Sun Valley Serenade (1941, H. Bruce Humberstone)

An attempted Christmas Movie with no real Christmas scenes. The story is just a pathetic thing to hang musical setpieces on, but they’re good ones, so we forgive it. A band’s pianist (ordinary John Payne) agrees to adopt an orphan as a publicity stunt but ends up with extremely smiley teenage norwegian girl Sonja Henie (who was nearly 30 when this was filmed). Supposedly he is dating the group’s new singer Lynn Bari (pin-up runner-up to Betty Grable), but his adopted daughter aims to marry him and succeeds at the end (ew).

Glenn Miller:

Payne and group – dig those shadows:

The good parts: Dorothy Dandridge sings “Chattanooga Choo-Choo” with two amazing dancers (the Nicholas Brothers) who do the splits a lot. Former Olympian Sonja Henie does some figure-skating, including an impressive-looking bit on reflective black ice. And (Katy’s favorite band leader) Glenn Miller’s orchestra gets to perform three full songs without any annoying plot interruptions. The photography on these is very good, always varying the view with some curious angles and sharp shadows. We’ll try to forget one musical number, “The Kiss Polka.”

Dandridge and Nicholas Bros:

This was Glenn Miller’s first big film, followed by Orchestra Wives the following year (also featuring the Nicholas Brothers – must watch this), followed by a fatal plane crash. Henie’s star was beginning to fall after a string of late-30’s hits. Upcoming comedian Milton Berle plays the band’s manager. Humberstone (heh) made some fifty movies, culminating in some Gordon Scott Tarzan flicks before he crept away to television.