John Payne was one of America’s top box office stars during the 1940s.  He may be best remembered for his appearance in the film Miracle on 34th Street.  He plays the lawyer who defends Kris Kringle at the old man’s competency hearing.  The movie is filled with wry political and social commentary, including William Frawley playing a political “fixer” attempting to influence the decision of the judge.

it put the resort on the map as well as emblazoned the location on the American consciousness

Payne was in many, many big pictures of the era and then basically vanished from screens.  Not because his star waned but because he was a very shrewd businessman and amassed great wealth during his career.  He eventually went to work full time managing his money.

One of his earlier films and not as well-known is the lighthearted Sun Valley Serenade.  It earned 3 Academy Award nominations and it put the resort on the map as well as emblazoned the location on the American consciousness.

The cast was a who’s who of entertainment of the time.  Payne was a leading man.  Among his co-stars was the Norwegian figure skater Sonja Henie.  She had emerged from the 1930s as one of the world’s most famous athletes.  The Glenn Miller Orchestra offers much of the upbeat music.  Miller was so popular at the time there were estimates 4 out of 5 nickels going into jukeboxes were playing his compositions.  His career would come to a tragic end 3 years later.  He was killed while serving in uniform in World War Two.  His plane vanished over the English Channel and he was never found.

I’m told the movie still plays continuously in some places in Sun Valley.  I watched it a few years ago and got the impression it was a solid representation at the time of life in Idaho.

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