Second Chorus
Second Chorus is a Hollywood musical
Musical film
The musical film is a film genre in which songs sung by the characters are interwoven into the narrative, sometimes accompanied by dancing. The songs usually advance the plot or develop the film's characters, though in some cases they serve merely as breaks in the storyline, often as elaborate...

Comedy , as a popular meaning, is any humorous discourse or work generally intended to amuse by creating laughter, especially in television, film, and stand-up comedy. This must be carefully distinguished from its academic definition, namely the comic theatre, whose Western origins are found in...

A film, also called a movie or motion picture, is a series of still or moving images. It is produced by recording photographic images with cameras, or by creating images using animation techniques or visual effects...

 starring Fred Astaire
Fred Astaire
Fred Astaire was an American film and Broadway stage dancer, choreographer, singer and actor. His stage and subsequent film career spanned a total of 76 years, during which he made 31 musical films. He was named the fifth Greatest Male Star of All Time by the American Film Institute...

, Burgess Meredith
Burgess Meredith
Oliver Burgess Meredith , known professionally as Burgess Meredith, was an American actor in theatre, film, and television, who also worked as a director...

, Paulette Goddard
Paulette Goddard
Paulette Goddard was an American film and theatre actress. A former child fashion model and in several Broadway productions as Ziegfeld Girl, she was a major star of the Paramount Studio in the 1940s. She was married to several notable men, including Charlie Chaplin, Burgess Meredith, and Erich...

, Artie Shaw
Artie Shaw
Arthur Jacob Arshawsky , better known as Artie Shaw, was an American jazz clarinetist, composer, and bandleader. He was also the author of both fiction and non-fiction writings....

, and Charles Butterworth
Charles Butterworth (actor)
Charles Butterworth was an American actor specializing in comedy roles, often in musicals. In his obituary, he was described as "the man who could not make up his mind". Butterworth's distinct voice was the inspiration for the Cap'n Crunch commercials from the Jay Ward studio...

, with music by Artie Shaw, Bernie Hanighen, Hal Borne
Hal Borne
Hal Borne was an American popular song composer, orchestra leader, music arranger and musical director, who studied music at the University of Illinois...

 and lyrics by Johnny Mercer
Johnny Mercer
John Herndon "Johnny" Mercer was an American lyricist, songwriter and singer. He is best known as a lyricist, but he also composed music. He was also a popular singer who recorded his own songs as well as those written by others...

. The film was directed by H. C. Potter
H. C. Potter
Henry Codman Potter was an American theatrical producer/director and a motion picture director.-Biography:...

 and produced independently for Paramount Pictures
Paramount Pictures
Paramount Pictures Corporation is an American film production and distribution company, located at 5555 Melrose Avenue in Hollywood. Founded in 1912 and currently owned by media conglomerate Viacom, it is America's oldest existing film studio; it is also the last major film studio still...

 by Boris Morros
Boris Morros
Boris Morros was an American Communist Party member, Paramount Studios producer, Soviet agent, and FBI double agent.Morros was born in Saint Petersburg, Russia, and emigrated with his family to America in 1922...


In a 1968 interview, Astaire described this effort as "The worst film I ever made". From a dance perspective, however, it greatly surpasses either Dancing Lady
Dancing Lady
Dancing Lady is a 1933 musical film starring Joan Crawford and Clark Gable, and featuring Franchot Tone, the fourth of eight collaborations between Crawford and Gable. It was directed by Robert Z. Leonard, produced by John W. Considine Jr. and David O. Selznick, and was based on the novel of the...

(1933) or Finian's Rainbow
Finian's Rainbow (film)
Finian's Rainbow is a 1968 American musical film directed by Francis Ford Coppola that stars Fred Astaire and Petula Clark. The screenplay by E. Y. Harburg and Fred Saidy is based on their 1947 stage musical of the same name.-Plot:...

(1968) and benefits from the musical presence of a leading swing
Swing (genre)
Swing music, also known as swing jazz or simply swing, is a form of jazz music that developed in the early 1930s and became a distinctive style by 1935 in the United States...

 band in its prime—Artie Shaw and his orchestra. Astaire admitted that he was attracted to the film by the opportunity to "dance-conduct this real swingin' outfit". From a musical standpoint, the film contains a fine partnered dance, an important Astaire tap solo
Fred Astaire's solo and partnered dances
This is a complete guide to over one hundred and fifty of Fred Astaire's solo and partnered dances compiled from his thirty-one Hollywood musical comedy films produced between 1933 and 1968, his four television specials and his television appearances on The Hollywood Palace and Bob Hope Presents...

