Second Fiddle

SECOND FIDDLE, a musical-comedy-romance-skateathon trifle from 1939, is an excuse for another Sonja Henie vehicle, the Norwegian skating champion’s sixth of eleven escapades in Hollywood. Written by Harry Tugend, the gimmick this time kids the famous “Search for Scarlett O’Hara” conducted by rival MGM on Gone With The Wind. Here 20th Century-Fox puts their best face forward—Tyrone Power—as box-office bait and leading man for ice princess Henie. Thanks to Power’s charm and the rink dynamo’s routines it’s a mildly entertaining artifact of studio resources.

‘Jimmy Sutton’ (Power), a publicity flack for ‘Consolidated Pictures’, is tasked with finding the right girl for a new production, the search having already gone through 435 tryouts. Minnesota schoolteacher ‘Trudi Hovland’ (Henie) fits the bill and gets the part, then Jimmy has to manufacture a romance between the new find and actor ‘Roger Maxwell’ (Rudy Vallee) who needs more press. In the course of the tale-spinning, Jimmy begins to fall for Trudi, because…because there’s no way Tyrone Power would lose out to Rudy Vallee.

Directed by Sidney Lanfield, along with nudging MGMs Scarlett sweeps, it indulges fans with in-jokes about Don Ameche (Power’s co-star in four movies), and slyly mirrors Fox’s own studio-created romance between Power and Henie, spun off their starring in Thin Ice two years earlier. Irving Berlin wrote the score and drew an Oscar nomination for the tune “I Poured My Heart Into a Song”. Henie’s whirlwind skating is impressive, and Power handles the comedy with finesse.

Grossing $4,300,000, it marked 35th place in the ’39 mob. For a laugh, seek out a funny article written by Stephen Vagg titled “I Saw Every Sonja Henie Film So You Don’t Have To”.

With Edna May Oliver, Mary Healy, Lyle Talbot, Alan Dinehart and George Chandler. 85 minutes.

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