HOLIDAY INN (1942) 

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Bing Crosby
Fred Astaire
Marjorie Reynolds
Virginia Dale
Walter Abel
Louise Beavers
Irving Bacon
Marek Windheim
James Bell

Mark Sandrich




Time: 100 mins.
Rating: Not Rated
Genre: Romance/Musical/Comedy

Won Academy Award for Best Song. Nominations for Best Music and Original Story.

Instead of waiting for Hollywood to dream up ways to use his songs, the prodigiously-talented Irving Berlin developed the idea for this fun and frothy musical treat as a way to showcase his latest tunes. Throw in the pairing of Astaire and Crosby and you can pretty much guarantee a great time. Berlin makes sure there's plenty of dancing and singing to showoff both their talents and peppers the plot with plenty of witty one-liners they sling back and forth in between the musical numbers. Though partly a love story, the romance angle is more of a plot device designed to give them something to fight about than one that inspires overwhelming emotions of true love. Astaire and Crosby have more chemistry with each other than they do with either of the leading ladies, but that's the way it should be since they are the stars of the picture. Reynolds and Dale do their best to keep up with the charm and smarm of their co-stars, and though they both manage to hold their own, neither will be remembered for her participation here.

The story is fairly simple: Jim (Crosby) deserts his stage career with Ted (Astaire) – his longtime partner who's stolen the love of their co-star Lila (Dale) – to live quietly in Vermont. After months of the solitary simple life, Jim combats his growing boredom by establishing his property as the next hot spot: an inn that will be open only on national holidays that will provide dinner and entertainment to the public. He's initially joined in his venture by Linda Mason (Reynolds), an up-and-coming singer/dancer who's looking for a boost to her career. They get along famously onstage and off and their future looks rosy until Ted reenters the picture. After being dumped by Lila for a Texas millionaire, he needs to find a new dance partner and he sets his sights on Linda. Though he loves her, Jim is not quite ready to openly offer his heart again, so he works against Ted's plans to make Linda a star, hoping that her burgeoning feelings and love of the quiet life will be enough to keep her at Holiday Inn.

"We love having you around. When are you leaving?"

It doesn't take long for both men to make fools of themselves while trying to win her loyalty. When Danny (Abel), Ted's manager, persuades two Hollywood producers to the New England boondocks for the 4th of July show, Jim takes drastic action to keep Linda away from the inn, which generates exactly the opposite results he was hoping for. Of course, her no-show also gives the audience a solo Astaire dance treat that is literally a blast. By this point, it's pretty clear where Ms. Mason is going to wind up, despite her little pit stop on the road to fame. Berlin's framing of this familiar plot around beloved holidays gives this film a spark of originality and nostalgia that's hard to resist. The musical numbers are clever, lavish (especially for a small, country inn), fun and heartwarming. Astaire and Reynolds amply demonstrate their talents on the dance floor. She's no Ginger Rogers, but she stays in step with Fred just fine and is clearly having fun doing it.

As entertaining as this film is, it's most notable for introducing the classic holiday song "White Christmas" to the ears of millions. Crosby's voice is perfection as he croons this simple ode to holiday's past. If his performance doesn't bring a tear to your eye and a twinge to your heart, you're not human. Director Mark Sandrich had a lot of previous experience bringing Astaire musicals to the big screen. They worked together on TOP HAT, FOLLOW THE FLEET and several other Astaire/Rogers flicks, so you can expect HOLIDAY INN to have the same ingenious mix of memorable songs, imaginative dancing and sophisticated comedy that made their earlier efforts worth watching over and over again. Casting Astaire in the "bad guy" role helps this film standout from the pack and gives him a chance to stretch his acting chops, even though the character isn't far off from every other schemer he played during this time. At least here, he doesn't get the girl. Well, not the one you think. A holiday perennial for a reason.

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