When pretty college band manager Ellen (Paulette Goddard) is lured away by the glamour of famous bandleader Artie Shaw, trumpet players Danny (Fred Astaire) and Hank (Burgess Meredith) scheme to get her back in a wily game... more » of romantic cat-and-mouse. Packed with great song-and-dance numbers, this romantic comedy delight will lift your spirits to the skies!« less
The Movie Has Some Redeeming Qualities, And One Great Song
C. O. DeRiemer | San Antonio, Texas, USA | 09/04/2005
(3 out of 5 stars)
"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, and the second is 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 just goes on and on. What the movie has going for it is Astaire, when he's given the opportunity to dance and to sing, the music of Artie Shaw, 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.
My copy of the movie is from Passport Video. It's watchable but not much more than that. There are chapter stops but they aren't keyed to the musical numbers, which is an irritation. Still, if you're an Astaire completeist (and I am) and like Johnny Mercer and Artie Shaw, 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."
Never seen this film look better!!
Marcco99 | Los Angeles CA USA | 10/24/2006
(4 out of 5 stars)
"this hal roach studios dvd release of 'second chorus' has to be the best restoration of this film so far. not top of the line spectacular, but very, very good!! on the back cover it says the dvd is "mastered from original 35mm nitrate camera negative", and indeed the images are clean and crisp, no spots, specs, or lines. those who have seen the inferior prints of this film in the past will be pleasantly surprised. it's well worth the money.
for me, astaire is hollywood royalty; a peerless dancer and entertainer. all of astaire's body of work is great --- he never fails to deliver fresh, original interpretations of music through his singing and dancing. his films should be in every dvd library, that's why THIS DVD EDITION is such a find.
and while the film itself is not a classic, it does have some wonderful moments, starting with the toe-tapping tune by the artie shaw orchestra that accompanies the opening credits. this, along with "i ain't hep to that step but i'll dig it" and "love of my life" and the instrumental band music ... they're all upbeat, peppy tunes. it's a shame there's not more of them, they're just great to listen to.
paulette goddard's sweet-tart personality also works well with astaire, and her one dance (a jitterbug!!) with astaire is well done and fun to watch. again, we could use more dancing, even the great astaire has ONE solo dance number. goddard herself was just reaching fullblown stardom at this time (1940). burgess meredith, brilliant as always. artie shaw, charles butterworth and the supporting cast, excellent.
with more music and dance numbers (this film seems to have fewer numbers than your traditional musical), and perhaps better production values (paramount studios would do better by astaire in later films) this could have been a classic musical. but even so, as it is , it's still well worth a look!!!!"
jim hazard | white fish bay, wi United States | 06/28/2001
(3 out of 5 stars)
"If you're looking for a classic Astaire and Rogers movie this is not it. But there is something here worth hearing and seeing. This is one of those swing era films that can be of real interest to someone who loves the music and musicians of that time. In this movie Astaire and Burgess Meredith are dueling trumpet players. The sound track has the trumpet playing of Billy Butterfield and Bobby Hackett. Also there is the best band of the era, Artie Shaw.This can be a very rewarding film, if you look and listen for what it really has to offer."
Skip this movie.
jim hazard | 07/04/1999
(2 out of 5 stars)
"Bad. The songs are only okay, and the dances are pretty bad for Fred Astaire. Astaire later said it was the worst movie he ever made. I agree with him 100 percent."
jim hazard | 03/19/2000
(2 out of 5 stars)
"I usually love Fred Astaire movies eventough they are lacking the the plot area, but this one is the worst. The only memorable song is "Would You Like to be the Love of My Life", the dancing isn't anything to rave about (infact there isn't much), and the quality of the picture itself is poor. When the movie ends you sit there thinking "what was that?" IF you want to see a Fred Astaire film see Top Hat or Easter Parade, but not this, it is depressingly bad."