Good News (1947)

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If you enjoy lighthearted collegiate musicals, then I have Good News for you!

Set in the Roaring Twenties at fictitious Tait College, football star Tommy Marlowe falls in love with his tutor, Connie Lane. Driven by Laurence Schwab and B.G. DeSylva’s book, and with lyrics by DeSylva, Lew Brown, and Ray Henderson, the basic plot of Good News has remained consistent, though the show has been re-imagined on many occasions. The show originally opened as a Broadway musical in 1927, followed by film adaptations in 1930 and 1947, as well as stage revivals in 1974 and 1993.

Good News originally opened at the 46th Street Theatre, running for 557 performances. The cast included John Price Jones as Tommy Marlowe, Mary Lawlor as Connie Lane, Gus Shy as Bobby Randall, Inez Courtney as Babe O’Day, and Zelma O’Neal as Flo. Interestingly, the musical was sent in the 1920s, which happened to be the present day at the time of the musical’s debut. The show reflected the jazzy 1920s, but also evoked an energetic collegiate atmosphere with the George Olsen band parading to the orchestra pit while shouting college cheers.

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The show featured Tommy Marlowe abandoning his studies and failing an astronomy class, which he needs to pass in order to play in the big football game. His astronomy professor, Charles Kenyon, is a football fan and decides to give him another chance to pass the exam. However, Tommy’s story is only one part of the fun web of stories occurring at Tait College. Flapper Babe O’Day breaks up with Beef Saunders, a brawny and possessive football player because she wants a new boyfriend who doesn’t care about old-fashioned rules of propriety; therefore, Babe informs Bobby Randall, substitute player on the football team and Tom’s roommate, that he is now her boyfriend. Meanwhile, Tom asks his girlfriend Patricia, to help him study for the test, but she is busy with sorority plans and recommends that he work with her studious cousin, Connie Lane. Connie and Tom meet to study and are initially uncomfortable working together, but soon they find they have a lot in common and begin to fall for each other.

The show was a success and included several notable actors in its cast throughout its early performances. In a 1928 production at the Cass Theater, Jack Haley took on the role of Bobby, while Dorothy McNulty performed the role of vivacious and flirty Babe O’Day. Haley became a well established comedic actor in his own right, eventually being best remembered for his portrayal of the Tin Man in The Wizard of Oz (1939). McNulty would later change her stage name to Penny Singleton and become well known for her work in the Blondie series.

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The original 1927 production of Good News included the following songs:

In 1930, MGM adapted Good News for the screen as an Pre-Code musical film. Directed by Nick Grinde, the cast included Gus Shy and Mary Lawlor reprising their stage roles as Bobby and Connie. In addition, viewers saw Bessie Love as Dixie O’Day, Cliff Edwards as “Pooch” Kearney, Stanley Smith as Tom Marlowe, Lola Lane as Patricia Bingham, Thomas E. Jackson as Coach Bill Johnson, Delmer Daves as Beef Saunders, Billy Taft as Sylvester, Penny Singleton as Flo, and Frank McGlynn, Sr. as Professor Kenyon. The film was shot in black-and-white, with a Multicolor musical finale. Today, the last 443 feet comprising the finale sequence (about 4 minutes, 56 seconds) is missing from surviving prints and is apparently lost. However, the footage that does exist has been featured on Turner Classic Movies and has made its way into the collections of several movie collectors.

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By the 1940s, the original film version of Good News was not shown in the United States because of its to its Pre-Code content, which included sexual innuendo and lewd suggestive humor. 17 years later, MGM remade Good News in Technicolor as a more “sanitized” version of the initial film, featuring several of its talented musical actors under contract. In this version of Good News, Tommy Marlowe is popular with the girls–except with gold-digging new student Pat McClellan. After rejecting his advances and insulting him in French, Tommy decides to enlist school librarian Connie Lane to help him study the language, but soon finds himself falling for Connie. However, Pat McClellan suddenly becomes interested in Tommy after mistakenly being led to believe that he is the heir to a massive fortune. In the meantime, Babe Doolittle is planning to end her relationship with football player, Beef, so that she can pursue football substitute player, Bobby Turner.

Good News (1947) starred June Allyson as Connie Lane, Peter Lawford as Tommy Marlowe, Ray McDonald as Bobby, Patricia Marshall as Pat McClellan, Joan McCracken as Babe Doolittle, Mel Torme as Danny, Donald MacBride as Coach Johnson, Tom Dugan as Pooch, Loren Tindall as Beef, Georgia Lee as Flo, and character actor Clinton Sundberg as Professor Kenyon. However, this cast was not the group of actors that MGM initially had in mind for the remake of Good News; Judy Garland, Mickey Rooney, director Busby Berkeley, and producer Arthur Freed were planning to remake this as a follow-up to Babes in Arms (1939). But when Louis B. Mayer suggested instead to Freed to capitalize on the swing music craze, they switched gears into the production of Strike Up the Band (1940). Additionally, Gloria DeHaven was slated to appear as Pat but rejected the role. As a result, she was suspended by MGM for refusing to appear in the film.

