Here we are, closing in on the end of our ‘Tis The Season Cinema and I can’t even believe it. How is it already almost Christmas?
If this is your first time here, Erin from Still Life, With Cracker Crumbs, and Katja_137 From Breath of Hallelujah and I have been watching Christmas movies and sharing our impressions of them.
This week Holiday Inn was on our list and, well, I sort of regret this pick. I hadn’t watched it in years and forgot about some aspects of it that make me even more uncomfortable this time around than they did in the past.
But, well, it’s been watched and now I have to share my impressions, but before I do, I do want to mention that while I did not include any movies about the birth of Jesus in the list of movies for this feature, I do have a couple of movies along those lines I watch each year and recommend as well. I’ll try to get a list of those together for next week but for now, I will mention that The Chosen has an amazing Christmas special on their app, which you can download onto your phone and send to your TV. You can also watch it on Peacock. It is called The Messengers: Christmas with The Chosen. It features an hour and a half of music and then a Christmas short that director/writer Dallas Jenkins made for his church and depicts the birth of Christ through the view of a disabled shepherd who saw the star that night. It is beautifully done.
The short presentation is also available on YouTube, which I discovered just before I hit “schedule” on this post:
Okay. On to Holiday Inn.
We begin with three performers – two men and a woman. The men are Fred Astaire (Ted) and Bing Crosby (Jim). The woman is Marjorie Reynolds (Lila) The woman is dating Bing but she’s fallen for Fred. Bing thinks she wants to retire with him to a farm in the country, but she breaks it to him that she no longer wants to be with him, or even retire, and instead plans to continue performing with Fred.
Ouch. Brutal start.
Well, that’s okay, because Bing wants to continue running his farm in the country and has decided to turn it into an inn.
In walks Linda (Virginia Dale) who wants to break into show business and who Jim hires to sing for him at his new inn. The inn will only be open on holidays throughout the year, hence the name Holiday Inn.
Of course, it is cold and snowy at the inn and it’s getting close to Christmas in the first part of the movie, and this sets the stage for the first movie performance of White Christmas, which you might remember me mentioning when I wrote about watching the movie White Christmas a couple of weeks ago.
This movie was first, the song was sung, and 12 years later they made White Christmas, which, incidentally, was filmed on the same set as Holiday Inn. That’s why both movies have a similar feel even though they are supposed to be different characters and stories.
While there are similarities between the movies (a duo of male performers and two women love interests, who also sing or perform in some way) there are also differences, and not only in the plot. Holiday Inn was originally released in black and white and White Christmas was always in color. We own a DVD collection that features a black-and-white or color version of the movie, but I chose to stick with the original. I don’t enjoy when they colorize black and white movies, which is why I will never watch a color version of It’s A Wonderful Life either. I tried once. It just felt all kinds of wrong.
The collection we have also features a copy of the soundtrack on CD. There are 12 tracks, all written by Irving Berlin, who, of course, wrote the songs for the movie – specifically White Christmas.
As the movie continues, Fred walks back into Bing’s life and once again tries to steal his dance partner and his love interest, which creates all kinds of drama once again.
There is one regrettable scene in this movie that I wish was not there. The scene involves blackface and while I understand the purpose of it in the plot of the movie (to hide a character from another character), blackface should never be used as a plot point or anything else. It’s offensive and rude. Still, I hate to see an entire movie tossed out over one scene. The song they sing does talk about how wonderful Abraham Lincoln was for freeing the slaves, but the way they do it – grooooan.
There are African American actors in the movie, and they participate in the blackface scene, also singing praises of Abraham Lincoln. So, what does that mean? I have no idea, other than there are no black actors playing main parts. They are servants and used for humor plot points for part of the movie and while they aren’t mocked or mistreated, it still makes me uncomfortable.
