Irving Berlin's "Holiday Inn", featuring the immense talents of Bing Crosby and Fred Astaire, is surprisingly one of the thinnest, corniest movies I have ever watched. It is seriously slim on storyline and what there is, is surprisingly weak. But before you think I am going to slate "Holiday Inn" you would be wrong as it is pure good old fashioned entertainment which plays on its strong points, that being song and dance as well as the likeability of Bing Crosby and Fred Astaire and never tries to be anything other than a wonderfully entertaining musical which introduced us to the classic song "White Christmas".
Jim Hardy (Bing Crosby - Robin and the 7 Hoods) and Ted Hanover (Fred Astaire - Broadway Melody of 1940) are a song and dance act who finds themselves at odds when Jim decides to leave the act for a life as a farmer, only for Ted to steal his fiancée Lila (Virginia Dale). But farming turns out to be too much hard work and so Jim decides to turn his farm into a holiday inn, and by that one which open purely for the holidays where with the help of wannabe star Linda (Marjorie Reynolds) he puts on memorable shows. When Lila leaves Ted, he rolls up at the Jim's Holiday Inn drunk only to find himself dancing with the lovely Linda and becoming intent on stealing her away from Jim as well.
Reading that brief synopsis "Holiday Inn" actually sounds like it could be a good movie all about jealousy and rivalry, but the fact that it is a musical means that the storyline is never really developed instead just there running along in the background as a vehicle for a variety of musical scenes. But the thing is "Holiday Inn" never tries to be anything more and in doing so is actually pretty enjoyable as you wait for the next musical scene to arrive with either Bing Crosby crooning some beautiful piece or Fred Astaire mesmerising you with his amazing dance routines. Even though the storyline does play second fiddle and is pretty limp it is also quite funny, there is enough humour such as exploding jars of Peach preserve or the on going rivalry between Jim and Ted to have you not so much laughing but certainly smiling. Add to this a sort of twist when two Hollywood producers decide to make a movie all about Jim's Holiday Inn makes for a surprisingly clever although again under developed element to a predominantly simple storyline.
But as already mentioned "Holiday Inn" is all about the wonderful song and dance routines. Bing Crosby, who I must admit to only really knowing of from his older days, is wonderful when it comes to the scenes where he sings. You just need to watch the scene where he sits at the piano by a roaring fire, snow falling outside and launches into the wonderful rendition of "White Christmas", although I have to say my favourite version is in the movie "White Christmas". Whilst Crosby's singing is excellent he also shows that he is no slouch when it comes to the acting and delivers some great moments of humour thanks to his expressive face.
Whilst Bing wows us with his voice Fred Astaire is just indescribable when it comes to the dancing, excellent is not good enough to describe how good his routines are. Although there are numerous seriously impressive dance scenes through out the movie the one which sticks in your mind and most people remember is the fire-cracker scene where he dances through a string of small explosions. It is such an amazing scene and rarely have I seen anything quite that good. As for Astaire when it comes from the acting, well like Crosby he shows a good ability when it comes to the humour of the movie and matched up to his graceful movement throughout it is a wonderful performance.
Although "Holiday Inn" is Bing Crosby and Fred Astaire's movie it's hard not to mention the other performances most notably that of Marjorie Reynolds who is adorable as Linda as well as being pretty impressive when it comes to the song and dance aspect. But the supporting performance which sticks out for me is that of Walter Abel as agent Danny Reed. Abel brings a bit of mad cap acting to the movie which is at times hilarious.
Then of course you cannot forget to mention Irving Berlin who not only created so many memorable musical pieces for the movie but also came up with the idea. Although most people remember "Holiday Inn" for the wonderful "White Christmas" it is literally packed with other equally memorable songs such as "Happy Holiday", "Easter Parade" and "I'll Capture Your Heart Singing".
Now having enthused about "Holiday Inn" and said that even though it's simplistic and limp when it comes to the storyline it's enjoyable it's not all perfect. Remembering this was made back in the 1940's there is a scene which sees Bing Crosby and Marjorie Reynolds in blacked out faces as in "The Minstrels", singing a song all about Abraham Lincoln and slavery that now makes for a very uneasy moment of viewing. In today's age it feels wrong but for a movie which was made in a time when such things were acceptable you sort of have to grin and bear this reasonably short musical scene.
What this all boils down to is that for a movie which features a very weak storyline "Holiday Inn" is an excellent movie because for the most it is a good old fashioned musical, which plays on its strengths and never tries to be anything more than entertainment. The combination of Irving Berlin's music, Bing Crosby's voice and Fred Astaire's extraordinary talent as a dancer makes "Holiday Inn" good fun from start to finish.
Tags: Christmas Movies