The Ice Follies of 1939 (1939) Poster

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Easily Crawford's Worst "Golden Age" film
wrk65391 September 2001
Experts tell us that MGM had high hopes for this strange movie pastiche, but it's hard to believe that from the tired on-screen shenanigans. With Sonia Henie making millions for 20th Century Fox in her kitschy skating musicals, Metro imported (at no small cost) the famed International Ice Follies and paired them with Crawford, one of their top-ranked, but skidding, stars.

I still find it hard to fathom WHY Metro executives could ever have thought that this lumbering, tired film could serve any use in reversing Crawford's diminishing box-office drawing power. She, James Stewart, and Lew Ayres, seem to be walking through their roles in a most obvious case of movie-making by the numbers, with a plot that is nothing but insulting to its audience.

This is not to say that certain pleasures can't be found in the film, if you want to take the time to look. Joan is as beautiful as ever and the Ice Follies finale (in which Joan does NOT skate) looks great in Technicolor. Happily and ironically, it was this film's total failure that brought Crawford one of her best screen roles, that of Crystal Allen in George Cukor's THE WOMEN. Reckless and with a feeling of nothing to lose, Crawford went after that unsympathetic part with a vengeance, AGAINST the advice of LB Mayer, who said it would finish her (but then again, what did HE know.....he LIKED the idea of this one!!)Not nearly as interesting as either THE BRIDE WORE RED (1937) or THE SHINING HOUR (1938), Crawford's other box-office flops of the period, this one is strictly for Crawford or Stewart completists.
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They should've kept the script on ice.
Poseidon-326 August 2002
This is one of those horrible films that sounds so bizarre it holds the promise of actually being good in a bad way when one finally finds it on television. It doesn't deliver on any level, though. The whole notion of Stewart and Crawford as ice skating stars is hilarious. But they are never really shown skating at any point in the film. What's left is a hackneyed, contrived plot about them falling in love and then separating to follow their careers. He tries to create the first Ice Follies and she (quite easily!) becomes a major film star. The actual Ice Follies troupe shows up in the middle of the film to do a few twirls and spins. The whole thing is capped by a 3-strip Technicolor finale featuring massive quantities of skaters and Joan in a humongous ball gown singing a forgettable song. It's so rare to see early Joan in color, yet she is given no close-ups. Joan was supposed to sing three songs in the film, but two of them were cut. She dons a black Hedy Lamarr-style wig for a lot of the film which gives her a distinctive, if not natural for her, look. Even though the film is ludicrous and trite, money WAS spent on it. The banquet scene in which Crawford gives a speech is lavish in it's decor and her clothes, though often bizarre, are also expensive. (One scene has her in a kooky art deco headdress which makes her look like a parking meter come to life.) This film is of note these days primarily because it's the film "Joan" is being made up for at the beginning of "Mommie Dearest". If not for that plug, it may have fallen into even greater obscurity than it already was. One of her hilarious recollections from the book Conversations with Joan Crawford was, "Christ! We all must have been out of our collective minds!" She describes how she and Stewart "skated around on our ankles". She tried to inject some flair and life into the film, but it was doomed on the page. Fortunately, "The Women" was on the horizon to keep her in good stead.
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Stewart&Crawford&Ayres On Ice
bkoganbing20 January 2007
Ice Follies of 1939 involves a trio of professional skaters, Joan Crawford, James Stewart, and Lew Ayres who have some creative differences and the act breaks up temporarily. So do Crawford and Stewart who are a romantic item.

This was Stewart and Crawford's second film together, the first was The Gorgeous Hussy in which Stewart was only a supporting player. It's too bad that neither of them got anything better.

I also can't put this any better, the three of them look plain ridiculous on skates and they probably felt just as ridiculous.

This film was the brainchild of Louis B. Mayer who looked green with envy over at 20th Century Fox and the money that Darryl F. Zanuck was making with Sonja Henie. I say 'with' and not 'off of' Sonja Henie because Ms. Henie was a star before she signed a contract with Zanuck and Zanuck paid her dearly for her services. Something I'm not sure Mayer was prepared to do.

To gloss over the trite backstage story, MGM did import a whole load of the top ice acts circa 1939 other than Sonja Henie. Interesting to see them and Sonja and compare them to Nancy Kerrigan or Johnny Weir or the infamous Tonya Harding.

