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Classic of the Week: Holiday Inn (1942)

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Holiday Inn is a 1942 American musical film starring Bing Crosby and Fred Astaire, with Marjorie Reynolds, Virginia Davis, and Walter Abel. It was directed by Mark Sandrich with music by Irving Berlin. Berlin wrote twelve songs especially for the film, the best known one being “White Christmas.” The film hallmarks a reuse of the song “Easter Parade”, written by Berlin for the 1933 Broadway revue As Thousands Cheer and used as a title track for the 1948 film Easter Parade starring Astaire and Judy Garland. Holiday Inn‘s choreography was by Danny Dare. 

Him Hardy, Ted Hanover, and Lila Dixon have a popular New York City song and dance ac. On Christmas Eve Jim prepares for his last performance before retiring to be husband to Lila and life on a farm in Connecticut. Lila tells jim she has fallne in love with the infamous smooth talker Ted instead; heartbroken, Jim tells them goodbye. 

He tries to take a shot at working on the farm but ends up in a santitarium instead. The following Christmas Eve Jim is back in New York City with plans to turn his farm into “Holiday Inn,” an entertainment venue open only on holidays, to the interest of Ted and his agent Danny Reed. In a flower shop Danny is coaxed by sales girl and aspiring performer Linda Mason; he directs her to Holiday Inn and Ted’s club. Later that night Linda and Jim accidentally meet at a performance by Ted and Lila. Jim pretends to own a rival club. while Linda poses as a celebrity friend of Ted’s, only to leave when Ted and Lila near. 

On New Year’s Eve Holiday Inn opens to a packed house. Back in New York City Ted learns that Lila is leaving him for a Texas millionaire. Drinkig heavily, he arrives at Holiday Inn at midnight and bumps into Linda. They dance and, and the drunk dancer and innocent young woman recieve lots of applause from the audience who believe it was all a rehearsed act. Danny arrives and and is overjoyed that Ted has found a new partner, but in the morning Ted doesn’t remember Linda. Jim hides her, scared Ted will steal her away. 

On Lincoln’s birthday Ted and Danny look for Linda, but Jim convinces Linda to play the minstrel show number “Abraham” in blackface together to fool them. While applying makeup Jim asks her to stay with him between holidays, which she comprehends as a propsal. He declares it, but explains that only when he can afford to. Leaving empty-handed, Ted and Danny plan to return. 

Rehearsing for Valentine’s Day, Jim presents Linda with a new song, “Be Careful, It’s My Heart.” Ted arrives and goes into an unchoreographed dance with Linda. Recognizing her from New Year’s Eve, he demands that Jim prepare a number for them to perform in the next show. 

At Easter romance grows between Jim and Linda. They are met by Ted, who asks to remain in Jim’s shows to experience “the true happiness” they found. Linda is charmed, but Jim is suspicious. 

Thanksgiving finds the Inn closed and Jim filled with self-pity. As he prepares to mail off his new song his housekeeper Mamie coaxes him to fight to win Linda back. 

Bing Crosby’s singing, Fred Astaire’s footwork, Marjorie Reynolds’ and Virginia Dale’s dancing, and Irving Berlin’s songs, are the only thing great about this movie. You’d think with a great story, great soundtrack, and choreography, this has to be a fantastic movie, but it’s barely that. Entertaining yes, but it just jumps from one holiday song and dance number to the next with very little story in between. You do learn about Jim working on the farm and him turning the farm into the inn, and how both Jim and Ted are in love with the same ladies, but hardly anything else. You don’t see much rehearsing of the performances, which to me, would have made the story far more interesting. 

There is racism in the “Abraham” number where blackface is used, which is offensive nowadays and many television channels choose to omit the scene, but most DVD versions still have it. Yes, the scene should have never happened, but it did and times were different then, so you have to either watch it on regular TV, skip through it, or suck it up and watch it, which is really hard to do. 

The acting is really good, but not fantastic,  but the singing and dancing overshadows that. It does have the typical 1940’s romantic musical tone, so the storyline doesn’t feel very original. The part of the story of two guys trying to woo the same women, has been done to death, even before this movie came out. 

There are some great scenes like the “Be Careful, It’s My Heart” sequence where Ted and Linda dance to Jim’s song and at the end of the routine, they jump through at big paper heart prop. Also the Independance Day scene where Ted dances with firecrackers is fabulous. 

The movie treats every holiday that shown as just musical theater productions, though some of the numbers go into the history or what they think is the history of the holiday, they don’t celebrate the holidays they way they are meant to be like having a Thanksgiving meal with family friends, opening presents with family and friends on Christmas Day, going to church on Easter Sunday, etc., which conservative Christians may find blasphemous. 

There is lots of drinking and smoking throughout and several instances where a character is drunk. Despite the racism, blasphemy, and heavy uses of booze and tobacco, it is still a really entertaining movie. Though this is considered a Christmas film, it covers most of the major holidays celebrated in America, though not Hanukkah for some reason, so I don’t call this an Xmas movie, but more of a motion picture honoring many holidays. 12+ 3.5/5 

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