Monday, December 28, 2009

Holiday Inn (1942)

While other families are watching Christmas Vacation and A Christmas Story, my mom and I are sipping tea and enjoying classic musicals like White Christmas and Holiday Inn. We roll with Bing Crosby, I guess. While not thoroughly a Christmas movie, Holiday Inn is notable for the first appearance of the song "White Christmas" as part of Irving Berlin's lovely score. The story opens as crooner Jim Hardy (Bing Crosby) is left by his fiancee Lila (Virginia Dale) for his partner Ted Hanover (Fred Astaire), an opportunistic dancer. He moves to a farm in Connecticut, hoping to get a taste of the easy life, and eventually decides to turn it into a nightclub and inn that's only open on major holidays.

He employs aspiring performer Linda Mason (Marjorie Reynolds) as co-host of the holiday-themed shows, and falls in love with her but is reticent to be open about his feelings due to his money problems. Ted shows up after Lila leaves him too, and conspires to make Linda his new dance partner. What follows is a passive-aggressive war for the woman's heart- the issue of what she actually wants for herself doesn't really come up until the end.

This movie certainly has its flaws, many reflective of its time period. It's pretty patriarchal (duh) and also there's a totally gross blackface scene (it's vaguely connected to the storyline but I squirm every time). Bing is a little lackluster, mostly because his character is so boring, but we still get to hear him sing some enchanting tunes. Virginia Dale is not a very good dancer. Most of the costumes are weirdly unflattering, too. The story is fluffy enough to serve as a showcase for the holiday musical scenes, but maintains some elements of drama for a more interesting take on the relationships formed in show business.

For me, Fred Astaire is the main reason to come back to this film. He's his usual charming, over-confident self, plus he's kind of a pushy jerk. He gets some of the best lines (appropriate since his timing is better than Bing's) and his solo dance number with firecrackers is one of my favorites. He's an actor whom I always enjoy, because he really knows how to entertain. Holiday Inn is a cute enough film with some great numbers, but Fred really makes it for me (I just never really got into Bing Crosby, not sure why).