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Second Fiddle (1939)

Passed | | Comedy, Music | 30 June 1939 (USA)
Studio publicist (Power) discovers Minnesota skating teacher (Henie) and takes her to Hollywood. She goes back to Minnesota but he follows her.



(screenplay), (story)
Nominated for 1 Oscar. See more awards »
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Cast overview, first billed only:
Jimmy Sutton
Roger Maxwell
Aunt Phoebe
Jean Varick
Willie Hogger
George 'Whit' Whitney
Stewart Reburn ...
Trudi's Skating Partner
Spencer Charters ...
Joe Clayton
Assistant Director
The Brian Sisters ...
Schoolroom Vocal Trio
John Hiestand ...
Radio Announcer
Taxi Driver
Justice of the Peace Harvey Vaughan


Jimmy Sutton, tricky publicist for Consolidated Pictures, fetches teacher Trudi Hovland from snowy Minnesota to sunny Hollywood to test for the film of the best-seller "Girl of the North" - having come 436th in a competition several years earlier she is now next choice as leading lady. She gets the part, but despite his own growing attraction for her Jimmy deviously manufactures a romance between her and Roger Maxwell, a new star who desperately needs to pep-up his image. Written by Jeremy Perkins {J-26}

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


The show that licked the World's Fair!


Comedy | Music


Passed | See all certifications »




Release Date:

30 June 1939 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Irving Berlin's Second Fiddle  »

Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

(Western Electric Mirrophonic Recording)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
See  »

Did You Know?


In a scene in Bergen, Minnesota, a townswoman asks Tyrone Power, "Who does Don Ameche really love?" Power replies, "Mrs. Ameche." This was an inside joke, since Tyrone Power had previously co-starred with Don Ameche in four movies, including In Old Chicago (1937) and Alexander's Ragtime Band (1938), while Sonja Henie had appeared with Ameche in One in a Million (1936) and Happy Landing (1938). See more »


Jimmy Sutton: What are you making, Phoebe?
Aunt Phoebe: Don't know yet... started making a doily, and it got away from me!
See more »


I'm Sorry for Myself
Written by Irving Berlin
Sung by Mary Healy and ensemble
See more »

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User Reviews

Second Fiddle = First Rate
20 March 2008 | by (Buffalo, New York) – See all my reviews

Darryl F. Zanuck's number one star at 20th Century Fox Tyrone Power had to yield first billing in Second Fiddle to Sonia Henie, a very different kind of star than Zanuck was used to dealing with.

Sonia Henie as movie star could probably best be compared to Esther Williams. Both were female sports stars in their chosen area. Henie's prestige was backed up by the fact that she had taken home the gold in three Olympics in figure skating before going to Hollywood. Esther unfortunately never got to compete in the canceled Olympics of 1940. As stars in their fields they could command big salaries and unlike other stars could make a bundle marketing themselves professionally. Sonia made plenty of money off the Ice Capades, she didn't need to be a film star and Zanuck well knew it.

With that kind of leverage, you'd better make sure you give her the right material and plenty of support. Henie was not an actress, she never claimed she was. Yet Zanuck found stories suitable for her.

Case in point is Second Fiddle, 20th Century Fox's satire on the search for Scarlett O'Hara. Woman of the North is a blockbuster best seller like Gone With The Wind and the studio that bought the rights decides a fresh face is needed. A nationwide talent search is on and Sonia Henie, a fresh faced school teacher from Minnesota, has her picture sent in by her oaf of a boyfriend, Lyle Talbot.

The studio sends young publicity man Tyrone Power out to the frozen north of the continental USA to fetch Sonia back to Hollywood. Going along for the ride is her aunt, Edna May Oliver.

Sonia gets the usual star buildup, but she can't quite understand things in Tinseltown as she's fresh off the farm. Case in point, the publicity inspired romance between her and Rudy Vallee. That gem of an idea will bite its creator Mr. Power right in the hindquarters. It also doesn't sit well with Vallee's main squeeze, Mary Healy.

Irving Berlin wrote the score for Second Fiddle. It was the last of a three picture deal he had with 20th Century Fox that included On the Avenue and Alexander's Ragtime Band. One of the songs of the score, I Poured My Heart Into A Song was garnered for Second Fiddle it's only Academy Award nomination. Unfortunately Judy Garland went Over the Rainbow that year of 1939.

As part of the publicity campaign Power gets to write I Poured My Heart Into A Song and you see him composing it at the piano and singing a bar or two of the lyrics Irving Berlin wrote that he just made up. When you hear Ty sing, you can understand why 20th Century Fox hired John Payne for musicals. Among the things Power was not blessed with was a good singing voice.

Second Fiddle is good entertainment, it's got a nice Irving Berlin score, some well choreographed figure skating routines for Henie, Tyrone Power, and of course Edna May Oliver who brings up the quality of any film she's in.

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