Holiday Inn was released in 1942 and features some classic Irving Berlin holiday (not just Christmas) songs that would pop up in various other movies over the years. Most notably, it features the first appearance of White Christmas, which would of course be the eponymous title of a movie that may or may not be featured later on this list, and go on to be the best selling song of all time.
Like The Nightmare Before Christmas, Holiday Inn is a musical appropriate for more holidays than just Christmas. The similarities pretty much end there. There are surprisingly few clowns with tear-away faces in Holiday Inn. All told Holiday Inn covers Christmas, New Years Eve, Lincoln’s Birthday, Valentine’s Day, Washington’s Birthday, Easter, Independence Day, Thanksgiving, Christmas again, New Year’s Eve again. Each holiday features a great song and dance number.
Oh, right, the plot. Jim Hardy (Bing Crosby), Ted Hanover (Fred Astaire), and Lila Dixon (Virginia Dale) are a song and dance trio at the top of their craft. Fed up with show biz life, Jim convinces Lila to leave the rat race, marry him, and take up the lazy, carefree life of a farmer. Apparently Jim has never seen or heard of a working farm before this proposal. Spurned by Lila, who opts to marry Ted instead, and discovering farming is anything but lazy or carefree, Jim turns the farm into the Holiday Inn, a venue only open all holidays, giving him the rest of the year to kick up his feet and think of clever Bing Crosbyisms (“take a slug out of the mug”). Joining him at his new venture is Linda Mason (Marjorie Reynolds), yes Linda Mason, an aspiring performer and new love interest for Jim.
But before long, in stumbles Ted, drunk and dumped by Lila, on the opening night of Holiday Inn, New Year’s Eve. In his stupor, Ted trips the light fantastic with Linda to wild approval of the crowd. But, he’s too fractured to remember her after the fact. What follows is a festive spate of musical scheming on the part of Ted and his unscrupulous agent Danny Reed (Walter Abel) on the one hand, and Jim on the other, in a battle for Linda’s affections and sway in determining the course of her show biz career.
The performances are great all-around. I’m not really a dance guy, but somehow Fred Astaire makes it look pretty cool, especially his fireworks tap dance routine (brief snippet in the trailer below). All the holiday musical numbers are great, and feel more organic and realistic than they might in other musicals. They don’t just randomly burst into song like in a lot of other old musicals. They are giving actual performances for the most part, so they seem natural. There are a couple exceptions of course, but when it’s Bing doing the crooning, who cares?
There is the matter of the black face performance during the Abraham number. Try to remember is was 1942.
All told, it’s a fun and entertaining movie with great songs, worthy of a yearly viewing and and the number eight spot on this list.
Besides being great on it’s own merits and providing us with the greatest Christmas song ever, Holiday Inn also spawned this amazing (and only?) Bing Crosby remix. Enjoy.