Fortunately the next films for Stewart and Crawford were, Mr. Smith Goes to Washington and The Women. The future was going to get better for both.
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Wimpy story just excuse for good characters and great skating
morrisonhimself7 December 2004
After some exciting ice-skating scenes, the best part of this movie is the charming interplay between and among the characters.

Lew Ayres has what seems to be for him a very different type of role, and his and Jimmy Stewart's characters have some dialogue that is often funny.

Even Lionel Stander gets to play, for a change, a nice character also with some good lines.

Joan Crawford, of the gorgeous legs, was a noted dancer, and it's surprising, at least to me, that she didn't skate -- and, with her legs, it's disappointing, too. I mean, what a wonderful excuse to showcase her in a short costume. Oh well, she got a chance to play a much softer character, and that was refreshing to watch.

The story, such as it was, was fairly wimpy, and really just an excuse to present the skating scenes. Good enough. The only real complaint I have is that the color scenes didn't start earlier. The arena skating was actually more exciting than the filmed skating, but the cinema scenes were beautiful.

I'd recommend this as a thoroughly enjoyable light entertainment -- heck, almost any movie with Jimmy Stewart is worth watching.
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To quote Colonel Kurtz..."the horror".
MartinHafer19 March 2008
In the career of every big star, there often seem to be a few films that in hindsight you wonder why they chose to be in this doomed project. While Jimmy Stewart was NOT an established star in 1939 and can't be blamed for appearing in such an awful film, you wonder how one of MGM's biggest stars could get hooked into this awful mess! Joan Crawford certainly deserved more than this, though I must say that she seemed to try very hard to be a professional--even if the writers were apparently chimps. Even Joan's later super-low budget films like TROG and BERSERK are amazingly competent films compared to THE ICE FOLLIES OF 1939! The biggest problems with the film were the wretched writing and the impossibly dumb casting. Imagine Stewart and Crawford cast as ice follies skaters! Interestingly, you never really see them dance or skate--yet it's THE central theme of the movie. And who would have thought that the public would have wanted THIS sort of a film?! My assumption is that Fox's Sonja Henie movies must have been box office smashes for MGM to try to cash in on this ice skating craze in such a cheap and haphazard fashion.

Now if you remove the silly ice follies elements, you still are left with an incredibly terrible film. The movie actually made my entire family cringe at the terrible clichés--especially when the film tried to rip off A STAR IS BORN. How Crawford was "discovered" and became a star was totally ludicrous--and had the worst "discovery scene" in film history. It really looked like every rotten cliché about film-making was thrown into a goulash-like mess of a film--including the (uggh) ending where the studio makes Stewart a producer and director--even though his greatest prior success was directing and skating in an ice follies show!

Horrible writing, dumb situations, terribly long and ridiculous Busby Berkeley-style ice skating numbers and an over-abundance of clichés sink this one. I truly feel that the other reviewers were being far too kind to this turkey--perhaps because Stewart and Crawford have a lot of fans out there.

