Watching 'Holiday Inn' with My Parents: A Live Blog

So here I am watching ‘Holiday Inn’ in my childhood home with my parents over Christmas.  I pre-warn them that anything they say during the course of the movie is fair game for me to blog.  Dad sticks out his tongue at this announcement.  After sorting out snacks and seating arrangements we’re ready to begin. 

I don’t have time increments for you.  That sort of display isn’t how we roll here, apparently.  So we’re flying blind and just writing without time indexing.

Mom, getting up at the opening: “I’m not doing anything funny, I’m just getting a sweater.”

This isn’t a spoiler even though I’ve seen this movie multiple times before; I’m just calling it as I see it: this woman is not interested in marrying Bing Crosby.  That is some negative body language if I’ve ever seen any. 

Lila doesn’t want to settle down, see.  She wants to keep dancing with Fred Astaire.  Who wouldn’t?

Bing will “capture her heart singing” and Fred says “wait till she gets a load of my dancing”.  Or she could just pick Gene Kelly and have both.  ;)  I jest… but not really because Gene Kelly was a total babe.  

Mom: “That veil looks like the cellophane you wrapped my present in.”  Truth.  She speaks truth.

Would I prefer the dancer or the singer?  THE QUESTION OF THE AGES!  Would you go for Bing’s crooning or Fred’s hoofing? 

Don’t be upset?  Lady, you’re two-timing and didn’t tell him!  He bought you a farm and a ring and the whole time you were secretly plotting your continuation in showbiz with Fred!  Damn.  You cold, girl.

Basically this montage tells you city dreams of lazy farm days are insulting.  Farms are hard work and city folks have no business buying them for leisure.  That’s the lesson here.

Bing’s peach preserves explode and he says “I don’t think they like this nightclub air.”

Bing to the supper club waiter: “I think I’ll have a bowl of coffee.”  See, that would win me over faster than singing and dancing, truth be told.

Appropriate to the ‘Easy To Dance With’ number that’s on, Mom and I agree that while Fred Astaire’s dancing is brilliant and beautiful he probably wouldn’t be easy to dance with.  I think he’d kill you with perfectionism.  We both think Danny Kaye would be easy to dance with.  I ask about Gene Kelly and mom says she heard he had a real perfectionism streak to him so probably wouldn’t be easy to dance with either.  Danny Kaye it is!

I’d complain extensively about the horrid portrayal of African Americans in this movie - the requisite negro maid/cook role is of course present – but in the time period this is how Hollywood rolled.  That doesn’t make it right but it makes it historically accurate to the overarching sentiment of the time.  If this sort of portrayal happened today there’d be plenty to get outraged over.  We’re still far from perfect but when you look back we’re at least heading in the right direction.  Let me sum up with this: old Hollywood’s treatment of a variety of races was frequently abysmal.  Let’s leave it at that.

The ubiquitous ‘White Christmas’ makes an appearance again.  This was actually the song’s first film appearance as White Christmas came later.  I’m fairly sure Bing Crosby could work ‘White Christmas’ into a movie about Martians attacking and have it seem natural.

An ad for another supper club in a newspaper proclaimed ‘divine music and subtle food’.  Mom: “I wonder what ‘subtle food’ is?  Dad: “Fondue.”

It’s New Year’s Eve at Holiday Inn and Bing is singing ‘Let’s Start the New Year Right’.  Enjoy it, we really start ripping through the holidays after this!

Fred Astaire now performs the most incredible ‘drunk dance’ routine here.  He makes falling down drunk look both wickedly easy and slick.  Dad lets me know the take they used, the seventh, was filmed after Fred had downed a total of eight shots of bourbon – two to start and one after each successive take.  The more you know…

Are we worried about plot?  In brief: Fred loses Lila whom he stole from Bing, shows up drunk at Bing’s Holiday Inn, drunk dances with Bing’s new girl partner Linda (Marjorie Reynolds), and the rest of the movie will be Bing trying to hide Linda from Fred to avoid him stealing her.  It’s basically like a very long ‘Three’s Company’ misunderstanding gag with holiday-themed song and dance numbers.

Bing, no.  No no no!  Never in the history of ever has a number looked “better in blackface”.  Oh Hollywood, your sins are so many!

Dad says blackface was big in movies before they started using African American actors as leads.  Hollywood history.  Blackface was actually an important theatrical tradition for over 100 years beginning roughly around 1830. It ended with the Civil Rights movement in the 60s.  Again, I’m not saying it’s right.  It certainly is offensive now as it perpetuates stereotypes and exploitation of culture.  But it’s also important to understand where things originated.  Revisionist history doesn't do anybody any favours.

Bing wrote her a song!  *melt*  If, say, Harry Connick Jr. or Josh Groban wrote me a song and then crooned it to me I’d be a melted puddle of swoon and chirping birds. 

Fred is kind of a shark.  He swims up in Bing’s turf and steals ladies.  Right from off the beach!  Bing, turn around!  Fred’s got her! 

Every time they burst through the heart during the rehearsal I freak out about it being wrecked before the show.  The stage manager in me is very annoyed that they can’t just mime it. 

I like Linda.  But personally I don’t think she should be with either Bing or Fred.  They’re both conniving sneaks trying to ‘own’ her.  Take off, Linda!  You don’t need them.  Pull a Rosemary Clooney in White Christmas and get a solo engagement at the Carousel Club.  That’d show those grabby boys a thing or two.

Shout out to Medicine Hat!  Bing name-dropped you.

Carrying her through a muddy watering hole when she’s wearing white is a recipe for comic disaster.

Seriously, that is one enormous farmhouse!  Every holiday it seems bigger.  It’s like the Tardis: bigger on the inside.  (That ‘Doctor Who’ joke is just for you, Alan and Ginger.  Enjoy it, there won’t be more.)

Okay I really like the chorus girls’ stripes-and-glitter Fourth of July outfits.  I AM A SUCKER FOR GLITZY STRIPES!  It’s like Beetlejuice doing the Fourth.

The firecracker dance!  This is amazing.  The Nutcracker has the Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy and Holiday Inn has Fred Astaire tap-dancing overtop of firecrackers.  If this doesn’t shiver your timbers, nothing will. 

Dad, on the firecracker dance: “It took three days to practice and three days to film.  And those shoes were auctioned for $116,000 worth of war bonds.”  See how much you can learn watching things with my parents?

November: they’ve finally reached the point in the movie when they’re doing a holiday dance about my birthday.  About time.

Dad says the little animated turkey walking back and forth from November 20 to 27 on the calendar is a reference to President Roosevelt’s failed attempt to change the date of Thanksgiving. 

Mom, about Bing’s solo Thanksgiving: “He’s having a pity party.”

Mamie is speaking truth to Bing.  “What kinda keepin is that?  Nothin but tricks!”  Truth!

Fred just locked Bing in the closet.  So Bing turned around and locked Fred in the dressing room.  This really is like ‘Three’s Company’, I just can’t figure out if Bing is Janet and Fred is Chrissy or vice versa.

These movies-within-movies are always life imitating art.  Linda is playing a girl whose Hollywood success was empty and returns to Holiday Inn reminiscing about her lost love.  FORESHADOWING!

I’m going to say it: Lila and Fred deserve each other.

Dad: “It’s a good show.”  Mom: “It was fun.  I don’t really care for some of the numbers.” I personally prefer White Christmas by far.  But the firecracker dance is definitely ace.

- Corinne Simpson