A studio publicist discovers a Minnesota skating teacher and takes her to Hollywood. She goes back to Minnesota but he follows her.A studio publicist discovers a Minnesota skating teacher and takes her to Hollywood. She goes back to Minnesota but he follows her.A studio publicist discovers a Minnesota skating teacher and takes her to Hollywood. She goes back to Minnesota but he follows her.
Sonia Henie as movie star could probably best be compared to Esther Williams. Both were female sports stars in their chosen area. Henie's prestige was backed up by the fact that she had taken home the gold in three Olympics in figure skating before going to Hollywood. Esther unfortunately never got to compete in the canceled Olympics of 1940. As stars in their fields they could command big salaries and unlike other stars could make a bundle marketing themselves professionally. Sonia made plenty of money off the Ice Capades, she didn't need to be a film star and Zanuck well knew it.
With that kind of leverage, you'd better make sure you give her the right material and plenty of support. Henie was not an actress, she never claimed she was. Yet Zanuck found stories suitable for her.
Case in point is Second Fiddle, 20th Century Fox's satire on the search for Scarlett O'Hara. Woman of the North is a blockbuster best seller like Gone With The Wind and the studio that bought the rights decides a fresh face is needed. A nationwide talent search is on and Sonia Henie, a fresh faced school teacher from Minnesota, has her picture sent in by her oaf of a boyfriend, Lyle Talbot.
The studio sends young publicity man Tyrone Power out to the frozen north of the continental USA to fetch Sonia back to Hollywood. Going along for the ride is her aunt, Edna May Oliver.
Sonia gets the usual star buildup, but she can't quite understand things in Tinseltown as she's fresh off the farm. Case in point, the publicity inspired romance between her and Rudy Vallee. That gem of an idea will bite its creator Mr. Power right in the hindquarters. It also doesn't sit well with Vallee's main squeeze, Mary Healy.
Irving Berlin wrote the score for Second Fiddle. It was the last of a three picture deal he had with 20th Century Fox that included On the Avenue and Alexander's Ragtime Band. One of the songs of the score, I Poured My Heart Into A Song was garnered for Second Fiddle it's only Academy Award nomination. Unfortunately Judy Garland went Over the Rainbow that year of 1939.
As part of the publicity campaign Power gets to write I Poured My Heart Into A Song and you see him composing it at the piano and singing a bar or two of the lyrics Irving Berlin wrote that he just made up. When you hear Ty sing, you can understand why 20th Century Fox hired John Payne for musicals. Among the things Power was not blessed with was a good singing voice.
Second Fiddle is good entertainment, it's got a nice Irving Berlin score, some well choreographed figure skating routines for Henie, Tyrone Power, and of course Edna May Oliver who brings up the quality of any film she's in.
- Mar 20, 2008