If I had to pick a favorite Christmas movie, it wouldn’t be this one, probably based partially on that scene. It was so cringe and it had been years since I saw it and forgot how bad it was. Incidentally, if you have ever watched this movie on ACM, they deleted the blackface scene and don’t have it in the showing they run each year. I also wouldn’t pick this one as a favorite because it’s not really focused on Christmas, other than Bing singing White Christmas.
If I had to pick a favorite Fred Astaire dance, though, it would be the firecracker one in this movie. It is insane and one of the coolest dances I’ve seen in a classic movie.
According to IMBD, “The firecracker dance sequence was added to the movie as a patriotic number, following the attack on Pearl Harbor, which took place during filming. The dance number required three days of rehearsal and took two days to film. Fred Astaire did 38 takes of the number before he was satisfied with it. The crew members had to wear goggles during filming, because the sand from the firecrackers flew into their faces. Also, animation was added to make the firecracker “blasts” more dramatic. Later, Astaire’s shoes for the dance were auctioned off for $116,000 worth of war bonds.”
It is such a horrible shame that the dance sequence was put in a movie with an offensive blackface scene.
I apologized to Erin for suggesting this movie, telling her I really had forgotten how bad the scene was, even though I knew it was there. If you do choose to watch this movie, please skip over the blackface scene and you’ll be better off.
Up next in our lineup of Christmas movies is It’s A Wonderful Life, which should be a lot less uncomfortable to watch.
To finish out the ‘Tis the Cinema’ feature we will be watching two children’s shows, Charlie Brown Christmas and Emmett Otter’s Jug-Band Christmas. I am hoping those two will be a lot more heartwarming.
Feel free to join in with us in watching the next film and shows and blogging about them. We share our blog posts on Thursdays unless life gets in the way and we have to change the day.
To catch up on Erin’s impression of the movie check out her blog. You can also check out Katja’s on her blog.
15 thoughts on “‘Tis the Season Cinema: Holiday Inn”
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I think this movie definitely is a good one to provoke healthy discussions! It was not what I expected, especially the “scene”, but it does provide us with the opportunity to discuss these matters. We need to be able to do that to move on.
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While those scenes do make us uncomfortable, I agree with the above commenter. We have to remember the time in which those movies were made. Too often our society uses presentism when looking at the past. We shouldn’t. What happened in the past is past and we can’t judge it according to our present times.
You know how much I respect you and love you and totally agree with you on almost everything, but sorry. I have to disagree on this one. Blackface wasn’t okay then even if they saw it as “normal.” I will apply my issues with it in this case. I agree with you in other instances but that scene was all-out blackface and she had this crazy nappy hair that was supposed to represent what, I’m not sure. I’m not going to go “Oh well..that was then and they were racist so it’s okay.” It wasn’t right. The scene was wrong and shouldn’t have been included.
That doesn’t mean that everyone who participated was racist. They didn’t think of it that way. They thought they were supporting Abraham Lincoln’s birthday and the good things he did. I don’t, personally, feel it is applying presentism to something that is wrong in the past, the present, and the future. I don’t do this with all movies, books, people, etc. and I don’t like when people do.
Normally I am on your side with this. Truly! But in this case that scene was inappropriate no matter the time period. I think those who are black wouldn’t say “well, that was the time period and treating black people as second class citizens (Mamie in the kitchen the whole time) was normal so it is okay.” It wasn’t okay and the scene should make people uncomfortable and show us what was wrong about that “normal thinking” of the time. That’s why I feel the scene should never be censored.
In full disclosure: I have a photo of my own grandfather in blackface. Yes, they didn’t see why it was wrong in the 50s and 60s. They didn’t see it as mocking, even as they were using stereotypical “black accents” and maybe some saw it as complimentary. Not everyone who did it was racist (I don’t believe my grandfather was. He died when I was 2 but what I’ve heard about him would indicate he was not) and I’ve read even some black people did it or did “white face”. It’s just that to me you don’t call something okay because it was normal for the time. Slavery was normal for the 1800s but we don’t call it normal and shrug our shoulders.
