Monday, January 24, 2011

Love Is on the Air

TCM is showing a pair of Ronald Reagan's early movies tomorrow morning. The second of them, Girls on Probation at 7:30 AM ET, is one that I recommended back when Reagan was TCM's Star of the Month in March 2009. I haven't recommended Reagan's movie debut yet: Love Is on the Air. That's airing at 6:00 AM.

Reagan started his career making B movies, and this is typical for the B movie genre. Reagan plays Andy McCaine, a radio reporter doing the local station's crime show. He's dogged in his desire to get the story about corruption, but what he doesn't know is that the sponsor of his show is in on the corruption. Obviously they don't like it, so they get him fired from the crime show. Andy gets reassigned by his boss to something much les likely to cause headaches for anybody: the children's show. Still, Andy sets out to prove he can be a good reporter, and applies himself with gusto to the new job, befriending the local children, who conviently happen to have too much experience with the local corruption. Perhaps Andy can enlist the help of the children to bring down the ring of corruption....

Love Is on the Air isn't a great movie by any means. Warner Bros. and the other studios were churning out B movies like this on an almost weekly basis, each one intended to be about as forgettable as the next. Not that they were trying to produce lousy stuff, of course; the result is that we now have a bunch of fun movies and the early work of some very good actors. Reagan, to be sure, isn't as good as some of the other "very good actors" who started in B movies, but he's more than fine carrying Love Is On the Air. In fact, his affable persona really helps him here. In real life, a lot of the people who worked with him said they liked him, and even once he became President his political opponents said that in person, he was quite charming. That likeability means his character is imbued with an optimism that makes you want to root for him, and makes the movie relaxing to watch.

Ronald Reagan's early B movies probably deserve a box set. Unfortunately, Love Is on the Air isn't one that's made it to DVD yet.

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