25 August 2009 | lugonian
She's Skating Her Way Through College
MY LUCKY STAR (20th Century-Fox, 1938), directed by Roy Del Ruth, bearing no resemblance to any movie about Hollywood nor any connection with the Janet Gaynor silent melodrama, LUCKY STAR (Fox, 1929), is a likable and tuneful musical starring Fox's own lucky star herself, Olympic ice skating champion, Sonja Henie, in her fourth motion picture role. Following her enormous success in ONE IN A MILLION (1936), THIN ICE (1937) and HAPPY LANDING (1938) opposite Fox's top leading men as Don Ameche and Tyrone Power, Henie acquires a newcomer named Richard Greene, a likable British actor whose name has failed to equal both popularity and starring status of either Ameche or Power.
The lightweight plot revolves around Christina Nielson (Sonja Henie), a Norweigian girl employed as package wrapper for New York's Cabot's Fifth Avenue Department Store. After two years in the sporting goods department, she is found skating after hours by George Cabot Jr. (Cesar Romero), son of the store's founder (George Barbier). A recent groom in the process of divorce proceedings from cabaret queen, Marcelle (Louise "Gypsy Rose Lee" Hovak), George invites Christine to his apartment, where, after going to another room, is met by a surprise visit from Marcelle and her witness, Louie (Paul Hurst), with intentions of using the unknown blonde as grounds for divorce. George, however, breaks away with Christina before Marcelle is able to see her face. In order to keep Christina out of sight and help boost up sales at the same time, George impresses "Papa" by having Christina representing the store by sending her to Plymouth University (P.U.) in upstate New York where she's to secretly work modeling sporting clothes while getting an education at the company's expense. While there, Christina catches the attention upper class-man, Larry Taylor (Richard Greene). All goes well until Christina, an ice skating sensation in their ice carnival, makes the front cover in Life Magazine, where her photograph is brought to the attention of Marcelle who uses Christina's name in a divorce scandal that soon gets her expelled from Plymouth.
With college musicals commonly found in the 1930s, song interludes and skating numbers take precedence over typical football game finale. Composers Mack Gordon and Harry Revel provide such fine tunes as: "Plymouth Mountain Song," "This May Be the Night" "What a Well Dressed Woman Will Wear," "By a Wishing Well," "Could You Pass in Love?"; "I've Got a Date With a Dream" (sung by Art Jarrett); Victor Herbert's "March of the Toys"; and "This May Be the Night" (finale). The "I've Got a Date with a Dream" number is cleverly staged fantasy based on Lewis Carroll's "Alice in Wonderland." Interestingly, when MY LUCKY STAR used to air on public television back in the 1980s, this finale (now restored) was missing Victor Herbert's "March of the Toys" ice carnival sequence skated by Henie and assortment of "Alice in Wonderland" characters.
Other members of the faculty consist of Buddy Ebsen and Joan Davis. Davis, as Henie's college roommate, who livens things up with her usual flair for comedy, whether it be through pratfalls or quipping out funny one-liners. She has her work cut out for her as Ebsen's girlfriend, who, as Plymouth's cab driver, shows more interest in his horse, Lulu, than with her. Joan and Buddy collaborate in the humorous "Could You Pass in Love" number, singing and dancing to good advantage. Arthur Treacher appears briefly as the Cabot's droll butler; while Elisha Cook Jr., shortly before his association in "film noir" mysteries in the 1940s, is seen playing a nerdy character named Wilmer.
Hardly original though highly entertaining, any similarity between MY LUCKY STAR and Henie's previous HAPPY LANDING, is purely coincidental. The film returns Cesar Romero in a Mischa Auer type performance as the nerve wracking groom with women problems (ex-wife here), along with Billy Gilbert once again adding confusion with his double talk with his "Chocolate Sundae /Tootie Fruitie Sundae with Pistachio Nuts" routine opposite Greene in a malt shop.
Formerly presented on American Movie Classics prior to 1993, and available intact on home video, right down to the reading of "This is One of the Movie Quiz $250,000.00 Contest Picture" before the closing cast credits, MY LUCKY STAR is silly at best, but highly commendable, especially with Sonja Henie skating her way through college. Watch for it next time it plays on the Fox Movie Channel(*** diplomas)