If you haven’t seen it:
In Holiday Inn, Bing Crosby and Fred Astaire play successful Broadway song and dance men. They are best friends, but they seem to have a tendency to fall for the same women.
If you like the old-style cabaret, and don’t object too strongly to contrived story-lines, dodgy acting, and casual racism, there’s lots to enjoy here. Not least the fact that this film introduced the song White Christmas to the world.
If you have seen it:
Scroll down past the trailer for more.
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SPOILER ALERT: The plot summary and comments below contain details that might spoil your enjoyment of the movie if you have not already seen it.
Jim, his girlfriend Lila, and best friend Ted, are a successful song and dance act. However, Jim has decided to give it all up and go and become a farmer (which he believes, for some reason, will be an easier life) with Lila. What Jim does not know however, is that Lila and Ted are having an affair, and Lila has no intention of going with him. When Jim does find out, he takes the news philosophically, and goes off to his farm alone.
After a while, he discovers that being a farmer is actually hard work. He comes up with another plan instead – he turns the farmhouse into a hotel. In order to minimize the amount of work he has to do, he decides that the hotel will only open on national holidays. He also hires a novice cabaret singer/dancer, Linda.
On the opening night, Ted turns up at the hotel, having split up with Lila. He is very drunk. He finds himself performing an impromptu dance number with Linda in front of a crowd of fans, but in the morning he cannot remember anything about it. On hearing that his “new partner” was so good though, he resolves to track her down.
Jim of course, knows exactly who the mystery girl is, but tries to hide her identity from Ted because he cannot bear to lose yet another girl to his rival. The following weeks and months becomes a cat and mouse game with Ted staking out the hotel and Jim doing his best to keep his star act away from Ted. This includes making Linda wear a blackface on stage for a song and dance celebrating Abraham Lincoln’s birthday.
Eventually Linda realizes what is happening, and she is angry with Jim. When Hollywood film makers turn up at the hotel and say they want to make a movie about the place, Linda decides to go off with them, and Ted.
Several months later, Jim hears that Ted and Linda are engaged. This time he decides to stand up for himself, and goes off to Hollywood, and wins Linda back.
Steve Sunday Says:
I am not a big fan of musicals where people burst into song for no reason, so I was relieved that most (but irritatingly not quite all) the songs were in context on stage or in rehearsal. Overall, I thought Holiday Inn was quite an enjoyable bit of nonsense. None of the characters behave like real people at all, and the story does not make a lot of sense either, but what I found interesting was the glimpse of the old long-gone art form of cabaret.
A lot of people get very worked up about Fred Astaire’s dancing, angrily declaring him the best dancer of all time and making unsubstantiated claims that he could defy gravity. Well, I have never been especially keen on his particular style myself, but I thought it worked well in this movie. I enjoyed the “drunk” dance number more than the (more celebrated) “firecracker” number.
It’s not all wholesome fun though. Back in the 1980s I remember seeing someone on British TV putting forward the suggestion that Holiday Inn was in fact a racist/Nazi propaganda film. As he said, “Let’s examine the evidence, shall we”:
- The blackface in the “Abraham” musical number is offensive to black people and perpetuates racial stereotypes.
- They are dreaming of a White Christmas.
- The whole movie was masterminded by Irving Berlin.
- In World War II, Fred Astaire fought on the side of the Germans.
Now that I am older and wiser (and have access to Wikipedia) I realize that he made that last point up. Still, no smoke without fire eh?
Trivia Trish Says:
The song “White Christmas” was number one in the charts for 11 weeks in 1942.
- The “Abraham” musical number is often cut when Holiday Inn is shown on TV, because blackface is considered offensive today.
- Holiday Inn was (loosely) remade in color as “White Christmas” in 1954. Bing Crosby starred in the remake, but Fred Astaire chose not to reprise his role (apparently he was fed up of always playing the loser), and it was taken by Danny Kaye instead.
- The real life Holiday Inn hotels were named after the film.
Chris the Critic says:
Astaire is on fine form in Let’s say it with Firecrackers but overall the movie is dowdy and thin. The girls are duds and the film lacks festivity and showbiz pizzaz. The 1954 “remake” was a distinct improvement.
Main Cast and Crew:
Bing Crosby … Jim Hardy
Fred Astaire … Ted Hanover
Marjorie Reynolds … Linda Mason
Virginia Dale … Lila Dixon
Directed by Mark Sandrich
Music by Irving Berlin