The Ice Follies of 1939


1h 23m 1939
The Ice Follies of 1939

Brief Synopsis

An ice-skating team breaks up when both partners fall for the same girl.

Film Details

Also Known As
Ice Follies
Genre
Adventure
Musical
Release Date
Mar 10, 1939
Premiere Information
not available
Production Company
Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Corp.
Distribution Company
Loew's Inc.
Country
United States

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 23m
Sound
Mono (Western Electric Sound System)
Color
Black and White, Color (Technicolor)
Theatrical Aspect Ratio
1.37 : 1
Film Length
9 reels

Synopsis

Larry Hall and Eddie Burgess have a successful skating act until Larry falls in love with Mary McKay, an inept skater whom Larry insists upon including in the act. Fired from job after job because of Mary's ineptitude, Larry keeps up his spirits by dreaming of producing a colossal ice show. Following their latest dismissal, the couple elope, and Mary, feeling guilty for damaging her husband's career, convinces Douglas Tolliver, Jr., the head of Monarch Studios, to offer her a contract. While reading the fine print of the contract, Mary discovers that she is forbidden to marry without the studio's permission, and Larry convinces her to keep their marriage a secret. After his wife's first picture catapults her to stardom, Larry finds himself relegated to the position of househusband and leaves for New York in hopes of producing his ice extravaganza. In New York, Larry is reunited with Eddie in the office of producer Mort Hodges, who raises the money to make Larry's dream a reality. Larry's Ice Follies becomes a smash hit, and with husband and wife now equal in stature, Mary and Larry hope to revive their marriage. When they discover that they are still separated by the demands of their careers, however, Mary publicly announces that she is foresaking her career to return to a life of domesticity. The impasse of their conflicting careers is finally bridged when Tolliver hires Larry to produce an ice show starring his wife, thus uniting their personal and professional lives.

Film Details

Also Known As
Ice Follies
Genre
Adventure
Musical
Release Date
Mar 10, 1939
Premiere Information
not available
Production Company
Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Corp.
Distribution Company
Loew's Inc.
Country
United States

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 23m
Sound
Mono (Western Electric Sound System)
Color
Black and White, Color (Technicolor)
Theatrical Aspect Ratio
1.37 : 1
Film Length
9 reels

Articles

Ice Follies of 1939


Tall, lanky James Stewart had the perfect body for a figure skater, and probably could have been one of the biggest stars on ice -- if he'd known how to skate. But casting him as an ice ring superstar, with Joan Crawford as his wife and Lew Ayres as his best friend and skating partner, seemed cruel and unusual punishment, particularly after he had just distinguished himself in Frank Capra's acclaimed You Can't Take It With You (1938). Although all three were embarrassed by the brief shots of their actual skating in this 1939 flop, at least the film offers a look at real skating stars of the day in the 17-minute finale filmed at the International Ice Follies in Technicolor.

Perhaps MGM studio head Louis B. Mayer was trying to capture some of the box office generated by championship skater Sonja Henie's films at 20th Century-Fox when he approved the project. Or maybe he was flattered by the script's depiction of a kindly studio head (played by Lewis Stone) at a company that obviously was MGM (it's called Monarch in the film, possibly inspired by the studio's mascot, Leo the Lion). Crawford's explanation of the film was simple and to the point: "Everyone was out of their collective minds" (from Roy Newquist, Conversations With Joan Crawford).

Ironically, the film mirrored what was happening in Crawford's life at the time. Just as her character finds her marriage threatened when her success as a film star eclipses Stewart's status as a skater and ice choreographer, so her real-life marriage to Franchot Tone was falling apart, partly because he had never matched her success as a Hollywood star.

Still, Crawford tried to make the best of things. Although there was little of the star's skating in the film (she would later say she did all of her skating on her ankles), the studio sent out press releases to announce that she was rigorously training to sing in the film (she had already sung on-screen in a few early musicals like The Hollywood Revue of 1929). The flacks even suggested that the results were so impressive that after performing her six songs in Ice Follies of 1939, she was considering making her debut at the Metropolitan Opera. When the film came out, however, her songs had been reduced to two, both of which were dubbed by a professional singer. Crawford claimed her vocals had been cut under orders from Jeanette MacDonald, who was afraid of being supplanted as MGM's resident singing star. At least the situation gave MacDonald a good laugh.

Crawford, meanwhile, could content herself with the usual lavish MGM treatment. Adrian, who had helped shaped her star image in the early '30s, designed her costumes. The cinematographer was Joseph Ruttenberg, who had just won an Oscar® for his lavish black-and-white work on The Great Waltz (1938). And the Technicolor sequence gave fans their first glimpse of Crawford's true coloring. But the film's chief distinction would come 42 years later with its use as the picture she was making at the opening of Mommie Dearest, the 1981 biography starring Faye Dunaway and based on the scandalous memoir by Crawford's daughter Christina.

For both Stewart and Crawford, the best thing about Ice Follies of 1939 was moving on to other films. For Crawford, the film gave her another excuse for demanding better roles from the studio, which helped lead to her casting in the more prestigious and successful The Women (1939) later that year. Stewart would follow with the charming screwball comedy It's a Wonderful World (1939), which teamed him with Claudette Colbert, and the political comedy that helped shape his image as an all-American hero, Frank Capra's Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (1939).

