Linda: My father was a lot like you, just a man with a family. Never amounted to much, didn’t care. But as long as he was alive, we always had plenty to eat and clothes to keep us warm.
Jim: Were you happy?
Jim: Then your father was a very successful man.
Holiday Inn is a simple premise but is still a very enjoyable musical escape. Containing catchy songs, most famously White Christmas, and stunning dance numbers, this film was perfect to watch over the lazy Easter weekend (although Christmas may be a more suitable holiday to view it as it starts and ends at this time)! If you want a serious, thought-provoking and complicated film then perhaps this one isn’t for you, but if you want a couple of hours of cosiness, music, and entertainment then this is well worth watching.
The film follows Jim Hardy (Bing Crosby) and Ted Hanover (Fred Astaire) who, along with Lila Dixon (Virginia Dale), have a popular musical act in the city. The film starts with Jim and Lila preparing to marry and move to a farm for “an easy life”. However Lila decides she wants to stay performing with Ted (who she claims to love) and so Jim heads off to the farm alone. Jim soon finds out farm life is perhaps not as easy as he thought, and now plans to transform it into ‘Holiday Inn’, a venue that only provides entertainment on holidays, thus leaving him most of the year to do nothing!
Meanwhile Linda Mason (Marjorie Reynolds) is an aspiring performer, and through Ted’s agent Danny Reed (Walter Abel) ends up at Holiday Inn where her and Jim immediately hit it off. Linda performs on New Years Eve and it looks like things will turn out well for her and Jim, until Ted turns up drunk after Lila left him for a millionaire. He dances with Linda but next morning can’t remember anything. Danny, his agent, turned up to see Ted’s dance with Linda was a hit with the crowd, but he never saw Linda properly. The rest of the film is about Jim trying to prevent Linda meeting Ted and Danny, fearing she’d leave him to dance with Ted. Once Linda has finally met Ted and Danny, Jim then tries to stop Linda and Ted leaving for Hollywood. Despite this (slightly!) over-protective behaviour from Jim, things all work out well, as you would predict in a film like this, which makes for a pleasant and entertaining, if uncomplicated, viewing.
The main attractions of the film are the singing and dancing numbers, particularly with the star power of Bing Crosby and Fred Astaire. These musicals and Irving Berlin songs are not to everyone’s taste but I personally love them! White Christmas is the most famous song from the film, and deservedly so in my opinion. It was a lovely start to the partnership of Jim and Linda as they sang together, and made its reprisal at the end even more moving. The songs are quite simple but are catchy and memorable, like Easter Parade, but as I said before, not to everyone’s liking!
I think the dancing however, can be appreciated by everyone. There’s no denying Astaire’s partnership with both Virginia Dale and Marjorie Reynolds was stunning and their dances were beautiful to watch. Whether it was the first dance as Jim/Ted/Lila, a drunk performance with Linda, or a solo dance with fireworks, Fred Astaire made it work and look effortless! My particular favourite number was with Ted/Linda on Washington’s Birthday as the music switched tempo under Jim’s instruction as he tried to sabotage their dance and their chances of kissing.
Despite the film being escapist and pure entertainment, it is dated and has some problematic elements. The most notable example of this is the celebration of Abraham Lincoln’s Birthday where they perform in blackface. The performance was cut from the version I saw (and I think from a lot of versions), but it was still a bit uncomfortable with the few scenes they had from that holiday. Additionally because it was made in World War Two, the Independence Day song talks extensively about freedom and shows a film of US military. This feels a little bit jarring in context of the rest of the film, but it’s one of the things that makes films from this era unique! As a History graduate, I personally love looking at the historical context of films, and so I find these topical segments interesting, but I understand how to others they may feel dated and mar the enjoyment of the movie.
Overall, this film is what one might expect of a musical film starring Bing Crosby and Fred Astaire. There is romance, humour, and lots of music and dancing which makes it entertaining and a nice watch on a lazy day. There are some great songs, some soppy songs (Be Careful, It’s My Heart being a prime example), and some weaker songs, but they all work well in the film and make it a delight to watch. The actors are all good, including the supporting cast to the main four, notably Walter Abel as Danny, Louise Beavers as Mamie, and Irving Bacon as Gus. I’d recommend this film to everyone, but especially those who love a sentimental story and enjoy music and dancing!