Glenn Miller had a very short career in films. This was his first and ORCHESTRA WIVES was his last before he went off on his ill-fated flight across the English Channel. It's set in the famous Idaho ski resort. The picture was said to be the brainchild of studio boss Darryl F. Zanuck,
who had vacationed at Sun Valley and thought it might make a lovely setting for a musical. The Sun Valley Lodge ski resort, the actual location of many of the film's scenes, had opened for business only five years before the picture's release. It was the pet project of statesman W. Averell
Harriman, then chairman of the board of the Union Pacific Railroad, who wanted this first major ski area in the US in order to compete with the then-popular Canadian mountain resorts run by the Canadian Pacific. Harriman's publicists actively promoted the Lodge in the Hollywood community, offering
junkets for major stars and executives in an attempt to make the massive--and costly--resort fashionable. This picture is evidence of the success of the promotional scheme. The Miller band is not getting enough work and has too much time off between gigs. Thrush Bari (who had her vocalizing looped
by Pat Friday) helps get them an audition at Sun Valley and they are booked. The band's pianist is Payne, who had agreed to sponsor a Norwegian refugee some months before as part of a publicity stunt. The Norwegian arrives at Sun Valley and turns out to be Henie, a champion ice skater. Henie falls
in love with her guardian and is aggressive about her intentions. Payne tries to hold her off, but finally realizes that he loves her as well. Bari is jealous of Payne's affection for Henie and quits, thus forcing Henie to have to appear in an ice show, which delights the audience. The plot is
very thin but the songs and skating and the emergence of Henie as a full-fledged comedienne after two years off the screen make the movie fun from start to finish. Berle chimes in with a good comedy role as the band's manager. A superb score by Harry Warren and Mack Gordon includes "Chattanooga
Choo Choo" (danced by the Nicholas Brothers, sung by Dorothy Dandridge), "I know Why And So Do You," "It Happened In Sun Valley" (Bari dubbed by Friday), "The Kiss Polka," plus "In The Mood," Miller's theme song, written by Andy Razaf and Joe Garland. The final production number was skated by
Henie on ice that had been dyed black. It took three days to shoot and, near the conclusion, Henie fell and was covered with the ebony goo. Choreographer Pan and director Humberstone asked for one more day of shooting to cover the end, but mogul Zanuck refused so the number never actually ends.
Instead, there's a dissolve from Henie skating to her and Payne skiing as the movie ends. "Chattanooga Choo Choo," Cronjager's cinematography, and Emil Newman's musical direction were nominated for Oscars.
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- Rating: NR
- Review: Glenn Miller had a very short career in films. This was his first and ORCHESTRA WIVES was his last before he went off on his ill-fated flight across the English Channel. It's set in the famous Idaho ski resort. The picture was said to be the brainchild of… (more)