A note from Lindsey: This post spoils the ending of Good News, but the plot is a pretty traditional love triangle. Skip this post if you’re a dedicated spoiler-avoider, but you can probably guess the outcome anyway!
Good News is one of those flicks that caught my attention from its description. As I was browsing recently-taped movie suggestions on my DVR, I couldn’t help but pause at the following: “A college coed tempts a football hero, but a student librarian wins him.”
Say what? A student librarian gets the guy? A librarian appears and isn’t portrayed as the frumpy-dumpy, worse-than-death outcome of the life of a once-promising young lass? I’m sure we all remember the awful alternate-universe version of Donna Reed’s character in It’s a Wonderful Life — the spinster librarian, bushy browed and forever alone. Plenty of films seem to approach the field of librarianship with the attitude of “What fate could be worse?” As a recent LIS graduate myself (neither frumpy nor dumpy, and not quite a spinster), I had to give Good News a watch and see if the profession fared better than usual.
I started the film and my hopes for a nice watch shot even higher. Opening titles read “This story takes you way, way back to another era — 1927,” flanked by adorable illustrations of flying books and sweethearts. A gaggle of students sing a fun song about their school, Tait College. Consider me hooked.
The film follows Tommy Marlowe (Peter Lawford), Tait’s star athlete, a talented football player at a football-obsessed school. Naturally, he’s the big man on campus and the apple of every lady’s eye. Unfazed by his own popularity, Tommy tells his good pal Bobby Turner (Ray McDonald) all about how to “Be a Ladies Man” (through song, of course).
Tommy’s eye is caught when new girl Pat McClellan (Patricia Marshall) hits the campus. She acts disinterested in Tony, a shock to him, but he’s smitten. Desperate to win the girl over, Tommy learns that Pat is interested in French, so he enlists the help of part-time librarian Connie Lane (June Allyson) to tutor him in the language. A love triangle results.
This film definitely delivers on the promise of a positive portrayal of a librarian. June Allyson’s Connie is all at once fashionable, intelligent, driven, outgoing, and self-assured. She doesn’t wear her hair in a bun. She doesn’t sit at home alone every night. She’s not supremely quiet or stern. She loves books, but her love of books isn’t the only interesting thing about her. Though she’s really just an assistant librarian working the job to make her way through school, she’s one of the more realistic librarian characters I’ve seen on screen.
Still, there are a few “meh” moments in the film for the librarians among us. In one scene, a friend of Connie marvels that she doesn’t look like a librarian in her fancy party dress. There’s also a more stereotypical “spinster librarian,” an older actress playing Connie’s supervisor in an uncredited role.
Good News is a delightful technicolor musical with nice songs and a charming cast, even if it isn’t a cast full of big names. (Allyson and Lawford are the only enduring stars of the bunch.) The film grabbed me with its not-stereotypical librarian character and the fact that a couple of scenes are set in a lovely college library, but it kept my interest with its bright mood and solid performances.
The film does feel slightly long, with a bit too much attention paid to a “big game” subplot before the cutesy wrap-up, but Good News remains enjoyable overall.
If books, football, and/or romance aren’t your things, sit back and marvel at one of the most puzzling musical numbers ever to be nominated for a “Best Song” Academy Award, titled… wait for it… “Pass That Peace Pipe.” It’s every bit as offensive and strange as it sounds (especially since the number is performed at an old-fashioned soda fountain) and stands out as an oddity in the film’s otherwise-lovable soundtrack.
Any fan of a good ol’ midcentury musical should get plenty of joy from Good News, a sweet little collegiate romance with a librarian twist. The score: 3.5/5