Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Holiday Inn (1942)

Now this is more like it.

Christmas in Connecticut and It Happened on Fifth Avenue were OK Christmas films, but definitely don't deserve to be called classics.

Holiday Inn doesn't rank alongside It's a Wonderful World either, but it's definitely closer in quality to Frank Capra's fine 1946 effort than those other two films recently reviewed on this site.

Bing Crosby and Fred Astaire only made two films together - Holiday Inn and Blue Skies four years later. There's one good reason right off the bat to give this film a look. Bing sings plenty and Astaire is a treat to watch on the dance floor - especially on an Independence Day routine with firecrackers as props. Wow, this guy is smooth.

Here, Astaire playing dancer (what else?) Ted Hanover, is a cad. He wants to share the stage with top-notch female talent. If that hurts Jim Hardy (Bing Crosby), too bad.

Hardy and Hanover are a team when the film opens on Christmas Eve.

"This is our last night in show business," Hardy suggests. He wants out of the constant grind of performing. His plan - buy an inn in Connecticut and only perform on holidays. "I want to be lazy," he declares. Maybe no one has told him how much work the average entrepreneur faces. Hardy plans to settle down with Lila Dixon (Virginia Dale), who's also part of the act. It's too bad it's Hanover she wants to find under the misiletoe for the rest of her life.

Hardy's heart bounces back soon enough when he meets Linda Mason (Marjorie Reynolds), a young lady with a fine voice and dancing talent. She's keen to work at Holiday Inn to start her career. When Lila ditches Ted for a better half with lots of cash, the smooth as silk hoofer goes on a major bender and makes his way to Holiday Inn. He and Linda are a hit on the dance floor, but he's so smashed he remembers little of the great talent he cut a rug with. "I've got to have a partner," he vows. His agent, Danny Reed (Walter Abel), joins in the search for the mystery woman.

Hardy, who has already been burned by Hanover once in matters of the heart, does his darndest to keep Linda away from Ted. His ploy works - for a while.

Seeing Crosby sing and Astaire dance is reason enough to watch this film. Plus, Bing sings White Christmas. White Christmas! That would be the biggest selling single for decades until Elton John's retake on Candle in the Wind paying tribute to Princess Diana in the late 1990s.

It's unsettling to see Crosby and Dale put on blackface for a song and dance number saluting Abraham Lincoln. Blame that on the times of racial inequality in the United States. Blackface would be gone by the 1960s.

The film's finale is a treat - an acknowledgement of Hollywood's world of make believe. Is actual director Mark Sandrich seen among the crew preparing for a movie's climatic scene? Another nice touch - Bing and Fred reprise the film's first song, updated to reflect how their ways with the ladies have gone.

Holiday Inn. Great cast. Fine music and dance. Now this is how the holidays should be spent.

RATING: 8/10

FUN FACTS: Character actor Irving Bacon has some fun as Gus, a taxi driver who ferries Linda Mason to Holiday Inn. He appeared in more than 500 films and television shows including Gone With the Wind and Shadow of a Doubt .

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