As far as the magnitude of this bomb, I'd rank this up among PARNELL (Clark Gable and Myrna Loy) and SWING YOUR LADY (Humphrey Bogart) for 1930s bombs by mega-stars. In Bogart's defense, he was not yet a major star when he made his bomb--what's Crawford's excuse?
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Leo emits a giant yawn at this assembly-line junk
borsch24 August 2002
This patched-together pseudo-musical-on-ice isn't even fun as camp; it's just a deadly dull example of MGM assembly-line junk. As always, the production values are excellent: this film is just as well-mounted as any Metro "A" product, with the added bonuses of a lavish Technicolor sequence and pleasing ice performances by the Shipstad-Johnson Ice Follies. But, it's heavy going as the miscast stars are shoved about in a silly plot in an underwritten script, and no amount of MGM gloss can compensate for the audacity of casting three non-skating actors as skating stars! Especially jarring is the sight of Joan Crawford in a jet-black Hedy Lamarr "do"; this is one instance where Joan's Madonna-like talent for following trends misfired.(She very nearly achieves a Carolyn Jones-as-Morticia look!) JC fans do get a consolation prize in the color sequence, in which Joan's natural coloring is seen to lovely advantage. Viewer Alert: watch Sonja Henie on Fox instead!!
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harmless fluff with a stellar cast
mukava99113 March 2008
This harmless piece of fluff is moderately interesting for reasons having nothing to do with its intentions, which must have been to tap into the lucrative ice skating fan base that was packing theatres to see Sonia Henie in 20th Century Fox features at the time. This opus does have a stellar cast (Joan Crawford, James Stewart, Lew Ayres, Lewis Stone) all at their best even though utterly wasted and a vivid Technicolor ice show sequence at the end in which we get to see the above-mentioned personages in color. It is also a way to satisfy the curiosity of MOMMIE DEAREST viewers who have always wondered what FOLLIES was about since it figures in the plot of that biopic. Well, it's about nothing much and was a good example of why Joan Crawford's career wasn't a bed of roses, even though she triumphed in THE WOMEN the same year. She's actually quite good in this, playing a nice girl who chooses marital bliss over movie stardom. For half the movie she is coiffed in an unusually severe and darkly tinted manner which accentuates the severity of her features, giving her a rather cruel and drawn appearance. In some of these scenes she strongly resembles Merle Oberon. Stewart gets a chance to practice pratfalls and inventive prop handling and excels at both. At one point after his character hears joyous news, he does a somersault from a chair onto a bed and back onto the floor like a skilled acrobat. He was a consummate actor even then.
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Joan Crawford, in Technicolor yet . . .
tjonasgreen8 December 2004
Widely considered the worst film Joan Crawford made at MGM (it must have been a low point for James Stewart too, yet it forms no part of the lore about his long career) this is a real curiosity. It has the sort of B-movie plot Sonja Henie was getting in her hugely successful skating pictures at Fox, but this one is done with an A-budget. And because the stars can't skate, it is essentially two pictures in one -- a skating 'spectacular' featuring anonymous athletes which prefigures the ice-skating arena shows we know so well, and a soap opera about a two career couple who can't make their marriage work.

Forget trying to figure out how a major film from the most meticulous of studios could be such a hodgepodge. Simply go with it and happily register its many lapses in taste and logic. In the early scenes Crawford is actually more relaxed and likable than in other pictures from this period, though this changes once her character signs a movie contract. The idea of Crawford playing a star makes perfect sense and one wonders why no one thought of it before. At last her artificiality and posturing has a logical explanation. (But can someone explain why some of Max Steiner's score from GONE WITH THE WIND is played during Joan's drunk scene?) And in gorgeous three-strip Technicolor she looks at once terrifically glamorous and hard as nails. This hardness and the fact that it exposed her age is surely the reason she never gets a color closeup. And though she is a small part of the color portion of the film, she manages to wear no less than three Adrian outfits, the most striking being a brilliant green ensemble with gold and silver embroidery (the 18th Century court outfits the extras wear must have been recycled from MARIE ANTOINETTE).

Assuming Crawford had a choice, why did she do this film? To branch out to a broader family audience than she had before? To cash in on a popular box office fad? Or, at a time when Jeanette Macdonald was still considered Louis B. Mayer's favorite, did Crawford relish getting the Technicolor operetta treatment? Joan took singing lessons for years (her thin, unpleasant voice is briefly heard) and Macdonald had already been in one color film and was about to do another at a time when Technicolor carried the prestige of novelty and expense. Whatever the reason, it must have caused general hilarity in Hollywood -- one can imagine Billy Haines calling up George Cukor to chuckle over the latest bomb Joan had been saddled with. Only Sonja Henie can have been jealous over this turkey.
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what does LB Mayer do when Sonja Henie is making all that money for Fox?
blanche-220 November 2011
He puts on his own ice show.

Joan Crawford was 34 (according to her) when she made this film with 31-year-old James Stewart. She would do some terrific films over the next five years before Louis B kicked her out of MGM, and she bounced back immediately at Warner's. It's a credit to her that after a dog like this, she was able to show her face at the studio. This is the film that she was making at the beginning of "Mommie Dearest," by the way.

"Ice Follies of 1939" was an attempt, I think, to cash in on the interest in figure skating and ice shows, thanks to that little Norwegian, Sonja Henie, who was making skating films over at 20th Century Fox.

