Body and Soul (Enterprise; United Artists) is a catchy but not very relevant title for a picture about prize fighting. The body is symbolized by materialistic Hazel Brooks and the soul by idealistic Lilli Palmer.
The story: a Jewish boy (John Garfield) of New York's Lower East Side, short on money and long on push, graduates from the amateur fighter class and travels fast. The faster he travels, the dirtier the racket gets. He is disgusted, but in his vanity and his desire for money he rationalizes about the general ugliness of the ringside business, and thus alienates his mother (Anne Revere) and his sweetheart (Lilli Palmer). He agrees to throw his last fight before retiring, but recovers his integrity in time, whales hell out of his opponent and wins back Miss Palmer.
This rather conventional story, shaded with stout "socially conscious" sentiments against commercial ruthlessness, is turned into an unusual movie by Abraham Polansky's taut continuity and sharp dialogue, by Robert Rossen's solid directing, and by Cameraman James Wong Howe's vivid shots of fighting. A good deal of the picture has the cruelly redolent illusion of reality that distinguished many of the movies of low life made in the early '30s.
Several of the performances are first-rate. Canada Lee plays with dignity and fervor one of the few thoroughly unpatronizing screen roles ever given a Negro. Lilli Palmer is a sensitive and lovely actress. John Garfield, having dropped some of his Dead End mannerisms, gives a good performance that is as hard and simple as a rock.
Body and Soul is no major screen achievement, but it expertly holds a steady pitch of interest and excitement.
Fun and Fancy Free (Walt Disney; RKO Radio) is another Disney movie that mixes cartoons and live actors. The master of ceremonies is Jiminy Cricket (voice by Cliff Edwards), a faintly oppressive optimist who tries to sell the audience on the debatable idea that in these troubled days the best thing one can do is laugh at cartoons and listen to Dinah Shore. As it turns out, one could do a lot worse.
Once Jiminy has quit selling, the invisible Miss Shore tells and sings quite a pleasant little yarn about one Bongo (original story by Nobel Prizewinner Sinclair Lewis). Bongo is a small circus bear who answers the call of the wild on his unicycle, finds that he is a bit soft and urban for life in the raw, falls for a sexy little taupe she-bear, and engages a gigantic rival in slapstick battle for her paw.
In the second half of the picture, Edgar Bergen and dummies, in Technicolor, tell a little girl (Luana Patten) a cartooned variant of the Jack & the Beanstalk story. Donald Duck, Mickey Mouse and Goofy, after a first-rate sequence as starving peasants, are lifted into the sky by a magic plant. There they meet Willie the Giant, outwit him (no hard job), and rescue a captive heroine.
In spite of the Disney technical skill, it has never been a very good idea to mix cartoons and live actors. With genial showmanship, Mr. Bergen & Co. barely manage to save their part of the show. Most of the Bongo section is just middle-grade Disney, not notably inspired. And once Mickey & friends get involved with Willie, the whole picture peters out and becomes as oddly off-balance and inconsequential as its title.