Judge Daryl Loomis writes wearing little more than dress gloves and a monocle.
Just another publicity stunt.
Of all the genres, comedy is the one that has the hardest time translating to the sensibilities of future generations. It's easy to understand what's so great about Lawrence of Arabia or The Searchers because the stories are timeless, even if the details are dated. Comedies, especially the situational farces that were popular decades ago, can't often trade on their storylines to succeed. Even something I have a personal connection to, like Trading Places, doesn't translate and, really, comes off as pretty terrible today, so a movie like 1932's The Half-Naked Truth has a real uphill battle. I don't like a lot of comedies from that era and watching this isn't helping.
Bates (Lee Tracy, Blessed Event) is a barker at a down-on-its-luck carnival, selling the beauty of his lovely young protege, Teresita (Lupe Velez, The Girl from Mexico). He thinks he's got something big in her, so he leaves the carnival and takes Teresita to New York to break her big on Broadway. After he scams Farrell (Frank Morgan, The Wizard of Oz), a big theater producer, that Teresita is Princess Exotica, an escaped harem princess with a beautiful voice, she becomes the talk of the town. The road seems bright for Bates until Teresita's eyes start wandering to bigger paydays and people stop falling for the idea that a princess from Persia would sing American show tunes in a Mexican accent.
Unlike Delores Del Rio, the other popular Mexican actress in Hollywood of the day, whose talents took her into plenty of strong and meaty roles, Lupe Velez was forever relegated to her "Mexican Spitfire" persona. She's exciting, she's sexy, she's shrill and loud, and she has almost no appeal today. Sure, there are still the Salma Hayeks of the world, but if all her roles were firey Mexican stereotype, nobody would care, which is the situation I'm in with Velez. She may have had talent; I don't know, she was never allowed to show it and, here, she's just a stock character with nothing going on but a tiny outfit and a lot of hair.
Lee Tracy is no better and, if you're familiar with his bit, you know what you're getting here. He's the same overwound whirlwind that he always is. I guess that, in 1932, people lined up to see the result when he snaps; today, the shtick is just boring. As a leading man, he has no attractive qualities and, as a comedian, he's intolerable. Really, the only thing about The Half-Naked Truth that is tolerable is the work of Eugene Pallette (The Ghost Goes West). His monotone frogginess as the carny thug forced to play the princess's eunuch is the only remotely funny thing in the movie.
Director Gregory La Cava (My Man Godfrey) totally misses the mark, delivering a plodding and shrill production that has neither good jokes nor a decent plot. The setup makes no sense and though I suppose that there is some referential humor I have missed, it doesn't make the movie any easier to watch. The Half-Naked Truth is not only a total bore, but it's irritating on top of it; not a good combo when you're trying to make people laugh.
Warner Bros has done a perfectly average job on their Warner Archives on-demand release of The Half-Naked Truth. The 1.33:1 image isn't terrible, but there's been no restoration done to it, either. It's a murky print that has plenty of dirt and damage to go around. The contrast is decent, though, and it's easy to tell what's going on, but it's not nearly as clear as it could be. The sound is similar, with a simple single channel Dolby track. There's a little bit of hiss and pop at times and the mix is a little bit tinny, but the music and dialog both fair relatively well. No extras on the disc.
If there are any fans of Lupe Velez still around, then those are the only people to whom I can comfortably recommend The Half-Naked Truth. Yes, as a pre-code movie, there's a little bit of racy humor and some skimpy carny outfits, but it just isn't funny. It's shrill and loud and that played a lot better in 1932 than it does today. Today, the humor is just annoying and you can safely skip this one.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Warner Bros.
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