The story concerns a young couple, Larry McCall and Mary McKay (Stewart and Crawford) who work in a show as ice skaters along with Stewart's old partner Eddie (Lew Ayres). When they get fired, Mary knows it's because she's not very good, and she's holding Larry back. What Larry wants is to produce and direct his own ice show. When their car is hit by a film casting agent (Lewis Stone), Mary, now Mrs. Hall, goes personally to collect the money he owes them for the car. She pretends to have no interest in films and gets a contract for $75 a week. Mary starts moving up in the film world, and Larry leaves, not wanting her to support him. He says that when they've both made it, they can get back together. That proves a little more difficult than they expected.

There are two HUGE skating segments in this film, and there is some terrific skating. The thing is, after watching the film for a while, where there has been just a bit of skating, it's a surprise that these scenes go on and on. The script itself is completely formulaic and predictable and not worthy of any of the stars.

Stewart and Crawford don't make the best couple. She's too sophisticated for him and, as a strong woman, she was better with a tough type like Gable. Well, they were under contract and made what they were handed. One of the negatives of being with a studio.
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Lew Ayres Polishes Its Rigid, Icy Surfaces
Greenster30 September 2006
I really like the Lew Ayres character in "Ice Follies of 1939." His hapless "Take-it-on-the-Chin" wisecracker adds needed dimension to an abbreviated screen play of the "Rags-to-Riches Coney Island" plot.

There are really no great "Lessons to live by" here, as we may find in other films of this ilk and during this period. Seems as though MGM had decided to film a skating show featuring performers who do not act, and to modify it with a fill-in plot centering around actors who do not skate.

Why not star resident beauty Joan Crawford with the up-and-coming James Stewart and young veteran actor Lew Ayres? - seems the reasoning of the moment. After all, she had done struggling performers in the past, and so a behind-the-scenes show within a show ought to prove right up her alley. Joan could then do at least one customary weeping scene, while James could add his token "Yippie!" routine, which seems mandated of his 1930's appearances.

"Ice Follies of 1939" may work a little more readily than it seems to do if its plot weren't as overdone as it were during its release decade. On top of this, it's abbreviated with one shortly-cut scene after another and practically devoid of plausible emotion in the process.

We rarely find Joan and James sharing the same train of thought here; when she is up, he is down. We don't know why these two care for each other, but Lew generally conveys his character's feelings through his bouncing around a room--most of them very small here, at least for him.

In at least two regards, "Ice Follies of 1939" seems dramatically incorrect: first in respect to the studio contract handed to Joan's character and response to her announcement one year later. The film proceeds from there, launching from black & white into Technicolor, which signifies that 1939 may have lasted longer than 12 months, according to this.

On a couple of additional positive notes, this film contains interesting figure skating routines by "The International Ice Follies" and, especially, its male solo skaters. Some of its cinematography during the sequences on ice proves outstanding, affording the film audience with reflections and contrasts. And, of course, Joan Crawford looks radiant throughout in appearance and fashionable wardrobe.
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wmss-770-39419217 January 2014
I can only imagine that when Joan Crawford,then a reigning star at MGM was handed this script, she asked,"Seriously,LB?" Let's face it, the only reason this awful mess was made was GREED. LB Mayer wanted to cash in on the millions being made by Darryl Zanuck at FOX with the skating pictures Sonja Henie was doing. Joan Crawford and Jimmy Stewart as a couple (no way) of skaters(no way) that get married and end up temporarily separating because she becomes a BIG MOVIE STAR within moments of meeting a movie mogul! Boy,those studio contracts must have been iron-clad because nobody in their right mind would have read this horrible script and decided to make this film unless there were dire consequences to not doing so! Miraculously, this pile of manure didn't kill her career and later in '39 she made The Women. Fortunately, Jimmy Stewart also survived this horror.

The color sequence at the end is interesting because it was the first time Crawford was seen in color, and the actual Shipstad-Johnson skaters are good,but the God-awful blue gown she was in almost ruined that.

