Holiday Inn

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

Jim Hardy (Bing Crosby), Ted Hanover (Fred Astaire), and Lila Dixon (Virginia Dale) have a musical act popular in the New York City nightlife scene. On Christmas Eve, Jim prepares to give his last performance as part of the act before marrying Lila and retiring with her to a farm in Connecticut. At the last minute, Lila decides she is not ready to stop performing, and that she has fallen in love with Ted. She tells Jim that she will stay on as Ted’s dancing partner. While heartbroken, Jim follows through with his plan and bids the act goodbye.

One year later on Christmas Eve, Jim is back in New York City. Farm life has proven difficult and he plans to turn his farm into an entertainment venue called “Holiday Inn”, which will only be open on holidays. Ted and his agent Danny Reed (Walter Abel) scoff at the plan, but wish him luck. Later at the airport flower shop, while ordering flowers for Lila from Ted, Danny is accosted by employee Linda Mason (Marjorie Reynolds) who recognizes him as a talent agent and begs him for a start in show business. Danny refers her to Holiday Inn and gives her a pass to Ted’s club. That night, Linda sits at the performer’s table with Jim, who pretends he owns a big club and isn’t sure he could use an act like Hanover and Dixon. Linda pretends she’s a celebrity and friend of Ted’s, then escapes when the two performers come to Jim’s table.

The next morning, Christmas Day, Linda arrives at Holiday Inn, where she meets Jim—both realizing they were fooling each other the previous evening. Jim is preparing the place for New Year’s Eve, and they take to one another immediately. Jim sings her his new song, “White Christmas”, a song he would have performed had the inn been open that night. Later that week, on New Year’s Eve, Holiday Inn opens to a packed house.

Meanwhile, in New York City, Ted learns that Lila is leaving him for a Texas millionaire. Drinking heavily, he drives up to Holiday Inn to talk with Jim, arriving at midnight. While wandering aimlessly across the dance floor, Ted sees Linda, who remembers him from Christmas Eve. They dance, with Ted bringing down the house despite his inebriated state. Danny arrives just as the dance ends and is ecstatic that Ted found a new partner. The next morning, however, Ted remembers very little and doesn’t remember Linda at all. Jim doesn’t say anything and hides Linda away, afraid that Ted will steal her away from the inn.

At the next performance, Lincoln’s Birthday, Ted and Danny return to Holiday Inn in search of Linda. Jim is ready for them and decides to run the night’s big minstrel show number “Abraham” with disguised performers, including Linda, in an effort to foil the search. While applying Linda’s blackface makeup, Jim asks if she will stay with him between holidays, and Linda takes this as a proposal. Having come up empty, Ted and Danny will not give up and plan to be back for the next holiday.

During rehearsals for the Valentine’s Day performance, Jim presents Linda with a unique Valentine, a new song called “Be Careful, It’s My Heart”. While Jim sings with his back to her, Linda begins dancing alone, and as Ted enters, he spots Linda and launches into an impromptu romantic dance with her. Convinced that Linda is the girl he danced with on New Year’s Eve, Ted demands that Jim provide a number for them to perform on the next holiday, and Jim reluctantly agrees.

On Washington’s Birthday, Ted and Linda perform in elaborate 18th century period costumes, while Jim attempts to sabotage their dance, changing the tempo from a minuet to jazz every time the couple attempts to kiss. Afterwards, Ted asks Linda to join him as his new dance partner. Linda refuses, saying she has promised to stay at the inn and that she and Jim are to be married. When Ted asks him about the marriage, Jim plays it off, but Ted is unconvinced, telling Danny he will continue to pursue Linda.

At Easter, romance continues to blossom between Jim and Linda as they travel home from church in a carriage. When they reach the inn, Ted is sitting on the porch waiting for them. Ted asks Jim if he can remain in his shows, claiming he wants to experience “the true happiness” they’ve found at the inn. While Linda is charmed, Jim is suspicious.

Jim’s suspicions are confirmed on Independence Day when he overhears Ted and Danny discussing an offer Ted received from Hollywood representatives, who will attend that night’s show and determine if Ted and Linda are suitable for motion pictures. Desperate, Jim bribes hired hand Gus (Irving Bacon) to ensure that Linda does not arrive at the inn. After Gus drives the inn’s car into a creek attempting to delay her, Linda tries to return to the inn and is picked up by Lila, who left the Texas millionaire after his tax problems were revealed. Lila tells Linda, who is pretending to be a waitress, about the studio tryout and that Lila will be Ted’s partner. Assuming that Jim arranged for her to take Linda’s place, Linda directs Lila into the same river.

Back at the inn, Ted is forced to perform a solo dance. When Linda eventually makes her way to the inn, she finds that Ted has impressed the studio honchos with his improvised solo and the opportunity stands. Irritated with Jim for not trusting her to make her own decision, Linda takes the offer and leaves for Hollywood. The producers want to make a film about Holiday Inn, and Jim reluctantly agrees.

At Thanksgiving, the inn is closed and Jim is deeply depressed, barely touching the turkey dinner prepared by his housekeeper Mamie (Louise Beavers). Jim is prepared to mail to Hollywood a recording of his new Thanksgiving song, but, before he does, he plays it on a record player and makes negative comments over the positive ones in the recording. Realizing what is wrong and ignoring decorum, Mamie implores him to travel to California to win Linda back by telling her how he really feels.

