Bonus Review: “Second Chorus” from 1940; Fred the Trumpet Tapper

This is my first entry in The Third Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers Blogathon, which is being hosted by Michaela of Love Letters to Old Hollywood in honor of Crystal Kalyana of In the Good Old Days of Classic Hollywood, who is still in a coma. We classic film bloggers are all very concerned about her. As we extend prayers and wishes of health for her, we are glad to be able to make this blogathon, a tribute to two of her favorite performers, a great success! Since I wanted to participate with three entries but had only one 100 New Code Films article left to publish this year, I decided to write two bonus entries.

Second Chorus (1940) - IMDb


Fred Astaire, Paulette Goddard, Burgess Meredith, Artie Shaw, and Charles Butterworth.

Production Notes:

Director: H. C. Potter, Producer: Borris Moros, Production Company: Paramount Pictures


Two trumpet players keep purposely flunking their tests so that they have been able to remain in college for seven years, earning huge incomes from their profitable band, the Perennials. When a pretty female agent from a collection agent tries to collect on a encyclopedia set the secondary trumpeter bought for his roommate years ago but for which he didn’t pay, they purposely get her fired and hire her as their own secretary while vying for her affection. They both are forced from college at last, so they try to land a job with Artie Shaw’s band, but their secretary gets hired as his band’s manager instead!

Code Compliance:

Good Code Film


Recommended, Four Stars

My Thoughts:

I watched this movie because it’s one of only two Code films which Fred Astaire made that I have yet to see. In honor of this blogathon, I am planning on watching and reviewing both these films to finish his filmography. This movie was not very popular with its own cast, with Artie Shaw saying it turned him off film acting and Fred Astaire saying it was the worst movie he ever made. I wouldn’t go so far as to say that, but it certainly isn’t his greatest. There are some enjoyable moments. It isn’t phenomenal, but I wouldn’t consider it bad. It is a bit light and shallow, but it is actually very funny. The interaction, rivalry, and sabotaging of the two trumpeters, Danny (Astaire) and Hank (Meredith), is hilarious! Paulette Goddard plays a good support. I was impressed by how well she danced with Fred in the routine “I Ain’t Hep to That Step,” since she wasn’t known as a dancer. I thought she performed the swing-like routine very effectively. Fred did less dancing in this movie than in many of his others, but what he did was very enjoyable. His finale number, during which he conducts the band, was quite impressive. However, I must confess that I found it a bit unbelievable. He is a trumpet player, who is supposed to be conducting the band during that number, yet his creative conducting soon turned into a complete tap routine. For a grand finale, someone tossed him a trumpet from offstage, and he began playing! If he were really playing, he would have been too winded from dancing. Since it’s Fred Astaire, you’re not supposed to think about it, but why is that trumpeter/composer/conductor dancing so much? Few classic films require such an obvious suspension of disbelief, which is what makes this movie less than the greatest. Fred Astaire’s faked trumpet playing is convincing, and he acts the role well. However, a second non-musical actor, like Burgess Meredith, would have been a better choice for this story. I can see why Mr. Astaire wasn’t crazy about this role, since it didn’t really showcase his talents. However, I consider this movie worth watching. Artie Shaw’s music is very enjoyable, and it earned the film two Academy Award nominations. I also consider his acting to be very effective in this part. I suggest that Fred Astaire’s watch it and judge for themselves!

Please join our three upcoming holiday blogathons!

The Sunset Boulevard Blogathon!

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One thought on “Bonus Review: “Second Chorus” from 1940; Fred the Trumpet Tapper

  1. I’m with you — this isn’t the best film, but it’s cute and fun. I was really hesitant to watch it for the first time some years ago since I knew the people who made the film weren’t that keen on it, but I was surprised to see that it really wasn’t bad at all. Plus I have a soft spot for Paulette Goddard, who I agree does well with Fred.


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