Today is December 31, New Year’s Eve. This is the last article which I will publish in 2017. I have been celebrating the holidays with “The Twelve Days of Christmas with the Code.” In this PEPS holiday celebration, I have written about a Christmas classic every day. Today is the seventh day in this Yuletide event. My film choice for today is Holiday Inn, the 1942 Irving Berlin classic which features three Christmas and New Years sequences. Join me in this joyous celebration of holidays!
It is Christmas Eve, and Jim Hardy (Bing Crosby) is giving his last performance as a nightclub entertainer. He is a crooner who does an act with two dancers, Ted Hanover (Fred Astaire) and Lila Dixon (Virginia Dale). Tonight he is leaving the show to marry Lila and live on a farm in Connecticut. He is thrilled to be “rejoining the human race” and marrying the girl he loves. The only problem is that Ted is in love with Lila, too, and he has convinced her to stay in New York and marry him. However, neither Lila, Ted, nor their agent, Danny Reed (Walter Abel), has managed to break the news to Jim yet. After the show, Ted is trying to tell Jim that Lila has decided to enjoy the glamour of show business with him. Before he has managed to tell him, Danny bursts in and spills the beans by beginning to talk about the plans for Ted and Lila’s future bookings. Jim is hurt that Lila is canceling her marriage to him so that she and Ted can “dedicate their lives to making people happy with their feet,” but he decides to go to Connecticut anyway and spend time on his farm, just being lazy. He intends to enjoy holidays, which show people celebrate by giving an extra performance. He starts to sing “I Wanna Be Lazy” as he walks out the door. He continues to sing the song as we see him throughout the next year. On every holiday, he is shown working hard around the farm. We see him carrying wood, milking cows, plowing the field, feeding the pigs, and bailing hay, all to the accompaniment of his own singing. On Thanksgiving morning, his alarm clock goes off, and he goes berserk. He throws the clock, smashes the lamp, and tears his pillow open, sending feathers flying everywhere. We see Ted receiving a telegram from Jim, in which the latter says that he has been having a rest in a sanitarium, but he will come to see their show on Christmas Eve. On that evening, he tells them that the life of a farmer is not quite the lazy rest he thought it would be. He doesn’t intend to return to New York, though. He has a new idea. He is going to turn the farm into an inn, “but what an inn.” He plans to call it Holiday Inn and only have it open on the fifteen holidays each year. All he needs is some great entertainers to put in his shows. Suddenly, Danny remembers that he forgot to get flowers for Lila, who has not married Ted yet. Before Danny catches his plane, he has to stop by a flower shop and order a dozen orchids, which he wants to be “loose, looking like they don’t care.” One of the employees of the flower shop is a pretty, young, aspiring dancer and singer, Linda Mason (Marjorie Reynolds). She asks the shop owner to let her wait on Mr. Reed, since she recognizes him as a theatrical agent. She fibs to him that the last delivery truck of the day already left. In an attempt to make him indebted to her, she says that she can personally deliver the flowers for him. He is relieved, and she suddenly acts like she recognizes him. He anticipates her story about how talented she is and how hard she has worked. She tells him that she only wants a chance, and he is about to say that he can’t help her. Suddenly, he remembers Jim’s new venture and says that he’s going to give her a chance. He gives her Jim’s card and tells her to go to the inn tomorrow and say that he sent her. She is overjoyed. That night, Linda sits at the table in the night club which is reserved for the band; Jim is sitting there, too. While they watch Ted and Lila’s show, they fall into a casual conversation. Jim brags that he has a club, but he doesn’t know whether or not Ted and Lila would be right for his big place. In return, Linda acts like she is a friend of Ted’s. When Jim asks her if she is in show business, she replies, “Well, I’m Linda Mason,” as though he name is so famous that he should recognize it. “Oh, Linda Mason,” he replies knowingly, then turns away and makes a face to show his confusion. As Ted and Lila approach the table, Linda runs away, since she doesn’t want her lie to be exposed. The next day, a horse drawn sleigh brings Linda to Holiday Inn. She sees a man hammering a sign onto the building. She calls to him and asks where the owner is. He replies that he is the owner. He looks down at her, and she sees that it is Jim, the big shot she met last night. When he realizes