The DeSylva-Brown-Henderson Broadway musical Good News was first brought to the screen by MGM in 1930. The scene is Tait College, where everyone is in a blue funk over the dilemma of gridiron star Tom (Stanley Smith). Since the only thing he's ever passed is a football, Tom is in danger of flunking out before the Big Game. Plain-looking Connie (Mary Lawlor) is enlisted to tutor Tom through his final exams, and in the process the two students fall in love -- much to the dismay of campus vamp Patricia (Lola Lane). Managing to finagle a marriage proposal out of Tom, it looks as though Patricia will emerge triumphant, but all is set aright during the lavish Technicolor finale. Good News is an instructive example of how Hollywood perceived the movie musical during this period: While much of the film is shot in the static, nailed-down-camera technique so common to early talkies, several isolated sequences -- most of them featuring comedy-relief characters Bessie Love and Gus Shy -- are cleverly and inventively photographed (as Love shoots dice with the football team, the camera records her reactions from the dice's point of view!) Many of the original play's songs are retained in the film, including the title number, "The Best Things in Life are Free" and the lively "Varsity Drag," performed con brio by soubrette Dorothy McNulty (later known as Penny Singleton) and including such esoterica as animated wall paintings and a superimposed thermometer which boils over as the dancing gets "hotter. Future writer-director Delmer Daves has a good supporting role as surly campus jock "Beef." Existing prints of Good News are minus the final Technicolor reel, but Turner Films has provided a videotaped synopsis, complete with production stills, for television showings. Good News was remade -- and vastly improved upon -- by MGM producer Arthur Freed in 1947.
by Hal Erickson synopsis