Sunday, June 29, 2014
It was one of a series of films meant to give movie audiences the chance to see what their favorite radio stars looked like and watch them perform on screen. The biggest stars being Jack Benny, George Burns and Gracie Allen, and Benny Goodman and his band as well as Leopold Stokowski and The NBC Orchestra.
Benny is always fun to watch but he didn't have much to work with in this flick, none of the routines and traits audiences came to know and love, and the same goes for George Burns even more so, while Ray Milland was just the junior leading man. Most of the music performances in the film are nothing special compared to the classic musicals of the time—with the excepting of two terrific performances from The Benny Goodman Band, and the gags that make up the bulk of the story are terrible and wouldn't make anyone laugh today.
Except for Gracie Allen's. She's so charmingly ditzy in the ways that made her famous and gave her partner George Burns the opportunity to have a career as her straight man, before he became a compelling comic and comic actor in his own right many years later, every scene she's in is worth watching. You can't, or at least I can't, help loving her as soon as she appears in any scene, or laughing out loud when she dominates them with her screwy—but often profoundly so—takes on reality.
Her humor still works today and it isn't at anyone's expense, even her own, because as clueless as she seems to be in almost any situation, she always turns it into something so joyfully unexpected she comes out looking like the only sane one in a world of confused people, even if she's the one who created the confusion. I've never seen her in any piece of film whether from a movie or TV, or heard her on any recording where I didn't still instantly fall in love with her personality and persona, she was one of the greatest comic performers of any era and I only hope there are still movies she's in that I haven't seen.
[PS: My main man in my L.A. years and after, Hubert Selby Jr., and I used to listen to an oldtimey radio show broadcast in L.A. in the 1980s, that included episodes from the Burns and Allen radio show, and we'd fall out of our chairs laughing at Gracie. She made the worst days fun.]