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Mary and Larry are are a modestly successful skating team. Shortly after their marriage, Mary gets a picture contract, while Larry is sitting at home, out of work. To prove that he can accomplish things on his own, he leaves Hollywood and convinces a former partner to put on an ice revue in Canada. The show is a huge success, but it makes it impossible for him to be with his wife, but the studio boss has a wonderful idea. Written by
Stephan Eichenberg <email@example.com>
Widely considered the worst film Joan Crawford made at MGM (it must have been a low point for James Stewart too, yet it forms no part of the lore about his long career) this is a real curiosity. It has the sort of B-movie plot Sonja Henie was getting in her hugely successful skating pictures at Fox, but this one is done with an A-budget. And because the stars can't skate, it is essentially two pictures in one -- a skating 'spectacular' featuring anonymous athletes which prefigures the ice-skating arena shows we know so well, and a soap opera about a two career couple who can't make their marriage work.
Forget trying to figure out how a major film from the most meticulous of studios could be such a hodgepodge. Simply go with it and happily register its many lapses in taste and logic. In the early scenes Crawford is actually more relaxed and likable than in other pictures from this period, though this changes once her character signs a movie contract. The idea of Crawford playing a star makes perfect sense and one wonders why no one thought of it before. At last her artificiality and posturing has a logical explanation. (But can someone explain why some of Max Steiner's score from GONE WITH THE WIND is played during Joan's drunk scene?) And in gorgeous three-strip Technicolor she looks at once terrifically glamorous and hard as nails. This hardness and the fact that it exposed her age is surely the reason she never gets a color closeup. And though she is a small part of the color portion of the film, she manages to wear no less than three Adrian outfits, the most striking being a brilliant green ensemble with gold and silver embroidery (the 18th Century court outfits the extras wear must have been recycled from MARIE ANTOINETTE).
Assuming Crawford had a choice, why did she do this film? To branch out to a broader family audience than she had before? To cash in on a popular box office fad? Or, at a time when Jeanette Macdonald was still considered Louis B. Mayer's favorite, did Crawford relish getting the Technicolor operetta treatment? Joan took singing lessons for years (her thin, unpleasant voice is briefly heard) and Macdonald had already been in one color film and was about to do another at a time when Technicolor carried the prestige of novelty and expense. Whatever the reason, it must have caused general hilarity in Hollywood -- one can imagine Billy Haines calling up George Cukor to chuckle over the latest bomb Joan had been saddled with. Only Sonja Henie can have been jealous over this turkey.
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