Sun Valley Serenade Shines On

The word “classic” is often misused, especially when used in conjunction with words like “dude” or “epic.” Heck, my four-year-old used all three words the other day to describe his chicken nuggets.

By its very definition, however, a classic can’t be anything as ordinary as eating chicken parts, even if they are shaped like dinosaurs. A true classic is, instead, defined as something extraordinary, something that has the quality, character and uniqueness to stand the test of time. Classic is connected with synonyms like excellence, timeless, traditional, enduring, archetypal.

These just so happen to also be words you could use to describe “Sun Valley Serenade.” The film is still popular and relevant nearly 75 years after it was made. It is the epitome of a classic.

A handful of years after Sun Valley became America’s original destination ski resort, it became the backdrop for a big Hollywood movie called “Sun Valley Serenade.” The film was originally released in 1941 and starred Norway’s Olympic gold medal-winning figure skater Sonja Henie, Milton Berle and composer-turned-actor Glenn Miller. Thanks to Miller’s score, the film was nominated for three Academy Awards and included the #1 hit, “Chattanooga Choo Choo.”

Thanks to Otto Lange, the director of Sun Valley’s ski school and the technical director of skiing for the film, “Sun Valley Serenade” also became one of the first ever ski movies.

As Sonja Henie’s character, Karen Benson, proudly declares after being offered a chance to take the lift down from dinner at Roundhouse, “A skier never takes a lift unless he’s carried down in a stretcher.”

In honor of this week’s 4th Annual Sun Valley Film Fest (SVFF), the Community School’s Multimedia Lab has re-made a short version of the film. “Sun Valley Serenade: A 10 minute remake” was produced by a team of 40 9th through 12th graders. The students broke the film down into about 10 different scenes that they shot in front of a backdrop of footage from the original film. They also did a great job interweaving modern black and white shots of Baldy and its surroundings with the original film’s historic footage of Sun Valley.

 “It was the first real ski town film and was great advertising at the time for Sun Valley, so the students thought it would be good to honor it,” said Peter Burke, head of the multimedia lab for The Community School.

Some of the students and their film will be involved in the SVFF’S Future Filmmakers Forum on Saturday afternoon at Sun Valley Opera House.

The original version of “Sun Valley Serenade” still plays free of charge, most Tuesday, Thursday and Sunday afternoons at the Opera House, as well as on a dedicated TV channel at the resort.

Despite being well past it’s retirement age, the film’s core content of skiing, singing, ice skating and steady servings of Milton Berle’s comedic touch, continues to endure and is still delighting those watching it for the 50th time, or the first, like my four-year-old did the other day.

He really liked it, especially the “skiing and the singing,” he said.

To which I happily responded, “Good. Now that’s what a real ‘classic’ is, dude.”

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