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'Winter Carnival' is froth; enjoyable and well-made of its kind, but it won't leave you with any major memories. I took the time to view it only because it was written by Lester Cole, a major Hollywood screenwriter whose work nonetheless was extremely variable. This isn't one of Cole's best films, but it's certainly not one of his worst.
The beautiful Ann Sheridan stars as Jill Baxter, a Dartmouth alumna who was once voted that college's Snow Queen. After graduating, she married a wealthy duke, then divorced him. Now she regrets ever having married him. (This backstory makes Jill somewhat unsympathetic, but apparently the scriptwriters intended this.) A bunch of stereotypical newspaper reporters are pestering Jill; she decides to duck them by hiding in the last place they'd ever think of looking for her. Jill Backto goes baxter Dartmouth: I mean, Jill Baxter goes back to Dartmouth.
Jill Baxter's younger sister (played by Helen Parrish) is named Ann: no relation to the actress Anne Baxter. Following in her older sister's snowshoes, Ann has also decided to enrol at Darthmouth: in fact, she's just been elected this year's Snow Queen. Meanwhile, another one of those pesky European noblemen (who seem to haunt Dartmouth in large numbers) has shown up: a count, this time. The count, of course, has set his sights on Ann, and now Jill sees that her kid sister is about to repeat all of Jill's mistakes... only farther down the blue-blood scale, since a count is two notches lower than a duke.
Jill tries to talk Ann out of repeating Jill's error, but Ann (understandably) won't listen. So, Jill decides to bust up the relationship by vamping the count herself. Interestingly, there's some actual subtext here: is Jill wooing the count to save her sister, or so that she can get herself back into the aristocracy?
This is froth, with no surprises. 'Winter Carnival' was made by an independent producer (Walter Wanger), so it lacks the contingent of often-seen character actors who would have been cast in this film if it had been made by any of the major studios at this time. Robert Armstrong is proficient in a small role. Johnny Berkes (a character actor who looked like a smaller Jimmy Durante) is good in a very brief part as one of the reporters who plague Jill. Berkes gave one of his best performances teamed with Bob Hope in 'Calling All Tars'. Berkes deserves to be better known among film fans who play the game of identifying bit players.
I'll rate 'Winter Carnival' 5 out of 10. Ann Sheridan was a beautiful and talented actress who stupidly got hooked on cigarettes, and died (of cancer) much too soon. She disliked the term 'Oomph girl', which some Warners publicist hung on her, and I don't blame her for resenting it: the nickname cheapened and vulgarised Ann Sheridan's unique and special appeal. You can see her talent on display in 'Winter Carnival'.
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