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William A. Seiter
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It's the stuff of Hollywood legend how shrewd a businesswoman Sonia Henie was. She had just won her third gold medal for figure skating in the 1936 Olympics and was an international superstar, not to mention a national heroine in her native Norway. Darryl F. Zanuck beat off competition from the other studios for her and she made him pay dear because she was well aware of her star status. Very much like that other international sensation from Scandinavia, Jenny Lind in the previous century.
Zanuck hedged his bets a bit on her. One In A Million did not quite have the budget that Sonia's succeeding vehicles did. You can tell by looking at it. What he didn't cheapen was her skating routines because that purportedly is what the movie-going public was paying to see. He also gave her good support with a cast that included Don Ameche, Jean Hersholt, Ned Sparks, Arline Judge, the Ritz Brothers, Montagu Love, and Adolphe Menjou.
Sonia's life was destined to change dramatically in One In A Million. Adolphe Menjou, a Barnum style promoter is stranded in a small Swiss town after a mysterious fire burns down the town's leading hotel. That owner's bad luck is good luck for Jean Hersholt who owns a small inn and suddenly finds himself booked with Menjou's troupe. A pair of reporters, Don Ameche and Ned Sparks, also arrive smelling a story about that hotel fire. Their appetites for a story are whetted with the presence of a mysterious stranger also at the hotel, Montagu Love.
Hersholt is a former Olympic champion who is training his daughter for the 1936 Olympics. He was disqualified like Jim Thorpe for being a professional and he's worried about his daughter's amateur status. That's not of concern to Adolphe Menjou who sees a meal ticket as a professional. Ameche gets sidetracked from his hotel fire story to follow Henie's progress when he finds out who she is.
Arline Judge gets some of the best sharp shooter lines in this film as Menjou's wife, constantly deflating her ego ridden husband.
As was known to the world Sonia Henie won her third gold medal and this film was raced into production to capitalize on the event. The only mention of the German location is the presence of someone in a Nazi uniform in the crowd behind Ameche and Sparks. Also the Ritz Brothers get into an argument with some folks in the stand and one of them tells the other two very obviously Jewish looking siblings that 'we're not in Brooklyn'.
With the success of this film, especially in the European market, Sonia got bigger budgets for her succeeding films at 20th Century Fox. She was a bona fide movie star like no other the figure skating world ever produced. I do recall Carol Heiss the champion from the 1960 Olympics trying, but failing in a film career. Somehow I can't envision any of today's figure skaters doing what Henie did.
I could be wrong though.
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