HOLIDAY INN (Paramount, 1942), directed by Mark Sandrich, with adaptation by Elmer Rice, based on the idea by Irving Berlin, stars crooner Bing Crosby and dancer Fred Astaire for the first time (their second would be BLUE SKIES in 1946). In their best on-screen collaboration, they play a couple of song and dance men who vie for the affection of a female dancing partner. While the movie itself has been long associated with Christmas, hence the introduction to Irving Berlin's Academy Award winning tune of "White Christmas," HOLIDAY INN features songs for almost all holidays, however, this is the kind of movie that can be aired on television at anytime, whether it be Easter or Fourth of July, but it is that wonderful time of Christmas that has long become associated with the musical of HOLIDAY INN.
Opening and closing with a focus of a calendar, which is used throughout the film when centering around a certain holiday, the plot, set in a two year span, centers upon Jim Hardy (Bing Crosby) and Ted Hanover (Fred Astaire), friends and entertainers working at the Club Pierre in New York City with Lila Dixon (Virginia Dale) as the third party to the trio. Although Jim has plans on retiring from show business and spending the rest of his life on the farm with his future bride, Lila, the big surprise comes when Jim discovers Lila loves Ted and intends to marry him instead. So as Jim resides alone at his farm in Midville, Connecticut, he becomes lonely, and a year later, decides to combine the best of both worlds by turning his farmhouse into a night club opened only on holidays, leaving Jim "347 days in which to kick around in," appropriately calling it Holiday Inn. Jim later hires Linda Mason (Marjorie Reynolds), a former flower shop girl wanting a career in show business, as one of the entertainers at the inn. On New Year's Eve, Ted gets a "Dear John" letter from Lila that she has broken their engagement to marry a Texas millionaire instead. Depressed and later drunk, Ted comes to Jim's Holiday Inn where he unwittingly stumbles upon Linda on the dance floor and starts dancing with her, much to the pleasure of the patrons. Ted's agent Danny Reed (Water Abel), who has only seen the girl from the back, convinces Ted that this girl (whom he'd remember if he danced with her again) would make him a fine new dancing partner. Not wanting to lose another girl to Ted, Jim decides to keep him and Linda apart through various schemes, and after Ted and Linda do form a partnership, it appears that history is destined to repeat itself.
Aside from two guys and a girl theme, the score by Irving Berlin and performance by the two leading men make up for some of the weak spots. Songs include: "Happy Holidays" (sung briefly during opening credits); "I'll Capture Your Heart Singing/Dancing" (sung by Bing Crosby, Fred Astaire and Virginia Dale); "Lazy" (medley, sung by Crosby); "You're Easy to Dance With" (sung by Fred Astaire/danced by Astaire and Dale); "White Christmas" (sung by Crosby and Marjorie Reynolds); "Happy Holidays" (sung by Crosby, Reynolds and chorus); "Let's Start the New Year Right" (sung by Crosby); "Abraham" (sung by Crosby, Reynolds, Louise Beavers and chorus); "Be Careful, It's My Heart" (sung by Crosby/ danced by Astaire and Reynolds); "Washington's Birthday March (I Cannot Tell a Lie)" (sung by Astaire/ danced by Astaire and Reynolds); "Easter Parade" (sung by Crosby); "The Song of Freedom" (sung by Crosby/ firecracker dance by Astaire); "I've Got Plenty to Be Thankful For" (sung by Crosby); "White Christmas" (reprise by Reynolds and Crosby) and "I'll Capture Your Heart" (with Crosby, Astaire, Reynolds and Dale).
While HOLIDAY INN was intended to feature songs for all holidays of the year, some were obviously omitted, intentionally or unintentionally, including a song or a song to Memorial Day and Labor Day, yet a production number for Valentine's Day (February 14th) is hardly considered a holiday of any kind, but is included as part of a holiday number just the same. While Irving Berlin could write so many songs, it leaves one to wonder what he could have done with a song for Halloween Once upon a time, birthdays to two U.S. Presidents, George Washington and Abraham Lincoln, were national holidays. While Washington's birthday is currently celebrated as a day off in many states, Lincoln's birthday is no longer considered a time off from school or work. Since the 1970s, the production number, "Abraham," dedicated to Abe Lincoln, usually got deleted when aired on commercial television. Even the original 1979 motion picture soundtrack from Sunbeam Records included every song from the film except for "Abraham." The "Abraham" number was later restored when distributed to video cassette in the 1980s.
Also seen in the supporting cast consists of Louise Beavers Mamie, Jim's housekeeper; Irving Bacon as Gus; John Gallaudet as Mr. Parker; James Bell as Mr. Dunbar; and Shelby Bacon and Joan Arnold as Mamie's children, Vanderbilt and Daphne.
Aside from its annual revivals on commercial television on Christmas Eve, HOLIDAY INN has played on any given time on cable television's American Movie Classics from 1994 to 2000 to Turner Classic Movie where it premiered July 16, 2003. Having once aired on the Disney Channel in the 1990s, it eliminated the segment leading to the "Abraham" number. While HOLIDAY INN is a reflection of the times, it hasn't really aged a bit, making it a wonderful package to Holiday movies, improving every time it airs. At 101 minutes, the film goes by very quickly. Even with black and white photography, it's a very effective film, ranking it one of the best musicals to come out from the 1940s. In spite of their on screen rivalry, Crosby and Astaire make a fine twosome who'll capture your hearts singing and dancing. (***1/2).