Holiday Inn, one my Dad and his siblings grew up on, one I hadn't seen all the way through since I was a kid. Thanks to a film series at Orland Marcus, I was able to watch it on the big screen.
A successful singer, songwriter and entertainer, Jim Hardy (Bing Crosby) is ready to walk away from his busy entertainment lifestyle. He's bought a farm in the Connecticut countryside and is going to move there with Lila (Virginia Dale), his singing/dancing partner, after one last show. Well, that's the plan at least. Lila instead chooses to go with Jim's rival and quasi-partner, Ted Hanover (Fred Astaire), leaving Jim to move to his spacious farm and country inn by himself. The country life doesn't seem to agree with him, forcing the talented entertainer to come up with a new plan. Looking to provide a new sort of entertainment outlet, Jim decides to open the inn as Holiday Inn, a club/restaurant that's only open on the major holidays. With some help from a young, talented singer/dancer, Linda Mason (Marjorie Reynolds), he puts his plan into action that works immediately....until Ted shows up on his doorstep.
My parents have said over the years I was born in the wrong generation. Case in point? Old movies, almost all of my favorite movies released before 1970. So when chances come along to see some of these old classics in theaters, I've gotta jump at the chance. This musical comedy from director Mark Sandrich doesn't scream 'BIG SCREEN!' like say, Lawrence of Arabia, but in its original black and white format, it looks great 71 years since its original release. It isn't a prototypical Christmas movie -- covering a whole lot of holidays -- but there is a certain holiday charm to it, an old school charm that plays well now in 2013. It's funny with a talented cast, has some good musical numbers and deserves its place with the rest of the frequent watches come December and the holiday season.
For me, it's hard not to compare 'Holiday' to 1954's White Christmas, one of my all-time favorites. Both films rely on the chemistry (and quasi-rivalry) with its two male leads, Crosby and Astaire here, Crosby and Danny Kaye in 'White.' Here between Bing Crosby and Fred Astaire, it ain't so much of a friendship, leaning far more to the rivalry-side. It plays like two high school students trying to one-up each other, Crosby's Jim falling for Reynolds' Linda, Astaire's Ted also falling for her as a dancer partner, wanting to take her to the big time as an entertainer. So friendship is out the window, but the rivalry does provide some fireworks, the rivalry nonetheless showing off that chemistry between the duo. It's always fun too when the two rivals get to fight over the ladies in their lives, notably the angelic Linda and the conniving, man-eating Lila. Also look for Walter Abel as Danny, Ted's conniving manager with dollar signs for eyes.
Enough with acting and story, onto the songs!!! Yeah, I know, pretty manly intro. When the music is from composer Irving Berlin, it doesn't matter the movie. I'm going to be on board. 'Holiday' is probably most famous for really putting one of the best Christmas songs ever, White Christmas, out there for audiences to appreciate. For the four people who haven't heard the song, listen to it HERE. With Bing Crosby singing, we're talking about one classic Christmas carol. 'Holiday' even won an Oscar for the song while picking up nominations for best writing and best original story. It deserves its status as a worthwhile, classic holiday movie for that song alone.
More than just one song though, 'Holiday' has 12 different songs written expressly for the script/screenplay. The story more than anything is simply an excuse to string the songs together into something coherent more than just a stage/entertainment show. That's where the style comes in, Jim's Holiday Inn only opening for the major holidays, stylish calendar inserts introducing one number after another. Without posting a boatload of links, check a series of them out HERE. There is most definitely a variety to choose from. Some give Bing a chance to sing, others a chance for Fred to dance and with crossovers featuring both, not to mention Linda and Lila getting into the action. Never a dull moment, and musical numbers that are entertaining without being awkwardly embarrassing and find new ways to get those numbers into a story.
There is one other thing worth mentioning. A musical number for Lincoln's birthday, Abraham, has Bing and Marjorie, the band and the waitstaff in blackface. All sorts of politically incorrect in this very politically correct era. Naturally, it doesn't age well to the point its laughable in its execution. Decent enough song, but it's hard not to chuckle at it now. Watch it HERE. I didn't find it particularly offensive, but be forewarned, some people are offended far easier than I am. Also in the cringe-worthy department is Jim's cook/maid/housekeeper, Mamie (Louise Beavers). Not bad stuff, just a little dated. Still, the movie itself is a gem, well worth checking out for the holiday seasons.
Holiday Inn (1942): ***/****