Producer: Harry Rapf
Director: Reinhold Schunzel
Screenplay: Leonard Praskins, Florence Ryerson, Edgar Allan Woolf, based on the story by Praskins
Cinematography: Joseph Ruttenberg, Oliver T. Marsh
Art Direction: Cedric Gibbons
Music: Roger Edens
Cast: Joan Crawford (Mary McKay), James Stewart (Larry Hall), Lew Ayres (Eddie Burgess), Lewis Stone (Douglas Tolliver), Lionel Stander (Mort Hodges), Truman Bradley (Melvyn Rodney), Marie Blake (Effie Lane).
BW-83m.

by Frank Miller
Ice Follies Of 1939

Ice Follies of 1939

Tall, lanky James Stewart had the perfect body for a figure skater, and probably could have been one of the biggest stars on ice -- if he'd known how to skate. But casting him as an ice ring superstar, with Joan Crawford as his wife and Lew Ayres as his best friend and skating partner, seemed cruel and unusual punishment, particularly after he had just distinguished himself in Frank Capra's acclaimed You Can't Take It With You (1938). Although all three were embarrassed by the brief shots of their actual skating in this 1939 flop, at least the film offers a look at real skating stars of the day in the 17-minute finale filmed at the International Ice Follies in Technicolor. Perhaps MGM studio head Louis B. Mayer was trying to capture some of the box office generated by championship skater Sonja Henie's films at 20th Century-Fox when he approved the project. Or maybe he was flattered by the script's depiction of a kindly studio head (played by Lewis Stone) at a company that obviously was MGM (it's called Monarch in the film, possibly inspired by the studio's mascot, Leo the Lion). Crawford's explanation of the film was simple and to the point: "Everyone was out of their collective minds" (from Roy Newquist, Conversations With Joan Crawford). Ironically, the film mirrored what was happening in Crawford's life at the time. Just as her character finds her marriage threatened when her success as a film star eclipses Stewart's status as a skater and ice choreographer, so her real-life marriage to Franchot Tone was falling apart, partly because he had never matched her success as a Hollywood star. Still, Crawford tried to make the best of things. Although there was little of the star's skating in the film (she would later say she did all of her skating on her ankles), the studio sent out press releases to announce that she was rigorously training to sing in the film (she had already sung on-screen in a few early musicals like The Hollywood Revue of 1929). The flacks even suggested that the results were so impressive that after performing her six songs in Ice Follies of 1939, she was considering making her debut at the Metropolitan Opera. When the film came out, however, her songs had been reduced to two, both of which were dubbed by a professional singer. Crawford claimed her vocals had been cut under orders from Jeanette MacDonald, who was afraid of being supplanted as MGM's resident singing star. At least the situation gave MacDonald a good laugh. Crawford, meanwhile, could content herself with the usual lavish MGM treatment. Adrian, who had helped shaped her star image in the early '30s, designed her costumes. The cinematographer was Joseph Ruttenberg, who had just won an Oscar® for his lavish black-and-white work on The Great Waltz (1938). And the Technicolor sequence gave fans their first glimpse of Crawford's true coloring. But the film's chief distinction would come 42 years later with its use as the picture she was making at the opening of Mommie Dearest, the 1981 biography starring Faye Dunaway and based on the scandalous memoir by Crawford's daughter Christina. For both Stewart and Crawford, the best thing about Ice Follies of 1939 was moving on to other films. For Crawford, the film gave her another excuse for demanding better roles from the studio, which helped lead to her casting in the more prestigious and successful The Women (1939) later that year. Stewart would follow with the charming screwball comedy It's a Wonderful World (1939), which teamed him with Claudette Colbert, and the political comedy that helped shape his image as an all-American hero, Frank Capra's Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (1939). Producer: Harry Rapf Director: Reinhold Schunzel Screenplay: Leonard Praskins, Florence Ryerson, Edgar Allan Woolf, based on the story by Praskins Cinematography: Joseph Ruttenberg, Oliver T. Marsh Art Direction: Cedric Gibbons Music: Roger Edens Cast: Joan Crawford (Mary McKay), James Stewart (Larry Hall), Lew Ayres (Eddie Burgess), Lewis Stone (Douglas Tolliver), Lionel Stander (Mort Hodges), Truman Bradley (Melvyn Rodney), Marie Blake (Effie Lane). BW-83m. by Frank Miller

Quotes

Trivia

A large number of actors listed in studio records did not appear in the movie: Charles Williams (Max Morton), Eddie Conrad (Hal Gibbs), Mary Forbes (Lady Hilda), Carl 'Alfalfa' Switzer (Small Boy), Darla Hood (Sister) and Armand Kaliz (Count). The movie was heavily edited; Joan Crawford recorded three songs, all of which were cut.

None of the three main stars could skate; the screenplay was written with this in mind.

Notes

The working title of this film was Ice Follies. Whereas onscreen credits list only Eddie and Roy Shipstead and Oscar Johnson as members of the Ice Follies, the reviews include Harris Legg and LaVerne Busher as members, too. According to the Variety review, Joan Crawford recorded three songs for this fllm, all of which were cut. The review also notes that for this picture, art director Merrill Pye designed the first mechanical set to operate on ice. The final Cinderella sequence was filmed in technicolor.