Tonight I continued an Astaire-Mercer week with SECOND CHORUS, one of only two Astaire musicals I hadn't seen yet. (The last on my list is 1950's LET'S DANCE.) SECOND CHORUS is definitely lower-tier Astaire, but there's still enough in it to make watching the film worthwhile.
The plot concerns the leaders of a college band (Astaire, Burgess Meredith) called "The Perennials" because they are perennial students who refuse to graduate. Ostensible friends Astaire and Meredith have an increasingly intense rivalry professionally, as well as for the affections of their manager, Paulette Goddard.
The film's chief attractions are Astaire, lovely Paulette Goddard, and the great music of Artie Shaw and his band. The movie's most charming moment is Astaire and Goddard's dance duet "I Ain't Hep to That Step But I'll Dig It." Goddard wasn't a dancer -- and by all accounts this sequence was quite a challenge for her -- but she comes off looking great. Aside from the dance moves, her cheerful, energetic demeanor blends nicely with Astaire's personality.
The film's biggest drawbacks are the annoying Meredith and the repetitive plot which constantly pits Astaire and Meredith against one another. (Incidentally, Paulette Goddard married Meredith after her marriage to Charlie Chaplin ended.) The film could have used more music and dancing and less so-called comedy.
Charles Butterworth is mildly amusing in one of his patented quaint-and-out-of-it roles, though his character would have been funnier if used more sparingly.
The film was directed by H.C. Potter. It was shot in black and white and runs 84 minutes.
SECOND CHORUS is in the public domain, so many DVD and video copies exist. The DVD I watched from Image Entertainment was slightly faded but otherwise a good print.
SECOND CHORUS also airs on Turner Classic Movies.