It was obvious from my perspective, being removed by nearly 80 years, that what was popular in musical styles and figure skating techniques in 1940 (as opposed to 2020) is very different! For example, we rarely hear or see trombonists play by wiggling their slides to create vibrato the way Glen Miller did. And now days, we are accustomed to watching any figure skater of repute to display an arsenal of triple axels and other tricks as a matter of course during their routines. What we forget is, back then, Glen Miller and Sonja Henie were forging new ground.
Thank goodness for film that has preserved great performances. Glen Miller produced hit tune after hit tune from 1932-1944. Unfortunately, he and his band were all killed when their plane went down in the English Channel during WWII. Sonja Henie won 10 Olympic figure skating titles in a row. But what made her the inspiration that she was to future female figure skaters were her movies and touring ice skating shows.
While I was watching the movie, "Sun Vally Serenade," I really had to check myself for having thoughts like an armchair critic. (I have no ice skating skill and I don’t play trombone, so I really have no right to be judge-mental.) Some of the choreography for the instrumentalists of the Big Bands during the 1940’s seem pretty hokey to us nowadays. But these big bands were learning to do anything they could to compete and be unique in a field of so many.
(Check out a YouTube clip from this movie: The Glen Miller Orchestra "In the Mood" - 1941)
Olympic Figure Skaters nowadays are just unbelievably great. We simply expect spectacular jumps and balletic extensions from figure skaters in our day. We don’t realize that Sonja Henie pioneered some of the first jumps and spins ever executed by a female in competition. She also freed the female skaters of the burden of always wearing ankle length heavy skirts while trying to figure skate. She began the practice of wearing short velvet tutu skirts and white skates. She had many imitators and inspired younger skaters who followed her to further the sport.
So, I am vowing to learn more about the past so that I won’t be tempted to be an armchair critic!