Maybe,I'll try to dig up some actual critic reviews from 1939 of this film. It will be interesting to see what they thought of this train wreck.
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I liked much of this obscure movie, The Ice Follies of 1939
tavm20 May 2014
After years of reading of this on a bio book on Jimmy Stewart, I finally got to see this one. He plays an ice skating producer who gets fired from his latest show along with his star, Joan Crawford, and his partner, Lew Ayres. They're bumped by a big-time movie producer, Lewis Stone, from whom Ms. Crawford manages to get a contract with. I'll stop there and just say this was quite entertaining though things threaten to become a downer when the marriage of Stewart and Crawford strains. There's some funny scenes like that of Stewart, Ayres, and Crawford reading her script or when a couple of them encounters Lionel Stander-who I know best from "Hart to Hart" as their butler, Max-as a promoter who's broke. Oh, and whenever I hear Jimmy say Crawford's character name-Mary-I always go back to his role in my favorite movie, It's a Wonderful Life, whenever he addressed Donna Reed's character by that name. And the Technicolor sequence at the end must have been a sight for sore eyes back then! So on that note, I recommend The Ice Follies of 1939. P.S. I just found out that Mr. Stewart was born on this day in 1908, so Happy Birthday up there in Heaven!
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One of those 'great idea' fiascos out of 1930s Hollywood...
moonspinner5511 March 2008
For a movie that takes place mostly in Hollywood and deals in show business, "Ice Follies" seems to know nothing about the film world, nor very much about the business-end of being show people. James Stewart and Joan Crawford are a semi-professional ice-skating twosome on and off the ice--but when she walks herself into a contract as an actress with a movie studio, it puts a chill on their romance. Crawford gets one of her all-time lousiest roles, the nadir of her years with MGM. Being the dutiful, nodding wifey doesn't suit her, and when Joan dramatically renounces Hollywood over the airwaves to win her husband back, one watches in a state of disbelief. Her (unintended) comeuppance for being so soft arrives in the Technicolor finale, in which Crawford plays Cinderella in a poofy ballgown; with about two-hundred feet of cumbersome train, Joan is alley-ooped unceremoniously into a pumpkin-carriage, whisked off to a Mother Goose-On-Ice shindig, and is forced to sit on her throne and watch while everyone else hogs the spotlight. It's an unintended riot, made even more hilarious by the studied reactions of Joan and Jimmy in character, watching the finished product with an enraptured audience (Crawford looks ready to kill). Obviously it's a fantasy from beginning to end (judging from the cursory way in which Joan is handed a movie career), but even on that level it's a fraudulent piece of goods, with no backstage detail nor personalities for the talent on display. One longs to see Joanie on the ice, doing figure-eights; alas, she's kept busy changing outfits, with an extravagant white number so ridiculous, it dissolves into a shot of the Statue of Liberty and one is barely inclined to notice a difference. *1/2 from ****
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Somebody was out to get Joan, simply ghastly
ricmarc20012 October 2009
Ice Follies of 1939 is a Joan Crawford vehicle from MGM which has a Warners feel with a supporting cast from Columbia and shot at Republic.

This is the film that Joan is prepping for at the beginning of Mommie Dearest.

Jimmy Stewart is Joan's male lead in this picture. He looks like he has just turned 18.

Joan looks old enough to be his mother in some shots.

The plot is secondary to what they put poor Joan through.

30 some minutes into the movie she isn't even in it for a long stretch where to is totally focused on the Jimmy Stewart character and his ice follies. The background bit runs straight into an ice follies review of skating. It is pretty hum drum. Cramped and shot cheaply.

The whole movie feels cramped until the end where there is an insane Technicolor nightmare of mediocre skating in garish costumes in an ill conceived Cinderella plot involving dear Joan. She doesn't skate.

She looks lovely when sitting in the audience watching herself on screen though. Reddish highlights to her hair in a gorgeous green and gold sparkly Adrian creation that defies description. One number she is forced to wear looks like it came off of a Lorretta Young picture, complete with halo.

You see Joan in several different looks in this picture. Few of them are flattering to her. Some make her look downright hard bitten and hawkish.

There is one scene early on where Joan is sitting at a table in yet another cramped room with Jimmy and Lew Ayres. She looks young and vibrant, her hair perfect for her. She looks great. then it is all downhill until the final Technicolor shots of her in the audience at the end.

Somebody wanted to make her look bad.

You can tell by where they spent the money.

One of the black and white skate bits is wonderful. Far better than the other ones. Then there is the color skate film in a film sequence at the end.

This film is designed to make the star look bad on the screen and on paper.

Joan does have one great bit where she plays drunk. It looks like she is really having fun with it.

