"Christ. Everyone was out of their collective minds when they made "Ice Follies." ~ Joan Crawford
"The Ice Follies of 1939" 1939
Cast: Joan Crawford~James Stewart~Lew Ayres~Lewis Stone~Bess Ehrhardt~Lionel Stander~Charles D. Brown.
Director: Reinhold Schunzel
Costumes by Adrian
Box Office Figures for "The Ice Follies of 1939":
Cost: $N/A ~ Domestic Studio Gross: $N/A ~ Foreign Studio Gross: $N/A
Total: $N/A / Profit: $N/A
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Stars: 1 1/2
Review: This is one of Crawford's pictures made during the time MGM was trying to gently push her out of the studio. You
can tell Joan is not very happy during the picture, and the cast struggles to get by with the mediocre story line. MGM teamed
Crawford with Jimmy Stewart, who fails (not by his own fault) to create the chemistry Joan shared with Clark Gable. MGM was
trying to please Joan by giving her good actors with bad scripts as is to create a balancing effect even though everyone involved
knew it wouldnt work. The same thing was done in Above Suspicion with Fred McMurray, in When Ladies Meet with Greer Garson
and Robert Taylor and in A Reunion in France with John Wayne.The plot of this film could almost be dubbed A Star is Born On
Joan plays Mary McKay, an average girl whos an ice skating partner with her husband Larry Hall (Jimmy Stewart.) As the
ice skating duo realizes they're days are numbered as performers, Mary gets an offer to become a major motion picture star.
She accepts the offer, is given a total makeover and is re-named Sandra Lee. She becomes hugely successful while Larry gets
left behind. Tired of being left alone, Larry creates a new, provocative ice show and becomes a giant success. As both their
careers rise, Sandra and Larrys relationship fades. Eventually, the Hollywood studio boss decides to blend Sandras stardom
with Larrys successful ice show in order to save the couples relationship. The film ends with Sandra and Larry happily back
together at the premier of a Technicolor picture they've made.
The only thing that protects this picture from being an absolute failure is the fact we get to see the young Joan Crawford
in color. Of course, we have to wait until the very end of the film. Like many of Joan's horror flicks, its a film her fans
need to watch only once. This is also the picture Faye Dunaway is making at the beginning of Mommie Dearest.
Stars: Two and three-fourth stars
Review: "Christ," Joan Crawford famously remarked. "Everyone was out of their collective minds when they
made 'Ice Follies.'" Maybe. But there are a few aspects of this film, such as a gorgeous color sequence, that make
it an interesting and desirable curiosity piece.
"Ice Follies of 1939" was a film made by MGM supposedly when they were trying to edge Crawford out of her happy,
little home to make way for a new wave of starlets by offering her sub-standard scripts the way they had supplanted Greta
Garbo and Norma Shearer. Frankly, I don't agree that all the films made during this period were that dismal, particularly
not her final MGM film "Above Suspicion" (which is quite entertaining and refreshing), nor were the scripts that
much thinner than those she injected life into previously through charisma, classiness, and chemistry with Clark Gable. This
is no exception. The story involves a skating team, Larry Hall (James Stewart) and Mary McKay (Joan Crawford), who marry,
breaking up Hall's partnership with Eddie Burgess (Lew Ayres), but then the couple's relationship falters when she becomes
a big movie star and his career stagnates. Bizarrely, it mirrored what was happening in Crawford's real life with her crumbling
marriage to Franchot Tone (Tone's career did not match Crawford's success and although he supposedly loathed Hollywood, he
was taking it out on her, so it seems).
Crawford is soft and appealing here, but Stewart actually made me actively dislike him. Whether telling Mary to "shush"
or acting predictably disgruntled and unpleasant when she gets any opportunities that don't involve him or worse, in one particularly
offensive scene, telling her to just "yes" him and don't ask questions (which backfires when he asks her if she's
ever met anyone as great as him and she says yes), he seems to spout enough hot air to melt the entire rink. With stardom,
Mary McKay's name is inexplicably changed to Sandra Lee (hello?), she is given a Hedy Lamarr do and a glamorous wardrobe that
looks quite a lot like Crawford's own wardrobe, including great furs and smart hats, but she is still reasonably sweet although
she has less and less time for Mr. Man. Stewart then leaves her, saying he'll return when his career matches hers (how white
of him), and in great MGM fashion, Crawford now is given the opportunity to apologize publicly before a room of Hollywood
peers -- in glittering gown, no less --for the unpardonable sin of success and nobly claim that all the glory, gowns, glamour,
adulation and huge money mean less than her marriage, so she's turning her back on it all to go home. One can almost hear
a choking sound in her voice. Stewart is elated and embarrassingly celebratory about it in a way that rivals Tom Cruise jumping
all over Oprah's couch.
But of course, Mary does want to be a star (as did Joan Crawford -- and why not?), so the film culminates in Mary manipulating
the studio head to give Stewart a contract for an elaborate ice revue in which she stars along with real skaters -- the Shipstad
and Johnson Ice Follies -- in a beautiful Technicolor sequence in which Mary and Larry attend the film's premiere. Although
the skating is annoyingly cute, it is worth the price of admission to see Crawford in color at this point in her life, and
in the film-within-a-film, she does look especially glamorous and beautiful in the little blue skating outfit that shows off
her gorgeous legs.
In all, worthwhile for the rare glimpse to see Crawford in color and a prime example of the way MGM tried to make women
apologize for their success (although at the same time celebrating it).