Just some food for thought. I guess I just don’t see how we can’t judge what is wrong in the past by the present times or any times. If it was wrong then, it is wrong now and vice versa. It does not mean that the people were horrible people – just that they made a mistake in their judgment at that time.
I totally get what you’re saying. Perhaps I didn’t word my comment correctly. I did not mean it was okay in what they did back then. Of course, it wasn’t. But if we erase our mistakes, how do we learn from them not to make them again?
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Yes. I see what you are saying and we are actually on the same page. I got a little wound up and made it sound like I was trying to disagree or attack but I was really trying to further explain what I meant. Blah. Sometimes simple is better than a long ramble but, well, you see the name of my blog. 😉😉
I shouldn’t have said that people should watch the edited version. We do need to learn from it and I don’t really agree with it being edited. That comment should have been more thought out.
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Don’t worry, I understand why you got wound up. It’s enough to make any of us that way and I too immensely dislike that scene in that movie. P.S. It’s okay to disagree anyway — it doesn’t change our friendship one bit!
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Oh good. I did fret a little this afternoon that I might ruin our friendship and preferred we could talk in person. I had a feeling we did agree but by trying to explain I may have sounded like I didn’t agree at least partially with you. Is this making any sense? Hmmm.. probably not but hopefully you can make sense of it enough to know that I very much respect and appreciate you and am glad we can peacefully disagree in a way that helped me to think more deeply about it all. Also..that sentence is a run on and I am leaving it there just so show how crazy my thoughts get. 😉
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I think what I’m trying to say in that longwinded response is: It’s all wrong even if it is a product of the time and situation. You can say you know why it happened without saying it was okay it did.
I look at this film as a reflection of the history of that time. For them it was the norm. For us it is not. Gone With the Wind is certainly a film that would be cast differently and have a different-modernized storyline if it were made today. Think about the various films that are Jane Austen adaptions.
Because something is considered normal, does not make it right and blackface wasn’t right then and it isn’t right now. My opinion, of course. I do understand the points of the other movies and I wouldn’t toss the entire movie out, but that scene was unnecessary and offensive, even if they were celebrating Abraham Lincoln and what he did in it.
It isn’t right, but it is also history and many things in history is not right or correct.
I did a web search to read about Blackface in film. The Jazz Singer is the first recorded sound film, remarkable for its time, yet there is a blackface scene. Judy Garland portrayed black face in a film.
There is a Huffington Post article that expresses this further. A person of one ethnic group who takes on another ethnic group to show a stereotype or make fun of etc. Some of the films listed are Breakfast at Tiffany’s. Mickey Rooney is cast as a Japanese man. The Jazz Singer. The King and I. Trading Places. White Chicks.
I am glad you wrote this post. The first response and the correct response is to have conversation.
A further question to ponder is what will people in the future say about our generation?
My dad was born December 11, 1922. He died in 2013, but in his lifetime many historical events happened, both good and bad. In thinking about his lifespan, I began to think about racism and prejudice and other vile things of the past 100 years.
It is interesting that you and I had both been sort of thinking about the same subject. How people did things in history as opposed to the current era.
I’m going on and on, but my daughter in law whom I claim as one of my kids too, thought she was Hispanic until she did the 23 and Me testing. She is 99% Indigenous. She had heard a story passed down through her family that they were related to Geronimo. She did not know if she could believe this. Now, she believes this may be true. She is one of 7 siblings. Growing up, her own brothers and sisters called her the n word because she is darker than they are. Disgusting. Abusive. Hateful. I love her so much, as my own daughter, and yet she has been abused by her own blood relatives because of her skin tone.
Thank you again.
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We are on the same page. Truly. sometimes I am trying to further explain and I sound like I am arguing. That’s awful about your daughter-in-law. Prejudice and judgment isn’t limited to one group or one race and it is heartbreaking. It isn’t how God wants us to live or be.
Thanks for the thoughts and making me think more about it all. I really appreciate it.