[Film Review] Holiday Inn (1942)

Holiday Inn poster

Title: Holiday Inn
Year: 1942
Country: USA
Language: English
Genre: Comedy, Musical
Director: Mark Sandrich
Claude Binyon
Elmer Rice
Irving Berlin
Irving Berlin
Robert Emmett Dolan
Cinematography: David Abel
Bing Crosby
Fred Astaire
Marjorie Reynolds
Virginia Dale
Walter Abel
Louise Beavers
Irving Bacon
Karin Booth
Rating: 7.1/10

Holiday Inn 1942

A vintage Crosby-Astaire musical directed by studio old hand Mark Sandrich, who is a stable purveyor of ace Astaire-Rogers collaborations, such as TOP HAT (1934), THE GAY DIVORCEE (1934) and SHALL WE DANCE (1937), and would sadly pass away from a heart attack at a young age of 44 in 1946.

HOLIDAY INN traverses through all sort of American holidays and starts with a triad of musical act – Jim (Crosby), Ted (Astaire) and Lila (Dale), embroils themselves into a love triangle, both Jim, an enchanting crooner and Ted, a magnificent hoofer, are smitten with Lila and she loves both (almost) equally, and in the eleventh hour she chooses Ted because a retired rural life with Jim isn’t really what she craves for. Jim departs alone and beavers away in the countryside, eventually comes up with an idea of opening a holiday inn there which literally only opens during holidays, approximately 15 days a year, to entertain guests with specifically themed performances. Meanwhile Ted and Lila continue their hot streak as a dancing duo in high demand, but soon she abruptly jolts him to marry with a Texan millionaire. (As if that is what every showbiz gal wants!)

A disconsolate and well-oiled Ted arrives in the inn during one evening gathering and dances with Jim’s protégée Linda (Reynolds), but cannot remember what she looks like the morning after, except that she is the new dancing partner he is intent on finding to revive his stalled career. To forestall a similar denouement as he loses Lila to Ted, Jim painstakingly tries to hide Linda from Ted and their agent Danny (Abel), the farcical trope, including one reactionary blackface act celebrating Lincoln’s birthday, runs dry quickly and Linda is miffed by Jim’s self-serving maneuver which doesn’t trust her to make the decision and throws herself to Ted, then both go to Hollywood when a movie deal of transposing the story of Holiday Inn onto the celluloid is available. So it is up to Jim to win her back, in an old-fashioned, classic and romantic fashion just before Ted and Linda tight their knot.

Quintessentially a perfect holiday movie in honor of Americana heritage, HOLIDAY INN makes great play of the dualistic fun of Crosby’s soul-soothing singing and Astaire’s pyrotechnic tap-dancing, choreographied by Danny Dare, at the expense of the plot, which ruefully takes a back seat.

Irving Berlin’s WHITE CHRISTMAS, Crosby’s signature song debuts here and is sung thrice, meanwhile Astaire’s firecracker solo is an honest-to-goodness splendor to behold, along with his old soak dancing sequences, both Reynolds and Dale knuckle down the task of being a commensurate partner for him, but it is suffice to say they are no Ginger Rogers, although petticoat artistes are legitimately given the short end of the stick under the shadow of two male superstars of the time. Nevertheless, Louise Beavers’ black housekeeper is permitted to hurl out an awakening speech to precipitate Jim into action is something we can only refer as “guilty compensation for racial stereotype”.

A patriotic reverie at the point of WWII (Pearl Harbor attack happened when the film was in production), HOLIDAY INN wears better than its peers owing to its sheer exuberance of songs and dances, one just cannot badmouth it too harshly after such a lavish feast, however bland its backbone is.

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