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At one point, Miss Scott is locked up in her room for safekeeping. Every time she is seen, pacing her cage, gnawing her heart out for Mr. Hodiak, she is modeling a different dress. This subtle device for denoting the passage of time gets pretty funny after a while. If you could be sure that it was meant to be funny, you could relax and enjoy it thoroughly. The one substantial point of reference in Desert Fury's bewildering world is Mary Astor, who is at once attractive, amusing and vigorously convincing as the hardbitten, hard-biting mother.
Is Everybody Listening? (MARCH OF TIME; 20th Century-Fox) gives U.S. radio a once-over-lightly treatment with a sharp critical razor. The film achieves a telling effect by letting radio speak for itselfon the theory that there is enough rope lying around any broadcasting studio to hang most of the people responsible for radio. A good deal is accomplished, too, by the unemphatic statement of some familiar but appalling statistics: the suds of soap opera drown out 48% of daylight broadcasting time, and some 20 million U.S. housewives love that suds.
There are also some painfully accurate re-enactments, and a parody of singing commercials ("Consolidated sardinesAmerica's delight," etc.) which could never be too broad for its model. A dullard on a quiz program racks her brains for the name of the Father of His Country. Some soap-opera actors fight out a love crisis ("We are but straws in the wind," the unfaithful husband explains to his wife), their faces embattled in the schizoid struggle between sincerity and nausea which is one of the occupational diseases of soap-opera acting.
Radio's predicament is bluntly described by such authorities as Inventor Lee De Forrest ("What have you done to my baby?"), and Columnist John Crosby, who declares simply that broadcasters do not own their own souls; they are mortgaged to the sponsors.
The movie leans over backward to be fair to the industry, which insists on making such an indifferent case for itself. Such debatable blessings as America's Town Meeting of the Air and the scripting efforts of Norman Corwin are duly acknowledged, a fair proof of the old saw that in the country of the blind the one-eyed man is king. Such likable veterans as Jack Benny, Fibber & Molly, Bob Hope, Edgar Bergen and Fred Allen are respectfully saluted. The news commentators are cursorily lumped on the credit side and so is the fact that radio lavishes millions each year on programs of serious music for a relatively small audience.
It is a funny and intelligent show, and hearteningly optimistic about radio's future, even when one remembers the sponsors and those 20 million soap-opera addicts.
CURRENT & CHOICE
Life with Father. The stage hit sumptuously done up into solid, somewhat stoutish Technicolor entertainment with William Powell as Father and Irene Dunne as Mother (TIME, Aug. 25).
The Long Night. Stertorous but exciting drama about a trapped killer and why he did it. Henry Fonda, Vincent Price, Barbara Bel Geddes, Ann Dvorak (TIME, Aug. 18).
The Secret Life of Walter Mitty. Variations on a theme by James Thurber, featuring Danny Kaye, some home-grown harridans, some international jewel thieves, and some elegantly kidded daydreams (TIME, Aug. 18).