Holiday Classics: “Holiday Inn” (1942)

Don’t get me wrong, I love “White Christmas”. But there’s something special about “Holiday Inn”, the 1942 film that 1954’s “White Christmas” was a loose remake of. “Holiday Inn” follows song and dance team Jim Hardy (Bing Crosby) and Ted Hanover (Fred Astaire). Jim plans to retire to his farm and marry the other member of their act, Lila (Virginia Dale), when Lila announces she loves Ted instead. A heartbroken Jim leaves for his farm anyway, and makes plans to turn it into an entertainment venue with a twist: called Holiday Inn, it will only be open on public holidays. Jim hires aspiring singer Linda Mason (Marjorie Reynolds), but Ted turns back up when Lila dumps him and schemes to turn Linda into his new dance partner.

Bing Crosby and Marjorie Reynolds sing “White Christmas” in “Holiday Inn”

“Holiday Inn” isn’t strictly a Christmas movie. In fact, one of the wonderful things about it is how it highlights holidays that don’t usually receive much attention. There are musical numbers centered around Valentine’s Day, Fourth of July, Easter, and even George Washington and Abraham Lincoln’s birthdays. Astaire’s firecracker tap dance in the Independence Day routine (which was made to be even more patriotic after Pearl Harbor) is one of his most impressive routines and one of the highlights of the film. Unfortunately, other parts of the movie don’t hold up so well today. The “Abraham” number, performed in honor of Lincoln’s birthday, a minstrel-inspired bit that features Crosby and Reynolds performing in blackface, and has often edited out of some broadcasts of the film for its racist nature.

“Holiday Inn” is most notable for its music by Irving Berlin, which includes a combination of songs he had written for past films and songs he wrote specifically for this movie. One of those songs was “White Christmas”. The Jewish Berlin found it rather difficult to come up with the song, which he initially thought of while working on 1935’s “Top Hat”. It turned out to be one of the most beautiful Christmas songs ever written, and the most popular song in the world. Until 1997, “White Christmas” was the best-selling single of all time, and Berlin won the Academy Award for Best Original Song for it. Since its debut in 1942, “White Christmas” has been covered countless times by various artists, but none are better than this sentimental first rendition by Crosby. Bing Crosby covered the song on film again when he starred in the film “White Christmas” twelve years later.

“Holiday Inn” is available to rent or buy on all digital platforms. Runtime: 100 minutes.

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