Holiday Inn (1942), black & white. This is the predecessor to White Christmas, (1954 - color), for which the Christmas song classic "White Christmas" was originally written. It stars the Bingster and Fred Astaire -- Danny Kaye takes Astaire's spot in the White Christmas remake of Holiday Inn.
Holiday Inn is essentially a music & dance revue of American holidays, bracketed by 3 – maybe 4 -- Christmases. The plot, such as it is, is the crooner vs the hoofer -- which one gets the girl(s)? Astaire swipes both girls, but one of them, the second one, comes back to Bing. This is a decidedly odd little movie, particularly since includes three Irving Berlin classics, "White Christmas," "Happy Holidays" and "Easter Parade," recycled from the Astaire / Garland vehicle Easter Parade (1948) – which is sung with all those specific references in the lyrics to Manhattan and Fifth Avenue – in the country. That there are two girls creates more confusion, hopefully of the venerable dramatic slapstick or comedy of manners kind, though neither mode plays that successfully. It's also a Support Our Troops WWII movie, but they keep forgetting that part. You really can't tell there's a war on, with the exception of one terrific solo Astaire tap number.
My personal favorite number is for Valentine's Day. Bing sings to 'Linda' (Marjory Reynolds), a song he wrote about her, he says, though he loses himself in his own voice and performance in the piano and doesn't even look at Linda. Behind his back, instead of having to stare goo-goo at the guy singing while the girl has nothing to do, Linda starts dancing with herself. Then Fred shows up, sweeps her off her feet into a classically Astaire courtship dance of high Romance. This is the second time they dance together, a reversal of the first, during which Fred is deeply inebriated and always threatening to go off his feet. We haven't seen Astaire pretend to drunk dancing before, unless drunk on love. It isn't funny or comfortable – he seems to have no heart in it, it feels cold as it supposedly is outside the Inn, it feels wrong. Reynolds isn't a dancer skilled enough to partner with the brilliant Astaire.
My other favorite revue number is again with Fred and Linda, dressed in 18th century court clothes and wigs, for Washington's birthday. The jealous Bing keeps changing the music from faux minuet style to hot jazz and swing styles whenever Fred is about to close The Kiss.
The problematic revue number is for Lincoln's birthday. "Abraham" provokes discomfort in today's audience. This number early got cut for television broadcast, except on Turner Classics. In this number both the Bingster and Linda put on blackface and the style of a minstrel show, supposedly because Bing doesn't want Linda to be recognized by Fred. They enthusiastically sing of how Lincoln freed "us darkies," while in the kitchen the black Jemima cook and her two black pickaninnies sing along of the good Lincoln who "who freed us darkies."
Then we get to the Hollywood section, in which a movie is made within a movie of this very movie, which is ostensibly a story about a Connecticut farm turned into a nightclub. Comes the second go-round of "White Christmas," which brings the escaped Linda back to the Bingster on the farm for Christmas because she hates the phony Hollywood so much. But all is well, as Astaire ends up with the first girl, 'Lila' (Virginia Dale), whom he already had swiped from Bing to be his dance partner when Bing wanted to quit show business so he could have holidays off. But Lila didn't want to quit performing and farm, so she broke off the engagement and ran off with Fred. Bing found that farming is even harder than performing – so hard he had a nervous breakdown and went to a sanitarium. Since a farmer still has to work on holidays, he decided to turn the farmhouse into a nightclub that is only open on holidays, so he can have the days in-between off. Or something like that.
During the course of the movie several years pass, and it feels that way watching it. This quality of endlessness could make Holiday Inn the perfect movie to have running on Christmas Day, when everyone has eaten too much and there is too much running around by children, teenagers and fussing grandmothers, while you are waiting for that very special phone call or text message from the one you really want to be with, but who is far, far away.