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The Ice Follies of 1939: A Spectacle on Ice, A Story on Thin Ice

Released in 1939, “The Ice Follies of 1939” aimed to capture the magic of ice skating and the glitz of Hollywood. While the film is undoubtedly a visual feast with dazzling ice skating sequences, its plot and character development are, unfortunately, as thin as the ice the performers glide upon. 

Plot

The story revolves around three ice skaters: Larry Hall (James Stewart), a talented skater with big dreams, Eddie Burgess (Lew Ayres), Larry’s skating partner, and Mary McKay (Joan Crawford), a beautiful singer who joins their act. The trio quickly becomes a sensation, captivating audiences with their performances.

However, personal relationships and professional ambitions soon clash. Larry and Mary fall in love and impulsively marry, despite their differing career goals. Mary yearns for Hollywood stardom, while Larry dreams of creating a grand ice skating spectacle..

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When Mary’s acting career takes off, Larry feels neglected and overshadowed. Their marriage becomes strained, and they eventually separate. Meanwhile, Eddie, who has always harbored feelings for Mary, finds himself caught in the middle of their complicated relationship.

As Mary’s fame grows, Larry’s dreams of producing an ice extravaganza also begin to take shape. He reunites with Eddie, and together, they create the “Ice Follies,” a spectacular show that combines skating, music, and dazzling costumes.

In a surprising twist, Mary’s movie studio decides to incorporate the “Ice Follies” into her latest film. This leads to a reunion between Larry and Mary, forcing them to confront their unresolved feelings and the challenges of their conflicting careers.

Cast and Acting

The film boasts a star-studded cast, with James Stewart, Joan Crawford, and Lew Ayres leading the way. While their performances are generally solid, the weak script and underdeveloped characters hinder their ability to truly shine.

James Stewart brings his usual charm and charisma to the role of Larry Hall, but the character lacks depth and complexity. Joan Crawford is stunning as Mary McKay, but her character’s motivations and emotions often feel superficial. Lew Ayres delivers a competent performance as Eddie Burgess, but his character is relegated to the sidelines for much of the film.

The real stars of the show are the skaters of the International Ice Follies, whose breathtaking performances are the highlight of the film. Their skill and artistry on ice are a joy to watch, compensating for the lackluster plot and character development.

Directing: A Focus on Spectacle

Director Reinhold Schünzel seems more interested in showcasing the visual splendor of the ice skating sequences than in crafting a compelling narrative. The film is filled with elaborate sets, dazzling costumes, and impressive choreography, but the story itself feels like an afterthought.

While the ice skating scenes are undeniably entertaining, they don’t compensate for the lack of emotional depth and character development. The film’s focus on spectacle ultimately overshadows its potential for a more engaging story.

Interesting Facts

  • Ironically, none of the three main stars could skate. Their skating scenes were performed by doubles, which is noticeable in some shots.
  • The film’s finale features a lavish 15-minute Technicolor sequence showcasing the “Ice Follies” in all its glory. This was a significant technical achievement for the time.
  • Upon its release, the film received mixed reviews. Critics praised the ice skating sequences but criticized the weak plot and underdeveloped characters.
  • Despite its star power and visual spectacle, the film was a box office disappointment, failing to recoup its production costs.

#4 Dancing on Ice Ice Follies Of 1939 Mary (Joan Crawford), 1939

#5 Dancing on Ice Ice Follies Of 1939 Mary (Joan Crawford), 1939

#6 Roy Shipstad and Eddie Shipstad with Ice Follies, on the set of the film, ‘The Ice Follies Of1939’, 1939

#7 James Stewart, Joan Crawford, and Lew Ayres in the film, ‘The Ice Follies Of 1939’, 1939

#8 James Stewart, Joan Crawford, and Lew Ayres in the film, ‘Th Ice Follies Of 1939’, 1939

#9 James Stewart, Joan Crawford, and Lew Ayres in the film, ‘The Ice Follies Of 1939’, 1939

#10 Joan Crawford as Mary McKay and James Stewart as Larry Hall in ‘The Ice Follies’, 1939

#11 James Stewart as Larry Hall in ‘The Ice Follies’, 1939

#12 Joan Crawford in a gown by Gilbert Adrian in ‘The Ice Follies Of 1939’, directed by Reinhold Schunzel, 1939

#13 Joan Crawford, James Stewart, and Lew Ayres in ‘The Ice Follies Of 1939’, 1939

#14 A star trio takes to the ice: Joan Crawford, James Stewart, and Lew Ayres in ‘The Ice Follies Of1939’, 1939

#15 Joan Crawford holding an umbrella in a scene from the film ‘The Ice Follies Of 1939’, 1939

#16 Bess Ehrhardt on ice skates in a scene from the film ‘The Ice Follies of 1939’

#17 Dancing on Ice, Ice Follies of 1939 Mary (Joan Crawford), 1939

#18 Dancing on Ice, Ice Follies of 1939 Mary (Joan Crawford), 1939

Written by William Todd

William Todd is a comedy enthusiast and Michael Jackson fanatic with a soft spot for documentaries. Just don't be surprised if you catch him moonwalking down the street, because for William, every day is a chance to bring a little bit of joy and entertainment into the world.

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