, an Academy Award
Academy Awards
An Academy Award, also known as an Oscar, is an accolade bestowed by the American Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences to recognize excellence of professionals in the film industry, including directors, actors, and writers...

 nominated song and a classic extended piece by Artie Shaw and his orchestra.

In an interview shortly before his death, Shaw admitted this film put him off acting. Astaire and Shaw shared a striking series of personality traits in common: an obsessive perfectionism and seemingly endless appetite for retakes, profound musicality and love of jazz, personal modesty and charm, and in a late interview Shaw expressed his opinion of Astaire: "Astaire really sweat - he toiled. He was a humorless Teutonic man, the opposite of his debonair image in top hat and tails. I liked him because he was an entertainer and an artist. There's a distinction between them. An artist is concerned only with what is acceptable to himself, where an entertainer strives to please the public. Astaire did both. Louis Armstrong
Louis Armstrong
Louis Armstrong , nicknamed Satchmo or Pops, was an American jazz trumpeter and singer from New Orleans, Louisiana....

 was another one."(Wikiquote:Fred Astaire)

The film's copyright lapsed in 1967 and is now in the public domain
Public domain
Works are in the public domain if the intellectual property rights have expired, if the intellectual property rights are forfeited, or if they are not covered by intellectual property rights at all...

, with the result that prior to its recent restoration at least, it has tended to circulate in seriously degraded prints.


Danny O'Neill (Fred Astaire) and Hank Taylor (Burgess Meredith) are rival trumpeters with the Perennials, a college band, and both men are still attending college by failing their exams seven years in a row. In the midst of a performance, Danny spies Ellen Miller (Paulette Goddard) who ends up being made band manager. Both men compete for her affections while trying to get the other one fired. Artie Shaw, playing himself, comes to hear the band and poaches Ellen to become his secretary and manager. She tries to get Danny and Hank an audition for Shaw's band but they again undermine one another. Ellen befriends J. Lester Chisholm (Charles Butterworth) who agrees to finance a Shaw concert, and Danny convinces Chisholm to persuade Shaw to include one of Danny's tunes in the concert. Hank and Chisholm end up missing the concert by giving each other champagne and sleeping pills. Danny successfully dance-conducts his own composition and secures Ellen's affections.

Key songs/dance routines

Hermes Pan
Hermes Pan (choreographer)
Hermes Pan was an American dancer and choreographer, principally celebrated as Fred Astaire's choreographic collaborator on the famous 1930s movie musicals starring Astaire and Ginger Rogers.-Early life:...

 collaborated with Astaire on the choreography. In a minor lapse, Astaire's impersonation of trumpet playing is often unconvincing. There is a folk-parody theme throughout - with Mercer satirising the slang associated with jazz dance, Russian folk songs, and folk songs of his native American South.
  • "Sugar
    Sugar (Maceo Pinkard song)
    "Sugar", also known as "That Sugar Baby o' Mine", is a popular song by Maceo Pinkard, his wife Edna Alexander and Sidney D. Mitchell.The song is not to be confused with another 1927 song titled "Sugar", written by Jack Yellen, Milton Ager, Frank Crum and Red Nichols.The song has been recorded by...

    ": Astaire is shown leading a college band in a jazz standard by Marceo Pinkard. For sheer lack of conviction, Astaire's trumpet playing (dubbed here by Bobby Hackett
    Bobby Hackett
    Robert Leo "Bobby" Hackett was an US jazz musician who played trumpet, cornet and guitar with the bands of Glenn Miller and Benny Goodman in the late thirties and early forties.-Biography:...

    ) vies with that of Meredith's (dubbed by Shaw's bandsman Billy Butterfield
    Billy Butterfield
    Billy Butterfield was a band leader, jazz trumpeter, flugelhornist and cornetist.He studied cornet with Frank Simons, but later switched to studying medicine. He did not give up on music and quit medicine after finding success as a trumpeter. Early in his career he played in the band of Austin Wylie...


  • "Everything's Jumping": Brief number for Artie Shaw and his band.

  • "I Ain't Hep To That Step But I'll Dig It": This comic song and dance duet for Astaire and Goddard was, according to Goddard - whose dance ability and experience was limited - done "just once, one Saturday morning,..., I'm glad it was all right for I couldn't have done it again". It was the last of Astaire's duets to be filmed entirely in one take. The dance incorporates a new step, the "Dig It" which involved snapping both feet together and then hopping while keeping them together. The rest of the dance involves original use of partnered teetering, scooting and dodging steps with some jitterbugging thrown in. In his first film appearance, Hermes Pan can be seen as the clarinetist in the band (standing furthest back).

  • "Sweet Sue": Another Astaire (Hackett) and Meredith (Butterfield) mime routine, this time to a Victor Young standard.

