Mr. Dodd Takes the Air (1937) Poster

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5/10
Cute PLot. Brady Great
Handlinghandel17 August 2005
I had never heard of Kenny Baker till this turned up. He certainly could sing but not in a way that appeals to me. He's likable as the hick who becomes a star. Gertrude Michael is excellent as the gold-digger who tries to get his money. Jane Wyman is sweet as the girl who truly cares for him.

But Alice Brady is a scream as a diva. She's an opera singer -- who dubbed her singing voice?? -- and a very grand lady. She presages Mary Boland's classic performance as the Countess in "The Women." There's no reason not to like this harmless movie. And Brady elevates it to having a reason to like it very much indeed.
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5/10
The Next Voice You Hear
lugonian19 December 2009
MR. DODD TAKES THE AIR (Warner Brothers, 1937), directed by Alfred E. Green, under the production of Mervyn LeRoy, marks another contribution to the studio's own cycle of movie musicals from the 1930s. With Dick Powell as its star attraction since 42nd STREET (1933), this latest installment brings forth another personality to the screen, a radio singer by the name of Kenny Baker. Though not his very first motion picture, Baker's initial leading role carries his assignment in the Powell tradition but with a different style of singing. Taken from the Clarence Budington-Kelland story that incorporated an earlier Warners production, CROONER (1932) starring David Manners and Ann Dvorak, this edition offers nothing new or relatively different in regards to "rise to fame" story or its inspired title taken from director Frank Capra's MR. DEEDS GOES TO TOWN (Columbia, 1936) that brought forth another Capra classic, MR. SMITH GOES TO WASHINGTON (Columbia, 1939). While Mr. Dodd is not equivalent nor memorable to either Mr. Deeds (Gary Cooper) or Mr. Smith (James Stewart), they're all similar by means of being country boys learning valuable lessons from the outside world while accompanied by compassionate, strong-willed city girl to guide him.

The basic plot revolves around Claude Dodd (Kenny Baker), a naive 23-year-old electrician who takes part in the annual Pewano Strawberry Festival talent show with "Sniffer" Sears (Frank McHugh) as master of ceremonies. Claude's baritone singing becomes an audience pleaser, especially for Hiram P. Doremus (Ferris Taylor - in a Guy Kibbee influenced performance), who agrees to sponsor Dodd with arrangements for his radio audition at the Metropolitan Broadcasting Building in New York City. Later, a bronchial cold causes Claude to lose his voice. Coming to Doctor George Quinn (Harry Davenport) for treatment, he finds himself subjected to a slight throat operation for which he's not to speak for 48 hours. After arriving in New York, Claude, accompanied by "Sniffer" now acting as his agent, comes for the audition. Introduced as a baritone, Claude goes on the air singing tenor instead. With his newfound popularity, Mr. Dodd encounters three women in his life: Marjorie Day (Jane Wyman), secretary to general manager, Mr. Gateway (Henry O'Neill); Joyce Stafford (Gertrude Michael), a gold-digging socialite out to patent Claude's radio invention for her conniving boyfriend, John Lidden (John Eldredge); and Madame Sonia Mono (Alice Brady), a temperamental middle-aged opera singer with two ex-husbands wanting Mr. Dodd for herself.

With music and lyrics by Harry Warren and Al Dubin, songs, sung by Kenny Baker unless otherwise indicated, include: "If I Were a Pond Lily," "Here Comes the Sand Man," "Here Comes the Sand Man" (reprise); "Am I in Love?" Operatic song (aria dubbed for Alice Brady); "Remember Me?" "The Girl You Used to Be," "Here Comes the Sand Man," and "Am I in Love?" While "The Girl You Used to Be" gets a slight stage production number treatment with Baker singing to his audience while standing the foreground of a microphone in the middle of lines with musical notes, only the now forgotten "Remember Me?" comes off as the film's best, good enough for an Academy Award nomination and voice-over singing during the opening credits to the Warners comedy NEVER SAY GOODBYE (1946) starring Errol Flynn and Eleanor Parker.

