27 December 2020 | SimonJack
Humor is hit and miss in this RKO comeedy
The fast-talking Lee Tracy fits the role perfectly of Jimmy Bates in "The Half-Naked Truth." This is a strange film, with some humor. Bates is a character who promotes Teresita (played by Lupe Velez) from a carnival act to the big time on Broadway. It's all done with very little truth. The only thing that is true is that his client has some talent. As Bates says, success is all in the publicity, and what he won't do for publicity! It's a nice satire, but on the duped as well as on the dupers, and of the press that was always looking for the sensational and unusual to report as "news."
Hollywood staple player Eugene Pallette is Achilles, Bates' right hand man. Frank Morgan plays Merle Farrell, a big-time Broadway producer. If he's supposed to be a takeoff or copy of Florenz Ziegfeld, it's a lousy one. Here, Morgan plays more of a buffoon than a real talent and show promoter.
The comedy is hit and miss in this film. The funniest scene is when they get rooms in the Ritz hotel. Bates registers for the three of them with separate rooms and a suite for Teresita. When he registers for Pallette, the clerk looks at the registration, and though the word is never spoken, it's clear that Bates has signed him in as a eunuch. He says to the hotel clerk, Mr. Wellburton, "Oh, uh, you know, uh, they have them in all Turkish harems." Wellburton says, "Oh, yes, of course," and Bates says, "He's very sensitive about it." This comes back a couple times later in the film with Achilles fussing over what Bates registered him as. Wellburton is played by another established and familiar supporting actor, Franklin Pangborn.
And, in a whirlwind of newspaper reports and scene flashes, we see the meteoric rise of Bates as a promoter with some outlandish tidbits. A newspaper article reports, "Citizens of Pleasant Falls were startled yesterday at the report that a Nudist Colony had taken up its abode in a wooded dell on the outskirts of town." Then an action segment shows Pallette and some other guys in what look live caveman costumes in the woods. It's a hoot and over-the-top crazy.
Although this is just a so-so comedy and film, it is one of the better ones of the young and attractive Mexican actress, Lupe Velez. She was 24 when she made this film. Like some other young actors, Velez had some rocky affairs and took to heavy drinking and drugs. At age 36, she would commit suicide with a drug overdose.
Some reviewers see much more comedy in this film than I did. But, for anyone familiar with Lee Tracy, his fast-paced non-stop prattling soon becomes rattling on the nerves. Only fans who can long bear with that sort of delivery, and those of Tracy and Velez are likely to enjoy this film. Here are the best lines of this film.
Teresita, "Oh, you're crazy." Jimmy Bates, "All pioneers are crazy, till they die - then they get a monument." Achilles, "Who wants a monument?"
Jimmy Bates, "Listen, baby, you don't wanna be a hootch dancer all your life, do ya?"
Jimmy Bates, "If I don't have you in Merle Farrell's Folies before the end of the week, I'll eat that dog in Times Square without mustard."
Merle Farrell, "I'm working so hard, I don't know what I'm doing."
Jimmy Bates, going over mail with his secretary, "What else is there?" Miss Flowers, "A letter from the Seluvian secretary of state." Bates, "What does he want?" Miss Flowers, "Would you be interested in handling the next presidential campaign?" Bates, "No. Who wants to leave a sucker town like this."
Miss Flowers," Imagine anyone daring to question your veracity." Jimmy Bates, "Such language."