Second Chorus (1940) starring Fred Astaire, Paulette Goddard, Artie Shaw, Charles Butterworth, Burgess Meredith directed by H.C. Potter Movie Review

Second Chorus (1940)   3/53/53/53/53/5

Burgess Meredith and Fred Astaire in Second Chorus (1940)

Second Fiddle

"Second Chorus" is a movie with a problem, it is Fred Astaire! That sounds daft but because everyone knows Astaire was a stunning dancer it is what you expect to watch when you watch one of his movies but it is the dancing which lets "Second Chorus" down. The trouble is not so much with Astaire as he is good but not only is there so few dance numbers that the one he shares with co-star Paulette Goddard is ordinary almost coming across like Astaire is dancing Goddard around rather than they're dancing together. But get beyond that and "Second Chorus" at least delivers some good laughs especially when Astaire shares the screen with Burgess Meredith who is brilliant as the fall guy.

Danny (Fred Astaire - Broadway Melody of 1940) and Hank (Burgess Meredith - Rocky V) are shall we say mature students as 7 years after meeting in their freshman year at University they are still there, purposefully failing their courses each year as they can make more money with their college band. But they both find themselves rivalling each other when they meet the attractive Ellen Miller (Paulette Goddard - North West Mounted Police) who they persuade to manage their band. It is how all 3 come to the attention of band leader Artie Shaw with Artie offering Ellen a job as his band manager. That doesn't stop the rivalry between friends as they both try and get into Artie's band in order to be close to Ellen.

Paulette Goddard in Second Chorus (1940)

So as I said, what you watch a Fred Astaire movie for is distinctly lacking in "Second Chorus" as there are so few dance numbers and with this featuring the big band sound it also lacks the graceful show music you might expect. That isn't to say what is offered up isn't entertaining as the big band music is good and the few dance numbers are entertaining. Although it has to be said that when Astaire dances with Goddard it is less them dancing together but more Astaire leading her through the simple routine.

But the real focus of "Second Chorus" is on the comedy of not just Danny and Hank being mature students but also rivals for Ellen. It isn't by any means great comedy as they continuously try to sabotage each other but Burgess Meredith and Fred Astaire work well together to deliver some slick gags. In fact it is Meredith who comes out of this better than Astaire as his timing and quick fire responses are what deliver the most laughs.

Aside from Meredith and Astaire there are two other people in this movie and band leader Artie Shaw actually does a good job of playing himself and firing off a few gags. Then there is Paulette Goddard who really isn't asked a lot of other than to be attractive which she certainly is.

What this all boils down to is that "Second Chorus" is a passable comedy thanks to the double act of Burgess Meredith and Fred Astaire. But watched because it is a musical starring Fred Astaire it is a bit of a let down because of the lack of dance numbers.