Lovely Linda Mason has crooner Jim Hardy head over heels, but suave stepper Ted Hanover wants her for his new dance partner after femme fatale Lila Dixon gives him the brush. Jim's supper club, Holiday Inn, is the setting for the chase by Hanover and manager Danny Reed. The music's the thing.
Bing Crosby ... Jim Hardy
Fred Astaire ... Ted Hanover
Marjorie Reynolds ... Linda Mason
Virginia Dale ... Lila Dixon
Walter Abel ... Danny Reed
Louise Beavers ... Mamie
Irving Bacon ... Gus
Marek Windheim ... François
James Bell ... Dunbar
John Gallaudet ... Parker
Shelby Bacon ... Vanderbilt
Finally Paramount gave Crosby a big budget musical and didn't rely on his charm and personality to carry the film. The budget went to hire such outside talent as Fred Astaire and Irving Berlin. And none of them disappoint.
In the first of two films Astaire and Crosby did together the characters are remarkably the same. Astaire is the elegant and charming show business professional who's ambitious for success. Crosby is the talented, but lazy partner who just wants a life of ease and comfort and not to work more than he has to. Small wonder that their double act broke up. But now enter a complication. They both get interested in the same girl who in this film is Marjorie Reynolds.
Crosby dreams up the idea of a nightclub/hotel called Holiday Inn where they only work on holidays. He wants Reynolds to help with the shows there. Astaire wants her for his act after his other girl partner Virginia Dale runs off with a millionaire. And the fun starts. Now since this was Crosby's home studio and he's first billed, just who do you think gets Reynolds in the end? As maid Louise Beavers put it, don't sit and mope because some slicker stole your gal.
Irving Berlin writes a majority of new songs to supplement a couple from his vast trunk of songs mostly about our holidays. By that time Berlin had extracted an agreement which became standard for all the films he wrote for. Not one note of non-Berlin music is ever heard in a score he writes. Just listen to this and just about any other film Berlin is associated with. Even music in the background is his.
The hit song in this was supposed to be Be Careful It's My Heart, the Valentine's Day song, sung by Crosby and danced to by Astaire and Reynolds. It did have a good deal of success. But the success of White Christmas was exponentially phenomenal. It netted Irving Berlin his one and only Academy Award and for Bing Crosby his number one item on vinyl. In fact everyone's number one item on vinyl.
I don't know if Bing Crosby ever set out to become the voice of Christmas, but if he did he was a marketing genius. If he's known and appreciated for anything with today's audience, it's for that. White Christmas became the first Yule song he was identified with although he had recorded some Christmas material before that. After this he started doing the holiday music in serious. Just think, along around Columbus Day, record companies even now reissue his Christmas stuff every year and his totals as largest selling recording artist in history grow once again. That's why the Beatles and Elvis, etc. don't have a prayer of overtaking him.
In fact White Christmas's initial success was so great that Decca wore out the original master putting out records to meet the demand. So in 1945, Decca got Bing, the Ken Darby Singers and John Scott Trotter to re-record it almost note for note. The original 78 had White Christmas with the flipside of Let's Start the New Year Right also from Holiday Inn. The newer version which most people hear has as it's flipside God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen.
I don't want to ignore Fred Astaire's contribution here. He does a nice comic turn with I Can't Tell a Lie, the Washington's birthday number where Crosby keeps changing the tempo to upset him and Reynolds. The Fourth of July yields a number for each. Reynolds is kept from the show by Bing's machinations and Astaire has to "improvise" something. He "improvises" Firecrackers and anyone who knows anything about Astaire knows how hard he worked to get that spontaneous feeling in his dancing. Bing sings The Song of Freedom, reminiscent of James Cagney's Grand Old Flag number from Yankee Doodle Dandy also out in 1942 and Song of Freedom is also reminiscent of what Paramount could have given Bing in the 1930s had they hired someone like Busby Berkeley to give Bing some of the production numbers that Dick Powell had at Warner Brothers.
So what more is there to say, but sit back and enjoy the fun.
In any endeavor there are greats, and there are legends. Bing Crosby crooned his way to the latter status years before this movie, and he is in fine voice here. It is such a shame that things like talent aren't present in music anymore, but if you want to remember it, this is a great vehicle. Irving Berlin, Crosby's long time friend, wrote magical numbers for the film, including the unforgettable White Christmas.
Fred Astaire gave a tour de force performance, singing, and, of course, dancing his way through this delightful piece in rare form. It is said that he worked so hard during rehearsals that he wasted away to 85 pounds by the time he filmed the firecracker number. He might just as well have been weightless, because he defies gravity with his every move.
