Musical comedies rarely have much story. That’s all right. No one expects them to. Plot is compensated for in a hit tune show by good music. That’s an elementary show business lesson taught in a class that producer Herbert Wilcox must have skipped. In making a film version of the 1925 Broadway hit [by Frank Mandel, Otto Harbach, Vincent Youmans and Emil Nyltray], Wilcox saves all the book but very little of the music. ‘Tea for Two’ and ‘I Want to Be Happy’, as well as the title tune, ‘No, No, Nanette’ have been reduced to virtually incidental music.
Even at that, Wilcox has been fortunate. Nanette has a pretty good plot as musical comedy plots go. He has erred, however, in complicating it instead of simplifying it, as was needed. Wilcox has been lavish, however, in instilling production values in Nanette and there’s no denying, despite their age, the lilt of the Vincent Youmans tunes.
Anna Neagle, as the little Miss Fiix-It who sparks the film, is passable. Roland Young, with accustomed facility, tops the cast-appeal. Runners-up are Helen Broderick and ZaSu Pitts, which makes it clear that all the honors go to the older generation. Neagle and the youngsters, Richard Carlson, Victor Mature and Eve Arden, show to no advantage against such a trio of comedy vets.
Yarn finds Young a gay oldster with a penchant for making people happy, particularly pretty girls, by promising them help to get ahead in their fields. Neagle as Young’s niece, sets about getting each of the femmes the things she wants, thus keeping from Young’s wife the sordid details. Mature is a theatrical producer and Carlson an artist. Nanette works on each to take the trouble-making females under their wings and save the family honor.