Sun Valley Serenade

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Sun Valley Serenade
Theatrical release poster
Directed by H. Bruce Humberstone
Produced by Milton Sperling
Written by Robert Ellis (screenplay)
Helen Logan (screenplay)
Art Arthur (story)
Robert Harari (story)
Starring Sonja Henie
John Payne
Milton Berle
Glenn Miller
Lynn Bari
Distributed by 20th Century Fox
Release dates
  • August 21, 1941 (1941-08-21)
Running time
86 minutes
Country United States
Language English

Sun Valley Serenade is a 1941 musical film starring Sonja Henie, John Payne, Glenn Miller, Milton Berle, and Lynn Bari. It features the Glenn Miller Orchestra as well as dancing by the Nicholas Brothers and Dorothy Dandridge, performing "Chattanooga Choo Choo", which was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Song, was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 1996, and was awarded the first Gold Record for sales of 1.2 million.


Ted Scott (Payne) is a band pianist whose publicity manager decides that, for good press, the band should adopt a foreign refugee. The band goes to Ellis Island to meet the girl and soon discovers that the refugee isn't a 10-year-old child, but a young woman, Karen Benson (Henie). The surprise comes right before the band is to travel to Sun Valley, Idaho for a Christmas gig. While on the ski slopes Ted soon falls for Karen's inventive schemes to win the heart of her new sponsor, much to the chagrin of his girlfriend, Vivian Dawn (Bari), a soloist with the band. Vivian promptly quits the band out of jealousy, and Karen stages an elaborate ice show as a substitute.

Of particular note is the elaborate "Chattanooga Choo Choo" sequence. The scene begins at a rehearsal with the Glenn Miller Orchestra practicing "Chattanooga Choo Choo" and includes two choruses of the song whistled and sung by Tex Beneke in a musical exchange with The Modernaires. As the Miller band concludes their feature the camera pans left to reveal a railway station set. The band continues with the production number and accompanies Dorothy Dandridge and The Nicholas Brothers in their song and dance routine.

Sun Valley Serenade is the first of the only two movies featuring The Glenn Miller Orchestra (the other is 1942's Orchestra Wives). Besides "Chattanooga Choo Choo", other Glenn Miller tunes in the film are "Moonlight Serenade", "It Happened in Sun Valley", "I Know Why (And So Do You)", and "In the Mood".

An instrumental version of "At Last" was recorded by Glenn Miller and his Orchestra as well as a version with vocals by John Payne and Pat Friday, but these recordings would remain unused and unissued. "At Last" can be heard in the movie in three scenes, however, in an orchestral performance by Glenn Miller and His Orchestra in the Lido Terrace night club after they perform "In the Mood", as part of the orchestral background score in a scene between John Payne and Lynn Bari, and in an orchestral version with vocalization but without lyrics a minute and twenty seconds in length during the closing skating sequence with Sonja Henie.[1] "At Last" would also appear in the 1942 follow-up movie Orchestra Wives performed by Glenn Miller and his Orchestra with vocals by Ray Eberle and Pat Friday.

Future Olympic gold medalist Gretchen Fraser was the skiing stand-in for Sonja Henie. Fraser was a member of the Olympic team in 1940 (cancelled) and 1948.

Cast listing[edit]

Actor/Actress Role
Sonja Henie Karen Benson
John Payne Ted Scott
Glenn Miller Phil Corey
Milton Berle Jerome K. 'Nifty' Allen
Lynn Bari Vivian Dawn
Joan Davis Miss Carstairs
Dorothy Dandridge Specialty Act
The Nicholas Brothers Themselves
Glenn Miller Orchestra Phil Corey Orchestra / The Dartmouth Troubadours
The Modernaires Themselves


RCA Bluebird 78, "Chattanooga Choo Choo", B-11230-B, b/w "I Know Why (And So Do You)", 1941.

Sun Valley Serenade was filmed in March 1941, by Darryl Zanuck, on spring snow in Sun Valley, Idaho. The film became a Hollywood hit and served as a recruiting effort for the elite ski corps of the 10th Mountain Division stationed at Camp Hale in Colorado. Sun Valley's ski school director, Otto Lang, of St. Anton, oversaw the skiing scenes.[2] The musical numbers were recorded in multi-directional mono, placing microphones around different parts of the orchestra. Those were all mixed down to mono at the time the film was released. The parts of those recordings were found and mixed into true stereo. They have also been included in home video releases.


The film is shown with no admission charge every Tuesday, Thursday and Sunday[3] at the Opera House in the Sun Valley Village, and 24 hours a day on a dedicated television channel available to all rooms at the Sun Valley Lodge and Inn.[4]

Sun Valley Serenade was shown on Turner Classic Movies (TCM) for the first time on Christmas Eve, December 24, 2013 with an introduction by host Robert Osborne.

The film was released in the VHS format in 1991 by 20th Century Fox. In 2007 Sun Valley Serenade was released on DVD by 20th Century Fox for Region 2 format (Japan, Europe, South Africa and the Middle East). It remains unreleased on DVD for Region 1 (U.S., U.S. Territories, Canada and Bermuda).

Award nominations[edit]

Academy Awards

  • Nominated: Best Cinematography, Black-and-White, Edward Cronjager (1942)
  • Nominated: Best Music, Original Song for "Chattanooga Choo Choo" Harry Warren (music), Mack Gordon (lyrics) (1942)
  • Nominated: Best Music, Scoring of a Musical Picture, Emil Newman (1942)


  1. ^ Soundtracks for Sun Valley Serenade. IMDB.
  2. ^ Shelton, Peter. Climb to Conquer: The Untold Story of WWII's 10th Mountain Division. Scribner, 2003. ISBN 0-7432-2606-2. p. 48
  3. ^ Official Website of the Sun Valley Resort, "Things to Do"
  4. ^ Cinema Treasures, Sun Valley Opera House

External links[edit]