Trog is better.
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Technicolor Ending worth sitting through the rest
ftljeff402 September 2009
Poor Joan, I can see why she worked so hard for the role of Crystal Allen in "The Women" her next picture after this dreg.

Bad script bad director just bad everything, the only part worth watching is the Technicolor ending which is quite interesting and it is Joan's first color picture. Joan's drunken scene is also good and Lew Ayres was such a cu-tie when he was young but the rest of it is pure yuck! and I thought Trog was bad. For true Joan fans only. I suggest renting it NOW ON DVD, the transfer is very good and the sound quality is good. This has to be the worst picture Joan was in and it didn't have to be, minor changes to the script would have helped this picture a lot. Minor reworking to the "Joan becomes a star overnight" storyline could have worked out in a believable fashion. The story seems thrown together and I don't think anyone at MGM actually watched it before it was released. This was no cheap budget either, the sets are impressive but everyone seems to know they are in a clunker.
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Sparkling on the ice, in the production values and music, melts completely everywhere else
TheLittleSongbird10 July 2017
With great actors like Joan Crawford and James Stewart, how could 'The Ice Follies of 1939' possibly go wrong? Also like musicals and ice skating (seen especially with Sonja Henie) has dazzled on film. So 'The Ice Follies of 1939' had a lot going for it.

Sadly, 'The Ice Follies of 1939' did go wrong. Badly wrong. It is among the worst films for both Crawford and Stewart and career-worsts for them in terms of performances. Very little of 'The Ice Follies of 1939' works, but it is not irredeemable by all means, then again this is coming from somebody who always tries to see good in bad films. The best thing about the film is the ice skating sequences, in both choreography and dancing they are dazzling and where 'The Ice Follies of 1939' sparkles the most.

The production values are another redeeming quality. It is a beautiful-looking film and looks expensive, shot in gorgeous rich Technicolor and lavishly produced in the set design. The costumes are both distinguished and elegant. The music has energy and pathos and fares well on its own as well as within the film.

Unfortunately, neither Crawford or Stewart are on top form, quite the opposite. Crawford tries but overdoes it, while Stewart simply walks through his role. They do in all fairness have a pathetic script to work with that is impossible to rescue at any rate. As do the rest of the cast that fail to distinguish themselves in forgettable roles other than perhaps Lew Ayres (Lewis Stone is pretty wasted).

The script is just full of clunky rambling dialogue, sickly sentimentality, badly written clichés and the cringe factor. The underdeveloped and flat characters also don't help, even the best of actors old and new would struggle to do anything with them.

Nor the mostly non-existent story, and when there is a hint of one it's tired and contrived with terribly dull pacing and scenes that go on for too long. Reinhold Schunzel's direction throughout is incredibly dreary.

In conclusion, sparkles in three areas, melts completely everywhere else. 3/10 Bethany Cox
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MGM throws in everything but the kitchen sink
MissSimonetta17 January 2016
By the second half of the 1930s, Joan Crawford's movies were flagging at the box office and she was dubbed box office poison. In order to alleviate this setback, MGM decided to put her in the most trite, lackluster piece of cinema they could scrap up for her. Riding on certain movie trends of the late 1930s, they turned out The Ice Follies of 1939 (1939), dragging poor James Stewart down with it for good measure.

What can I say that has not already been said? This movie is a desperate cash grab, complete with flat characters, even flatter direction, and a plot that starts and stops to include kitschy ice skating numbers that range from impressive to offensive and cringe-inducing. Crawford and Stewart try their best to retain their dignity in this predictable and witless melodrama on ice, sometimes succeeding, but there was no saving this ship from going under.
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Stewart's Folly
atlasmb6 January 2016
Released in 1939--that golden year of Hollywood cinema--"The Ice Follies of 1939" was up against some really great films. What a shame it turned out to be a clunker.

Take Joan Crawford and Jimmy Stewart as a married couple who spend little time together due to separate careers. Give them a dialogue that does little to create romantic tension, and feels like a collection of scenes strung together. Add some ice skating scenes that lack a star like Sonja Henie to draw the viewer into the action. And what you get is disappointment. (By the way, the skating is proficient for its time, but very dated by today's standards.)

