Contact me at because I'm always up for a natter about anything. Well, mostly.

Wednesday, 15 January 2014

Classic Film Review: Second Chorus (1940)

Second Chorus stars Fred Astaire and Burgess Meredith as Danny O'Neill and Hank Taylor, two college students who repeatedly fail to graduate so they can continue with their lucrative college band. Following a disagreement over a girl, Ellen (Paulette Goddard), they both accidentally graduate and are forced to try their luck in the real world with their competitiveness rearing its head at every turn. Their initial auditions for Artie Shaw turn into a nightmare so they need to devise another way of getting into his band - and getting Ellen.

The main problem with this is that Danny and Hank are very unlikeable characters. The whole plot relies on their rivalry and this makes them deeply unpleasant. Even Fred Astaire's natural charm can barely redeem O'Neill and, really, Paulette Goddard's Ellen is as bland as the other two are nasty. Artie Shaw, playing himself, is also a little of a blank but at least he's honest - a welcome antidote to Astaire and Meredith.

There are some bright moments. Astaire's dance with Goddard to 'Dig It' (known to me as 'I Ain't Hep to That Step') is enjoyable, as is Astaire's solo dance number in the finale. Plus, the music of Artie Shaw's orchestra offers a decent backdrop to the whole film. However, the cons far outweighed the pros on this one.

Second Chorus suffered from trying to make the main rivalry too intense with no affection within it at all. It made the climax, where they work together, far too unrealistic. In addition, at this point, it seems the writers realised they needed Astaire to win the girl, meaning that Hank, a character who we've spent a lot of time with throughout the film, is abandoned in favour of as Astaire/Goddard kiss. It was a lacklustre conclusion to a lacklustre film that could have been so much better.

No comments: