Half-Naked Truth, The (1932): La Cava’s Pre-Code Comedy, Starring Lee Tracy, Lupe Vélez, Henry Morgan

From the Vaults:

Gregory La Cava directed The Half-Naked Truth, a pre-Code comedy featuring Lee Tracy as carnival pitchman who finagles his girlfriend, a fiery hoochie dancer played by Lupe Vélez, into a major Broadway revue.

The film was released on December 16, 1932, by RKO Radio Pictures.

Fast-talking Jimmy Bates (Lee Tracy) takes over as publicity agent for a struggling carnival owned by Colonel Munday. His latest scheme to bring in customers involves promise to reveal the identity of the father (allegedly one of the local town’s residents) of his hot-tempered girlfriend, “hootch dancer” Teresita (Lupe Vélez).

However, when the local sheriff learns that it is all a con, Bates, his friend Achilles and Teresita have to flee, heading to New York City.

Bates has always bragged about his friendship with powerful theater impresario Merle Farrell. Bates promises to make Teresita a star, but it becomes clear that Farrell has never heard of him.

Undaunted, Bates promotes Teresita as “Princess Exotica,” an escapee from a Turkish harem, complete with eunuch servant (Achilles) and lion. Bates informs the reporters that she will be starring in Farrell’s show.

At first, Farrell is outraged, but when he hears about the increase in ticket sales, he signs Teresita to contract.

Farrell insists, however, that she perform a slow Middle Eastern-style dance, which bores the audience. Bates rushes onstage and makes her sing a modern song, which proves to be a hit.  Teresita becomes a star, while Bates becomes Farrell’s new publicity manager.

While Bates is away on business trip, she starts seeing the married Farrell. When Bates finds out, he quits and promises to make the first girl he sees into a bigger sensation.

That turns out to be blond hotel maid Gladys (Shirley Chambers), whom Achilles is trying to romance. Bates has Gladys pretend to be “Eve,” the leader of nudists. He blackmails Farrell (with a compromising photo of him and Teresita) into signing Eve to his show. Meanwhile, the public has started to tire of Teresita.

Achilles decides to return to the carnival life, and purchases Colonel Munday’s business. Bates calls him a fool, but he too becomes dissatisfied with New York and goes to see his friend, where he finds Teresita singing.

Cast

Lupe Vélez as Teresita
Lee Tracy as Bates
Eugene Pallette as Achilles
Frank Morgan as Farrell
Shirley Chambers as Gladys
Franklin Pangborn as Hotel Clerk
Robert McKenzie as Colonel