At the end of the film is a transition from B&W to Technicolor. It is nothing more than a gimmick, unlike the use of color in "The Wizard of Oz", which would be released about five months later. The ending also features a cringe-worthy "no place like home" sellout by the Joan Crawford character, who abandons her career with nary a second thought.
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Even Legends Made Bad Films
Michael_Elliott18 January 2014
The Ice Follies of 1939 (1939)

** (out of 4)

There's really no way around it but this is a very, very bad and stupid movie. You might wonder why I can say that and still award the film two stars but it's simply because no matter how bad this things get, you still can't help but be slightly entertained by the train wreck and especially when you consider it has Joan Crawford and James Stewart. In the film they play a married couple. He's an expert on the ice but she isn't so her lack of skills cause their careers to tumble. She eventually gets a job as an actress and makes it big but she must keep her marriage a secret. While that's going on he's making it big in Canada. Will the two bring their careers together? A lot of musicals and specialty films would often include the year in the title because studios would just continue to make them. You'll notice that 1939 was the only year for ICE FOLLIES and it's easy to see why because this thing is pretty darn bad. What's so shocking is that someone like Crawford would appear in a film like this because the material is clearly "B" movie material and you also have to consider that the same year she would appear in THE WOMEN. Stewart wasn't a major star yet so it's easy to see why he would take this. I really can't say they made a believable couple but at the same time I still enjoyed seeing them together. It appears Crawford hated playing this part as her performance is really bad at times. Even Stewart was wrong for his role but I'm sure everyone remembers the yell he gave in IT'S A WONDERFUL LIFE once he saw he was back in Bedford Falls. Well, he gives the exact same yell here, which was pretty funny. Both Lew Ayres and Lewis Stone are also on hand. The finale was shot in 3-strip Technicolor and it looks marvelous but sadly nothing we're watching is all that entertaining. THE ICE FOLLIES OF 1939 is a real dud of a picture but those who enjoy bad movies will want to check it out.
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Please forget Sandra Lee. She was just a dream.
utgard1418 January 2014
Plot descriptions for this film online seem to vary wildly. This is not a drama about two partners breaking up over a woman nor does Lew Ayres' character at any time fall for Joan. Actually this may be one of the few Joan Crawford movies from the '30s where there is no love triangle and nobody is unfaithful to anybody else. Instead, it's a story about a couple (Jimmy Stewart and Joan Crawford) who have problems because the wife becomes a big movie star while the husband is a nobody. Except he really isn't a nobody, he's the "brilliant" creator of the Ice Follies.

Earnest performances from Stewart and Crawford but it just won't go. Jimmy in particular gets some painful lines of dialogue. One speech he gives comparing his relationship with Joan to the stars in the heavens is supposed to be profound, with weepy violins playing over the scene, but it's just cringeworthy. Joan gets her clunkers, too. Her Cinderella speech is a rambling mess. Ayres was spared any awful speeches. Of course, he was spared because he has a thankless part with nothing to say or do.

Technicolor finale is worth seeing for rare color footage of Joan when she was still young and attractive. Apparently this whole film is just a big promotion for the International Ice Follies. I can't imagine it did much to help with that. It's not a very good movie but not the complete disaster some have claimed. It's mostly just dull and a waste of star power. Still it has a strong curiosity factor going for it. Give it a shot and judge for yourself but keep expectations low.
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Only for the Crawford fans, not MGM musical fans
nickandrew30 July 2001
This MGM musical was one of the reasons Joan Crawford was labeled box-office poison in the late 30s. After two other big flops "The Bride Wore Red" (1937) & "The Shining Hour" (1938), she starred in this dry and tiresome musical, with her playing ex-skater who becomes a famous Hollywood actress. Look out for the peculiar Technicolor finale on ice! Two stars here.
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unskating stars
SnoopyStyle27 July 2019
Larry Hall (James Stewart) and Eddie Burgess (Lew Ayres) are best friends and skating partners. When Larry's girlfriend Mary McKay (Joan Crawford) gets fired due to her poor skating, he quits in solidarity and the two get married. He can't hold down a job as he keeps trying to include her in his act. Due to a fender bender, she meets studio head Tolliver and she gets a job as a contract actress. Eddie becomes a third wheel and ends his partnership with Larry. The studio changes Mary's name to Sandra Lee. As her stardom grows, Larry's skating act fades. Then he runs into Eddie at producer Mort Hodges' office. Soon, he regains his success but the couple struggles to find time together.

