Holiday Inn is one of my favorites to watch at this time of year. It is a romantic comedy with music by Irving Berlin, and stars Bing Crosby. It predates White Christmas by 12 years, having been released in 1942. Also starring Fred Astaire, it is a G rated film and features wonderful dance numbers showcasing Fred’s talents (and Edith Head’s gowns). Irving Berlin is said to have written the song Easter Parade, and then got the idea for a film about holidays. That’s how the most beloved song of White Christmas was born, and why it came to be associated with Bing Crosby’s melodic voice.
Jim Hardy (Bing Crosby) and Ted Hanover (Fred Astaire) have a song and dance team with Lila Dixon (Virginia Dale). Lila becomes engaged to Jim, but doesn’t want to join him at his farm in Connecticut. She and Ted run off together to continue their career in show business, while Jim heads to his farm. Jim gets the idea to turn the farm into Holiday Inn, a place where shows are performed on major holidays only. Along the way, aspiring performer Linda Mason (Marjorie Reynolds) joins Jim’s productions at the inn. Lila meanwhile dumps Ted and he shows up at the inn intoxicated. He dances a crowd-pleasing dance with Linda, but fails to remember who she is in the morning. Thus begins Ted’s search for his perfect dance partner, and Jim’s attempts to keep the two of them apart. (Fred Astaire had two shots of bourbon prior to the first take for the drunken dance scene, and one shot before each subsequent take. They stopped at the 7th take, which is in the movie).
Bing and Fred are great as friends who always seem to fall for the same woman, and then try to outsmart each other. Bing was about 39 years old at the time of this film and Fred was 43 years old. You’re probably seeing them at the prime of their talents here, and the screenplay is a classic romantic comedy, well written and directed.
The film is in black and white, but that shouldn’t stop you from seeing it. The dancing and comedy are enough to make up for it. One of my favorite pieces is the 4th of July performance. This film was released in 1942, and the number is a not so subtle reminder that we were at war, and what freedoms we were fighting to protect. Another interesting little segment is the confused turkey on the calendar trying to pick which Thursday in November should be Thanksgiving Day. It’s a reference to President Roosevelt’s wanting to change the date of Thanksgiving.
Why not get both Holiday Inn and White Christmas for a night of some of the best classic musicals Hollywood ever made? Watching these two films always puts me in good spirits, and I hope they have the same effect for you.