who she is, he is so surprised that he falls off his ladder. They both end up in a snow bank, so he invites her inside to change her clothes. She gets some help from his lovable black maid, Mamie (Louise Beavers), and her two children, Daphne (Joan Arnold) and Vanderbilt (Shelby Bacon). That evening, she and Jim sit in front of the fire in his beautiful living room and discuss the plans for the inn. They realize that they have a lot in common, and Linda really loves the concept of the inn. Jim says that he’s going to audition her to see what she can do. He sits at the piano and sings “White Christmas” for the first time on screen. The second time through, she joins in as he helps her with the lyrics. The next thing you know, it is New Year’s Eve, and Holiday Inn is opening. The inn is full of happy customers, and Jim and Linda’s musical numbers are a big hit. A few minutes before midnight, Ted stumbles into the inn. He is drunk because Lila left him that night to elope with a millionaire from Texas. He decided that he needed to talk to his old pal Jim, so he found his way to Connecticut. After the clock has chimed midnight, Ted bumps into Linda on the dance floor. He leads her through a terrific, comical dance, and she follows his brilliantly, not realizing that he is drunk. At the end of the dance, he collapses. The next morning, Danny, who saw Ted and Linda dance the night before, congratulates a hungover Ted on finding a new partner. Unfortunately, Ted doesn’t remember who the girl was, and Danny only saw her from the back. They ask Jim who she was, but he acts like he didn’t really notice her. He lies to protect his new discovery and sweetheart, since he doesn’t want Ted to steal another girl from him. Ted and Danny vow to keep looking for the mystery girl, who they think they will discover at the inn. Holiday Inn is a big success, with every holiday featuring a new, wonderful show. However, how long will Jim be able to keep Linda away from the scheming clutches of Ted? It won’t be easy, but you’ll have to watch this movie yourself to see how it charmingly resolves.
This movie is filled with wonderful Irving Berlin songs. Bing Crosby does most of the crooning, but Fred Astaire and Marjorie Reynolds sing, too. Fred Astaire does a lot of great dancing in this picture, and Miss Reynolds and Virginia Dale are good partners for him. Each holiday is honored with a unique song. Of course, “White Christmas” is the climactic song of the movie. Bing sings it with the charm and beauty that only he could lend to it. He uses the stem of his pipe to tap the metal bells hanging on the Christmas tree by his piano, and the sweet chiming is a perfect addition to the song. Many excellent artists have recorded this song through the years, but no one has surpassed Bing Crosby, whose recording of this song sold more albums than any other single in history. He truly owns it.
This is the Code era at its best. It is interesting to notice how films reflect what was happening in America at the time of their release. In 1942, World War II had recently become a huge reality for America. Many American men were being drafted and going overseas to fight. Both the leading men in this movie were too old to fight, so they were still able to entertain on the home front. There is no mention of the war in this film, but its presence can be felt in the 4th of July scene. Bing Crosby sings “I’m Singing a Song of Freedom” in front of a giant screen which shows airplanes, battleships, and troops preparing to fight. There are pictures of the flag, shots of factories, and a final picture of President F. D. Roosevelt. I don’t think any other president in the history of the United States has had as much depiction in movies as FDR.
Since this is my film choice for New Year’s Eve, I can’t neglect to mention the songs which honor that holiday in this film. When the inn first opens, Linda and Jim sing “Happy Holidays.” This merry song could apply to New Years as well as any other holiday, but it is festive for this occasion. On that same evening, as the new year is rapidly approaching, Bing sings “One Minute to Midnight,” which segues into “Let’s Start the New Year Right.” If you’re looking for a unique New Year’s Eve song besides “Auld Lang Syne,” listen to Bing’s recording of this piece on YouTube. It’s grand.
Happy holidays, everyone! It’s already 2018 in many parts of the country and world, but we still have a few hours to go here in California. I hope that tonight is festive and bright for you and that 2018 brings you many wonderful things. Thank you to all my readers and supporters who have made 2017 a very successful year for PEPS. May 2018 be even better for all of us. Happy New Year!
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