Plot Details: This opinion reveals major details about the movie's plot.
Recommend this product?
When Ginger Rogers split up her dance partnership with Fred Astaire, it turned out for the best for both of them. Rogers promptly won a Best Actress Oscar for Kitty Foyle (1940), while Astaire was also able to accept a wider variety of roles.
One of his best performances was in Holiday Inn, although he had to compete for the limelight with crooner Bing Crosby. Astaire shows deft comic timing in addition to his fancy footwork, as he dances his way through most of a dozen-plus production numbers based upon original Irving Berlin compositions. While endless hours of arduous preparation must have gone into the routines, they retain the necessary illusion of being improvised.
Astaire's most famous dance is solo, scattering firecrackers. Otherwise, he splits time between partners Virginia Dale and Marjorie Reynolds, both dancing with them and stealing them from hapless Crosby. Crosby gets his revenge by arranging a "Washington's Birthday" production number that keeps Astaire off balance. (Bing's younger brother Bob Crosby was the director of the film's swing band). But a happy ending for everyone is inevitable.
The premise of Holiday Inn is patently ridiculous. Crosby turns a remote country inn into a posh nightclub, which is only open on holidays. Why city slickers would make the journey, and how Crosby manages to find a waitstaff willing to work just fifteen nights a year, isn't explained. But a flimsy premise can't hide the quality of the script's dialogue, which is littered with clever one-liners.
Holiday Inn is dated by an embarrassing production number featuring Bing Crosby and Marjorie Reynolds in blackface. (Astaire had an earlier blackface performance, in Swing Time.) At least Crosby doesn't try to imitate Paul Robeson.
More discomfort is caused by the character of Mamie, an overweight and bossy black maid. Hattie McDaniel may have won an Oscar for portraying Mammy in Gone with the Wind, but less than three years later her character has been lifted and reduced to a racial stereotype. She has two little ones who follow her around the house, regularly trotted out on camera as if for mothers in the audience to gush, "Aren't they adorable?"
Contemporary events impose themselves only a few times during the film. The "Fourth of July" production number has a patriotic film montage featuring Gen. MacArthur, Franklin Roosevelt, and the American war machine. Of course, the U.S. was fighting World War II when Holiday Inn was released in August 1942, and its outcome was then in considerable doubt.
On a lighter note, Thanksgiving is highlighted by a short cartoon featuring a turkey trying to escape the hatchet by traveling between Thursdays on a calendar. This is a reference to the 1941 law changing Thanksgiving celebration from the last to the fourth Thursday in November.
Bing Crosby and Fred Astaire would make only one other film together, the unheralded musical Blue Skies (1946). Astaire headlined Easter Parade (1948), while Crosby starred in White Christmas (1954). Both films were titled after (and featured) songs introduced years earlier by Holiday Inn.
Holiday Inn was nominated for three Oscars, winning for Irving Berlin's composition "White Christmas". The song was for many years the biggest selling record of all time, and it would re-enter the Billboard charts every December for the next twenty years. Ironically, Bing Crosby recorded the song during the summer, in Southern California. The only 'White Christmas' to be found there was on the sets of movie studios. (74/100)
Viewing Format: VHS
Video Occasion: Fit for Friday Evening
Suitability For Children: Suitable for Children up Ages 8