Released in 1942 and directed by Mark Sandrich, Holiday Inn stemmed from one of Irving Berlin’s ideas. If you like classic musicals, engaging, complex stories, great acting, and memorable music, you will not want to miss this movie.
Holiday Inn follows prominent vocal and dance performers, Jim Hardy and Ted Hanover. Both Hardy and Hanover are in love with and plan to marry Lila Dixon, Hanover’s dancing partner, who has been leading on each man. Dixon, however, wants to stay in show business with Hanover. Hardy, fatigued and disillusioned by the non-stop nature of the work, is set move to a Connecticut farm. After discovering the grueling nature of farm work, Hardy decides to use his show business acumen to convert the property into the Holiday Inn, a venue open only on holidays.
After a miscommunication, Hanover and Dixon’s marriage and performance partnership breaks up, leaving Hanover on the quest for a new partner. Hardy, on the other hand, is doing well and has hired Linda Mason, a woman who exhibits new, up-and-coming talent to perform at the inn. Not surprisingly, Hardy and Mason have fallen in love. Their emotional bliss, however, is complicated when Hanover arrives at the venue and challenges Hardy and Mason’s relationship. What follows is a comedic, fun, emotional roller coaster of a movie; one that will be sure to entertain and be cherished by viewers.
The movie’s pace is smoothly executed. Viewers are introduced to the characters, specifically Hardy and Hanover, while they are still involved in the entertainment circuit, though Hardy is retiring. The story then has great development with the fortuitous-yet-realistic introduction to Mason.
The sequences showing the special performances at Holiday Inn are very well executed. These segments are introduced with graphic title cards demarcating each specific holiday. Not only is this creatively done, but it helps viewers rationalize the maturation of time as the film progresses, creating a fluid pace and enjoyable experience.
Holiday Inn’s tone is simultaneously light-hearted, comedic, and tense. Yet that is not to say that the tone is muddled. Rather the juxtaposition of tonal themes create a unique balance as the narrative unfolds. The tension is mainly tied to the fact that Hanover encroaches on Hardy and Mason’s bliss at the inn. One may wonder why Hanover does not look for another love interest and dance partner. In short, if that would have happened, then the film might as well not exist, and, if it did, it would be robbed of its charm.
The performances by the principals and supporting cast are strong and noteworthy. Bing Crosby’s Jim Hardy is well-realized. Hardy’s specialty is singing. His interest in creating a distinctive entertainment club in the Holiday Inn is respectable. Crosby does an excellent job at showing Hardy’s character arc from a disillusioned performer to reinvigorated club founder, performer, and manager. Hardy’s emotional journey with Mason is also very convincing and will likely garner empathy from viewers.
Fred Astaire’s Ted Hanover is expertly portrayed. In contrast to Hardy, Hanover’s forte is dancing, not singing. In terms of personality, Hanover is more outgoing and assertive. These differences between both Hanover and Hardy’s talent and dispositions produce an excellent equilibrium. This element is accentuated by Crosby and Astaire’s great on-screen chemistry. Astaire’s portrayal of Hanover’s forthrightness regarding Mason is very well-done and creates terrific tension as the story develops.
Marjorie Reynolds’ performance as Linda Mason is quite remarkable. Reynolds captures Mason’s neophytic start in entertainment and her growth into one of the industry’s up-and-coming talents. Her interactions with Hardy and Hanover are also great. She masterfully communicates Mason’s emotional conflict regarding her future with either Hardy or Hanover. Mason also is a strong independent female character who does not merely want to be a side-kick and pawn of one of the male performers; she wants to be a co-star and collaborator. Supporting roles by Virginia Dale, Walter Abel, Louise Beaver, and Irving Bacon do a great job in buttressing the principal cast and the film’s story itself.
David Abel’s cinematography is wonderful. He does a great job in capturing the long shots of the characters’ performances as well as the tighter, more personal shots. In addition to the great story and writing, Abel’s camera work aids audiences in becoming even more invested in the narrative, the characters, and the film as a whole.
Holiday Inn’s production design is very impressive. The sets at the bigger club in which Hardy and Hanover perform are great and made me wish stylish venues like that were still prominent today. The set pieces related to the inn itself are terrific and the layout is in fact conducive for an entertainment venue. It does not feel forced or unnatural that Hardy would conceive the idea of making that location an entertainment diamond in the rough. It is also fun to see the Hollywood studio aspect and interpretation of the inn during the film’s third act. The different costumes and set pieces for the various holidays are creative and entertaining.
Clearly this movie is a musical and the music in Holiday Inn is outstanding. Irving Berlin’s song compositions are iconic. The most recognized song in the film is “White Christmas,” but there are many others that are as charming and unforgettable. Robert Emmett Dolan’s scoring is also wonderful. All of the film’s musical performances are top notch, whether it be vocals, orchestration, or dancing. This is a testament to the musical team as well as the actors themselves. “White Christmas,” “Happy Holiday,” and “Let’s Say It with Firecrackers” are my favorite performances of the film. Due to the nature of the story – with the inn being open only on holidays – the film has a rich variety of music.
Mark Sandrich exhibits strong directing in Holiday Inn. Being no stranger to directing musicals, Sandrich’s direction of Holiday Inn clearly shows his familiarity with the genre and the directing craft as a whole. His management of the production design, translating the story from ink to film, and his ability to yield strong performances are evidence of his strong directing ability. Further, Holiday Inn received the Academy Award for Best Music, Original Song (“White Christmas”), awarded to Irving Berlin and was nominated for Best Writing, Original Story, and Best Music, Scoring of a Musical Picture.
In the end, Holiday Inn remains a top-tier classic musical. It is also distinctive because, though it is popularly a Christmas film, it is a holiday film to the strictest interpretation of the phrase. It does not encapsulate one or two holidays, but many holidays throughout the year, making Holiday Inn as the quintessential holiday movie. The charm reflected through the story, performances, and musical numbers make this a highly recommended film that should not be missed, regardless of the season.
Distributor: Paramount Pictures
Production: Paramount Pictures
Director: Mark Sandrich
Producer: Mark Sandrich
Screenwriter: Irving Berlin (idea); Claude Binyon (screenplay); Elmer Rice (adaptation); Ben Holmes (contributing writer); Bert Lawrence (contributing writer); Zion Myers (contributing writer); Francis Swann (contributing writer)
Director of Photography: David Abel
Editor: Ellsworth Hoagland
Music: Robert Emmett Dolan
Costume Designer: Edith Head
Set Decoration: Ray Moyer
Art Director: Roland Anderson (art direction); Hans Dreier (art direction)
Budget: ca. $3,200,000
Release Date: August 4, 1942
Cinematographic Process: Spherical
Aspect Ratio: 1.37:1
Copyright Holder: Paramount Pictures, Inc.
Cast: Bing Crosby; Fred Astaire; Marjorie Reynolds; Virginia Dale; Walter Abel; Louise Beavers; Irving Bacon
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Rating: N/A; Descriptors: N/A.
Running Time: 1 hour and 40 minutes (100 mins.)