xmas 2018
music friday: 2018

holiday inn (mark sandrich, 1942)

Despite the date on the calendar, we didn't watch this because it's Xmas time. I'm reading the second volume of Gary Giddins' biography of Bing Crosby (Swinging on a Star), and I just finished the part where Bing made Holiday Inn. So, given it is Xmas time, we watched it.

I'm not sure how often people watch Holiday Inn these days ... there are so many Xmas movies, and if you're in the mood for this kind of thing, the close-enough-to-be-a-remake White Christmas is in color and includes Rosemary Clooney. I don't think either of these films is a classic. In the case of Holiday Inn, there are a few highlights to get you past the lowlights, but the lowlights get pretty low. To get them out of the way, there's "Abraham", a song about Lincoln that features Bing and Marjorie Reynolds in blackface singing lyrics like "When black folks lived in slavery, who was it set the darkie free? Abraham, Abraham". Less objectionable but equally stupid is "I Can't Tell a Lie":

I could say that you're homely,
Just as homely as pie!
But this is Washington's birthday,
And I've got to say you're beautiful,
'Cause I can't tell a lie!

In case you haven't figured it out, Holiday Inn is about a club that only opens on holidays, with musical numbers to match whatever date we've arrived at. The songs are by Irving Berlin, and for the most part, they aren't in the Berlin Hall of Fame. Of course, there's "White Christmas", making its first appearance, and for some folks, that's good enough. The song isn't punched up here ... Bing sings it at the piano, with Reynolds joining in (dubbed by Martha Mears), and it pops up again one more time. But in neither case is it treated like the perennial classic it would become.

Reynolds' singing is dubbed, but she does have a couple of nice dance numbers with the other co-star, Fred Astaire. In "Be Careful, It's My Heart", they dance as Bing sings (unaware of their presence ... Fred is stealing Bing's girl in this song):

Pearl Harbor was bombed during the making of the movie, resulting among other things in a pretty bad Independence Day number, "Let's Say It with Firecrackers", that includes a montage designed to get Americans feeling patriotic. However, that song results in the film's highlight, when Fred does a solo dance (hope this link works, for some reason, this is a hard video to find online):

If you can hunt it down, Fred also does a great dance while drunk.

Bing Crosby, Fred Astaire, Irving Berlin, "White Christmas" ... really, Holiday Inn should be much better than it is. Still worth a couple hours of the family's time for the holidays.