Marjorie Reynolds was seriously outclassed in a role that was intended for Mary Martin, who probably could have improved the chemistry of the starring cast. Reynolds nevertheless does a creditable job, and Holiday Inn remains her finest hour.
Years later, Paramount undertook a vastly inferior remake entitled White Christmas, which failed to capture a fraction of the magic of Holiday Inn. Astaire was replaced with funny man Danny Kaye, and Rosemary Clooney gave it her torch song damndest, but it didn't gel. Holiday Inn has more wit, sincerity, charm and, despite being over a decade older, freshness. Holiday Inn is an uplifting and heartwarming remembrance that is a legend in its own right.
HOLIDAY INN (Paramount, 1942), directed by Mark Sandrich, with adaptation by Elmer Rice and based on the idea by Irving Berlin, stars crooner Bing Crosby and dancer Fred Astaire for the first time (their second would be BLUE SKIES in 1946). In their best on-screen collaboration, they play a couple of song and dance men who vie for the affection of a female dancing partner. While the movie itself has been long associated with Christmas, hence the introduction to Irving Berlin's Academy Award winning tune of "White Christmas," HOLIDAY INN features songs for almost all holidays, however, this is the kind of movie that can be aired on television at anytime, whether it be Easter or Fourth of July, but it is that wonderful time of Christmas that has long become associated with the musical of HOLIDAY INN.
Opening and closing with a focus of a calendar, which is used throughout the film when centering around a certain holiday, the plot, set in a two year span, centers upon Jim Hardy (Bing Crosby) and Ted Hanover (Fred Astaire), friends and entertainers working at the Club Pierre in New York City with Lila Dixon (Virginia Dale) as the third party to the trio. Although Jim has plans on retiring from show business and spending the rest of his life on the farm with his future bride, Lila, the big surprise comes when Jim discovers Lila loves Ted and intends to marry him instead. So as Jim resides alone at his farm in Midville, Connecticut, he becomes lonely, and a year later, decides to combine the best of both worlds by turning his farmhouse into a night club opened only on holidays, leaving Jim "347 days in which to kick around in," appropriately calling it Holiday Inn. Jim later hires Linda Mason (Marjorie Reynolds), a former flower shop girl wanting a career in show business, as one of the entertainers at the inn. On New Year's Eve, Ted gets a "Dear John" letter from Lila that she has broken their engagement to marry a Texas millionaire instead. Depressed and later drunk, Ted comes to Jim's Holiday Inn where he unwittingly stumbles upon Linda on the dance floor and starts dancing with her, much to the pleasure of the patrons. Ted's agent Danny Reed (Water Abel), who has only seen the girl from the back, convinces Ted that this girl (whom he'd remember if he danced with her again) would make him a fine new dancing partner. Not wanting to lose another girl to Ted, Jim decides to keep him and Linda apart through various schemes, and after Ted and Linda do form a partnership, it appears that history is destined to repeat itself.
Aside from two guys and a girl theme, the score by Irving Berlin and performance by the two leading men make up for some of the weak spots. The songs include: "Happy Holidays" (sung briefly during opening credits); "I'll Capture Your Heart Singing/Dancing" (sung by Bing Crosby, Fred Astaire and Virginia Dale); "Lazy" (medley, sung by Crosby); "You're Easy to Dance With" (sung by Fred Astaire/danced by Astaire and Dale); "White Christmas" (sung by Crosby and Marjorie Reynolds); "Happy Holidays" (sung by Crosby, Reynolds and chorus); "Let's Start the New Year Right" (sung by Crosby); "Abraham" (sung by Crosby, Reynolds, Louise Beavers and chorus); "Be Careful, It's My Heart" (sung by Crosby/ danced by Astaire and Reynolds); "Washington's Birthday March (I Cannot Tell a Lie)" (sung by Astaire/ danced by Astaire and Reynolds); "Easter Parade" (sung by Crosby); "The Song of Freedom" (sung by Crosby/ firecracker dance by Astaire); "I've Got Plenty to Be Thankful For" (sung by Crosby); "White Christmas" (reprise by Reynolds and Crosby) and "I'll Capture Your Heart" (finale with Crosby, Astaire, Reynolds and Dale). Other than Crosby's introduction to "White Christmas," production highlights include Astaire and Reynolds dancing to "Be Careful, It's My Heart" and Astaire's firecracker dancing solo in the 4th of July segment, along with Crosby trying to ruin Astaire and Reynolds' "Washington's Birthday" number by having the orchestra jazzing it up as the couple in period costumes and wigs try to waltz the simple tune.
