Wednesday, November 2, 2011

"Second Chorus" with Fred Astaire, Paulette Goddard and Burgesss Meredith (1940)

They say that in acting that "Dying is easy, comedy is hard." In this wonderful, and often overlooked musical, Burgesss Meredith sets a fine example of this maxim.

This is one of my many "favorite" movies. Not just for the musical numbers, which are superb, but also for the storyline, which is surprisingly good. Danny O’Neill, played by Fred Astaire, is the leader of a college orchestra known as "The Perennials". His best friend and fellow musician is Hank Taylor, played with remarkable comedic skill, by Burgess Meredith. As perpetual students at the University, as well as leaders of the college orchestra, what more could they ask for? They live an idyllic lifestyle until the unthinkable happens; Hank graduates, which threatens to break up the band.

When Artie Shaw, who plays himself, comes to see The Perennials play, the two men think he has come to draft one of them into his orchestra. He’s really scoping out their manager, Ellen, played by Paulette Goddard. She has been beating out his band in getting gigs, and so he wants to hire her away.

This misunderstanding unleashes a combination of events as both Danny and Hank, each believing they are the “chosen one”, attempt to outdo one another for the coveted spot in Artie Shaw’s Band, and Ellen’s affections.

As usual in the old musicals, everything works out fine, and everyone gets what they need in the end. Interesting note; Paulette Goddard shines in these types of films. After appearing in several minor movie roles she was married to Charlie Chaplin in 1936, when Chaplin cast her in "Modern Times". The marriage only lasted until 1940, when "Second Chorus" was filmed. Transitioning from silent film to sound was hard enough for most actors and actresses, but Ms. Goddard; a triple threat with her abilities of acting, singing and dancing; essentially did the opposite. This is the film in which Ms. Goddard sang, and danced her way into the hearts of several generations of film buffs.

Watch the opening dance scene here and judge for yourself;

No comments:

Post a Comment