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Classic feel good 40's movie with Glen Miller Band & Sonja Henie!
on 6 February 2008
In 1941 the Glen Miller Orchestra (swing style big band really) was reaching it's top of the American pops position. This was partly due to the fact that it could swing as well as Goodman and Shaw and the many other big bands whose names and popularity still echoes down the 70 years since swing became the American way of music and lingers there especially through the high school bands of today, and partly due to its ability to be excessively sickeningly sentimental...So what has this to do with the movie, well as the other reviewer suggests not only do you get the Miller band in superb sound but you get to see how the "well off American" spent a week skiing in New York State (I think that's where Sun Valley is or supposed to be) as well as Sonja Henie, John Payne, oh and Milton Berle and some lovely tweed overcoats straight out of Hollywood's wardrobe department, never been near a snow field nor a grubby city like I assume '40's New York was!.
The story is light weight but in fact very enjoyable and although the comedy is not laugh out loud its certainly a timely upbeat when clearly America either was just in or about to be in WWII. The songs are good, the band never played better and SH skates like a dream. You also get Dorothy Dandridge and the dancing Nicholas Brothers were a head line act of the time in Chattanooga Choo Choo.
If you are getting this just for the Miller band you'll be more than happy and no doubt also have Orchestra Wives, somewhat more about the band but still with bus and train (internal only) appearances of the time and again with excellent sound and whilst I am at it you should also get the Fred Astaire movie with Artie Shaw; Second Chorus. Shaw appears wooden as himself, clearly lacking in humour which was probably true to type, though plays wonderfully as ever. Miller plays himself in both movies rather better in my view, though was equally said to be very strict with the band. Shaw I think had better musicians, at least they sound better on film and disc although Second Chorus has not weathered nor been released with the care splashed on the Miller films. Most UK buyers will no doubt have seen the Miller films every 2 years on BBC TV, that's how I got to know them!
Just a cautionary note, the British did not get to hear the Miller band and their compatriots very much at all until they arrived as the US Army Airforce band in 1943/4 to entertain American troops amassing in the UK for the invasionary forces. Instead Britain's own top line dance bands, of which there were many and many as good as if not better than the Americans were pumping out similar styles of music including cover numbers of American compositions. I mention this as there is a tendency to take the glitzy Miller sound as typical of war time Britain when it was scarcely heard there at all before '43 and then only became popular throughout the nostaligic fervor postwar culminating in the sixties and seventies with Syd Lawrence and his Miller sound a like band (whilst he did a good job it always lacked the real buzz you will note from this film when they play, especially in the studio). Had Miller not died somewhere over the English channel flying to France to prepare for the band to follow the American invasion force it is conjectured he would not have remained quite so popular as he has (the "Diana" syndrome). Personally I think he is only one of the many who produced upbeat driving music that matched the period and left a unique footprint much as the Beetles did 20 years on!
Unreservedly recommended for whatever reason you care to choose not least Sonja Henie and her skating, the band and the extras, Chattanooga etc! Oh it was nominated for 3 academy awards; Cinematography (presumably the skiing and band parts especially), Scoring of a musical picture (you don't just get Miller but also a huge Hollywood string orchestra for the Henie finale) and Best Song Chattanooga ...Oh and Lynn Bari makes a great '40's band singer and can sing quite well!