This week I'm going to be paying tribute to one of my favorite Christmas movies. (Not It's A Wonderful Life, surprisingly...) Some people might argue of the relative merits of this film versus its popular re-make(ish), but since this is my list, I can play favorites. Without further ado, I give you the Holiday edition of The Classic List, and, yes, that pun was intended.
Okay, lets all take a deep breath and give this whirlwind of a plot a go: Jim Hardy (Bing Crosby), Lila Dixon (Virginia Dale), and Ted Hanover (Fred Astaire) have a nice little singing and dancing nightclub act. Jim and Lila are dating, but she throws him over for Ted, who, though lovable, is a bit of a cad. Because Jim's a bit heartbroken and put-out with the whole entertainment business, he decides to call it quits and make his dream of owning a working farm come true. He moves to the middle of nowhere and discovers that milking cows and the like can get a little monotonous after a while. So, in an attempt to liven his spirits, our guy goes back to the nightclub to see what's going on with Ted and Lila.
Whilst watching their act, he meets Linda Mason (Marjorie Reynolds). She's there delivering a package from the store she works for, but her dream is to be a famous performer. She keeps pestering Ted and Lila's manager to give her a chance, but instead he gives her Jim's card and tells her to contact Jim because he's looking for a singer to perform at the "inn". And so begins a beautiful partnership...
The Holiday Inn is born out of Jim's desire to have a little more excitement in his life, and a need to have the funds to keep the farm up and running. It's open, as one would expect, only on major holidays: President's Day, Valentines Day, Thanksgiving, Christmas, the 4th of July and a few others. Jim writes and produces themed affairs to go with each specific celebration and they soon become very popular with the city crowd, who make the long trek for each fabulous party.
Did I mention that after Lila throws over Ted he shows up at the Inn for a little rest and relaxation, sees Linda, and falls instantly in love with her? Oh, yes, he does. Did I also mention that while working together Jim and Linda have been having the most perfect toe-tingling moments (and you can tell they're falling in love with each other.). Oh, Ted, you do know how to ruin the moment.
Because it's almost Christmas, I'm going to give you the gift of not telling you how the film ends, because it's so much better, I think, to be surprised. AND, in the spirit of Christmas generosity, I'm also going to show you one of my favorite scenes:
It's genius, I tell you, genius! Firecrackers + tap dancing, who knew! (Also, I know there's a massive debate out there about "colorizing" black and white films, and normally I would be on the side of NOT doing it, but Holiday Inn has had one of the best colorizing jobs I've ever seen.)
If you haven't guessed yet, the biggest reason to love Holiday Inn is the combination of Crosby and Astaire. Two of the greatest entertainers of the time, a "crooner and a hoofer" as IMDB puts it, coming together and making a film, well, it doesn't get much better than that.
And then there's the music... Irving Berlin, you, good sir, are a legend. (I'll even forgive you the Abraham song. For those of you who don't know what I'm talking about, just google the blackface act from this movie. I have no words.)
I encourage you to step out of your comfort zone (I'm talking to you, White Christmas-only viewers!) and give Holiday Inn a go. It'll make a fabulous addition to your holiday film repertoire. Besides, its only after you've seen both films that you can properly join in on the this film is better than this one debate.