For Reel

Second Chorus (1940)
December 2, 2011, 8:28 am
Filed under: Reviews | Tags: , ,

Director: H.C. Potter

In a 1968 interview, Fred Astaire called Second Chorus the worst film that he’d ever made. While the formula seems familiar of a lot of Astaire’s musicals – romantic sparring, deceptions, and misunderstandings aplenty – what makes the picture so startlingly unlikable is how mean-spirited it is. This is a film that somehow manages to present Astaire himself, among the most affable leading men in the history of Hollywood, as an insufferable jerk. Much of the humor involves Astaire and Burgess Meredith quarreling tirelessly over Paulette Goddard, who deserves better than either of them. Though some have criticized Charles Butterworth in the film, I found that he was only character written with any sense of humanity. A lame duck, sure, but Astaire and Meredith are so grating that his comparative calm is a welcome change of pace. The script is the problem – not the performers, who all have proven to excel in this kind of role elsewhere. Director H.C. Potter seems deadset to argue that it does take more than a few dance numbers to make an Astaire picture watchable.

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