Jim arrives at the studio on Christmas Eve, just as Ted is preparing to leave with Linda to get married. Jim confronts Ted in his dressing room, then locks him in it. Before Linda films the final scene for her movie, which features a recreation of Holiday Inn, Jim walks around the set with the director, who boasts it is the most exact recreation ever created for a motion picture. Jim leaves his pipe on the set’s piano and hides nearby. Linda enters the room and sits at the piano, performing “White Christmas”. Startled by the pipe’s presence, she falters, then continues as Jim’s voice joins her. Jim appears and Linda runs to him as the director yells “cut”. Meanwhile, Ted and Danny learn of Jim’s plan, but they are too late to stop him.

At Holiday Inn on New Year’s Eve, Ted is reunited with Lila, who is ready and willing to perform with him again. Jim and Linda prepare to stay together and run the inn.

REVIEW:

I just happened to be flipping through channels this morning as I was waiting to fully awaken and set my fantasy football lineup for this week (a pox on Frank Gore for finally having a breakout game when I don’t have starting), and came across Holiday Inn. Now, this is a film that has been on my list for sometime as both Bing Crosby and Fred Astaire are two of the greatest performers of all time. I was interested to see how they would work together, hoping this wouldn’t disappoint.

What is this about?

Bing Crosby croons to the tune of the Oscar-winning “White Christmas” in Irving Berlin’s love triangle romantic comedy. Tired of the bright lights of showbiz, Jim Hardy (Crosby) retires to the countryside to become a farmer. He converts the farm into the Holiday Inn, open only on holidays, then competes against his pal (Fred Astaire) for a singer-dancer’s (Marjorie Reynolds) affection.

What did I like?

Inn. Doubtful that it could work in today’s society where everyone and everything is money hungry, but I like the idea of a little inn out in the country that is only open for the 15 or so holidays and they put on themed shows for said holidays. I’m wondering if anyone has tried this because if they haven’t I’m headed to the bank tomorrow to get started on it! Ha!

Servant. At the time this film was made, African-American roles were relegated to musicians, dancers, slaves, and/or servants. The maid/cook, played by Louis Beavers, seems like she is a clone of Hattie McDaniel’s character from Gone with the Wind. However, whereas Scarlett O’Hara seems to have little to no respect for her maid, Crosby treats his like she’s family, even listening when she gets sassy and gives him advice.

Singing and dancing. On one side we have Bing Crosby, best known for his warm, baritone voice and endless charm and charisma. On the other side, we have Fred Astaire, arguably the best dancer to ever hit the big screen (Gene Kelly, and others, can be argued ad nauseum, but we’ll go with Astaire for now), as well as hold a tune on his own. Put the two together and let them do what they do best and you have a formula success. So much so, that when this film was pseudo remade a few years later as White Christmas, Crosby returned. Too bad Astaire didn’t, but Danny Kaye did alright. Watching Crosby and Astaire duel in the opening and closing numbers is a real treat for fans of crooners and dancers. Throw in the beautiful ladies they are fighting over, who can sing and dance themselves, and it is pure magic!

What didn’t I like?

Grab her. After Fred Astaire’s character makes a drunken appearance at then Inn, majestically dancing with Crosby’s new “find”, the sleazy agent assumes that is his new partner and seemingly doesn’t rest until he has taken her away. My problem with this is, who was it that told this guy he could just up and have her? Neglecting the fact that she is her own person, she is also an employee of Crosby and until he voids her contract and/or let’s her go, she really can’t just up and leave, now can she?

Look who’s back! Going into the final act, all of a sudden, the original girl who left Astaire on their wedding day, appears on her way to the Inn. Isn’t that convenient? We don’t hear anything about her since that shot of the telegram she left and now she’s on her way back to rejoin Astaire, possibly on Crosby’s advice, but still a rather coincidental appearance. Look, I have no problem with how she returns, but if she was going to bookend the film the way she does, then they could have name dropped her a couple of times. As is, I had all but forgotten about her by the time she shows up!

Blackface. Before I get into the topic it should be stated that there is a scene in which Crosby, Marjorie Reynolds and the musicals all perform in blackface. Had I watched this on Netflix or DVD I imagine I would have seen it, but since I was watching this on AMC, it was cut. I couldn’t even find the scene on-line. The song is catchy, though. There are two parts to this, first the use of blackface was done so that Crosby could hide Reynolds from Astaire and that manager guy. With it missing, there is a hole in the film that leaves one scratching their head because you know something is missing. The other part is, blackface is offensive. Crosby, who was known to have performed with many an African-American performer in his day, such as Louis Armstrong, Sammy Davis, Jr., and in this film Louis Beavers, should have known better than that.

All in all, Holiday Inn was a truly enjoyable film. The only reason I don’t say memorable is because I saw White Christmas first, which is pretty much the shame film, just in color and with some different songs. That said, the music in here will really get you going, the entire cast is great, there are moments of comedy and drama for those that like one or the other, and this is a holsum film for the entire family to enjoy! I highly recommend this one as one you should see before you die!

4 1/2 out of 5 stars

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One Response to “Holiday Inn”

  1. […] tomorrow is Christmas and I haven’t done a true Christmas film this year, unless you count Holiday Inn, I figured this would be a great opportunity to enjoy Ernest Saves […]

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