Thursday, January 19, 2012

Second Chorus (1940)

2 Nominations, 0 Wins

Nomination: Best Music, Original Song - "Love of My Life" by Artie Shaw and Johnny Mercer
Nomination: Best Music, Score - Artie Shaw

Fred Astaire called Second Chorus the worst film he ever made, and though I haven't seen every film made by Mr. Astaire, I cannot disagree with his judgment.

The plot of the film is a classic Astaire setup: two young musicians (Astaire and Burgess Meredith) are in a college band made up of musicians who have intentionally failed to graduate year after year in order to stay in the band, and both young men fall for the same girl. It's a silly premise, made all the sillier by the fact that the men are supposed to have failed to graduate for seven years, yet Astaire was 41 years old at the time of the film's release. As the object of their affection - played by Paulette Goddard - leaves to work for Artie Shaw's band, the two men take turns sabotaging each other in pursuit of the girl and a spot in Shaw's band. Most of the film consists of scenes of the two attempting to outwit each other, and while the scenes are humorous, they don't add up to much.

The highlight of the movie, as the Academy recognized, was the film's wonderful music. Jazz great Artie Shaw provided a swinging jazz score, a perfect complement to Astaire's dancing. Unfortunately, Astaire hardly dances in the film, wasting a great opportunity for a marriage between two legends. Both of the film's Oscar nominations were for the film's music, for the score as well as for the song "Love of My Life" by Shaw and the equally legendary Johnny Mercer. While Shaw and Mercer would have had a good shot at winning Oscar gold in most other years, they were forced to go up against Tin Pan Alley for score and Pinocchio's "When You Wish Upon A Star" for song. Shaw and Mercer never had a shot.

Second Chorus is a silly little movie, and Artie Shaw's music is definitely the highlight of the film. While the movie is far from bad, its hollow script and lack of character and plot development make it completely forgettable.

Remaining: 3144 films, 870 Oscars, 5408 nominations

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