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.