Saturday, October 11, 2008

Tonight's Movie: Thin Ice (1937)

THIN ICE is a perfect example of '30s escapism, with Sonja Henie as an ice skating instructor being courted by a dashing prince (a young Tyrone Power) -- only she believes he's a newspaper reporter. Over seven decades after it was made, the film continues to provide a welcome respite from the world's woes, economic and otherwise.

The film is not a great classic, but it was produced with expert craftsmanship, including attractive lead actors, crisp black and white photography, eye-catching sets, and unique, exciting Henie skating routines. The film was made simply to entertain, and it does so admirably. It's the kind of film that causes the viewer to sigh, "They don't make 'em like they used to."

Power and Henie are both charming as the young lovers. Power was roughly 23 when the film was made, and Henie a couple years older. Rumor has it they were a romantic item around the time the movie was filmed. This was Henie's second English-language movie. Power and Henie look like they're having fun in the movie, and the audience has a good time along with them.

The leads are supported by wonderful Arthur Treacher as Power's trusty aide, Alan Hale as a diplomat, Melville Cooper as a hotel manager, and Sig Ruman as the prime minister of Power's unnamed country.

Henie's skating numbers are marvelous, particularly an elaborate routine set to the music of Borodin, with a cast of thousands -- or at least dozens. (Of course, in the film's plot the choreography and costumes were put together in less than a day!) The ice rink set is jaw-droppingly spectacular, nestled into the center of an Art Deco hotel nightclub.

There were only two elements in the film I found a bit tiresome: Raymond Walburn's performance as Henie's blustery, greedy uncle, and comedienne Joan Davis as a girl bandleader. Davis was fun as a secretary in Power's DAY-TIME WIFE, but here she's just excess; during her numbers I was anxious to get back to Ty, Sonja, or some ice-skating. With the exception of these performances, the movie runs along most pleasantly, clocking in at a brisk 79 minutes.

THIN ICE was directed by Sidney Lanfield, who also directed Power and Henie in 1939's SECOND FIDDLE (reviewed here). Lanfield's other credits include THE HOUND OF THE BASKERVILLES with Basil Rathbone and Nigel Bruce, YOU'LL NEVER GET RICH with Fred Astaire and Rita Hayworth, and several Bob Hope titles, including SORROWFUL JONES and THE LEMON DROP KID.

THIN ICE can be seen on VHS. It can also be seen periodically on Fox Movie Channel.

There have been rumors for a couple of years now that a boxed DVD set of Sonja Henie titles will be released so perhaps this title will be out on DVD at some point, especially as Fox's Tyrone Power releases seem to be popular. I'd especially love to see Henie's SUN VALLEY SERENADE come out on DVD.

Update: THIN ICE is now available on DVD-R from the Fox Cinema Archives.


Post a Comment

<< Home

Newer›  ‹Older