Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Sun Valley Serenade: Snow, Skis, Skates and Songs

Nobody ever accused Sonya Henie of being a great actress nor did they claim Sun Valley Serenade was Shakespeare. It's not supposed to be. It's supposed to be frivolous fun with music and dancing at the famous Idaho resort. And fun it is!

There are so many assets to this movie it's hard to know where to begin. Maybe with the outstanding Glenn Miller music. Miller and his band actually had a significant role in the movie, which centers around one of the bands members (John Payne) who inadvertently becomes the sponsor of a Norwegian refugee (Henie) during World War II. She is immediately attracted to her American benefactor to the chagrin of his girlfriend, band singer Lynn Bari.

The film was yet another showcase for Olympic ice skater Sonya Henie, and in this arena she doesn't disappoint, particularly in the smashing finale on black ice. Among the numerous musical highlights are the spectacular "Chattanooga Choo Choo" featuring the vocals of Tex Beneke and the Modernaires and a corresponding dance number by the Nicholas Brothers and a young Dorothy Dandridge. Also included are the lively "It Happened in Sun Valley", the lush "I Know Why (and So Do You)" and the fun "Kiss Polka." Rounding out the cast are comedians Milton Berle and Joan Davis.

The lighthearted romp was a big hit with wartime audiences. Miller and his band were so popular in the film, they repeated a similar formula (with Bari in tow) the following year in Orchestra Wives.

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