Velez the Hot Tamale
"The Half Naked Truth" is one of those old comedies where it is easy to get caught up in the quick fire banter and finish the movie thinking what a fun 77 minutes that was. And there is nothing wrong with that but then if at some later point you decide to watch it again the truth comes out because beyond the snappy banter, most of which comes from Lee Tracy there isn't much else. You suddenly realise that with the exception of a handful of visual gags and another handful of genuinely funny one liners there is not that much great comedy, just Lee Tracy distracting you with his fast delivery and Lupe Velez with her beauty.
Jimmy Bates (Lee Tracy) manages Teresita (Lupe Velez), an exotic dancer at a struggling travelling carnival. When Jimmy's attempts to drum up business end with the law coming after them for a con they leave with best friend Achilles (Eugene Pallette) for New York where immediately Jimmy starts scamming as he tells everyone that Teresita is a Turkish Princess. It is all part of a plan as Jimmy fast talks Broadway producer Merrill Farrell (Frank Morgan) into signing Teresita. But things don't go as Jimmy plans as whilst Teresita becomes a hit she also becomes Farrell's bit on the side leading Jimmy to try and find another act to promote and a hope of scuppering things for Farrell.
"The Half Naked Truth" opens with a shot of a carnival high dive act viewed from above, it is impressive and sets the initial scene quite nicely as we enter the noisy world of the carnival. In truth that is probably the most impressive camera angle in the entire movie as after that we meet Jimmy and his tamale Teresita and from then on in it is all about Jimmy being a fast talking hustler and Teresita being an attractive exotic dancer. In fairness it is fun as we watch Jimmy scam his way through every scene from scamming a hotel for a fancy suite to manipulating the press to get Teresita headlines and into Farrell's office.
But the thing is that whilst there are some fun scenes and a few witty lines a lot of the time the writing is actually quite dull and it is purely Lee Tracy's quick fire delivery and general charisma as a hustler which makes you laugh. As I said this is fine the first time you watch "The Half Naked Truth" because you get carried away by it but after that the actual weakness in the dialogue and humour shows itself. It is not just Lee Tracy who distracts because Lupe Velez does as well because we are talking Pre-Hayes here and her scanty dress and some semi risque scenes distract from the banality of what she says. In truth not a single character has consistently good lines so both Eugene Pallette as Achilles and Frank Morgan as Farrell also struggle.
What this all boils down to is that "The Half Naked Truth" is a fun movie but only if you watch it only once. If you watch it again the weakness of the writing shows itself as the amusement of a fast talking Lee Tracy and an attractive Lupe Velez wears off.