Though Good News (1947) has an enjoyable and energetic cast, Peter Lawford was reluctant to work on this musical. He did not view himself as a singer, but due to contractual obligations, he was expected to fulfill the role of Tommy. Fortunately, his performance in Good News was advantageous to the production not only because of his entertaining portrayal of Tommy but because if his ability to speak French. In Good News (1947), Tommy and Connie sing a song called “The French Lesson,” which calls for Connie to speak in French. Since Peter Lawford spoke French fluently and June Allyson did not, Lawford had to teach Allyson how to teach him to speak French for the French Lesson scene. Allyson appeared in a total of four films alongside Lawford, and counted Good News as one of her favorites.

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Good News (1947) included the following songs:

  • “Good News”
    • Music by Ray Henderson
    • Lyrics by Lew Brown and Buddy G. DeSylva
    • Sung by Joan McCracken and chorus
  • “Tait Song”
    • Music by Ray Henderson
    • Lyrics by Lew Brown and Buddy G. DeSylva
    • Performed by Joan McCracken and chorus
  • “Be a Ladies’ Man”
    • Music by Ray Henderson
    • Lyrics by Lew Brown and Buddy G. DeSylva
    • Performed by Peter Lawford, Ray McDonald, Mel Tormé, and Lon Tindal
  • “Lucky in Love”
    • Music by Ray Henderson
    • Lyrics by Lew Brown and Buddy G. DeSylva
    • Performed by Patricia Marshall, Joan McCracken, Mel Tormé, June Allyson, and Peter Lawford
  • “The French Lesson”
    • Written by Roger Edens, Betty Comden, and Adolph Green
    • Performed by June Allyson and Peter Lawford
  • “The Best Things in Life Are Free”
    • Music by Ray Henderson
    • Lyrics by Lew Brown and Buddy G. DeSylva
    • Performed by June Allyson
    • Performed also by Mel Tormé
  • “Pass That Peace Pipe”
    • Written by Roger Edens, Hugh Martin, and Ralph Blane
    • Performed by Joan McCracken, Ray McDonald, and chorus
  • “Just Imagine”
    • Music by Ray Henderson
    • Lyrics by Lew Brown and Buddy G. DeSylva
    • Sung by June Allyson
  • “Varsity Drag”
    • Music by Ray Henderson
    • Lyrics by Lew Brown and Buddy G. DeSylva
    • Performed by June Allyson, Peter Lawford, and chorus

Though Good News (1947) was a box office disappointment, composers Roger Edens, Hugh Martin, and Ralph Blane were nominated for the Academy Award for Best Song for “Pass that Peace Pipe,” which was initially written for Ziegfeld Follies (1945).

Another song, entitled, “An Easier Way,” was recorded by June Allyson and Patricia Marshall but was cut from the final print of the film. The song is included as an extra on the DVD release.

In the 1970s, producer Harry Rigby began a Broadway nostalgia craze with revivals of No, No, Nanette and Irene, and decided that Good News would be his next project. John Payne was cast as the football coach, and Alice Faye was cast as the astronomy professor, renamed Professor Charlotte Kenyon. The book was rewritten to create romance between their characters, consequently minimizing the impact of the college student characters who were predominantly featured in earlier versions. Rigby also changed the setting of Good News to the Depression-era Thirties. As a result, some songs from the original 1927 production were removed, incorporating six songs from other Ray Henderson scores. The 1974 production opened to mostly negative reviews.

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The 1993 Musical Theatre of Witchita production, however, was well received and brought the show’s setting back to the 1920s. This production included the following songs:

Though the stage productions of Good News have come and gone, we are lucky to have two interpretations of this musical preserved in movie form.


This post is part of Champagne for Lunch’s 2017 Blogathon, entitled, “The June Allyson Centenary Blogathon.

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About Annette Bochenek

Annette Bochenek of Chicago, Illinois, is a Ph.D. student and scholar of Hollywood’s Golden Age. She manages the Hometowns to Hollywood blog, in which she writes about her trips exploring the legacies and hometowns of Golden Age stars. Annette also hosts the “Hometowns to Hollywood” film series throughout the Chicago area. She has been featured on Turner Classic Movies and is the president of TCM Backlot’s Chicago chapter. In addition to writing for TCM Backlot, she also writes for Classic Movie Hub, Silent Film Quarterly, Nostalgia Digest, and Chicago Art Deco Society Magazine.
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3 Responses to Good News (1947)

  1. Pingback: The June Allyson Centenary blogathon is here! – Champagne for Lunch

  2. Fascinating history. I enjoyed this theatrical history very much.

    I saw Alice Faye and John Payne when Good News came to Toronto at the O’Keefe Centre. The first show to play at the O’Keefe was Camelot, prior to its Broadway run.

  3. Simoa says:

    I had no idea Gloria was originally considered for the role of Pat and turned it down. I also loved your collection of images. Thanks so much for joining the blogathon and for such a thorough review!

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