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Second Chorus

1 rating: 1.0
A Fred Astaire movie

   Second Chorus (1940) is a Hollywood musical comedy film starring Fred Astaire, Burgess Meredith, Paulette Goddard, Artie Shaw, and Charles Butterworth, with music by Artie Shaw, Bernie Hanighen, Hal Borne and lyrics by Johnny Mercer. The … see full wiki

Cast: Fred Astaire
Genre: Classics, Musical, Romance
1 review about Second Chorus

The movie has a few redeeming qualities. Namely Astaire and one great song

  • Feb 24, 2011
  • by
What did Fred Astaire have to say about Second Chorus? "The worst picture I ever worked on."
Looking at it now the movie has some redeeming qualities, but on balance we have a Fred Astaire musical with only two real dance numbers, with the second near the end of the movie, plus it's a musical with only three songs...and each of the songs has a different composer with Johnny Mercer doing all the lyrics. The musical has the earmarks of an idea that went wrong. Still, if you're an Astaire fan it's worth watching all the way through once, and then using your fast-forward clicker several times to the three musical numbers, which are good.
Trumpet player Danny O'Neill (Fred Astaire) heads The University Perennials, a reasonably successful college band made up of musicians who deliberately fail each year to graduate. His best friend and competitor is a fellow trumpet player, Hank Taylor (Burgess Meredith). They both fall for Ellen Miller (Paulette Goddard), whom they hire to manage the band, and they both compete for a spot with Artie Shaw. There's plenty of plot complications, friendly but under-handed double dealing and lots of misunderstandings. Eventually, Danny and Ellen wind up together, Danny wins a place with Shaw...and probably so does Hank.
The fast-forward button is essential because the plot goes on and on. What the movie has going for it is Astaire whenever he's given the opportunity to dance and to sing, the music of Artie Shaw, with trumpet players Bobby Hackett dubbing for Astaire and Billy Butterfield dubbing for Meredith, and Johnny Mercer's lyrics. Mercer collaborated with Shaw on the one romantic swing number Astaire sings to Goddard. It's a knock-out. Unfortunately, the song has been long forgotten, but it's worth the price of the public domain DVD. "Would You Like to Be the Love of My Life?" goes like this:
Would you like to be the love of my life for always,
And always watch over me?
To square my blunders, and share my dreams
One day with caviar, next day a chocolate bar.
Would you like to take the merry go round I'll lead you,
I'll need you, wait and you'll see
I hope in your horoscope
There is room for a dope who adores you,
That would make
The only dreams of my life come true,
For the love of my life is you.
Astaire's dance number with Goddard to "I Ain't Hep to That Step But I'll Dig It" (music by Hal Borne) is a fast charmer. Goddard was no dancer, and it's interesting to see how cleverly Astaire positions her to make her look good. What's frustrating is that one number that evidently was very good was cut to make more time for the story and for Artie Shaw and his band. The number was called "Me and the Ghost Upstairs" with music by Bernard Hanighen and words by Mercer. Hermes Pan danced the part of the ghost. The number was filmed but the only things that survive, as far as I know, are a couple of rehearsal out-takes and the song track by Astaire. It features some of Mercer's cleverest lyrics:
Once upon a midnight dreary
While I pondered weak and weary
From a long trip on the Erie
Comes a rappin' on my chamber door
It's an ectoplasmic tapping
That disturbs my nightly napping
Like a shroud that's gently flapping
Emanating from the second floor
Buddies are we, me and the ghost upstairs
Sipping our tea, me and the ghost upstairs
But he's inclined to moan when left alone
So I think of things that'll tickle his funny bone
Lonely old ghost upstairs
Regular folks, droppin' our worldly cares
Swappin' our jokes, me and the ghost upstairs
And then he slaps his shroud and laughs out loud
And says "Oh boy, that'll paralyze all the crowd"
Jolly old ghost upstairs
He's quite a cook, he serves a beautiful drink
He wrote a book and in invisible ink
I took a look and the title 'pon the page
Was 'The Groups of Wraith'
Once in a while he brings a gang of friends
Does it in style, careless of what he spends
And though the place is small we have a ball
'Cause you know those spooks don't require no room at all
We have some mighty fine affairs
Me and the ghost upstairs
We have some mighty fine affairs
Me and the ghost upstairs.
If you're an Astaire completeist (and I am) and like Johnny Mercer and Artie Shaw (and I do), you might want this. And don't forget "Would You Like to Be the Love of My Life." It really is a first-class, sophisticated, swinging love song.
The movie has a few redeeming qualities. Namely Astaire and one great song The movie has a few redeeming qualities. Namely Astaire and one great song The movie has a few redeeming qualities. Namely Astaire and one great song

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