  • "Love Of My Life": Mercer and Shaw wrote this song one day over lunch at Mercer's house, and when the excited Shaw wanted to show it to the studio, Mercer persuaded him to wait three weeks explaining: "If you tell them you just wrote it over lunch they won't think it's any good". It is delivered by Astaire to Goddard and garnered an Academy Award
    Academy Awards
    An Academy Award, also known as an Oscar, is an accolade bestowed by the American Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences to recognize excellence of professionals in the film industry, including directors, actors, and writers...

     nomination for Best Song.

  • "Russian Cafe Number": A brief comic number for Astaire, who plays a Russian doing a Moiseyev-style dance while singing a pseudo-Russian version of "Love Of My Life" in a thick accent and clowning around with a trumpet.

  • "Poor Mr. Chisholm (song)": Accompanying himself on the piano Astaire sings this folk-parody Mercer-Henighen number for Shaw's approval (he had previously played the music for Butterworth, calling it "Hoe Down The Bayou").

  • "Concerto For Clarinet": Like many jazzmen of his time: Benny Goodman
    Benny Goodman
    Benjamin David “Benny” Goodman was an American jazz and swing musician, clarinetist and bandleader; widely known as the "King of Swing".In the mid-1930s, Benny Goodman led one of the most popular musical groups in America...

    , Paul Whiteman
    Paul Whiteman
    Paul Samuel Whiteman was an American bandleader and orchestral director.Leader of the most popular dance bands in the United States during the 1920s, Whiteman's recordings were immensely successful, and press notices often referred to him as the "King of Jazz"...

    , Jimmy Dorsey
    Jimmy Dorsey
    James "Jimmy" Dorsey was a prominent American jazz clarinetist, saxophonist, trumpeter, composer, and big band leader. He was known as "JD"...

    , Duke Ellington
    Duke Ellington
    Edward Kennedy "Duke" Ellington was an American composer, pianist, and big band leader. Ellington wrote over 1,000 compositions...

     among them, Shaw occasionally produced pieces with titles more commonly associated with classical music; Shaw, however is characteristically modest about this attractively episodic extended piece, composed especially for the film: "I never intended it for posterity...It filled a spot in the picture". It features the use of strings- Shaw's "mice men" as he liked to call them, an innovation he had just begun to incorporate into his big-band compositions - most famously in "Frenesi" - the year before.

  • "Hoe Down The Bayou/Poor Mr. Chisholm (dance)": In this "conducting" tap solo Astaire addresses head-on the issue he had approached tentatively in the "I'd Rather Lead a Band" number from Follow the Fleet
    Follow the Fleet
    Follow the Fleet is a 1936 Hollywood musical comedy film with a nautical theme and stars Fred Astaire, Ginger Rogers, Randolph Scott, Harriet Hilliard, and Astrid Allwyn, with music and lyrics by Irving Berlin. Lucille Ball and Betty Grable also appear, in small supporting roles...

    (1936), namely, how to conduct a band while dancing. The challenge becomes particularly acute when one considers that as a jazz tap artist Astaire was famous for dancing before, after and around the beat. His answer was to choose a swing band used to following the lead of a jazz soloist. The dance begins with Astaire satirising the moves of a conventional symphony orchestra conductor, discarding the baton once he discovers such moves are inadequate to his purpose, indicating the beginning of his tap solo. This solo can be seen as a broadening and deepening of the unaccompanied tap solo section of "I'd Rather Lead a Band", this time covering wide arcs of space with the most complex of syncopated tap link steps, with the orchestra expected to keep up as they would to Shaw's soaring clarinet. In a witty parody of big-band endings Astaire is tossed a trumpet from behind a side curtain and proceeds with a series of sharp turns to camera while miming a wailing trumpet, ending with a sudden slam into place as the music and dance simultaneously vanish.

  • "Me And The Ghost Upstairs" (deleted number): Hermes Pan, shrouded in a sheet creeps up on Astaire and begins to mimic him. The two then dance a riotous number involving Lindy
    Lindy Hop
    The Lindy Hop is an American social dance, from the swing dance family. It evolved in Harlem, New York City in the 1920s and '30s and originally evolved with the jazz music of that time. Lindy was a fusion of many dances that preceded it or were popular during its development but is mainly based...

    lifts and jitterbugging. The only number involving Astaire and Pan - possibly the most important choreographic collaboration in the history of filmed dance - was cut from the final film, but is currently included in some regional DVD versions of the film. It is not really up to Astaire's usual standard, and this, combined with the fact that the figure under the shroud is obviously male, and is also obviously wearing women's high heels, may have strengthened the editor's hand. Hermes Pan regularly featured this footage in his lectures, a practice which has helped ensure its survival.

External links

The source of this article is wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.  The text of this article is licensed under the GFDL.