powered by AFI
"I was a leading lady, a costar, if you will, at last!" Jane Wyman was later to remark about Mr. Dodd Takes the Air (1937), a musical satire that introduced popular radio tenor Kenny Baker to film audiences as well as providing Wyman with the closest thing to a lead she had yet enjoyed. (She provided the love interest but was still fifth-billed.) In the Warner Bros. film, Baker plays a small-town electrician who goes to New York for a shot at the big time and, stymied by bronchitis, uses his spare time to invent a gadget that makes cheap radios sound like expensive ones. Wyman plays a sympathetic secretary who protects Baker's invention when it's in danger of being stolen.
Five years into a film career that began as a chorus girl, Wyman had signed with Warner Bros. a year earlier and was in a slow-but-steady progression from bits to supporting roles, minor leads and, finally, A-List stardom and an Academy Award. During these early days, alternating from brunette to blonde, she specialized in playing tough-talking cuties who fell for the wrong guys, earning the nickname of the "Hey-Hey Girl." At the time of Mr. Dodd Takes the Air, Wyman reflected on her career stating, "I had been through five years of hard times."
But during the same period, answering a studio questionnaire that inquired about her ultimate ambition, Wyman wrote: "To be not just an actress but the actress at the studio." Within 12 years, that seemingly remote goal had been achieved. It was also in 1937 that Wyman met the man who would become her second husband, fellow contract player and future President Ronald Reagan.
Despite Wyman's musical ability, she gets no songs in Mr. Dodd Takes the Air. All the Harry Warren/Al Dubin tunes are performed by Baker, including the Oscar®-nominated "Remember Me." Alice Brady, who would win an Oscar® as Best Supporting Actress for In Old Chicago, also released in 1937, appears in this film as an opera singer.
Producer: Mervyn LeRoy
Director: Alfred E. Green
Screenplay: William Wister Haines, Elaine Ryan, from story The Great Crooner by Clarence Budington Kelland
Cinematography: Arthur Edeson
Art Direction: Robert M. Haas
Original Music: Adolph Deutsch, Harry Warren
Editing: Thomas Richards
Costume Design: Milo Anderson
Principal Cast: Kenny Baker (Claude Dodd), Frank McHugh ("Sniffer" Sears), Alice Brady (Mme. Sonia Moro), Gertrude Michael (Jessica Stafford), Jane Wyman (Marjorie Day), John Eldredge (Jim Lidin).
BW-87m. Closed captioning.
by Roger Fristoe