Fred Astaire, Paulette Goddard: Second Chorus


Second Chorus is a 1940 Hollywood musical comedy film starring Paulette Goddard and Fred Astaire and featuring Artie Shaw, Burgess Meredith and Charles Butterworth, with music by Artie Shaw, Bernie Hanighen and Hal Borne, and lyrics by Johnny Mercer. The film was directed by H. C. Potter and produced independently for Paramount Pictures by Boris Morros, with associate producers Robert Stillman and (uncredited) Fred Astaire.

Plot Danny O’Neill (Fred Astaire) and Hank Taylor (Burgess Meredith) are friends and rival trumpeters with “O’Neill’s Perennials”, a college band. Both have managed to prolong their college careers by failing seven years in a row. At a performance, Ellen Miller (Paulette Goddard) catches both Danny’s and Hank’s eyes. However, she serves them a summons notice for her boss, a debt collector, but the fast-talking O’Neill and Taylor soon have her working as their manager, where her business savvy increases their gigs. Meanwhile, tired of losing several gigs to the Perennials, Artie Shaw (playing himself) comes to persuade Ellen to be his booking manager.

Ellen tries to get Danny and Hank an audition for Artie Shaw’s band, but their jealous hi-jinks get them the boot. Ellen talks Shaw into letting rich wannabee mandolin musician J. Lester Chisholm (Charles Butterworth) back a concert. It looks like Ellen’s plan to get Chisholm as backer fails, when Hank pretends to be Ellen’s jealous husband — then her brother. But using the brother ploy, Danny and Hank manage to get Chisholm back on board, then get Shaw to agree to put Danny’s song into the show. All they have to do is keep Chisholm and his mandolin — which he wants to play in the concert — away from Shaw until after the show. Hank’s solution is to drop sleeping pills into Chisholm’s drink, but Chisholm knocks out Hank too, with the same stuff.

To Ellen’s relief, Danny finally acts responsibly, arranging his number for the show, which Shaw says “has really grown up into something special.” He hands the baton to Danny, who successfully conducts his own composition whilst simultaneously also tap-dancing in front of the band. Danny and Ellen then drive off together into the night.




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