Holiday Marathon 2021 - Holiday Inn (1942)
Christmas movies are a pretty big blind spot for me, so here’s to a whole month of getting smothered with the Christmas spirit with some of the best in the genre.
The legacy of the song “White Christmas” almost overshadows everything about this movie. Almost. Before I get to the part that doesn’t escape the overwhelming cultural impact “White Christmas,” I should talk about the movie itself. Holiday Inn’s plot is basically an excuse to give both Bing Crosby and Fred Astaire performance set pieces. And it’s frickin’ Bing Crosby and Fred Astaire so of course they’re going to have at least one thing to write home about. For Fred Astaire, it has to be the firecracker number, which would never be replicated today for many reasons, but it’s still stunning even today. The fact that it’s an “unplanned” number in the film itself is a delicious irony for something that took three days to film and hundreds of firecrackers to pull off. And for Bing Crosby, it still is the White Christmas number, because when he sings, not only is it like a warm blanket wrapping you on a cold winter day, but also, Crosby isn’t as great a physical presence as Astaire is, so there’s no need for him to be in a big dance number even though he’s in a couple.
Now, for the “Abraham” number and the blackface. I will say that there’s a big difference between this and something like Mickey Rooney in “Breakfast at Tiffany’s,” whose racist as hell depiction of a Japanese man is just inexcusable. A lot of White performers thought they were honoring Black entertainers when they did blackface. To be clear, they weren’t, but to a White-privileged mindset, that’s how it seemed. It’s good to know that this scene exists because it’s a good insight into how cultural perceptions of race have changed so radically (mostly for the better) and viewing offensive context critically is not the same as endorsing it. It’s still totally understandable if this scene makes a viewer uncomfortable (I was uncomfortable) as long as it’s seen in the proper context.
Holiday Spirit Quotient: 6 out of 10 mincemeat pies. Since this is an inn for all holidays, there wasn’t as much Christmas as I thought there would be. But also…”White Christmas.”