While Baker's performance lead the way for his appearing in Samuel Goldwyn's lavish scale Technicolor musical, THE GOLDWYN FOLLIES (1938); THE MIKADO (1939) and supporting the Marx Brothers in AT THE CIRCUS (MGM, 1939), he never did achieve the on-screen popularity as singing idols Dick Powell or Bing Crosby. However, MR. DODD TAKES THE AIR did become a stepping stone for Jane Wyman, billed fifth in the cast, in her first major film role. Her Academy Award winning performance for JOHNNY BELINDA (1948) was still only a decade away. Alice Brady, appearing 51 minutes into the story, acceptable playing high strung socialites, seems a little out of place playing an opera singer, while Gertrude Michael, a much forgotten name from classic cinema, cast as the possessive other woman, is no different from those she enacted at her home-base studio of Paramount's I'M NO ANGEL (1933) and/or MURDER AT THE VANITIES (1934). Considering her vamping sequence with Baker, it makes one wish the studio had placed either Glenda Farrell or Ann Sheridan over Michael for some assurance of what might have turned out to be a comedy highlight.

In spite of the film's promising start, the cast tries hard rising above 87 minutes of weak scripted material. Virtually forgotten, MR. DODD TAKES THE AIR turns up occasionally on cable TV's Turner Classic Movies. (**1/2)
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5/10
Kenny Baker's first starring role has him singing five songs in an inane plot.
Art-2220 October 1998
Popular radio tenor Kenny Baker plays a naive country bumpkin who gets a chance to sing on radio and becomes a big hit, while falling for the station's secretary, Jane Wyman. I enjoyed Baker's singing of the five songs in the movie (one as a baritone that was undoubtedly dubbed), but the plot is so thin the writers introduce a subplot, which has him the inventor of a gadget that makes a $19 radio sound like a $500 one. Naturally, there's a villain (John Eldredge) who wants to steal it, and a gold digger(Gertrude Michael), who loves Baker's $1000 per week salary, helping the villain. Baker's manager, Frank McHugh, is there for comedy, while Alice Brady shows up as a famous but ditsy egotistical opera singer, a role some people may enjoy but I found totally superfluous. Michael pits herself against Wyman, who patented the gadget in her name to protect Baker, and he is so disillusioned about it all, he fakes losing his voice to return to his home town of Pewamo to work as an electrician, leaving his device and everyone back in New York. But they haven't forgotten about him.
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5/10
A weak showcase for radio singer Kenny Baker...
Doylenf6 February 2010
None of the shenanigans in MR. DODD TAKES THE AIR ring true due to a weak script of Hollywood clichés prevalent in many of the '30s films, and the fact that KENNY BAKER, while possessing a fine tenor voice, has very little charisma for a man who has to carry most of the film. True, he's likable enough, but his acting leaves a lot to be desired. He would be featured in a few more films in the '30s and '40s, but never had a breakthrough role.

JANE WYMAN, who gets fifth billing when she has a major part in the story, is pert and vivacious as the secretary who takes an immediate interest in Baker and wants to help his career. GERTRUDE MICHAELS is "the other woman," a conniving socialite who wants to steal a device Baker has invented for improving radio's sound quality.

ALICE BRADY has an inconsequential role late in the film, as an egotistical opera singer and seems out of place in an overplayed role.

It's a minor item, an entirely forgettable film that is only worthwhile for hearing Baker sing a few songs in his own crooner style.
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6/10
Public Crooner Number One
bkoganbing12 October 2011
Popular radio singer Kenny Baker stars in Mr. Dodd Takes The Air about a singing electrician who invents gadget that cuts down on static with those old big cabinet radios. This was obviously an attempt by Warner Brothers to keep Dick Powell in line because this was just the kind of film Powell was trying desperately to get out of doing over there. Even though it has an Academy Award nominated song in the score by Harry Warren and Al Dubin, Mr. Dodd Takes The Air is not much more than your average film from Warner Brothers at the time.

Baker is a small town kid who is discovered and reaches fame and fortune as a radio crooner. He also has money in the bank with that invention, but hasn't gotten around to patenting it yet. All of which makes him the object of interest for three women, mercenary Gertrude Michael, good girl Jane Wyman, and diva Alice Brady. Guess who Baker winds up with?

I have to say that Alice Brady really made the most of her part as an opera star with temperament to match. She really went to town with the part.

The biggest problem of the film is Baker's character. Nobody could be that naive. And I'm sure Powell must have seen this script and ran with horror from Jack Warner's office.

Warren and Dubin did a good score for the film which includes Remember Me which got for Mr. Dodd Takes The Air an Oscar nomination for Best Song. Am I In Love also stands out in the musical numbers also.

Baker on screen was best known for playing Nanki-Poo in The Mikado and later on Broadway co-starred with Mary Martin in One Touch Of Venus where they introduced Speak Low. He also introduced George and Ira Gershwin's last collaboration, Love Walked In in The Goldwyn Follies. Good thing for Baker he got a hit song out of the score.

Nice film, the kind Dick Powell was looking to get out of doing.
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