Blessed Event ★★★★½

Once upon a time, sex was such a taboo subject that even mentioning pregnancy was too much. Thus, the title of this film- Blessed Event.

Based on the then active newspaper columnist, Walter Winchell, and played with steamroller aplomb by Lee Tracy, this film focuses on gossip columnist, Alvin Roberts. He's supposed to be filling in for the regular columnist, George Mosley (Ned Sparks), but by turning it into a juicy dirt-disher, he singlehandedly surges circulation and earns himself a permanent spot. But it means always being one-up on everyone else and getting himself a bit grimy in the process.

Despite a stellar supporting cast (including a very young Dick Powell), Lee Tracy IS this film. He delivers the stellar dialogue with a tongue-lashing method that can leave the viewer dizzy. Every moment he's on the screen, he's the focus of all eyes. But one scene highlights how he could have done drama with equal aplomb. His description of the death penalty by electric chair to Allen Jenkins makes the audience squirm in discomfort. It's one of the more memorable sequences of any film, a grim, unrelenting speech that makes every muscle tenser and tenser. Jenkins' character and the crowd lets out a breath of relief when it finally ends.

There are other moments of drama in the film, but the majority is a non-stop torrent of one-liners, innuendo and gags. Ruth Donnelly has a key role as Tracy's harassed secretary, but Emma Dunn as his mother does the most with her part. She loves Dick Powell's crooner (who Tracy loathes), but her attempts to listen to his radio program are constantly interrupted to her growing frustration. And in an exceedingly rare instance of swearing in early film, she brings the house down with her understated, "Well, I'll be damned."