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VIRGINIA MAYO IN 'SHE'S WORKING HER WAY THROUGH COLLEGE'

Virginia Mayo with Patrice Wymore YEAR: 1952
"I don't know what there is about the pelts of dead little animals that makes them so attractive to women when one little mouse scares them silly," says Ronald Reagan to Virginia Mayo in SHE'S WORKING HER WAY THROUGH COLLEGE. "A confusing sex, yours," he slurs, just slightly, with a hazy grin. "But a delightful confusion."

There's nothing like seeing the future President playing a friendly yet uptight college professor given a cold remedy with a fair amount of codeine that he didn't "Say No" to. But no man refuses Mayo, one of the prettiest actresses ever filmed. Having catapulted as James Cagney's sexy yet put-upon, cheating wife in WHITE HEAT, she headlined a string of musicals during the 1950's, and this is one of the most memorable...

Ronald Reagan with Virginia Mayo
Much of COLLEGE leans on an anticipated climactic musical, and Mayo's character starts out as a popular nightclub singer (where she meets an ailing Reagan backstage): she needs a degree to write and sell her own work...

Thus breaking the film into two neat halves, the first with the unlikely, out-of-place student clashing with, in this case, a slightly-younger crowd of kids: including a jealous beauty queen who can't compare to the stunning new girl; the latter, by the way, keeping her near-past a secret... Sadly, there's not enough about the students and/or Mayo's adventures at becoming and remaining one. Too much time is centered on Reagan's 1950's colorful two-story suburban marriage looking as if the technicolor era exploded within a box of bright crayons.

Dancing College stars Virginia Mayo and Gene Nelson
The adults seem part of a different movie altogether, and while Ron's wife is slightly jealous of Mayo's pretty, spunky presence, a friendly yet cocky former football hero alumni, now a successful businessman, still holds a scorching torch for Reagan's wife, trying so hard to steal the picture he winds up almost ruining it...

Herein Reagan's character, not very fleshed-out to begin with, becomes a one-dimensional, envious grouch. A fifteen-minute drunken scene of cliché soused-slurs is one of the worst "fake tanks" of all time. Ironically, given his future as a people-popular yet Hollywood-despised Right Wing politician, when not green and perturbed, he's fighting the school's ultra conservative, moralistic committee to keep the show on track. And with all the vivid distractions, Mayo's never lost in the shuffle, although at times the movie's title could be "She's Making Her Way Through Someone Else's Living Room." 

Ronald Reagan, Virginia Mayo and Gene Nelson
Meanwhile, underrated dancer Gene Nelson comes and goes in a benign fashion... 

Smitten with show-partner Mayo but only as it's written for him to be... 

Until an incredible solo rehearsal number, bounding through the gymnasium and conquering all content within, from a punching bag to a pommel horse to high-swinging ropes — blowing everyone else away. Even Virginia. For while this is her picture, it's mostly, for better or worse, pure ensemble.
Virginia Mayo looks very terrific here (with Amanda Randolph)
Gene Nelson begins the She's Working Her Way Through College rehearsal
An amazing boxing punching bag sequences by Gene Nelson She's Working Her Way Through College
Say No To Drugs but Yes to this Reagan Working Through College Cocktail including Codeine
Ronald Reagan Virginia Mayo She's Working Her Way Through College Ronald Reagan Virginia Mayo
The villainous envious ingenue Patrice Wymore as Poison Ivy Williams She's Working Her Way Through College
Virginia Mayo Gene Nelson She's Working Her Way Through College Gene Nelson Virginia Mayo
A sketch of Ronald Reagan's professor character that looks like Pinocchio
Virginia Mayo with her future "She's Back on Broadway" co-star Gene Nelson, and vice versa
The scene Chevy Chase is watching in SPIES LIKE US from She's Working Her Way Through College
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