Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Warner Archive Wednesday ~ Dancing Co-Ed (1939)

What a rush it is to discover a movie that becomes a new favorite. I love that feeling, the moment of discovery, the wash of pleasure that passes over you and the settling in of contentment.

Dancing Co-Ed is from the golden year of 1939. There must have been something magical in the water in Hollywood in 1939 because it was consistently a good year for movies, even B ones.

Dancing Co-Ed (1939) is an MGM production starring Lana Turner, Richard Carlson, Ann Rutherford (she was the last surviving cast member when she passed away last year) and features popular musician Artie Shaw, Lana Turner's soon-to-be first husband.

The Dancing Tobins are a married dancing duo who are famous for their movies. When ToddyTobin announcing she's expecting their first child, it leaves Freddy Tobin without a dance partner for their upcoming movie Dancing Co-Ed. Producer Joe Drews (Roscoe Karns) has promised Patty (Lana Turner) a part in the picture but now it all seems unlikely. Drews, under pressure to make the film without a major star, comes up with the idea of a college contest in which unknowns try out for the part in the movie. They'll send Artie Shaw and his Orchestra to perform at the college and it would get the movie studio great publicity. But Joe Drews and Freddy Tobin don't want to risk the movie being a flop so they chose a dancer to replace Mrs. Tobin and plant her at a college so she can pretend to be a student, enter the contest and win. And that dancer is Lana Turner's Patty.

It's a "potato of an idea"! Joe Drews sends Patty with his secretary Eve (Ann Rutherford) who will accompany her as a student, keep an eye out for her and help her with all the academic stuff. At the college they meet Pug Braddock (Richard Carlson), a college student and editor of the school's newspaper The Porcupine. He thinks the contest is a scam and is investigating it. But he also has a crush on Patty not knowing she's the contest's plant. While rehearsals and auditions are going on, Patty has to keep Pug off her back. She comes up with a new potato of an idea that she'll "help" Pug with his investigation so that she'll be ruled out. It all becomes a lovely complicated mess as the big contest date looms.

Dancing Co-Ed is charming and fun. It has collegiate culture, dance, music, romance, a little bit of drama and a delightful, light-footed and well-dressed Lana Turner. I love the conceit and the actors are all wonderful especially Lana Turner, Ann Rutherford and Leon Errol who plays Patty's showbiz father. It's hard for me to articulate why I adore this movie so. I'm still trying to pinpoint my decade long love affair with Bachelor Mother (1939) so I imagine this one will not be easy either.

This movie reminds me a little bit of The Disenchanted, the Budd Schulberg novel I recently reviewed, with it's Hollywood meets College campus theme. 

Dancing Co-Ed (1939) is available on DVD from Warner Archive. I rented this film from Classicflix but I'm going to buy it on my next Warner Archive purchase.

The Jelly Jar seems like a jivin' place to be! 

Pug: Go on, you heard what the man said. Get hysterical.
Patty: I can't, it gives me hiccups.

Lana Turner, Sweater Girl

Pug to Patty: You look like you swallowed a sunset.

Warner Archive Wednesday - On (random) Wednesdays, I review one title from the Warner Archive Collection. I rented Dancing Co-Ed (1939) from Classicflix.


  1. I kept waiting for Andy Hardy to show up!

    Hoping TCM showed this on Ann Rutherford day so I have a copy ... otherwise you've added to my Warner Archive want list!

    1. Ha! Let me know if you end up getting the film or if you have it already. It just epitomizes what I so love about that era.

  2. Your recommendations are always good ones :) I love that quote: A potato of an idea! How cute LOL

    1. Vanessa - Thanks! Ann Rutherford's character in the movie kept saying "a potato of an idea" and I thought it was really cute.

  3. So glad you enjoyed this one! It's a lot of fun; I'm a big fan of Carlson -- who was especially adorable as a Scotsman in THE YOUNG IN HEART (1938), available on DVD.

    Other MGM "college" films of the era you might enjoy are THESE GLAMOUR GIRLS (1939) which also stars Lana Turner, Ann Rutherford, and Richard Carlson, plus Lew Ayres, Anita Louise, and Marsha Hunt; or SPRING MADNESS (1938) with Ayres, Maureen O'Sullivan and Ruth Hussey. I think DANCING CO-ED is the best, though! :)

    Best wishes,


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