While HOLIDAY INN was intended to feature songs for all holidays of the year, some were obviously omitted, intentionally or unintentially, including a song or a song tribute to Memorial Day and Labor Day, yet a production number for Valentine's Day (February 14th) is hardly considered a holiday of any kind, but is included as part of a holiday number just the same. While Irving Berlin could write so many songs, it leaves one to wonder what he could have done with a song for Halloween. Once upon a time, birthdays to two U.S. Presidents, George Washington and Abraham Lincoln, were national holidays. While Washington's birthday is currently celebrated as a day off in many states, Lincoln's birthday is no longer considered a time off from school or work. Since the 1970s, the production number, "Abraham," dedicated to Abe Lincoln, usually got deleted when aired on commercial television. Even the original 1979 motion picture soundtrak from Sunbeam Records included every song from the film except for "Abraham." The "Abraham" number was later restored when distributed to video cassette in the 1980s.
Also seen in the supporting cast consists of Louise Beavers Mamie, Jim's housekeeper; Irving Bacon as Gus; John Gallaudet as Mr. Parker; James Bell as Mr. Dunbar; and Shelby Bacon and Joan Arnold as Mamie's children, Vanderbilt and Daphne.
It is interesting to note that while HOLIDAY INN offers Fred Astaire co-starring billing for the first time since FLYING DOWN TO RIO (RKO, 1933), he plays the villain here. No, not the kind of villain one finds in an Alfred Hitchcock mystery, but a kind-hearted villain who tries to steal the girl away from his partner (Crosby), not once, but twice. Secondly, the blonde co-star, Marjorie Reynolds, a charming young beauty in her lead debut for Paramount, had previously appeared in numerous "B" westerns and poverty row mysteries for Monogram and other studios, sadly never rose to the top of the ranks in motion pictures. Yet in the long shots when dancing opposite Astaire, it resembles that of Astaire's partnership in the 1930s with Ginger Rogers. For Reynolds' close ups, she at times resembles the blondish vocalist Frances Langford. Reynolds would appear opposite Crosby in one more film, DIXIE (Paramount, 1943), but her role was secondary, with the co-starring assignment going to Dorothy Lamour. Brunette Virginia Dale, the other female member in the story, whose name would go on the register list of "Who's That?" is another actress whose career consisted of forgotten programmers of the day, and like Reynolds, HOLIDAY INN would be their best opportunity in a major motion picture.
Aside from its annual revivals on commercial television on Christmas Eve, HOLIDAY INN has played on any given time on cable television's American Movie Classics from 1994 to 2000. It has also aired at one time on the Disney Channel in the 1990s, with their copy eliminating the segment leading to the "Abraham" number. While HOLIDAY INN reflects the times, it hasn't really aged a bit. Yes, it's dated, but makes a wonderful package to Holiday movies just the same, looking better every time it airs. At 101 minutes, the time in watching this goes by very quickly. Even with black and white photography, it's a very effective film, ranking it one of the best musicals to come out from the 1940s that still holds up today. In spite of their on screen rivaly, Crosby and Astaire make a fine team.
* Marjorie Reynolds singing was dubbed by Martha Mears.
* The animated Thanksgiving sequence is a topical reference to President Roosevelt's failed attempt to change the date of the holiday.
* The script originally called for a Labor Day dance number, "This Is a Great Country."
* For the "drunk" dance, Fred Astaire had two drinks of bourbon before the first take and one before each succeeding take. The seventh (last) take was used in the film.
* The firecracker dance sequence required 3 days of rehearsal and took two days to film. Fred Astaire's shoes for the dance were auctioned off for $116,000 worth of war bonds.
* The proceeds from the New York City premiere went to the Navy Relief Society.
* Irving Berlin got the idea for the film after writing the song "Easter Parade" for his 1933 show "As Thousands Cheer", and planned to write a play about American holidays, but it never materialized. He later pitched the idea to Mark Sandrich who got the ball rolling for this film.
* Some controversy surrounded the history of the song "White Christmas" when it was reported in a 1960 news item that Berlin wrote the song in 1938, which would have made it ineligible for an Academy Award nomination. But a biography and modern sources agree it was written for this film, and the sheet music has a 1942 copyright date.
* The film marked the debut of "White Christmas", which went on to become one of the biggest selling songs in the history of music.
* When Irving Berlin won an Oscar for his song "White Christmas" from this movie, he became the first artist to present himself with an Academy Award.
* The original title for "Easter Parade" was "Smile And Show Your Dimple".
* As of 2007, "White Christmas" is the best selling music single ever.
* The set of the Holiday Inn was reused by Paramount 12 years later for the musical White Christmas (1954), also starring Bing Crosby and composed by Irving Berlin.
* Bing Crosby's original "Rhythm Boys" partner Harry Barris plays the orchestra leader in the nightclub scenes.
* Founded in 1952, the Holiday Inn hotel chain took its name from this film.