Hello, Never Fully Dressed readers. With the holidays coming up, I'm running a special series sharing some of the holiday classics that have stood the test of time. Some might be new to you; some might be favorite films, but they're all sure to impart a sense of that holiday fun.
Holiday Inn. Irving Berlin pitched the idea as a way for him to write songs about all the different American holidays after his song "Easter Parade" was a hit in an earlier film.
As you can imagine, a plot that revolves around having a song and dance number for every holiday, means the story is sometimes weak, but Holiday Inn has two aces up its sleeve in the forms of Bing Crosby and Fred Astaire as lead actors. Crosby is his usual laid-back, lovable everyman- though somewhat more manipulative here than in other films- and Astaire plays elegant but shallow to a tee. Their characters Jim (Crosby) and Ted (Astaire) are partners, along with dancer Lila (Virginia Dale), in a song and dance routine. Jim longs for farm life- and eventually finds it in his idea for a "Holiday Inn." In the midst of getting the inn up and running the two men vie for the heart of a woman- not once, but twice. First for the worldly Lila and then for the film's real leading lady, Linda. Linda, as played by Marjorie Reynolds, is sweet and kind, but of more importance is her ability to both sing and dance. She can help draw the crowds to the Inn, but Ted hopes she can also draw Hollywood's attention. Will she love the quiet life with Crosby's Jim, or will bright lights and Astaire's charming Ted win the day?
This is the film that brought us the classic song "White Christmas." Though it would win the Academy Award that year for best song and go on to be the best selling music single for over fifty years, many involved in the film weren't initially blown away. Supposedly, during rehearsals, Crosby merely told Berlin, "I don't think we have any problems with that one, Irving." In fact, the song expected to be the big hit was the Valentine's song, " Be Careful- It's My Heart." Other holiday numbers include a New Year's, one for Lincoln's birthday, as well as one for Washington's, a re-use of "Easter Parade," a 4th of July number, and a Thanksgiving song. Some of these are rather painfully awkward. In fact, the Lincoln number is often cut from television showings due to it's rather racist overtones and use of blackface. Still, most are at least hummable tunes. Astaire has a few big moments of his own- a Fourth of July Dance involving fireworks exploding in time to his dancing feet and a partner dance that is even more impressive once you know Astaire was actually drunk and not just pretending to be so.
Overall, this is a great film to snuggle up and watch on a snowy day. Sure, it has a few weak musical numbers, but they are more than made up for by the good numbers. Some might prefer Crosby's later and more famous White Christmas, but Holiday Inn has a charm all its own with two of Hollywood's greats using all of their combined singing and dancing skills to win the girl. So, as the movie's song puts it, "kick your cares down the stairs, and come to Holiday Inn!"