THE HALF NAKED TRUTH
(director/writer: Gregory La Cava; screenwriters: Corey Ford/from a story by Ben Markson and H. N. Swanson/suggested by Phantom Fame/by Harry Reichenbach and David Freedman; cinematographer: Bert Glennon; editor: Charles L. Kimball; music: Max Steiner; cast: Lee Tracy (Jim Bates), Lupe Velez (Teresita), Eugene Pallette (Achilles), Frank Morgan (Merle Farrell), Shirley Chambers (Ella Beebee/Eve), Bob McKenzie (Colonel Munday), James Donlon (Lou), Charles Dow Clark (Sheriff), Franklin Pangborn (Hotel Manager), James Donlan (replaced carnival press agent), Mary Mason (Farrell’s secretary); Runtime: 75; MPAA Rating: NR; producers: Pandro S. Berman/David O. Selznick; RKO; 1932)
“Comedy that benefits from an inspired brilliant free-spirited comic performance by Lee Tracy and amusing turns by supporting actors Eugene Pallette and Frank Morgan.”
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
Gregory La Cava(“Gallant Lady”/”My Man Godfrey”/”Stage Door”) directs this very funny comedy that benefits from an inspired brilliant free-spirited comic performance by Lee Tracy and amusing turns by supporting actors Eugene Pallette and Frank Morgan. It’s based ona story by Ben Markson and H. N. Swanson, and is written by Corey Ford.
In a hick Pennsylvania town, wiseguy carnival barker Jimmy Bates (Lee Tracy) helps the inept owner, Colonel Munday (Bob McKenzie), try to draw a crowd to the struggling carnival by promoting “hootchee-kootchee“ carnival dancer Teresita (Lupe Velez) as a hometown victim who will during the evening show reveal the local cad who deceived Teresita‘s mother many years ago, but the sheriff (Charles Dow Clark) gets wind of the fakery and runs them out of town. The lunkhead escape artist, Achilles (Eugene Pallette) and ambitious Teresita flee with Bates by car to find fame on Broadway. The fast-talking Bates gets energized by the city crowd and shamelessly promotes Teresita as Princess Exotica from Turkey, who poses as an escaped harem beauty while the trio con their way into getting the imperial suite at the Savoy Ritz Hotel by convincing the officious hotel manager (Franklin Pangborn) that the princess is royalty. The wise guy publicity man registers his right hand man Achilles, still dressed in his Turkish garb from the carnival act, as the Princess’s eunuch, then brings a Coney Island lion tamer act into the hotel and gets free publicity from the press corps he invites to watch the lion eat some 30 pounds of raw meat, and finally finagles a contract for Teresita’ services as a fake Turkish princess with the excitable and neurotic fusspot Broadway producer Merle Farrell (Frank Morgan).
This is a free-wheeling pre-code fictionalized account of some of the late Harry Reichenbach’s wild press agent exploits over the years, especially his publicity campaign for the Revenge of Tarzan (1920). The Half Naked Truth stretched the truth as about as far as it can be stretched before it would become too crazy, but gleefully caught the spirit of the pitchman hustle through Tracy’s manic fictionalized portrayal of the legendary press agent. Frank Morgan plays the part of the self-important nervous lascivious married Broadway producer, supposedly Ziegfeld, who gets caught in a compromising position with Teresita and gets blackmailed when Bates flashes enlarged photos of the incident around. Lupe Velez, known as the ‘Mexican Spitfire,’ sings several forgettable songs and gives her usual feisty performance.
The pic is good clean fun, and a good watch.
REVIEWED ON 8/26/2014 GRADE: B+