What’s The Story? Joan Crawford and Jimmy Stewart (!) are a young couple in love and working the ice rink circuit in late 30’s America. She’s a singer and he’s an ice skater whose best friend Lew Ayers have a fun routine… but no one’s buying it. As the threesome are leaving a gig in Los Angeles, their car gets rear ended by the head of Monarch Studios and he gives them their card. Joan goes the Monarch the next day (after she and Stewart are married off-screen) to get the money for the damaged car and to try to manipulate the head of the studio into giving her a job. Sounds ridiculous, right? Well, it works… but all too well. Joan is now becoming a big movie star and isn’t waiting around at home for Jimmy Stewart to be the breadwinner. He’s all butthurt that his dream of a big ICE FOLLIES is falling on deaf ears… until he pitches it to Lionel Stander who vows to give him backing even though he’s broke. Does it all come together? Duh.
To say this movie is odd is a vast understatement. The script is so slight and obvious that making it anything other than a light frothy romp would cause it collapse under its own weight. And it does. Stewart and Joan attack the material with a ton of effort and the material isn’t nearly up to their standards. The scenes are leaden, the direction is poor and the script is a complete mess. There is some good skating in the film… none of which by Jimmy Stewart or Joan Crawford. The film culminates with a 17 minute skating number in Technicolor (while the rest of the film is in black and white). Here’s how it starts:
Now, it goes on after this for 12 MORE MINUTES, including ice dancing involving the cat and the fiddle with a cow jumping over a moon and 4 and 20 blackbird dancing out of a giant pie. No, no, I’m not kidding. The film is a mess. A bizarre mess, but a mess nonetheless.
Oh, And How’s Joan? Joan is really good in this. Again, she’s way better than the material. There’s one scene where she plays drunk and does some minor physical comedy and she’s very adept at it. She and Jimmy Stewart have some good chemistry and it’s unfortunately wasted on this super-thin material. Meanwhile, most of Joan’s songs are cut out of this film, which is a shame. She does a pretty decent job on the vocals for “Something’s Gotta Happen Soon.”
Joan apparently said that her songs were cut (and the one remaining song was dubbed by another woman) because Jeannette McDonald didn't want to have any singing competition at MGM. I think that’s Joan tooting her own horn just a bit too loud.
[Side Note: “The Ice Follies of 1939” is the film Joan is working on at the beginning of “Mommie Dearest.” See?]
Should I See It? Nah. If you are in the mood for 1939 Joan Crawford, skip this and head straight to “The Women.” It’s a brilliant film and it’s one of her best performances. More on that later.
Where Can I See It? “The Ice Follies of 1939” is available for rental at iTunes and YouTube, if you are so inclined.