult to the glory of the original. While folks these days will tell you that the remake phenomenon is a new thing, classic film fans will tell you it is absolutely not. Many classic films were remade, sometimes within a couple of years of the release of the original. Remakes were an opportunity to update a great story and make it more relevant to contemporary audiences. It was also a great way to use more advanced technology and improved movie-making skills to represent the story in a flashier way. What we end up with are great originals and great remakes. Plus plus!

Good News was a popular Broadway musical about the fictional Tait College and some of its students. You've got a love triangle, a big exam, a football championship and fantastic musical numbers. It's the ultimate collegiate musical.

Good News (1930) was a black-and-white early talkie musical with a 3-4 minute Technicolor finale. Unfortunately, today that last reel is nowhere to be found (please check your attics). Shot at the end of the Roaring Twenties, it best represents the period in style, dress, movement and language. The BEST part of the movie by far is Penny Singleton (then known as Dorothy McNulty). Her little girl voice, flailing limbs and impressive gymnastics make her stand out in a good way her two musical numbers "Good News" and "Varsity Drag". I became a big fan of Singelton's instantly after watching it. Ann Dvorak fans will be tickled pink to see her as one of the student dancers in Singleton's numbers.

Good News (1947) was a Technicolor musical starring June Allyson, Peter Lawford and Mel Torme (the Velvet Fog). While it does not have Penny Singleton, it does have the multi-talented Joan McCracken who single-handedly steals the movie from all its other stars. This remake improves on several things. It takes advantage of being all Technicolor with lots of bright vibrant outfits and set designs. The choreography and dancing are much more sophisticated and polished. There are more songs. So many that a few had to be cut out, including "Easier Way" which happens to be my favorite. The plot is more clearly defined and they improved upon the story by introducing some new characters. In this one, you could easily learn how to do the Varsity Drag and dance it with your friends. Or alone, in your apartment, in the early morning hours, when you are getting ready for work. Like I do sometimes.

While both films are excellent in their own way, the 1947 version was indeed an improvement for that audience. It was an opportunity to take a great movie (musical) and revive it for modern times. This is what remakes should do and can still do if only people would concern themselves with what they could make rather than what they could get.

Special thank you to Jonas from All Singing! All Talking! All Dancing! for sending me a copy of Good News (1930).


  1. Raquelle,
    Thanks! I'm always happy to help a damsel in distress :)

    Well spoken! Imagine a re-remake of Good News set in 2009 with a cast of American Idols and The Varsity Drag transfigured to a street dance... The horror!

    The thought of a remake of Out Of The Past sends shivers down my conservative spine. Russell Crowe as Mitchum and Viggo Mortensen as Douglas, flanked by Angelina Jolie in Greer's dresses... No thanks! :)

  2. Jonas: There *was* a remake of Out of the Past. 1984's "Against All Odds"; it even had Jane Greer in it!

  3. Good greif! I'm shivering all over!
    Of course you're right! How could i have missed that soppy old picture... But I sense it might very well be time for another go at it...

  4. You guys do realize my post is on Good News right?

    I would envision James McAvoy in the role of Jeff Bailey if they ever decide to remake Out of the Past now.

  5. Great post Raquelle! I didn't know the 1947 version was a remake. Makes me want to see the original, although that clip of Penny Singleton's dancing is a little off-putting.

    I've always liked the 1947 Varsity Drag number, and yes, I have acted the steps out along with it. It's a truly fun film. Although - gotta say - I can't bear June Allyson in any shape, manner or form. Ugh - that voice!

    James McAvoy as Jeff Bailey, huh? A combo I never thought of, but now that you mention it, I'd really like to see that. :)

  6. Casey - Oh what a shame. I love Penny Singleton's whacky dancing in that. Just think of it, it hasn't been many years since the proper form of dancing was the rigid ballroom kind, so that kind of crazy jerky movement was very different and new and a result of the Jazz Age. Don't worry, you won't be able to find the 1930 version anywhere anyways.

    And I love June Allyson, but I can see what you say about her voice. I just get annoyed that they always had her in the nice girl/good housewife roles.

  7. I have to say I agree you. I've caught both the original Good News and its remake a few times on TCM, and the remake is superior. While I love Penny Singleton (she was Blondie, after all), I think her singing and dancing both leave a bit to be desired!

    Regardless, I think Good News (1947) is an example of what remakes should do. The problem with most remakes today is that they seem happy to use the name to make money.

    I'm glad I found this blog!

  8. Welcome Mercurie. Thanks for stopping by. I agree with you that remakes these days are just an excuse to squeeze the last bit of juice out of the brand of the original. It's sad.

    I'm not sure what made you guys think I DON'T like Penny Singleton. I LOVE her and really like both her singing and her dancing in this number.

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  10. Penny Singleton...My brothers and I used to watch Blondie movies after school on an afternoon movie show...

    My question about remakes is...Why? (I make money.) I'm wracking my brains to think of a remake that improved on the original. Ben-Hur, I suppose, and A Christmas Carol. Maybe Showboat. But they don't make up for abominations like The Postman Always Rings Twice or tepid imitations like Body Heat.

    Unlike theatre or music, there's no film repertoire that established directors and actors can put their mark on. The financial stakes are too high, meaning that the producers and distributors will always have too much of a say.

  11. K- What about the Maltese Falcon? The Bogart version was a remake.

  12. I had forgotten about that. Great catch!


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