Friday, March 14, 2008

Ice Follies of 1939

Ice Follies of 1939 isn't as much fun as it sounds. Well, I imagine that some people might not think a movie called "Ice Follies" starring Jimmy Stewart and Joan Crawford doesn't sound like fun to begin with. But come on. Ice Follies!

However, this isn't the kind of movie where a bunch of terrible vaudeville sketches are randomly strung together like those "Broadway Melody" movies were. No, this one has a plot, in which Jimmy Stewart is an ambitious ice-choreographer but can't get anyone to stage his Big Vision. And then he marries his girlfriend (Joan Crawford), which makes his partner leave. Then Joan becomes a movie star, which makes Stewart leave. Then everyone's miserable, bt the Big Vision suddenly gets funding and a big ice show get shoved into the middle of the movie.

His Big Vision turns out to involve the same ice skating stuff as usual, including a guy jumping through circles of fire and a comedy act in which a guy in one of those horrifying vaudeville comedian checked suits (with matching bowler hat) skates around with a drag queen. So that section of the movie worked pretty much the way I expected, with a bunch of specialty acts strung together.

The problem is that the random string of specialty acts is broken up by way too much plot and people being unhappy. One minute we're enjoying a ludicrous ice act involving Indians (in a movie like this, they're definitely not "Native Americans" yet), and then we're suddenly listening to Jimmy Stewart and Joan Crawford being miserable because their careers (ice show impresario and movie star) are very successful but they haven't seen each other in a year. And then the movie's problems are resolved by . . . the woman quitting her job. That's the "1939" part of the title. Luckily, the "Ice Follies" part kicks in and the movie mogul gives everybody a job in the movies. This mogul is the easiest touch I've seen since Orson Welles in The Muppet Movie.

And then the movie goes crazy. See, it ends with Jimmy Stewart directing Joan Crawford in a movie (within the movie, you understand). And then, even though the movie's been in black and white for the last hour and ten minutes, it's in color for the last segment, which is a lush Technicolor Cinderella on Ice that, frankly, looks terrible.

Also, don't you think it's odd that none of the three leads do any ice skating in this movie? Seems strange, is all I'm saying.

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