Hollywood Ice Revue
Troubles in Henie's film career were not mirrored in her popularity as a live performer. She was showcased in the Hollywood Ice Revue, which began in 1938 and continued for twelve years in cities across the United States. A 2002 article in the (Cleveland) Plain Dealer reflected Henie's impact in these shows, an accomplishment undimmed by the passing of sixty-four years. It recounted that her appearance had been a front-page story in which Roelif Loveland had written "there is no simile to express adequately the grace and loveliness of this glamorous young woman." Loveland continued, "she seems to float, like something in gossamer wings, but anyone tempted to drift off into an ethereal realm is brought back by a pair of very shapely limbs, which move with the smoothness of running water and the strength of youth." Members of the audience paid up to $4.40 for the chance to see Henie. This was more than a day's pay for Steve Turocy, who at age eighty-two remembered having to settle for a $3.30 seat because the others were sold out. During a week in Cleveland, she would skate for more than 62,000 fans.
The Hollywood Ice Review was polished by Henie's unwavering pursuit of perfection. A New York Times obituary noted that she once summoned Eddie Pec, who was said to be the only person she trusted to sharpen her skates, from New York to Chicago by train to do a job that took only a few minutes. She also forbade the skaters in her chorus from wearing hairpins, after having fallen and broken ribs because of a pin on the ice. Henie characterized her skating as very dangerous, but others said that because she almost never fell she did not know how to do it without hurting herself. And most importantly, she hired the best skaters and choreographers and paid them handsomely.
In cooperation with promoter Wirtz, Henie honed her skills as a producer of ice shows as well as maintained her prowess as a skater. In 1940 the pair offered the ballet-on-ice Les Sylphides, which was so successful that they began to produce reviews throughout the year at the Center Theatre in New York City. Henie did not appear in these shows, but rather was an advisor and financial partner. In 1951 Wirtz and Henie were unable to agree on a contract and parted ways. So the skating star created her own ice show, Sonja Henie with Her 1952 Ice Revue. It featured spectacular costumes and included waltz and hula dances. Reviewers marveled that Henie was still in top form. According to a quote in the New York Times, Henie felt that she was working harder than ever: "When I was in championship competition I was on the ice for exactly four minutes. Now I arrive at the Garden at 6:45 and I never stop until 11:10. Besides, I can't quite imagine my doing the hula in the Olympics." But Henie stopped producing shows after an accident in 1952 prior to a performance. A stand of bleacher seats collapsed at a Baltimore armory, injuring more than 250 people. Henie was not judged to be responsible for the incident, but she decided not to hold any more arena-style shows. Subsequently, she appeared on television several times, including her own one-hour special.