Sonja Henie

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A popular Norwegian actress and figure skater from the 1930s through the '50s.
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b. 8 April 1910, Oslo, Kristiania, d. 12 October 1969. As a little girl Henie became a skilled dancer and at the age of eight took up ice-skating. After becoming national champion, she went on to become the world figure skating champion, made a film, and at the age of 18 won the first of what were to be three Olympic championships. After the last of these, in 1936, she toured with a professional ice show and then was signed by 20th Century-Fox and made a number of romantic comedies in which she whirled and smiled her way across the ice. These films were One In A Million (with Don Ameche, the Ritz Brothers and Borrah Minnevitch And His Harmonica Rascals) (1936), Thin Ice (which prompted Variety to describe her as ‘a Pavlova on ice’) (1937), Happy Landing (Ameche and Ethel Merman) and My Lucky Star (with Buddy Ebsen) (both 1938), Second Fiddle (for which Irving Berlin wrote the Oscar-nominated ‘I Poured My Heart Into A Song’), and an espionage-comedy, Everything Happens At Night (1939). Henie started the 40s with Sun Valley Serenade (1941), in which she co-starred with John Payne. Also in the film were Dorothy Dandridge, Glenn Miller And His Orchestra, and the remarkable Nicholas Brothers. Next came Iceland (1942, also with Payne and notable chiefly for the Harry Warren and Mack Gordon song, ‘There Will Never Be Another You’), Wintertime (1943, with Woody Herman’s band), It’s A Pleasure (1945), and The Countess Of Monte Cristo (1948).

By the time of the last two or three films, it was clear that the audiences were wearying of ice-skating films. After her Hollywood career was over, Henie produced and starred in the Hollywood Ice Revue that was presented in several US cities, including New York where it took place at Madison Square Garden. She made a brief return to films, appearing in a UK production, Hello London (1958), but shortly thereafter retired. Two film documentaries have been made about her life and career, the Yugoslavian Nedostajemi Sonia Henie (I Miss Sonia Henie) (1971) and Sonja Henie: Queen Of The Ice (1995). Suffering from leukaemia, Henie was on flight to Oslo when she died.