This Christmas film is full of music and dance that can cheer any Scrooge! Although the film only really starts and ends at Christmas, with the rest of the film covering the other holidays in the year, it created the song “White Christmas” which more than justifies its position as a Christmas movie. With a star cast including the legends Bing Crosby and Fred Astaire, Holiday Inn is an enjoyable watch, although it isn’t without its problems…
Jim Hardy (Bing Crosby), Ted Hanover (Fred Astaire), and Lila Dixon (Virginia Dale) have a successful and popular music act in New York. The film starts however with the act about to break up, as Jim and Lila plan to get married and move to a farm. In a change of heart however, Lila says she is in love with Ted and wants to continue performing! Jim goes off to the farm regardless.
One year on and farm life isn’t as relaxing as Jim thought it would be! He plans to turn it into a place for entertainment that only opens on public holidays (aka Holiday Inn). He returns to New York where Ted and his agent Danny (Walter Abel) laugh at the idea. Later, Danny is in a flower shop and an employee, Linda Mason (Marjorie Reynolds), begs him for a start in show business. He passes on the details of Holiday Inn, and when she meets Jim in the club where Ted and Lila are performing, they both pretend to be much bigger than they are! Jim makes out that he owns a big club whilst Linda claims she’s a big celebrity.
Linda arrives at Holiday Inn the next day and her and Jim realise their lies. Despite the rocky start they get on well and open on New Year’s Eve to a packed venue. Meanwhile, in New York, Lila has dumped Ted and he arrives at Holiday Inn to see Jim. Ted is completely drunk and ends up dancing with Linda, to great applause from the audience! Danny sees this and believes he has found a new partner for Ted. However, Ted was so drunk that the next morning he remembers nothing and so Jim tries to keep him away from Linda.
The next few holidays show Ted and Linda becoming an act at Holiday Inn, but Jim gets jealous, Ted falls for Linda, Danny gets ambitious, and Linda isn’t sure what to think! It all comes to a head when Ted and Danny arrange for Hollywood representatives to come to the Inn to see the show, and Jim is scared Linda will leave him. So, he tries to stop her from getting to the Inn, and in doing so Linda meets with Lila (who has left her boyfriend). By the time Linda makes it to the Inn, she finds the producers have agreed to make a movie and, because Jim tried to prevent her from going, she agrees to join Ted in the film!
Anyway, they make a film about the Inn, with Linda and Ted in starring roles, whilst Jim mopes at home. Jim then goes to the studio, where he eventually is reunited with Linda. They make things up and all ends well!
Overall I enjoyed the film, particularly the dance scenes! It also made me actually enjoy and appreciate the song “White Christmas”, which I had been fairly neutral towards until then, so it obviously did something right! The songs are all pretty good, but for me the dancing is the main attraction of the film. The cast is also excellent, and I can’t fault any of them!
The main issue is one that is not the film’s fault- it is quite dated. Because it was made during World War Two, images of war are played during the Independence Day holiday scenes, which is quite jarring. More problematic is the celebration of Lincoln’s birthday where they perform in blackface. The version I saw cut this section out of the film, but it was noticeable in the scenes they did show and noticeably less time is spent on this holiday than the others as they cut the song and dance.
Despite these issues, the film is still enjoyable as the characters, story, songs, and dances are engaging throughout. There’s nothing revolutionary about any of it, but it is some nice simple escapism, which is what you need at Christmas!
I can’t find a clip but my favourite scene is during Washington’s Birthday when Ted and Linda dance whilst Jim plays the music. Whenever Jim sees Ted and Linda are close to kissing, he changes the tempo of the music to a more jazzy tune, breaking the moment. It’s amusing to see but you can also appreciate the skills of Fred Astaire and Marjorie Reynolds (and Bing Crosby) at the same time.
Honourable mention to the final scene and the final singing of “White Christmas” as that is really touching and makes you feel very Christmassy.
Jim is quite a control freak, not letting Linda fully choose her own way, so he is definitely not my favourite! I like Ted but my favourite has to be Linda. She forged a career for herself, and had to put up with Jim’s over-protectiveness! She was also a beautiful dancer and I could watch her all day.
Ted: What happened to her millionaire?
Jim: Slight mistake there. He didn’t own millions, he owed them.
Ted: Poor girl. Always straying to greener pastures and finding spinach.
Ted: I like it here…with you and Linda.
Jim: And we love having you. When are you leaving?
Overall, Holiday Inn has some problems, but if these are accepted as products of the time, then it is a hugely enjoyable Christmas movie. There’s singing, dancing, humour, and romance, what more do you want?!