25 October 2008 | bkoganbing
Restore Varsity Show If We Can
I was looking forward to seeing Varsity Show because of the fact that I owned the four Dick Powell Decca recordings that were made from songs in this film. The Tony Thomas book, the Films of Dick Powell also said that it was a 2 hour film.
In the abbreviated 80 minute version I saw of it, I'm thinking there was a lot of material that was left out and may in fact now be lost. Two of those songs Powell did not sing on the screen, Have You Got Any Castles Baby and Love Is On The Air Tonight. He did do a very nice version of You've Got Something There with Rosemary Lane and the song Moonlight On The Campus seems to have been edited out all together.
Still even in the shortened version Varsity Show is an entertaining bit of nonsense about a Broadway producer played by Powell who's had a run of bad luck, but answers the call of the student body of his alma mater to produce their Varsity Show. It was the kind of light weight material that Powell was desperately trying to get out of doing at Warner Brothers, but Jack Warner wouldn't see him in anything else.
Jack did give him a good cast to work with however with a lot of very familiar character actors going through their paces. Standing out are Ted Healy on loan from MGM playing Powell's assistant, Edward Brophy as the theater manager who's about to have a stroke because he can't get an advance for rent from the college kids, and Walter Catlett who is very funny as the faculty adviser for the show who knows as much about putting on a show as Ginger Rogers running the Brooklyn Dodgers to quote another Dick Powell song from another film.
Fred Waring and his Pennsylvanians are here to supply the music and chorus and Rosemary's sister Priscilla Lane is another student. The dancing talent is tops with Lee Dixon who had co-starred with Powell in Golddiggers of 1937 and the great team of Buck and Bubbles who I still remember from the Ed Sullivan Show as a lad. Richard Whiting and Johnny Mercer wrote the original songs that I liked so much.
Varsity Show got an Academy Award nomination for Busby Berkeley in the category of Dance Direction which was discarded in the Forties. Berkeley did one of his patented extravaganzas for a finale using the theme songs from several colleges and it's quite an eyeful and most entertaining.
I hope one day we can get a restored version of Varsity Show. I'm betting a lot of good material might be lost as it stands right now. I have a feeling I'd rate Varsity Show higher if we saw the director's cut.