It's missing the meet cute. This relationship needs a better setup. In fact, the start is a bit abrupt. The chemistry needs to be build up before the audience can truly get involved in their journey. The ice skating scenes become more like lulls to break up the story. I can't tell if the three actors actually skated. Crawford not skating is actually a good joke. The story isn't that much although the actors do their best to make it work like the couple trying to make their marriage work. It's a lot of ups and downs without the tension. The last 14 minutes are in color with a lot skating. This has more in common with those big dancing musical extravaganzas. I guess the skating is compelling for people who love watching ice dancing. Overall, it has some jokes, some drama, and some skating.
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It could have been better with them on skates
MegaSuperstar14 April 2018
Warning: Spoilers
If you are watching this movie expecting a great melodrama starring two stars and with an interesting plot then you will most probably be disappointed. It is not a great film with great script and great performances but mainly a skating show with a variety of skating numbers performed by the ice skating stars of the International Ice Follies to compete with Sonja Henie's skating musicals from rival studios. And because of that and despite of, the film contains a poor plot but beautiful and creative skating numbers; among the bests of them is the indian one (containing beautiful ice skating angel figure in its beginning) and the spicy red riding hood one in the technicolor sequence at the end of the film. Sadly, camera angles to take the skating routines are not always the best to film skaters in action, on the contrary to what happened in Henie's films. It is a pity that the studio did not include some skating routines for the three main characters, specially considering that all of them play professional skaters and that James Stewart & Lew Ayres appear in skating suits in a promocional still that can be seen in the movie as a poster in their room. By the way, the cinderella big blue ball gown in the final technicolor sequence must have been the inspiration for recent cinderella movie dress.
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A feast for fans of really bad movies! Let's be generous and give it "4"!
JohnHowardReid6 September 2017
Warning: Spoilers
I'm giving this disappointing movie a "4", because I did enjoy the Technicolor sequence. It looks really great on the Warner DVD too. The only problem with it, of course, is that on original release (theater or DVD), by the time good old Technicolor comes on, most customers would either have taken "The Ice Follies" ("folly" is right!) out of their DVD players and thrown it away, or if they were silly enough to patronize the movie back in 1939 -- despite the warnings by contemporary critics -- have left the theater in disgust.

Actually, if you expect a movie to be bad, it usually turns out to be not quite as bad you expected. I expected this one to be real, real, real bad, but it's only real bad. Joan Crawford often said that the script by Leonard Praskins, Florence Ryerson and Edgar Allan Woolf was a load of rubbish, but I wonder why she allowed director Reinhold Schunzel to think it was great stuff. I would have put him wise and suggested that the only way to play the movie was to send it up.

It amazes me that Jimmy Stewart managed to survive this outing. Fortunately for Lew Ayres, his role is small enough to be insignificant and he was soon to find his real home in a certain very popular "B" series in which he played Doctor James Kildare! (Of course the real star of that series was Lionel Barrymore, but you can't have everything!)
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Whereas the "Dorothy Gale Adventure" ends in Black & White . . .
oscaralbert19 March 2018
Warning: Spoilers
. . . after an hour plus of glorious WIZARD OF OZ Technicolor, the very film studio that released OZ foisted off upon the paying public this El Cheapo Skid Row fantasy that same year with a dingy hour plus of lackluster Black & White, followed by a stingy smidgen of Technicolor to wrap things up. The icing on THE ICE FOLLIES OF 1939 cake comes during this incoherent slap-dash closing, when the "J.F. Crawford" character lords it over six Black apparent slaves carrying her dress train as a dozen Southern Belles in GONE WITH THE WIND hoop skirts and ice skates look on and titter. A quartet of Cowardly Lions then skate around in ancient judges' wigs, the Lollipop Guild does a cameo to show off a growth spurt, female Native Americans glide in circles decked out in Chiefs' headdresses while their male tribal counterparts are demeaned by costumes including silver brassieres, a cow can get only one leg off the ice "jumping" over the moon as the cat fiddles away, and the bagpipes promised by ICE FOLLIES' theatrical trailer are nowhere to be seen. Instead of making girls think "You ought to be in pictures," ICE FOLLIES probably was enough to make a gal lament, "I ought to have stayed in Dirty Pictures."
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