Today we would never think that a figure skating idol could be one of the largest grossing money makers in
Henie was already a household name, being the Olympic gold medal champion in the 1928, 1932, and 1936 winter games making her an international figure skating star. A desire to be in motion pictures from a young age, ultimately led to her being signed by 20th Century Fox studio head, Darryl F. Zanuck, to appear in films for the company. Her first film, “One In A Million” (1936) was a success and she would go on to appear in 9 more films for the corporation.
1938’s “Happy Landing” is kind of a screwball-comedy-on-ice with Cesar Romero as the big band leader (and ultimate cad) Duke Sargent, Don Ameche plays the friend/manager Jimmy Hall and Ethel Merman rounds out the cast as Sargent’s nutty and overbearing love/hate interest, Flo Kelly.
The film opens as Jimmy Hall is getting ready to fly Duke Sargent over to
Jimmy and Trudy go to a town celebration and a Norwegian custom (made up for the film of course) states that if you dance with a girl twice then you are engaged to her!! Duke’s friend Jimmy finds out about the custom and informs his clueless friend that he is about to be hitched so they both flee
Eventually Jimmy and Duke return to
Now as a skating star, Trudy realizes that she loves Jimmy and he adores her, but through a series of misunderstandings Trudy believes that Jimmy actually is in love with Flo! Of course, in true
According to published reports at the time of the movie’s filming, Miss Henie received $80,000 for “Happy Landing” and was contracted to be paid $125,000 for each of her next 3 films, but in the
“Happy Landing (Twentieth Century-Fox), is blonde, Figure Skater Sonja Henie's third motion picture, makes it clear that Producer Darryl Zanuck must soon find some other way of keeping Miss Henie's films fresh than by putting them on ice. To give Sonja presentable, even spectacular, settings in which to display her twinkling, silver-bladed eurhythmy is a set designer's holiday. But to blend a plot with her icebound talents is something not even a Zanuck budget seems to be able to accomplish. Happy Landing makes Miss Henie a million-dollar sideshow on a cheapskate circuit.”
But Variety said "Glitteringly performed," the third box-office hit of skating champion Sonja Henie "has just about everything...comedy, suspense, romance...action, music, dancing" and an "amusing story." and Harrison’s Reports singled out her skating, “Very Good. It is Miss Henie’s marvelous skating routines that make it exciting. She does not appear often, but when she does, it is something to see. She executes the most difficult feats on the ice with the utmost ease and grace.”
The working titles of this film were Bread, Butter and Rhythm, Hot and Happy and Happy Ending and in 1938 Henie was ranked by Motion Picture Herald poll of exhibitors as the third biggest money-making star of the year. It also is interesting to note that El Brendel’s name does not appear on any advertisements for this film or in the movie’s opening titles. It is only in the ending titles is he mentioned.
One final note about El’s acting situation at this time. From the Mansfield Ohio News-Journal of February 10th, 1938 in the column “Hollywood Speaks” by Robbin Coons, a short interview right after the release of “Happy Landing” the subject of Brendel not having any more major roles and being “washed-up” as far as Hollywood was concerned was mentioned to El and he replied:
“I wish I could be washed up the way some of these stars are.