Having recently seen James  Stewart  in Pot O’ Gold, I came across ICE FOLLIES OF 1939 and again felt sorry for Mr. Stewart !

What were MGM thinking about when they cast three of their stars – James, Joan Crawford and Lew Ayres in this mish-mash,train wreck of a movie.



What can you say about a screenplay  that has the three leads as professional ice skaters, though you  never see them skating. In fact the only time the stars get their skates on are for the film’s publicity .



Didn’t it occur to MGM  that moviegoers might be misled by the above picture! I guess not.

I love the quote on the TCm website;

“None of the three main stars could skate; the screenplay was written with this in mind!”



The plot is so thin and the characters so cardboard, it’s obvious MGM thought that all that mattered were the ice skating sequences involving lavish staging of the International Ice Follies – with a view to cashing in on the public’s liking for Sonja  Henie at Fox.

The ice skating scenes are impressive , if you like ice skating , but are clearly filmed entirely separately . There is no Henie or Belita ( or even Vera Ralston) to identify with. It’s like shooting a swimming sequence without having Esther Williams as the central attraction!

What plot there is involves long time skating partners ,Stewart and Ayres who have been joined by singer/skater Crawford who is romantically attached to Stewart. But we never see their act!!

Joan becomes a movie star overnight and James becomes a skating impresario. Poor Lew disappears for a while before rejoining them.

(For some unknown reason, the fictitious studio  dyes Joan’s hair black,making her look like Hedy Lamarr. Fortunately they let it go back to her usual color before the end of the film.)



Joan in glorious technicolor. But the film ‘s finale ( with Joan as Cinderella!) didn’t deserve 15 minutes of precious color footage. The whole sequence is to showcase the Ice Follies troupe .

Joan looks terrific in color, but she has absolutely nothing to do but sit back on a throne and watch the spectacle.

This was one of five films James Stewart made in 1939. Fortunately two of them were DESTRY RIDES AGAIN and MR SMITH GOES TO WASHINGTON.

Joan had THE WOMEN.

Lew Ayres  had two DR KILDARE movies that year.

So all three  survived the Follies. MGM didn’t make a nickel.



Joan and her frequent escort, Cesar Romero – maybe at a party for the opening of the film?




James Stewart,Lew Ayres

The photo James and Lew would prefer to deny any knowledge of. Pure publicity. There is no such scene in the film except as a poster on a wall.

8 responses »

  1. This is hideously funny, Stewart and Crawford would be a lousy pairing even in a romance without skating, and those skating costumes are such camp! I’m cringing just looking at them. Thanks so much for sharing this disastrous bit of Hollywood history.

  2. I should have added that there was no chemistry between Joan and James .
    MGM threw a lot of money at this film but forgot the basic requirement of a decent script.

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